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Vol. 1 (5), 2007
It would be wrong to ascribe the spread of Bahaism in Azerbaijan to internal factors. We should
bear in mind that the Bahais rely on rich proselytizing experience. On top of this, there are always
those who see the meaning of life in “God-seeking” and who are unable to merely accept traditional
religious beliefs. Such people should not be dismissed as a passive group unable to decide for themselves and prone to be tempted by illusory spiritual prospects. These people seek another God for
themselves in the hope of realizing their new ideas about the meaning of life and about themselves.
This is especially true of the recent converts as distinct from a large group of Bahais who inherited the
religion from their families.
It seems that in the future too, Islam, even divided into several madhabs, will remain firmly
rooted in Azerbaijan; Bahaism stands no chance of replacing it.
C o n c l u s i o n
Today, the consolidation of people within Bahai public reorganization has already demonstrated its usefulness in many countries and regions, Azerbaijan being no exception in this respect. Bahaism can be described as a new religion, the term being partly accepted by the academic community
with respect to the religious universalist movements.
Its geographic scope makes Bahaism an interesting example of trans-cultural processes and
trends caused by the fact that its ranks are swelling with representatives from all kinds of religious and
cultural traditions. We are in fact watching an inter-civilizational and inter-religious dialog.
Ph.D. (Hist.), Senior researcher
at the A. Bakikhanov Institute of History,
Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences
(Baku, Azerbaijan).
his article looks at the life of the Protestant religious community in Azerbaijan, studies the history of how the German population that formed the foundation
of the Protestant, Evangelical-Lutheran com-
munity migrated to Azerbaijan, and sheds
light on the activity of the Lutheran church.
A scientific analysis of the ethnoconfessional
diversity that exists today in Azerbaijan reconfirms the peace-loving and respectful attitude
Vol. 1 (5), 2007
of the Azerbaijani people toward different cultures, and the traditions of tolerance and a
liberal attitude toward religion that have developed over the centuries in this country.
I n t r o d u c t i o n
Located at the crossroads between the West and the East, Azerbaijan is an interesting geopolitical region with a rich historical past and cultural heritage. At different times in history, Azerbaijan
became the homeland for people of different nationalities and ethnic groups who migrated to the republic and lived there for many years. Azerbaijan is a unique region where people of different confessions—Islam, Christianity, and Judaism—have lived for centuries in peace and harmony next door
to each other in the same community. Protestantism is one of the Christian trends that has become
popular in Azerbaijan and is of particular scientific research interest. Protestantism became widespread in Azerbaijan when Germans, who represent the Western culture, migrated to the Caucasus in
the 19th century and lived in the country for a long time. It is interesting to study the life and activity
of the German population as representatives of the European culture in Azerbaijan, and such an analysis provides a graphic example of the contacts and interrelations between the Eastern and Western as
well as the Muslim and Christian cultures within the framework of one community. Globalization and
integration generate the need to conduct such studies today, and they are conducive to the development of an intercultural dialog.
Migration and
the Emergence of the German Community
in Azerbaijan
Germans began migrating to the Caucasus at the end of the 18th-beginning of the 19th century
and continued to move to this region throughout the 19th century. At the beginning of the 19th century, the first German colony of Karras appeared in the Northern Caucasus, and later many related
German settlements sprang up from this “parent” colony. The first German migrants appeared in the
Southern Caucasus at the beginning of the 19th century.
At that time, Germany, in a state of rack and ruin after the Napoleonic wars, was facing difficult
political and economic problems, which only served to stoke up the discontent among the masses and
intensify the migration processes. Germany’s south, Württemberg, where religious separatist sectarian movements were gaining momentum, was in a particularly arduous position. Some of the followers of these movements expressed their desire to migrate to the East in pursuit of salvation, particularly to the Caucasus, which, according to them, was “near the cradle of the human race.”1 As a result,
in 1816, the sectarians asked Russian Emperor Alexander I, who participated in the Vienna Congress,
to allow them to settle in the Caucasus.2
We will note that at this time, at the beginning of the 19th century, the Southern Caucasus, including Northern Azerbaijan, had been conquered by the Russian Empire, after which czarism was
faced with establishing and reinforcing its political power and dominance among the local population
in order to further economically develop and make use of the area’s resources. In order to meet these
p. 14.
