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    Novikov Alexander Ivanovich – publicist and public figure (1861 – 1913). He studied at the Katkovsky Lyceum and at Moscow University in the Faculty of Physics and Mathematics. He headed the Baku City Council from 1902 to 1904.

    He wrote for “St. Petersburg Gazette”, “Son of the Fatherland”, “Our Life”, “Education”, and “Bulletin of Europe”. Some of the journalistic articles he wrote were included in the collections: “Notes of a Zemstvo Chief” (St. Petersburg, 1899), “Notes on a Rural School” (St. Petersburg, 1902), “Notes on City Self-Government” (St. Petersburg, 1904), “Notes of the mayor” (St. Petersburg, 1905). Articles of various contents were included in the “Collection of Articles for 1899 and 1900.” (St. Petersburg, 1901) and “Second Collection of articles for 1901 and 1902.” (St. Petersburg, 1902).
    Novikov’s fictional works were published separately under the titles: “According to the Law. A Novel from Village Life” (St. Petersburg, 1901), “Collected Stories” (St. Petersburg, 1904), “Plays” (St. Petersburg, 1904).


    To my colleagues of the third element.

    During the challenging two years I spent in Baku as the city mayor, the most gratifying experience for me was the cooperation with individuals from the so-called third element. Some rough edges in our relations, some regrettable incidents (where do they not occur?)—all of this has now almost faded from my memory, if not from my heart, and what remains is the memory of honest, straightforward, selfless, and conscientious people. And this in contemporary urban self-government! Where else? In Baku!

    Many splendid examples have etched themselves in the memory of my heart, and they will remain there until my grave. Can one find such examples solely in a collection, or can they be reconciled with the mediocrity and debauchery of everyday life?

    As I depart from Baku, I carry with me a deep conviction that it is in the third estate that we must seek individuals who will lead our self-governance, both rural and urban, on the right path. It is to them that I dedicate these writings.


    This introduction, like most introductions, is probably written after the composition. This is actually the conclusion; however, I call it an introduction because, although I am writing it at the end, I place it at the beginning.

    There is a connection between a person claiming to be a publicist and their readers that cannot be severed. At least, it seems so to the writer. Sometimes, it seems the same way to the reader. When I took on the role of mayor, there were newspaper reports speculating that my tenure might result in the publication of the city mayor’s notes.

    However, the urge to write began to trouble me even while I was still in office. If the disclosure of Baku’s city secrets still seems somewhat audacious to me now, it was beyond consideration back then. Nevertheless, at that time, I decided to write a series of theoretical articles on urban economics. Initially, I wrote individual articles depending on which issue was currently on our minds. Later, I began a series of articles, organized into a system under the title “Notes on Urban Self-Government.” When you write, it always feels like you are doing something important. So, it seemed to me that I was contributing significantly to our literature. For someone who wished to acquaint themselves with the main issues of urban economics, there was no suitable popular book to be found. Not everyone has the time and opportunity to thoroughly study these matters from scientific sources, and there are few such scientific works available.

    These notes left many people disappointed, judging from some newspaper reviews. They were searching for the “secrets of Baku’s council” but found a series of theoretical articles that were not tailored to Baku and lacked the urgency they expected.

    When I retired, I started to ponder whether I should write about these “Baku secrets” or not. I feared that writing such pieces might be seen as an attempt to settle personal scores or, worse, as an effort to take revenge on my enemies. After composing the notes I intended to share with the public, I fell into the same doubt again. I was torn for a considerable time and, eventually, I decided that publishing these notes was not only my right but also my duty. Here’s why:

    The secrecy of private life, private letters, and private residences must be strictly protected not only from public disclosure but also from unwanted prying eyes. Public activity should be completely open. I cannot find any fault with myself for not deviating from the principle I considered the foundation of self-government—transparency—during these two years. There was nothing in Baku’s self-government that was not the domain of transparency. Fortunately, I never wavered from this principle, even in my thoughts.

    I see enormous benefits in this transparency. Many issues were exposed, and though not all were resolved, they became, at the very least, well-known. I am confident that much harm was averted thanks to the presence of correspondents everywhere, and even ordinary citizens interested in the matter. Initially, council meetings were empty, but later they began to attract crowds of people, expanding the circle of those who followed city affairs. While full transparency had not yet reached Baku within those two years, the progress made in this regard was satisfactory. Many libelous accusations were made, and these were often crude, ugly, and designed to exploit the gullibility and ignorance of readers. I was the primary target of such libel, along with those individuals I had hoped to work with to achieve something.

    And what happened? Libel remained libel and fell on the heads of the slanderers. Therefore, this evil proved to be harmless. The good of transparency prevailed on every front.

    Suddenly, for some reason, I consider giving up a means I have tested. Baku apparently has a completely unique character, distinguishing it from other cities. However, experience shows that its Armenian-Tatar council is, in general, very similar to all other councils in Russia. I observed the same similarity between the official Petersburg, the merchant Moscow, and the unfortunate provincial towns. Neither nationality, social status, nor even education appears to significantly influence the character of public activities. All Russian councils seem to be modeled after a single pattern, and it seems that public activity among homeowners and traders, from which these councils are composed, adheres to the same pattern. Regardless of whether these gentlemen are dressed in a decorated uniform, a long robe, an intelligent frock coat, or even a Tatar hat.

    Therefore, the description of Baku’s council should be of general interest. Moreover, it should be of local interest to Baku. I contemplated for a long time whether to reveal names or not. I decided to include them. A Baku name may not mean much to a non-resident, but it is crucial for Baku’s residents to know who is defending their interests. If a person speaks publicly, they should be accountable for what they say. However, every time revealing a name could harm someone in the immediate future, I replaced it with initials or omitted it entirely. Drawing an exact boundary in this matter is impossible. It is a matter of tact.

    The first year of my service was a year of feverish activity, a year of successes and hopes. Everything was prepared to replace old practices with new ones, to initiate real improvements in our complex economy. Alas, in the second year, I encountered resistance from the majority of the council and the majority of the administration. Not only did I not get to do anything, but I had to continually defend myself, waste time, and jeopardize my health in the struggle against those from whom I expected support. Naturally, under these circumstances, I made mistakes, errors, and often lost my temper. True, I always tried to rectify my mistakes when I realized them, but I couldn’t always make amends. There were cases where I thought I was doing good, only to later convince myself that I had not only acted tactlessly but unethically as well. Practical ethics are not mathematics, and there are no infallible laws. What may seem good to me today might appear bad tomorrow. So, in my activities in Baku, I had to take steps that I not only regret but also blush for. Having ventured onto the path of unconditional transparency and, especially, accusing others, I would have acted wrongly if I had considered hiding not only my mistakes but also my sins. That’s why I decided to reveal everything, even if it risked being perceived as cynical. I initially thought of titling these memoirs “Confessions of the City Mayor,” but later I found that title too ostentatious and preferred the more modest title “Notes,” to which I had become accustomed.

    Lastly, rereading what I have written, I noticed something that troubles me: an excessive use of the pronoun “I.” I cannot stand it when others do this, and it turns out I am guilty of it myself. However, I found some justification even for this. In all the accounts, I was forced to play a central role. As the chairman of the administration and, in conjunction with that, the chairman of the council, I was inevitably not only a witness to but also a principal actor in every matter, often the primary one. Under these circumstances and despite my desire to be an object, I found it impossible to avoid using “I” no matter how hard I tried to distance myself from it.

    Although, as I mentioned earlier, the inner workings of the city officials in Baku are almost the same as those of officials in other Russian cities, the environment in which self-government operates in Baku is quite unique. Baku is a fascinating center where extreme nationalism combines with extreme cosmopolitanism, especially when it comes to money and profit.

    Naturally, I often had to deviate from the main topic—public affairs—and delve into describing the peculiar local conditions. I found this local color interesting.

    One final note: people who are familiar with the matter may notice certain gaps in my account. It seems like I have told everything while leaving some things unsaid. This happened for three reasons. Firstly, I couldn’t write about many things due to the general conditions of life and the press. Some aspects of modern life, both global and Russian, and even specifically Baku, are not open to discussion. The reader will understand this, and I won’t be reproached for it. Secondly, there were events of local interest that I couldn’t discuss even though they were not documented in court or the press. For example, someone committing a dishonorable act, particularly related to money, such as taking or demanding a bribe. It is known to those involved, but it did not become public knowledge or reach the press. Could I speak about it even indirectly? Clearly, the answer is no. Lastly, I could not discuss certain facts that were undeniable to me or to society but were not documented in the minutes of any meetings or in the press. These were facts that tarnished a public figure’s reputation but couldn’t be proven. Let such facts remain hidden. That’s enough about this.

    I will be satisfied if the reader believes that, out of personal considerations, I have not concealed anything from them. If I have forgotten something, please remind me, and I am always ready to fill in the gaps.

    Part 1 - Early experiences

    Chapter 1

    A brilliant career is not made for me, or rather, I am not made for a brilliant career. I started my service in an office where the most prim mother of Petersburg’s high society dreams of sending her son. By thirty, one could hope to reach a fourth-class position. And it’s not that you need special talents for this… not at all.

    Another who ended up in this office would have been very happy and from the day of joining would have anticipated future happiness. But I was always remarkably impractical. I left the promising office and went to work as a rural head. May that insane, in the opinion of most, step of mine be blessed. In my office, I would have risen to a fourth-class position, remaining the same as when I joined.

    As a rural head, I saw the village, learned about the Russian peasant, understood our task, burned everything I worshipped, and believed in a better future. Now, comparing myself with what I was fifteen years ago, I am horrified at the thought that I could have been such a moral monster.

    While serving as a rural head, I got involved in rural and educational affairs under the guidance of the unforgettable noble leader Y. A. Oznobishin. It is to him I mainly owe my rebirth. Y. A. Oznobishin died, leaving me in the position of the noble leader as an inheritance. But my stubbornness, and mainly a change in worldview and, what’s worse, a writing mania that caused discord with the authorities, forced me to move from the honourable leader’s position to a minor role in the Ministry of Agriculture. After a few months, I was appointed assistant manager of state properties in Baku. There I saw this oil center for the first time.

    I was scared when I was going there. Some talked about the terrible north wind with unbearable dust, others about the strong oil smell. When asked what kind of people I would find in Baku, I was told that everyone, from the least to the greatest, lives in Baku only when they are somehow involved in the oil business. I was told there are no other conversations except about oil, mazut, extraction, etc. When I made my first visits, I met a respectable gentleman who knew me from literature and expressed a desire to get closer and move away from the tedious oil matters. I liked him a lot, and I promised to visit him at the given address. In the evening, I learned that he is one of the most cunning swindlers, always managing to escape punishment despite his successful frauds, but the prison, they told me, has long been waiting for him.

    The oil smell turned out to be moderate and became completely unnoticeable after a week or two. The climate in winter is wonderful, the dust unbearable and seeping into every crack, but not so often.

    In general, my service, like any ‘assistant’, ‘comrade’, or ‘vice’ position, was not responsible, and therefore boring and often unpleasant. I was interested in the covered faces of the unfortunate Tatar women; the flat tar roofs; the complete lack of greenery; the juxtaposition of three-story buildings with meagre stone huts; the surprisingly unregulated streets; often incredible dirt; the street life, which reminded me of the old part of Naples, and the warm water for drinking, as it turned out, because we were drinking desalinated seawater, which does not cool down in the pipes.

    God, what a broad field of activity! I often thought. If only we could bring good water here, pave the city, build schools and hospitals, a tramway, install electric lighting, plant more gardens, and clean up the city better… Reading newspapers and from conversations with acquaintances, I learned that the city mayor had left and that in general, Baku has issues with its mayors… I always preferred public activities over bureaucratic ones. I don’t remember when and how the idea of becoming a Baku mayor myself came to me, independently or after a conversation with two gentlemen who visited me. Anyway, this idea seemed not bad to me at the time.

    At that time, a printed organ ‘The Caspian’ was published in Baku, edited by Ali Mardan bey Topchubashov (he was also the publisher of ‘The Caspian’, and a vocal member of the Duma, as I learned then from newspaper reports of the sessions). There were no other writers in Baku, so it was natural for me to head to the ‘The Caspian’ editorial office. I had to visit Mr. Topchubashov several times. Among other things, I talked about the possibility or impossibility of being a mayor in Baku. He approved of my idea and advised me to discuss it with Taghiyev, a well-known Muslim rich man and vocal member. I visited Taghiyev and talked with him, and it seems we parted satisfied with each other…

    Meanwhile, I fell ill with pneumonia, and I completely lost interest in my job. I was transferred to the same position in Simferopol. My job there was no better and no more useful than in Baku, although I will always remember fondly my kind boss in Simferopol. I stayed in Simferopol only a few months until I was appointed as the manager of state properties in Astrakhan. Having arrived in Astrakhan, I familiarized myself with the affairs, made two or three business trips, and settled there. The idea of heading to Baku had completely evaporated, as more than a year had passed since I left there. Whether they had chosen a mayor there and who exactly, I did not know and, to be honest, did not even think about it. Suddenly, I received a telegram from Mr. Topchubashov, stating that my candidacy for mayor was proposed by some members. He asked for a quick response.

    I read the telegram, reread it, and right then and there, the decision was made for me. I told myself that I would be the mayor of Baku. I did not doubt the seriousness of the proposal, knowing that Mr. Topchubashov was a very influential member. I only consulted with my people for conscience’s sake. Some of those close to me were not immediately convinced. I remember how my old friend and servant, my former manager, whom I had known since childhood and with whom I wanted to live until death, tried to dissuade me.

    ‘Alexander Ivanovich, think it over carefully; don’t rush. Now, you’re in a good place, a peaceful, honourable job with a decent salary, and most importantly—secure. You can be sure that it won’t get worse until death. But there in Baku, after all, you’ll end up as a clerk to Baku merchants. I don’t understand what makes you want to change a cuckoo for a hawk.’

    I laughed, explaining it as backwardness, a failure to understand the difference between public service and state service. That same evening, I telegraphed back that I agreed.

    The guardianship census procedure and elections, after two or three tea meetings of the members, were carried out with possible speed, and on the night of April 24th, I was awakened to be handed a whole heap of congratulatory telegrams from various known and unknown members. I was elected by a vote of 41 against 3—almost unanimously, amid loud applause from the public and members.

    I was not surprised, firstly, because I had no serious competitors (I knew this from the newspapers), and secondly, because I considered myself a very suitable candidate.

    This last point requires explanation.

    From my first stay in Baku, I knew that by law there must be an equal number of Christian and Muslim members. The Christians were almost entirely Armenians with five Russians as an exception. I also knew that in these two groups, everything was based on compromises. I never intended to use the ‘divide and conquer’ principle because I have always been hostile to Machiavellianism and diplomatic tricks.—I am still convinced that the greatest honesty and frankness are the best weapons not only for a public figure but also for a diplomat.

    I knew that under local conditions, neither a Muslim nor an Armenian could be confirmed. A Russian was needed. So, among the Russians, I truly considered myself the most suitable. What kind of mayor would the people of Baku want? Not a nationalist. And I, since I started writing, see almost the greatest evil in the world in nationalism. I have no nationalist sentiments. For me, a person is a person, no matter their nationality, no matter what religion they practice, no matter what language they speak.

    Additionally, those who knew me could add that I was not a novice in public affairs and that I openly served known principles that could not fail to please the inhabitants of our southern border.

    That’s why I considered myself a desirable candidate for them and was not surprised to receive only three votes against me.

    Of course, the enormity of the task lay before me. I was aware of the extreme underdevelopment of the city from the time of my first stay in Baku. I had heard about the internal disorder in the Baku Duma, favouritism, and the lack of public ethics. I reasoned like this:

    Let the task be great, let the current disorder seem irreparable, the appropriate remedy must be opposed: we need workers capable of coping with the task, no matter how daunting it may be; these workers, despite all their workability, must be crystal clear in terms of ethics (couldn’t evil, I thought, stand up to ethical purity?), and to finally take away any ground for evil, the foundation must be laid in unlimited transparency even where it is usually not allowed. And where to find workers who are capable and yet pure, I knew from my previous experience. This is the so-called ‘third element,’ aptly named by a colleague from the Moscow News. In it, in this third element, in the best part of our intelligentsia, I saw salvation.

    With all the difficulties that usually arise when involving this third element, I diminished my optimism. I decided to go the straightforward way, believing in the power and triumph of truth and transparency. Whatever doubts I had, I dismissed them…

    As much as I never had luck in my personal affairs, especially financial, so much in public affairs I believed in myself. I had been an enfant terrible as a member before, eschewing partisanship, being what some call a ‘wild card,’ and I always succeeded at it. I had already accomplished much this way. I believe in my star even now…

    Chapter 2

    The procedure for my presentation and confirmation did not last long. I was confirmed in Tiflis on May 22nd, learned about my confirmation in Astrakhan on the 24th, and was already in Baku on the 26th. On the 27th, I gave my inaugural speech in the Duma, but for several days did not take office from the acting mayor: I wanted to observe and get rid of the tedious duty of making visits. It was necessary to visit members, department heads, and colleagues, which took about a week.

    I started with the members, as they were of the most interest to me. The first one I visited, of course, was Ali Mardan bey Topchubashov, who received me very warmly and was the first to try to orient me in the new city. The most influential members turned out to be the very ones whose congratulatory telegrams had informed me of my election. To thank them for their attention, I visited them on the very first day of arrival. Among the first were, of course, my closest colleagues in service, the members of the administration.

    My first impression was that everyone was pleased with my selection, probably due to favorable rumors about me spread by two or three members who knew me and my literature; I considered Mr. Topchubashov the head of my well-wishers. I visited the Christian members. Some of them made such an impression that it was not they who needed to be taught, but from whom one could learn a lot. I also visited the Muslim members. Some of them were also completely European in appearance, with a university diploma in their pocket. Others spoke almost no Russian and lived in a completely Eastern setting. One received me barefoot. Two or three, upon learning that they were speaking to the mayor, immediately began to tell me about their land issues, not caused by the administration’s fault. They were glad to see me and believed that I would solve everything right away.

    But the vast majority looked at things properly and pointed out the main defects in the administrative activities. The main thing they expected from me was water. Everyone understood that life is impossible without water, telling me how they have been searching for it for twenty-five years, but are still stuck in place due to some evil fate and cannot find the right solution. They saw in me a new Moses, who should provide water, and do it immediately. I said that it would take at least one year for research, another year to approve the project and finance the work, and three years for construction—at the very least, so the earliest we could hope for water under the most favorable circumstances would be in five to six years. Many seemed dissatisfied with such a prospect and openly stated that they were counting on a shorter term. I tried as much as I could to dissuade them.

    More intelligent members, on the contrary, understanding the difficulty of the task, did not believe in such a quick outcome and advised caution and not to get carried away. Even during five-minute visits, I noticed differing opinions about water. Some saw salvation only in Kur water, others believed only in Samur water, and a third group believed neither and asserted that sooner or later we would turn to springs. I promised everyone that water would be my main task, and that I would try not to overlook anything.

    From the very beginning, I had to hear this: it is impossible for a young city like Baku to develop without a loan. It is necessary to take out a loan for the construction of a tramway, lighting, hospitals, schools, etc. That’s why the city’s development is lagging because all this cannot be done with current funds. This could not be disagreed with, especially since Baku was the only city in Russia without debt, except for a loan of five hundred thousand taken a few years ago for current needs. I took note of this. So, the task appeared as follows: first – to provide the city of Baku with water, and second – to take out a loan for development. The third task was always before me, and I held it sacred in my heart: to contribute to the cause of public education as much as I could. This was my weak spot, and as a sinful man, as much as drinking water is needed and a well-organized city is pleasant, in Russia, education is still the most pressing need (of course, I only mean those needs that fall within the competence of the city mayor).

    But about education, I kept silent. Some members told me that the Baku Duma is very generous in terms of public education. The school affairs were managed by a special school executive committee under the chairmanship of a member of the administration, M. A. Belyavsky, who had repeatedly acted as the city mayor and was even once elected as mayor but did not become one due to unforeseen circumstances. From the first minute when the idea of being the mayor came to me, I intended to lead the school affairs. Therefore, it was natural to turn to Mr. Belyavsky and test the waters.

    It turned out that although he managed the land department, he was very interested in school affairs and wanted to remain in charge of it. This was a big disappointment for me; I had to give up the idea of directly managing my favorite affair and be content with the general management provided to the city mayor in all branches of the city economy.

    But apart from water, the loan, and other specifics, all the members agreed on one thing: the administration needed to be cleaned up.

    ‘These are the Augean stables,’ Mr. Topchubashov said at our very first meeting. ‘These are the Augean stables,’ other members repeated, promising to help me in cleaning them up and explaining how difficult this task was. While making visits, I observed the city and its people. Having been to the outskirts, I was horrified to see a mass of houses to which you could not get not only at night or in bad weather, but even in good weather during the day. The streets were not only unpaved, but also had astonishing hills, passes, and slopes, making them not only impassable but also unwalkable. I was amazed at this remarkable disorder, this mud in the center of the city.

    And the Black City!—this city of factories, with hissing steam and electricity, but alongside this, with completely impassable streets where pipes are laid without any system, order, precautions, and obviously without the permission of the authorities or the administration. Such pipes cannot be authorized. People trip over them with their wheels, stumble on them as pedestrians.—And it seems that nobody thinks to regulate this issue, specifying where and how to lay pipes so as not to hinder movement and, at the same time, to ensure the pipes themselves are safe. After all, this would cost next to nothing. Right there, along the streets, are ditches with flowing mazut, not to mention that the soil is saturated with oil and oil residues. Surely, I thought, abroad they would take measures to ensure that this wealth does not go to waste. But it turned out that the city, which collects mazut in ditches, earns more than twenty thousand from it.

    But worst of all are the dirt and stench in the markets. Every stall owner or trader with a booth considers it their right to set up on the sidewalks and pavement, hindering passage and traffic. If someone needs to pour something out, they do so right there on the sidewalk; right there lie and eat their bread and grapes the unfortunate, ragged, oppressed hambals. Right there walk the policemen, and sometimes, out of the blue, they’ll knock over a table or overturn a basket of vegetables, so everything flies into the mud, while the neighbor, whose table and basket are also on the sidewalk, is not only left untouched but greeted with kind words. I witnessed such a scene. A hambal is walking; a policeman approaches him. Suddenly, for no reason at all, the policeman kicks him in the back. Right in front of me, a hambal, still a mere boy, was flung by such an unexpected and unprovoked ‘affection’.

    Thinking of such means, I wondered, how can any external order be established with such fear being instilled! If it’s necessary, why not direct this force to stop the actual evil? Then, seeing the same policeman very peacefully conversing with the stall owners and not shying away from smoking a cigarette offered by a hambal, I understood that the whole charm for the police in these wild measures lies in the ability to offend one and flatter another.

    And can’t the mayor help in this matter? The Duma would surely thank him if he brought order to the market. There are mandatory resolutions of the Duma, which it will readily sign with both hands, there is the influence on the police of the governor, who received me wonderfully and promised assistance in everything legal.

    Now it’s embarrassing for me to write about this idealism. But it was real and not long ago. How human dreams scatter! But then, touring the city, I was even happy about its disarray. The more work anticipated, the more I would accomplish, the more moral satisfaction I would receive. I really believed these smiling faces. How could I not believe a member when he says:

    ‘Alexander Ivanovich, I’ve been a member for the first three years, but now I can say, the Duma listens to me. I work for the city.’

    This ‘for the city’ is repeated very often. And I wanted to work ‘for the city’, and they ‘for the city’. So why did things turn out the way they did? After all, success seemed assured!”

    Just before my arrival, the following incident occurred. At Chemberekend, in the middle of the sidewalk, there was a well with a low enclosure and no cover. And into this well fell an excise official who drowned. Some said he was drunk, others denied it. But that’s not the point, whether he was drunk or not. Think about it, should a person drown in a well during the day on a busy street in the middle of the sidewalk? I, while making visits, stopped to look at the well. Yes, the street is paved, the sidewalk is made of stone, wide, and right in the middle of the sidewalk is a well with an enclosure not more than an arshin high with a lid on it. The lid was made after the death of the official in it. I was surrounded by Tatars, and some tried to explain to me in broken Russian, others through an interpreter, that this well was necessary in their daily lives. Not a single word about the abnormality of the existence of a well in which people drown. I decided to immediately deal with this matter and prevent the possibility of such cases recurring.

    From the day I decided to go into city service, I first of all stocked up on all the books dealing with urban affairs. Hugo, Semenov, Preider, and several books on specific topics—this is all. Surprisingly little. It’s as if there are no literate city activists; as if it’s not necessary to read books to know the business, and to know the business in order to do it. Literally nowhere to learn anything. I managed to understand only the legal aspect of the matter, better developed than the statistical and practical ones.


    Chapter 3

    In the first few days, besides making visits, I spent my time, without taking up my official duties yet, observing affairs. There was a lengthy meeting dedicated to the belated review of the budget for the current year. Half a year had already passed, and the Duma could only make changes for the second half of the year: the expenses of the first half had to be accepted as a fait accompli. I wanted to let Mr. Belyavsky chair the budget discussion, but I couldn’t resist and took the chair myself. However, even before that, on the next day after my arrival, I thought it necessary to introduce myself to the Duma and express my profession de foi in an inaugural speech. The ‘The Caspian’ had printed in the morning that I would be giving a speech.

    Knowing how long Baku had suffered from a lack of leadership and seeing the sanguine hopes placed on me, I thought the small Duma hall wouldn’t have enough space. So, imagine my surprise when I saw only about thirty members and even fewer members of the public. We had 57 members in the Duma instead of eighty. The usual mandatory quorum is one third, i.e., 19, and the enhanced quorum for the most important matters is half, i.e., 29. Why it is so and how elections happen here I will explain later. For now, I note that the assembly of 44 members present at my election was exceptional; usually, 20 to 25 members gather. The necessary quorum for deciding major land matters, about 30 people, is rarely achieved.

    So, neither a large number of members nor public presence. I was used to seeing an active interest of the intelligent public in community affairs in our region. The local indifference and the absence of simple curiosity to see and listen to the new mayor surprised me greatly. It turns out that in Baku, the public almost never attends Duma meetings. Only some idle employees and ‘Caspi’ correspondents out of duty show up. Correspondents from other newspapers, neither from Tiflis nor from St. Petersburg, are ever present.

    My speech was approximately as follows: ‘I don’t know what I did to deserve the honor the Baku city Duma has given me by electing me as city mayor. Whether it was my previous activity in the Zemstvo or my frankness as a publicist that led to my election, I do not know. But the almost unanimous election could not help but encourage me, and it evoked a certain sense of pride. The trust the Duma has placed in me dispelled the doubts that troubled me before: whether to take on the complex and challenging responsibilities associated with the position of city mayor. I accepted them immediately and, without wasting time, took office. But the closer I got acquainted with the matter, the more the complexity of the task frightened me, and my doubts grew. They say Baku is an American city. Indeed, it resembles an American city in the scale of its industry and trade, in their forms, and in the energy of its inhabitants, mainly in the rapidity of its growth.

    ‘But it is far from American in terms of its development. The difficulty of meeting the needs of the population scares me. I counted the city’s needs on my fingers and was horrified by the mass of unmet necessities. The first thing I heard was a cry: ‘Water! Give us water! Water!’ It feels as though the city is on fire. Turning to the matter of public education, we also see that much remains to be done. We see a gymnasium without its own building—a gymnasium where they threaten to close several classes, extremely necessary for our children. Many other needs in public education remain unmet. Then, the city needs paving; it lacks an electric tram, desires better lighting; awaiting its turn is the organization of sanitary and medical services; there is no sewage system—all these are such necessities that require a lot of effort from the city administration.

    ‘But that’s not enough. Science and experience tell us that we must strive to expand the scope of the city administration’s activities. Twenty years ago, people thought that the trade sector was not the business of the Duma. Now we see that the most well-developed cities have public baths, laundries, bakeries, meat shops—and these enterprises thrive and bring enormous benefits to the population. The same science and experience show us the trend towards the municipalization of city and public enterprises, that we constantly need to intensify the intensity of the city’s economic work and further complicate the task. And this will require such an effort that perhaps we do not have enough.

    My fear only increased: had I done the right thing by agreeing to accept the election and taking on the responsibilities of the city mayor? But, having become more acquainted with you, I somewhat calmed down. I noticed trust in me from you – and the Duma’s attitude towards the administration was so condescending and courteous that it finally encouraged me. I hope that this trust and courtesy of the Duma will continue. I deeply and infinitely believe in the productivity of public self-government, provided that this activity is supported by mutual trust. City administrations are blamed for omissions and shortcomings – but I think that these shortcomings can be eliminated if desired. Formalism often acts as a brake – I am an enemy of formalism and will, as far as it depends on the city mayor, try to eliminate everything that delays the progress of work. Perhaps the reason for the failure is also the Duma’s distrust of the administration, but again, I repeat, I hope there will be no grounds for distrust. There is also the case when the reluctance of members to work is caused by the administration’s non-execution. The Duma decides, but the administration does not implement. It simply becomes annoying for a member, and he stops attending meetings. I will do my utmost to prevent this from happening. You will always receive the full truth and frankness from the administration in everything. We are the executors of your will, and there should be no miscommunication between us. I now ask you to point out any possible omissions directly.

    “If solidarity is needed between the Duma and the administration, then even more so is it needed among us, the members of the administration. I am a proponent of collegial work; we must work together, jointly and collectively resolving all issues. The Duma should not know either Ivan Ivanovich or Pyotr Petrovich; it should only know the administration. In case of disagreement among us – of course, principled disagreement – I do not even consider the possibility that there could be personal disagreements – we must refer the issue to the judgment of our confidant, the Duma. And I promise and guarantee that the wishes and demands of the Duma will be fulfilled.

    “We also have another ally, perhaps the most reliable one – publicity. When I left a rather peaceful place for this one, they told me, ‘Alexander Ivanovich, what are you doing? How can you go there, where everyone can scold you? After all, only the lazy do not criticize the city administration.’ I disagree with this view. I myself have written, am writing, and will continue to write as much as possible and am accustomed to not being afraid of the press. If untruths are written, we can object, and untruth will dissipate like smoke, but if it is the truth, then it will benefit the cause, and we will improve. But that’s not enough; I think that not only the press but every citizen can and has the right to come to me and say, ‘I contribute to the expenses and ask you to take care of my interests.’

    “One more thing remains to be noted. I asked the members of the administration: do you entertain the idea of any partisanship based on nationality, religion, social status, etc.? They replied: no. And I think there should not be, and I promise on my part to make every effort to prevent it. There is also – in some cities – a policy of favoring the center to the detriment of the residents of the outskirts. I believe that the outskirts need more care from the city administration, so we should devote more of our efforts to them. Residents of the outskirts are more in need of paving and lighting, constantly running and risking breaking a leg, than the residents of the center, who have asphalt and rubber-tired carriages at their service…

    “We should not differentiate between residents; the interests of all Baku residents should be equally dear to us. For us, everyone should be the same – from the member millionaire, house owner, to the last hambal. I hope the Duma will approve this program; it was known to my electors earlier.

    “If I thought it would not meet with sympathy in the Duma, I would not be the city mayor.”

    “Please believe in our desire to work, but do not place too great and fervent hopes, as fervent hopes can lead to disappointments. Excessive hopes are dangerous because mistakes will undoubtedly be made – no one makes mistakes who does nothing. So, gentlemen, be indulgent to these mistakes, as you have been so far…”

    This was my inaugural speech, very closely reported by ‘The Caspian’.

    Needless to say, I gave this speech from the bottom of my heart, believing in every word I uttered. I was extremely satisfied with what I had said.

    A year and a half later, when I reread this speech, I could only say one thing: idealism, idealism, idealism!.. Not a single word that didn’t grate on the ear with its incredible falsity. But then, from the ‘overflow of the heart’ the mouth spoke. Neither mutual trust of the Duma or administration, nor agreement in the administration, nor absence of partisanship by nationality, nor eradication of formalism, nor even the main thing: frankness before the Duma – there was none, could not be, and perhaps should not have been for the benefit of the cause…

    Who is to blame for this? Is it me, or not? Let the facts answer. I think I am not to blame, at least not consciously. But again… let’s turn to the facts. I promised to be frank and, of course, I will not lie. However, even when delivering my idealistic speech, I wasn’t lying; no, even more, speaking the truth, I was ready to shed a tear, so everything came from the heart and it seemed it could not be otherwise…

    There were two or three claps when I finished. Mr. Topchubashov, sitting in the front row, clapped the loudest.

    I was very pleased with his attitude towards me. His position among the Muslims made me see him as one of the party leaders. A lawyer by education, a sworn attorney, a newspaper editor, elected by the Duma to chair in cases where the mayor does not chair by law – he could only be a strong support for me. My program was not nationalistic – and this was almost the most important thing for me. And he applauded me. Therefore, he is not a nationalist. Consequently, there should not and could never be issues about nationalities. That’s how it seemed to me in those blissful times.

    ‘The Caspian’ welcomed me in several articles, one of which, very flattering to me and approving my programmatic speech, signed modestly ‘T’, undoubtedly concealed the editor-member himself. Later, when ‘The Caspian’ played a completely opposite role towards me, its collaborators repeatedly reproached me that I got into the mayor’s office thanks to ‘The Caspian’, i.e., its editor. Not as a reproach do I want to confirm this statement. Yes, Mr. Topchubashov mainly, if not solely, led me to the mayor’s office. There’s nothing to reproach me for in this, because I am still not convinced who did the greater favor – the Duma to me, for electing me, or me to the Duma, for going to them as mayor. Forgive me my self-importance. After all, I am confessing. I cannot hide my sins. Here, probably, lies the root, as the Germans say, of the relationship between ‘The Caspian’ and me. Having contributed to my election or, rather, having put me in the mayor’s office, the ‘The Caspian’ gentlemen, apparently, were convinced that they had bought me, that I was theirs, and, as such, should follow their direction from the very first steps.

    This, unfortunately for them, did not happen; I did not follow their direction, retaining the right to think as I know, speak as I think, and act as I speak.

    But I don’t want to get ahead of myself.

    However, a black cat, or rather, a little black kitten, or even two kittens, did not fail to run between us in the early days of our joint work.

    Chapter 4

    Observing the course of the administration’s affairs, I noticed that there was no collegiality in it at all. Each member of the administration conducted their own affairs, wrote one decision or another, even about issuing money to someone, and this signed decision was distributed to the other two members; they signed it, mostly without reading, and the matter was concluded. There was no book of administrative decisions. From inquiries to the members of the administration, it indeed turned out that collegial discussions of issues occurred only as an exception. Usually, a decision was written in the member’s department and distributed by clerks to other members, who mechanically signed these decisions.

    Some branches were almost entirely uncontrolled by a single member. Thus, M. A. Belyavsky, who was entirely devoted to the land issue, led it quite independently. As chairman of the school committee, he didn’t report its decisions to the administration at all. Some executive committees conducted their affairs quite independently of the administration. Other members of the administration were very unhappy that they were not consulted about school matters, but they could do nothing about it, especially since Mr. Belyavsky had been acting as the city mayor for a long time. I also do not know whether other members reciprocated in their areas of competence – but in any case, there was no unity in the administration.

    These sheets of decisions, with the collected signatures of the members of the administration, were attached to the files, and since they were attached to the files, they could and did disappear…

    — ‘Where is the administration’s decision you are referring to?’
    — ‘It seems to have gotten lost…’ – The clerk looks for it in the file for show.
    — ‘Was there one at all?’
    — ‘Of course, there was.’
    But I have reason to think that often there wasn’t. At least, in one case, where the decision was considered lost, it can be assumed that it never existed. And it was a matter involving thousands.

    Thus, the members of the administration lived and ruled each on their own, which, unfortunately, did not serve as a guarantee of success. The clerical part was set up terribly. There were constant papers from the governor, not to mention from other people, demanding a response that the administration had not given for months, even years. Sometimes it was embarrassing in front of the governor’s office. And despite all this, the administration often tried to argue and even blamed other institutions for the delay in matters. Once – I don’t remember over which issue – I was asked to hurry up the governor’s office, supposedly delaying the matter. They showed from outgoing and distributed papers that the response had been given and just lost on our side. How many papers were lying unknown in some department, how many papers were completely lost for one reason or another!

    But the worst was with the land matters. They were unresolved for many years, up to ten years. Submitting a request to the land department was the same as not submitting anything. Only with reminders, with the support of some member, could one hope that the matter would see the light of day. The city was litigating over several thousand plots; these cases were at all possible stages. For some, there was a decision by a member of the administration to start a case in court, and it turned out not to have been started. For others, the case in court was completed, but the execution order lay idle.

    In the last two years, land matters suffered even more, as M. A. Belyavsky, in addition to the affairs of his department, was also burdened with the affairs of the mayor. And an amazing thing! It turned out that neither the mayor nor the administration as a collegium had an office, a secretary, nobody except a watchman, and even he was deaf and mute. Note, I am not exaggerating at all.

    It is still conceivable that Mr. Belyavsky, combining the position of mayor and member of the administration, could manage with his office, considering he had not only land matters to deal with. But I ask myself: how did the eminent city mayors, Iretsky, von der Nonne manage?

