In 1918, Azerbaijan became independent from the Russian Empire as part of the Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic and subsequently by itself. After it was conquered by the Red Army, it became part of the Transcaucasian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic, which was made up of Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Armenia in 1921. In 1936, the TSFSR was dissolved and Azerbaijan emerged as the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic. During the Second World War, Azerbaijani territories were not occupied. During this time Azerbaijan served as one of the USSR’s planned evacuation hubs, but due to the German advance, evacuations further to the east were ordered. On 30 August 1991, Azerbaijan declared independence.
On the eve of the German invasion, the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic had an estimated total population of 3.2 million people. About 41,000 of them were Jews. Half of Azerbaijan’s Jewish population were Mountain Jews who traditionally lived in rural areas and in some cities. Ashkenazi Jews began arriving and settling in the region during the 19th century. After 1941, about fifty thousand (some estimates put the number at one hundred thousand) Jews arrived in Azerbaijan as evacuees or refugees. Most left when the war ended.
The National Archives of the Republic of Azerbaijan was established and reorganized on 2 December 2002. Currently, there are 6 state archives under central management of the National Archives and 15 regional branches. The National Archives, via their central depositories and many local institutions, conserve millions of written documents. Most of the archives’ collections are not digitized and there is no online catalogue currently available. The Archive of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Azerbaijan SSR was reorganised and now is part of the Archive of Political Documents of the Presidential Administration of the Republic of Azerbaijan. Access to the archival collections may vary depending on the research goals and subject matter. In general, in order to be granted access to the archives, researchers are asked to bring an official letter from their university or research institution, addressed to the General Director of the National Archives of Azerbaijan. Written permission is given by the director of the archive and is for one calendar year. It is highly advisable to contact the archive well in advance to ensure they are open and that access will be granted.
EHRI has identified over ten archival institutions in Azerbaijan which hold Holocaust-relevant material. Three of them are located in the republic’s capital Baku. The archives in Azerbaijan that are most relevant to Holocaust research include the National Archives of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Communist Party Archive (now Presidential Archive), both of which are located in Baku. Their collections include fonds on the evacuation authority and personal registration, as well as Communist Party resolutions and investigations. Outside of Azerbaijan, EHRI has identified and partially described archival institutions and/or collections relevant for research on Azerbaijan.
A. EHRI approach to Azerbaijan: Pre-existing research, available archival guides, expert support
The web resource for National Archives of Azerbaijan is available only in Azeri (there are also Russian and English versions, but these do not appear to be currently working). The Azeri pages provide information about the archive’s history, formation, and structure, as well as contacts for the central and regional archives. http://www.milliarxiv.gov.az/
B. Characteristics of the Azerbaijani archival system and specific challenges
Most of the central and regional Azerbaijani archives were founded during the pre-war Soviet period. As a consequence, most of them are based on the Soviet system of cataloging and most of the inventory files are written in Azerbaijani and Russian while new forms use Azerbaijani with Latin script only. There are also other archival institutions that were established or reorganized after Azerbaijan’s independence. The former Archive of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan is now part of the Archive of Political Documents of the Presidential Administration of the Republic of Azerbaijan. They hold large numbers of decrees related to the evacuation, war effort, political and economic reviews. As a result of regime changes and administrative reforms, some archival institutions in Azerbaijan have been renamed, which may cause some initial confusion among researchers.
C. EHRI identification and description results on Azerbaijan
C.I. In Azerbaijan
In Azerbaijan, EHRI identified over ten archival institutions which hold or may hold Holocaust-relevant material. Three of the most important of them are concentrated in the republic’s capital, Baku.
Azərbaycan Respublikasının Dövlət Arxivi (ARDA)
The National Archives: The chronological range of documents held by these archives is from the late 19th century to the late 20th century. It holds 1,581 fond collections. The National Archives are one of the leading research institutions in Azerbaijan. The documents preserved there are a rich source for researchers interested not only in the history of Azerbaijan but Caucasus peoples in general.
Azərbaycan Respublikası Dövlət Kino-Foto Sənədləri Arxivi (ARDKFSA)
Central Archive of Audio-Visual Documents (part of the National Archives): More than 300,000 photos, about 20,000 audio records and 20,000 film documents are gathered at this archive.
Siyasi Sənədlər Arxivi
Archive of Political Documents of the Presidential Administration of the Republic of Azerbaijan/ Presidential Archive (Former Archive of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Azerbaijan SSR): The website of the Presidential Archive provides descriptions and information in Azeri only
For a complete list and contact data of regional Archives (Azeri only), see:
C.II. In other countries
Outside of Azerbaijan, EHRI has identified and partially described archival institutions and/or collections that may prove relevant to Holocaust research on Azerbaijan. For instance, the Central State Archive of the Russian Federation and the Russian State Archives of Socio-Political History (former Communist Party Archive) in Moscow hold records and circulars sent to various Socialist Republics and have vast collections on evacuation. In Israel, Yad Vashem holds some documentation from archives in Azerbaijan from 1930 to 1960 and the Archives of the History of the Jewish people in Jerusalem also possesses a few collections related to this period. Furthermore, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum stores some selected records from the Central State Archive of Azerbaijan as well as certain regional records containing data about evacuees and refugees.