S. Smirnov, “Nemetskie sektanty za Kavkazom,” Russkiy vestnik, Vol. 57, Moscow, 1865, pp. 230-233.
See: P. Basikhin, “Nemetskie kolonii na Kavkaze. Etnograficheskiy ocherk,” Kavkazskiy vestnik, No. 1, 1900,
Vol. 1 (5), 2007
goals, Russian czarism had to form a reliable sociopolitical, economic, and ethnoconfessional base in
this region. Therefore, beginning in the first decades of the 19th century, the czarist authorities in the
Southern Caucasus and in Azerbaijan in particular carried out a targeted migration policy, by means
of resettling Armenians and Russians, which led to serious changes on the ethnoconfessional and
demographic map of the whole of the Caucasian region. It is a well-known fact that Catherine II’s
Manifesto of 22 July, 1763 paved the way to German colonization in Russia.3 On the whole, the migration of Germans to the Southern Caucasus should be viewed in the context of the Russian Empire’s
overall migration policy.
German colonists migrated to the Southern Caucasus from 1816 right up until 1819. The
number of migrants sent from Württemberg to the Caucasus amounted to 1,400 families consisting of
6,000 people, although in some sources this figure rises as high as 7,000 people.4 As a result, after
huge losses along the way, only about 500 families of colonists reached Tiflis by the fall of 1818.5
Initially, six German colonies were founded in Georgia. But there were not enough convenient stateowned lands close to Tiflis for all the migrants, so the authorities permitted them to settle in the
Elisabethpol uezd in Azerbaijan. General Ermolov’s instructions said, “there is a lot of state-owned
lands in the Elisabethpol uezd and this is in many respects a convenient place for the colonists to
settle.”6 In the spring of 1819, the czarist authorities moved some of the German colonists to the
Elisabethpol uezd in Azerbaijan, where they founded two German settlements, Helenendorf, on the
site of destroyed Azerbaijani Khanlyklar (now present-day Khanlar) seven versts from Elisabethpol
(Ganja), and Annenfeld, on the site where the ancient Azerbaijani city of Shamkir used to be located.
It can be said that 127 colonist families originally settled in Helenendorf (approximately 600 people),
and 67 families (around 300-400 people) in Annenfeld.7 Later, due to economic development and demographic growth, the number of German settlements in Azerbaijan increased, and by the beginning
of the 20th century there were eight, Helenendorf, Annenfeld, Georgsfeld, Alexejewka, Grünfeld,
Eichenfeld, Traubenfeld, and Jelisawetinka, which were mainly located on the sites of old Azerbaijani settlements in the Khanlar, Shamkir, Kazakh, Tauz, and Akstafa regions.
The migration of German colonists in 1816-1819 can be considered the first and main wave of
German migration to the Southern Caucasus. The German colonists represented the main class group
of the German population in the Southern Caucasus and particularly in Northern Azerbaijan. The
colonists largely engaged in wine-growing and viniculture, crop farming, horticulture, livestock
breeding, handicrafts, as well as agriculture. At the end of the 19th-beginning of the 20th century, due
to the oil and industrial boom, a large number of foreigners, including Germans, among whom were
businessmen, industrialists, engineers, architects, physicians, scientists, teachers, and so on, migrated
to Azerbaijan, particularly to Baku. This new migration wave of the German population, which included natives from both Germany and from the interior gubernias of Russia, was dispersed, in other
words, it occurred due to the migration of individuals and their families and was mainly for economic
In this way, the German peasants who lived compactly in eight Germany colonies, as well as the
German population living in Baku and other cities engaged in industrial, commercial, scientific, pedagogic, state, and other types of activity, formed the basis of the German community that developed
in Azerbaijan during the 19th-beginning of the 20th centuries.
See: Complete Collection of Laws of the Russian Empire since 1649, Vol. XVI, 1830, pp. 313-316.
See: Hans Hermann Graf von Schweinitz, Helenendorf. Eine deutsche kolonie im Kaukasus, Berlin, 1908, S. 3;
P. Basikhin, op. cit.
See: F. Zimmer, “Koloniia Helenendorf, Elisavetpolskoi gubernii i uezda,” SMOMK, Iss. 29, Tiflis, 1901, pp. 2-3.
Acts collected by the Caucasian Archeographic Commission (hereafter—ACAC), ed. by Ad. Berzhe, Vol. VI,
Part I, Tiflis, 1874, p. 331.