    As a result, such cases occurred: M. A. Belyavsky received a paper. Having no office, he planned to respond to it and put it on the table. Then, amidst the multitude of affairs – and he always worked both in the morning and in the evening, arriving first and leaving last – he naturally forgot about the paper, some of which are still waiting for a response to this day.

    ‘Eh!’ I thought, ‘this is not only the Augean stables, but also half-empty stables. Despite them being Augean, i.e., needing to be cleaned, they are also empty on the other half.’

    The first thing I decided to introduce was, firstly, regular meetings of the administration, daily if possible. Then it was necessary to establish a book of resolutions, where everything decided by the administration would be recorded, and to establish an administrative office. Finally, an office for the mayor was also needed.

    I decided to ask the Duma at the next meeting to open two positions: a secretary of the administration for 3600 rubles and a secretary for the personal affairs of the mayor for 720 rubles.

    I had a friend, a writer V. F. Totomiants. He had written several books about cooperation, which he believed in infinitely and, in relation to which, he was the Russian Owen. Previously, he was a member of the defunct writers’ union with me. At the same time, fate (my mother, his stepmother) had thrown us both into Astrakhan. And so, I thought, who better to take as the secretary of the administration than Totomiants? A writer – good for writing reports. An expert on cooperation and municipalization – good advice for city matters. Said and done. Not hiding my candidate and having secured his agreement by telegram, I bring my proposal to the Duma. I must admit, I thought there would be no discussion: the need for these people was so clear.

    Against expectation, arguments began, and for a long time, I did not know how the issue would be resolved. The majority seemed to be against it. Among them, Mr. Topchubashov spoke against the appointment, quite at length. At first, he asked to postpone this issue until the end of the budget to see how the balance would work out. As if an extra four thousand could significantly affect the balance of a two-million budget. Then he argued on the merits that the members of the administration themselves should prepare reports or, at worst, their clerks, and that the staff was already huge without new positions. But, somehow, the argument ended in favor of my proposal: the positions were opened. I explain this by the fact that it was my first request to the Duma. It would be awkward indeed to invite the mayor and then not give him the assistants he requires at the very beginning. This is exactly what one of the smart and very outwardly sympathetic Armenian members said in the Duma.

    In general, it seemed to me that the Armenians voted for my proposal, and the Tatars against it. Later, I guessed where the problem lay. It turned out that the Tatars did not like that I turned to an Armenian – Totomiants. So much for the importance of nationality! I knew Totomiants well, we spent whole evenings together – and, I admit, it never occurred to me that he was Armenian. Even physically, he looks like a German. And that Mr. Topchubashov was mainly guided by Totomiants’ nationality, I later had undeniable evidence.

    In the same meeting in the Duma, the painful issue of water was discussed. To enter into details, to become sufficiently acquainted to have my own opinion – it was impossible in a few days, especially since there were very many and very contradictory opinions. The main two groups were: Lindley supporters and anti-Lindleys.

    Lindley, an Englishman with a very large office in Frankfurt-on-Main, specializes in water supply and sewerage, like his father before him. His father, recognized as an authority by an encyclopedic dictionary, and thus by all Baku residents, was a well-known figure. Lindley himself had ardent supporters, albeit few in number, and implacable enemies who apparently formed the majority of the Duma. Among the enemies were the editors of ‘The Caspian,’ in the person of members Topchubashov and his father-in-law Hasan bey Melikov; I also previously knew Mr. Melikov from the newspapers as a member who never missed a Duma issue without speaking, always attacking the administration or any of its agents. He often did not hesitate to accuse the administration’s agents of thefts, which turned out to be poorly substantiated, and sometimes simply slanderous. His motto was: ‘to court.’

    So, these gentlemen were the most vehement anti-Lindley proponents. And since they had ‘The Caspian,’ i.e., all of Baku’s press, in their hands, naturally, public opinion was against Lindley.

    Twenty-five years ago, the Baku Duma began searching for water. A large water supply executive committee was formed, and all this time Baku had not come any closer to finding water. It was natural to lose heart.

    The local population drinks well water, which is, firstly, semi-salty, so unpalatable to the unaccustomed that it’s disgusting even to taste, secondly, extraordinarily hard, and, thirdly – and this is the worst – with countless bacteria. The absence of sewage in a large city, obviously, deteriorates this water more and more.

    Various springs were sought, but nothing suitable was found: either the water was bad, or there was too little of it, or finally, it could not be taken due to local conditions, as it was needed for the population of nearby villages, which, besides drinking water, required a large amount of water for irrigating fields, only under this condition convenient for agriculture.

    A lot of money was spent, but to no avail. Finally, it was necessary to search for water sources at all costs. They tried to bring water by ship, from the Volga and the Kura. The water was expensive, and sometimes, instead of fresh, it came salty. Finally, a municipal desalinator was set up to extract fresh water from seawater. The desalinator didn’t work out; the water was too expensive. Shortly thereafter, a contract was signed with the Berlin firm Arthur Koppel to install a new desalinator in Baku using the system of Russian engineer Jagn.

    This desalinator was in operation when I arrived in Baku. The water cost 3/4 kopecks per bucket, was warm in summer and not very refreshing, and also contained copper, albeit in very small, though still intolerable, amounts. The copper came from defects in the desalinator itself; the iron – because the city network was useless and was internally covered with a rusty layer. Sometimes the water came out completely red. There were no filters at the city booths. Naturally, the population grumbled and demanded water above all else.

    One of my colleagues in the administration, member V. S. Smolensky, traveled three years before my arrival to a water supply conference, I believe in Odessa, where he met and became fascinated with Lindley. He invited him to Baku. It ended with the Duma commissioning Lindley to simultaneously develop two projects for different waters: from the Kura and the Samur.

    While conducting his investigations and familiarizing himself with the area, Lindley concluded that neither Kura nor Samur water was suitable for Baku for various reasons, and that spring or subsoil water was needed – the result of the melting of eternal snows of Shah-Dagh. Once he reached this conclusion, he told the Baku residents.

    — ‘Forget your Samur and Kura and let’s research.’

    The water supply committee agreed with him, but the Duma refused.

    — ‘Kura and Samur; we want nothing else!’

    A year passed. Lindley continued his investigations and again said:

    — ‘Allow me to investigate the springs. After all, I will do this simultaneously with Kura and Samur. It won’t delay them.’

    This time even the committee was against him. In vain did the wise member Hajji Zeynalabdin Taghiyev persuade the Duma to follow Lindley’s advice. In vain did Taghiyev offer thirty thousand for the start of the work… The Duma stood its ground…

    — ‘Kura and Samur! We don’t want and won’t allow springs.’

    Instead of appreciating Lindley for his honesty and persistence in a matter concerning the good of the city, his enemies became more and more hostile towards him. They even started to hate Mr. Smolensky, who brought Lindley here. They hated him so much that when I arrived in Baku, the first thing I heard was that Smolensky’s song was sung, that there was no chance for him to be a member of the administration for another four-year term, and that member Makedonsky would be elected in his place.

    — ‘Why do you think it will be Makedonsky?’ I asked.

    — ‘It’s decided.’

    — ‘Hmm…’

    The water supply committee resented Lindley, nitpicked his agents’ accounts; one of them, engineer Popovich, was even taken to court for embezzling city property based on the false advice of a disgruntled translator. Instead of dealing with water supply matters, they dug up all sorts of trifles just to accuse the hated Lindley.

    Under these circumstances, I arrived: ‘The Caspian’ criticizes Lindley; I hear both pro and contra, but can’t fully understand. At a meeting of the water supply committee – talk about the chairman. I learn that, given the importance of the matters entrusted to it, it had a special chairman, member Antonov, but he had left; then they wanted to appoint a paid chairman who would only deal with this. They planned to appoint member Saparov to this position and had allocated six thousand rubles. But the governor’s office found for some reason that a chairman of the executive committee cannot receive more than a member of the administration, and did not approve this allocation.

    The affair proceeded neither well nor badly. The committee, I repeat, without a chairman, occupied itself with counting how many sardines Lindley’s engineers had eaten. I arrived, and the committee had its sights set on me for the chairmanship. I agreed.

    This matter was also discussed in the Duma. One of my biggest flaws is extreme suspicion, and in every opinion that differs from mine, I see a desire to offend me, or even to insult me. The debate about the chairmanship of the water supply committee was lively. Many demanded a paid chairman, but it seemed to me that they didn’t need a paid chairman, but rather wanted to keep me away from the matter somehow. I awaited the decision with impatience. It turned out favorably: I was elected as chairman. Hating national considerations, I was afraid to encounter them everywhere. Recently, I was somewhat frightened by the discord between the warring parties in Baku. Yes, I had noticed signs of ill-will. It seemed to me that, being primarily the appointee of the Tatar party, I was not entirely sympathetic to the Armenians, despite the fact that they had cast white ballots for me.

    In the matter just described, it seemed to me that the Tatars were for me, and the Armenians against. I think now that it was all a figment of my imagination, but at the time I attributed great importance to it.

    Regarding Lindley’s matters, I had to express myself in the early days. It was about invoices for ten thousand rubles, presented for payment by Lindley’s agents. The contract with him stipulated that all preliminary investigations on the ground were to be conducted at the city’s expense, while the actual projects for the Samur and Kura waterworks would be executed by Lindley in Frankfurt for 35,000 rubles.

    Now Lindley’s bureau presented an eight thousand ruble bill for work on the plans. Plans, drawn up on-site with elevations marked, from rough drafts were transferred to huge sheets and covered with ink. Obviously, this referred to preparatory work on the sites. But the committee, even before me, despite the obviousness, had decided that the preparation of white plans was part of the project itself and should be done by Lindley at the expense of his 35,000. Without expressing an opinion on the whole Lindley matter, I insisted in the committee, convened by me, that the 8,000 should be paid by the city. The Duma also agreed with me. However, I immediately noticed puzzled faces on Mr. Topchubashov and Melikov. What’s this? — their faces read — Didn’t we elect him to support Lindley?

    The next day in the ‘The Caspian’ appeared an article by the chief collaborator ‘Phantom’ titled: ‘Dear Child.’ ‘Dear Child’ was me, who had barely learned to speak, but already said a lot of nonsense about water and Lindley, such as water is better than ten thousand, etc. The child asked for candy, and they gave him candy. But that wasn’t enough for the child. He wanted a secretary for the administration. They gave him a secretary too. But that wasn’t enough either. He wanted a ‘memorial book’ (I, speaking about the personal secretary, incidentally said that he should write down a lot, as instructed by the head, remind him of various things, in short, serve as a kind of memory book).

    They gave the child a memorial book too. At the end, Mr. Phantom seriously says that everyone should satisfy their own needs, and that it’s strange for the city to bear the expenses of the head’s ‘memorial books.’

    Such nonsense surprised me coming from Mr. Phantom, who I always liked when he wrote about workers. Could he really think that a personal secretary is needed by me, Novikov, and not the head? I was even more surprised that this article appeared in the organ of my ‘godfather.’ This seemed ominous to me.

    But soon another article appeared in the same ‘The Caspian’ under the signature T., where Mr. T. accuses the administration (read: me) of the astonishing decisiveness with which the administration provided assistance to employees, new allowances, and ‘even’ new positions. This article coincided with my departure on a health leave and finally convinced me that I could not count on special support from ‘The Caspian.’ This somewhat disconcerted me.

    In the very first steps of my public service, I had to deal with desalinated water. This water was sometimes completely brown from rust in the pipes, but the plant was not to blame. It was necessary to set up our filters. But the water itself was not good. It was necessary to eliminate traces of copper; it was necessary to lower its temperature in summer, as it was undrinkable; it was necessary to saturate it with missing gases. The term of our contract was expiring. It was beneficial for both parties to change it.

    Engineer Jagn arrived, and I convened the water supply committee. We talked a lot, met a couple of times, and came to no conclusion. But that’s not interesting. What is interesting is the remarkable distrust of people I noticed in Bakuans. First of all, the person they are dealing with, whether a contractor or an employee, is their enemy. So they meet the newcomer. — Aha! There he is! He’s going to cheat us, we need to be on our toes!… I will return to this point later and provide striking examples.

    Chapter 5

    Of course, at one of the first meetings of the administration, if not the first, I proposed to take measures against good people falling into city wells. I initially wanted all the wells on the streets to be filled in, as a well has no place on a street. However, the majority of the administration found that in many places this would be very inconvenient for the population, as the majority of the Tatars supposedly do not drink desalinated water for religious reasons, and some wells on the streets provide comparatively good water. Therefore, we came to a compromise and decided: all wells must be covered and operated by pumps. If the wells are needed by the population, then those who need them should install a pump within a specified period and take care of its maintenance. If a well turns out to be unsafe after this, it is immediately filled in by the city. The resolution was good; it satisfied the need of the townspeople for these wells; it protected the safety of passers-by; and, finally, all this was done at the expense of those using the water, not costing the city treasury a penny. It was assigned to verify the list of these wells and the extent of the population’s need for them to district architects and executive commissioners. A double check better guaranteed no oversight. The member of the construction department of the administration, V. S. Smolensky, was responsible for monitoring this.

    A week passes, I ask Mr. Smolensky:
    — What about the wells?
    — I wrote to both the architects and the executive commissioners.
    I asked him to repeat the order so that the lists would be presented sooner. I set a deadline for them. Finally, the lists are presented and they do not match. There are omissions here and there, contradictory statements. The lists are corrected. I start to get annoyed; I begin to hurry the member of the administration, which he clearly finds tiresome. Then I leave for treatment. To avoid returning to the well story, I’ll tell the end of it. The issue was raised at the end of May or early June. In mid-August, upon returning from abroad, I learn that they still haven’t moved from words to action. I am approached by residents with complaints about oppression, and I almost have to handle the matter myself… and it ends with me dropping the case, and the wells are still not filled in or covered. If no one falls into them and dies, it must be seen as a special grace of God.

    They will tell me that as the head, I should have insisted. Why didn’t I demand from the architects and the member of the administration the execution of the administrative resolution? There are many reasons for this, and it is interesting to analyze them.

    I have already said that each member of the administration acted almost independently before and during my tenure. Subordinates were represented by a member of the administration, and the administration agreed, as other members also wanted to be free in choosing their subordinates.

    There were originally three, then four departments in the administration. With me, a fifth emerged, in the form of the head’s office.

    By silent agreement, the Duma always had one Armenian and one Tatar member of the administration. This succession of Armenian and Tatar members strongly reflected in the composition of the employees, especially in the external regulatory department, where Muslims often had undue advantage.

    It’s understandable that such a situation can only exist with a strong member of the administration and with the inactivity of the head and the administration as a collegium. Conversely, such a favorable position for individual members of the administration could not but provoke resistance from any external force, in this case, represented by me. I, of course, did not intend to raise the issue of nationality, but it arose against my will and played an important role in our administrative and Duma affairs all the time. The reader can see from this how quickly the Manilovian haze about Baku’s internationalism began to dissipate.

    From the beginning to the end, this absolute authority of the members of the administration completely isolated me from certain matters. The land department was particularly impenetrable for me and for the administration. The root of the city’s financial helplessness lay in its disorganization, the lack of active workers, and the enormous amount of clerical work done by the member of the administration himself. But more on that later.

    Apart from the difficulty, and sometimes impossibility, of exerting more energetic influence on the departments, I physically could not monitor all the omissions and the execution of all Duma and administrative resolutions. The water supply project was my responsibility. In the fall, to my great joy, I received the educational matter, and then I was consumed by various organizational issues and, finally, the struggle. I thought I would have to fight against bacilli, dirt, the ignorance of the population… But I did not anticipate a struggle with the members of the administration and the Duma deputies. It was a senseless and nerve-wracking struggle. Every step forward was achieved at the cost of concessions, which in turn provoked a struggle.

    I had no time or energy for the minor things (and people falling into wells, of course, was a minor issue compared to the rest). I could not delve into trivial matters and should not have. Otherwise, I would have missed more important things. That is why I kind of forgot about the wells. This is one of many examples where I was unquestionably right, but at the same time, powerless. I mentioned the architects. One of the ailments of our household was the construction part. It was impossible to understand a single account. Everything was done poorly and late. It is too long to describe everything. I will give a few examples.

    I will start with the construction of a house for a technical school. A few years ago, it was decided to build a technical school with craft classes. Both the lower technical and the lower craft school, but the technical required some theory, while the craft school indeed only produced workers. Both were very unpopular. Nevertheless, the Baku Duma was captivated by a love for practical education, even though it was very poorly implemented.

    They decided to build a new city building, allocated sixty thousand rubles, and formed a special construction committee. What was the result in the end? The building ended up costing two hundred and forty thousand rubles, with incremental increases approved by the Duma based on the committee’s demands. It seems the sum of Duma’s known allocations grew to 210 thousand rubles. For the remaining thirty thousand, there were various bills from contractors and suppliers lying around for several months. It turned out to be impossible to make sense of this matter. Practically, two people in the committee acted as executors: Mr. Mikhailevsky, the director of the school, and Mr. Ploshko, our district architect. Each of them, apparently, acted independently and ordered on behalf of the city whatever they deemed necessary.

    The plan was not followed and was arbitrarily changed by the committee (?). In the end, the result was an unfinished building with heaps of unremoved rubbish. The schools moved into this unfinished building; bills for over thirty thousand rubles remained unpaid, and the Duma did not want to hear about further allocations.

    I will return to this matter later. I will only say that upon arrival, when the city’s contractors for the school came to me and threatened to go to court, I asked them to wait until autumn.

    “Please, gentlemen, wait. What work is there in Baku during the summer? And I will be leaving. But I’ll come back in the fall, sort everything out. Is it worth suing? It’s clear that you should be paid for your bills.”

    And I gave them, as it later turned out, false hope. We didn’t pay them anything. But more on that later.

    Chapter 6

    The city’s infrastructure was terribly behind. Only one female gymnasium had a decent building. The male gymnasium was housed in some sort of shacks, where young men were contracting tuberculosis. Apart from three, the public schools were cramped into rented premises, mostly unsuitable. Only for three of them, decent city buildings were constructed. The hospital was too small for the city; the orphanage was in some sort of barns. And amidst all this… the city council was building its own building.

    Probably fearing a repeat of the technical school incident, no special committee was chosen. The general construction commission, completely separate from the administration, independently managed the construction. It was hard to discern what belonged to whom—whether it was the architect, the member of the construction department of the administration, or the commission. In any case, we, the administration, could only admire the completed work.

    But now, I want to talk not about the method of construction, but about the building itself. They built a luxurious building for four hundred thousand in the estimate, a large one, several stories high, with marble staircases, and red, especially strong bricks for cladding some parts of the facade, ordered from abroad.

    I write this and can hardly believe it myself. I didn’t see the actual documents on which the brick was ordered. Were they joking when they told me this?

    I attended one meeting of the construction commission soon after my arrival. They were discussing the roof. In the estimate, it was supposed to be iron—I don’t remember if it was painted or galvanized; the architect in the commission proposed making the entire roof zinc. The price difference, they said, was negligible—just a few thousand. I protested against this waste of money on luxury and argued that good iron would last forever, just needing to be well painted. Alas, I was alone in my opinion. They decided to make the roof zinc.

    Then the architect declared that a zinc roof on the facade would look much better if it were made of small pieces like scales, rather than ordinary. The difference was also trivial—just a few hundred rubles. I protested alone again.

    I say this to point out the vanity of our city council members—forgive me for this expression. There was terrible frugality in the construction of the hospital, arguing over pennies, and here they easily threw away hundreds and thousands.

    In the end, they seemed to want to cut back, but it was already too late. For example, it was impossible to surround the garden in front of the building with a wooden balustrade when the facade was clad with foreign material.

    Regarding the city building, a small anecdote occurred. We were at a meeting with architects. Architect B., temporarily in charge of the construction due to Goslavsky’s illness, was there too. We were discussing the building; suddenly, the council member Hajiyev, a Muslim who often referred to his incomplete knowledge of the Russian language, turned to B.

    – You know, your tower will collapse.
    – How so?
    – Just like that. In the place where the tower narrows, you put iron ties on which the further construction is based. They won’t hold.

    I think I then remarked to Mr. Hajiyev that it’s silly to argue with an architect about the strength of iron ties. The acting chief engineer, Mr. Skurevich, also smiled as if to say:
    – Look at what the council members are meddling in. The architect tells him that he has calculated the strength of the ties, and this gentleman, who barely speaks Russian, argues that the tower will collapse.

    – Alexander Ivanovich, want to bet it will collapse? – Mr. Hajiyev insisted.
    I didn’t take the bet but asked the architects to recheck B.’s calculations. They checked. And what? There was a mistake. The tower would have collapsed.

    I’m telling this as an anecdote. But let the reader not think that my obscurantism goes as far as denying “specialists” and technology. I’m stating a fact, the only one of its kind, because the excursions of the same council member Hajiyev into the field of sciences, technical and medical, were usually more than unsuccessful. To these excursions, as well as to others of this council member, I will return more than once. Meanwhile, while we were building a new house, the administration had to be housed in a terrible rented building. This building, on the best square of the city, was a large square, the second floor of which was rented by the administration. Incredible crampedness, cold in winter, as it was drafty, soot, inconveniences of all kinds – these were the delights of this place. Everyone lived in the hope of moving to a new building.

    Initially, the estimate, as I think I’ve already said, was reviewed, despite my stay in Baku, under the chairmanship of M. A. Belyavsky. Only on the fourth or fifth day, I couldn’t stand it and sat in the chairman’s chair to push the matter a bit. So, one of the evenings, when I was just a listener, I had to hear debates about the orphanage, which was then called a shelter for foundlings. The horror of these debates was overwhelming. It turned out that forty children were blinded in one or both eyes due to gonococcal infection. The council members blamed the matron, the sanitary bureau doctor Begun, who, in addition to his direct duties, also managed the shelter, and blamed the administration.

    Two things interested me. First, of course, was the horror of this epidemic, in which forty people went blind in some month, and second, that according to M. A. Belyavsky, neither the administration, the doctor, nor the matron was to blame. Not a word about the guilt of the council, which did not allocate enough funds. After all, it’s not God’s fault, right? And not the fault of the blinded children? Obviously, either the council, not giving enough money, or someone from the administration and its agents were to blame.

    Why, I thought to myself, not say, “Yes, I am guilty” or “such and such is guilty.” But that the blinding of forty infants required vengeance was beyond doubt for me. Here and later, I often heard from my colleagues:

    – Well, it’s our mistake! We need to stand our ground.
    – Why? – I asked: – You have to admit the mistake.
    – How can you? After all, they can take you to court for it.

    I never understood this reasoning and in my practice as a public servant, I think I never concealed any of my mistakes, either voluntary or involuntary.

    Despite the blinded children, the council, according to the decision of the financial commission, still reduced the estimate by two thousand from 30 to 28.

    The next day, of course, I ran there.

    The orphanage was in Bayil, a suburb of the city of Baku, outside the city’s self-government. The maritime department managed Bailov, as there was a seaport there. The orphanage children were housed in two houses quite far apart. There were up to a hundred children. The doctor visited two or three times a week. There was only one matron. And they lived in two houses. So, what kind of supervision was there? How could the children not go blind?

    Most of the children were like skeletons. It was obvious that these were either dying or candidates for death. Bones and skin, the face of a miserable six-month-old child looked exactly like an old man’s, wrinkled, not a drop of blood in the face, bedsores, and quiet, quiet moans, like those of adults, meaningful – that’s the picture represented by a good half of the children.

    Most of the wet nurses fed two children: one of their own, another from the orphanage. How could the children, especially the orphanage ones, not starve under these circumstances? The matron told me that even the wet nurses didn’t have enough food, that they used to get breakfast, but now the council, having cut the budget, eliminated breakfasts, considering them an unnecessary luxury.

    – Do council members often visit here?
    – Nobody ever, neither the administration nor the council members.

    I hurried to leave this shelter, which was more aptly called a house of death than a shelter. Oh… I forgot. Of the forty blinded, I saw three; death had ended the suffering of the others. Of course, I decided to insist on improving the situation, called a barely active medical commission, invited it and the administration in full composition to go there together with doctors. Of all the invitees, two members of the administration, one council member, and two-three doctors went there. The commission came to some conclusions, which were then submitted to the council for consideration. Immediately, a woman doctor, Levenson, was appointed as the head of affairs, showing extraordinary work capacity and passion for the task. The main issue was the budget, which had just passed through the council with cuts by the finance commission, so it couldn’t be brought back to the council until autumn. Additionally, we decided to look for a more suitable location. All other aspects, such as relocating the children to the countryside during the deadly summer, feeding them at least on a trial basis with milk directly from nursing donkeys, placing the children with families, and the ultimate relocation of the shelter to a village, were met with indifference by the council, or did not materialize due to the extraordinary obstinacy of those who were supposed to directly oversee these matters, and due to the cumbersome machinery of the self-governance of Russian cities in general, and Baku in particular. In contrast to the contemptuous attitude of some individuals towards these children, I requested the council to rename this house of death into “Foster Home,” because the label “foundling” indelibly marks an innocent person for life, from their supposedly shameful cradle to their only place of real peace, due to the hypocrisy of our sanctimonious society. This change of name was accepted by the council.

    At one of the first meetings held under my chairmanship, I suggested to the council members that they smoke. In many zemstvo assemblies and city councils I had attended, smoking was almost universally practiced, with the eagle being removed from the mirror. The same practice existed in various presidencies, sometimes even under the chairmanship of governors. Apparently, this was an order, or rather a disorder, sanctified by custom and explainable by Russian weakness, as few Russians do not smoke, hardly ever taking the cigarette out of their mouth. Smoking was not customary in the Baku council… I saw this as a flaw… And here’s why. The council members often left to smoke in the adjacent room. Often there was no quorum in the hall, and it was necessary to verify if the council members were there (as a council member is still considered present if he leaves the room after attending the meeting). There was confusion during voting; it was necessary to call them, ask them to come back. Russians, and in this respect Baku residents are excellent Russians, sometimes like to shout during a cigarette break, not minding that it hinders work. All this complicated the progress of the meetings… so I thought it more convenient to let people smoke. I removed the eagle from the mirror, and some council members started smoking.

    I remember council member Kh. S. Antonov, one of the old, respected council members, stood up to protest against smoking. Although Kh. S. Antonov was an old and respected council member, I wasn’t going to give up my rights. As I saw it, whether to allow smoking or not was the chairman’s decision, not the council’s. So, I stated this. There were protests. Then I chose a middle ground: to ask the council members privately. I divided a sheet of paper in half in the adjacent room, for those who wanted to smoke to sign on one side, and those who did not on the other. We agreed on this. The majority turned out to be against smoking, and I conceded. I mention this to show that even in trivial matters, it was necessary to be cautious.

    Regarding this smoking issue, I remember voices from the adjacent room: “He’s not saying this for himself, he doesn’t smoke,” I heard the voice of council member Ambartsum Melikov (please do not confuse with Hasan bey Melikov). Ambartsum Sergeevich was my supporter from the beginning to the end. I didn’t hear the other voices well. There was murmuring… “Yes, he doesn’t smoke,” Melikov repeated. Apparently, the discussion was about me, and the council members wanted to explain to themselves why I was so in favor of smoking. Indeed, I had quit smoking about six months before. I don’t know if Melikov convinced the others of my impartiality.

    Chapter 7

    Taking over the chairmanship of the council towards the end of the budget review, I obviously couldn’t be held accountable for it. I can’t be credited or blamed for its good or bad aspects. Nevertheless, I was glad that during my tenure, it was decided to open a progymnasium. Until then, Baku had only one classical gymnasium, albeit with a triple complement of students, numbering up to twelve hundred. Despite this impressive size, making it the largest gymnasium in Russia, many students were left behind annually. The council even wanted to open two progymnasiums at once, but the council decided to open just one, allocating a sufficient sum of money for it. I repeat—it’s not my merit, but my joy was nonetheless significant when the matter successfully passed.

    The budget concluded in the council around June 15 and ended with apparent financial strain. A deficit was clear. Council member Belyavsky argued in both the council and the administration that there would be no deficit. Land affairs were always very obscure to me during my tenure as the head, especially when I had just assumed the position.

    I remember Belyavsky talking about 250 acres of city land, built-up, with which the city hadn’t entered into any contractual dealings with the homeowners; I remember the figure of a million rubles for the rent of this land over recent years; I remember his words: “Even if it’s not a million, even if it’s halved or quartered, 250 thousand are still secured.” I also remember my other colleagues’ skepticism towards all these figures. I was all ears, trying to understand the matter. To obtain these millions or, “at the very least,” hundreds of thousands, Mikhail Agafovich proposed various measures and promised different deadlines. The administration agreed with everything, while individual members muttered something to themselves and nothing more. The way M. A. understood the issue was how it was presented to the council.

    In the council, there were general remarks about the need to formalize relations with homeowners-occupiers, discussions on the city risking a vast land capital, and claims that the city might lose 10, 15, or even 30 million rubles if deadlines were missed. Mr. Belyavsky countered this, explaining the reasons for the delay, and firmly set deadlines: by September 1st, everything must be measured; by November 1st, notices must be sent out; by December 1st, lawsuits filed, etc. Within a year, everything was supposed to be ready, meaning for each plot (2-3 thousand in total) either a voluntary rental agreement or a court case should have been initiated.

    These promises from the land department were so categorical that I wholeheartedly joined them. What were we risking? At worst, a few months, maybe a year—trivial compared to the years already lost.

    Presumably, the council viewed it the same way, entering the promised revenues into the budget and approving all the administration’s measures on the condition that all deadlines for partial completion of the massive upcoming work were met.

    I can’t help but mention the council member Hajji Zeynalabdin Taghiyev, who attended the council not often, but when needed. The more I got to know him, the more this intelligent figure of a wealthy Muslim emerging from the people fascinated me. Speaking Russian poorly, he seemed to me, in terms of intelligence and — don’t be surprised, reader — in the loftiness of his sentiments, a head above his educated colleagues. In major city issues—water and land—he always proceeded straight and correctly. He had offered his money to help with Lindley’s investigations before my time—rejected by the council. Now, he loudly, in broken Russian, spoke about the city’s duties to preserve its land, that the council should care about the city, not the benefit of private individuals. Strangely, I expected Taghiyev’s influence on the Muslim part of the council to be greater—members morally far below him not only opposed him but did so rudely. Later, I’ll mention a case where I had to go against Taghiyev on principle. I thought: would he seek revenge or not? It turned out he didn’t change his attitude towards me at all.

    I feel even more obligated to highlight this prominent figure, as he has been the target of baseless attacks by “Novoe Vremya” for years. Taghiyev had the idea to build a large paper mill in Baku. He had a lease agreement with villagers near the city for a large plot of land. There, he decided to build the factory. The villagers’ agreements were contested when Taghiyev was already building. A long case ensued, dividing society into pro and anti-Taghiyev camps. Since then, “Novoe Vremya,” followed by others, has unjustly attacked him, almost accusing him of hiding murderers. I rush to restore, as much as I can, the good name of this significant benefactor and public figure.

    Now, he spoke loudly, “The city must preserve all its land. It’s our duty.” Taghiyev obviously felt the city was at risk of losing it, realizing that things were going poorly.

    The council accepted the administration’s report, i.e., Belyavsky’s, without changes, giving the administration an unlimited credit to strengthen land-measurement and clerical forces. The promises about deadlines were also accepted and recorded. All our proposed figures for land revenues, considered by Mr. Belyavsky as grossly underestimated and by others as grossly inflated, were entered into the budget.

    The council session ended with the budget. Summer vacations began. And summer vacations from June 15th to August 15th in Baku are a time of complete inactivity, complete languor. Everything quiets down: government, public, and commercial activities. Everyone who can leaves Baku, some abroad, some to Russia or Finland, others to Kislovodsk or Borjomi; those who can’t leave Baku retreat to villages nearby with the same almost tropical heat; the poor head to the Caucasus mountains. In short, Baku empties, newspapers barely get published, correspondence reduces to bare essentials. Nowhere is vacation time as needed as in Baku. Arriving in Baku, I told everyone that I belong to the city day and night for ten months a year, but I need two summer months for my health. I hadn’t taken leave for several years while in government service and had every right to a lengthy vacation.

    As soon as the session ended, I announced I was going abroad and took a two-month leave and a passport from the governor. On the eve of my departure, Ambartsum Melikov visited the administration.

    — “Alexander Ivanovich, I need to talk to you.”
    — “We can’t here. See, we’re like herring in a barrel. No corner to step away from people. Better I visit you.”
    — “Alright, come over.”

    In the evening, I was at Melikov’s.
    — “Listen, Alexander Ivanovich. They say you’re already going on leave?”
    — “Yes, what about it?”
    — “Just that… with retained salary?”
    — “Well, yes, of course, I’m going to get treated… What’s the matter?”
    — “Hm… nothing, just asking. People are talking about it.”
    — “About me going for treatment?”
    — “Yes, about the fact that you’ve just arrived and are already leaving, and that too with retained salary.”

    I was both puzzled and annoyed. How could there be distrust and nitpicking over my actions from the very start, especially when the city’s one and a half million budget was being spent inefficiently, as generally acknowledged?

    — “So, what do you suggest, Ambartsum Sergeyevich? Should I give in and not go, or demonstratively refuse my salary for this period?”

    Melikov remained silent.

    My doubt was short-lived. I realized that if I listened to everyone’s opinions, I’d end up carrying the donkey instead of riding it, as the old saying goes. Why should I care about every little comment made by others? I believed in my own path and in the majority’s support. I told Melikov as much.

    — “You know, I just wanted to warn you,” he said.

    The next day, I left for abroad.

    Part 2 - Confronting the bureaucracy

    Chapter 1

    Before leaving for the spa, I needed to consult with renowned experts in Berlin. Lindley also traveled to Berlin to meet me. I spent a day with him, during which he enlightened me about the Baku water supply issue. After comparing his arguments with the accusations and refutations of his opponents, I felt a sense of injustice for the water project, entirely at the mercy of these adversaries. My immediate and primary goal was clear: to refute the accusations, steer the investigations in the right direction, and restore faith in Lindley, a man dedicated to quenching the thirst of the needy.

    Lindley explained that he was engaged in the unproductive work of river projects like Kur and Samur, and he would have long abandoned it if not for his hope to convince Baku’s residents of the obvious benefits of spring water. His arguments were clear and convincing, exposing the baseless accusations of greed against this selfless man.

    My day with Lindley was not only practically beneficial but also aesthetically pleasing. It’s rare to encounter someone who is as physically, mentally, and spiritually robust as him. In contrast, in Russia, a strong spirit often hides in a weak, consumptive body and vice versa. This disparity is a significant indictment of our pedagogical system.

    We agreed that Lindley would come to Baku at the end of my leave, in August.

    I didn’t end up spending the full two months abroad. Messages from Baku indicated my presence was needed. I cut short my treatment and returned in early August, to the extreme heat of Baku. I understood why everyone who could, fled the city during this time, and why life seemed to come to a standstill there.

    From the day of my return, I dedicated all my time and energy to the city. Apart from land issues, I delved into all aspects of the city’s affairs. I can honestly say that despite possibly making many mistakes, I couldn’t have worked harder. Until the spring of 1903, I felt complete satisfaction, although I realized that unanimous agreement in the council and administration was impossible. There were obstacles at every turn, often stemming from selfishness, hidden agendas, or simple misunderstanding.

    This opposition was particularly harmful and senseless, often coming from culturally inferior individuals who saw themselves as city owners, not accountable representatives. They interfered with progress, believing they had a right to self-serving decisions.

    The term “owner,” especially as pronounced by Bakuvians, became repulsive to me because it was often used by those ignorant of their responsibilities and opposed to me as a “hired technician.” It’s disheartening to see such people in positions of power, pretending to care about public funds while actually seeking personal gain.

    Debating a budget, you know it’s already cut to the bone. Yet, someone always finds a way to reduce it further by a few hundred rubles, gaining approval from the council, only to later mock you for your supposed inability to make reductions. They boast about saving public funds, but their true motive is to earn the rights of an “owner,” not out of genuine concern for public finances. Those council members who genuinely participate for the city’s sake never boast about their “ownership” rights.

    Reflecting on these dynamics is unpleasant. The critics would often insinuate that as a “hired technician,” I was the opposite of them, the “owners.” Knowing their deceitful intentions and their lack of genuine care for public funds makes such interactions frustrating and disheartening.

    I must recount an incident that illustrates the attitude of the most cultured council members towards me, the “hired” head of the administration. For a particular matter, the administration needed to consult with one of the council members in accordance with a city council decision. This council member was among the most educated, intelligent, and talented in the assembly. I invited him by letter (not an official summons) to a meeting to discuss the issue. He responded that he was too busy and had another evening engagement. I planned to invite him again later. Soon after, I met him at a gathering with other administration members and some council members, and a conversation about my deteriorating relations with the council ensued.

    — “You see, Alexander Ivanovich, how you make enemies for yourself,” the council member said. “For example, I consider myself your supporter, but even I felt slighted by you.”

    — “Me? How? When?” I asked, puzzled.

