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"They will never be oppressed. The purpose of the Red Army's coming here is to help people"
- Mohammad Hasan Hajinski, at the last Parliment session of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic April 27th,1920
The post WWI history of Azerbaijan is intimately tied to its neighbor Armenia. Both countries have been pushed, pulled, and played as pawns by Turkey on one side and Russia on the other. Azerbaijan was especially important because of its oil production. About a half million Armenians fleeing from Iran and Turkey migrated into Azerbaijan areas with the help of Russian authorities when the nationalist tide of the Young Turks swept through the Ottoman Empire prior to WWI.
With the chaos of the October Revolution in 1917 disrupting the Russian war effort, the Transcaucasian area between the Black and Caspian seas was up for grabs. For a brief month in May, 1918 the leading political parties in Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia attempted to consolidate their forces into the Transcaucasian Federation, but conflict soon erupted when members of the Transcaucasian Commissariat sided with the new Russian Federation. Also, during WWI many Armenians had joined the Russia forces to fight the Central Powers and used the weapons and skills acquired to continue fighting the Turks and their neighbors, the Azerbaijanis. The Azerbaijan Musavat party's sympathies lay with the dream of their Moslem brethren in the Ottoman Empire for a Pan-Turkish state, and were fed up with the Armenians encroaching on their territory, so they left the federation and declared independence in late May.
From 1918 until 1920 the Azerbaijanis and Armenians skirmished for what little territory remained to them. The Musavatist Azerbaijanis began courting the British and Turks for help against the Azerbaijani Bolsheviks as the Russians were busy with their own internal problems. But, by 1920 the Bolsheviks had regained enough strength and composure to overrun most of what remained of Georgia, Azerbaijan, and eastern Armenia. The new administration of Turkey broke the treaty it had just signed with the Armenian Republic and took back western Armenia. During this period it was the common people of both countries who suffered from the famine, disease, riots, pillaging, and massacres that inevitably occur because of war. The Soviets put their foot down on the neck of the Georgians, Armenians, and Azerbaijanis to settle their territorial claims and imposed the dubious honorific of Socialist Soviet Republic on them all. All three were consolidated again as a Transcaucasian Federation in 1923. They all later regained their Soviet Socialist Republic status. All this border and name shuffling solved nothing and all the old antagonisms surfaced with the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990's
The Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan did not experience any severe inflation while it existed. But the Communists used the printing press recklessly once they assumed power.
There are many different paper types, color variations, and watermarks associated with the notes from the Russian revolutionary period. Some are very difficult to identify without actually seeing and feeling the notes themselves, or comparing them with other similar notes. Since I am no expert in the field of Russian notes I cannot always admit to positive identification of the variants. A good source for additional information are catalogs such as P.F. Ryabchenko's - the Complete Catalogue of Paper Banknotes and Bills of Russia, USSR, CIS countries (1769-1994) or later editions.
The largest denomination issued was 5 Million rubles in 1923.
The last update was March 22, 2006
These Azerbaijan Inflation Banknotes and more are available on eBay