See: K. Stumpp, Die Auswanderung aus Deutschland nach Ruâland in den Yahren 1763 bis 1862, Tübingen,
1993, S. 99; N. Nikiforov, Ekonomicheskiy byt nemetskikh kolonistov v Zakavkazskom krae. Materialy dlia izuchenia ekonomicheskogo byta gosudarstvennykh krestian Zakavkazskogo kraia, Vol. 1, Tiflis, 1886, p. 104.
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Foundation of the Lutheran Church and
Activity of the Lutheran Community
in Azerbaijan
in the 19th-Beginning of
the 20th Centuries
While migrating to Azerbaijan, the Germans brought the Protestant spiritual and cultural traditions and customs from their historical homeland with them and reverently preserved them in their new
country of abode. Protestantism in Azerbaijan went through several stages and was represented by the
activity of Protestant missionaries and the German colonist sectarian-separatist community, which gradually transformed into the Evangelical-Lutheran community. It consisted primarily of Germans, although there were also Swedes and the representatives of other peoples living in the republic.
We will note that after Azerbaijan was conquered, Russian czarism encouraged the activity of
various Christian missions in order to create a consolidated ethnoconfessional base and strengthen the
Christian element in the region. The czarist authorities also carried out an active migration policy
which led to significant changes on the ethnoconfessional map of the whole of the Caucasus. One
such religious mission was the Protestant. In 1822, the Russian government received a “petition, at
the request of the Basel Evangelical Society, to permit Evangelical priests August Dietrich and Felician von Zaremba to found colonies of pious German families beyond the Caucasus between the
Black and Caspian seas and to start an academy and printing shop there for the purpose of spreading
the word of God in that region among the pagans and Mohammedans.”8 This petition was satisfied. In
1823, missionaries from the Basel Evangelical Society—August Dietrich and Felician von Zaremba—came to Azerbaijan where they chose Shusha9 as their place of residence and opened a religious
school there. But only Muslims lived in the town, so the missionaries’ plans to spread Christian teaching among them met with resistance and was not crowned with success. As a result, in 1837, their
missionary activity in Shusha was abolished.10
The German migrants were the main representatives and bearers of Protestantism in Azerbaijan.
We will note that from the very beginning all the German migrants who came to the Russian Empire
were granted freedom of confession and the opportunity to build churches in the places they settled
and invite pastors and clergymen to serve in them. As mentioned above, the German migrants were
the followers of religious sectarian-separatist teaching. Religion occupied a special place in and was
an integral part of the colonists’ life.
In 1827, the Russian administration instituted the position of ober-pastor (supreme pastor) in
the South Caucasian German colonies, and, in 1841, the general charter of the Evangelical Lutheran
Church was applied to them. In subsequent years, the Transcaucasian District of the EvangelicalLutheran communities was formed, which did not belong to the Evangelical-Lutheran Consistory, but
was directly subordinate to the Department of Foreign Confessions of the Russian Empire Ministry of
the Interior.11 An ober-pastor headed the spiritual administration of colonists. In addition, each German colony had a pastor who headed the local spiritual administration and religious education and
whose upkeep was paid for by the colony.
ACAC, Vol. VI, Part I, p. 468.
See: Ibid., p. 473.
See: S. Zelinskiy, “Plemennoi sostav, religia i proiskhozhdenie gosudarstvennykh krestian,” in: Svod materialov
po izucheniiu ekonomicheskogo byta gosudarstvennykh krestian Zakavkazskogo kraia, Vol. II, Tiflis, 1887, pp. 43-44.
See: P. Basikhin, op. cit., p. 17; T. Gumbatova, “Dukhovnaia zhizn’ nemtsev v Baku,” in: Rossiiskie nemtsy.
Problemy istorii, iazyka i sovremennogo polozheniia. Materialy mezhdunarodnoi nauchnoi konferentsii, Gotika, Moscow,
1996, p. 338.
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In 1843, news spread among the colonist-separatists that God, through an old woman called
Shpon, the separatists’ spiritual leader, was telling them to go and live in the Holy Land of Palestine.