    — “Remember, you wanted to consult with me on the council’s mandate?” he replied.

    — “Yes, I remember, but what about it?”

    — “Suddenly you summon me to the administration. I am no less busy than you. And after all, who needed whom? Was it not you who needed me? So, the administration could have come to me, instead of calling me to them.”

    — “All of the administration? To your place?” I asked in disbelief.

    — “Well, not the entire administration. You could have come alone. Or at least, you could have sent another member of the administration. It’s just not done like this…”

    What could I have said in response? That the issue was important for the city, not for me, not for the administration, nor for the council member; that the administration holds various meetings and consultations; that there was nothing offensive in my invitation… I don’t remember what I replied, or if I replied at all. It was clear that I was being addressed by an “owner.”

    The efforts of some council members (especially often reiterated by Hasan bey Melikov) to highlight that they, as “owners,” serve without remuneration, were arguably designed to imply that their “managers” were motivated solely by greed. It was evident that I could not get along with them, as, although I received a salary, I did not become the head of the administration for its sake. Clearly, contrasting the unpaid “owners” with a paid “manager” did not facilitate my closeness to the council. Of course, I consoled myself with the thought that I was serving the community and should be prepared to hear not just harsh truths but even harsher falsehoods. However, silently enduring these insinuations was not easy.

    An additional challenge was my outsider status. If I had been a Baku resident with acquaintances among the council members, I might have had my own faction. Such factions often arise in other councils and zemstvos. When someone attacks the head, defenders typically emerge to highlight the baselessness, sometimes even the indecency, of the attacks. In Baku, this never happened. No matter how senseless or rude the attacks were, I was left to defend myself. As the chairperson, how was I supposed to respond when a council member began to make irrelevant but personal attacks? Stopping him felt awkward; it would seem like I was preventing criticism against me. The only option was to refute the speaker, further diverting from the topic.

    The impossibility of simultaneously chairing the council and administration meetings made my position even harder. Ideally, the council itself should prevent such diversions, but in Baku, it never fulfilled this duty. More so, no council member ever realized that attacking the head was an insult to the council itself. Instead, they seemed to perceive it as scrutinizing a manager.

    I recall an incident of insult. The matter was about appointing a chief engineer. After my initial report, the council wanted the finance and construction committees’ opinions. I explained the issue to the finance committee and secured its agreement. Then we started discussions with the construction committee. Hajiyev, a member of this committee and undoubtedly one of the smartest council members, who I mentioned earlier, initially opposed the chief engineer but eventually agreed with my arguments.

    — “You see, Alexander Ivanovich, now I understand the utility of this position. It wasn’t clear the first time in the council,” he said.

    The committee’s minutes were immediately drafted and signed by all members, including Hajiyev. Soon after, at a council meeting, Hajiyev vehemently attacked my proposal.

    — “You agreed with my arguments in the committee, Mr. Hajiyev, didn’t you?” I asked.

    — “No, I never agreed,” he replied.

    — “But you signed the document. Do you want to see it?”

    — “What does it matter what I signed? I am illiterate. I thought I was signing minutes for a valuation committee. You misled me.”

    Thus, I was accused of forgery. I was taken aback and found no words to respond. What do you think happened? Did the council get outraged and stop Mr. Hajiyev? Not at all. Only another member of the construction committee, Sharabandov, thankfully clarified that this wasn’t true, that I had explained everything in detail and Hajiyev had knowingly signed. The matter ended there.

    Such incidents can be tolerated occasionally. But what to do when they become constant? Inevitably, nerves fray, and one loses patience, even with individual members.

    I don’t remember the specific reason for Hajiyev’s harsh criticism at that time – whether it was because I didn’t hire an illiterate girl he recommended, or because I protested against him getting an illegal contract for stone supply. It was during a time when I was still influential, and the council supported me. What happened later?

    My relationship with the council members was different when I tried to protect myself from overly impertinent attacks.

    Once, Hajiyev was vehemently attacking me and, as usual, deviated from the topic. I stopped him once, twice, but to no avail. The attacks became stronger and ruder. Exasperated, I loudly said, “I ask you to be silent.”

    A commotion ensued, and Topchubashov, then the leader of the opposition, jumped up.

    “This is an insult to the council member, to the whole council! It’s inappropriate!” And when I didn’t let him speak, he sat down contentedly and remarked, “I don’t need to say more. I’ve said it.”

    This is how Baku’s council members understand their ownership dignity.

    Chapter 2

    When I arrived in Baku, there was only one newspaper, ‘The Caspian.’ However, upon returning from vacation, I discovered another one – ‘Bakinskie Izvestiya.’ At the beginning, it was a somewhat accommodating and indistinct voice of liberalism. It was caught in several instances of plagiarism, one of which was quite interesting. It turned out that in its very first issue, the editor did not hesitate to borrow the leading article, his ‘profession de foi,’ from a very pure and restrained Tiflis newspaper, ‘Novoye Obozreniye.’ The editor could not cleanse himself of this plagiarism and had to leave. What’s interesting about this plagiarism is that ‘Novoye Obozreniye’ was, as it seems, 15 years old. It turns out that in the Caucasus, you can take and reprint a 15-year-old article without any changes, and everything will fit: the same principles, promises, and desires. Isn’t it noteworthy and somewhat discouraging for those who would wish to see some progress in our provincial life? Nevertheless, the fact remains. The article was published, and even many, including myself, liked it. Alas, later the plagiarism was exposed by an individual who was tasked with finding this literary fossil in Tiflis. For his efforts, this person wanted, it seems, 5 rubles, but he was given only 3. This is how the exposure happened.

    The editor had to leave, and the entire publication was bought by a company of young people who aimed to run a clean newspaper.

    I will allow myself to pause on my personal relationship with the local press. It honored me with its special attention for two years, as its head. It’s only fair that I repay it. The Caspian was, in my eyes, a newspaper like many in the provinces. I read only the telegrams in it, and even those sparingly. The construction of a mill in Kamyslov, the distribution of historical leaflets by Bogdanovich or another lubok publication in Tikhvani, the opening of the Cortes in Madrid – these are the kinds of things our provincial telegraph agency usually provides. I’m talking, of course, about ordinary, peaceful times. So you read the telegrams to keep your conscience clear. Perhaps someone’s father died, or a change of minister occurred, or there was a strengthening in some parliament of one party over another. You need to know all this, just in case. That’s why you read the newspaper.

    Having become the head, I declared that I would not sever my ties with the press under any circumstances. I don’t remember whether I had the capital press or the local The Caspian in mind. Mr. Topchibashev, who supported me, noted this promise.

    — “So you will continue writing, Alexander Ivanovich?”
    — “Yes!” I replied.

    And with this “yes,” I seemed to be tied to ‘The Caspian.’ Furthermore, the local press began to have a special meaning for me. Dirt on Telephone Street, unsanitary conditions in some house, poor roads – all of this is uninteresting to the common man but crucial for the head. As much as I could, I always paid attention, as well as the relevant city officials, to each such press statement. Then there were articles dedicated to me, and the further it went, the more there were. I had to reread the newspapers from cover to cover. I read ‘The Caspian,’ ‘Bakinskie Izvestiya,’ and another third newspaper, ‘Baku,’ which began during my time and existed for over a year before transitioning into the ownership of ‘Bakinskie Izvestiya.’

    At that time, I had to get to know them closely. ‘The Caspian,’ besides its personal relations with me, which quickly soured and became hostile and unfriendly, turned out to be an inappropriate organ for me.

    In the articles of a general nature, there were sometimes those that belonged in the ‘Moscow News.’ But what was especially repulsive was their Islamic nationalism. In this regard, one of the contributors to ‘The Caspian,’ who was also a member of the State Duma and my most bitter opponent, Ahmed bey Aghayev, stood out. Some might have thought, based on certain articles, that the editorial board aimed to modernize Islam in the spirit of freedom and enlightenment. Apart from sympathy, this could not evoke anything else. Unfortunately, this enlightenment tendency was combined with such intolerance towards others that, upon closer acquaintance, I not only lost my sympathy but also my respect for the newspaper. It was the same nationalism that is repulsive in all its manifestations. Enlightenment tendencies turned out to be a mask.

    Some articles in The Caspian were downright outrageous. The praise of the Sultan was mixed with condemnation, for example, of the Macedonian movement. Sometimes there were articles that could only be explained by complete disregard for the opinions of cultured readers and an expectation of approval from ignorant Tatars. I remember an article dedicated to education. It was during the time of Vannovsky. The article stated that we could learn from Turkey, and it described real Turkish schools as an example worthy of imitation. Another later article praised the tolerance of the Turks towards the Armenians. To write such articles, one must, of course, ‘jeter sa langue aux chiens,’ as the French say.

    Clearly, I could not publish articles in such a newspaper, especially willingly. Nevertheless, I did publish two or three articles on local affairs. But when it became unbearable, I not only stopped writing articles for The Caspian but also refutations. It is possible and beneficial to refute when people make mistakes, but when attacks are personal and the attacker has no regard for the truth, is it worth wasting time and ink?

    I cannot help but tell about an incident in my Baku life. In the Tambov province, I maintained a school. In this school, among others, there was a boy whom I considered very capable. He completed school, became a teacher, and I lost sight of him. In Baku, I receive a letter from him. He writes that he did not have the opportunity to continue as a teacher and asks for my help. He sends some fictional manuscript. I read it in Baku. My relations with Topchubashov were still good. And so, I arrange for the young man who has become a young adult to join ‘The Caspian.’ He began to write so successfully that he was given small current affairs feuilletons. And here is a man whose principles did not allow him to be a teacher, writing, among other things, about the wrongdoing of the Macedonian and Slavic movements, praising Turkish rule, and, most importantly, warning Russia against shedding blood for some brothers.

    His attitude towards me was curious. As The Caspian began to persecute me more and more, intensifying its attacks on me and this man, whenever I did something, said something, or wished for something, a feuilleton against my project would immediately appear. There was no mud too dirty for me. The extent to which the desire to sting can go is evident from the following fact.

    They attacked our hospital in the Duma and in the press. There were many shortcomings in it, but they mainly depended on the Duma’s reduction of credits. My enemies needed to shift the focus of the struggle from credits to the activities of the hospital board.

    One day I read a feuilleton by my former student, and I couldn’t believe my eyes. It described in detail how water was denied to the patients. And here is how one patient goes out of the hospital in search of water, and on the way, in the garden, with a cup in his hand, he dies of thirst. This was reported as a fact and embellished with a description of the pre-mortem agony that left an imprint on the face of the deceased.

    In a semi-wild place like Baku, the population needs to be accustomed to the hospital, but here, the people’s elders do everything to keep the people away from the hospital. I read this feuilleton in the administration and suggested that they start a libel case against ‘The Caspian.’ The hospital started this case, but to this day, a year and a half later, it has not been heard. After this, no matter what The Caspian wrote about me personally or about urban affairs, I paid no attention to it. I did read it from cover to cover all the time, at first with surprise, then with a sense of disgust, and towards the end, with simple curiosity. I never thought that hatred could reach such shamelessness.

    Naturally, the more The Caspian attacked me, the more fervently the other two newspapers, ‘Bakinskie Izvestiya’ and ‘Baku,’ defended me. Probably, if The Caspian had behaved more decently, there would have been no need for such opposition.

    For instance, an article appears: ‘Mr. Novikov and the Telephone Girls’. Naturally, everyone would think: ‘Aha, Novikov is not without sin in matters of women, apparently’. But it turns out that this is not the case at all. This title actually conceals two separate articles. The first criticizes Novikov for poor management of city affairs, and the second one criticizes the telephone girls for some transgression against The Caspian. But the effect is achieved, and the connection between Novikov and women is already established in the mind of the uninformed reader. The crowning of all the nastiness directed at me was the accusation of involvement in the ‘Panama’, in the case of the Zagulba water supply. But more on this later…

    When I finally realized that it was impossible to have any dealings with The Caspian—which happened soon after I returned from my vacation—I began writing articles in ‘Bakinskie Izvestiya’. These articles were quite general, not specifically Baku in nature, and were later published in a separate edition under the title ‘Notes on Municipal Self-Government’.

    In addition to this, I had to include in ‘Bakinskie Izvestiya’ and ‘Baku’ a lot of minor notes, refutations; I had to engage in polemics on local issues.

    Apart from my writing activities, I had relations with the press, and they were twofold, as the head. The first thing I did upon taking office was to declare that there were no secrets in our administration. Press representatives were given access not only to all meetings of the council but also to the management. All clerks were required to show them all cases, all papers. I considered such transparency to be one of the foundations of my actions. It was clear that the Augean stables would have to cleanse themselves through transparency before any forced external cleaning.

    I could have done this by my authority as the chairman of the management and head of the office, but I preferred to go through the management. I must admit, I was afraid. What if they didn’t want to? Fortunately, it all went well. Everyone was hesitant, objecting. The arguments were, of course, weak. How to admit that you want to operate in the dark and are afraid of the light? But it shocked everyone. As a result, two voted against, two for. We won. Now I realize and conclude that those who voted for transparency were the two members of the management whose stables were morally cleaner. I say ‘morally’ because in terms of paperwork, these were the worst departments. It’s only moral filth that fears the light; the accidental prefers to cleanse itself.

    Since then, there has always been one, then two, and eventually three correspondents sitting in the administration. Our relationship with them was always friendly. I warned them in advance that although they would have access everywhere, there were things they should not write about, for example, about incomplete investigations. Imagine someone is suspected of theft. An investigation is underway, papers are written. You can’t publish all this. You’d end up falsely accusing the innocent too often. Besides, there were times when we couldn’t reveal the administration’s cards for some reason. Sometimes I would turn to the press desk and tell the correspondents that I ask you not to write about this. For example, you can’t publish the grounds on which the administration intends to conduct a legal case. That would not be openness, but foolishness. I must say with full satisfaction that there was not a single case of abuse of trust. As soon as you say that this is not for the press, it does not get into the press. I had directly friendly relations with two or three correspondents. The chronicles in all three newspapers were correct. Towards the very end of my stay in Baku, when The Caspian could no longer speak of me coolly, it tried in the chronicle to jab me, in my opinion, in a very innocent way. For example, if I did something good, it was attributed to the management. If the management did something bad, in their opinion, it was attributed solely to me. They omitted my trips to official meetings. They would list everyone, almost down to the district officer, and skip me. Or, renaming various people, in the end, they would say: ‘Representatives of the merchant and public administration were also present’. It didn’t upset me, but the intention to jab was obvious. Of course, this was done by the editorial office. The correspondent had nothing to do with it.

    However, I must mention an incident of involuntary indiscretion. In search of fresh people, I turned to one gentleman who was highly recommended to me. He telegraphs me openly, ‘afraid to come’, and expresses in the telegram the reason for his fear, which, if disclosed, could harm him

    and me. Suddenly, the next day in ‘Baku’—The Caspian and ‘Bakinskie Izvestiya’ did not do this—I read and can’t believe my eyes: my correspondent’s entire telegram is printed. The editorial office apologized collegially for the oversight… of course, it was an oversight on their part. We made peace with the correspondent too, who of course had no ill intent either.

    I don’t remember another case, even an unintentional one, of the press sinning in the chronicle. Of course, I’m not talking about what was then done with this chronicle in every issue of The Caspian, and sometimes, very rarely and without malice, in other newspapers. That’s already the business of editors, people who consider themselves deservedly or undeservedly true, thinking writers. I’m just talking about the modest role of a correspondent in public life. I can’t complain about any of them, although we had quite a few changes.

    But what a benefit they brought! How often I counted on them! You hear that something bad is being prepared and you think to yourself: they won’t dare in front of the press. Look, and they don’t dare… they’ll talk, they’ll talk… but they won’t dare to say or do. And sometimes someone would grumble to me, half-displeased, half-jokingly: ‘I should disagree with you politically, Alexander Ivanovich, but tomorrow the press will spread it. Let it be your way.’

    Our correspondents were more and more getting into the role, and it ended with the fact that I and the members of the management learned about all possible news concerning the management and the city from the newspapers. It was done like this. I didn’t open the mail, but it was opened by E.P. Rostkovsky, our secretary of management, a man I trusted more than myself. Sometimes the mail would come a bit late when we were about to leave the administration. While Evgeny Pavlovich was opening the mail, the correspondents were already there and were the first to learn the news. Whether the mail went to the registrar for recording in the incoming journals—simultaneously with the registrar, everything interesting was recorded on narrow sheets by the chroniclers. Understandably, after that, we sometimes learned the news from the newspapers. It’s also understandable how curiously we all read the three newspapers from cover to cover.

    The issue of transparency was also raised in the Duma. The orator N. A. Aivazov made an inquiry about the feasibility of having public meetings of the administration, noting that even in the Tiflis Duma there is no such transparency. I explained that the administration agreed with me, and that this would not only be harmless but even beneficial. Fortunately, this question did not provoke much debate. This was a time when I was just coming into my own, everyone was observing my actions, expecting something from me.

    In this matter, the orator N. A. Aivazov (please do not confuse him with his very influential namesakes A. G. and S. G.) referred to Tiflis. Tiflis was often cited, especially by cultured orators. The Tiflis Duma had many members with higher education, more so than anywhere else. However, in the matter of transparency, the Tiflis Duma was scandalized. The question of the public nature of the management’s and committees’ meetings was discussed at length and, to their shame, was rejected. After all, higher education does not always go hand in hand with transparency and light, especially where money and personal interest are involved.

    The administration also had interactions with newspapers in terms of publications. The city administration is an economic body overseeing various economic sectors. What kinds of work does the administration have to do? Mostly, all this is done through contracts. Therefore, every day the columns of the newspapers are filled with various announcements, calls, and invitations from the administration. Initially, all this went to The Caspian, which charged as much as it wanted. Then two more newspapers opened. Naturally, announcements were sent to them as well. Prices were lowered. Of course, it was possible to provoke competition between them and award the contract to those offering a cheaper price. I suggested this. We called someone. But nothing came of it. Everyone was against it. I imagine the storm that would have arisen if The Caspian had stopped receiving announcements. It would have been attributed to my machinations due to personal animosity. Everyone felt this, and therefore no new orders were introduced in this area. Three orators—leaders of the Muslims—were members of the editorial board. Nevertheless, I felt it my duty to propose to the Duma, in view of the enormous expenses for publication, to petition for permission to have our own organ. We developed a program. Some felt disapproval of the project; nevertheless, my proposal passed. I initiated the petition and personally supported it in St. Petersburg. By the autumn of 1903, permission was granted to print ‘Baku City Duma News’. The section ‘articles on city economy’ was removed from the program. Only official sections were left.

    But this uninteresting press organ was not destined to see the light of day. I was planning to start publishing it from 1904. But by that time, my position in the Duma was already quite clear. A majority of opponents, a neutral minority, not a single ally. My nerves were frayed by the unbearable struggle, my heart was failing. I felt that I would not stay in Baku for long, felt that nothing I had established was stable, and therefore our poor Duma organ would not be stable either, especially since it was personally inconvenient for some… and I decided not to start the project. All the less, I think, can the ‘Duma News’ be expected to see the light of day after me.

    Chapter 3

    Transparency alone was, of course, not enough. It was necessary to clean up the stables and introduce new elements. Understanding the existing staff before my arrival was not difficult. I clearly saw that there could be no hope for an internal change of order unless the composition of the staff was fundamentally changed. The staff was terribly poor. And it was formed in the following way.

    Even in a living organism, there is a dumping ground designed by nature itself. These are the kidneys. All the rubbish that interferes with other organs goes there. In houses, cesspits are arranged, etc.

    The cesspit, the dumping ground of the city of Baku, was the city administration. Everyone has a relative who is underdeveloped, or a friend who is too old to hold a private position, or simply an annoying acquaintance who insists on being accommodated. Baku residents have even more such people. Every good Baku citizen is somehow involved in some commercial enterprise, oil or otherwise. In such businesses, there are often employees who need to be gotten rid of. So, where to dispose of all these relatives, friends, acquaintances, surplus employees? Naturally, in the service of the city.

    But kidneys are cleansed by nature itself, cesspits by sanitation workers. However, the Baku administration was never cleansed. I am ashamed to use such a comparison. But let the reader not think that I want to insult any of the former employees or those who have remained so far. God forbid! On the contrary, I am directly amazed at how, despite extraordinary negligence in conducting business and impossible accounting, there were not more frequent thefts.

    If there were abuses in places, then in any case, over a long period of years, there were no major thefts among the employees of the central administration. By comparing our administration to a dumping ground, I simply mean that the people were completely unsuitable. Clerks, serving for 25 years, but too old to walk, nervously ill; accountants who did not know fractions; legal advisors from foresters, or simply pensioners (not municipal, but outsiders) for whom they invented jobs… That’s who we had to work with.

    Over them, the members of the administration were also selected, two by chance, and two related to the most influential orators. None of them were practically or specially educated or prepared in any other way for public activity. Clearly, with these forces, things could not proceed. The disorganization at the places was unimaginable, with complete lack of control. Hence the collapsing water reservoirs, disorderly construction of technical schools where no one was to blame, complete lack of sanitation, widespread blindness, and mortality among children in the orphanage, etc.

    It was clear that it was necessary to: 1) somehow get rid of the deadweight in the administration’s office, replacing it with capable people, and 2) to assist the members of the administration, bring in cultured specialists who would be in charge of each separate part and who, with their moral influence, would make the members of the administration listen to them.

    The further course of action had to be as follows: these specialists, who would actually manage the separate branches of the economy, would again choose cultured specialists for positions such as doctors, engineers, etc. And then the renewed staff, at least on a collegial basis, would begin to introduce new orders, either directly or with the help of regulations and instructions approved by the Duma.

    In other words, I wanted to introduce a third element. I hoped that the administration would be partly satisfied to be relieved of work, and partly reconciled to the necessity under the influence of the Duma.

    Some orators, and among them the best, whispered in my ear: “You will achieve nothing with the administration, Alexander Ivanovich.” So, I wanted to make the administration capable by introducing a well-selected third element.

    That was my plan. And I did not want to have another one, as I could not count on new members of the administration at all. Even under my unshaken authority, they chose Makedonsky, a member of the administration predestined before my election, solely for kinship reasons. I was still the head when Mr. Safaraliyev was re-elected unanimously against one… So, I set about introducing a third element into the Baku administration. I understood this term somewhat broadly. I did not consider every freelance cultural employee of the city or rural self-government as belonging to the third element, but only those who stood out with what I would call a public vein. Every position, even a small one, often puts a person in the position of having to fight against public evil. I saw this in accountants, in simple clerks. They had to stop an orator, express a protest against nastiness, not shake hands with a scoundrel, even if he was higher in service. A person is capable of this, a machine is not. And I wanted people. Only then will the machine work flawlessly when it is clean down to the smallest cog. This purity is what I sought first and foremost in my colleagues, and I found it in the people I invited. At this moment, I can only think of one exception, and even that was accidental. This man had to be entrusted with a huge task simply because he was at hand.

    The first and agonizing question was what to do with the old employees? It’s fine if he has served over twenty years. He can be given a pension: but what if he has only served 12-15 years?

    Although I was outraged by the composition of the employees, I, of course, decided not to dismiss anyone from service unless I could arrange a decent life for him with the Duma. And I must give the Duma its due: in the 1902/1903 session, it satisfied all my petitions with sufficient generosity. I could get rid of the old, sick, and incapable.

    At the same time, with the increased intensity of the administrative work, partly according to the budget, and partly even outside the budget, new positions were opened. Finally, adding to these a natural reduction in staff by 200 people (I am talking only about the office), we get a significant number of vacancies that needed to be filled.

    The following question arose: Who appoints clerks from the secretary to the scribe inclusive? By law, it’s the head. On the other hand, a member of the administration is responsible for the department. It’s hard to impose a person in a department where they are not wanted. The Baku practice developed such an order: formally, the administration invited employees according to its resolutions, but in fact, in each department, its own member reigned supreme.

    What was I to do? I considered it necessary for the secretaries and even the lower staff not to be mere machines. The first time I hinted at my right to appointment in the administration, M. A. Belyavsky even got angry, saying that this had never been the case.

    Practically, the question was resolved as follows: almost exclusively my candidates were approved everywhere. Of course, I am talking about the time when there was no conflict in the administration, and when my actions in the Duma were held in very high regard. And that was the time of appointments.

    The next question: whom to appoint? At the first vacancy, almost the next day after I took office, I was inundated with recommendation notes from orators. I felt like, probably, a horse feels when a rider lifts his foot to the stirrup to jump into the saddle. At that time, the horse probably really wants not to let him do it, especially since it’s hard to throw him off later.

    So, I immediately wanted to get rid of my annoying riders. To the petitioners, I announced that recommendations were of no value to me and, for greater conviction, I posted a notice in the corridor asking not to come to me with recommendations, as with them, the petitioner loses the chances of getting a position, even if he had any.

    So that’s the power of habit and belief in this all-powerful means in Baku (and is it only in Baku?). Just as I had posted this notice, a young woman appears with a letter:
    — What are you here for?
    — Looking for a job.
    — Is this a recommendation?
    — Yes.
    — From an orator?
    — Yes.
    — Did you read my announcement on the door?
    — I did.
    — So, what then?
    — But please, just read it.

    Soon the orators realized that I was serious about not accepting any recommendations and stopped sending them to me. I had a constant stream of applicants every day. The main categories were those looking for a job and those asking for assistance. Now let’s talk about the former. Whom to hire? At first, I was in a great difficulty. Finding employees in Baku is the hardest. There’s oil there. And oil dictates the city.

    An engineer in the city gets from 1800 to 3000 rubles, while in the oil industry, it’s 6,000 to 18,000 or even more. 6,000 is already considered a small salary. Who would come to us? Either someone completely incompetent or a young person, as a stepping stone to a better position. The same goes for accountants, bookkeepers, and simple scribes, whose work in an oil company is paid better. It was clear that if I limited my choice to Baku residents, I would again have to deal with the rejects. At least, if there were idealistic people in Baku, I had no idea about them. But I needed people.

    Obviously, I had to recruit them from Russia. Despite the limited rights of the zemstvos to choose the necessary people, it was still possible to find someone there. Finally, many prominent people, outstanding in their work and talent, who could not find a place anywhere… In the Baku administration, working conditions for an intelligent person were very favorable. I am talking about the external constraints that were completely absent. Where I expected to encounter resistance, I found nothing but courtesy, kindness, help. Where I expected help, I found obstacles, rudeness…

    Thus, in choosing my assistants, I was not limited. I could invite the best people from Russia, and they would have already been with us, if not for the internal discord in the administration and the Duma.

    However, at first, things went very well. Where and how it all went awry, I will tell later.

    Many people came to me asking for jobs. I could spare each applicant two to three minutes in the administration… no more. Some came to my house, taking advantage of the fact that I always received everyone. But even at home, you can’t understand the soul of a person you’re talking to.

    I had to resort to the system of recommendations.
    — And who can recommend you?
    — Well, orator A., director B.
    — No, no… I don’t need such recommendations. Give me a recommendation… well, how to say, from our newly invited employees… Do you know N.?
    — No.
    — What about G.? Or R.?… I mentioned some known employees and non-employees in the administration.

    Or you simply ask for his biography, and if you find out that he hasn’t completely devoted himself to making money, you invite him. Naturally, having attracted two or three deeply decent people to the administration, I could fully rely on their recommendations. So they recommended each other, and eventually, there were many people whom I wanted to attract, but there were not enough positions. A party of so-called ‘newcomers’ formed, about which I will have to talk a lot.

    The rumor spread that I was looking for idealistic people with a public spirit. And, of course, this was abused. So, I fell for it a couple of times.
    — Why did you come to me?
    — Knowing you as an enlightened person (flattery never hurts), I thought you needed someone who seeks a position not for profit, but to serve society. Vulgarity is abhorrent to me, etc.

    You hire someone, and they turn out to be worse than the others. I had to stick to the system of recommendations by trustworthy people.

    Not only the applicants themselves played on this string of mine. Some orators and one of my colleagues in the administration, most involved in placing their own people, didn’t hesitate to catch me with this bait.

    — Are you looking for a teacher, Alexander Ivanovich?
    — I am.
    — Well, take this one. She’s an outstanding person, idealistic and so on and so forth…
    Turns out, she’s just an ordinary girl, pursuing teaching only for lack of suitors, or thinking that being in a position might help her find one.

    Once I found this so distasteful that I sharply told my colleague that it’s foolish to think I’d fall for such a lure.
    — To recommend idealistic people, one must be familiar with idealism oneself, — I added.

    Obviously, with all my idealistic people, I could not please the entire Baku Duma audience, especially those members of the administration who seemed to have joined just to place various protégés of their relatives and friends among the orators. Just as the Novikovs formed a cluster of people connected by common ideals and mutual respect, so the anti-Novikovs, apart from their common hatred for me and all new employees, were united by joint affairs, kinship, and old connections. We were newcomers with no weapon other than faith in our cause, while they had long taken root locally and could only yield to my pressure at the beginning until they looked around and rose against the common enemy.

    Chapter 4

    We will often come across the names of my main colleagues; therefore, I think it’s not superfluous to introduce them to the reader.

    As soon as I decided to achieve the appointment of heads for separate departments who would bear the burdens of the administration members, I hastened to present my proposals in acceptable forms. Usually, the Duma initially refused, then referred my projects for discussion to this or that commission and always ended up adopting them. This was done in the first months of the 1902–1903 session and then was finally confirmed when drafting the budget for 1903.

    I have already talked about the opening of the secretary of the administration position. Totomiantz, whom I invited, arrived only in October due to foreseeable but insurmountable circumstances. But as they say, ‘a wolf always looks toward the forest.’ It’s the same with writers. Seduced by the fact that the ‘Baku News’ changed hands, Totomiantz, having not even worked with us for a month, traded his secretary’s position for the position of a newspaper editor (officially, the editorial secretary). Only in March did E. P. Rostkovsky arrive, whose main task, according to my assumptions, was to develop a substantiated project for a large city loan.

    Without touching the land issue, for which Mr. Belyavsky’s promises had to be awaited, I, of course, had to think about such positions that still did not exist. It’s not so easy to look for candidates for a live position, as you first have to get rid of the old employee.

    First of all, it was necessary to take care of the construction matter, which annually consumed hundreds of thousands and was poorly managed. Four architects, receiving a small salary, naturally devoted most of their free time to private work. Service to the city was already a secondary matter. Comparing this with the utterly incompetent accounting, anyone would understand that one could not be calm about the productivity of construction expenses.

    But what was especially outrageous was our attitude towards various technical projects. A project from a company, society, or engineer arrives, let’s say, for light shipping in the bay, or city ice houses, or heating with natural gases, etc. The project was received. M. A. Belyavsky would write: ‘To the construction department.’ And there it lay, forgotten by the very person who submitted it. There were cases when these projects were lost.

    Naturally, this discouraged entrepreneurs from developing projects for Baku. Hardly is there a more technically backward city in Russia, with a population of 150,000. I come in. They talked about renewal. Immediately, entrepreneurs rushed in… Someone asked to expedite a long-submitted project, someone submitted a new one. Everyone thought I would move everything at once. But nothing happens at the wave of a magic wand. I might have sinfully promised some to move the matter, but I did not keep my word. I had to limit myself to the note: ‘To the construction department’… Soon, I even stopped promising.

    They’ll ask, why was it like this? Couldn’t I have referred each such matter to an engineer for review and to prepare a report, and then ensure that the report was ready by the appointed time? What would have been the point of that, when there was no main thing—confidence in the quality of the work? After all, the administration must present the developed project to the Duma, and then it is responsible for what is presented. Could I present a project to the administration or the Duma that was developed by technicians I do not trust?

    I fear that those about whom I write will be offended. Therefore, I hasten to clarify. Trust is something a person feels towards another involuntarily, or the opposite, doesn’t feel at all. I must say that my distrust of the technical department was shared by a large part of Baku’s residents and Duma members, including my opponents. Some technicians lagged behind in science, some lacked the talent necessary for a designer, some, despite having talent, were overwhelmed with personal affairs, and some were not up to the mark in previous jobs.

    In short, I had insufficient trust in anyone to manage with our own resources.

    People also said to me: “Change the technicians. You won’t hear a word from us.” Easy to say! To replace someone, you need to point out their major faults. It’s not enough to distrust people, especially those who have been serving the city for years. And to point out technical faults, one needs to be a technician oneself. In two years, I never raised the question of their dismissal, although I always dreamed of refreshing our technical supervision. Let’s add that we didn’t have a single electricity specialist.

    So, I proposed to invite a technician to develop projects. Everyone knows how high technical ethics are. The construction of the Kiev Polytechnic Institute, the legalization for an architect to receive percentages from suppliers, which is no secret or even a matter of awkward discussion to anyone— all this made the choice very difficult. But I was lucky with people. I was recommended engineer Lagovsky as a talented, hardworking, and honest engineer. Talented and honest technicians recommended him. There was no doubt. His past spoke for him. He agreed to come for 7,200 rubles. However idealistic, it’s impossible to move to Baku with a family for a big job without securing oneself. Lagovsky was enticed by the immense work in Baku. To create a tramway, illuminate a vast city, develop various projects, and perhaps even implement them— all this could tempt a person.

    I went to the administration: the administration agreed. I went to the Duma: the Duma first referred it to a commission, then another, and agreed to invite Mr. Lagovsky, but in a modified form, not as an engineer for developing projects, but as the chief engineer. Projects of course, but, in addition, he was to be entrusted with supervision over all other branches of the construction economy.

    At first, I feared the task was too complex, but then I calmed down. The better, I thought, he will help me refresh the entire technical supervision. We will find good assistants together, and move mountains…

    In short, Alexander Fedorovich Lagovsky arrived by the new year. It was the most favorable time. Administration member Smolensky was leaving, and Mr. Makedonsky had not yet arrived.

    In less than two months, Mr. Lagovsky was up to speed with everything, knew everything, managed everything. A quick mind, brilliant erudition, tremendous work capacity, and absolute integrity—wasn’t that a treasure? Wasn’t I jubilant?.. But alas! The sun of Mr. Makedonsky was rising gradually… but more on that later.

    I am a proponent of collegiality in everything. Relying on the durability of an organization based on the presence of a good leader is very unsubstantial. Today he is here, and tomorrow God knows who will be in his place. Whereas, if a collegium manages the affair, then a bad leader either becomes impossible and must leave, or will have to submit to the majority, willingly or unwillingly. Inviting Mr. Lagovsky was not enough. Besides directly utilizing his knowledge and work, we needed to strengthen the structure. Therefore, we planned to develop a special instruction for the technical department, based on the principle of collegiality. But to give the technical council from the administration collegiate rights, it had to be up to the task.

    So we return to what we already mentioned. It was not enough to have a leader; we also needed good technicians. Naturally, even after Mr. Lagovsky got acquainted with the state of construction affairs in Baku, he couldn’t start independent work. Answering as the chief engineer for everything and not being able to trust the technicians, he naturally feared that some scandal like the bursting water reservoir due to a miscalculation (seemingly confusing a bucket with a cubic foot) or a tower at risk of collapsing without Mr. Hajiyev noticing that the beams were thin, might recur.

    Therefore, Mr. Lagovsky acted as a controller of all actions of architects and engineers. He and I were waiting for a renewal of the staff so that he could work calmly. But we didn’t have to wait for this renewal.

    Chapter 5

    The situation with the medical staff was somewhat different. There too, the majority of the doctors were far from being up to the task. There were people who were given a position in the city instead of a pension, and appointments were made as always practiced in Baku: one Armenian for one Tatar. Previously, in the Duma, both Tatars and Armenians strongly insisted that knowledge of one of the local languages should be a mandatory condition for serving the city. This was done to only hire local natives. However, since there were very few Tatar doctors and many Armenians, when all the Tatars were employed and got the better (in terms of compensation) positions, the language rule became advantageous only for Armenians. Then the Tatars opposed it, agreeing to have Russians, Jews, Poles, just to have fewer Armenians.

    I will mention two doctors separately for various reasons. I do not want to omit Dr. Galperin, the director of the only Baku city hospital. Intelligent, exceptionally tactful, compliant, and cool-headed, an opportunist to the core but at the same time a good doctor, he had been the hospital director for many years. If the hospital suffered, it was due to unsatisfactory premises, cramped conditions, a small number of medical staff, all due to the lack of funds allocated by the Duma. Clearly, Galperin, who annually included this in his budget requests, was not to blame. Yet, it was astonishing how maliciously the hospital was attacked, not only by people who enjoyed complaining but as if by those fundamentally truthful. In short, not only ‘Caspian’ attacked, but also individuals like the orator Saparov, who may not be liked as an orator, but whom no one would dare to accuse of any deliberate wrongdoing. All newspapers were eager to blow up the slightest hospital incident, like the theft of boots or the loss of bandages, as if a hospital with up to 250 inpatients, several hundred outpatient visits daily, and as many relatives and friends visiting, could operate without incidents.

    I mention this to show that the voice of the people is not always the voice of God. In any case, the Baku hospital was one of the bright spots of Baku’s self-government. And it was this that served as a target for attacks even from good people.

