The history of the Special Services of Azerbaijan

The first Special Services of Azerbaijan

A unique place and role of the security organs in the glorious history of Azerbaijan can be divided into three parts as republic, soviet, and the independence periods.
However less study of the formation and activity of the first security body in terms of historical analysis and research is an integral part of the national memory.
After declaration of its independence the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan was in need of an institution its own bodies of special service for ensuring the security of the state, for defending it from foreign and internal threats, for preventing possible terrorist attacks and diversions, for rendering destructive forces. The diversions and destructive activities of the Denkinist, Bolshevik, and Armenian forces directed against the independence of Azerbaijan made the creation and formation of the bodies of security inescapable. Despite lack of necessary finances and personnel potential, also not having internal political unity, and being under pressure from everywhere Azerbaijan government created a division  at the Ministry of Defense to fulfill the functions of the bodies of the special service.
To ensure the training and education of the army, it’s fighting efficiency, economic and provision capacity, the General Headquarters was established on March 26, 1919. To strengthen the fight against the internal and foreign diversions on March 28, 1919, the order number 157 signed by S.Mehmandarov and M.Sulkevich on March 26 a General Headquarters was established at the Ministry of Defence. One of it’s departments was the General Quartermaster. It had the following divisions: operational-mobilization, regulations and reporting, intelligence and counter-intelligence branch, and communication service.
The intelligence and counter-intelligence branch being the only one department and the lack of qualified personnel there as in all the spheres of public life, impeded the expansion and development of counter intelligence. Defence minister S.Mehmandarov in his report to the chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan, dated April 2, 1919, noted that the main goal of intelligence and counter-intelligence was “collection all the possible information about the enemy, creation of military agent network abroad and fighting against espionage inside the country”. It becomes clear from the report  of S. Mehmandarov and the name of this department that it fulfilled the function of intelligence and counter-intelligence simultaneously. All the time when the enemies had great interests in Azerbaijan when the sovereignty of Azerbaijan was threatened, it was very difficult to do much work and ensure the security of the country by such a small unit. The forces were eager to occupy and annex Azerbaijan; particularly attacks of Denikin to Dagestan and Georgia was very dangerous for the Transcaucasia, especially for Azerbaijan. The militaries of Denikin strolled along the streets of Baku in the uniform of the Czar officers, propagandizing in favor of Denikin, particularly among the Russians, enlarged the member of the voluntary troops who defended the White Guards in terms of leaking into the newly forming Azerbaijani Army for conducting diversions and learning military secrets. On the account of such men Denikin had a wide spy network in Azerbaijan, created secret bases for weapons. It all caused of the tension rising.
One of such weapon bases was found in the basement of the building located at the intersection of Krasnovovdsky and Balakani streets. Many rifles, grenades, bullets and other ammunition were discovered. As a result of the operative-investigation measures, it was revealed that the officers engaged in the case were providing military secrets of Denikin army to British intelligence service. The fight against the Bolshevism, which aspired for power, occupied one of the main places in the activity of counter-intelligence. As the Bolshevik government in Russia was growing stronger day by day it encouraged the local Bolsheviks in Azerbaijan to be engaged in activities against the government in Baku, Ganja and other places.

The staff of the counter-intelligence department strengthened the fight against the Bolsheviks, who wanted to leak into the armed forced of Azerbaijan, nevertheless, they could not achieve that aim. S.Mehmandarov wrote about it: “The main duty of the counter-intelligence is to fight against the espionage in the government. As the fight against the Bolshevisim is a national cause, only a military department cannot cope with it duly”.
Therefore, at a time when the military, socio-political situation in the country was tense, the danger of aggression against the country was real, the troops of Denikin, the Armenian separatists, English’s, as well as the Bolsheviks worked against Azerbaijan it was a need for the establishment of a special security institution. Taking this into account, the Azerbaijani parliament adopted the Resolution on June, 11, 1919 on the establishment of the Counter-Revolution Organization (CRO) and it was joined to the State Defense Committee. The State Defense Committee was entitled to announce general mobilization in the country, to declare the state of war in, to create new structural decisions for the fulfillment of the intended objectives, etc. The Azerbaijani parliament adopted the Resolution on June 11, 1919, on the establishment of the Counter-Revolution Organization. Nagibey Sheikzamanli (1883-1967), who was once appointed chief of the Counter-Revolution Organization, in his book “Memories concerning the struggle for independence in Azerbaijan” published in Istanbul comments on the reasons of the establishment of such organization: “The reason of the establishment of the counter-revolution organization was the regular threats of the Czar’s general Denikin in the first years of our independence, regular violation of our rights, and organization of various actions against us. Therefore, our government developed the project of the Counter-revolution Organization and submitted it to the parliament.
In conformity with the Status of CRO, while arresting the persons suspected in the attempts of committing diversions  and terror acts against the sovereignty of Azerbaijan and premises of national importance, as well as in armed resistance against the legal authorities, in espionage other concerning bodies were also invited.
The main duties of the Counter-Revolution organization were to reveal and arrest the persons engaged in propagation among the population orally, or in mass media against the government aimed at the overthrow of the existing state system; in the dissemination of false information and rumors about the activities of the government and operations of military detachments and national security; in instigation of inter-ethic conflicts and conflicts among various layers of population; in organization of all kinds of meetings and assemblies of political nature without  the permission of respective authorities; and in sector storing all kinds of fire-arms, ammunition and explosives, etc.
The ethnic and party composition of the staff of the Counter-revolution organization variegated, there were representatives of different parties and nationalities. It is to the point to note that while employing by the Counter-revolution organization people were not subjected to a special examination (very often the recommendation, or guarantee was suffice for the admission). For instance, N.Sheikhzamanli had appended such an instruction on the recommendation written by Mirzababa Sadigov for the admission to work: “He shall be employed since September 10, 1919.” It is interesting that the exact dates were shown and on the same day the people were employed. The order on the employment said: “Mirzababa Sadigov shall be appointed agent at the Counter-Revolution Organization since September 10, 1919”.
The operative staff of the Counter-Revolution Organization consisted of agents and senior agents. In the period of its activity from June 1, 1919, till March 6, 1920, the Organization had over one hundred employees. The representatives of 6-7 nationalities worked in the organization which ensured the national security of Azerbaijan. Interestingly, there were not Armenians among them.
With the order of the chairman of the state Defense Committee Nesibbey Yusifbeyli the first chief of the Counter-revolution organization was appointed Mammadbagir Sheikzamanli(1880-1920), member of the Musavat party and parliament of the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan, his deputy Mirfattah Musevi, member of the Hummet Party. But as Mammadbagir Sheikzamanli was the member of the parliament, a member of the agrarian commission there, he was dismissed from his post at his own request and his brother Nagibey Sheikzamanli was appointed to his post. To obstacle the attack of the troops of Denikin from the north and possibly from the Caspian sea in the autumn of 1919, and to organize the defense of Baku, the sitting of the State Defense Committee convened at the proposal of S. Mehmandarov and held on September 13.1919, adopted a resolution of great importance, a resolution on the   Creation of Fortified defended Area of Baku. Murad Girey Tlekhas was appointed chief of the Fortified Defended Area of Baku. On February 28, 1920, Major-General Tlekhas wrote that strict measures were being taken for ousting the Bolsheviks from Baku, because they created danger for the state and public, irrespective of their political adherence.

