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Saturday, July 3, 2021

The Impact of the 1920 Soviet Conference at Baku

In September 1920, Russia’s Bolshevik regime organized a multinational communist conference called the “Congress of the Peoples of the East” in Baku, then the capital of Soviet Azerbaijan. Prominent politicians, military commanders, preachers, and warlords from Persia, Armenia, the Ottoman Empire (which would become Turkey in 1923), Mesopotamia, Syria, Arabia, and other predominantly Islamic nations were summoned to attend the conference. 

Lenin, Trotsky, and Zinoviev were among the high profile speakers at the conference. They used religious imagery from the times of the crusades and other historical conflicts to sway the 1900 delegates who had arrived. Trotsky said, “We are now faced with the task of kindling a real Holy War against the West… The time has come to educate the masses of the East to hate the wealthy Westerners and to want to fight them… a true people’s Holy War has to be organized against British Imperialism.”  

Trotsky’s words went down well with the delegates. They cheered the rise of Soviet Bolshevism and promised to support the revolutionary movements against the West. Lenin said that the Soviets would compromise with all those who would join them in the revolutionary war.  

The Western powers were concerned about the Soviet influence in the Middle East, an area of great geopolitical importance since it had the world’s largest known reserves of oil. The West decided to change its policy in the Middle East—a new method of “compromise” was adopted. Turkey’s Kemal Ataturk was appeased by giving him all of Anatolia, and the interests of Greece were ignored. Ataturk promised to bring Turkey into the Western camp.

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