    Another doctor I wanted to mention is Dr. Vekilov. A Mohammedan, he was highly respected among the Tatars of ‘Caspian’, not as a doctor, but as an idealistic person. I indeed found a nationalist in him, of a kind I have always found very unsympathetic. The newspapers reported an ugly display of fanatically wild nationalism against Armenians after the Shamakhi earthquake. I mention him to point out his special position in the administration. A doctor, like all others, he boldly demanded privileges that none of his colleagues even contemplated. For example, during commission discussions on medical matters and hospital organization, Vekilov would submit his separate opinion, insist on its detailed review in the commission, ignore the order of speakers set by the chair, and interrupt everyone. In the Duma, the Tatar orators demanded to know Vekilov’s opinion in detail, and he would take the podium again and read his list. Vekilov would leave for vacation without asking the administration, only notifying his superior, the administration member Safaraliyev. He didn’t even inform the chief doctor of his departure on vacation.

    We are accustomed to the idealism of zemstvo doctors. I looked for something similar in Mr. Vekilov and, of course, did not find it. In his opinions and notes, he always advocated one thing: that the clinic doctor should have more rights, fewer responsibilities. Once he argued in detail that the clinic’s outpatient department should not be in the same building as the doctor’s apartment to avoid contagion. And I argued that the apartment and outpatient department should be together so that the doctor is always available to the patients. I called his point of view immoral. And he took offense at me.

    The support of an employee by the orators to the detriment of the truth, of course, can bring nothing but harm. And when the administration members only care about pleasing the orators, it’s really bad. That’s why Mr. Vekilov was held in special esteem by us.

    I close the parenthesis and return to my subject. To organize the medical affairs, each branch of which, having no other managers besides the administration, operated on its own, I proposed, and the Duma accepted, the position of the chief doctor. We subordinated everything to him, including sanitation, hospitals, and school medicine. The condition for the invitation was that the candidate should have made a name for themselves in public medicine.

    After several unsuccessful attempts, I settled on the former zemstvo doctor, docent of Kazan University in hygiene, Vladimir Andreevich Arnold. The information gathered about him was excellent. The administration agreed with me, as usual at that time. When Mr. Arnold arrived, we found a responsive person, fond of his work, good-natured. He gained universal respect. A bit of a desk person, he was burdened by power. Nevertheless, wherever necessary, he always exercised it, of course, in a gentle form, unique to him.

    Dr. Arnold, who immediately got to work, accomplished a lot: he developed various instructions for different branches of medical affairs in Baku, for the hospital, the orphanage, the maternity shelter, and all schools, for both higher and lower personnel.

    At the head of everything, a medical council was established comprising the administration, elected orators, and all the doctors serving the city, which numbered up to forty by the end of my service. I took this organization from the zemstvos, where by involving all its employees in the collegial discussion of medical issues, such brilliant results were achieved in terms of ethics.

    Why couldn’t Baku’s city medicine be raised to the level of zemstvo medicine, I thought. Public spirit can do a lot. So, I proposed the medical council to the Duma. The Duma accepted it. With Arnold, we had an experienced and highly ethical leader. What more could we want?

    I must admit, I was mistaken. Apparently, the seeds of ethics do not sprout so easily. The so-called liberal professions under current conditions do not provide examples of high public valor. Lawyers, doctors, technicians do not give society everything that could rightfully be demanded of them. Especially in Baku, the capital of Mammon, ethics are low. I thought that gathering doctors together, they would inevitably be imbued with the idea of serving society. Alas, I was greatly mistaken. Our medical council turned out, I must say, to be a very sad picture. When a new doctor was being elected, everyone showed up without exception, even those doctors I had never seen in my two years of service. They nominated not with the idea of giving the best person, but to satisfy personal tastes. The national question was foremost. Again, I state this with sadness: an Armenian was failed just because he was Armenian. Once a Pole was nominated, and his friend, also a Pole, seriously argued that a doctor knowing the patient’s language is more harmful than helpful, as the patient, expressing subjective, poorly understood sensations, confuses the doctor, who can more accurately diagnose by palpation and auscultation. Such nonsense can only be said to promote a friend.

    No matter how hard I tried to introduce pure, in the public sense, elements into the medical environment, I couldn’t succeed. The administration had the right to veto the choice of a doctor. But it decided to use this right only once when the chosen person turned out to be entirely unsuitable. The administration was unhappy with my medical council, which tied its hands. Not public integrity, of course, concerned the administration, but the impossibility to place its candidates.

    However, when the program included something uninteresting, like the review of instructions, no more than one-third of the doctors showed up. But even then, a frankly disgusting phenomenon was observed. The instruction for hospital residents was being reviewed; the clinic doctors insisted on more working hours, stricter duties, etc., for them. Conversely, the hospital doctors tried to pay back the clinic doctors in kind.

    And this is called the corporate ethics of a class that, by its nature, consists of people with higher education.

    Chapter 6

    Inviting a new legal advisor was a difficult task. The chief engineer and the chief doctor were invited to newly created positions. But there was already a legal advisor, a man of great integrity. In his 20 years of service, he had earned deep respect from all who knew him. In the past, he had shouldered the enormous burden of boundary disputes.

    Yet, life becomes more complicated; the city’s opponents, who need to be litigated against, become slier and more cunning. What was good 20 years ago is no longer suitable. I must admit that the legal affairs were in a very poor state. And they could not be otherwise. The task was too vast. The entire staff, apart from the legal advisor, consisted of his assistant – not a lawyer – and a single clerk, overwhelmed with work.

    It’s hard to describe the state of affairs. When our new legal advisor got somewhat acquainted with the matters, there turned out to be 3,000 to 4,000 unfinished cases. Unbelievable. Most cases were about land, various encroachments, clearing plots, etc. These cases were at all possible stages, from started and not continued, to finished and not executed. It was impossible for one person to make sense of it all. Many cases had to be discontinued and started anew, many pushed forward, even more finished. And about 800 cases (I believe that was the number) could not be found anywhere, although the archive was in such a state that it couldn’t be guaranteed that these cases might partly be found.

    Then there were some outstanding, important cases that required special talent, special knowledge. Such was the case with the ‘Caucasus and Mercury’ company, a sore spot in Baku. The company has a dock at its own land plot. This dock and plot cause tremendous harm to the city. The plot is built up and divides the city’s best location – the embankment – into two parts. Demolish these buildings, and you do a great service to the city. Good lawyers said it was possible to make the company do this. With the existing resources, starting such a case was unthinkable.

    But there were other cases with the same ‘Caucasus and Mercury’. The way one of them was conducted is interesting. The company built a platform and buildings on the sea. The city claimed it had no right to do so. The case was complex, convoluted. The assistant legal advisor, Mr. Melik-Melkonov, who I repeat was not a lawyer, handled it. He had already lost it once in the district court, but the judicial chamber annulled the decision and returned the case to the district court.

    Suddenly, I read in the newspapers—I was the head—that the case was lost again. A well-known lawyer had come from St. Petersburg for the society, while Mr. Melik-Melkonov represented the city and lost the case, to the amusement of the public.

    I rushed to the administration.

    — “Please call Mr. Melik-Melkonov to see me.”

    He appears.

    — “What can I do for you?”

    — “Did you handle the ‘Caucasus and Mercury’ case and lose it again?”

    — “Yes, but it’s trivial. The chamber will annul the decision again. I’ll write an appeal…”

    — “I’m sorry, I’ll talk to Mr. Kuklin… Please call Mr. Kuklin.”

    He appears.

    — “Please, Nikolai Konstantinovich, a case of great importance with ‘Caucasus and Mercury’ is underway, and you don’t even handle it yourself but send your assistant – who isn’t even a lawyer.”

    — “I didn’t even know the case was scheduled for a hearing.”

    — “How? You didn’t know?”

    — “No. We have a system. Whoever the administration assigns the case to, that person handles it independently. M. A. Belyavsky assigned this case to Melik-Melkonov, and he has already appeared for it three times. I didn’t even know. It doesn’t concern me.”

    I must note another peculiarity of the Baku Duma. Consisting of people with an ultra-commercial spirit, the Duma cannot help but exhibit these traits. Ahead of public utility or convenience issues, ahead of public ethics questions, stands one main issue: the cash register. One must do what is more profitable, for God forbid the assessment fee should be raised from 7½ to 10%. What is more profitable is moral—that is what we do. That’s the Baku motto.

    When the payment is obviously mandatory, obviously necessary to be made—and they don’t pay (both the administration and the Duma). Let them go to court. If they get a judgment—well, we’ll pay. And maybe our case will succeed; then we won’t pay.

    That’s how a good Baku owner reasons. And here is the case of an official who fell into a well, brought up by his widow, going to court. She would have taken 600 rubles a year. It would have been good for the city, and we would have shown some magnanimity. Look, we paid her without a trial! But no, she was awarded 1,200 rubles a year in court. The city appealed, and so did she. In the chamber, they awarded her 1,400 rubles. Good job to the good owners! One can only rejoice for the widow.

    The same was with the technical school. I had promised the suppliers to sort out the matter and pay without going to court. It turned out, I deceived them. We figured it out with Mr. Lagovsky’s help. It turned out that the delay (I think the fifth one) amounted to 35,000 rubles. There was no point in going to the Duma to ask for payment, because we knew in advance the Duma’s answer: let them go to court. It turned out the same way again: people were owed money, dragged around for three years, and then forced to go to court. What good, they will probably transfer these cases to the chamber to at least delay payments.

    I can’t help mentioning another small incident. Due to the malfunction of our city stoves in the city building, a small fire occurred, burning the property of two assistants to the provisioner. Everything they owned burned. So, these good people submit a bill with a request for a trivial sum. One for 100 rubles, another for 200 rubles. Right there, an inventory. Prices more than modest for their treasures, notes that trousers are worn, showed how conscientiously the poor fellows approached their request.

    The matter reached the Duma. And speeches started pouring in, claiming it’s not sufficiently proven that the fire occurred due to the city’s fault, and in any case, the city is not to blame, but the city’s technicians are, and the amount of the claim is not proven, etc. It was disgusting to listen to. In the end, they refused. And forced the poor to go to court and wait several months before getting satisfaction. What can I say? That the order is bad and needs to be changed? That’s what I said. The matter has grown so much that Mr. Kuklin, an older man accustomed to old ways, couldn’t handle it anymore. The Duma agreed with me and appointed Mr. Kuklin a very good pension on my petition. Our pensions puzzled some old officials who had reached general or semi-general ranks and had never dreamed of such pensions.

    Now it was necessary to replace Mr. Kuklin. Alas! At the current level of ethics, it’s not easy to find a person who, being talented (and we need a talented, skilled, and hard-working person), would go to serve in Baku for 5,000 rubles without the right to private practice. And that the legal advisor in Baku cannot have the right to private practice is evident from the enormous number of cases. What if, instead of the honest Mr. Kuklin, we get someone dishonest?

    Once I was traveling to Tiflis on business. In the carriage with me was one of the very few absolutely honest lawyers in Baku. We got talking.

    “I have someone in mind,” he says, “someone Andronikov—would be suitable for you. I just don’t know if he will go.” My companion described his characteristics. A young Georgian, still only an assistant to such-and-such a judicial attorney. I remembered it. Soon, I went to St. Petersburg on business again and at a party saw a young man giving a speech about ‘the problems of idealism’ and delving into philosophical terminology as if into his own pocket. Turns out, it’s Andronikov. I introduce myself.

    “Will you come to us as a legal advisor?”

    “I don’t know. I’ll travel to the Caucasus, will stop by to see you.”

    He stops by and sets a condition: no private practice except for the right to conduct private criminal defenses in cases of public significance, each time with the administration’s permission.

    What could be more appealing than this desire? Andronikov’s conditions were accepted by the administration, and he joined us. Soon, he became everyone’s favorite. In all those I had invited, people tried to find faults. They looked for them in him too… but found none… except perhaps one—such a common trait in our intellectuals—sensitivity and suspicion.

    Chapter 7

    I have already mentioned that our biggest problem was the accounting department. In every small business, proper record-keeping is essential, and all the more so for a huge enterprise like a city with a two-million-ruble budget. But the situation was such: if you ask for an account statement from a department overseeing a certain branch of operations, you get one figure; if you ask the accounting department, you get another. In short, it was impossible to trust the accounting department.

    It was even worse with orders. Everyone ordered whatever they wanted, and then, willingly or unwillingly, we had to pay. Orders were made by members of the administration, technicians, teachers, clerks, executors—basically, whoever wanted to and felt it necessary.

    How could there be talk of overspending with such practices? After all, orders need to be made cautiously, and they inevitably have to be paid for. Isn’t this why the city council was reluctant to pay bills except through court orders?

    Continuing: an item or material is purchased, but there is no inventory or material book to record these purchases. If something remained, great; if something was missing, it was purchased again in the same manner. It was like dealing with Korobochka from Gogol’s stories. But Korobochka herself oversaw everything, while here, who was there to watch?

    With the state of the accounting and material departments as they were, it’s astounding how few major abuses there were. The mere possibility of transparency and the fact that it was a public matter, concerning and accessible to many curious and interested observers, mean a lot. A public matter is alive in itself, as any matter inaccessible to public scrutiny is dead.

    Continuing such a lack of accounting and material management was clearly not an option. I reported this to the city council. Initially, there was an attempt by some council members to involve Baku accountants in the matter. Knowledgeable and trustworthy people told me that although the salaries of oil accountants are high, they are far from being at the top of their profession and salary scale. Therefore, I vehemently opposed imposing anyone on the administration and demanded a one-time allocation for the reorganization of the accounting department. This allocation was made. It remained to start the work.

    Once, a man whom I trusted came to me:

    — “Alexander Ivanovich, are you looking for someone to reorganize the accounting department?”
    — “Yes, but it’s not easy to find such a person. We need an enthusiast; otherwise, who knows what might happen.”
    — “Would you like me to recommend someone?”
    — “Of course, I would.”
    — “In Tbilisi, there’s a man working for the railway, receiving a substantial salary, Mark Andreevich Natanson, a man of ideal honesty and a brilliant accountant. I don’t know if he would go. He is well-known in his ministry.”

    Immediately, I sent a telegram to the Ministry of Communications: “Is it true that Natanson is a brilliant accountant?” The reply was: “Natanson is an extraordinarily talented accountant.”

    This exchange of telegrams, like any other, made it into the newspapers. The word “genius” raised in the council by one member became a buzzword, used appropriately and inappropriately, and provided material for light-hearted columnists. “Novikov is gathering ‘geniuses’.” Dogs are running around the city—Novikov should recruit a genius dog-catcher, and so on.

    Soon our lexicon expanded even further. There was talk about some reorganization in the council (I think it was about land matters). One council member said:

    — “Well, okay, Alexander Ivanovich, let’s say you find such a mortal god…” And it spread… “Novikov is gathering gods. An Olympus is being formed…”

    How we managed to have Mark Andreevich among our ranks, I don’t know. I admit, I didn’t expect him to agree, and I still don’t know the motivating reasons for his agreement.

    In short, Natanson agreed and took on the reorganization of Baku’s accounting department. The position was temporary. In 4-5 months, he did such work that no one else could have imagined. He revealed the main shortcomings of the accounting and told us how to set things right. He took the accounts of the capitals from the time of their formation and clarified how these capitals were formed and spent.

    Our main reserve fund was spent haphazardly. When we didn’t know where to allocate an expense, we charged it under some pretext to the reserve fund. There was no proper accounting for charitable funds either. Natanson created these reports from scattered data in the accounting department. Additionally, he took the main expense accounts and put them in order as well.

    Everyone knew the city house was being built and how much was allocated for it, but how much had been spent to date, whether we were over or under budget—no one could answer that except with made-up figures from the department. The same can be said about paving the city and other constructions.

    All this was clarified by Natanson, who prepared a report for the city council, indicating how to distribute work among employees and what staffing levels the accounting department should have. The report was skillfully prepared. Usually, such reorganizations went through numerous committees and reached the city council several times before being approved.

    Nothing similar happened with Natanson’s reports. Distributed in advance to council members, reviewed and approved by the organizational committee the day before, it was unanimously adopted by the council because it was so strong and convincing. Council members stated they had never received such reports. Natanson’s authority was unanimously recognized by everyone. Our enemies kept silent about him, but none dared say that Natanson was not up to the task.

    He was then invited for another six months to implement the new organization. I will talk about that later.

    Now, I cannot help but linger a bit longer on the figure of Mark Andreevich: he was undoubtedly a great man with immense moral influence on those around him. And when we had gathered many third elements (in the specific sense I use the term), he became the central figure, not me.

    Giving credit where it’s due, I still considered myself the initiator of the cultural work that began in our administration. Say what they will about me, but I was never a despot. I liked, wished, and insisted that my opinion be accepted, but I allowed everyone to have their opinion. More about my alleged despotism later…

    I always enjoyed consulting with people close to me in terms of public ideals. And when a company close to my heart gathered in Baku, I never made a decision or appointment without consulting my colleagues. And so, I often heard the phrase: “What does Mark Andreevich say? Let’s wait for Natanson.” My opinion always had to give way to Natanson’s. Naturally, I felt envious. I think only the moral superiority of another person can be considered a sufficient reason for envy.

    No matter how you fight the feeling, sometimes it surfaces. And as embarrassing as it is to admit, I must say that a few times—especially one case—I felt not the old barin I thought was so well buried, or the rank of such-and-such class, which was utterly absurd. When he left for abroad after completing his work, struggling with illness, I felt a very dear person was leaving me. Nonetheless, I cannot but acknowledge the feeling of envy that made me offend this man. True, some too ardent admirers of Mark Andreevich rushed to take cruel revenge on me for him, thereby diminishing my sense of remorse and delaying the moment of reconciliation. I bring up this case because I believe that only by not hiding my sins do I have the right to expose others.

    As much as I tried to get closer to the third element, it was not easy for me. It’s hard to get rid of the suspicion of an intellectual that it’s all pretense and that, in some way, the zemstvo chief still lives in you. In small things, in a word or look, I noticed this suspicion in people I considered very close to me.

    Mark Andreevich, without occupying an official position in the administration, recommended two of his acquaintances for the positions of accountant and his assistant. These two individuals, Gukovsky and Godlevsky, soon gained universal respect. They were the purest representatives of the third element and never compromised their conscience. With their help, the reorganization of the accounting department was completed.

    However, saying that the task was completed might be incorrect. It would seem foolish to count money but not materials, even to the simplest landlord. As I mentioned before, we had neither an inventory nor a materials account. I initiated this on a small scale for the school estate and then wanted to extend this material accounting to other branches of the city’s economy. Unfortunately, I met with insurmountable resistance from the council. I introduced this project twice, and both times it was rejected. I believe that if I had not rushed with this matter, and if it had been proposed by Natanson along with the reorganization of the accounting department, it might have passed. But that didn’t happen.

    We continued to account for money but not materials; we continued to order whoever wanted whatever they wanted, without checking the resources; we continued to manage as no Russian landlord would, not counting materials, only recording money.

    Mark Andreevich said that the accounting department, without a material part, turned out to be one-sided; no one would think to hold me or him morally responsible for this.

    Chapter 8

    Among the so-called “gods of Novikov” was another main employee I had invited, Mr. Karavaev. Towards the end of my stay in Baku, he himself renounced this title, and I tried in every way to ensure that our names were not confused, although, of course, I bear all the responsibility for inviting him.

    This happened at the very beginning of my service, upon returning from leave. I was told that two elections were upcoming: a deputy head (from among the board members) and a secretary of the Duma. Their service term had expired some time ago, but the elections were postponed until the new head’s arrival, as the head was said to be involved in these matters. Initially, this attention seemed pleasant to me, but later it felt like some sort of comedy. Indeed, whoever the deputy was among the board members, it hardly mattered. As for the secretary, the Duma later imposed their choice on me without consultation. The absurdity of this courtesy is even more apparent when contrasted with the fact that the board member positions were secured for Mr. Makedonsky. It seemed that consulting with the head would have been appropriate.

    The elections were forthcoming. To wrap up the deputy matter, there was no disagreement – M.A. Belyavsky, who had long served the city, was the only possible candidate and was chosen. The secretary position was much more challenging.

    For the past four years, this position was held by a sworn attorney, Mr. G., a Muslim. He was not up to the task. Council members complained about poorly compiled reports of the Duma meetings. He could hardly present cases either. I reported all cases myself in the first year, although it was not very advantageous. All criticisms were directed at me, and I had to answer for all the mistakes of my colleagues. By the end, I got tired of this and asked them to report themselves.

    Mr. G. needed to be replaced. Then the Muslims, who undoubtedly had the majority in the Duma, declared that Mr. G. could not be left without a job and that they would elect him again. This was very annoying for me. I didn’t have fresh people then and was only waiting for Mr. Totomian’s arrival.

    Once I was sitting in my office when I received a card: “V.F. Karavaev, employee of the ‘Hope’ company.” After talking to him, he turned out to be a former secretary of the statistical department of the Imperial Free Economic Society. I knew that the “Hope” company liked to hire intelligent people. I was greatly influenced by Mr. Karavaev’s previous activity in the Free Economic Society. I offered him to run for the secretary of the Duma. He agreed.

    Then I had an unfortunate idea, for which I later had to repent a lot. I had to make room for Mr. Karavaev as the secretary, but the Duma did not agree to leave Mr. G. jobless. So, I had the ill-fated idea of creating a sinecure for Mr. G. through the Duma’s help. I invented the opening of a second vacancy for the assistant to the legal counsel, to which Mr. G. would be appointed. I suggested a salary of 3,000 rubles, i.e., as much as he would have received as a secretary. In the administration, only one member, Mr. Safaraliev, supported this proposal. The rest were against it. I decided to force the administration to agree with me.

    Private council meetings are sometimes necessary. They are held either to maintain secrecy, for example, in legal cases or when haggling, but more often not for secrecy but when discussing private individuals, elections of board members or heads, deciding on pensions, and in other cases where public discussion is not feasible. In such a private consultation, I brought up the matter of the secretary’s election. The Muslims were silent, the Armenians opposed the sinecure, they then demanded to postpone the secretary’s election, not being familiar with my candidate, as they claimed. They nominated their Armenian, unknown to me. Nothing helped. I got my way.

    Mr. G. was appointed to the newly created sinecure, and Mr. Karavaev was elected as the secretary of the Duma. The Armenians protested against the sinecure, and later they demanded the postponement of the secretary’s elections, not being familiar with my candidate. They nominated their Armenian, whom I did not know. None of it helped. I achieved my goal.

    I’ll highlight a small characteristic of the Tatars. When the sinecure was created, they didn’t believe our word that Mr. G. would be appointed there, and they agreed to elect Karavaev only after ensuring that Mr. G.’s appointment was recorded in the journal and therefore couldn’t be revoked.

    This matter was not only foolish on my part but also contrary to basic public ethics. I forced the administration into compliance when they were on the right track, and I was on the wrong one. Moreover, this coercion was all the more unethical because I made them play an unattractive role, submitting to a private meeting when I knew they couldn’t refuse. I exposed hidden nationalist discord. I taught the Duma to throw away three thousand rubles a year in the form of a handout to the protege of the majority, who did not deserve it… I compromised my conscience in the name of serpentine wisdom and diplomatic finesse, with which I tried to cover my far from ethical action in my own eyes.

    Later, I bitterly regretted this whole story. Mr. Karavaev remained the secretary of the Duma for a very short time. He did not like this protocolist job and returned to “Nadezhda”. He was replaced by Mr. Vezirov, a Muslim, whom I had never seen before, and about whose election the majority did not find it necessary to consult with me, although earlier they had argued to the Armenians that it was impossible not to elect the head’s candidate as the secretary.

    And Mr. G. remained in his sinecure, and when Andronikov took office and proved to us that Mr. G. was not in his place, the administration correctly objected to me: “We appointed him through a private meeting, so now we won’t dismiss him; turn to the private meeting again.”

    They were right a hundred times over. The matter somehow settled without the council members because Mr. G. himself left, receiving a large monetary compensation.

    But the worst thing was the moral aspect. I gave a powerful weapon against myself. And when I reproached D.D. Arutyunov for weak ethics, he replied to me: “And Mr. G.? Was that ethical?” I had to bite my tongue.

    I remember Andronikov’s words about private meetings: “Remember, A.I., that the stench always comes from private apartments, not from public buildings.” True, a thousand times true!

    A month later, Mr. Karavaev returned to “Nadezhda”. At the same time, V.F. Totomianc passed through us like a meteor, only to return to literature again. Then I again offered Mr. Karavaev the position of secretary of the administration. He was apparently looking for a job to his liking, and I enticed him with the attractive prospect of developing a large city loan. He returned.

    The departure of Totomianc and Karavaev, the first “novikovtsy,” made the press hostile to me talk about the flight of the gods. “He keeps looking for gods,” they wrote, “but the gods don’t want to serve with him.”

    But Mr. Karavaev was yet to change his position again.

    Chapter 9

    His name is closely associated with an innovation that was destined to become the most problematic aspect of my tenure, at least, a point where I was subjected to the harshest and seemingly justified attacks by my enemies, and even those who should have been my friends. I say “seemingly justified” because I never felt guilty about it for a single moment. Indeed, circumstances can sometimes be unfavourable, but an accuser, if they don’t want to be biased, should get to know the matter more closely before accusing.

    When Lindley arrived to discuss the water supply project, I learned that the project would have been much better if he had some statistical data on the distribution of the population across the city, based on their budgets, which could approximately determine the water needs of different parts of the city for various purposes: domestic use, baths, factories, etc.

    I wanted the water supply project to be as perfect as possible and naturally proposed to gather these statistical data. At that time, I asked the Duma for 170,000 rubles for exploratory work. Whether it was 170,000 or 180,000 didn’t make much difference. So, it was natural for me to include 10,000 rubles in the budget for a water census of the city’s population.

    You might ask why 10,000 and not 20,000, 30,000, or 5,000 rubles. Frankly, I don’t know. This figure was more or less a guess after my conversation with Lindley. There was no point in consulting anyone in the administration about it. Many there could hardly see the difference between a statistician and a statist. The significance of statistics could be practically learned from administrative discussions.

    Anyway, these 10,000 rubles for the water census were requested as part of the 180,000 rubles from the reserve capital. It was reasonable to expect to manage the task within this amount. Every minute was precious. There were no assistants. There was no time for detailed budgets.

    When preparing the budget for 1904, it was natural for me to propose establishing a permanent statistical bureau. Without statistics, it’s impossible to manage a large enterprise. Before working for the population, you need to know it. The preparation of the budget for a permanent statistical bureau at the administration was entrusted to Mr. Karavaev. He estimated it at 10,000 rubles. The Duma accepted this budget after not too prolonged debates, with the caveat I proposed. For the first year, current statistics would not be introduced, and the allocated 10,000 rubles, along with the 10,000 for the water census required by Lindley, would go towards conducting a one-day census in Baku.

    I must admit that some council members warned that twenty thousand might not be enough for such a task. We didn’t present the Duma with a detailed budget, and it was hardly possible. The only basis for my report was the figures given by Karavaev. These figures indicated the cost per person for the census. In Moscow and St. Petersburg, this cost was 4-5 kopecks; in Odessa, I think, 8 kopecks. Assuming that Baku’s cultural conditions were less favourable, the census could be more expensive, but twenty thousand (13 kopecks per resident for a 150,000 population) was certainly enough.

    I remember the witty words of a council member, Hajiyev. Speaking of statistics, when I responded to the council members’ demands for a more detailed budget by saying that we have a specialist, the former secretary of the statistical department of the Imperial Free Economic Society, and that comparing with other cities shows you the basis for the calculation. He’s a specialist—let him handle the books. It’s like inviting a musician and, before letting him play, demanding that he explain how the piano is constructed and how to play it.

    “Well, Alexander Ivanovich,” retorted Mr. Hajiyev, “let’s say we buy you a piano. What if you can’t play it?”

    It turned out almost like that. However, I never claimed to be a musician-statistician. But could I not consider Mr. Karavaev as such?

    Having received 20,000 for the census, I started looking for a statistician. It was a challenging task. None of the famous statisticians I knew, like Peshekhonov, Bleklov, not to mention Annensky, would come. I asked Annensky for recommendations. After lengthy negotiations and correspondence, we settled on V.F. Arnold, the former head of the Kharkov Zemstvo statistics department, who left a reputation as an excellent statistician and an ideal man. As his closest collaborators, he hired three young women and one young man. Arnold’s arrival on our horizon was a bright ray in our still dull picture.

    But alas! He didn’t get to stay with us for even a month. He had just developed the census instructions, in an original and, in my opinion, convenient dictionary form, when he fell seriously ill, with no hope of continuing his work.

    Again, I had to look for a replacement. Wasn’t it natural to turn to V.F. Karavaev? He had long demonstrated his love for statistics and seemed offended that he wasn’t the first choice initially. For my own peace of mind, I consulted Annensky. Annensky replied that Mr. Karavaev was a good statistician. This recommendation might not have been sufficient for entrusting such a massive task as the census, but the enthusiastic endorsement of V.I. Pokrovsky, whom I approached at Karavaev’s suggestion, was about Karavaev as a statistician and as a person.

    In short, we entrusted the census to Karavaev. The administration did not interfere in statistics. It’s important to note this to underline my responsibility in this whole affair.

    While I may not have been an expert in statistical techniques, I was familiar with the relationships between administrations and bureau heads from my experience in Zemstvos. I followed with interest in what was being done. I travelled with Mr. Karavaev to Tiflis for a meeting of the Caucasian Statistical Committee, through which our projects were reviewed. After approving the program and instructions, which were quite complex and detailed, the bureau began preliminary work on the ground and planning. Everything was proceeding as expected.

    However, rumors reached me that things were not going well within the bureau. Initially, there was no bureau, only Mr. Karavaev. He alone had recruited most of the staff, except for the five people hired by Arnold. That was still acceptable, but then I heard that Karavaev disliked some of the statisticians. Reviewing one of the accounts, I noticed that he was paying higher salaries to his own recruits while decreasing the salaries of Arnold’s hires, proposing to make the new hires permanent and the old ones temporary. The situation escalated; Mr. Kobetsky, one of Arnold’s statisticians, said it was impossible to work with Karavaev. I had to intervene.

    It’s hard to decipher another person’s soul. Was it just an attack on Arnold’s hires, or was there something else behind it? There was an apparent disdain for women’s work; while attacking the women hired by Arnold, Karavaev himself had not hired any. Moreover, he had hired two temporary women at a shameful salary of 20 rubles each, essentially two women for the price of one clerk. How could I, advocating for gender equality and considering women’s work to be more conscientious, not be outraged?

    There seemed to be—perhaps—an anti-Semitic sentiment, as the women and Mr. Kobetsky, the targets of his attack, were Jewish. I find the thought utterly repugnant.

    Finally, perhaps these are just conjectures and unfortunate coincidences. But what’s not a coincidence is Karavaev’s remark about a young man who had dropped out of university not due to poor academic performance or disgraceful actions but due to very common unfavourable circumstances nowadays. His dismissive phrase—”some expelled student”—reveals a person’s character. For me, this was and remains sufficient.

    Around this time, news came that the central statistical committee in St. Petersburg had found the program inconvenient and had not approved it. This delayed the project. We wanted to conduct the census in April during Easter. It was impossible to do it in summer, so it had to be postponed until autumn.

    What about the bureau staff? Disband them? Impossible, they were hired for a specific term. Keep them? That would lead to overspending… The bureau was anxious. Uncertainty in such cases is the worst. Many feared being thrown out on the street, with families depending on them.

    First of all, the issue of personnel had to be resolved. I invited all statisticians to a private meeting where we reviewed each person’s rights. Clearly, whoever was hired by Arnold or Karavaev for a certain term should stay until the end of that term. We made lists and decided to stick to these lists. Mr. Karavaev, of course, was not pleased. His plan to get rid of the Arnold hires he disliked didn’t succeed. To lend authority to our meeting, I invited three of our familiar colleagues who had worked in statistics: Mr. Natanson, Gukovsky, and Rostkovsky. Their authority was much needed. We also decided to invite N.F. Annensky to Baku, if possible, or A.V. Peshekhonov to decide on how to organize the census, prepare a budget, and develop the internal organization of the bureau.

    Mr. Kobetsky, a sensitive individual, couldn’t wait for Peshekhonov’s arrival and left, finding it impossible to work with Mr. Karavaev.

    As N.F. Annensky refused, A.V. Peshekhonov arrived and fulfilled the assigned task. He prepared a lengthy note outlining the foundations of the census. He then prepared a budget, which resulted in an overspending of 4,000 rubles.

    Here, perhaps, I was wrong. I should have officially reported this overspending to the administration. The administration unofficially knew about the internal conflicts of the statistical bureau—A.V. Peshekhonov reported all his observations to the administration; there was, of course, talk of a small overspending. It’s impossible to consider a four-thousand-ruble overspending significant in a twenty-thousand-ruble project.

    Peshekhonov recognized collegiality as a necessary condition for the statistical bureau but differentiated between general issues accessible to all employees and specialized issues accessible only to experts. We had no such experts. Therefore, he suggested assisting Mr. Karavaev by inviting two individuals: Mr. Kalishkovich, who had already been in Baku, and Mr. D., from Astrakhan. He recommended them as knowledgeable and talented statisticians. The first was immediately invited and joined the service; the second could not arrive until June.

    Chapter 10

    In addition to the general management of affairs as the head of the city, and the implementation of new principles and reorganizations aimed at improving municipal work, I also had responsibilities as a member of the administration. The most significant of these was the water supply project. It was significant both due to the state of stagnation it was in before my tenure and its importance for the city, as well as the considerable energy and effort it required.

    This work was divided into two parts: investigations for the future major water supply and meeting the city’s immediate water needs. The first part led to a fierce struggle in the Duma, and the second required more detailed work, although it also led to a fierce conflict with Mr. Agaev and the Revision Committee towards the end, a conflict that, unfortunately, was not resolved to the end.

    Mr. Lindley’s idea was quite simple. He told the Duma that they could choose river water from the Kur or Samur, which would need to be filtered and pumped. But if they were to use spring water from the Shahdag heights, they would get absolutely clean water by gravity flow. The cost per bucket of such water would be approximately half. Filtered and supplied Samur water would cost 20 kopecks per hundred buckets, whereas underground water from the Hil heights would cost 10 kopecks per hundred buckets. Lindley further argued that even if Hil water could not be found, the city would only lose 100-150 thousand on the exploration, a drop in the ocean compared to the 10-20 million it would cost to bring water from any other source. In this case, Lindley denied the possibility of not finding Hil water, suggesting instead to take not river water but spring water from the same Shahdag, emerging near the sea shores, forming the Shollar spring, among others. He pointed out the difference between Samur and Shollar: Samur flows from Shahdag heights on the surface, while Shollar is the same river, naturally filtered through a twenty-verst underground filter.

    So, if it’s impossible to capture underground water at the top, take it from the bottom. It will need to be pumped but not filtered, costing more than Hil water but less than Samur water: not 10 and not 20 kopecks, but 15 kopecks. Moreover, Shollar is on the way between Samur and Baku, and additional exploration from it would cost almost nothing.

    Despite these convincing, clear arguments, the response was always the same: they wanted nothing but water from Kur and Samur.

    When I arrived, along with Mr. Lindley, the situation regarding the water supply project was stagnant. Convinced of the right approach, I insisted on commencing the Shollar and Hil explorations without delay. We budgeted the exploration costs: 125,000 rubles for Hil underground water, 15,000 for Shollar spring water, 10,000 for the census I mentioned earlier, and 30,000 to finish the Samur and Kur explorations, totaling 180,000 rubles.

    To ensure transparency and public involvement, I announced a trip to the Shollar and Hil areas in the newspapers, inviting council members, the press, and the public to join us and witness the water sources and their quality. I naively hoped for a large turnout, believing that the availability of horses at the station and space on the trains might be insufficient for the crowd.

    However, only a few people joined: myself, Lindley, a few engineers, two members of the administration, two council members, and a reporter from the “Bakinskiye Izvestiya.” This was a disappointing reflection of the public’s interest in the water issue.

    During the visit, we saw the Shollar sources forming a whole river and tasted its excellent water, confirming its powerful underground flow from the Shah-Dagh heights. I sensed the underground water of the Hil heights with Lindley and was impressed by his profound expertise.

    An emergency meeting of the Duma was scheduled for August 20. We gathered council members from their summer residences, stressing the urgency of the matter. A meeting of the water supply committee was held on the 19th, attended by many council members. Lindley, who spoke English and French, was present, and I acted as an interpreter. The opposition to the new explorations, though culturally sophisticated, presented weak arguments. Taghiyev, a notable figure, albeit poorly educated, stood out as a convinced supporter of Lindley’s plan. After lengthy debates, the opponents did not relent, and Lindley fervently defended his position.

    In this intense debate about the water supply project in Baku, I was struck by the remarkable figure of the Englishman, Lindley, passionately defending the interests of Baku against its own citizens. His dedication and determination were rare sights in Russia at that time. My gestures of smiling and nodding in agreement with Lindley, however, cost me dearly.

    Mr. Benckendorff took offense at Lindley’s remarks (which he perceived as an insult to a council member), and was further aggrieved by my reactions, which he interpreted as endorsements of Lindley’s statements. Despite my explanation that there was no intention to offend anyone from either of us, Benckendorff left the room in protest.

