(April-September 1920)

In the historical situation generated by the First World War, both in Northern Azerbaijan and in Southern Azerbaijan, the people rose to fight for the revival of their national traditions of statehood.

During the war, the territory of Iran, including the lands of South Azerbaijan, which covered the northwest of the country, was turned into an arena for military operations by foreign states. Iranian reaction and the domination of foreign conquerors brought internal contradictions to the limit and further worsened the already difficult situation of the people. Despite the fact that the tsarist autocracy in Russia was overthrown as a result of the February revolution, Russian troops still held southern Azerbaijan under occupation. After some time, the popular movement against the Shah's regime and foreign conquerors, which swept the whole of Iran and the struggle for the constitutional system and democratic changes, began to take on the character of a national liberation movement in South Azerbaijan.

The events that took place in Russia, the victory of the liberation movement in the north of Azerbaijan, the revival of national traditions of statehood, and the reforms carried out by the People's Republic of Azerbaijan, further strengthened the national liberation movement in the south of the country.

The national liberation movement in South Azerbaijan was led by an active participant in the Iranian revolution of 1905-1911. Sheikh Mohammed Khiyabani (1879-1920).

Along with the struggle against internal reaction and foreign conquerors, the freedom fighters led by Sheikh Mohammed Khiyabani demanded renewal, that is, the implementation of democratic changes throughout the country, strove for the victory of the people's revolution throughout Iran, the elimination of the Shah's regime and the creation of a democratic republican state. and fought for the granting of autonomy to South Azerbaijan within the democratic state of Iran, which was to be created. The Azerbaijan Democratic Party (ADP) played an important role in the rise to the liberation struggle of the population of South Azerbaijan in the form of a united front. The ADP Central Committee was headed by Sheikh Mohammed Khiyabani.

The democrats, acting under the leadership of Khiyabani, raised the population of Tabriz, Ardabil, Khoy, Urmia, Sarab, Zanjan, and other cities to rallies, demanded the resignation of the pro-British government of Iran and the implementation of democratic reforms in the country.

With the expansion of the national liberation movement in Iran at the beginning of 1918, Russian troops were withdrawn from South Azerbaijan. England, taking advantage of this, began to deploy its military forces in South Azerbaijan. The British were eager for Baku oil. The British government additionally sent new military forces to Iran under the command of General Densterville. General Densterville was instructed to seize Anzeli, Rasht, and Baku.

The seizure by the British of the regions of South Azerbaijan, bordering with Turkey, ostensibly for the purpose of "outstripping the Turkish danger" and thereby taking all of Iran under their control, further strengthened the national liberation movement in South Azerbaijan.

In such a situation, detachments of Armenian bandits, armed with Russian officers, began a genocide against the Azerbaijani Turks in the border regions of South Azerbaijan, as was the case in Eastern Anatolia and North Azerbaijan. Aysors and Kurds, incited by French officers and American missionaries, also took an active part in this bloody massacre against the Azerbaijani people. In this difficult situation, the military forces of fraternal Turkey arrived in time to help the Turks of South Azerbaijan. Turkish military units, which began in March 1918 to cleanse Maku, Urmia, and Salmas from the Armenian-Aisoro-Kurdish bandits, entered Tabriz. Thus, the genocide against the Azerbaijani people was suppressed in the territory of South Azerbaijan, as it was in the north of the country. However, in the very difficult international situation created at that time for Turkey, in November 1918 the Turkish military forces were forced to leave South Azerbaijan. The British, taking advantage of this, conquered all of South Azerbaijan, including Tabriz. Thus, the territory of Iran completely came under the control of the British interventionists.

On August 9, 1919, under pressure from the conquerors, an agreement was concluded between Iran and England. On the basis of the terms of this agreement, Iran turned into a country dependent on England. The August 9th agreement inflamed the popular movement in the country even more. All Iran, including South Azerbaijan, rose up against this humiliating treaty. Mass rallies and demonstrations began in all parts of South Azerbaijan. The fighters of Tabriz, who rose to the uprising in October 1919, drove out of the city the Iranian wali (governor — Ya.M.). After some time, at the request of the population of Tabriz, British military units were also withdrawn from the city.

Gradually, the national liberation movement took on a more consistent character and entered its decisive stage. On April 7, 1920, an armed uprising under the leadership of Sheikh Mohammed Khiabani began in Tabriz. The entire population of Tabriz rose to defend the rebels. The police units sent from the center to suppress the uprising did not dare to do so and left the city. As a result of the unprecedented activity of the people, the uprising on April 7, 1920, won a victory without bloodshed. Sheikh Mohammed Khiyabani, speaking before the people on the day of the victory of the uprising — April 7, announced that from that day the name of Azerbaijan would be renamed Azadistan (Country of Freedom).

The Tabriz rebels immediately began their practical activities. Government officials and military personnel sent from the center were removed from office. All state administration passed into the hands of ADP activists. Thus, the movement for democratic change and renewal, which began throughout Iran, ultimately turned into a national liberation movement. The revival of the traditions of the independent statehood of Azerbaijan began. The people strove for freedom and the creation of their own independent national state.

After the victory of the armed uprising in Tabriz, uprisings took place in Khoy, Ardabil, Astara, Marag, Ahar, and Zanjan. The national liberation movement, which took place in South Azerbaijan, was met with sympathy by all forces, dissatisfied with the internal reaction and the British and elsewhere in Iran.

In conditions when the whole of Iran was gripped by popular discontent against reaction and British rule, the Tabriz rebels began to take more decisive steps. On June 23, 1920, the National Government was established in Tabriz under the leadership of Sheikh Mohammed Khiyabani. The national government, which included ADP activists, consisted of representatives from various segments of the population.

