“Graves as Weapons”series, politicization of ethnic cleansing in WW1 Caucasus

Editorial | Republic Underground 

March 31, 2021 

Above image: “Nicholas II the Bloody and his Children” by paukrus is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The history of World War I in the Caucasus has been riddled with Tsarist-to-Soviet propaganda, as well as the propaganda of post-Soviet propagandists. The facts have been buried by these politicizations. The ethnic killing occurred across national and political lines as part of the internal displacement of people groups and the establishment of a new world order at that historical moment.

March 31 – Day of Genocide of Azerbaijanis, Opinion


For Azerbaijan, ethnic cleansing occurred on March 31, 1918. Azerbaijan’s Supreme Court regards these massacres as a genocide of the Azerbaijani people by the Armenian Dashnak party. The Dashnak party, as of 1918, was an Armenian national extremist militia that operated with the Bolsheviks under the stress of the Soviet Union to seize territories of the South Caucasus.


The events of March 31, 1918, have also been marked by the Kavkaz Center.

“March 31 marks the 103rd anniversary of the genocide – the first large-scale ethnic cleansing perpetrated by Armenians against the Azerbaijani people. Detachments of Dashnak Armenians, with the support of the Bolsheviks, carried out massacres in Baku and other districts of Azerbaijan,” wrote Kavkaz Center, via Twitter, translated from Russian.

The ethnic cleansing of Azerbaijanis in what is now called “the battle of Baku” has been referred to by western outlets as “a peculiar battle” in the history of the Caucasus. The series of Dashnak invasions and Azerbaijani return-attacks continued from May-September of 1918, following the events of the March 1918 Baku Massacres. 

Middle Eastern Studies’ published a report by Frank Cass in 1998 that noted that the Bolshevik Revolution began in Russia in November 1917, when World War I was already in its fourth year. Russia had controlled the regions of Transcaucasia and eastern Anatolia since 1916, Cass noted that the European borders of Russia’s Caucasus control were in the hands of the Central Powers.  The political significance of the Caucasus during the World Wars was at a paramount peak. 

In this series, Graves as Weapons Republic Underground news will explore how the massacres and ethnic cleansings of this era in history have since been politicized and weaponized to further the past agendas of Soviet socialism and the present lobbies of territorial control today.