    The majority of the committee sided with me, and on the 20th, a major battle unfolded in the Duma. Main opponents were the same – Hasan bey Melikov, Iretsky, and Benckendorff. They employed various rhetorical devices, attempting to undermine the project by exaggerating issues like water hardness and misleadingly associating it with yellow fever, a common scare tactic in the Caucasus.

    I countered their arguments as best as I could, revealing their exaggerations. Lindley delivered a speech in French, which I translated. Taghiyev, advocating for the city’s welfare, powerfully persuaded the council members in Tatar…

    We won that battle, and it was a particularly gratifying victory for me. I felt that I had managed to steer the substantial water issue onto the right path, achieving what hadn’t been done in years. That evening was one of the happiest of my life.

    However, the next day, the “The Caspian” newspaper published an article against the water supply project, accusing me and my team of various misdeeds. The article contained exaggerated and misleading accusations, two examples of which stand out in memory.

    On September 7th, an article appeared in the “The Caspian” newspaper, presenting a rather clever argument against the groundwater exploration project. It suggested that if we drill through the impermeable layer and the water escapes, we could potentially deprive the entire area of water, and Baku wouldn’t be able to compensate for such losses. This was one of the shrewd arguments used.

    Regarding truthfulness, on September 20th, the provincial presence in urban affairs decided that while they fully endorsed the Duma’s decision on the matter, they didn’t have the right to spend such a large sum from the reserve capital, and therefore referred the issue to the chief civilian administration in the Caucasus. However, the “The Caspian” newspaper on September 22nd falsely reported that the provincial presence had protested against the Duma’s decision. This manipulation of facts was clearly intentional.

    I won’t dwell long on the twists and turns of this matter. It took seven months to obtain permission for the explorations, requiring consent from both the chief administrator in the Caucasus and the Minister of Agriculture. I traveled to Tiflis and St. Petersburg to expedite the process. Finally, permission was granted, and we began our work.

    During the winter of 1902-1903, the water supply commission was finalizing explorations on the Kur and Samur rivers. Lindley required new data, and despite his opponents arguing to stop the work, we managed not only to finish but also to conduct exploratory work on Shollar under the guise of the Kur and Samur projects. This was a surprise to many.

    Related to the Lindley era was an incident involving engineer Popovich, an expatriate hired by Lindley. Based on a complaint by a disgruntled former employee, Popovich was taken to court for embezzling city funds, including accusations of excessive spending on meals. The real target was Lindley, with Popovich being a scapegoat.

    The water supply commission had decided to prosecute him (before my time), but the administration was reluctant to proceed. Popovich might have avoided trial, but a reminder from the commission forced the administration to take action. In Baku, battling the “black hundred” led by “The Caspian” was impossible!

    Upon my arrival, Popovich had been charged but continued serving the city admirably. As the head of the commission, I was called as a witness in his defense. I testified favorably for Popovich, explaining how the commission and administration worked. He was acquitted, but I was then heavily criticized by the “The Caspian” and its supporters for allegedly betraying the city’s interests and selling out to Lindley.

    Moving on to my work on the permanent water supply, we had a contract with Arthur Koppel’s firm for desalinated water. The contract was nearing its end, and the water quality was unsatisfactory. Representatives from Koppel’s firm proposed to improve the water quality and increase the plant’s productivity in exchange for extending the contract. Despite their previous visit, no agreement was reached.

    Meanwhile, the city urgently needed an enhanced water supply. The city’s water network was only 10 versts long, and there was no point in expanding it with the current plant’s capacity.

    But that wasn’t all. Upon returning from leave, I learned about negotiations for water supply from the Zagulba spring, located near Baku on the Apsheron peninsula. The idea was to use this source for permanent water supply, but it was abandoned because the water was found to be very hard.

    I’m not sure if someone suggested it to me or if I came up with the idea myself, but I thought of using this spring for temporary water supply. The source belonged to the city council member Ambartsum Sergeyevich Melikov. I wrote to him and visited the site to ensure the water was externally good. Chemists told me it was absolutely sterile (free of bacteria and organic matter traces) but very hard. As a permanent source, it was unsuitable, but temporarily, it was a treasure compared to the harmful water Bakuvians were drinking from wells. Plus, the local Tatar population didn’t drink desalinated water for religious reasons.

    So, I began negotiations both with Koppel and Melikov. After a series of committee meetings and overcoming opposition from members always against me, I managed to sign both contracts within a few days.

    The downside of this simultaneity was that initially, the population did not consume the minimum amount of water we had committed to purchasing. This loss obviously ceased once the network was expanded appropriately. In comparison to the benefits we received, this was a minor issue. Water consumption increased from 50,000 buckets to 80,000. The network expanded from 10 versts to 20. The water quality improved in all aspects.

    Yet, even the Zagulba water was attributed to me not just as a fault but as a crime.

    Chapter 11

    Despite being deeply involved in the water issue, I couldn’t overlook the matter of education. It was striking that Baku spent over three hundred thousand rubles on public education with minimal financial support from the treasury. The city was entirely responsible for the gymnasiums, with subsidies given to the real school and the middle maritime school. The commercial school was maintained by the stock exchange committee, and the girls’ gymnasium was also city-funded. All elementary education was under the city’s management. In essence, for Baku’s educational needs, the treasury contributed almost nothing.

    This situation was partly due to Baku’s reputation for wealth. Mention money in any ministry, and the response would typically be: “You don’t have money in Baku? Impossible.” Consequently, the treasury avoided spending on Baku’s needs. Although part of this financial strain was due to the city council’s mismanagement, it’s crucial to remember that Baku is a young city. Unlike older cities that accumulated wealth and infrastructure over centuries, Baku is starting from scratch.

    Despite the substantial funds allocated to education by the city council, the results were not as impressive as the expenditure might suggest. Secondary education was not under the city’s control; the city merely provided subsidies. However, the city wholly managed primary education. On an expenditure of 200,000 rubles, 2,500 students were educated, averaging 80 rubles per student annually, much higher than the 10-20 rubles typical in rural areas.

    One of the primary reasons for this high cost was the Russian-Tatar schools. With a larger Muslim population than Christians in the city, Muslim council members decided that for every ruble spent on Christian schools, an equal amount should be spent on Muslim schools. This led to the establishment of one Muslim school for every Christian school, which would have been excellent if not for the fact that these Muslim schools were often empty, with some classes having only five students. Proposals to combine schools to increase efficiency were met with accusations of oppressing the poor Tatars, a completely absurd situation.

    Another issue was the management of these schools. Only one clerk oversaw all Baku schools. Consequently, senior teachers (paid 75 rubles monthly and provided with accommodation) were left to manage the schools, leading to a lack of uniformity and control.

    Lastly, the problem of expensive and inadequate school buildings was significant. Only two of the twenty schools were owned by the city, with the rest being rented under unclear terms, often leading to exploitation by landlords. In some schools, the living quarters of the headteachers were as large as the classrooms themselves.

    In my comprehensive report to the city councilors, I highlighted the luxurious lifestyle that school headmistresses allowed themselves at the city’s expense, such as expensive carpets, lavish washbasins costing 50 rubles, and extravagant furniture. This extravagance was part of a broader problem of mismanagement in education, including issues with rented school premises and the high cost of education. I emphasized that the teaching staff was not living up to their vocation, contrasting them with the more dedicated and humble rural teachers I was accustomed to. In Baku, I found a different kind of teacher, more concerned with personal comforts, fashion, and room decorations than with educational duties.

    I also noticed intense competition among the teachers, but sadly not in improving the school’s educational standards. Instead, the competition was about gaining better positions and accommodations. Frequent complaints about living quarters and comparisons with others’ better conditions were common.

    In my report, I suggested measures to rectify these issues, mainly from an administrative perspective, as I couldn’t intervene in the educational aspects. I thought about what a good inspector from the more agriculturally-focused regions would do in such a situation; they’d probably be overwhelmed or feel compelled to flee.

    I proposed the centralization of all administrative aspects of the school system into one office, creating a school administration bureau. This would include a centralized store for materials (as teachers were purchasing trivial items at exorbitant prices) and a repository for educational aids and books. This was to prevent incidents where teachers (not the female ones) were buying expensive editions at the city’s expense under the guise of school necessities. The extent of the issues was vast and couldn’t be entirely listed in the report.

    My report ignited a storm of indignation among those affected, particularly in the teaching community. “The Caspian” newspaper started a campaign against me, accusing me of being anti-education. The teachers, for their part, saw me as an obscurantist and oppressor. Despite my efforts to clarify in print that my initiative was not against teachers in general but aimed at improving the efficiency and removing poor practices, the response was largely negative. People, especially those with vested interests, portrayed themselves as defenders of the oppressed teachers.

    However, the majority of city councilors supported my initiatives. The school commission also backed me in my educational reforms until the very end. Following my initial report, M.A. Belyavsky resigned from the chairmanship of the school commission, a position I then assumed.

    Believing in transparency, I arranged meetings with school heads, thinking that public discussion would encourage commitment to improving the schools. Unfortunately, these meetings were counterproductive. Instead of constructive dialogue, there were complaints about the alleged unfairness of my report and demands for more resources with fewer responsibilities.

    Recognizing that these meetings were not yet suitable for our developmental stage, I discontinued them. My commentary here primarily concerns Christian schools. The Russo-Tatar schools, with their Muslim teaching staff, were reported to be in even worse condition. However, addressing these issues was challenging due to the lack of qualified personnel and the sensitivity of national pride. My main objective regarding Russo-Tatar schools was to disrupt the existing balance between them and the Christian schools, a goal I achieved quite successfully.

    I want to reiterate that the Muslim population greatly needed schools, and I would have been more pleased to admit one Muslim boy than two Christian children. However, the reality was different. Schools were being opened just for the sake of having them, even though they were incredibly costly (for instance, a school with three teachers and only 46 students). I know that even these statements might lead some unscrupulous people to accuse me of slandering the Tatars, but I’m not writing against the Tatars.

    I can’t help but share an anecdote that illustrates how much the teaching staff came to despise me after my report. I visited a school with an architect because we needed to inspect the building. I wasn’t acquainted with the headmistress, as she hadn’t been at the meeting. When we arrived, the janitor let us in.

    — “Is Madam NN at home?” I asked.
    — “She is, please come in,” the janitor replied.

    We entered the hall and waited… but no one appeared. Then the janitor came back.
    — “Well, where is Madam NN?” I asked.
    — “She just left,” he replied.

    I was confused, as he had just told us she was at home. We needed to see the apartment because we were planning to adapt the building for a higher educational institution. I explained this to the janitor, who was initially reluctant but eventually let us in. We walked through a couple of rooms and then I saw a door. As I reached for the knob, I heard an angry female voice: “You can’t come in here.”

    Architect Skurevich and I quickly left the scene. I asked the janitor:
    — “Was that Madam NN?”
    — “Yes, exactly.”

    Some might argue that we shouldn’t have entered the apartment without the hostess, but it was necessary for our inspection. At that time, I was so consumed with city affairs that I hardly had time to eat or sleep.

    So, during my two years of service, I never got to meet Mrs. NN in person. We only corresponded. I never saw her face to face. I confess, it was not easy to manage affairs this way. But still, things were done as best as they could be… Previously, many students were denied admission to city schools. Under the guise of not creating new schools but adding parallel classes to existing ones, I persuaded the committee to fully meet the needs. In 1903, not a single child was refused admission. This alone was enough for me not to regret taking up the position of head. From 2,500, the number of students increased to 4,100. And the budget for 1903 did not increase compared to 1902. This is the result of efficient organization.

    Of course, in subsequent years, the number of students will not be 4, but 5 or 6 thousand—as new parallel classes will be opened higher and higher—of course, the budget will increase, but the cost per student in 1903 was a quarter less than in 1902. And this is the first year of work of our dear Stepan Martynovich Kardashov, against whom the pygmies standing over him tried to pour streams of filth. And there were the teachers, with often absurd complaints like the color of the red ink not being as pretty as before!

    I managed to do little in improving the staff composition. There were insurmountable difficulties. The headmistresses were chosen from among their own teachers based on seniority of service. Here, the length of service was everything. The quality of the candidate was not considered. Only claims like, ‘I have more rights than so-and-so because, even though we started in the same year, I was appointed ten days earlier.’ And here’s an anecdote: a headmistress needed to be appointed. There were two sister teachers, of whom the elder had a year more service than the younger. I have nothing bad to say about the elder—God forbid—but about the younger, I have to say that she was outstanding, not just in Baku. For 10 years, she led a men’s Sunday school with tremendous energy, entirely for free, and increased the number of students to 200. All for free, all at the expense of her health! Who should have been appointed as headmistress? I wanted the younger one. Oh God, what started! The member of the board, Mr. Arutyunov, was the first to intervene:

    — “Do you really want to appoint the younger one?”
    — “Well yes, what’s wrong with that?”
    — “Please, it’s offensive to the elder one.”
    The committee members said the same to me, disapproving of the disruption of the established order.
    Finally, someone said to me:
    — “Look, Alexander Ivanovich. They say that if the younger one becomes the headmistress, the elder one will end her own life…”
    So, the elder one was appointed. All the more so because I could have faced non-approval. After all, energy and love for the job are undervalued…

    I wanted to improve the staff by raising the requirements. The salary, I think, was good compared to other cities, not to mention the zemstvos. Let’s decide that people with higher education are required, let’s turn to the leaders of our national pedagogy, Vakhterov, Bunakov, and imperceptibly renew the staff, and let the old ones become better. But here I first encountered what is called Baku patriotism. They explicitly called it that feeling.
    “Think about it, Alexander Ivanovich,” the councilors told me—and all of them, without exception—”we have our own women’s gymnasium. How can we hire teachers from outside? And what about our own? Think for yourself.
    I replied to them that this would be a valid point of view for the head of a gymnasium, who cares exclusively about her students, but we are dealing with schools. We should primarily care about the students. I understand the sympathy for our own students, but what to do if the Baku air is not the kind where the ideal teacher grows, and so on—I developed this topic.

    Nothing helped. They stuck to their Baku patriotism. And in this area too, I did what I could. The main poison here was the protectionism of the committee members. I fought against it, and from their circle, I managed to invite the best ones. There were many vacancies due to the opening of new classes. I managed to get some ‘non-own’ people through.

    The same was true for the middle educational institutions. The male pro-gymnasium was opened during my time and not without my involvement, although the allocation of funds for it was decided before me. The technical school was transformed from a lower to a middle level; a petition was initiated for a new classical gymnasium with sufficient funding; and Lavrov’s private school was taken over by the city, which I will return to. All this was done not without effort, despite the organized opposition of the Black Hundred and the unorganized opposition of the well-intentioned.
    By the end of my service, the school department compiled a report for many years. I think it will bring no small benefit. Otherwise, it was like being in a forest. The shortcomings of the previous reporting system, of course, reflected on the report. Since 1902, school statistics were correctly maintained using a card system.


    Chapter 12

    In addition to the two main branches of the city’s economy that were under my personal management, the water supply and the school system, I took on another comparatively small but unpleasant duty. In the Black City, which consists almost entirely of kerosene factories, a significant amount of oil is lost due to the imperfection of their design. This oil was being lost into the ground and flowing along the streets. For a long time, the poor locals collected this lost oil and sold it to make a living. Later, landowners and tenants began to take advantage of it, digging wells where the oil accumulated by seepage; they collected it by digging ditches and large pits where the oil gathered through the ditches. Eventually, the city began to dig its own ditches on the streets, collect oil in its pits, and dig its own wells. The city also started collecting offshore oil with special pits. So much oil is lost in this oil-rich region that when the wind blows from the sea, thousands of pounds of oil and fuel oil are washed ashore, leaking from the pumping and transfer of oil into tanker ships.

    There are also sudden large leaks from factories, for example, when a pipe bursts. This is called a “fountain” in Baku jargon, analogous to real oil fountains.

    There are also sea fountains when a ship breaks apart and the oil leaks out.

    Everyone rushes to harvest this bounty – the city, the owners, the poor. The latter are particularly interesting. They are all Russian women. With a bucket, they sneakily try to scoop up the precious liquid from street ditches. They get beaten and dragged to the police, but they continue their craft. These are often women without passports, living this hard life to avoid an even worse fate at home with abusive husbands. At first, I too persecuted them, but after getting to know them better, I instructed not to bother them. They are also exploited by local residents who buy what they collect and make a 200% profit.

    Much worse than these unfortunate women are the well-off people whose profession is to steal oil from the ditches, not with buckets like the women, but by diverting it to themselves. Often these are homeowners; oil theft is their main source of income.

    There are other methods too. Bribing someone at a factory to create an artificial fountain, i.e., to release oil, which then becomes the bounty of those who bribed. It is said that such fountains have been arranged by our city employees. It’s profitable for the city, and they also get a profit and gratitude from the authorities.

    It’s impossible to account for the city’s employees in the oil collection. Whatever amount of collected oil they report, that’s what you have to accept. Therefore, there’s no position that receives as many complaints as the one in charge of the oil traps. The councilor, Hasan bey Melikov, publicly accused the former manager, Mr. Vasiliev, of embezzlement. The case dragged on for two years. Mr. Vasiliev came out as clean as crystal; the council testified to this. Yet, the accuser was not punished, and the man was publicly slandered for two years…

    I got caught up with these oil traps. Dissatisfied with the previous management of the matter, I promised the council to collect thirty thousand instead of twenty-two thousand in 1903. The council entrusted me with the task. The head of the project was an individual above any suspicion (even Mr. Melikov’s), highly intelligent. His assistants were also exceptionally clean people, yet the catch was poor. Whether it was because they did not allow artificial fountains, or because the police, always siding with the factory owners, particularly obstructed the work, I still didn’t reach thirty thousand. Apparently, in the realm of oil, honesty and integrity of the employees alone are not enough to get things done.

    Among the personal duties of the head of the council was also the distribution of three thousand annually allocated by the council for the poor. I ended up overspending by one to two thousand. This responsibility was perhaps one of the most nerve-wracking.

    Every day, dozens of lame, blind, beggars, all eager to receive a small allowance or a free passage to one of the ports of the Caspian Sea, came to me. My God, my God, what types of people I had to encounter here! Indeed, there were those permanently unfortunate due to physical disability, unemployed workers, bitter characters, and just plain fraudsters.

    A group of workers comes in.
    — “Please, have mercy—send us back to our homeland. We looked for work but couldn’t find any.”
    — “Where are you from?”
    — “From Mogilev.”
    — “Hmm! I can give you a free ride to Astrakhan.”
    — “And what about after that?”
    And you know, you’re not really helping them. You know that in Astrakhan they’ll find even less work than in Baku, and it’s just as impossible to get out from there. But you send them off just to get rid of them, like doctors sending patients to Nice, so they don’t die on their hands. You lie to him and yourself, and he thanks you.

    And from this situation, a peculiar trade has emerged. People would come, get permission for a free ride, and calmly sell the tickets they received. I had to send my own man to the steamship. Many were caught, and the trade dwindled.

    A whole category of the unfortunate consists of girls, abandoned by their lovers with a child in their arms. There is no city in Russia more debauched than Baku. The Eastern view of women as inferior beings created for men’s pleasure, combined with enormous wealth falling from the sky, has spawned a multitude of these unfortunate women.

    Almost every wealthy Tatar has two wives, a Muslim and a Russian. The Russian, by our and local laws, is a powerless concubine. She is under strict surveillance, and the slightest misstep could cost her life.

    But besides these women, whom their husbands still call wives, there is not a girl in Baku who isn’t pursued. From violence to deception, everything seems to be allowed by the Baku code of morality. And here you have the typical case of a girl-mother, abandoned with a child in her arms. I especially patronized them and almost always tried to send them back to their homeland.

    And here’s the view of an educated councilor. In the council, there’s talk of a massive influx of children into the orphanage. Hasan bey Melikov delivers a thunderous speech against the unbearable expenses for this matter, concluding that it’s unfair, after all, to pay for them by all nationalities, when all these children are born to Christian women.

    And this was said by a man who knew very well that the father of these children is almost always a Tatar! The same councilor, in the same speech, said that the orphanage supports immoral relationships because all the abandoned children are illegitimate.

    And this was said by a man who, in several articles across two newspapers, was accused of immoral behavior towards women who came to him for help, as a member of the committee in Shemakha after the earthquake!
    Is it conceivable to maintain the chairman’s composure in such speeches? I don’t know about others, but I often had to lose my temper.

    And here come various unfortunate people, telling you about the hopelessness of their situation. You’d like to help, but you know that anything less than 25-50 rubles won’t alleviate their suffering. And you offer one or two rubles. Or you even refuse altogether. You try to sugarcoat the pill as best you can, explaining the financial situation… but they keep asking.

    What can you do with a ruble in such a case? An entire family comes in. Two Tatar women bring in 8 children and carry in an old woman crippled by paralysis, laying her in the middle of the door to my office. The old woman is standing there, all in rags. They came to show who makes up the family, as the men have died. No property. An exceptional case. I give three rubles.

    Tatars rarely came, and it seems only in extreme cases. It’s remarkable that among Muslims, there’s no charitable society like the Armenians have. The only form of assistance that the wealthy offer is scholarships to students. But if a man with three million has two scholarship recipients, a third can die for all he cares — he won’t receive anything. And the wealthy man will boast about his two scholarship recipients at every turn. There’s little or no secret charity. Some of the poor are physically unreachable: barricaded in their homes behind iron doors and grilles. I love the poor Tatar: he’s quiet, good-natured, gentle.

    The wealthy Tatar is often incredibly stingy, almost always a usurer. All, of course, are “Hajji”, meaning they have made the pilgrimage to Mecca. But having millions or tens of millions and pinching pennies, driving a son to suicide, being a usurer—these mean nothing. If something is donated, it’s out of vanity. Let the whole world know what we are like. Thus, wealth corrupts a people who are inherently good, despite being culturally backward.

    Here’s a case of usury from my experience. A woman comes in and explains that her dire situation is forcing her to travel to Kuba. She asks for three rubles for the journey and cries. I gave her three rubles. A few days later, I see her again. She’s asking for a free ticket to Krasnovodsk. I recognize her.

    — “Didn’t you recently travel to Kuba?”
    — “I did. Sold my house. Now I’m returning,” she says, crying.
    — “How come you sold the house and still ask for travel money?”, I start getting agitated and raise my voice.
    — “The house was mortgaged to Hajji so-and-so. It remained with him at the auction, and I got nothing left. I haven’t eaten for two days.”
    — “Couldn’t you at least ask him for travel money? He must have been charging you interest for a long time, right?”
    — “12 percent for twenty years. I even asked him for a ruble for bread. He refused. He was angry that the house cost him too much.”

    I repeat: this is not a national trait. It’s just the wealthy. I explain this phenomenon as follows: Tatars are a people accustomed to either submitting to a despot or being a despot. Now there are no khans except in name. So, they seize power however they can: with money, with education. If a Tatar stands out with money or education, he climbs into the ranks of the khans. And the people, accustomed to bowing, bow to the wealthy or the educated. This is how I explain the corrupting influence of wealth and, shockingly, education (horribile dictu) on the Tatar, at least in the first generation. With further cultural development, all of this will, of course, smooth out.

    Returning to the distribution of aid. There are many individual cases. Straining the nerves are a Turkish Armenian with his tongue cut out and muscles severed; a worker discharged from the hospital the day before, having lost his arm shattered in an accident; a madman brought to you, with nowhere to send him for lack of a specialized hospital, and so on.

    And then there’s the man who, out of impudence or perhaps hunger, starts demanding help instead of asking. And yet, you’re completely powerless to genuinely help, only able to give a ruble or two in one or two cases out of ten to get rid of the annoying beggar…

    I think it’s natural for nerves to fray under such circumstances. Sometimes you raise your voice, sometimes you explode. Of course, it’s not good. You need to be fair, balanced, composed when wearing the chain of the city head. But what to do? I’m human and, I admit, the more it went on, the more frayed my nerves became. Seeing misery worth three million, yet having only three thousand to help.

    And the hypocrisy of the wealthy! They offer such help, and not even from their own but from the city’s funds, and think they have fulfilled their duty towards the poorer population. No, different measures are needed…


    Chapter 13

    One of my first concerns upon taking office was the budget for 1903. The budget for 1902 was discussed in June, by which time six months of expenditures had already occurred without it. It was approved in August. When I arrived, I declared that this wouldn’t happen under my watch. Both by law and common sense, the budget needed to be passed through the administration and the finance committee in time to be approved by the new year.

    Therefore, as early as August, I sent requests to departments and individual units urging them to expedite their deadlines. This request had to be repeated, especially to the typically disorganized technical department. Everyone assisted me. The finance committee agreed to review the budget together with the administration to expedite and improve the process. The council, eventually, didn’t delay the matter either, and the budget was finalized in December. After the sluggishness of previous years, this was a pleasant surprise. From the very start of the new year, we operated under a budget approved by the council. Everyone was satisfied, but I was the most pleased. If it was possible to break bad habits in the very first year, then surely things were expected to go even better in the subsequent years. Alas! Who could have foretold how times would change.

    I had to pay great attention to the situation of the employees, and in this, the majority of the administration helped me. We issued a regulation that would be a model for any other public, private, or state institution. It is well known that there is a certain number of hours during which people can productively work with their minds; the maximum for such work without a break is five hours. Therefore, we established a five-hour workday for offices, from 9 to 2. In summer, we made a concession for employees, reducing work to four hours. Evening work was completely abolished, except for emergencies, of course. Paying someone 40 rubles a month while completely detaching them from their family is an obvious exploitation of human labor. Tired from morning work, a person barely has time to return home, eat lunch, rest, and then has to rush back to work. The amount of work done did not decrease, according to the secretaries. Besides the daily work conditions, it’s extremely important for an employee to have a solid assurance that they will receive help in a difficult moment. Of course, it’s crucial to know that old age will be secured, and that after long service, one won’t be thrown out onto the street with their family. But difficult times can also arise during service. Death, illness of loved ones, or an emergency need – all these should find a response in the administration. The sums allocated annually by the Baku council for employee benefits were insufficient. Personally, in the administration, I almost always voted for the allowance. One member of the administration always had personal reasons to help someone, and we somehow persuaded the third. So we had the majority.

    For employees in separate institutions, hospitals, schools, construction sites, we charged these expenses to the special funds of these institutions, and for the employees of the administration itself, from special sums for allowances. Anyway, the overrun was significant, for which we (read: I) were criticized in the council. But the main problem was favoritism. I had just arrived when I saw that employees earning 3000 rubles a year were given 500-1000 ruble allowances by the council under the pretext of illness. These employees were personally known to the council members. And the next day, I couldn’t allow the administration to refuse to give 50 rubles to a genuinely ill scribe barely making ends meet in a basement corner.

    But what was worse was the lack of participation in benefits for workers. Bridge workers, snow cleaners, and other workers living on 15-20 rubles never even asked for assistance. Such a practice did not exist. They probably thought allowances were for gentlemen, and didn’t ask for anything, neither when being dismissed nor when sick. This initially surprised me. A worker comes in, asks for sick leave. In the request, not a word about an allowance. I ask him:
    — “Do you not request an allowance?”
    — “What allowance?”
    — “Ask for it, and you’ll get it.”
    If I caused a loss to the city by doing this, then perhaps a significant saving occurred during my time because senior employees less frequently sought large allowances, not because they were denied, but perhaps out of shame. Maybe, though, this is just my illusion.

    But the most important thing for an employee is the question of securing their old age. I’ve already mentioned that the council appointed significant pensions for senior employees, which I proposed to secure. But soon the gentlemen council members showed themselves in a completely different light.

    Everything will become clear from the following scene. There was a large meeting with a lot of public attendance. I proposed granting pensions or one-time allowances to ten people retiring from city service. Among them was a man who had conducted microscopic examinations of pig carcasses in the slaughterhouse for several years. Constantly exposed to drafts, he had contracted tuberculosis and was requesting a one-time allowance of 500 rubles.

    There was also the wife and children of a deceased bridge worker who had served the city for 12 years, requesting a one-time allowance of 150 rubles. And there was the widow of a firefighter who had died after long service; she was 50 years old and requested a yearly pension of 120 rubles, among others.

    I read this list. The council members began asking about the work capability of the widows, the merits of the retirees or deceased, and the conditions of their service. I provided as much information as I could.

    We set up ten boxes for a secret ballot. Council member Gasan agha Gasanov, supported by other Muslims, made a statement.

    — “Put the box for the Predtechenskys separately!”

    I was afraid to understand but still asked, “Why?”

    — “We knew him. The council members knew him.”

    These were harsh words, revealing cruel sentiments towards all city employees!

    The Predtechenskys were two young students in the 5th and 1st grades, respectively. Their father had retired a year ago on my recommendation and died a few months later. He had served a long time as a secretary in the first department, where Muslim council members like Safaraliyev (father of the current Kamil-bey), Balabek Alimebekov, and the current Kamil-bey Safaraliyev regularly rotated. We were requesting an allowance of 300 rubles each per year for the boys until they completed both their secondary and higher education. They were living with their unmarried uncle, a bank official.

    God forbid I say a single word against this allowance. I was the one who proposed it. I considered it their right. But their situation was no worse, perhaps even better, than the others’.

    Their box was not placed separately. But the result was as follows: the Predtechenskys received the allowance. All others, including the tuberculosis sufferer and the widows, were denied.

    The council members did not know them. It’s not just about serving the city, but also about serving or, at the very least, being acquainted with the council members.

    This cruelty was explained as a reaction against past generosity, constrained financial conditions, and dissatisfaction with me by the council. But does this really mitigate the council’s disgraceful decision?

    When I read the voting results aloud and said, “This is how the Baku council rewards its faithful servants dying in service,” the council members felt offended and found my comment inappropriate. Maybe it was…

    In Baku and other assemblies dominated by the ‘Black Hundred’ (including the new St. Petersburg council), there’s a terrible phrase: “The ball will show.” What does it mean?

    It means you can talk as much as you want, but we’ve already decided everything. It means no arguments or truth will influence us because we’re not seeking truth but our own or our close ones’ benefit. It means there’s no need for meetings, only for whispering and scheming. It means the interests of the cities cannot be entrusted to the current composition of council members…

    Nothing new here. I just didn’t think it could reach such cynicism.

    The pension issue has long been discussed in Baku. Various volunteers developed pension statutes, but unsurprisingly, nothing came of it. No one realized that pension statutes should be based on deep mathematical calculations and statistical data. It took much effort to convince the council to turn to a specialist. We invited Mr. Preobrazhensky, a private docent from Moscow, who developed the pension statute for the Tambov Zemstvo. He visited Baku, and the statute’s foundations were developed jointly with several council members. I left before the issue was resolved.

    Only when this statute is developed and approved by both the council and the government can the city’s employees hope for an impartial evaluation of their service, independent of their connections with their “masters”.

    Chapter 14

    Not without failures, of course, my time of victories also had its challenges. The main failure was that I was unable to do anything—absolutely nothing—in the matter of land. The basis of the problem was that influential citizens had already secured the best plots of city land for themselves. Now, there’s no blatant large-scale theft by influential people. Instead, smaller entities secretly grab land on the outskirts. There are also cases of large-scale grabs. One example will clarify the situation better than any discussion.

    On the outskirts, a Tatar named Abiyev seized a whole ten acres of land, fenced it, built facilities and stables, and leased them to the city for a Cossack company, setting a high rent. The city’s construction department annually rented this facility, and Abiyev kept raising the rent every year (he had long recouped all expenses for the construction, which was extensive but cheap). Meanwhile, the city’s fourth land department reported Abiyev’s encroachment to the council. After several angry speeches by some council members, Abiyev was declared a blatant land grabber by the council. And yet, the land department has been suing him for years, and during my time, there were already talks of Abiyev having some rights to this land and that it might be alienated to him. I am convinced that the plot will legally become Abiyev’s sooner or later.

    Another fact: this happened 7-8 years ago. The city head was Mr. Iretsky, with Mr. Benckendorff as a member of the administration. The city was involved in a land dispute with the Safaraliyev family, one of the most influential in Baku. Ismail bey, a council member, led the center. Kamil bey, a council member and the son of a council member. The case was valued cheaply—only two hundred to two hundred and fifty thousand rubles. Similar cases were won by the city. But this one, the city lost in the first instance. It was clear that the case had to be appealed. The legal counsel wrote an appeal. Council member Benckendorff put it in his desk, locked it, and… went abroad on leave. The appeal deadline was missed. The city lost a quarter of a million. This fact was reported in “Bakinskie Izvestiya” and was not refuted by anyone. Council member Unanov alluded to it in the council.

    Here’s another example from recent history. Andronikov goes to court to sue a land grabber, on behalf of the fourth department. The grabber’s attorney presents a certificate from the same fourth department, stating the land is his. What a position for the legal counsel!

    I could bring numerous examples. In short, three thousand cases were in process, or if not, it was due to the negligence of the land department.

    Here’s another picture illustrating the council’s attitude towards land matters.

    There’s a council member, Shamsi Asadullayev, a Muslim, who fortune has graced with millions from the earth in the form of huge oil fountains. He has a factory on city land leased in the Black City. This land was being alienated to him. The assessment was done by the appraisal committee. There were 2000 square sazhens, valued by the committee at 20 rubles per sazhen. Council member Shamsi Asadullayev rarely attends council meetings. On the day set for his case, he shows up.

    I’m chairing the meeting and announce:
    — The case of alienating 2000 sq. sazhens to Shamsi Asadullayev.

    Mr. Asadullayev leaves the hall for the smoking room. I read the administration’s report. A voice from among the Tatars:
    — 20 rubles is too much!

    It’s supported by others. Someone asks:
    — What does the administration think?
    — The administration agrees with the assessment committee and finds the price of 20 rubles fair. Personally, I find it cheap.
    — What about the head of the land department?

    Mr. Belyavsky hesitates, smiling awkwardly.

    — You know the plot better.
    — And the chairman of the assessment committee?

    Mr. Arutyunov hesitates and, rolling his eyes, says:
    — The price of 20 rubles is high. We made a mistake.

    The case is sent back to the committee. They reevaluate and set the price at 16 rubles, which is accepted at one of the following council meetings. Mr. Asadullayev saves eight thousand rubles. I was going to end here, but I must mention a phrase by council member Israfil Hajiyev.

    They’re evicting a Persian subject, whose house is in the middle of the street. There’s a debate over how much to pay him. Some say more, some less.

    — Why give him so much?—says Hajiyev —He’s not one of us.

    This phrase “not one of us” is splendid, in my opinion. We value our own by one standard, others by another.

    Taking on the enemy-owner head-on was obviously impossible. We had to circumvent them. The situation was complicated by Mr. Belyavsky heading the department. Demanding a reorganization of the land department meant going against him. He staunchly defended his subordinates, led by his own son, the chief clerk, and took any criticism of them as a personal offense. In this sense, a campaign against the land department was a tough battle. Nonetheless, it was necessary.

    The reader may recall that when drafting the budget for 1903, Mr. Belyavsky gave a heap of promises regarding the regulation of the city’s relations with those occupying city lands. By certain dates, all plots were to be measured, notifications sent, and lawsuits presented. We measured the land, but the rest wasn’t done.

    This was the starting point of my report to the council.

    My plan was as follows: to diminish the influence of individuals and the arbitrariness of landlords. How to do this? I found no other way than to establish a bureau in the land department consisting of lawyers, surveyors, and statisticians. These gentlemen were to develop general norms for valuing not only buildings but also land, compile an inventory of city lands, and clarify the city’s legal relations with the owners of buildings.

    In my opinion, a highly authoritative body was needed, one that would frame each case so that neither the administration nor the council could object. I don’t know if this would have been successful if the council had accepted my report, but I saw no other way out.

    It’s distasteful now to see what happens in the council. When land cases are appointed, those whose plots are being bought or sold sit for two hours, standing and bowing to the council members as they enter, begging for help. This needed to be eliminated. How else but with scientifically founded norms and an honest illumination of the case? That’s how I reasoned. In my report, I requested the establishment of a bureau. The expenses for it would have been more than covered.

    Simultaneously, Natanson proposed to establish a special land accounting department. And all this fell through. The issue is still handled and apparently will continue to be handled at the discretion of the council members. This is one of the greatest misfortunes of our city’s economy.

    My failure to organize the material department was also regrettable for the city’s interests.

    Finally, where I completely failed was in the external improvement of the city. I thought everyone understood that dirt is worse than cleanliness, sickness worse than health. It turned out not to be the case; where gold and oil are the only gods, there’s a tolerant, sometimes even favorable view of dirt and other forms of disorganization.

    One of the first confrontations of this kind was over the construction of a mill. A wealthy miller, Skobelev, sought permission to build a mill in a part of the city that, within ten years, would become the city’s finest. Mills, with their unsightly appearance, noise, and sometimes soot, disturb neighbors and belong on the outskirts. I developed this idea. But hardly anyone supported me. is a good man; a mill is more convenient on the seashore; a good mill is beneficial for Baku’s trade turnover. Therefore, they allowed Skobelev to build his mill in the city center.

