Baku Congress of the Peoples of the East

Third Session
September 4

The session opened at 12.13 p.m. Comrade Zinoviev took the chair.

Chairman: I declare the third session of the Congress of the Peoples of the East open. We will continue with discussion of the first two reports. I call on Comrade Narbutabekov.

Narbutabekov: Comrades, before making my speech I must warn you that, having only fifteen minutes ... [Voices: ‘Can’t hear.’]

Chairman: Please be quiet: the comrade is a bit hoarse.

Narbutabekov: My time is limited. In fifteen minutes it is, of course, impossible fully to describe the international situation of the working masses of the East. I shall be brief and I ask you to listen to me with attention and not to interrupt, as I have no voice left.

Comrade Zinoviev described the tasks before this Congress clearly and distinctly in his speech. I shall not touch on that. As far as the situation of the working masses in the East is concerned, that is a question of extraordinary importance not only for us, the peoples of the East, but also for the Soviet power itself, for any power which definitely sets itself the task of achieving certain aims among the many millions of the East, where there are so many languages and dialects (about 53), needs to listen to the voice of these peoples, and our duty as delegates is to put certain demands to the Soviet power, precisely and clearly. We declare that our Moslem peoples and peoples of the East want no other power but the Soviet power. We have no choice. It is either the British capitalists or the working masses of Russia and the whole world. One of these two things must be, as Comrade Radek said: the Soviet power must either perish, and all become slaves, or it must conquer, and then we shall be free. In order that these words may be put into practice, we the peoples of the East must make it quite clear that there are two worlds: the world of the West and the world of the East.

You know that the West has, during the many centuries in its historical development, several times changed its form of state structure, from the most despotic forms to liberal-democratic republics, whereas in the East the form of the state structure has not altered. Russia is the first of the European states to have brought forward a new form of state structure, the form of Soviet power. Comrades, the world of the East and the world of the West are complete opposites in this respect. The East is in a special situation, in its psychological, cultural, economic and religious aspects as in its social forms and the forms of its everyday life, and these peculiarities have got to be reckoned with. Nicholas II and other plunderers of the working people never took account of these peculiarities. Our interests were always trampled on. In the first days of the revolution, when the Bolsheviks put forward the slogan of ‘self-determination for the nationalities’ in opposition to Kerensky’s capitalist slogan of ‘war to the victorious end’, all 53 nations of the Russian state echoed it. This was one of the principal reasons why Kerensky’s capitalist slogan failed. We, the peoples of the East, had faith in that slogan of ‘self-determination for the nationalities’, and to this day we have faith, faith in the ideological guides and leaders of the world proletariat Comrades Lenin, Trotsky, Zinoviev and others; but at the same time we must say to the Congress that what we want is for the voice of the Moslem working people and the peoples of the East to be heard. If this voice is heard, the state power will find it easier to carry out its tasks and aims in implementing the great principles of the social revolution in the East.

We demand genuine realisation of the principles of freedom, equality and brotherhood, in fact and not merely on paper. I am sure that if that were done, not a single Moslem would venture to raise his hand against the Soviet power. You all know, comrades, that in the East from time immemorial, beginning with Genghis-Khan and Timur and ending with the bloody Abdul Hamid, there has been no other form of government but despotism: in heaven there is Almighty God, and on earth the Sultan. The state structure has not altered as it has in the West. When the great Russian Revolution burst upon the world, we were utterly unprepared for it. We were unable immediately to adapt the entire mass of our habits and ways of living to the framework of Communism. It must be said that, apart from the Soviet power there is no other kind of power acceptable to the East. which can save the working masses of the peoples of the East from the hands of the capitalists. Everyone knows that the East is utterly different from the West, that its ideas are different — and so a rigid application of the ideas of Communism will meet with resistance there. Accordingly, if we want the four hundred millions in the Moslem world to join the Soviet power, we need to apply a special yardstick in their case. The declaration the non-Party comrades want to make is this, that the diverse interests and special features that exist in Caucasia and Turkestan and in all the former borderlands of the Russian state must be resolutely defended, and it is the duty of the Congress to stress them, to say to our government: Comrades, the Moslems will not abandon the Soviet power, but this is on condition that the peculiarities of the Eastern peoples be recognised, and the measures adopted by the Soviet power in this direction must be implemented not on paper but in fact. [Applause.]

