When discussing the political activities of Mir Jafar Baghirov, First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan in 1933-1953, it is often said that the creation of Azerbaijani military units during World War II was his initiative and thus he did a great service to Azerbaijan.
Fakt Yoxla examined whether this claim was true.
Although Muslim nations in Tsarist Russia were exempt from military service, there were military units consisting of these peoples on a voluntary basis.
At the beginning of World War I, a Caucasian local cavalry division consisting of such volunteers was established. The unit, known as the Wild Division, consisted of six regiments: Tatar (Azerbaijani), Kabardian, Chechen, Circassian, Ingush, and Dagestan.
This tradition was continued after the formation of the USSR. But at that time, the representatives of any nation didn't need to serve in the national military unit. Most of the conscripts were sent to mixed military units. The share of those serving in national military units was small.
Over the years, the Soviet government preferred to reduce national military units and eventually abolished them. First, in 1934, military units consisting of Slavs - Ukrainians and Belarusians, and then other national units were abolished by a joint decision of the leadership of the Communist Party and the Soviet government dated March 7, 1938. The resolution noted that although these units played a positive role in the fight against the counter-revolutionary bourgeois governments and foreign aggressors, they did not meet the requirements of the time.
However, the Soviet-German war, which began in 1941, re-created the need for national units. A year before the war, the USSR had occupied new territories and included four republics - Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and Moldova. Conscripts from these republics did not speak Russian at all. It was the Latvian leadership that first appealed to Moscow to establish a national military unit. By the decision of the State Defense Committee dated August 3, 1941, it was decided to establish a Latvian rifle division. A copy of the decision was sent to Kalnberzin, First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Latvia.
The screenshot was taken from the website soldat.ru.
The decision of the State Defense Committee dated August 11, 1941, provided for the establishment of 85 infantry and 25 cavalry divisions in nine military provinces in the USSR. The list also included the name of the Transcaucasian military circle. The 15 divisions to be created fell to the Transcaucasian military province and had to be formed by December 15, 1941.
The screenshots were taken from the website soldat.ru.
According to the decision of the State Defense Committee, 6 shooting divisions were to be formed in Azerbaijan. The 402nd Division, which was formed in Khankendi in late August 1941, would be sent to Iran, which was occupied by the USSR together with Great Britain. At that time, a large number of Azerbaijanis lived in Iran. In the following months, other Azerbaijani divisions were also established.
During World War II, the USSR had 16 allied republics. There was no need to create national units in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and the 75-percent Russian-speaking Karelian-Finnish Republic, and Moldova was occupied from the outset. National military units have been established in all 11 remaining republics, as well as in some autonomous oblasts and republics of the Russian Federation.
Thus, during the Soviet-German war, the initiative to establish national military units belonged to the leadership of the Latvian SSR, and later this process became a general policy of the Soviet government and covered all the republics where the Russian language was poorly understood.
Fakt Yoxla concludes that the allegations that Azerbaijani military units were established on the initiative of Mir Jafar Baghirov during World War II are a Myth.