    For the freight charge taken by the city on imported and exported goods, a massive pier is planned along the entire bay in Baku. I asked the council to petition for the middle area opposite the promenade to be left open for a boulevard and walks with sea views. This seemed a natural wish for a city with nowhere to walk or breathe fresh air.

    Although the council agreed, it was only after lengthy debates and after reducing the area I proposed to be left open.

    The most sensitive issue in Baku, for some reason, involves meat trading. Bakuvians are terrified of any regulation… Laws, mandatory regulations, prohibitions on this or that – they see as unnecessary restrictions. With great difficulty, mandatory regulations for livestock and horse trading at the cattle and horse yards were passed. Only the rampant spread of sap and plague could work such a miracle on our council members. Some exceptions were allowed, such as on Kurban-Bayram day, when it’s permitted to lead and sell sheep on the streets. During these days, you can’t drive through some streets because of the herds of sheep. People – I’ve seen rich business owners – stand, haggle, and feel the sheep.

    Then they lead two or three sheep along the sidewalk, forcing pedestrians to give way. The council members don’t want to ban this disgrace, seeing it as a restriction on “poor” butchers.

    Nowhere have I seen such misuse of the word “poor” as in Baku. Wealthy homeowners, poor owners of herds, etc. And the workers?… What more do they need? They are full, and thank God.

    The clandestine slaughter of livestock is widespread and difficult to track due to the poor composition of our sanitary agents. If someone is caught, there’s always an argument about whose livestock or shop it is, and often no one is found guilty. These people’s malice is great. For instance, one market superintendent who didn’t hide his clandestine slaughter was shot at night.

    Deputy Hajiyev often defended various people who broke the law. He took on even the most hopeless cases. But once he got caught. At the slaughterhouse, Dr. Rikhlovsky received one and a half carcasses of sheep slaughtered secretly. While he was examining them, the phone rang.

    — “Who’s speaking?”
    — “Deputy Hajiyev.”
    — “What can I do for you?”
    — “Do you have two carcasses of secretly slaughtered sheep?”
    — “Yes, we do. Why?”
    — “They are mine.”

    The call ended, and shortly afterward, the carcasses were returned to Mr. Hajiyev, who provided a handwritten receipt for them. This receipt came into my possession. There was talk about it, and it was written about in the newspapers. I wanted to hold Mr. Hajiyev accountable, but I didn’t because, obviously, the carcasses were not his; he was just using his name to cover up a dirty deed. Also, at that time, I was in amicable relations with Mr. Hajiyev and feared accusations of bias. Finally, because… one man cannot fight alone.

    Another telling incident from my experience shows how difficult it is to combat various abuses in Baku. A sanitary doctor reports that some baths are spreading a stench. The next day, he writes that the stench is not from the baths but from the stone used in a nearby house construction. This stone, taken near slaughterhouses, is soaked with decomposing blood. An interesting case. I went to the site with a member of the administration and the doctor.

    Upon arrival, we see masons building the house and carriers who just brought the stone. The stone reeks unbearably of carrion.

    — “Whose house is being built?” we ask the masons.
    — “We don’t know.”
    — “How do you not know? Who hired you?”
    — “We don’t know. We have a contractor.”

    The contractor appears.
    — “Who’s building the house? What’s the owner’s name?”
    — “I don’t know. I recognize his face, but I don’t know his name or address.”

    The carriers give the same response: they don’t know anything.

    It’s difficult to work under these circumstances and achieve anything. This community has much to learn, and not just in our Russo-Tatar schools.

    Chapter 15

    At the very beginning of my service, even before leaving for abroad, I learned that something was amiss at the maternity shelter. Dr. K. was appointed as a doctor at the shelter before my service began. He started introducing new orders, both in medical and administrative aspects. The midwives at the shelter were unhappy with these new arrangements. This led to a series of misunderstandings between them and Dr. K.

    The unquestionably best midwife, Mrs. Tumaeva, well-known throughout the city, was the first to not tolerate the new orders and left, explaining her reasons to the administration.

    Following her, already during my tenure, a collective complaint was submitted by several midwives, led by the matron Mrs. Utilova. We forwarded this complaint to the council of the maternity shelter, which consisted of doctors and public figures. The council expressed disapproval of Dr. K., stating that his innovations had disrupted the shelter’s life, creating abnormal relationships among the staff.

    The administration convened and decided to conduct a thorough investigation due to the serious allegations against Dr. K., which was entrusted to a member of the administration, Smolensky. The investigation was deliberately not assigned to the direct supervisor of medical affairs, Mr. Safaraliev, as it was known that he sided with the midwives. We wanted an impartial investigation. This was when I left for abroad.

    Upon my return, the investigation was completed, resulting in a voluminous case. Despite the abundance of paperwork and numerous witness interviews, there were noticeable gaps in the investigation.

    Meanwhile, the issue reached the public and the press. Midwives wrote against Dr. K. in newspapers, and he responded. Dr. K. was accused of violating all kinds of ethics:

    1. the ethics of a superior in relation to subordinates;
    2. the ethics of a doctor in relation to patients;
    3. the ethics of a person in terms of morality.

    For me, the issue became crystal clear. Dr. K. was not only unfit for his position but also intolerable. However, the public, including the city council and administration, supported Dr. K. This stance from the outset bewildered me, as it contradicted evident facts. Public figures Tagiev and Tikhonov warned me in the club that I was on the wrong path. Staff from the esaul to my personal secretary insisted that Dr. K. was a good man and the midwives were slanderers.

    In the administration, opinions were divided. Mr. Velyavsky was on leave. Mr. Safaraliev and I supported the midwives, while Smolensky and Arutyunov backed Dr. K. I never understood their stance on this matter. I assume there was no benefit in supporting Dr. K., as there could be no talk of any profit. Both were intelligent people, yet Dr. K.’s incompetence in all aspects was obvious. Nevertheless, both of them, especially Arutyunov, even a year later, vigorously defended Dr. K. This disagreement had a fatal impact on our relations.

    Given the heightened passions, I didn’t want to use my advantage as the chairman and decided to handle the matter according to all the rules of the art. I proposed an arbitration court to both parties. Dr. K. and the midwives agreed. Each side chose two judges, and the administration chose the chairman, where we accepted the candidate proposed by Arutyunov, our staunch opponent.

    It turned out that both sides chose the same doctor as a judge. We had to replace the missing judge by drawing lots, which fell on a candidate suggested by Safaraliev. I advised him to reject this candidate and again confirm Arutyunov’s choice.

    In short, I did everything possible to give every chance against myself.

    The arbitration court, composed of five doctors, unanimously concluded that Dr. Kalinovsky was not up to the ethical standards required, not only as the director of the institution but also as a simple physician. Those familiar with the typically reserved language of arbitration courts would understand the significance of such a verdict.

    Given this situation, it was unthinkable to wait for Mr. Belyavsky’s return, as it was impossible for Dr. K. and the midwives to work together. The unanimous decision of the court gave us a free hand. Four of us convened and decided, with a majority of two against two, to transfer Dr. K. to a clinic and appoint Mr. Shakhnazarov to the maternity shelter.

    This was my weakness. After the negative review from his five colleagues, it was clear that Dr. K. was intolerable in city service. Moreover, unpleasant information about his previous job in city administration had also emerged. We should have dismissed him entirely. My tendency to speak too openly and directly, especially when I see wrongdoing, might make people think there’s personal animosity on my part. I’m not a diplomat. This was also the case with Dr. K. If I hadn’t expressed my opinions so openly in advance, I would have confidently voted for his complete dismissal. Now, I feared it would be attributed to personal dislike, although I never had any personal dealings with Dr. K.

    Many criticized me for my leniency towards Dr. K. He appealed his transfer to the city council. I remember waiting for that day, September 18th, when a fierce battle ensued. Mr. Smolensky delivered an accusatory speech against me.

    I should also mention that Mr. Belyavsky, who had returned by that time, sided with Dr. K. So, Mr. Safaraliev and I were in the minority. I felt it was my duty to report this to the council.

    Mr. Iretsky spoke against me. I noticed that in serious matters, where there was a chance to leave me in the minority, he always attempted to do so. So far, he had not succeeded. Nor did he succeed in the case of Dr. K.

    In a lengthy speech, I explained to the city council the entire situation, showing how we acted not only cautiously but also with consideration, and how at each step we inadvertently gave our adversaries ammunition against us.

    It was evident that the council was burdened by this matter. By a significant majority, they deemed our actions correct. The council members apparently followed the general current in this case. I had explained the public’s sympathy towards Dr. K. as a reflection of the Eastern view of women, where men are always right and offenses against morality are so commonplace that they are not even worth discussing, let alone troubling a man over. It turned out I was wrong. After the peer court’s decision and the clarification of the case, Dr. K.’s supporters dwindled, and the council’s decision was met with universal approval.

    I remember feeling triumphant that day. I referred to this as my ‘Dreyfus Affair’ (albeit in reverse) because of the way it stirred society, and how Dr. K.’s defenders, like Dreyfus’s accusers, acted against all logic.

    As for the public, my triumph was fitting. However, regarding the council, I now view their approval more dispassionately. I understand now that the value of the council’s decision is not that high. It wasn’t the truth or the persuasiveness of my speeches that swayed the council members to my side, but rather a calculation: the mayor or the doctor? Obviously, the doctor… So they sided with the mayor.

    Many probably reasoned this way, which is considered Baku’s practicality and business sense.

    The issue with Dr. K. was not destined to end there. For the same reasons – to avoid accusations of personal animosity towards Dr. K. – I allowed an incorrect situation to persist for a time. He did not rectify this within the allotted period. In response to my written statement that my previous decision still stood, I received a letter from him starting with the words: “Mr. Alexander Ivanovich, you have committed a new act of baseness towards me…” and so on.

    I couldn’t help but take this personally, not out of a sense of offense, of course, but because of my desire to protect the integrity of the matter.

    In general, I don’t understand the feeling of offense. There’s indignation, which is a different matter. But could Dr. K. offend me? I didn’t send his letter because of this petty sentiment, but because the matter suffered due to his presence in the city’s service. He was decidedly intolerable. I forwarded the letter to the administration. The administration, with a majority vote of 3 to 2, including myself and Mr. Safaraliyev, decided to leave Dr. K.’s private letter without consequences. This infuriated me even more. Now, I might have acted differently, but at that time, I hadn’t yet established my view on the ethics of a private meeting. By convening a private meeting, I essentially granted each individual member the right to decide. This later complicated my struggle with individuals and hindered my ability to rely solely on the council’s decisions. All of this seems foolish to me now, but at the time, I hadn’t thought about it, and there weren’t people around me who could have advised me.

    To further characterize Dr. K., I must also mention that he continued to disturb his fellow co-workers for a long time. He complained about the administration and the council to the provincial authorities, but his complaints went unanswered. He also initiated two lengthy lawsuits against the midwives, both for slander. One was in the local courts for verbal slander, and the other was in the district court for printed slander. Both cases went through all three instances, and the midwives were acquitted. Dr. K. ultimately lost both cases.

    In general, it should be said that this type of behavior is not only interesting for a psychologist but also for a psychiatrist. Such futile battles brought me a lot of harm. Let’s assume I managed to prove my correctness and impartiality, but I’m not talking about the council, but about the part of society that I consider more competent as judges. But it’s not about my vanity.

    This matter consumed a lot of time and, most importantly, required a significant amount of energy for a completely unnecessary fight. But that’s not the main issue.

    The sharpness of the matter has passed, and it can now be handled completely dispassionately. It spoiled my relationship with the members of the administration. Mr. Smolensky left soon after. My official relations with Mr. Belyavsky weren’t significantly affected.

    D. D. Arutyunov remains. If there could have been any excuse that the members of the administration acted against their conscience, it would have been more understandable. But then a poor doctor arrived and left just as poor. Neither national issues nor personal relationships seemingly played or could have played any role. In fact, it would have been more advantageous for the members of the administration to take my side.

    To this day, I cannot understand the psychological motives that compelled him to act against logic, especially considering that he was undoubtedly an intelligent person.

    Perhaps if it weren’t for Dr. K.’s case, Mr. Arutyunov would not have played such an ungrateful role in my activities. Because, in some way, he created the majority in the administration that influenced both the council and caused several setbacks in my work. What’s even worse, it led to the halt of ongoing projects.

    Part 3 - Ethical dilemmas

    Chapter 1

    In January 1903, I traveled to St. Petersburg for municipal affairs. We had many important matters to address, some of which had been pending for far too long. The railway was constantly expanding its station and tracks, which required the acquisition of city lands. This matter was incredibly tangled and had been dragging on for over twenty years. It should have been resolved much sooner if the city had competent agents who could work differently from the bureaucratic methods of the Chancellery.

    Here’s an interesting example: Our city government writes an important document to the Ministry of Railways. Due to a mistake by the clerks or registrars, the document is sent not to St. Petersburg but to Tiflis, to the administration of the Transcaucasian Railways. For a long time, there was no response, and it took two years to discover what had happened. This massive half-million ruble issue needed to be resolved.

    I also had to file several petitions regarding the troublesome matter of the printing office, the allocation of expenses for the police, and other issues.

    I had to file a complaint with the Senate about a decree to increase the tuition fees at the gymnasium and the real school, and so on. But all these matters were trivial compared to the main issue. Time was passing, and there was still no permission to conduct water surveys in the Hil Highlands. Ahead, there were negotiations with the Chief, who was then in the capital, and the Minister of Agriculture. The matter was extremely urgent, and after reporting to the Duma, I went on my way. Despite the pile of requests, the Duma released me willingly, although there were already rumors among the “Caspianites” that the head seemed to want to dismiss me.

    I initiated the petitions, presented myself to the ministers, submitted the necessary documents, filed complaints with the Senate, and studied the progress of the cases as much as I could. But all my attention was, of course, focused on the water, and while the official permission had not yet been officially obtained, it was at least promised.

    I consider it necessary to mention a seemingly insignificant incident that occurred in St. Petersburg. While reading the Baku newspapers, I came across the following phrase from a member of the Duma, G.G. Kyandzhunts: “Now we can calmly discuss this matter. The nightmare of the city head no longer hangs over us.” This word in Kyandzhunts’s mouth surprised me. This man is cultured, intelligent, and speaks logically and eloquently—yet he was being silenced. True, he sometimes seemed different from what he appeared to be yesterday, sometimes soaring to heights with eagle-like swiftness and courage, and other times suddenly stopping before an insignificant hill that a child could cross. Hearing about the “nightmare” of the city head from him was unexpected. Did my entire service for the city’s officials feel like a nightmare? I confess I didn’t expect that.

    This “nightmare” was a turning point for me and my aspirations. The thoughts of the Duma and the city council no longer mattered. Everything that had come before seemed like a nightmare. I often recalled this prophetic word from a member of the Duma.

    In the first meeting, they asked what I had accomplished in St. Petersburg, and I explained, naming the trip successful since permission for water surveys in the Hil Highlands was now secured. I also mentioned the submitted petitions. Some of the members thought I had an unsuccessful trip, probably assuming that I wanted to initiate the petitions in St. Petersburg to ensure their execution.

    But the first storm broke out in the meeting on March 4th. I had already mentioned that if I couldn’t complete the water surveys in the Hil Highlands, I would at least conduct surveys on Shollar, which was a relatively minor issue. I had achieved this by extending the surveys through various pretexts from the Dindlevsky Bureau. Everyone knew about it, but for certain reasons, I couldn’t publicly admit it. In short, I can’t say that I acted completely correctly, but what does this incorrectness mean compared to the result obtained? Nothing, the surveys on Shollar have been completed. I protected the city of Baku from dirty river water.

    One of the incorrect actions I took was delaying for a month, and the other was the dismissal of employees of the waterworks, whom the water commission decided to fire. I had to do this through the Duma, but I did it through the council.

    So, on May 4th, this issue was raised, and the most principled of our deputies, Antonov, presented it. Probably, although the question of the relationship between the commissions and the council in the law is obscure, I would, to avoid unnecessary discussion, admit my mistake. But that’s not what the Duma wanted to think. For my trip to St. Petersburg, they had accumulated so much resentment against me that they wanted to take me down, and now they began to read moral lessons that had nothing to do with the matter.

    As I have to repeat often, combining the positions of the head and the chairman of the Duma is simply impossible! Two sessions of the Duma were talking about things unrelated to the matter, two precious sessions were wasted, and I couldn’t stop them just because they were scolding me.

    In retrospect (I say this now as I reread the journals and remain entirely objective), they attacked me completely unfairly. They wanted to dig up something, but they couldn’t or simply didn’t have the facts. This campaign was initiated by Mr. Iretsky and elaborated upon at length by Mr. Benckendorff (in general, whenever Mr. Benckendorff was in the Duma, he always spoke in the same spirit as Mr. Iretsky). Even deputies from whom I could expect an honest and clear view of things only talked about despotism. As an example of despotism, they cited facts of intolerance, subjectivity, and the voluntary imposition of my opinion, but not a single fact of despotism. Meanwhile, they accused me of abolishing the Duma and the council, although without either one, I did not dismiss a single guard, and in the expenses, I allowed myself much less than any council member. It was evident that the gentlemen deputies were very unanimous. Having nothing to accuse me of, they accused me of an imaginary crime.

    Another point of accusation revealed their cards even more. Conversations touched on the lawyer Andronikov and gradually shifted to the topic of new employees. They began to criticize me for not hiring locals. I explained to them the advantages of new, ideologically driven people over the local swamp for a long time, but alas! It was clear what they wanted…

    Finally, I said that we couldn’t continue like this. I decided to clarify the situation regarding the question of trust. I separated the question of trust from the question of the lawyer. We had a secret vote. All the ballots turned out to be white…

    But they didn’t want to give me that satisfaction! After all, even my personal enemies, both overt and covert, put in white ballots. And yet, all the ballots were white…

    Ah, are you starting rumors? So, you have full trust, and you’ll dance to our tune…

    In meetings where you have to defend yourself alone against everyone, nerves are stretched to the limit. Many unintentionally irritate you with unfairness and illogic. Others, smarter than you, deliberately try to provoke you. And here, the unfortunate combination of circumstances, an unrestrained character.

    After reading the reports of the meeting and supplementing my memory with everything that happened, I couldn’t help but admit that I often lost my composure and sometimes didn’t immediately realize my mistake (certainly not in despotism). I don’t like to carry my sin on my conscience without repentance. Therefore, in the next meeting, I confessed to the Duma that I wasn’t up to the task, explained this by the combination of the positions of the head and the chairman of the Duma, and proposed that the Duma initiate a responsible petition to make it official. As a head who had made many mistakes, I repeat, no law needs to be changed in the entire city charter as much as the law on the combination of positions.

    Chapter 2

    One of the unfortunate characteristics of our administration is that it rarely disagrees with the Duma. In the meeting when they were questioning me about my despotism, M.A. Belyavsky made a statement that surprised me. The question was raised about why he doesn’t attend the administration meetings frequently, and he replied:

    “Yes, I don’t like coming to the administration meetings often.”

    I didn’t expect such a remark from a person as balanced as M.A. These things are not said, and if said, they should be explained. It’s not right to cast shadows without providing facts. However, there was more awaiting me in the administration.

    When the board manages a vast budget with a two-million-ruble income and expenses, it’s natural to sign off on the accounts, trusting the department responsible for a particular area. In secret, we often signed off on each other’s accounts without reading them. It’s physically impossible to read everything. Some members of the administration, while continuing this system of trust among ourselves, started showing extreme distrust towards my accounts and refused to sign off on the accounts of my subordinates unless I orally explained them in detail during the meeting. I complied, albeit reluctantly. During these oral explanations, they questioned details, the conduct of investigations, the justification of expenses, the legality, and so on, before signing off. However, there was one occasion when they refused to sign off on a legitimate and necessary expense.

    At that time, there were only three members in the administration besides me. G. Safaraliev seemingly felt duty-bound to oppose me since the Duma was against me. M.A. Belyavsky appeared not to realize that these were nitpicking issues, and in this surge of attention to detail, he saw some good. He didn’t intend to apply this level of scrutiny solely to me. D.D. Arutyunov made jests and, in Russian terms, “showed off.” Perhaps you’ve seen how, in our common parlance, people “lecture” newlyweds? Well, he was “lecturing” me in a similar fashion. He seemed to derive pleasure from it. I think I shouldn’t have taken offense. After all, it was not my place to be ashamed then, just as it’s not now, but rather G. Arutyunov’s, who would likely prefer none of this had happened. At that time, I should have responded with complete disregard.

    Nevertheless, it bothered me, and I often contemplated resigning from the administration and leaving this group. Fortunately, I restrained myself, not only pretending that I didn’t notice their taunts but also showing readiness to satisfy their supposed legitimate curiosity.

    Afterward, I asked Mr. Arutyunov why he did that. With a smile and a blush, he said it was necessary to teach me a lesson and break me of my despotism.

    So, he used a rather unseemly pedagogical technique on me. This happened after a Duma meeting where I was “reprimanded.” We were sitting in the administration, with employees and correspondents present. A typical conversation about my despotism ensued. I demanded evidence. Mr. Arutyunov provided an unusual pretext. Here’s what happened:

    A few days before that, I had traveled on city business to Tiflis. We were entitled to receive 25 rubles per day for such trips, including expenses. I spent four days on the journey. Before leaving, I had taken an advance of 100 rubles. Upon my return, Legoshin, the temporary accountant, approached me and asked, “Alexander Ivanovich, what should we do about the advance?” I was busy and replied, “Write it off entirely as my expense. I was away for four days.” Every step and word of mine were scrutinized. Legoshin, the assistant accountant, not a newcomer but an old employee, detected or pretended to detect a breach of the administration’s rules and reported it to Mr. Arutyunov. Clearly, I had no intention of violating the administration’s rules. “Write off the advance” meant “prepare the necessary documents, have them signed by members of the administration, in other words, complete the required formalities.” This was clear and obvious to everyone then, and it’s clear now.

    But no, Mr. Arutyunov, without having any other examples of despotism, pointed to this incident. It seemed as though I had given an order without the administration’s approval, and in front of the employees. All of this was done to humble, sting, and humiliate me. We gradually began this slippery slope of mutual accusations, trying to trap each other. Matters were often delayed due to personal disputes, sometimes even decided against common sense, just to annoy me.

    Of course, I could have retaliated worse. As the chairman of the administration, I could have dug deeper into their affairs with more hope of finding wrongdoing, which they seemed to want to find in me. Fortunately, I never stooped to using such tactics, although I did entertain the idea a few times.

    Unfortunately, I couldn’t refrain from another mistake—I was too hot-tempered. There’s no need to explain how detrimental that can be in all aspects. The more I got worked up, the more it pleased my opponents. They repeated their attacks more and more frequently, and I became more heated. The evil grew.

    How difficult it was to work with the administration, and on top of that, how much power the vocal members of the administration had over the others, is illustrated by the following anecdote: Once, the administration agreed with me on a certain decision regarding water supply matters. I presented this administration resolution to a commission. Kamill-bek Safaraliev was a member of this commission. In the evening, he was present at the commission meeting. The majority of the commission was against my proposal, and G. Safaraliev also voted against it. Later, I asked him: “Why did you vote for me in the morning and against me in the evening?”

    “Yes, you see, the members were against it; I couldn’t…”

    This “I couldn’t” is, in my opinion, a classic example. How can you persuade people with the force of arguments and logic! It’s clear that losing the Duma meant losing the administration as well. When I twice compelled the administration to comply with me in the case of Guseinbekov and Dr. K by appealing to private meetings with the members, they yielded to me. It was then that I realized how wrong I had been in the Guseinbekov case. Even in the case of K, where I was undoubtedly right, I shouldn’t have forced the administration; I should have achieved my goals through other means. It’s obvious. Instead, I depersonalized the administration, making it submit to public opinions expressed by the gentlemen from the Duma. And then, I was surprised when this depersonalized administration, having submitted to them, turned against me when it suited the Duma. You reap what you sow.

    This is the best explanation I can provide for the members of the administration’s behavior in relation to the case.

    Chapter 3

    On the basis of educating me about the administration so that I wouldn’t be a despot, an ugly phenomenon occurred that cannot be explained or apologized for. It has stained me with much blood, and God knows how much harm it has caused itself and dragged along with it.

    At the time when public opinion about me as a despot persecuting the people of Baku was formed, when all parties and nationalities in the Duma united on this issue, it was natural for them to unite against me and the administration. One person, Velavsky, although he also accepted the idea of my despotism in the Duma, did not unite with anyone and seemed to remain more or less independent in his opinions. However, an alliance was formed between Messrs. Safaraliyev and Arutyunov. At this time, Mr. Makedonsky was elected and confirmed. Was there any hope that he would not “join” as well? Of course, there wasn’t. And so, this administrative majority – Messrs. Safaraliyev, Makedonsky, and Arutyunov – were in charge of affairs. But they acted diplomatically. Without revealing their cards too much, they prepared to deliver a strong and impactful blow. And they did.

    I have already mentioned that our plan with Mr. Lagovsky was as follows: while he familiarized himself with the case, we would find people for the positions of district architects. First, two new vacancies were created in the Duma, and then they would be filled in place of the old ones. A long list of local candidates who offered their services was compiled. Mr. Lagovsky and I settled on two candidates: one, a well-known and ideologically-minded land technician, who was forced to change his position in the Zemstvo, and the other, an engineer in communications with many years of experience in Siberia and excellent recommendations. The new member of the administration, Makedonsky, was in charge of the department, giving Mr. Lagovsky complete freedom for now. It was obviously not possible to appoint architects without consulting the head of the construction department. So, I said to Mr. Makedonsky:
    — It’s time, Boris Alexandrovich, to appoint architects for the two vacancies.
    — Yes, of course! I will report to the administration tomorrow. But in the meantime, we need to gather a complete list of those who want to join us.
    — We already have suitable candidates with A.F.!
    — Yes, but you know, it would be awkward. People will say that not everyone was considered. This is necessary for the members. You know it yourself. We always need to be careful with them from the outside.

    I almost literally led the conversation. The impression was such that the member of the administration would have nothing against our candidates, but that external decorum had to be maintained.

    Meanwhile, two names were circulating in the air. When a Muhammedan finished or finishes his course at the higher educational institution, his right to a position in our administration is considered indisputable. Both I and Lagovsky were approached by Mr. G. and told that he had just completed the course at the technological institute in the chemical department. I had initially told him that we didn’t need chemists, and since he was asking for some kind of work, we parted ways. It was clear that all Tatars wanted to place G. somewhere.

    But the thought that Mr. G. would ever seek a position as a district architect or that the possibility of such an occurrence would be entertained by a person who should have a close connection to city affairs as a member of the administration never crossed my mind and could not have. Think about it: a chemist, without practical experience, fresh out of school, and a district architect (who also drafts projects) for a large city with especially complex architectural work. There is absolutely no common ground.

    Another name was in the air. This name belonged to Mr. T. K., a young architect who had served in the city as an architect for two years. Everyone, his colleagues, the administration, and the members, knew that he was not up to the position. Mr. Lagovsky, in order not to offend him, suggested closing this temporary position. So, Mr. T. K. no longer served in the administration. However, as he personally believed, he was evidently up to the position, so he applied to be appointed as a district architect.

    Whether someone else mentioned these two gentlemen as candidates for the new position, or we talked about them ourselves with Mr. Lagovsky as the most unlikely candidates, I don’t know, but for some reason, I was particularly concerned about them.

    The administration gathered in full. Lagovsky was present. There were 14 applicants. I read the list and named the candidates for the chief engineer position. I had previously suggested considering the list by a process of elimination, i.e., crossing out those for whom no one would speak. I began to read the list. I deliberately skipped our candidates and Messrs. G. and T. K. There were among the others people who could be considered, albeit reluctantly. But all unanimously voted against them. Four people remained. I was sure that some would speak up for G. and T. K., but I never expected what happened.

    While only Mr. Makedonsky spoke against me Kamil bey Safaraliyev remained silent, and Arutyunov also remained silent, not lifting his eyes.

    I repeated the merits of our candidates once more, and then called one of them. M. A. Belyavsky voted for him; the other three voted against. The two of us were left in the minority. Regarding Messrs. G. and T. K., the opposite happened: we two voted against, and they were voted for. From that moment, Messrs. G. and T. K. were considered invited to serve the city.

    I looked at Lagovsky.

    — “It seems that you and I don’t belong here, Alexander Fedorovich?”
    — “Yes, what kind of work can we do after this?”

    Nevertheless, both of us remained. And to this day, I don’t know if I did the right thing by staying. The incompetence of the collegium was so clearly expressed in this appointment that I couldn’t maintain any further hope of productive work. Finally, I must admit that the work simply became unpleasant.

    In the evening, Mr. Lagovsky and I met at my place. Some others from our group joined us. We decided to continue the fight.

    But the reader should not think that I held my position for personal reasons. On the contrary, I would have been happy to leave. It’s pleasant to fight with an open enemy, it’s pleasant to fight for an idea, but as it became clear recently, fighting with people capable of ruining their city’s affairs, just as they ruined the construction work, is not interesting, only exhausting on the nervous system. Moreover, their fight was not about the work, and certainly not about the idea, but about securing positions for themselves.

    We talked about other matters that I could still endure, for example, about water. Could I really abandon the water project just when we had managed to convince the Duma to initiate a proper investigation, and when we had just received official approval for that investigation?

    We also discussed the people I had recruited to serve the city. It was assumed that there would be persecution against them. Many would have to leave. Finally, it was said that it would be unworthy to leave as a result of the actions of three individuals, even if they formed the majority in our collegium.

    We decided, in any case, to keep fighting, and to fight to the end. I had to bring our dispute with the administration to the attention of the Duma. Although the appointment of those engaged in the administration’s affairs fell within their purview, I had to request the Duma to rule that architects were invited not by any other means but through the recommendation of the chief engineer.

    Naturally, it took a great effort on my part to motivate myself to work after this. My hands dropped. The Construction Department was condemned. Any interest in what was happening there had died.

    Until the issue was resolved by the Duma and Alexander F. Lagovsky, I remained.

    Chapter 4

    This question caused quite a stir in the press and private discussions. It was necessary to clarify it as clearly as possible. Several days before the Duma session, I convened a joint meeting of several commissions, almost as numerous as the Duma itself. This meeting was characterized by rare unanimity among the gentlemen of the Duma. Antonov, a Duma member, said that it couldn’t have been a worse choice from among the 14 candidates, but… still, the administration had acted correctly. Both the commission meeting and the Duma session maintained a logical approach. They said that the situation with the chief engineer and his imposed assistants was impossible; they said that it was impossible to force the head to accept people from whom he had just separated with great difficulty. But despite all this, the sympathies of everyone were on the side of the administration’s majority.

    Everyone clearly stated that they wanted Bakuvians, not newcomers. Everything came down to a shared idea: the difficulty of finding good people in Baku for a small salary and the benefits of the city, everyone… give us Bakuvians and only them.

    It was painful and offensive to see how these people, to whom the management of the city’s affairs was entrusted, resisted people who had come from outside to take care of their own city. They should have been watching over us to ensure we didn’t engage in nepotism, but instead, they were destroying the city’s affairs just to have the opportunity to place their own people.

    Two incidents occurred during the commission meeting. When discussing how the administration had chosen the worst from among the 14 candidates, Antonov concluded that we couldn’t agree even with the appointment of two “Kozlovtsi.”

    This enraged me. These gentlemen, who were placing their relatives, acquaintances, and expelled employees in city affairs, had the audacity to accuse me of appointing “Kozlovtsi”… In reality, I refuted the insinuation made by Antonov and said that in the entire administration, there were only two or three clerks who were acquaintances from Kozlov, and no more. I had never seen the rest of them in person. I called those who spread rumors about me vile gossips and slanderers.

    These blunt expressions (directed, of course, not at the present individuals but at unknown ones) were severely criticized in the press. On this, I can only say one thing: go ahead, take my place and preach English stoicism, not in England, but in Baku.

    Another incident was even more interesting. Mr. Khatisov, a popular figure in Baku and the chairman of the Baku Branch of the Imperial Technical Society, among other things, stated that even if we invite good technicians from outside, they will quickly be lured away in Baku by offering them better rewards. “After all, you and I,” he added, “will leave if they give us a few extra thousand.”

    I stopped him and asked him to speak only for himself, assuring him that I wouldn’t sell myself even for large sums of money and that I wouldn’t abandon the cause I serve. I pointed out that there are others who are also not for sale, and I had tried to attract them to Baku.

    Then came the famous phrase from Khatisov:
    — Excuse me! (Me: I apologize) I don’t mean you personally. I judge by myself. Maybe out of a million, you can find one who won’t leave for better financial conditions. And that one will be the bigger person.

    What a magnificent, wonderful word… How could I respond, other than asking him to include me, a sinner, among his “bigger people,” without making me smarter in the Hatysovian way.

    A talented and popular man publicly declares that he can be bought almost at an auction, and all remain silent, all sympathies, even if hidden, are on his side—this is Baku and the Bakuvians. Even the inedible lychee has been abolished.

    The formula that went through the commission was also proposed by Mr. Khatisov and was as follows: to declare the procedure for appointing architects lawful, correct, and not subject to cancellation, but for the future, to recommend to the administration to consider the opinion of the chief engineer when appointing technicians.

    I asked Lagovsky if he would be satisfied with such a formula. He replied negatively. Then I also said that I was not satisfied. It was felt that the Duma would be the same.

    But my situation became even more complicated before the Duma session. The day before, the head office decided to abolish guild investigations. Clearly, there was no time to lose, and the next day, this matter also had to be passed through the Duma.

    On the same day, I convened the water supply commission and stated that we needed a special executive body for conducting these investigations, that the water supply commission was too numerous, and therefore, not sufficiently mobile.

    The commission unanimously agreed with me but raised the question of who would lead this small executive commission. They began to say that I was burdened with other duties, that we needed a special person who would dedicate themselves entirely to this important matter, and so on. In short, the majority argued for my removal from the investigation work and for the appointment of a special paid or unpaid chairman of the future three-member executive commission.

    So, the water supply issue joined the architectural one. They wanted to remove me from water investigations, which I had initiated, and from investigations that the Duma had long refused, and the resolution of which had cost me so much effort.

    As I went to the Duma session, I was convinced that it would be my last, and I prepared a corresponding speech. The press also anticipated a crisis. “The Caspian” gloated, while the two newspapers that sympathized with me appealed to civic courage and urged not to abandon the battlefield.

    Oh, this civic courage! Because of it, I suffered in the Baku quagmire for a long time, to the point of losing my health, and I gave my enemies the pleasant satisfaction of hinting that I held onto the money received from my service. I had never known a more difficult internal struggle than when internal dignity tells you it’s time to leave, but civic courage compels you to stay. This struggle is hard because there is no objective criterion, no measure of these feelings, and subjective sensations—oh, how flexible they are in both directions.

    The Duma hall was packed with people long before the session; they crowded in neighboring rooms and even climbed onto the windowsills.

    Not without agitation, I put on my chain.

    I proceeded with the water issue. Several things happened. Some focused on how to organize the matter, while others tried to avoid discussing it. The main attack came from Mr. Iretsky, who had always opposed me only in crucial moments when there was hope of overthrowing me. He began by talking about the futility of investigations, even though he started his speech by saying that since the Duma had decided to conduct guild investigations, there was no turning back. All of this was said eloquently but without evidence, all of it was said for the Black Hundred.

    Then, to the approval of many, Mr. Iretsky started talking again about my despotism, claiming that I had “forced” the Duma to accept the investigations.

    When I asked him what exactly I had “forced” the Duma to do, he replied:

    — Hypnosis.

    — Hypnosis, — repeated the vowels Unanov and Vachyants. This word was supposed to be my greatest triumph. When those who disagreed with me complained that I had hypnotized the Duma, and when this hypnosis continued in the water matter and now, it meant that I wasn’t entirely useless, meaning I wasn’t a despot.

    Both despotism and hypnosis were discussed as if they were serious matters.

    Talks about a new chairman started pouring in. The most intelligent vowels among the Armenians were in favor of a new face. They cited the difficulty of the work and the fact that I was overwhelmed with other duties as reasons.

    What could I say about myself? I said that if they could find a suitable person better than me, I would gladly yield to them and hand over the work with enthusiasm. But for now, I don’t see such a person among the vowels. This may not have been entirely diplomatic, but you can’t hide a needle in a haystack. The truth of what I said was felt by both the vowels and myself. After lengthy discussions, with 25 in favor and 8 against, I remained the chairman of the new commission.

    To prevent me from dominating the commission, all members except for the vowel Gadjinsky, whom I requested to appoint, were chosen from those who did not sympathize with my water projects, even Hasan bey Melikov, who openly admitted that he would obstruct the work. But it was still a victory in the main Baku matter.

    I regained confidence in my abilities despite the composition of the commission.

    It was not a small victory. Open enemies protested. But it was felt that many, if not all, of those who spoke in favor of me in the Duma were against me.

    Nevertheless, I won. During the break, Lagovsky told me that he had found a modus vivendi with Mr. Makedonsky. The incompetence of the two newly appointed architects was expected to become so apparent within two to three months that they would not have to serve for long. As for the future, Mr. Makedonsky promised to propose candidates for administration only with the agreement of Mr. Lagovsky. This formula was accepted, and Lagovsky was satisfied with it. So why should I break a lance?