Comrade Radek said that the Soviet power is accused by the West-European Kulturträger, the West European brigands, of carrying out a policy of Red imperialism. In order to refute this charge it is necessary that our comrades, the leaders of the Communist Party and the Soviet power, shall declare that this is not so and will not be so. We Turkestanis state that we have never before seen Comrade Zinoviev, or Comrade Radek, or the other leaders of the Revolution. They should come and see for themselves what is happening in Turkestan, what exactly is being done by the local authorities there, whose policy is such that it is antagonizing the working masses against the Soviet power. I regard it as my duty as a delegate to say this, because I am staunchly in favour of the platform of Soviet power.

I will be brief, for time is short. This congress is made up not of creatures of the bourgeoisie but of genuine representatives of the working masses, who must support the Soviet power. Whether you are a Chechen, a Daghestani, an Adzharian, a Kirghiz or a Kazakh, everyone at this Congress must clearly and definitely state to the Soviet power what our needs are, and say: ‘Comrades, do not waver, go straight ahead along the road laid down by the working masses of the people, for there is no other road, no other way out. Even if the West European proletariat does not support the Soviet power it will be supported by the Moslems and the peoples of the East.'

For this reason I declare that the Soviet power can find no better ally at the present time than the working people of the East, for during the three years that our comrades, the best leaders of the world revolution, have been appealing to them, up to now the West European proletariat has shown no active support.

The well-known failure of the July 21 strike proved that the West European proletariat, owing to the conditions in which it carries on its political life, cannot help; therefore, without wasting time, it is necessary to organise the East in the proper way, in accordance with its religious and socio-economic conditions. There is no other road for the Soviet power to take. [Applause.]

We Turkestanis say that, from the moment of the October Revolution the toiling masses of Turkestan rallied to the Soviet power just like their Russian comrades. Shedding our blood on the Turkestan fronts against the enemies of the Soviet power, we bound up our lives closely with the toiling masses of all Russia, and the accusations of chauvinist tendencies brought against Turkestani activists must be rejected, for our workers have proved the contrary with their blood.

During three years the working people of Turkestan have acquitted themselves with honour in this struggle. But what was needed to ensure this? Very little. Only the paying of close attention to the life of the Eastern peoples and the application of those principles which delegates have advocated. There is no question of counter-revolution here, any more than of chauvinism, for we, the representatives of our working people, have suppressed our narrow nationalistic tendencies; and we, the first revolutionaries of Turkestan, have no fear of any ulemas, of any Black Hundreds of the mullahs. We were the first to raise the standard against them [Applause] and we shall not lower that standard, to the very end: we shall either perish or conquer. I tell you, comrades, our Turkestani masses have to fight on two fronts. On the one hand against the reactionary mullahs in our own midst, and on the other against the narrow nationalist inclinations of the local Europeans. Neither Comrade Zinoviev, nor Comrade Lenin, nor Comrade Trotsky knows the real situation, knows what has been going on in Turkestan these last three years. We must speak out frankly and draw a true picture of the state of affairs in Turkestan, and then the eyes of our leaders will be opened. They will come to Turkestan and set things right.

I throw this out to all, both the non-Party and the Party comrades from Turkestan. So that what has happened in Turkestan shall not be repeated in other parts of the Moslem world, I warn our government that we know all the shortcomings of the policy which has been pursued in these three years, and we say: Remove your counter-revolutionaries, — remove your alien elements who spread national discord, remove your colonisers who are now working behind the mask of Communism! [Tumultuous applause, cries of ‘Bravo’.]

Comrades, I will not say much, but will confine myself to recalling the sacred words of the world’s leader Comrade Lenin, when he said that he is on his own and we must help him in every possible way.

You have his famous words before you and you keep them in your heart — and after these words nobody can say that the Soviet power wishes us ill. It may be that among its representatives there are provocateurs and demagogues, but these must be ruthlessly destroyed, just like counter-revolutionaries.

We are not afraid of open counter-revolutionaries, we have encountered them on the war fronts. But, comrades, there are among us persons who, behind the mask of Communism, are bringing ruin upon the Soviet power as a whole, spoiling the entire Soviet policy in the East, and we must declare, fearlessly: Down with these provocateurs and demagogues who corrupt the fundamental idea of Soviet power! [Tumultuous applause, shouts of. ‘Down with them!’]

Now, after what I have said I must go on to say the following. The theoretical position of the Soviet power in relation to the East was set out with the greatest clarity in the appeal to all the toiling Moslems of Russia and the East. The Council of People’s Commissars issued in November 1917, over Comrade Lenin’s signature, a special appeal to all the toiling Moslems of Russia and the Easy. In this historic appeal, besides the statement that the treaty which provided for partitioning Turkey and taking Armenia away from her had been torn up and annulled, and that Constantinople must remain in the hands of the Moslems, the following appeared: ‘Henceforward your beliefs and customs, your national and cultural institutions are declared free and inviolable. Build your national life freely and without hindrance. It is your right. You yourselves must be masters in your own country. You yourselves must build your lives in your image and likeness.'

