Stepan Shahumyan

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Stepan Georgevich Shaumyan (? 1878 - 20 September 1918) was an Armenian communist politician and revolutionary.

Born to a cloth merchant in Tbilisi, Georgia, Shaumyan studied at the Saint Petersburg and Riga Polytechnics, where he joined the Russian Social Democratic Party in the latter in 1900. In 1905 he graduated from the Philosophy department of Berlin University.

Arrested by the Tsarist government for taking part in student political activities on campus, he was exiled back to his native Transcaucasia.

Escaping from his exile, Shaumyan went to Germany, where he met with other exiles from the Russian Empire, notably Julius Martov, Vladimir Lenin and Georgi Plekhanov.

Returning to Transcaucasia, Shaumyan became a teacher and also the leader of the local socialists in Tbilisi, as well as a prolific writer of Marxist literature. At the 1903 Congress, he sided with the Bolsheviks. By 1907 he had moved to Baku to head up the significant Bolshevik movement in the city.

In 1914, he led the General Strike in the city, being sent to prison after the strike was fiercly crushed by the army.

He escaped just as the February Revolution of 1917 began. Though he had had limited participation in the Revolution itself, Shaumyan was elected President of the Baku Soviet due to his prior experience with the worker's movement in Azerbaijan. He also edited the newspaper Bakinsky Rabochy (Baku Worker), which came under pressure from the Provisional Government due to its somewhat provocative content.

Following the October Revolution (which was centred in Petrograd and Moscow, and thus had little effect on Azerbaijan) Shaumyan was made Commissar Extraordinary for the Caucasus and Chairman of the Baku Council of People's Commissars. Baku Comissaires. Government of Baku Commune consisted of uneasy alliance of Bolsheviks, left S.R, mensheviks and Dashnaks.

When German and Ottoman Turkish forces invaded the Caucasus in March, 1918, Muslims rose up against Bolshevik overlords in Baku. The revolt was crushed by united forces of Red Army and local Dashnak forces, after fierce fighting where it is reported that tens of thousands of muslims perished. Azeri historians lay blame over the massacre on Baku Comissaires.

Bolsheviks and Dashnaks/Mensheviks coalition disagreed over the involvement of British forces. Shaumyan and other Bolshevik Comissaires were stauchly opposed to it. On July 26, 1918 they were defeated in voting of Baku Soviet and were forced to retire from power. New government, so called "Central Caspian Dictatorship" was formed and British forces under General Thompson occupied Baku the same day.

Baku comissaires attempted to escape with Red Army troops by sailing over the Caspian Sea to Astrakhan, but the ships were captured on August 16 by the White Army. Shaumyan and the others were arrested and placed in Baku prison. On September 14, Red Army soldiers broke into the prison and freed Shaumyan. He and the other commissars boarded a ship to Krasnovodsk, where upon he was promptly arrested by British troops, and on the night of September 20, executed by a firing squad.