    The victory in the water issue clouded my judgment, and in the distance, it seemed to me that we might have the last word even in the construction department. Alas! I was wrong about that. But the architectural conflict was resolved, at least for now.

    Although, not entirely. Messrs. G. and T. K. were not confirmed in their positions as governors for a long time. Finally, in the summer, while resting on the Volga, I read in the newspapers that they were not confirmed. Obviously, the governor, convinced of their complete inadequacy, wanted to help me in my struggle with the administration.

    However, I could not agree with this. Firstly, such a path is always slippery. Today, unsuitable officials may not be confirmed, and tomorrow, the governor, perhaps a different one, may not confirm good ones. Secondly, I was afraid of the accusation, even if unjust, that I had requested the governor to do this. Favoritism prevailed, and the majority of the administration favored their own appointees. Mr. Safaraliyev went to the governor to request the cancellation of his decision. Upon returning from vacation, I made the same request. Somehow, the governor lifted his veto late in the autumn, and our staff increased in numbers, if nothing else.

    Thus ended the joint campaign of three members of the administration against me. It harmed the construction work in the Baku self-government. It was a free and painful blow to the Russian cities handed over to the mercy of a bunch of people capable of killing an industry to spite a comrade.

    The psychology of each of these gentlemen is interesting individually.

    I believe that Mr. Safaraliyev was the most sincere among them. I wouldn’t be surprised if he still believes that he not only fulfilled his duty but also demonstrated proper civic courage.

    Mr. Arutyunov initiated the matter (I think). But I also think that he would prefer this page of his activities to be erased now. I later had a heart-to-heart talk with him. He admitted that out of 14 candidates, the worst ones were intentionally selected, and this was done solely to “teach me a lesson.” That’s why I called it a pedagogical move.

    As for Mr. Makedonsky, he readily acknowledged this mistake to me and others and verbally promised to correct it, but in practice, he did not rectify it.

    Chapter 5

    Before moving on to the next session of 1903-1904, I must mention two more matters related to the Duma. They elected a revision commission. There are probably no cities in Russia, except for Baku, where there hasn’t been a revision for three years. There used to be a revision commission, but by the grace of God, its protocols were never seen. They remained in the administration’s affairs. The reviser from birth, Hasan-bek Melikov, accused the administration of intentionally concealing these valuable documents. One of them came into my hands. Nothing more colorless, tedious, and bureaucratic than these protocols can be imagined. It was more about nitpicking on clerical errors than actual revision. However, these gentlemen could have found a lot of material for revision in the administration if they knew where to look. Only Mr. Melikov could accuse the former administration of intentionally hiding revision protocols. The Duma should thank the administration for sparing its time.

    I had long argued in the Duma that it would be desirable for the administration itself to have a revision commission. We talked about it and finally elected 12 capable individuals. It took a long time to persuade some of them. Some were convinced. The hidden leader of the opposition, Iretsky, played a role in this. He spoke fine words about how the revision commission should not focus on finding faults but should assist the administration. The words were beautiful, but the underlying message was different: well, brother, now brace yourself!

    The selected composition turned out to be diverse: three or four intelligent deputies with Iretsky at the helm, the inevitable presence of Mr. Melikov and Mr. Hajiyev, and the rest were mostly there to support the statements of the latter.

    Seven members immediately appeared at the meeting. The remaining five never attended, including the intellectuals. They began with Chairman Iretsky at the helm, surrounded by great secrecy, made a couple of visits to hospitals and clinics, and it all ended with Mr. Iretsky submitting a resignation statement. Apparently, he didn’t expect anything good from this work.

    Then they elected several more members, including Ahmed bey Aghayev, a comrade of Mr. Melikov from “The Caspian,” to assist Mr. Melikov. A Russian deputy, Mr. Raichenko, an old retired official from the provincial government, unexpectedly became the chairman. This choice only demonstrated the power of the “The Caspian” group.

    From that moment, the entire revision process boiled down to one thing: catching the administration, or even better, me, in some mistake, and, if possible, accusing us of misconduct. As we would see later, such an accusation was indeed made.

    In May 1903, celebrations were held for the 200th anniversary of St. Petersburg. All the heads of Russia gathered, but probably no one was sent off with the kind of conversations we had in our Baku Duma.

    While landowners, writers, and lawyers have some organizations that allow them to gather and share ideas, city activists have nothing like that. Each city lives its own secluded life, benefiting only from its own experience. For a provincial deputy, I understood the significance of congresses. It was clear to me that I should strive to go to St. Petersburg.

    It never occurred to me that there could be obstacles. We had to discuss the trip in the Duma regarding the address and gifts. The address I drafted was accepted by the majority, and instead of a gift, it was decided to establish a Baku scholarship at one of the capital’s secondary educational institutions. The address was quite ordinary. There were quite disturbing rumors about the fate of the municipal administration in St. Petersburg, as a new charter was being developed. In the address, the Baku Duma wished to triumph in St. Petersburg over the currents contrary to those that formed the basis of urban self-government.

    When discussing the address and gifts, I also raised the issue of the delegation, believing that I would be appointed as a deputy. When someone mentioned my name, Deputy Topchibashev remarked that I was a busy man, and it would be better to choose two Baku deputies who had been living in the capital due to their affairs.

    I understood that Mr. Topchibashev wanted to poke fun at me. Apparently, he always believed that the Duma doesn’t assert its authority when it raises the dignity of its head high, but rather when, on the contrary, it humbles him, demonstrating the right to treat him as a hireling. However, I couldn’t adopt this viewpoint and replied that I would go anyway.

    — “Even if the Duma expresses its disapproval?”
    — “Even if the Duma expresses its disapproval.”
    — “How come?”
    — “Just like that. I’ll take leave from the governor and go because being the head and not being in St. Petersburg when all the heads gather there, I consider it impossible, both for the dignity of Baku’s self-government and for myself personally.”

    Then voices were heard in favor of me being a deputy.
    — “And whose account will you travel on?” a voice asked.
    — “If the Duma allocates money, then on the Duma’s account, if not, then on my own. I don’t care. It’s a matter of about three hundred rubles.”

    The Duma delegated me. The issue of money was settled by the Duma in my absence. When I returned, the issue was discussed under the chairmanship of the vice-chairman.

    In St. Petersburg, I experienced a bitter disappointment. I expected an exchange of ideas, opportunities to meet colleagues, and realized to my sadness that there was nothing to exchange and no one to exchange with. The “zemtsy” (landowners) exist, but there are no “gorodtsy” (city dwellers). Apparently, there is nothing to search for what our language hasn’t even found a corresponding word for.

    I was hoping to learn municipal eloquence. I listened with rapt attention to the addresses of other cities but didn’t hear anything. Even our humble address, which would have been one of the palest addresses of Russian zemstvos, seemed too lively to some.

    With a sense of sadness, I returned to my homeland. In St. Petersburg, the police brought me an eleven-year-old girl. She turned out to be a girl from Baku, the daughter of a shoemaker, who had graduated from the local school. She had come to enter the gymnasium. Someone had directed her straight to the minister. The police escorted her to me, and I, in turn, brought her back to Baku. She eventually entered the gymnasium and achieved her goal. After this, you can’t say that we have not produced another Lomonosov.

    Chapter 6

    From the very first session of the 1903-1904 Duma, the mood of the Duma became clear. I was literally being harassed. I remember one incident: since we had moved to a new house that was far from being finished, we had to hold the sessions in a relatively small room because the Duma hall was lagging behind in terms of renovation. Meanwhile, the public was rushing to attend the sessions. The Duma agendas were full of sensational headlines, predicting a storm. And the public loved a storm. Most of those who wished to attend couldn’t fit into the room. I either ordered the benches of the deputies to be moved, or the guard did it themselves to make more room for the public. However, it was still crowded in the aisles. A fat man couldn’t pass through, so two or three sitting had to stand up to let him through. Then, Mr. Hasan bey Melikov got up and complained that the deputies were crowded. Five minutes later, someone else entered, making a new complaint about neglecting the deputies. A murmur arose shortly after. They complained that the public was deliberately given preference over the deputies.

    But this notion of the deputies about themselves as owners, which I mentioned earlier, was manifested not only in words but also in action. A deputy (not everyone, of course) considered himself entitled to enter any department, approach any member of the administration, or any employee and demand immediate attention to his personal matter. It had become common practice that for a deputy, all doors, all desks, and all books were open at all times. A deputy’s business or the business of a person for whom the deputy was advocating was dealt with immediately. Land matters could linger for years, but as soon as a deputy intervened, it was put on the agenda out of turn and promptly resolved. That was the order of things. I must admit that initially, I couldn’t completely overturn this order. Deputies would come to me, demand their business, and much of it was resolved promptly. Only then could I begin to oppose this order when I felt support from the third element.

    Deputies, some more daring than others, would often encounter difficulties with officials. Some of the better officials stood up to the deputies and told them that they had to wait their turn like any other citizen. At first, they came to me to complain, and I couldn’t help but justify the officials. This gave me confidence, and gradually, all the privileges of the deputies in the head’s office disappeared. They diminished, though they did not vanish entirely, it seems, in the offices of the members of the administration. The air gradually cleared. The masters of ceremonies remained in words at the Duma sessions, but the ushers became afraid and acknowledged only one master – the nameless Duma.

    Naturally, such a break from the old order did not sit well with the majority. It was not even well-received by the educated deputies. Only the best understood that I was right and did not try to influence matters differently than in the Duma or its committees. However, those who previously had enormous influence on matters only indirectly, resented me to the fullest extent and even exhibited behavior that was downright indecent. I am talking about the editorial board of “The Caspian.” After the death of one of the Muslim deputies, Ahmed bey Aghayev, the chief of the bureau after Mr. Topchubashov and Mr. Melikov, became a candidate for the deputies. These gentlemen began an incredible campaign against me not only in the columns of their newspaper but also in the Duma. To clarify, in the second half of 1903, Mr. Topchubashov rarely attended the Duma due to illness, so he had to launch his attacks against me only two or three times.

    Almost every session began with Hasan bey Melikov making statements, either about the inconvenience of the bench arrangements or about how the cold in the room was preventing the deputies from working, and so on. Furthermore, it was rare for Hasan bey Melikov to stick to the topic at hand. Every trivial question was examined not only in terms of form but also in terms of its historical and other aspects. The only perspective forgotten by Hasan bey Melikov was the truthful one. Everything boiled down to the idea that Novikov was an unfit leader, and that the administration needed to be put on trial.

    When you present a report or a resolution from the school committee or the water supply committee, Deputy Hasan bey Melikov would invariably object and begin to argue that either the committee had an unsatisfactory composition, according to his opinion, or that the decision was precisely the opposite of what I was presenting. He was not embarrassed if he received unequivocal refutation from other committee members.

    One very difficult characteristic of Mr. Melikov was that he saw evil and abuse in everything, especially in places where there was the most good. As a result of inheritance, during my tenure, I received two cases against officials, Messrs. Vasiliev and Terentyev, for abuse. Lengthy interrogations were conducted, lengthy discussions took place in the Duma, and it all ended with Messrs. Vasiliev and Terentyev being declared not guilty. It was a tough situation for the officials of the self-governing bodies. They had served with loyalty and honesty, and suddenly, someone would want to slander them, accusing them of being thieves. To remain silent was offensive. Going to court, on the other hand, was, firstly, a lengthy procedure, and secondly, the person who had slandered you, despite the obviousness of the slander and the absurdity of the accusation, would seek refuge in the bosom of the city’s father, who cared about his offspring, and thanks to that, he would come out of the water dry. He rejoiced over the common good…

    I must give credit to Mr. Melikov. He had two qualities. He was an indefatigable member of all possible committees, first in line and the last to leave. Perhaps he was motivated by a desire to find my or the government’s Achilles’ heels, or maybe he saw a reporter from “The Caspian” in me. Nonetheless, being a constant member of all committees was valuable.

    The second undeniable quality of his was that he always spoke about the matter at hand without digressing. He spoke intelligently, and I must admit that I listened to his speeches with some pleasure. You could see that all of this was untrue, that he wanted to cause trouble for you or someone else, that he wasn’t seeking the benefit of the cause but rather pursuing his own goal. Nevertheless, I must give him credit; you could listen to him without making a face.

    However, Deputy Aghayev was absolutely right when he said that I made faces when he spoke. I’m a sinful person; I made faces! No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t shake off this bad habit, even after his comment. But, my God! take all of Mr. Melikov’s malice, combine it with a complete hostility to logic, and you get Mr. Aghayev’s speech. You never know when he will object, what he will say, or where his uncontrollable desire to provoke you will take him. One stony person alone could resist making a face, but I’m far from stony. But enough about that; we will meet these gentlemen when we consider individual cases.

    For me, the most important thing was not their attitude toward me. I always believed that an organ like “The Caspian” and deputies like Melikov and Aghayev were very useful for the cause. Evil, especially unfounded evil, should provoke a positive reaction. Therefore, for me, the key question was not about these gentlemen, who received nothing but gratitude for their behavior towards me. I needed to know how much influence they had on the less cultured part of the Muslim-deputy community. I felt that there was no real basis for the campaign against me by my enemies. This is evidenced by the insignificance of my sins, which they inflated almost to crimes, and also by the fact that, without any reason for attack, they created reasons.

    However, in their newspaper, hints began to appear, among other things, about the dismissal of Guseinbekov, implying that I was pursuing “bekovs” and “oglys.” And if they dared to print this, could one think that they wouldn’t use this poisoned weapon in private conversations? Clearly, a campaign against me was being prepared on this basis. And indeed, I became convinced that the Muslims were against me. Individual unfriendly phrases from deputies who had previously remained silent, votes where all Tatars stood as one despite differing opinions, showed that many of the previously silent ones were consciously armed against me. Additionally, a tightly-knit and disciplined circle had formed. The whips called for an inspection of their ranks, and a loud whisper of “vstavaite” (stand up) signaled. “Durun ayağa,” meaning “stand up,” was one of the few Tatar words I learned. It was often heard in the Duma.

    To complete the picture, I will mention Mehti bey Sultanov, also a deputy, meticulous, articulate, and not involved in any committees. He was naturally anti-authority, against any expenditure. As an interpreter from Tatar to Russian in the provincial or police administration, he always deliberately tried to be ruder towards me and to emphasize his role as the boss towards the subordinate. Public comments of a managerial nature, such as that the administration and the chairman were not paying attention to whether the deputies were cold or uncomfortable, that summons were poorly distributed, and similar remarks of a directive nature. Mr. Sultanov did not stand up or speak on rare issues, but one could always predict what he would say. Averse to any expenses, he believed that life was better before doctors, architects, and accountants came along. If the hatred of the accountant could be understood, as she uncovered some things, one had to agree that Mr. Sultanov also spoke from the heart when it came to doctors, as he believed that local quacks called “Akimki” were much better at helping…

    Some Russians also joined this faction.

    Apart from the chairman of the audit committee, Raichenko, who always voted with the Muslims, there was also the Russian deputy Nikitin, a seasoned and quite remarkable deputy. He was born many years ago in Baku and spoke Tatar undoubtedly better than Russian. Always the first in the Duma hall, he often went out to smoke, but not to the smoking room, always to the front. He frequently spoke in the Duma but did so in a way that made him rarely understandable. However, no one tried to understand him, not only I but also the previous chairmen. He always spoke passionately and always voted against me.

    However, he was to blame. Since he spoke in a way that people understood, at least if not the whole speech, at least one word. They were talking about street lamps with house numbers that were supposed to be hung in front of the houses. On these lamps, it was planned to display the house number according to the city-wide numbering system. This would have been very useful for telegrams. For example, instead of “Baku, Vodovoznaya, Tarayev’s house,” it would be sufficient to write “Baku, 243.” In other words, the proposal was a good one, but the homeowner deputies rejected it, as it would have cost them a few rubles per year. However, that wasn’t the point. Deputy Nikitin, strongly opposing the street lamps, which he saw as burdensome for homeowners, compared the future houses decorated with lamps to whorehouses. He used such a derogatory term, which is not uttered even by polite people, both publicly and in private. I could have stopped him, but I was embarrassed. It would have been even worse to draw attention to it. But that’s not all. Mr. Nikitin was so concerned about the issue of street lamps that he mentioned it a second time and again used the derogatory term, loudly and distinctly. I remained silent again; it was embarrassing to dwell on it in the presence of women in the audience.

    In the committees, Mr. Nikitin did not work. Previously, however, I learned from the history of the water supply project that he was a member of the water supply committee and did not settle some financial matters, for which he received a reprimand from the Duma. I don’t know if it was after this or for other reasons, but the committees were closed to him.

    These were the limits of my active enemies from the Tatar-Russian faction. The others expressed their sympathies only through standing up during open voting and sitting down during closed voting.

    Messrs. Metsky and Benckendorff stood apart, the former being an enemy who had concealed his enmity for a long time but then dropped the mask, and the latter an enemy who hardly knew why. But more about them later.

    Chapter 7

    I have already mentioned that attacks, especially baseless ones, should elicit a reaction. There was a reaction, but it was largely weak. The entire 1902-1903 session, as I described, did not exhibit strong partisanship. Initially, during the first half of the session, the entire Duma supported me. However, during the second half of the session, everyone turned against me, accusing me of avoiding local people. There was no unified support.

    The differentiation was inevitable in the fall of 1903. And when the Muslims rallied against me, did the Armenians rally behind me? No, they did not! There was no enmity, but there was also no unified support. I’m not even talking about Armenians close to the Tatars, just as I didn’t mention Tatars distant from “The Caspian” (there are such). All centers often decide the fate of assemblies. So did this center. Two families, the Safaraliyev and Aivazov families, most likely played the decisive roles throughout. Each of them had one member in the administration (Kamil bey Safaraliyev and Makedonsky). Even though the sentiment in the last half of the year made the existence of the center difficult, given that life itself called for the consolidation of extreme elements, these gentlemen still held my fate in their hands. Mr. Safaraliyev apparently became timid and never spoke in the Duma, nor did he participate in committees, but his influence was felt. When, for example, a major incident occurred, everyone would talk to each other trying to find out: “What about Ismail bey?” Mr. Aivazov was more outspoken and would speak in the Duma, although with fragmented and sharp words. He participated in the finance committee, and his influence was undeniable.

    If the majority of Muslims are native Baku residents, then the Armenians are all immigrants from Shusha, Shemakha, and other cities. Only Melikov (Ambartsum) and the Aivazov brothers – A. and S. – are native Baku Armenians. For the Aivazovs, this serves as a major advantage in the eyes of the Muslims. This closeness to the Tatars is keenly felt during elections and everywhere else. Ismail bey Safaraliyev also seems to be closer to the Armenians than other Tatars. For example, on January 6, during the Armenian main holiday of Epiphany, I encountered the name of a Tatar among those who donated to the Armenian charitable society – Safaraliyev’s name. The same gentlemen, Safaraliyev and Aivazov, were directors of the mutual credit society. And who doesn’t know the power of credit? Sometimes I received direct orders from the Duma center. This happened with Mr. G., a Muslim, whom the administration selected to be an architect. Kamil bey indirectly told me, “You should give Mr. G. a position.”

    — “Why,” I said, “do we need to?”
    — “We need to! Just trust me.”
    — “I don’t recognize any ‘need’ like that.”
    — “Well, it’s your choice. It’ll be worse.”
    And it did get worse. Mr. G. was appointed, and all my hopes of doing something in the construction department collapsed.

    Similar orders also came from the Armenian part of the center. Once, Mr. Makedonsky came to me and said that we needed to give a position to a certain Mr. P.

    — “Who is this Mr. P.?”
    — “He’s a highly respected official who served for nearly thirty years in a government institution (he mentions the institution’s name). Now, due to an unfair audit, he has lost his position.”

    Based on the location of his service, I inferred that he was a former colleague of one of the retirees from the center’s gate.

    — “But there are no positions available. He won’t accept a lower position than a clerk.”
    — “Yes, but there will likely be an opening soon. He needs our help.”

    It was clear that they were ready to dismiss someone to make room for Mr. P.

    — “Well, Boris Alexandrovich, you should know that as long as I’m in charge, Mr. P. won’t get a position here. The administration has already distanced itself from pensioners, and you’re suggesting we take in another one. First of all, we won’t dismiss anyone because of your friend. Secondly, if a vacancy were to accidentally open up, we wouldn’t fill it with Mr. P. It’s clear that the center doesn’t forgive such things.”

    This example of Mr. P. illustrates how tightly the center was united and how it wielded influence. A few days after my conversation with Mr. Makedonsky, Natanson told me:

    — “You know, A. I., today Kamil bey told me that the financial part can pass through the Duma under one condition.”
    — “How? Do you still have hope after two failures?”
    — “Yes. He told me that this reorganization could be carried out if we appoint fewer positions and, on the condition that we put Mr. Kardashev at the helm, as we wanted, and Mr. P., some bureaucrat.”
    I recounted my conversation with Mr. Makedonsky to Mark Andreievich. This is what the fate of the best projects in the Duma depended on. Didn’t such cases give me the right to consider the center almost omnipotent? It was indeed so. All the trouble emanated from there. The administration’s habit of fully exercising their authority couldn’t help but clash with the resistance of a leader who wanted to act on his own. Strengthening my resolve, I sometimes had to obey orders. Let me provide an example. We were already in complete discord. Mr. Makedonsky called me on the phone and said that “we need to” remove a personal matter from the agenda at the next Duma session. I replied that in my opinion, “we don’t need to.”
    — “Alexander Grigorievich Aivazov is asking for it.”
    — “Let him ask. I won’t remove it.”
    — “He wants to talk to you right now.”
    Aivazov’s voice is heard on the phone. He asks to postpone the matter because Ismail bey Safaraliyev is ill. Although I knew perfectly well that the issue was not about illness but about their disagreement, and that the illness of one member, a very rare occurrence in the Duma, cannot be a reason to postpone a matter, I still deferred it. I did it because I knew very well that if I appointed the matter in order, there would be an outcry in the Duma, and in the end, I would still have to give in. I felt that they would achieve their goal. It was better to agree without unnecessary noise.
    In conclusion, there was an opposition group of “Caspianists” who were not concerned about determining the truth and were not constrained by means as long as they could harm me. Perhaps they genuinely believed that by not complying with them, I was offending all of Islam. This would be the best explanation for them. My personal enemies and competitors joined this group.

    Then there was a group from the center, disciplined and more balanced, but in the end, they also became hostile to me. This was the most “Baku” faction—the former supporters of employees to the administration. They came to resent me when they lost the opportunity to send all kinds of people into the city who had nowhere else to go.

    The independent members, those who saw the difference between their business and the public, were not united. I remember the case of Asribeyov, who was outraged by Mr. Agaev’s speech and responded to him in kind for his services. I remember Mr. Unanov (he tried to defend me), objecting to Mr. Benkendorf’s personal attacks against me, which were not the right way to behave, especially when he himself had caused the city a loss of 250,000 rubles through his negligence. There’s nothing more to mention. In these two instances, there was no support or defense for me whatsoever.

    Chapter 8

    At this time, there was a significant shift in my sympathies towards Armenians. Previously, Armenians were people who enjoyed the same rights as me, Russians. During the times of Loris-Melikov and Delyanov, they even had certain privileges in some ministries compared to me, a Russian. Velichko took care to diminish their rights to some extent. Armenian schools were closed, which had previously contributed to bringing Armenians closer to Russians. As Velichko’s work progressed (his name became synonymous with a malicious policy of sowing discord between Armenians and Georgians, becoming repulsive not only to the first but also to the second), I noticed that the rights of Armenians were gradually reduced until they were reluctantly compared to Jews.

    Have you ever, dear reader, walked with your beloved four-year-old son and encountered another child of the same age in rags in the cold? Have you ever helped this little stranger more quickly in such cases, even though you felt more sorry for him than for your own son? Is it not unnatural to take away an apple from your own son, even if he cries, and give it to a hungry child? “You will have plenty at home,” you might say, “but he is hungry, poor thing.”

    Is it not the same when comparing a Russian peasant to a poor Jew? I love this Russian peasant, God knows why. I pity him for his ignorance, his drunkenness, his helplessness. I love him because there is no need for us to adapt to each other; we are already adapted. But… often, I feel more sorry for the ignorant Jewish peddler. When the thought comes to me that the Russian peasant can teach his son, and the Jew cannot, it makes me feel more sorry for the Jew, and at such a time, I, like a victim on God’s altar, donate my ruble to the families of beaten Jewish peddlers.

    So, what do these Armenian sympathies or antipathies in city affairs have to do with it? Is it my subjectivity that made me unjust in one way or another, or… or perhaps:

    Have you ever seen or heard how a person suddenly changed under the influence of sudden horror? Have you ever witnessed or read about sudden internal changes in a person? They were a robber, but upon seeing their beloved girl or reading the Gospel, they suddenly became kind and repentant. Or perhaps someone lived for themselves, saving money, and then, upon witnessing true sorrow, donated their money to the unfortunate? You have probably read about it if you haven’t seen it in person.

    Could the same thing have happened to the Armenians? They lived and conducted their small Armenian merchant business and learned the Russian language to better engage in trade with the Russians. And then, under the impact of Velichko’s blows, they stirred, their ideals as Armenian merchants grew into human-social ideals. Armenian ethics rose. However, the requirements placed on different people are different, and achieving the highest ideals is accessible to only a few. Another Armenian, engaged in usury, for example, or running a brothel, might, under the influence of a general ethical upswing, decide to engage in more honest trade.

    A merchant who had his eldest son behind the counter might say to his younger in the general uplift of spirit, “Go, brother, go to the gymnasium, study, don’t be just a merchant”… Could all of this be possible? Then maybe this: an architect, who was striving to get more jobs even at the cost of submitting to an illiterate and immoral capitalist, might say to himself, “Forget this exploiter, I’ll go and serve the city. Serving society makes the work purer.” And he goes, becomes a public-spirited person, a fool, in the opinion of Konstantin Ivanovich Khatisov.

    And here I assert that such people were found. Armenians grew socially. And once one appeared in the administration, others followed. An architect was followed by a doctor, another doctor, a chemist, an accountant… The example is contagious: the mindset matters a lot.

    A young engineer arrives:
    — “Alexander Ivanovich, any positions available?”
    — “And the salary?”
    — “Any salary you want, even 75 rubles. The trade has become unbearable.”
    — “Welcome then.”

    A young doctor arrives:
    — “Alexander Ivanovich, any positions available?”
    — “And the salary?”
    — “I need more, I have a family, no practice.” (It turns out, he can’t stand taking money from patients, he treats for free.)
    — “Welcome then.”

    And they kept coming. But then, in the administration’s appointments, something, in my opinion, disgraceful happened. This will become clear from the following conversations with the members of the administration.

    They talked about the architects and their previous appointments, which almost ended in a ministerial crisis. A member of the administration finally agreed that things were not going well.

    — “Well, what can I say, we’ve created a mess, and now we can’t fix it. And now, here’s another problem: we have too many architects. Here’s the temporarily invited engineer Bogdatyan and another temporary architect, A.”

    Bogdatyan was my candidate from the Armenians. A was also an Armenian, invited for temporary work during the summer without me. I vouched for Bogdatyan, and he was indeed a man of exceptional moral qualities.

    — “Yes,” I said, “we have too many temporaries. But Bogdatyan is good; we should all be like him. We don’t need more. But A is temporary; he can be removed.”
    — “No, you must agree to A.”
    — “Why must I?”
    — “Well,” the administration member chuckled, “we gave you Bogdatyan, and you should give us A.”

    Reader, ponder this phrase, which I consider terrible. There used to be compromises where one Armenian was matched with one Tatar—a regrettable but explainable outcome of nationalist tendencies. Then they agreed to provide “Tambovians,” i.e., Russians, on the condition that for every Tambovian, there was one Bakuvian.

    And now what? Now that I myself started nominating local Bakuvians, our and your candidates reappeared. How do you understand this? There’s no other explanation than this: we’re fine with it. Like this: take your candidates and take ours, but make sure for every one of yours (good ones), you take one of ours (not good for anything, but necessary for our future re-election).

    The following phrase from the same member of the administration. The administration was discussing with the legal consultant Andronikov the issue of assistants. The administration unanimously helped him get rid of the previous assistants who clearly weren’t up to the task. With some abuses of power, such as giving large allowances and hiring a new assistant temporarily while the previous one was ill, as well as making small changes to the staff or providing rewards, with these abuses of power and the prospect of facing the Duma’s criticism, the administration granted Andronikov’s request.

    The appointment of two new assistants remained. They allocated a salary of 2,400 rubles each. There was no need to consider having honest lawyers for this salary without the right to private practice. The administration allowed private practice. Andronikov suggested two local sworn lawyers, both ideally clean.

    It should be noted that the composition of the Baku bar was below any ethical standards. Many lawyers whose hands you involuntarily sought carbolic soap to shake them. But there is a minority, as pure as crystal. Andronikov himself, a man of dove-like purity combined with snake-like wisdom, presented his candidates. The administration immediately agreed to one of them. But for the other position, a member of the administration had his own candidate, far from being as pure as a dove. Then, the same member of the administration who thought that for every one of my architects, there should be one of theirs, literally said the following:

    — “We’ve done enough for you, Alexander Ivanovich. It’s time for you to do something for us by accepting ours.”

    I couldn’t take it and stood up.

    — “Why are you finally speaking? For you, for us. What are you doing for us? What do we need? For the city… understand? The city needs good, hardworking, and clean people, not us. We are struggling with you, while our work could be much more productive. You need all sorts of trash against the interests of the city, but we don’t need anyone. Do you hear me?”

    And what do you think, did this gentleman become embarrassed? No, he became angry and started to object. But it all seemed so disgusting to me that I left.

    I returned a minute later and saw Andronikov (he’s a fiery man, and I’m hot-tempered too, but he’s a hundred times hotter than me) also getting angry.

    — “Are you like this? So be it.”

    He threw the previously prepared resignation letter from his pocket onto the table in my direction and jumped up. I also jumped up, grabbed the resignation letter, and tried to return it to him. He pushed me away, and there was a sort of struggle between us. Pieces of his resignation letter flew in all directions. It took a long time for us to calm down. He took the resignation letter back. Everything was settled.

    For the public, this scene was comical. But in my opinion, it was full of deep tragedy. People’s nerves can be driven to such extremes by this sea of filth, this complete lack of a sense of good and evil, this reflective cynicism, if I may put it that way.

    Truth, of course, is strong. Andronikov’s candidates were approved. But why this waste of time? Why this waste of energy that could have been used so intensively for the city’s work, which Andronikov had somehow undertaken to serve.

    After all, I didn’t come to Baku as a neurasthenic. And then, after a year and a half, I was brought to disgust by everything around me. I had served in various government departments, in various public assemblies, but such cynicism, such moral insanity as in Baku, could hardly be found anywhere else.

    Chapter 9

    From what I have described, readers may conclude that the gentlemen of Baku are darker than an autumn night. I, too, have been inclined to think so at times, influenced by their actions. However, now, discussing the matter calmly and objectively, I come to a different conclusion. Some of them are actually quite good, and some are very intelligent. Just as you can imagine a savage, a Friday from Robinson Crusoe, who can combine being a cannibal with being a good and intelligent person, it’s the same here. Imagine a good and honest person born in Baku. The environment there values intelligence, and the ability to make money is considered a form of intelligence. Everything else is not important. They don’t talk about it. For example, you may have known a smart, pleasant, wealthy person for years; you meet him every day at the club; you’re ready to become close friends… and suddenly you find out that he has become rich by cleverly defrauding and embezzling from his trusting benefactor. Or that he has resorted to various deceptions that have successfully escaped scrutiny. You’re surprised: how is this possible? I’ve known him for years, and no one has ever told me anything like this before?—Oh, it’s an old story, they’ll tell you, everyone knows it; and X, who is the head of the club and a banker, did even worse things—and they’ll tell you stories about what X, Y, Z, and many others did…

    I ask you, if a person, from childhood to adolescence, grew up in such an environment, what will his concept of good and evil be like? Now imagine that, although he is ten times smarter than others, he has not been lucky in financial matters, and the environment is ready to despise him for it, and he has a family to support, etc. And believe me, reader, you won’t throw stones at him; on the contrary, you’ll be surprised to see some human feelings in him.

    So people lived there and became accustomed to their atmosphere. I’m not talking about all of Baku, but about the city’s leaders. Suddenly, from afar, the city mayor appeared. They thought they were getting a chieftain… but it turned out to be a heron. A heron without tact. A clumsy heron. To re-educate such a Bakuvian, to scrape the mud off him, only a gentle hand of a loving woman or a friend who has inadvertently become close to him and set himself this task could do that.

    I was not in the position to gradually re-educate even one Bakuvian; I didn’t have the time, the ability, or the tact. I had an inner feeling that I wouldn’t remain the head of Baku for long. I found a swamp, and naturally, my efforts, initially directed towards the practical needs of the city, were mostly aimed at stirring up this swamp, at making people take a second look. I realized that I couldn’t do it alone, that I would become the target of ridicule like Don Quixote. So my main task was to bring people into this desolate sea. And people started to appear. These were the Varangians, geniuses, Tambovians, Novikovians. They approached, examined them, scrutinized them. What would happen? Well, nothing special happened. People appeared who didn’t think about our case and did their job, some well, some poorly, most of them quite satisfactorily. I’m glad that none of the Novikovians turned out to be tainted by Baku’s gold. No, not at all. As always in such cases, the highest demands were placed on the newcomers themselves. And when they suspected one of the geniuses of a love for money, even if honestly earned, they blamed me for a long time. Well, is it my fault? I told them about the famous “fool” I received from Konstantin Ivanovich Khatisov. Maybe it’s an illusion, but I believe it contributed somewhat to the debunking of the golden calf. Of course, I don’t claim to think that I debunked it in the high circles. No, God forbid. But if some of his former admirers turned into “fools,” even if only in words, I consider it to be of significant benefit.

    I can’t resist telling you how New Year’s wishes are made in Baku. I overheard this unintentionally over the phone. When you talk on the phone, you often have to wait a long time with the receiver at your ear. During this time, you can hear other people’s conversations. This was the case on January 1, 1904. I was calling someone and waiting for a response. In the meantime, other conversations were going on in turn. I heard a German accent:

    — “With the New Year, with new happiness, with new moneys…” (emphasis on “s”).

    I sighed and took the receiver away from my ear. An hour later, I had to overhear again unintentionally. This time I heard an Armenian accent:

    — “With the New Year, with new happiness, with new moneys for you…” (emphasis on “s”).

    These cursed wishes for new money ruined my entire New Year.

    But I return to my topic. Some residents of Baku surprised me. The environment in which they were born couldn’t give them a precise idea of good and evil. And so they seek good, but don’t know where to find it. Such people sometimes amazed me with the purity of their actions, reaching self-sacrifice, and with their incredible naivety in their actions, contrary not only to societal norms but also to the most everyday ones. Such a Bakuvian acts very sincerely, wanting to fulfill his duty. Various influences provoke various actions in him. If I had more tact, I could undoubtedly have subjugated such a person to myself. But my sharpness repelled him and drove him into the arms of my enemies. Working against me, such a person sincerely believed that he was fighting evil.

    Chapter 10

    When I still had not lost hope of achieving good results in all areas of the economy, and many of the people I relied on for assistance had already gathered, I decided to group the third element, as I called it, the part of the employees who were united by the common desire for the common good. To them, I added a few individuals who had previously served.

    And so, we gathered. This was still during the “nightmare” phase, during the “hypnosis” that I induced in the poor employees. I put the question of a loan for the city’s improvement on the agenda. We discussed, set tasks (many tasks). There were plans for road construction, school buildings, land acquisition to facilitate street development, a community center, slaughterhouses, and everything you can think of. For each task, a small commission of specialists and enthusiasts was selected. There were no officials here, no people demanding respect from employees. These were people who served the cause. And the clerk of the administration was entrusted with the task of developing the loan, and I suggested to the Duma to establish this position.

    Oh, how I believed in these commissions and sub-commissions. What a difference between them and our Duma commissions with their ulterior motives, intrigues, and complete indifference to the results of their easy work.

    It was in the fall of 1903 that our technical department, and along with it the entire third element, suffered a new blow. A.F. Lagovsky left. And he left not without scandal. Here’s what happened: right after our failure in the administration, Mr. Lagovsky approached the administration with a question: could he, for a fee, oversee the construction of a private bank building? It was not about the construction itself, as there was a separate engineer for that, but about the supervision. The administration replied that it was not allowed, that according to the new Duma regulation, private work was prohibited, especially for the chief engineer.

    Nevertheless, in the autumn, an unfriendly article appeared in the “Baku” newspaper, stating that the construction works in the city were going poorly because the chief engineer was building a bank and receiving a certain fee. Similar to Lagovsky.

    — “Is it true?” I asked Lagovsky.
    — “It’s true. When I was invited, they didn’t place any conditions on me not to take on private work.”
    — “A.F., this matter has ended up in the newspapers. I need to make an inquiry.”
    — “Well, go ahead! I’ll answer you honestly.”