After these words, is it conceivable that we should turn our backs on the Soviet power?

But now, as we travel about, Moslems come up to us and say that our beliefs are being trampled on, that we are not allowed to pray, not allowed to bury our dead in accordance with our customs and religion. What is this? It is nothing but a sowing of counter-revolution among the toiling masses.

It may be that the same thing is happening in other places too, but I declare, in the name of the non-Party delegates, and perhaps the Communists also will join in this, that with the remarkable congress we are holding today our Soviet power should introduce a definite policy in relation to the East. Then the Eastern peoples will rally to the Soviet power not only on paper but in arms, and then no power in the world will be able to resist the pressure of the many-millioned masses of the peoples of the East, together with the proletariat and peasantry of Russia.

Long live the oppressed East!

Long live those real Communists who, without reservation, want to put these principles into practice!

Long five our leaders, the leaders of the world proletariat — Comrades Lenin, Trotsky, Zinoviev and the others.

[Tadzhayev translates into Turkic and other interpreters translate into Turkish, Persian and Chechen.]

Korkmasov: Comrades, I am taking the floor to join in the discussion and will have to speak in Russian and then translate my own words into Kumyk, so that to translate another speaker now into Kumyk is, owing to my state of health, too much for me. I ask Comrade Aliyev to take my place.

[An interpreter translates into Kumyk.]

Chairman: The last of the speakers on the list, Comrade Korkmasov, will now address us.

Korkmasov: Comrades, the fervent, inspiring call with which Comrade Zinoviev summoned us to struggle against world imperialism aroused in the hearts of all members of the Congress the feelings which already earlier filled the hearts of the Highland poor. When they drew their sabres and daggers, only lately wiped clean of Volunteers’ blood, the Highland poor showed that today as always they are ready to follow their great leaders in order to join in the bloody decisive, final battle with the brigands and scoundrels of world imperialism for the sake of the emancipation of the oppressed peoples of West and East. [Tumultuous applause.]

Comrades, what speeches can be made, what discussion can take place after this decisive demonstration you have given? It would be incomprehensible and alien to the Highland poor.

Assembled in their own congress a month ago, the Highland poor, and even the ulemas, issued a call for a ghazavat, a holy war, against all the oppressors of the East: not to lay down our arms until the enemy of all the poor of the world and the working people of all nations has perished! [Applause.]

The Highland poor do not need any words. From the beginning of the great social revolution they have waged a ceaseless struggle not only against the internal counter-revolutionaries — the Imam, the Highland Government, but also against the external ones — the Turks, the British and the hirelings of the latter, Bicherakov’s and Denikin’s men. And, naturally, comrades; after experiencing all this incredibly hard struggle, the Highland poor cannot utter any equivocal words here or lodge any complaints.

But let me tell you, comrades, in a few words, what has happened in these three years, so that these facts from the life of our region, from the life of the working masses of the North Caucasus, may form a living bridge between East and West, illustrating the great truths that have been expressed here regarding international politics and the struggle against international imperialism, by our comrades Zinoviev and Radek.

Thanks to their self-sacrificing struggle, comrades, after a struggle such as not a single revolution, not a single people has known, the Russian workers and peasants we,., freedom and they presented this freedom, as though on a plate, to the peoples of the East.

And what happened? It turned out that the ruling classes — the princes, the Khans, the Beys, the rich, the mullahs — thought they would erect a wall between the great social revolution and the harassed Highland poor. Then these parasites, thanks to the intrigues of the Turkish imperialists and the British, brought on to the scene an idol, the Imam as a religious weapon with which to oppress the toiling masses.

What a farce! After the great Shamil, who defended the Highland poor against the Khans, the agents of the autocracy, Najmuddin Gotsinsky, a common criminal who was put in prison even by the Tsarist Government, was raised to the dignity of Imam. How did the Highland poor react to this farce, did they stand for it? No, the Highland poor launched a civil war. None of the efforts of the Pan-Islamists and the Pan-Turkists and none of the attempts made by the British and the agents of Nicholas was successful, however. After less than a year had passed, the Imam was overthrown even by those who had particularly supported him: he was nicknamed ‘not Imam but Ivan’. The poor of Daghestan, led by their own socialists, having linked up with the Red forces, proclaimed Soviet power in Daghestan. It is hard to convey to you the joy that was felt by the working people. This power is our own, the power of the poor, they said. After this, is it possible for us to utter words such as those that were uttered here just now? Such complaints are alien to our poor.