Barbara Shpon, who lived in Ekaterinenfeld (the Borchaly uezd) enjoyed great authority among the
separatists. It was believed that she had received eight revelations from God. So all the separatists considered her a saint. Many of the colonists responded to her call to move to the Holy Land, as the result
of which they decided to sell their property and gather in Ekaterinenfeld, and from there begin the journey to Jerusalem. The separatists sent their deputies to the Commander-in-Chief in the Caucasus asking
for permission to move. This movement acquired enormous dimensions. It resulted in a team of Cossacks headed by Colonel Kotsebu being sent to Ekaterinenfeld, where the separatists gathered in May
1843, in order to repress the movement. The troops met with great resistance from the colonists, who
would not yield to any persuasion. Then the colonists were permitted to choose three delegates who
were to be sent at public expense to Palestine in order to look for a place to settle. The elected delegates
set off for Palestine in 1843 and enjoyed the protection of the Russian embassy the whole way. When
they returned to the German colonies in June 1843, they told the colonists that due to the inconvenience
and the desolateness of the area, it was not a good idea to settle in Palestine. After this, the separatists
abandoned their desire to emigrate and, after a while, converted to the Evangelical-Lutheran Church.12
As a result, the religious movement of separatism in the German colonies of the Southern Caucasus
gradually waned. We will also note that whereas in the documents and sources of the beginning and
middle of the 19th century, the colonists were called separatist-sectarians, in the sources of the end of the
19th-20th centuries, they were defined by confession as Lutherans.
In the 19th-beginning of the 20th centuries, Lutheran churches were built in Azerbaijan. The first
thing the colonists did after finding a place to settle was to build a House of God. For example, a prayer
house was built in the Helenendorf colony as early as the 1820s and a parsonage in 1834. One of the first
preachers was teacher Jacob Kraus. On 24 April, 1854, the first stone of the church in Helenendorf was
laid, and on 10 March, 1857, the kirk (church) was solemnly consecrated as St. John’s in the presence
of many guests from other colonies and representatives of the Russian administration, in honor of
which five canons were fired.13 The first pastor of Helenendorf was Georg Heinrich Reitenbach
(1832-1840). In 1909, the kirk in Annenfeld was founded. The kirks in Helenendorf and Annenfeld
were built in the Roman-Gothic style and were distinguished by simplicity and expressiveness, the
sites on which they were built were chosen very propitiously, and they were not particularly luxurious
or exquisite in design, which is characteristic of Lutheran cultic buildings.14 Thus, the kirk was of
special significance for the colonists. As F. Zimmer, a teacher at the Helenendorf academy, points
out: “The colonists are very strict in their observance of church rituals. They rarely miss church services and are disdainful of anyone who does not regularly attend church. As soon as the bells start ringing, all the family members head for church.”15
In 1885, the Baku City Duma issued a resolution to allot the Lutheran community a plot of land
of 1,400 sq. sazhens (1 sazhen = 2.13 meters) on Telefonnaia Street (now 28 May Street) for building
a Lutheran parish. A Lutheran kirk designed by A. Eichler was built on this land and solemnly consecrated in 1899, in addition to a parish school.16
See: S. Smirnov, op. cit., pp. 240-257; ACAC, Vol. IX, Tiflis, 1884, Doc. 573, 589, pp. 689-690, 703; Hummel J. Heimat Buchlein der Deutschen in Transkaukasien, Nemgosizdat Publishers, Pokrowsk, 1928, S. 12-14; Kh. Verdieva, Pereselencheskaia politika Rossiiskoi imperii v Severnom Azerbaidzhane, Altai Publishers, Baku, 1999, pp. 81-82;
F.A. Kolenati, Die Bereisung Hocharmeniens und Elisabethopols, der Schekinschen Provinz und des Kazbek im CentralKaukasus, Dresden, 1858, S. 159-165.
State Historical Archives of the Azerbaijan Republic (hereafter—SHAAR), rec. gr. 508, inv. 1, f. 436, sheet 26.
See: Sh.S. Fatullaev, L.I. Ismailova, “Khudozhestvenniy oblik Baku na rubezhe XIX-XX vv. v tvorchestve
arkhitektorov nemetskogo proiskhozhdeniia,” in: Materialy pervoi nauchnoi konferentsii “Kavkazskie nemtsy—nemtsy na
Kavkaze do pervoi mirovoi voyny, Elm, Baku, 2001, p. 157.
F. Zimmer, op. cit., p. 15.
SHAAR, rec. gr. 389, inv. 2, f. 149, sheets 1, 25; T. Gumbatova, op. cit., pp. 339-341.
