September Days

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September Days
Part of the persecution of Armenians
LocationBaku, Azerbaijan Democratic Republic
DateSeptember 1918
Deaths10,000–30,000 Armenians killed; rest of Armenian community deported[1]
PerpetratorsArmy of Islam
Local Azerbaijani irregulars

The September Days (Armenian: 1918 թ. Բաքվի հայերի կոտորած, romanizedBakvi hayeri kotorats, lit.'1918 massacre of Baku Armenians') refers to a period during the Russian Civil War in September 1918 when Armenian inhabitants of Baku were massacred by Enver Pasha's Army of Islam and their local Azeri allies when they captured Baku, the soon-to-be capital of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic.[2][3][4] According to most estimates, approximately 10,000 ethnic Armenians were killed in the violence, although some sources claim the number to be as high as 30,000.[2][3][4][5] The massacre is said by some scholars to have been carried out in retaliation for the earlier March Days, in which Dashnak and Bolshevik forces had massacred Azerbaijani inhabitants of the city in March 1918.[4][6][7] It was the last major massacre of World War I.[5]


Since April 1918, the city of Baku had been governed by a Soviet (council) under the leadership of the Bolshevik Stepan Shahumyan. The Baku Sovnarkom or Soviet had been collaborating with the local branch of the Armenian Dashnaktsutiun party to establish control over the city and its surrounding environs but by the beginning of the summer of that year, it found itself under increasing threat by the advancing armies of the Ottoman Empire.[8] The armed forces of the two sides clashed in June and July but the forces loyal to the Baku Soviet were unable to halt the joint Ottoman-Azerbaijani offensive and were forced to retreat. With the Ottomans and Azeris poised to strike Baku and with no promise of material support from Moscow, the Baku Soviet was forced to turn to a British expeditionary force which was stationed in the region under the command of Major General Lionel C. Dunsterville. Although Shahumyan was under orders from Moscow to deny entry to the British, he was overruled by his peers in the Soviet, who formally requested British help in late July.[9] On July 31, Shahumyan and the other Bolshevik members of the Baku Sovnarkom resigned from their posts and control of the city was assumed by the Centro-Caspian Dictatorship.

In August, the Ottoman military, led by the Army of Islam, launched a new assault against the frontline positions, which were primarily manned by Armenians. Despite some initial victories, the Armenians had to retreat.[10] The size of the British expeditionary force had proved ultimately to be too small to make much of an impact in the defense of Baku. In the first week of September, a joint Ottoman-Azerbaijani force composed of 15,000 men advanced without much resistance toward Baku and by September 13, had reached the suburbs of the city; meanwhile, Baku's Muslim population prepared to welcome the entry of the Ottoman army. The remaining Armenian troops were too ill-prepared to halt the advance and Dunsterville refused to retain his force any longer. On September 14 his force evacuated from Baku and sailed to Enzeli, leaving the city virtually defenseless.[11]

Events of September Days[edit]

A terrible panic in Baku ensued once the Turks entered the city.[12] The Armenians crowded the harbor in a frantic effort to escape.[12] Regular Ottoman troops were not allowed to enter the city for two days, so that the local irregulars would conduct looting and pillaging.[2][12] Despite this order, regular Ottoman troops participated alongside the irregulars and the Azeris of Baku in the plundering, who then turned their fury against the city's Armenian population.[2] Calls by the German officers attached to the Ottoman command staff to treat the local population with leniency were ignored by the Ottoman commanders. The man in charge of posts and telegraphs in Baku, one of those who negotiated the surrender of the city and vainly tried to prevent the worst excesses, noted:

Robberies, murders and rapes were at their height [at 4.00 p.m. on 15 September]. In the whole town massacres of the Armenian population and robberies of all non-Muslim peoples were going on. They broke the doors and windows, entered the living quarters, dragged out men, women and children and killed them in the street. From all the houses the yells of the people who were being attacked were heard....In some spots there were mountains of dead bodies, and many had terrible wounds from dum-dum bullets. The most appalling picture was at the entrance to the Treasury Lane from Surukhanskoi Street. The whole street was covered with dead bodies of children not older than nine or ten years. About eighty bodies carried wounds inflicted by swords or bayonets, and many had their throats cut; it was obvious that the wretched ones had been slaughtered like lambs. From Telephone Street we heard cries of women and children and we heard single shots. Rushing to their rescue I was obliged to drive the car over the bodies of dead children. The crushing of bones and strange noises of torn bodies followed. The horror of the wheels covered with the intestines of dead bodies could not be endured by the colonel and the asker (adjutant). They closed their eyes with their hands and lowered their heads. They were afraid to look at the terrible slaughter. Half mad from what he saw, the driver sought to leave the street, but was immediately confronted by another bloody hecatomb.[13]

On September 16, the Ottoman divisions formally entered the city in a victory parade reviewed by Ottoman High Command. Baku would subsequently be proclaimed as the capital of the newly established Azerbaijani Republic.

Estimates of the dead range from 10,000 to 30,000 Armenians.[1] According to a special commission formed by the Armenian National Council (ANC), a total of 8,988 ethnic Armenians were massacred, among which were 5,248 Armenian inhabitants of Baku, 1,500 Armenian refugees from other parts of the Caucasus who were in Baku, and 2,240 Armenians whose corpses were found in the streets but whose identities were never established.[14] According to Hrant Avetisian up to 50,000 of Baku's 70,000–80,000 person Armenian community were killed and deported.[15] According to the Armenian Genocide Museum, Armenians in Baku numbered 88,673 in 1918—29,063 of whom were massacred. Moreover, 9,000 "young" Armenians were sent into forced labour in the Mughan Steppe, however, only 400 returned.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Hovannisian, Richard G. (1967). Armenia on the Road to Independence, 1918. Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 227, 312, note 36. ISBN 0-520-00574-0.
  2. ^ a b c d Hovannisian. Armenia on the Road to Independence, p. 227.
  3. ^ a b Human Rights Watch. Playing the "Communal Card": Communal Violence and Human Rights. New York: Human Rights Watch, 1995.
  4. ^ a b c Croissant, Michael P. (1998). The Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict: Causes and Implications. London: Praeger. p. 15. ISBN 0-275-96241-5.
  5. ^ a b Andreopoulos, George (1997). Genocide: Conceptual and Historical Dimensions. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, ISBN 0-8122-1616-4, p. 236.
  6. ^ Alex, Marshall (2009). The Caucasus Under Soviet Rule (Volume 12 of Routledge Studies in the History of Russia and Eastern Europe ed.). Taylor & Francis. p. 96. ISBN 9780415410120.
  7. ^ Milne, G. F. (4 January 1921). "War Office, 7th January, 1921". The London Gazette, Fourth Supplement. Retrieved 2 November 2012.
  8. ^ Hovannisian. Armenia on the Road to Independence, p. 220.
  9. ^ Hovannisian. Armenia on the Road to Independence, p. 221.
  10. ^ Hovannisian. Armenia on the Road to Independence, p. 222.
  11. ^ Hovannisian. Armenia on the Road to Independence, pp. 225–227.
  12. ^ a b c Walker, Christopher (1990). Armenia: The Survival of a Nation, Revised Ed. New York: St. Martin's Press. p. 260. ISBN 0-7099-0210-7.
  13. ^ Walker. Armenia, p. 261.
  14. ^ Kazemzadeh, Firuz. The Struggle for Transcaucasia: 1917–1921. New York: Philosophical Library, 1951, pp. 143–144.
  15. ^ Coppieters, Bruno (1998). Commonwealth and Independence in Post-Soviet Eurasia. London: Routledge. p. 82. ISBN 0-7146-4480-3.
  16. ^ "Genocide Museum | The Armenian Genocide Museum-institute". Retrieved 2022-09-12.