Armenians in Baku

Τhe evidences of Armenians living in Baku come from ancient times but the Armenian population has become massive and started its activities in the region since the middle of the 19th century. In 1851 the population of Baku was 7431 from which 405 were Armenians. When in 1859 Baku became the centre of the Baku province it stimulated the development of the city and the growth of the population. In 1870-80s started the inflow of Armenians connected with oil extracting. According to the data of census of 1897 the total population of Baku was 111.904 of which 19.099 were Armenians. Armenians lived in separate districts and in the adjacent settlements. 

Armenians were actively engaged in cultural and social activities of Baku. They founded philanthropic organizations that coordinated the social and cultural life of the community. The activities of the philanthropic societies became a specific type of autonomy of Armenians in Baku. 

The St. Grigor Lusavorich Church was built in Baku in 1863-69. It has been repaired and reconstructed for several times. Armenian inscriptions of 18-19 were found near the church. During the Soviet period it was the only acting Armenian church in Azerbaijan.  The Saint Hovhannes Mkrtich Chapel-church in the Armenian cemetery was consecrated in 1895. In 1911 the Saint Thaddeus and Saint Bartholomew Monastery was built with the support of the Armenians in Baku. It was destroyed in 1930s and nowadays Baku conservatory was constructed in its place. By 1920s the Saint Targmanchats Church acted in Haykashen. 

The first Armenian school in Baku was opened in 1860 with the efforts of A.Ter-Ghevondian. In Baku there were also Mesropian male and Hripsimian female schools. In 1894 the second female school adjacent to the Saint Astvatsatsin Church was opened. In 1930-50s there were 80 Armenian secondary schools, a pedagogical college, Armenian faculties in the University of Baku and Pedagogical Institute. The last Armenian school in Baku was closed in 1983. 

Armenians had also a significant role in the city administration. Since the middle of 1840s Pavel Parsadan Arghutian had been the mayor of Baku, who later in 1849-1850, was one of the members of jury in the court of Shamakhi regional administration. During the period of Mayor Stanislav Despot-Zenovich (1885-1895) C. Antonian, the chairman of “Philanthropic Society” was member of the administration and the deputy mayor of Baku. In 1853 the general prosecutor of Baku region was B. Lazarian, who later became the governor. The chairman of the Aldermen's parliament that administered the social council of Baku and consisted of 17 members of whom 13 were Armenian was G. Tsovianian. In addition, the foreign countries that were interested in Baku appointed Armenians as their representatives: in 1908 the consul of Belgium was N. Ayvazian, the consul of Italy was V. Mutafian. The representatives of Russian and European various companies were also Armenians. 

The internal national issues with other organizations were directed by Armenian National Council of Baku (it was dissolved in 1920). After the 1917 October revolution in Russia, the Soviet rule was established in Baku on October 31. In April, 1918 the Council of People's Commissioners – Baku Commune -was established in Baku headed by S. Shahumian. There were other Armenians in the council that held high positions: G. Ghorghanian – Military commissioner, Artashes Karinian- Education commissioner, etc. 

Initially the social-political policy of Soviet authorities ignored the interethnic discords. The Armenian community once again got the chance to revive: Armenian National theatre was opened, Armenian periodicals were published in Baku. The signboards of certain offices, shops, workshops in the Armenian habited regions were both in Armenian and Russian. Later as a result of Azerbaijani assimilation policy, the Armenian national life ceased to exist. The Armenian organizations stopped its activities, the Armenian theatre was closed, and Armenian children started to attend to Russian schools. 

According to the 1970 Soviet census data, there 200.000 Armenians in Baku out of city’s of 1.27 million inhabitants. At the end of 1980s – there were nearly 300.000 Armenians in Baku. During January 13-19 Armenian pogroms organized in Baku, the centuries-old Armenian community of Baku stopped its existence. 

Being completely deprived of security guarantees, facing to danger of new massacres, Armenian population of Baku left the city becoming refugees. At present there are several hundred Armenians living in Baku, mostly Armenians that are intermarried, who are afraid for their identity and whose rights are violated.