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Photo of the Lutheran Church in Helenendorf (Khanlar)
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Photo of the Lutheran Church in Baku
As for the size of the Azerbaijani population that followed various trends of Protestantism, we
will note that according to the data of the first general census of the population of the Russian Empire
of 1897 in the Southern Caucasus, there were 3,086 Germans living in the Elisabethpol uezd of the
Elisabethpol gubernia, 1,512 of whom were men and 1,574 women, and there were 1,642 men and
1,788 women living in the Baku gubernia, that is, a total of 3,430 Germans, the native language of
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whom was German and the confession of the majority of whom was Lutheran. A large number of
Germans, 2,460, lived in Baku.17
In this way, religion was extremely important in the vital activity of the German colonists. As
deeply religious people, they studied religion from an early age, went to church every week, performed
all the religious rites, and celebrated all the religious holidays. Religious education also featured in family upbringing, both in education and in many other aspects of their life. Religion was one of the mandatory subjects taught in the German schools founded in Azerbaijan during the 19th-beginning of the 20th
centuries. Religion and the church were integral parts of a single chain and symbols of the national culture and uniqueness of the German population of Azerbaijan, which were zealously preserved away
from home and retained the connection between the Germans and their historical homeland.
The Lutheran Church and
Evangelical-Lutheran Community
in Soviet Azerbaijan
After Azerbaijan was occupied in 1920 by the Red Army and Soviet power was established
there, significant changes occurred in all the spheres of sociopolitical, socioeconomic, and cultural
life of the republic’s population. The Soviet authorities did not encourage religion or spirituality in
society, which was expressed in harsh measures: persecution of believers, the closing of churches,
repression of representatives of the clergy, and so on. In the 1920s, the party leadership in Azerbaijan
began engaging in anti-religious propaganda, which was carried out by numerous unions, atheist
clubs, and other organizations which were especially created and became increasingly active with
each passing year. This anti-religious policy of the government also had a direct influence on the life
of the Protestant, Lutheran community of Azerbaijan.
As early as the beginning of the 1920s, an atheist society was created in Baku which launched
a belligerent atheism campaign. For example, one of the reports of the Agitation-Propaganda Department of the Baku Committee of the Azerbaijan Communist Party (ACP) for 1923-1924 mentioned the
anti-religious campaigns designed to carry out agitation and propaganda against Navruz Bayram,
Ramazan, Christmas, Easter, and other religious holidays.18 Such anti-religious campaigns were
launched all over the place, both in the cities, and in the uezds of the republic, and were aimed against
the representatives of different confessions.
But, despite these measures, in the first half of the 1920s, a certain amount of tolerance could
still be seen in the government’s attitude toward religion. For example, at the beginning of the 1920s,
the Evangelical-Lutheran community, which united the German population of the whole of the Transcaucasus, including Azerbaijan, continued to officially engage in its activity. The Charter of the
Union of Evangelical-Lutheran Church Communities in the Transcaucasus adopted in Helenendorf
on 25 November, 1924 was kept in the archives, according to which this Union expressed the will of
the communities belonging to it. In order to do this, delegates from these communities gathered once
a year at the Union’s regular congresses and, when necessary, at special congresses. An executive
committee, consisting of an ober-pastor and his two delegates elected by all the parishes, headed the
Union. Every Evangelical-Lutheran community of the Transcaucasus was supposed to send its delegate to the congress, and communities of more than 200 families sent two delegates.19 In December
See: Pervaia vseobshchaia perepis naselenia Rossiiskoi imperii 1897g., Vol. LXIII, Elisabethpol gubernia, 1904,
pp. 3, 63, 65, 87; Pervaia vseobshchaia perepis naselenia Rossiiskoi imperii 1897g., Vol. LXI, Baku gubernia, 1905,
pp. 52, 58-59, 72-73, 108-109.
See: Otchetnye materialy Bakinskogo komiteta AKP i XIII Partkonferentsii, Baku, 1924, pp. 129-131.
SAAR, rec. gr. 27, inv. 1, f. 377, sheets 5-6.