The day of the beginning of the activity of the National Government — June 24, turned into a national holiday in Tabriz. Work was suspended in all institutions, educational institutions, markets were closed. By the decision of the National Government, all officials of the center, including the Iranian wali, were expelled from Tabriz. In fact, this meant the overthrow of the reactionary Shah's regime — the Iranian power — in South Azerbaijan and the revival of the traditions of national statehood. The national government, headed by Sheikh Mohammed Khiyabani, actually performed the function of a democratic republic.

Nevertheless, opposing the desire of the people to live completely freely, the National Government continued the line of the struggle for the democratization of all Iran and the creation of a constitutional system in the country, against internal reaction and British rule, and opposed the policy of discrimination against South Azerbaijan.

Thus, despite the people's desire for complete independence and the actual creation of their own independent democratic republic, the National Government fought not for the complete independence of South Azerbaijan, but for the right to obtain autonomy within future democratic Iran.

The leaders of the National Government believed that after Tabriz the whole of Iran would rise, the Shah's rule would be overthrown, the people would come to power and a democratic-republican system would be established throughout the country. And the Azerbaijanis will play an important role in the formation of the future all-Iranian people's government. Khiyabani was confident that "Tabriz will save all Iran!"

The national government, which did not set itself the political task of separating Azerbaijan from Iran and creating an independent Azerbaijani state, began reforms in the economy, education, health care, and other areas. First of all, various changes were made to improve the plight of the poor, including Tabriz residents. The elimination of illiteracy began. National schools and hospitals were opened. A free school for girls from poor families has started operating in Tabriz. Teachers from Baku, Turkey, and even from Tiflis were invited to teach in the newly opened schools. Preparatory work began for the creation of a regular army — the National Guard. The National Government's own gendarme and police units were created. A police school was opened. At the same time, preparatory work began for the creation of new jobs, the implementation of monetary and land reforms, municipal elections, and the creation of a financial and banking system. For this purpose, new departments, institutions, ministries were created.

As you can see, all the measures carried out by the National Government, as well as the envisaged reforms, were essentially aimed at creating an independent democratic-republican state in South Azerbaijan. The independent Azerbaijani state that was being created was called Azadistan memleketi ("Country of Freedom"). In accordance with this, on all official documents, letterheads, as well as signs with the names of ministries, departments, and institutions, the name of Azerbaijan was changed to Azadistan.

Khiyabani constantly called on his people to enlightenment, to fight for progress. He believed that this was the only way to achieve freedom. At meetings organized in the Tabriz City Park, he promoted progressive ideas. In the speech of Sheikh Mohammed Khiyabani, delivered on June 15, 1920, the main ideas of his struggle were reflected:

“Self-awareness is a natural and general law. Every person, every living being loves himself more than others. Therefore, any society should not expect an improvement in its well-being from another. It is especially inappropriate to wait for help and service from someone who is not close. Respect for one's own personality and faith in it should be on a par with self-esteem. Any people or society should not be arrogant and distrustful of themselves. A person should not accept baseness, shaking the basis of his own trust and modesty, equal to weakness. Humanity needs joint activities and mutual assistance. It cannot be imagined that small people living in the world cannot give humanity any benefit, and one can treat its existence with disdain. It is a pity that we do not value ourselves enough and may not even know that we have our own pride. This has been tested in the activities of individuals. Individuals with high specificity, serving high ideas, evaluating their level and their honor, have always reached heights. It is for this reason that many writers and philosophers, for the sake of their personalities, reached the highest level and forced even padishahs to respect their work and strength. They had the highest influence in palaces. Nations can also make progress and development by revealing this greatness, morality, strength, pride, and trust in their existence. A person who wants to be free and independent cannot remain indifferent to their life and social problems. In order to stand on a par with progressive nations, we must also raise our thoughts and feelings to their level.

The first condition for the honor of a nation is its independence.

A people without freedom are devoid of will and respect. The independence of the people can preserve their spiritual wealth. The independence of every nation is guarded by its courage and courage".

The national liberation movement in South Azerbaijan continued to deepen. In fact, the Azerbaijani people began to create their own republican state in the south of the country.

The successes of the country of Azadistan set the whole of Iran in motion. The trembling Shah's regime, as well as the British, who were trying to keep Iran in a dependent position and striving for Baku oil, faced a real threat. Therefore, the Iranian reaction and the British who helped it began in Tehran to prepare a conspiracy against the National Government of Azerbaijan.

With the aim of misleading the National Government, the Tehran regime, on the one hand, negotiated with Sheikh Mohammed Khiyabani, made various promises, and on the other hand, prepared a plan for an attack on Tabriz. After the completion of all the preparatory work, on September 12, 1920, the reactionary forces, armed to the teeth, attacked Tabriz. The Tabriz rebels put up heroic resistance for two days. However, numerous, well-armed, and well-organized forces of the government managed to gain the upper hand. On September 14, Khiyabani was killed and the uprising was drowned in blood. Thus, another glorious page of the struggle for the independence of the Azerbaijani people has sunk into history. Just as in Northern Azerbaijan the bloody Bolshevik regime of Soviet Russia put an end to the existence of the Azerbaijan People's Republic, so the reactionary Shah's regime of Iran in South Azerbaijan drowned the country of Azadistan in blood. The reactionary forces, which at one time divided Azerbaijan between themselves in Gulustan and Turkmenchay, did not allow it to gain state independence. Once again, the north of Azerbaijan remained part of Russia, and the south — part of Iran.