Comrades, nevertheless, sustained by the counter-revolution which was raging in Russia, the Highland princes, generals and landlords, having been beaten in the mountains in their gamble on the Imamate, and knowing that there was strong sympathy with the Turkish people among the masses, turned their gaze towards that Turkey where various Pashas, Beys and so on ruled, sitting on the backs of the working people. Would they help in crushing the Highland poor? Turks did actually come in. I am very sorry not to see here a leader who was very active in organising the counter-revolution in the mountains — Enver Pasha, who in the palace of the old Sultans, forgetting the ideals of the original Young Turks, organised along with Chervomoyev ‘ Kotsov and other generals of Nicholas II a counter-revolution to crush the Soviet power. [Applause.]

Turks appeared — and what did they do? The Young Turks Yusuf Izet Pasha, Nuri Pasha and various other Pasha-mashas and Beys, who ought to have won victories on various fronts of the imperialist wars dear to their hearts, but did not, turned up in Daghestan in order to establish a front against the working people and, thanks to help from Bicherakovs Cossacks and officers of Nicholas’s army, they were able for a time to subvert Soviet power in Daghestan.

But what did they give to the poor of Daghestan instead of that power? The one-man dictatorship of Prince Tarkovsky. That was how the ideology of the Young Turks had developed at the great moment of the social revolution. They found no other way of solving their problems. Around this counter-revolutionary, around this traitor to his own people, all sorts of rascals subsequently gathered Kotsovs, Chervomoyevs and suchlike — and proclaimed the mythical Highland Republic. But only a few months had passed when, after plundering the working people and selling the weapons left behind by the Turks, who had fled for home before a stronger imperialist, the British imperialist, having nothing more left to plunder, this gang of adventurers handed over the Highland people to be victims of the Volunteer bands. That was how the wretched farce under the tide of the ‘Highland Government’ was played out. The Volunteers, finding that the Turks and their creatures had not finished the job of crushing the Bolsheviks, and backed, on the other hand, by the British, launched a furious campaign against all adherents of the Soviet power, both particular individuals and whole communities. The Turks had arrested Bolsheviks and exacted contributions from Bolshevik settlements, but the Volunteers decided that they had not done enough, that counter-revolutionaries must do still more, and opened a real front against the Highland poor. This heroic struggle, which lasted nearly a year, is known to you, comrades: it has dyed Daghestan in the colour of its own blood, shed for the glorious Red flag. [A storm of applause.]

You also know, comrades, how the Highland poor in those same long months of struggle had to repulse Musavatist agents as well, and Turkish counter-revolutionaries who opened an internal front, in the person of Nuri Pasha, another counter-revolutionary, the brother of Enver Pasha. The struggle was a tragic one. Comrades, the Highlanders wanted to make their small contribution to helping the great Red Army, which was also there fighting the counter-revolution on the steppes of Russia. The struggle was crowned with victory. At the end of twelve months the Red Highland partisans had captured the towns of Temir-Khan-Shura, Derbent and Petrovsk, and greeted with red banners the first detachments of the great Red Army. And so, comrades, for the Highland poor there can be no talking about some detailed matters or other, some domestic affairs, such as the Turkestani comrade talked about, when what is at stake is the world revolution. What faces us is a great world war. We must say, and we do say, to the scoundrelly world imperialists of France, Britain and America that, even before the Congress of the Peoples of the East, before the call issued by our leaders, we began a ghazavat, a holy war, against you, and tomorrow we shall go into action against you, arms in hand! [Tumultuous applause.] And so, comrades, let me end with the call:

Long five the oppressed peoples of the East!

Long live the oppressed working masses of the West!

Long live their alliance under the red banner of the Third International! [Shouts and applause.]

Long live their fraternal alliance under the guidance of our great leaders, Comrades Lenin, Trotsky and Zinoviev, to smash the enemy, world imperialism and capitalism! [Applause.]

[Korkmasov translates his own speech into Kumyk.

Chairman: Please pay attention, a Turkic translation will now be given. [Voice: ‘The Turkic speakers understood — only a Persian translation is needed.’]

Chairman: The point is that the previous speech was translated into Turkic but delegates told us that they didn’t understand, and so they asked that this speech be translated into Turkic, so we shall have a translation. Please pay attention.

[Buniat-Zade translates the speech into Turkic.]

Zinoviev: Comrades, I have to announce that we need to complete the elections to the sections. Far from all the hostels have carried out these elections, and this must be done without delay. The next session will begin at 6 p.m. And now we shall break for lunch. [Translation.]

The session was closed at 3 p.m.