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1924, a petition was sent to the People’s Commissar of the Interior of the Az.S.S.R. from Helenendorf
by the Executive Committee of the Union of Evangelical-Lutheran Parishes of the Transcaucasus “to
permit the regular congress of the Union of Evangelical-Lutheran Parishes of the Transcaucasus to be
held in Helenendorf.” At the beginning of 1925, the NKVD and AZCHEKA declared that the congress of the Union of Evangelical-Lutheran Parishes of the Transcaucasus could only be held in Baku,
because if the so-called “congress [were held] in Helenendorf, it would not be of significance for the
broad masses of Lutherans, since it was a long way from the center.” We will point out that according
to the monthly reports, by 1927, the Baku German-Swedish Evangelical-Lutheran community had
1,173 members.20
But with each passing year, in the second half of the 1920s, and particularly in the 1930s, the
government’s attitude toward religion became increasingly hard-line, the anti-religious campaigns
and persecution of the clergy intensified, and many houses of God were closed down.21 These processes affected the representatives of the different confessions living in Azerbaijan, including the German population. For example, an excerpt from the report of the Shamkhor Uezd Committee of the
Azerbaijan Communist Party (Bolsheviks) of 7 July, 1926, was customary for that time, which graphically expressed the gist of the anti-religious campaign carried out among the representatives of different nationalities and confessions and noted: “measures must be taken to prevent clerics arriving
from Persia from performing religious rites with respect to the Muslim religious holidays; a plan of
action must be drawn up, together with the head of the Ganja United Party Bureau, which incorporates measures to fight against certain religious trends and rituals in the German Molokan villages.”22
The party bodies were particularly displeased about the fact that young Germans were being
drawn into spiritual life, about their religious upbringing, and about the adherence of the German
colonists to all the traditional religious undertakings. Despite the anti-religious agitation continuously carried out by the authorities, the colonists, in keeping with the canons of Lutheranism, performed
their religious holidays and rites—confirmation, baptism, matrimony, burial, and so on. As we know,
according to the first decrees of the Soviet government, the church was separated from the state and
from schools. As a result, teaching religion was abolished in German schools. Throughout the entire
existence of the German colonies, this subject had been considered mandatory and was one of the
most important parts of the school curriculum taught by the local pastor. But despite abolishing teaching of the fundamentals of religion in secondary schools, children primarily received religious education in their families and at the local church they attended. For example, in the report of the AgitationPropaganda Department of the Shamkhor Uezd Committee on school affairs in the colonies of 1926,
party officials were displeased to note the following: “German teachers stop teaching in schools during all the religious holidays, and the children continue their religious lessons in the churches on these
days.”23 A report of the Commission of the Azerbaijan Central Executive Committee on the culturaleconomic state of the German peasantry of the Az.S.S.R. of 1930 said that twice a week pupils studied
religion with a pastor and sang in church, while lessons in the villages of Grünfeld, Alexejewka,
Traubenfeld, and Eichenfeld, were held in prayer houses due to the lack of school buildings.24
The Soviet leadership and various power structures expressed their displeasure about the fact
that religion in the colonies took priority over public and party work. The local pastors, who exercised
authority and influence among the colonists, enjoyed special respect in the German settlements and
took direct part in inculcating and conveying spiritual knowledge and national and cultural values to
the German youth. As was mentioned in one of the studies of the German colonies in 1926: “The
SHAAR, rec. gr. 27, inv. 1, f. 272, sheets 2-7; f. 244, sheet 94.
See: Az@rbaycan tarixi: 7 cildd@, VI c. (aprel 1920-iyun 1941), Elm, Baký, 2000, pp. 216-219, 326-329.
State Archives of Political Parties and Public Movements of the Azerbaijan Republic (SAPPPMAR), rec. gr. 1,
inv. 85, f. 644, sheet 32.
SAPPPMAR, rec. gr. 1, inv. 235, f. 270, sheet 10.
SHAAR, rec. gr. 379, inv. 7, f. 100, sheets 5-6; SAPPPMAR, rec. gr. 1, inv. 235, f. 102, sheet 62.
Vol. 1 (5), 2007
colonists are far removed from all public work and are under the influence of the pastor.”25 In 1926,
a kirk began being built in Georgsfeld, which could not be finished due to interference from the
NKVD structures and anti-religious propaganda.26
In the 1930s, the German pastors encountered immense difficulties in carrying out their work:
the anti-religious fight was unleashed with increased ferocity throughout the whole Soviet Union,
including in Azerbaijan, mass closing of prayer houses and local German Lutheran churches began, as
well as persecution of the clergy. At the beginning of the 1930s, a wave of arrests of German pastors
rolled over many regions of the Union. These pastors were mainly accused of anti-Soviet activity, as
well as of having connections with and receiving help from Germany. In 1931, pastors Wenzel (from
Helenendorf) and Roisch (from Annenfeld) were arrested and taken to the GPU in Baku.27 In 1934,
the pastor of the Baku kirk, Paul Hamberg, was dismissed from his post and, in 1937, he was arrested
and repressed along with many other members of the clergy. The last pastor of the Helenendorf colony, Otto Wenzel, served until 1936, and from 1925-1930 taught the Old Testament at the Pedagogical Seminary in Baku. In 1936, he was arrested by the NKVD, in 1939, he was released, but he was
arrested again the same year.28 The last pastor of Annenfeld, Emil Roisch, was arrested in 1937 and,
by a decision of the NKVD Troika, was sentenced to death for anti-Soviet, religious propaganda.