The Counter-Revolution Organization functioned in different spheres, and the directions of its activities found their reflection in “the Statue of the staff of the counter-intelligence service concerning their rights and obligations” This Statute was adopted after the subordination of the Counter-Revolution Organization to the Fortified Defended Area of Baku. The employees of the organization were engaged in the exposure of spies and their organizations, as well as in the exposure of persons who occupied hostile position to Azerbaijan with their activities, who had taken part in the mutiny against the government, and in the plots against the government officials and against their lives, who had committed high treason, who had resisted the state with arms. They also received the passenger ships, checked the documents, detained the suspected, controlled the socio-political situation in the country and fulfilled other functions. Another duty of the security bodies of the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan was the liquidation of the armed groupings in the country, collection of illegal arms from population. The employee of the counter-revolution organization Ali Razi Shamchi-zade wrote from the Salyan that 12 ruffles and 565 cartridges confiscated from the Armenians were handed to the bailiff. The employees of the Counter-revolution Organization together with other  state police forces  succeeded  in   arresting  one of the organizers of march massacres, a hard core criminal Bakuvian millionaire Stepan Lalayev with his supporters.
The Armenian political organizations, armed formations and terrorist Dashnak groups committed diversion and provocations against the independence in the period of the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan continually. To implement into life their dirty intensions and to violate the stability in the country they held meetings in different places and were engaged in anti-Azerbaijani activities. Therefore, such Armenian organizations were always in the focus of attention of the Counter-Revolution organization all the time. “It is interesting that majority of the persons arrested by the Counter-revolution Organization in connection with the diversions of the army of Denikin against Azerbaijan were Armenians.To believe it it is enough to have a look at the list of the arrested Grigori Babayants , Andrey Babayants, Danil Musayants, Agajan Avakyants, Sarkis Melikyants, Georgi Melik-Gayakasov, David Abramyants, Sogomon Balayants, Sergey Arzumanyants, Petros Sarkisyans, Martiros Mirzoyants, Bagret Ohanjanyan, Ivan Avanesov, Mikkail Ter-Zakharov and others. The information got by Armenians was sent both to Denikins and Bolsheviks.
It is known that the Bolsheviks became more active in the early days of 1920; they held secret meetings in various places and propagated against the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan. The counter-revolution organization, including its division in the Balakhani-Surakhani District built its work by taking this situation into account. It becomes evident from the report sent by this division to the Counter-Revolution Organization that at the meeting held on February 3, 1920, in the club of workers Alexandr Kostinsky raised such an issue: “We do not need the present government. In these days the Bolsheviks will come and then we shall show our strength”. The division could also determine the directions from which the Bolsheviks were going to attack Azerbaijan: “At the secret meeting in the workers club held on February 1920, it was said that Bolsheviks were expected to attack Azerbaijan from three directions-Krasnovodsk, Astrakhan and Rostov”. As it seen, the Bolsheviks threatened the sovereignty of Azerbaijan more than Armenians. By the end of 1919 the activity of the Bolsheviks against the independence of Azerbaijan grew much stronger. To obstacle the Bolshevik propagation, on November 23, 1919, Nesibbey Yusifbeyli instructed all the print houses to stop the issue of the literature with Bolshevik orientation, otherwise the print houses which would not obey the resolution of the government, would be confiscated and their owners would be arrested.
In the early months of 1920 the Bolsheviks grew more active. The law-enforcement bodies and those of special service directed all their efforts to the struggle against the Bolshevism, nevertheless, the situation worsened day by day. April invasion caused the collapse of the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan and put an end to its 23 month’s authority.
So, the government which achieved to establish first democratic republic in the Muslim East, along with other structures of the power, Counter-Revolution Organization of Azerbaijan was also obliged to stop its activity. Soviet totalitarian regime strangled in the yoke of its repression the law-enforcement bodies of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic and its majority employees working there too.
Despite the short period of activity, the security forces of Azerbaijan gave an outstanding contribution to the strengthening of the young, independent state.