According to the NKVD archives, by the beginning of 1936, there were seven Lutheran pastors in
Azerbaijan who were arrested for espionage during the 1936-1938 operation.29
Along with the arrests of the German pastors, Lutheran churches were also closed down. After
the middle of the 1930s, the Lutheran churches both in Baku and in the German settlements were all
essentially closed, and by 1937, kirks, like most of the mosques and churches functioning in Azerbaijan, had ultimately ceased their activity and were used for other purposes, such as St. John’s
church in Helenendorf, for example, which became a gymnasium.30 On the whole, by 1938, the
Lutheran church in the Soviet Union had ceased to officially exist. According to the data presented
by O. Litsenberger, a researcher of the history of the Lutheran church, during the years of Soviet
power, 287 Lutheran churches were closed throughout the Soviet Union.31 As a result, by the end of
the 1930s, the activity of the Lutheran church, as well as of the German Lutheran clergy in Azerbaijan, came to an end. But the German colonists, who remained devoted to the traditional way of life,
continued to perform their religious rites and inculcate young people with religious knowledge, now
in latent form, in families and in their own homes.
In 1941, the beginning of the Great Patriotic War saw the onset of the mass deportation of the
German population living in the republics and regions of the Soviet Union, including in Azerbaijan,
to remote regions. Deportation of the German population from Azerbaijan should be reviewed within
the framework of the entire deportation process of the Soviet Germans. After German troops arrived
in the Soviet Union and the hostilities began, the Soviet leadership took tough measures against the
Germans, as well as against other nations that were considered an internal Fifth Column. It should be
noted that according to the last pre-war census of 1939, there were 23,133 Germans living in Azerbaijan, which amounted to 0.7% of the total size of the population of the Az.S.S.R.32
SAPPPMAR, rec. gr. 1, inv. 235, f. 303, sheet 42.
See: T. Gumbatova, Zhizn’ nemtsev-kolonistov za Kavkazom, Baku, 2005, p. 206.
See: O. Litsenberger, Evangelichesko-liuteranskaia tserkov’ i sovetskoe gosudarstvo (1917-1939), Gotika, Moscow, 1999, pp. 263-264.
See: J. Schleuning, E. Bachmann, P. Schellenberg, Und Siehe, Wir leben! Martin Luther Verlag, Erlangen, 1982, S. 151.
See: M. Jafarli, “Azerbaidzhanskie nemtsy—ob’ekt politicheskogo terrora NKVD,” in: Sovetskiy totalitarizm na
Kavkaze (20-30-e gody). Materialy nauchnoi konferentsii, Baku, 1998, p. 30; idem, Politicheskiy terror i sud’by azerbaidzhanskikh nemtsev, Baku, 1998, p. 45; Heimatbuch der Deutschen aus Ruâland, Stuttgart, 1961, S. 126.
See: Heimatbuch der Deutschen aus Ruâland, S. 115.
See: O.A. Litsenberger, “Liuteranskaia tserkov’ v Saratovskom Povolzhie v gody Sovetskoi vlasti,” in: Rossiiskie
nemtsy na Donu, Kavkaze i Volge. Materialy Ros.-germ nauch. konf., Anapa, 22-26 Sept., 1994, Moscow, 1995, pp. 280-281.
See: Vsesoiuznaia perepis naselenia 1939 g. Osnovnye itogi, ed. by Iu. Poliakov, Nauka Publishers, Moscow,
1992, p. 71.
Vol. 1 (5), 2007
Photo of Paul Hamberg, the last pastor of the Lutheran Church in Baku,
with the German youth on confirmation day (1930)
On 8 October, 1941, the State Defense Committee adopted resolution No. 744cc “On Resettlement of Germans from the Georgian, Azerbaijani, and Armenian S.S.R.,” which gave the following
instructions: “To resettle the German population from the Georgian S.S.R.—23,580 people, from the
Azerbaijani S.S.R.—22,741 people, and from the Armenian S.S.R.—212 people.” All the measures
to resettle the Germans of the Caucasus in the Kazakh S.S.R. entrusted to the U.S.S.R. NKVD structures were to be carried out in a short time—from 15 to 30 October, 1941.33 The German population
deported from Azerbaijan was settled in groups in the Akmolinsk, Karaganda, Kustanai, Pavlodar,
and North Kazakhstan regions of the Kazakh S.S.R.34 The Germans lived in special settlements,
where they were registered with the NKVD and were deprived of many rights, primarily the right to
freely change their place of residence; they were also mobilized into the Labor army during the war.
Not until the post-war period were decrees issued by the Presidium of the U.S.S.R. Supreme Soviet
of 13 December, 1955, 29 August, 1964, and 3 November, 1972 that permitted the Germans to move from
the special settlements. However, the Germans were not ultimately rehabilitated until the Declaration of
the U.S.S.R. Supreme Soviet, On Recognizing as Illegal and Criminal Repressive Acts against Peoples
Subjected to Forced Resettlement and Support of their Rights, of 14 November, 1989 was issued.35 At the
end of the 1980s-beginning of the 1990s, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, most Soviet Germans
See: “Mobilizovat’ nemtsev v rabochie kolonny… I. Stalin.” Collected Documents (1940s), ed. by N. Bugai, Gotika, Moscow, 1998, pp. 37-38.
See: Iz istorii nemtsev Kazakhstana (1921-1975). Collected documents, Gotika, Almaty, Moscow, 1997, pp. 105106; P. Rempel, “Deportatsiia nemtsev iz evropeiskoi chasti SSSR i trudarmiia po ‘sovershenno sekretnym’ dokumentam
NKVD SSSR 1941-1944 gg.,” in: Rossiiskie nemtsy. Problemy istorii, iazyka i sovremennogo polozheniia. Materialy
mezhdunarodnoi nauchnoi konferentsii, Gotika, Moscow, 1996, p. 73.
See: Istoria rossiiskikh nemtsev v dokumentakh (1763-1992). Collected Documents, Vol. 1, ed. by V. Auman,
V. Chebotareva, Moscow, 1993, pp. 177-179, 266-267.
Vol. 1 (5), 2007
emigrated to the Federative Republic of Germany. And only a few German families returned to the places
of their former residence, particularly to Azerbaijan, mainly to Baku. In this way, deportation put an end to
the history of the German population that lived in Azerbaijan for more than a century.
C o n c l u s i o n
At present, there are representatives of different nationalities, including Germans, living in the
Azerbaijan Republic who enjoy equal rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution of the Azerbaijan Republic (in particular, Arts 21, 25, 44, 45). They also preserve and develop their own culture, language, customs, and traditions. Today, several societies and organizations function in Azerbaijan that carry out social and cultural undertakings to acquaint people with the German culture.
Among them are the Vozrozhdenie (Renaissance) Azerbaijani National-Cultural Society of Germans,
the Kapelhaus German-Azerbaijani Society of Culture, the Germany-Azerbaijan Society, and the
Evangelical-Lutheran Community, which acquaint people with the culture, spiritual life, and history
of this nationality by holding a variety of cultural functions and organizing musical and literary evenings devoted to the memory of famous Germans—writers, artists, and scientists.36 There are still
Lutheran churches (German kirks) in Baku, Khanlar, and Shamkir, which are protected by the state as
historical and architectural monuments. As a result, the Germans and their descendants who stayed
and are living in the republic today are able to hold cultural events and holidays, as well as attend
church, thus recalling the history of their ancestors, the life and fate of whom were associated with
Azerbaijan for almost two centuries.
See: T. Gumbatova, “Vozrozhdenie nemetskoi kultury i religii v Azerbaidzhane,” in: Nemetskoe naselenie v
poststalinskom SSSR, v stranakh SNG i Baltii (1956-2002). Materialy mezhdunarodnoi nauchnoi konferentsii, Moscow,
2003, pp. 333-347; Ch. Abdullaev, B. Gulieva, Nemtsy v Azerbaidzhane, Baku, 1992, pp. 26-28.
Ph.D. (Hist.), associate professor
at the History Department of Baku State University
(Baku, Azerbaijan).
his article highlights one of the multifaceted and vivid manifestations of Islam—Muslim mysticism-Sufism—or, to
be more precise, presents a brief history
of Sufism in Azerbaijan beginning from the
time it spread, that is, traces this phenomenon from its early days to the present. It
should be added, however, that the article
sheds light on only a few pages of the history of Sufism in Azerbaijan.