    In response to my inquiry, A.F. did indeed respond that although he had consulted with the administration, their decision was not binding for him according to the terms of his appointment. At the end of his explanation, he submitted a resignation request.

    His resignation was promptly accepted by us.

    We lost an outstanding engineer, but beyond that, his departure was a moral blow for me. It gave my opponents reason to ridicule me and my “geniuses.”

    “What?,” they would ask me, “are your overseas geniuses better than Baku residents? Where is their special ethics when they quarreled over money? Good people with a sense of community, who are content with a 7,200 ruble salary. But in the end, they had to agree to his resignation without discussion!”

    All of this was more or less true. I regretted losing a person like Mr. Lagovsky in all respects, and I was particularly sorry that our personal relationship had been ruined. However, I never regretted for a moment that I had opposed him. Otherwise, I could not have acted differently. In any case, outwardly, Mr. Lagovsky’s actions were unethical. I have no doubt about it. For Mr. Lagovsky, for the ousted genius, for the person for whom I broke my lance, and whom I wanted to entrust with construction work. For anyone else, this would not have been a transgression, and it would not have been discussed. But for a Baku resident, who is remarkably indulgent toward himself and his own kind, it is cruel toward outsiders. In this case, they were right. They could demand special ethics from our own, not the Baku variety.

    I do not justify Mr. Lagovsky, but I understand him.

    He would not have taken on private work if it weren’t for the unfortunate story with the architects. Imagine a person going to serve society and taking on a huge task. He works tirelessly. Suddenly, such an offense as the appointment of Messrs. T.K. and G. occurs. It’s not just an offense; it’s the destruction of the entire action plan. He feels that he went in vain, that he won’t accomplish anything. And his hands dropped.

    I think now that he should have resigned on the day the architects were appointed. No one should serve under such an administration. In that case, I should have resigned as well. But I dissuaded him. At first, we counted on the Duma, then we promised to free ourselves from the imposed technicians. We all hoped to achieve something. Often, I argued with him. “Develop something,” I would tell him, “even a tram project. The administration gave you assistants to laugh at, well, to hell with it. If things go badly, you’re not to blame, but at least do one job worthy of you. Otherwise, your work disappears completely in this local swamp. Just as a piece of sugar in a cup of tea provides some sweetness for people with sensitive taste buds but is not visible to the public, so is your work for the public.”

    A.F. did not agree with me, and I believe he was very wrong. Although, who knows. He said that he was the chief engineer and had to oversee everything, especially the assistants he did not trust. “Whatever happens, I’m to blame,” he said. “I have to keep an eye on everything, especially with assistants I don’t trust.”

    In any case, his hands dropped. He was not trusted, treated as an ordinary hireling. And he felt that there was no future for him in Baku. Gradually, he began to conserve his strength and work in accordance with the contract.

    I reiterate: I’m not excusing him but explaining his actions. In my opinion, he is at fault, but the administration is more to blame for his actions.

    Meanwhile, things in the administration were just as bad as before. They turned a blind eye to the work, and yet we had to shoulder some of the responsibility.

    The orphanage was relocating. We rented a place with great difficulty. It took nearly six months to renovate it, although the job could have been done in one month. Two or three craftsmen were hammering away, with a foreman overseeing them, and yet the work didn’t progress. In the end, disputes over payment, lawsuits, new delays, Duma commissions…

    The same happened with the cattle yard. It took two years to build, and in the end, it turned out to be unusable.

    The horse yard, according to the 1903 estimate, began construction in November, and I took on the job almost casually, not to offend the members of the administration. The city building was being built and is still under construction, with no end in sight. But here’s an anecdote. There was a tower under construction at the entrance to the building. In May, I asked Lagovsky, “When will the tower be ready to remove the scaffolding? It looks ugly without it.”

    “In about a month,” he said.

    I had a feeling it wouldn’t be ready in a month. I went out of the administration, met the foreman. This foreman used to be a teacher with us but fell ill, spent a year in the mental hospital, and was no longer fit to be a teacher. They hired him as a foreman.

    “When will the tower be ready?” I asked.

    “In about a year,” he replied.

    A year later, the tower still wasn’t ready, and I never saw the scaffolding removed.

    The most striking example of the ineffectiveness of the construction department was their intention to create a plan for the gymnasium. The gymnasium was housed in a rented building, which was so inadequate and cramped that it became a breeding ground for disease among the students. Mr. Makedonsky, I think, to prove that he hadn’t ruined the construction work, took on the project. He gathered his technicians, directors of middle educational institutions, and worked diligently. The educational commission encouraged him. And so, it took a whole year to develop a plan for the gymnasium. Apart from this plan, our construction department produced nothing new. And all this with nine engineers.

    Some would say to me, “So what are you complaining about? Who? You have the head to oversee, to urge them on. And you’re complaining.”

    The problem is that the head cannot do anything. Every such matter, like the orphanage, cattle yard, construction projects, falls under the purview of a member of the administration. If you try to manage them independently, you’ll receive the reply, “Boris Alexandrovich or Kamil-bek hasn’t given the orders yet, or they’re handling it, or the member of the administration promised to visit himself.” Whether you like it or not, you have to act through a member of the administration. You tell him once, he says yes, and does nothing. You tell him again, and it’s the same. Eventually, you stop saying anything.

    The chief firefighter needed to be replaced. Everyone agreed on this, and he himself requested to leave due to illness. So the matter rested in the portfolio of a member of the administration. He kept looking for a deputy for the chief firefighter, or maybe he had someone in mind and was waiting for that person to become available. I left, and the fire chief was still in place.

    We were not moving forward but backward, like crabs.

    Under the circumstances that had developed, the third element could not engage in independent activities. Nevertheless, we held several meetings. We discussed matters related to our administrative policy. Primarily, I sought the approval of the third element for my resignation. Opinions were divided on the conditions under which I could resign while preserving my dignity and benefiting the cause the most. The service weighed on me and negatively affected my health. If I did not resign a long time ago and continued the struggle, it was mainly under the influence of the third element.

    However, even in our group, there were misunderstandings, and some of them were quite serious. One of them, in my opinion, was particularly serious and marked the definitive alienation of a man who was still considered a newcomer by inertia. That man was our statistician, Karavaev. When the statistical failure happened in the Duma, about which I will write later, the matter had to be discussed in the third element’s assembly. Suddenly, Mr. Karavaev did not attend, whereas he had attended our meetings before.

    The next day, they asked him why he hadn’t come. His answer was that he didn’t recognize the authority of our assembly composed of randomly selected individuals. This answer might be understandable coming from someone who didn’t recognize the moral authority of anyone, but in the mouth of an intellectual, it could only demonstrate that I had been mistaken to regard Mr. Karavaev in such a light. This is the main accusation I make against him.

    Chapter 11

    The most urgent matter of the session was the question of expanding the city of Baku. The administration, having its own views, proposed annexing the suburbs, Bayil, and White City along with their adjacent villages to the city. The city would acquire a vast amount of land, and for this, it would have to bear corresponding expenses, especially in terms of the police, which the city was already funding without receiving any subsidies from the treasury.

    The administration needed an answer as soon as possible, and the chief’s office repeatedly telegraphed me about the Duma’s decision.

    In the Duma, there were arguments for and against the expansion. Unfortunately, personal interests were also involved. Some land plots in White City had been leased to oil industrialists and manufacturers. Dealing with state-owned land was easier than with the city (this doesn’t mean the city was managing its land well), and so these gentlemen found it disadvantageous to transfer the land to the city. It was frustrating to see how personal interests could influence matters of such great importance.

    The Deputy Gandzhuntsev delivered a brilliant speech. He looked far ahead in this matter. He argued that the temporary budgetary burden was insignificant compared to the multimillion property the city would gain. His stance was supported by Tagianov, Asribekov, Unanov, and some other disinterested intellectuals. The majority, which included people with vested interests, opposed the expansion.

    During the private meeting held to discuss this matter, one intelligent deputy explicitly said, “I can’t forget that I’m an oil industrialist.” This is the power of personal interests; even for a strong individual, it can often cloud their judgment.

    This matter took several sessions. Among other things, one vote on this issue resulted in an inconclusive result in my opinion. The issue was that the wording of the question was unclear. As always, those satisfied with the vote considered the issue resolved, while those dissatisfied considered it unresolved. As the chairman, I saw the ambiguity and demanded a re-vote. For weeks, I struggled to secure a proper vote. The deputies disrupted the sessions and made noise.

    Meanwhile, the administration was pressuring me. They had their own deadlines for introducing the relevant bill.

    I knew that the proposal would fail, and the black hundred, fueled by personal interests, would prevail. But I needed to at least obtain a negative vote.

    During the commotion, I got heated and said, “If the Duma, as a result of the obstruction by some deputies, refuses to provide an answer by a majority of deputies, as required by the law, then I, once again, will ask the chief to allow the consideration of this question regardless of the number of deputies present.”

    Indeed, words are like birds; once they fly out, you can’t catch them. At that moment, Deputy Aghayev quickly stood up and pointed out that the only option left for them in the face of such a threat was to surrender. Following him, Deputy Gukasov expressed his surprise at hearing such words from the chairman, whom he had never considered capable of resorting to such threats. The Duma voted, and the annexation was rejected by a majority. But that’s not the point for me. What mattered to me was the ethical aspect. How could I have stooped to making threats? I can now write this with a clear conscience, but I will publicly express my remorse. Only when I approach this subject with complete objectivity, both regarding myself and others, can I talk about others. It would be unsightly to expose others’ sins while remaining silent about my own.

    I can neither excuse nor explain this ugliness. I can only console myself by saying that my sin lasted only as long as I spoke. If I had thought for just a second ahead, I wouldn’t have said it. On the other hand, as soon as I uttered that phrase and before the deputies could catch me on my words, I had already repented. But the disgusting impression was made, and it provided ammunition to my enemies and an opportunity for Mr. Aghayev to accuse me of unethical behavior.

    At the end of October, a census was conducted. I can’t say whether the material was good or not at this point. As I write these lines, it’s still uncertain whether it will be developed.

    A terrible scandal erupted over the census. Instead of the allocated twenty thousand rubles, we spent 34,140 rubles, exceeding the budget. There were many reasons for this overspending: the disorderliness of the head, a hiatus in bureau work due to the central statistical committee’s delay, and the genuinely unfavorable conditions of the census in terms of the high cost of labor, although it could have been foreseen.

    The most glaring debts, such as payments to the census takers, the administration agreed to pay without waiting for the Duma. However, there were still five thousand debts remaining when we presented the report to the Duma.

    A storm erupted, and the matter was discussed in two sessions. Perhaps the question would have been voted on during the first session if it hadn’t ended in a scandal caused by the unprecedented attack by Deputy Iretsky on me.

    In response to Mr. Iretsky’s question of whether the administration knew about the overspending, I hastened to take the blame for the four thousand rubles, the only overspending known in advance. On this basis, a scandal erupted, which I will return to later. For now, I will describe how the matter ended.

    Once everyone had spoken and the situation was such that it was awkward to attack me, the chairman, head-on, I put the question to a vote: does the Duma accept responsibility for the overspending? They demanded, a bad sign, a closed vote, and decided to lay the expenses on the administration.

    This decision puzzled me somewhat, and I ended up making a rather foolish remark: “What’s next?” It turned out that what comes next is that we need to prove our criminal liability before seeking the money from us.

    However, while the Duma was arguing with the administration, the administration, fearing to pay their money, firmly decided not to incur any more expenses. And so, we were left with debts to various employees. We had to go to court for a scandalous lawsuit filed by various employees against the city. We re-entered the Duma in a calmer mood, and the Duma made a fair decision from their point of view: to pay the money without determining the administration’s responsibility.

    The next episode of interest occurred the day after the Duma session where it was decided to hold the administration responsible. One of my friends secretly told me, “Alexander Ivanovich, they are plotting something against you. It seems the administration wants to admit guilt to make you pay, and then they will settle it among themselves.”

    And that’s exactly what happened. When we discussed the consequences of the Duma’s vote, Messrs. Arutyunov, Makedonsky, and Safaraliyev admitted guilt and decided to deduct their salaries to cover the overspending. Belyavsky refused to make a voluntary contribution, and I, of course, did the same.

    I knew this was coming because, considering me solely responsible, the members of the administration should never have agreed to make voluntary payments. It was a false move to try and trap me. They thought that if they, the innocent ones, paid voluntarily, then God woulds will it. But I didn’t fall for that bait. I dare to phrase this explanation this way because, as I mentioned earlier, I was warned about it before the session.

    I admit I would have liked to be taken to court. Being brought to trial by the Baku deputies is far from dishonorable. The incident with Mr. Iretsky:

    By admitting that I alone was responsible for the overspending, I not only did not disarm the deputies but also provided them with ammunition. Mr. Benckendorff, a consistent and loyal ally of Mr. Iretsky, began his tirade. He repeated verbatim the same speech he made in March, talking about my despotism and providing the same examples, which had not become more relevant over time. He could not say anything new because he had only been involved in Duma affairs through newspapers.

    Then Mr. Aghayev spoke sternly, but I don’t remember his words since I rarely listened to him. I know his speech was severe.

    Next, Mr. Iretsky stood up. As a very clever man, he realized that the Duma was against me. Whatever he said at that moment, he knew the Duma would support him. And he forgot all measure. He talked less about statistics than about me. Few other chairmen would have allowed him to say everything I patiently listened to. He kept talking about my despotism, about my abolishing the Duma and the administration. He didn’t stop at examining my activities in Baku. He dug into my past life when I was a district chief. It wasn’t enough for him to accuse me of despotism; he also accused me of recognizing only two or three deputies. There was a dirty insinuation in that phrase.

    I listened to him silently until the end. None of the deputies found it appropriate to point out the inappropriateness of his speech or the falsehood of his allegations. I started defending myself. At first, I said that his repetitive speech was like a fairy tale.

    — “Please, no fairy tales.”
    — “Enough of listening to you. Now you will listen to me,” I said. “Gentlemen members of the administration, I demand that you now publicly provide at least one instance where I acted without you, deliberately abolishing the administration.”

    In one newspaper, it is stated that Mr. Safaraliyev stood up, in another, it is Mr. Arutyunov. Maybe both stood up. But neither of them said anything. Meanwhile, the commotion was growing. The deputies, incensed not by Mr. Iretsky but by me, did not let me speak. Here I acted poorly. I lost my temper. I had a book in my hands. I threw it on the table and took off my chain…

    The session ended.

    Mr. Iretsky’s attitude towards me in this session was such that I wrote him a letter through the newspapers. I proposed a tribunal that would determine whether I deserved the allegations of despotism, economic mismanagement, and others that he had brought against me in the Duma. The tribunal should establish whether I am guilty – then I will retire from public life, or if he is a slanderer – then he should leave the deputies.

    Mr. Iretsky replied that he had not yet matured to resolve matters of honor. He declined the proposal for a tribunal, adding that he was satisfied with the Duma’s decision, which recognized my guilt in the statistics matter.

    I replied that I fully understood his point of view because, from the Duma, he hopes to gain something, while from the court of honor, he would get nothing but trouble.

    After that, I broke off all relations with him.

    Chapter 12

    The party of my enemies was growing stronger and more united. Their system of struggle became increasingly shameless. Speaking openly was out of the question, and they deliberately delayed discussions. The Duma became ineffective, and the organized obstruction had no opposition.

    “The Caspian” newspaper poured an unimaginable stream of mud without any restraint of truth. Mr. Aghayev didn’t hesitate to put his name under many articles. What particularly upset me with its injustice was the accusation of persecuting Tatars. This clumsy accusation was aimed at confusing the ignorant Black Hundreds. And they succeeded, especially since they had some basis for it. The argument was that Tatars, as a people just embracing culture, always sought positions above their merits and knowledge. An illiterate Tatar watchman, after a year or two of service, applied to become a deacon. A clerk, not very patient by nature, due to the slowness and imperfection of his work, applied to become an accountant at a salary of 40 rubles instead of 75 after just a year. A man with average or, especially, higher education thought that all doors were open to him. As a result, many people had their self-esteem wounded, and these wounds were skillfully exploited by the “The Caspian” each time.

    But one time, Mr. Aghayev outdid himself. I was reading “The Caspian” and saw an article titled “Panama.” It turns out that we had Panama in the Duma, and the chief Panamist was me. The issue was about the Zagulba water supply. Seizing on the fact that the water was temporarily bad, as it always happens with new pipes, Mr. Aghayev pretended to see Panama in this.

    He added to this the fact that the water supply commission, by its decision, waived a large penalty that our contractor L. Melikov could formally have been obligated to pay, being a day or two late with the final completion of the water supply, especially when the water was still unsuitable for use due to passing through new pipes. This commission’s decision was made without my involvement during the summer.

    All of this was appropriately smeared, embellished, and labeled as “Panama.”

    My initial reaction was to laugh and dismiss it all. But then I had to look at the matter differently. It wasn’t just an offense against me, but also against the members of the administration, the members of the water supply commission, and prominent and decent deputies. I read the article at the administration and, with their consent, I introduced a motion in the Duma, requesting a special investigative commission due to the importance of the matter. This commission would either establish our guilt more precisely or clear us of this stain.

    In the Duma session, Mr. Aghayev more precisely identified the guilty parties in the Panama affair from the administration: me, Arutyunov, and Smolensky. Belyavsky was more involved in Zagulba than Smolensky, but Belyavsky was under the protection of Mr. Aghayev at that moment, while Smolensky was disliked by these people. Ergo, Smolensky was the Panamist. Safaraliyev, as a Muslim, was certainly innocent.

    Writing this, I can hardly believe that all of this was true. The behavior of these gentlemen was so biased and unjust.

    Some harsh words were deemed necessary to say to Mr. Aghayev by some deputies. Gukasov reassured that although he was against Zagulba, he had not concealed anything from the Duma and the commission, as Mr. Aghayev claimed. He expressed his disapproval of Aghayev’s actions. Then Mr. Aghayev got up and stated that he saw no abuse, and that by the word “Panama,” he understood not the bribery of many individuals, as the deputies claimed, but simply a mistake, even if unintentional.

    By a strange coincidence, Mr. Aghayev, the only Tatar who had lived in Paris for a long time and was invited to teach French at the Baku Real School, was seen as difficult to argue with due to his lack of education.

    — “Will you publish your explanation of your understanding of the word ‘Panama’?” one deputy asked him.
    — “I will publish it,” was his reply.

    I thought that such jokes should not be allowed. I scolded and said that I considered this a mild word. It’s like hitting from behind and running away. But the Duma looked at it differently. The disgruntled deputies (there were probably not many of them) were likely feeling that our case would fail and suggested settling for Mr. Aghayev’s explanation of how he understood the word “Panama.”

    The next day, the French language teacher in “The Caspian” published that he understood “Panama” not in the sense of abuse and that everyone is free to interpret words as they wish.

    The Zagulba affair did not end with this clumsiness; Mr. Aghayev introduced his “Panama” into the Revision Commission, of which he was a member. The commission formulated the charges, previously outlined in the newspaper, avoiding, of course, sharpness.

    I wrote a detailed explanation, approved by the administration and the water supply commission. But the situation was so tense that I could not find the time to report all of this to the Duma for over a month. More urgent matters came up. The case was further delayed by my illness, which required two months of treatment in St. Petersburg.

    Naturally, my nervous system suffered from all of this. No matter how hard I tried to restrain myself, sometimes it was impossible. More and more often, words would pop out during Duma sessions, words that I would later have to explain and justify.

    Let me provide an example:

    For over an hour, the Duma was discussing a case based on a statement from a member of the Revision Commission, Ahmedov. Ahmedov asked what the price was for a washbasin at a certain sanatorium. Safaraliyev, unaware of which washbasin was being referred to, replied, looking at the bill: 5 rubles.

    Then Mr. Ahmedov stated that such a washbasin costs 30-40 kopecks. And they went on and on. They decided to buy the washbasin from Mr. Kardashov, a newcomer. Aghayev and the Company seized upon this and began their calculations of a 1000 percent profit…

    I had to stop this flow that was not related to the matter at hand. But my despotism was such that I never dared to shut my mouth when the administration was being criticized.

    The next day, I went to the sanatorium with Kardashov. It turned out there was a mix-up. There was a 40-kopeck washbasin (for the attendant) and a five-ruble one (for the doctor). We went to the store to verify. It was all as I said. I immediately included this point in the Duma’s agenda: an explanation from the head about the washbasin.

    The session was opened. I wanted to explain, but the Melikovs and Aghayev wouldn’t let me speak. They shouted that the Revision Commission would consider this, and in due course, they would report that the Duma didn’t want to listen, etc. I decided not to back down and declared that I had the right to give an explanation when the administration was being attacked, and especially when it concerned an honest municipal employee, and I would exercise this right, and until then, I would not report any cases. Aghayev, in particular, didn’t want to listen. I burst out with a phrase: “A respectable Duma, when it throws mud at the agents of local self-government, should also listen to explanations. The opinion of the Duma is not the writing of some scribbler.”

    Of course, Aghayev requested that this be recorded in the minutes. Nevertheless, I insisted on my position. The Duma listened to my explanation the next day. In the press, there was a lot of noise. Without mentioning “The Caspian,” “Baku” saw in my “scribbler” an insult to the entire press and all writers. Everything was clarified by my letter to “Baku”:

    “One of the contributors to ‘Baku’ wrote the following about the incident with my ‘scribbler’: ‘a) It was necessary to leave newspaper workers alone… b) A.I. Novikov should consider it his duty to apologize to the newspaper workers…’

    Not at all. I won’t apologize. I don’t consider it my duty, I don’t want to, and I can’t apologize… because I didn’t insult and didn’t refer to bad (notice, not bad!) writers referred to by me as ‘scribblers.’ I don’t want to apologize to such people, even if I could. But to whom I can and want to apologize, although she didn’t ask for it, is the Duma (not individual deputies, but the Duma embodying the idea of self-government).

    Let her forgive me. But after all, I am a human being. Moreover, to endure everything that I have to endure, one needs nerves of steel. And I am a human being, and moreover, I have spent a year and a half in Baku as the head. Here, like in Sevastopol, a month should be counted as a year (I am, of course, talking about health).

    That’s how it ended. I must say that as my nerves became increasingly frayed, words would escape me more and more often, requiring explanations.

    Chapter 13

    It’s evident that the people of Baku are always ready to suspect evil in others and find it difficult to believe in principles, often seeking personal gain. The following incident can illustrate this point. As I mentioned before, since the autumn of 1903, I had been less supported, or rather, not attacked, by Armenians. I had reconciled with many of them, resulting in the filling of two or three vacancies with Armenians. Naturally, the Tatars began to think, and some even hinted, that I had sold out to the Armenians, either for money or for their support in the Duma.

    This continued until January. In January, the following incident occurred. As I mentioned earlier, the law allowed the chief executive to determine the ratio of Christian to non-Christian deputies. Lately, the norm had been 50% for non-Christians, and among the Christians, some Orthodox (who tended to vote with the Tatars), the rest were Armenians, with the Armenian center being more akin to Muslims in spirit. There were not many pure Armenian intellectuals. Nevertheless, they zealously held on to their norm. The problem for them was that the Tatars came to the elections united, while they were divided. This explained the success of the Christians who joined the Muslims. This also explained the shortage of Christian deputies, which the administration had to fill from the previous composition according to the law. There were many candidates among Muslims but less Christians. In the first two years, many deputies, both Muslims and Christians, left due to death and other reasons. Eventually, all Christian candidates were elected as deputies, but there were still two Muslim candidates. There weren’t enough Christian candidates for two vacant positions.

    In the Duma, there was a proposal to address the issue of the deputy composition. The task of developing the proposal was entrusted to the administration.

    We had to choose between two options: either ask the administration to appoint two Christian deputies, which would violate the fundamental principle of self-government, the principle of elections, or allow two Muslim deputies at the expense of Christians, which would change the established norm.

    The situation was challenging, as either option had its drawbacks and would be met with suspicion and criticism. This incident highlights the complex dynamics of the time in Baku, where suspicions and interests often played a significant role in decision-making.

    Andronikov gave the following conclusion:
    — We should firmly adhere to the principle of self-government. Let’s invite Muslims. This will be done openly in the Duma, and the administration will take notice. If they don’t like it, let them protest the Duma’s decision.

    I knew very well that having only two Muslims meant having two opponents for me. Nonetheless, I had to take a principled stance in line with Andronikov’s viewpoint.

    This decision was undoubtedly in favor of the Tatars. Armenians were not well-placed on this issue. They took a narrow nationalist perspective and demanded that we approach the administration. Self-government didn’t matter to them; they just wanted their way. That was the essence of their arguments. I must admit that I couldn’t find anyone who would take a broader view of the matter. It was evident that they (I refer to Armenian deputies, and, of course, all Armenians) had not yet moved beyond the stage where they went “begging” for favors. The Tatars, of course, prevailed. Muslim candidates were invited. Towards the end, both parties got heated and exchanged harsh words, leading to a scandal.

    The next day, Armenians were visibly embarrassed and unfriendly towards me. It was then that I learned that many suspected I had deliberately betrayed them to please the Tatars. In other words, they believed I had sold out to the Tatars. The Tatars, at least some of them, also treated me somewhat more kindly, thinking that I was courting their favor. Both sides had trouble understanding that I acted according to my own principles and convictions, and I had to explain this repeatedly.

    There were disagreements in the committees as well. In the small executive water commission of four deputies, Hasan bey Melikov protested against everything, causing delays and complications. At one point, he went to the extreme of frankness. Dissatisfied with something, he said, “Well, then, I have nothing to do here.” I thought he was about to leave, so I said, “Well, what can you do! We’ll manage without you.” This greatly angered the deputy. He replied, “No, you’re mistaken. I won’t leave. I’ll stay here to the end, and I’ll hinder you everywhere! Stand in your way…” This cynicism made a strong impression, not only on me but on others as well.

    I must say that for a while, Mr. Hajiyev acted excellently. One could have thought that he was my most fervent supporter. It is only fair to acknowledge the man’s intelligence. He always found a good way out and spoke with wit. On one occasion, he impressed me directly. We were carefully and thoroughly drafting an agreement with Lindley. In this process, the deputy, who called himself an “illiterate,” and indeed he was poorly educated, revealed himself as a true jurist. He not only expressed suitable ideas but also pointed out legal terms more precisely. He truly amazed me. One can only wonder what would have become of this man if he had received a more accurate understanding of ethics through education.

    Representatives of Lindley arrived, a contract was concluded, and the surveys began. Everything was moving slowly and not smoothly, but it was progressing. The water project had reached a stage where it seemed that even ill intentions couldn’t derail it. However, there was a moment when I had to intervene. I had to leave for St. Petersburg for a few days for city business. When I returned, I learned that the survey work had come to a standstill. The local administration had hesitated to approve the drilling contract without the Duma’s consent. The opposition within the Duma had managed to delay the process again, as the Duma wanted to review and modify the contract themselves, which was unusual because more significant contracts were usually handled directly by the administration. Nevertheless, this delay could have led to the project dragging on or even failing. So, I had to intervene.

    In the next Duma session, under a different pretext, I raised the matter again. We sought a compromise in which the opinions of the major water commission were requested for the contract drafting. This action saved the project, and the surveys continued.

    I’ll share another incident that brought me great joy. In Baku, there was a private boys’ gymnasium run by Mr. Lavrov. He had long been trying to have his gymnasium converted into a state-run institution but couldn’t achieve it. Financially, things were getting worse, and he was forced to close the gymnasium. As a result, 300 boys were left without proper education.

    Mr. Lavrov approached me for help. After lengthy debates with gymnasium directors and the school commission, the matter came to the Duma. As I look back now, I see a hall filled with a crowd of people, including nearly all of Lavrov’s students. I hear the angry speeches of the Black Hundreds and the applause when the Duma passed a resolution to temporarily accept Lavrov’s gymnasium at the city’s expense and petition for the opening of a new gymnasium, allocating the necessary funds.

    I never considered this Duma decision as my own achievement. At that time, the Duma was more likely to oppose me than support me. Many voted in favor of Lavrov’s cause due to personal connections or acquaintances. Some seemed afraid of the unrest that could arise from the young people losing their education. I rejoiced in the victory of light over darkness and in the happiness of these children. Moments like these made me reconcile with all the difficulties and failures in my struggle against the Baku masters.

    Where did my previous energy go? I didn’t recognize myself. Constantly, distracting thoughts invaded my mind, diverting me from my work. Instead of focusing on the Duma’s affairs, I found myself entangled in Duma politics. The same applied to the administration and even the committees. The administration’s performance was poor. We would convene (or attempt to convene, as sometimes we couldn’t) for discussions, but debates or even casual conversations would often veer far away from the matters at hand. I gradually began to feel like a compromised Bakuvian, a temporary caliph.

    Committees met reluctantly, and sometimes not at all. There was a general apathy towards work.

    This was most evident in the city’s finances. The budget, which had been finalized in the Duma in December 1902, was still being considered by the administration in December 1903. Was I to blame for this? Certainly. If my nerves had been stronger, I would have completed my work regardless of the circumstances, and then, if needed, I would have left if I saw that the Duma had approved a budget that was unworkable.

    However, I had an excuse, and perhaps even a justification. Nathanson had done a job that only the Bakuvian representatives might not appreciate, despite considering themselves good managers. Over the past ten years, he had compiled reports on income and expenses, as well as on capital. Before him, no one knew anything about the city’s financial condition.

    It all boiled down to common sense. If there’s money, spend it; if there’s no money, cut expenses. If there are debts, borrow and repay. In terms of bookkeeping, it was somewhat reminiscent of the management of our old-world landlords who drank away their expenses, never calculating totals or making reports.

    Nathanson did it all. He showed that the city had chronic deficits all along, which were covered either from the reserve capital or from bridge tolls, which had been abolished recently. He demonstrated that when Irétsky, who accused me of mismanaging the economy, was in charge, the deficits were the same as during my tenure, and a loan had been taken to cover them.

    And so, based on these tables, I had to compile a report, specify the reasons for the deficits, and find means to address them in the future. To make the report completely clear and show that I hadn’t mismanaged Baku’s economy, I needed the figures for 1903. However, these figures could only be obtained at the beginning of January. Without wasting a single day, I sent my report for printing, and on January 15th, it was distributed to the deputies along with the tables developed and systematized by Nathanson. The report bore the title “Financial Report of the City Mayor,” even though I had hardly been involved in it. I entrusted Mark Andreyevich with his tables. Some of the conclusions drawn from these tables were self-evident, while others were suggested by them. The result of the report was as follows: the city had been balancing the budget with a hidden deficit for many years. Cutting expenses was impossible because it would mean closing hospitals, schools, and so on. Therefore, it was necessary to increase revenue, and this could be achieved by properly managing land affairs and exploiting certain technical enterprises that had been neglected, such as trams, lighting, and more.

    We received another brilliant proof of how poorly land management was conducted. For years, Mr. Belyavsky had verbally, in writing, and in print claimed that there were 250 acres of built-up city land. All budgets and estimates were based on this figure. However, when my report was reviewed in the administration—oh, what a surprise!—Mr. Belyavsky stated that it wasn’t 250 acres but 68 acres of this land, and that he had said 250 based on the land surveyor’s word. Unfortunately, the figure of 68 acres had also been based on verbal information, as we could not obtain documentary evidence. In short, if the Duma did not like this chaotic situation for some reason, it should have organized this aspect. Similarly, it could not have been unaware that a tramway was needed and that there was no one to start it, but for some reason, it seemed to resist this as well. Malicious tongues even claimed that there were too many deputies with vested interests in the old-fashioned horse carriages.

    And so, my report concluded with a proposal to dismiss these two old men, electing two small, executive commissions: one for land matters and the other for technical matters, with the aim of conducting thorough investigations. I took the example from the small water commission. “Give me,” I said, “commissions like that, but without G. B. Melikov, for investigating the money.”

    In vain, I thought—I can’t seem to break free from my naivety. Even now, I believed (after all, shouldn’t I know my deputies?) that they would surely bow to the figures.

    I thought that Nathanson’s tables would open the deputies’ eyes. But it wasn’t so! The report was met with coldness. I convened the finance commission and invited all deputies who wished to acquaint themselves with the matter to the meeting. Less than half of the commission members attended, and only one deputy came. The numbers had to be acknowledged because you couldn’t say that 2 x 2 = 5. But they decided:

    — “Let’s review the budget first, and then the report.”
    — “How?” I said. “The report is the basis of the budget. We should first familiarize the Duma with the city’s financial situation, and then compose the budget accordingly.”
    — “Give us the budget. What other reports are there?”
    — “Oh, have mercy; this won’t do. We can’t operate blindly; you’re blind. The report will make you see…”
    — “Give us the budget…”

    What was there to debate? It was clear that neither my two-year work nor Nathanson’s accounting was needed by the people of Baku. Even I thought that I was unnecessary. I thought that I had to leave. However, my departure had to be postponed for a while due to various external circumstances in the Duma. In early 1904, I experienced a series of various incidents that increasingly affected my nerves. This is not the place to recount these incidents, which were quite interesting and not devoid of social significance. They didn’t directly relate to the financial affairs of the city government in the narrow sense. However, a war began, leading to such aces and significant public events that even a passive spectator couldn’t remain unaffected…

    In short, due to my nerves, heart, and liver, I fell ill and needed to go to St. Petersburg for medical treatment as soon as possible, which I did in early February.

    Part 4 - End of tenure

    Chapter 1

    As I left for vacation, I had long been aware that I couldn’t stay as the head of Baku. It was unpleasant for me, on the one hand. Self-appointed guardians of various disorders in our government are always eager to cast stones at the despised self-government. This is their logic: if something is wrong in bureaucratic spheres, it’s the fault of unworthy individuals; if something is wrong with self-government, then, of course, people are not to blame; it’s the principle itself. I knew that my quarrel with the Duma played into the hands of these people. Therefore, I decided to leave only for a serious reason. I foresaw it during the budget review. But since I left suddenly, I couldn’t return just because I wanted to create a pretext for a graceful exit. And, undoubtedly, I would have stayed in St. Petersburg if it weren’t for an incident related to my service but unrelated to the Duma. I won’t dwell on it here. I’ll only say that after this incident, leaving was unthinkable for me without compromising my dignity. I had to remain as the head for a few more months.

    So, after receiving treatment in St. Petersburg, I returned to Baku in early April. The members of the Duma had already been calling me the “former head” in my absence. The government had taken a new course of action, which is why my return to the Baku scene was unexpected for many and unpleasant for all (of course, I’m referring to the members of the Duma and the city government). More than one of them probably thought, “Will he stay?” Shortly after my return, I reassured them, not only in private conversations but also in a Duma session, that I had no intention of staying.

    I had already found a new direction in some matters. The Statistical Department had been reorganized in the Karavaev style. None of the three Jews who had been invited by Arnold earlier were present. There was a friend of Mr. Karavaev who wasn’t a statistician and had declared in January that he was leaving and hadn’t been to work since. After my departure, he rightly reconsidered and became Mr. Karavaev’s assistant. Then, a young Tatar served briefly, obviously chosen by Mr. Karavaev for his nationality. Only one dear Fanchtein remained from the old Arnoldists. The strange choice of employees in the newspapers was explained by juggling words. For some reason, some of them turned out to be regular employees, while others were considered supernumerary. Temporary absence from the city due to circumstances beyond their control was considered by Mr. Karavaev as dismissal accompanied by the loss of regular employment. In short, everything was arranged as it should be.

    The government, as always, considered the matter based on the chief’s report, without verifying the data. Mr. Karavaev’s incredible report was accepted, with the chairman Velyavsky’s vote in favor and Mr. Safaraliyev standing next to him for support, despite the opposition of Arutyunov and Makedonsky who disagreed.

    Upon my return, I initially thought about exposing the incorrectness of Karavaev’s arguments. But I changed my mind. I couldn’t have the government reconsider the same matter multiple times with different compositions.

    The other members of the government didn’t view the matter the same way. An interesting case involved a certain Mr. R., who was in charge of a large and responsible part of our economy. There had long been unfavorable rumors about his treatment of workers, over a hundred of whom were under his supervision. Not long before my return from vacation, Engineer Bogdatyan, who had dealings with Mr. R., accused him of abuse of power. The government hesitated but eventually decided to conduct a preliminary investigation, which was entrusted to the secretary of the government, Rostkovsky, a man beyond any suspicion of bias.

    The investigation revealed numerous abuses. Mr. R. organized lotteries among the workers, and those who didn’t buy tickets were subjected to persecution or even expulsion. A close associate of Mr. R. intentionally purchased bread, and sometimes meat, and sold them to the workers at a significant profit. Mr. R. was protected by his direct superiors, Safaraliyev and Belyavsky. The three of us were against it. The case dragged on for a long time. Even before Rostkovsky’s investigation, the government decided to temporarily remove Mr. R. from his position to loosen the tongues of the workers. This decision was not implemented in practice, and Mr. R. continued to hold his position. Then, Safaraliyev was tasked with finding a government employee who would agree to switch places with Mr. R. (as someone unfit for one position might be suitable for another). Twice, Safaraliyev missed the deadline given to him but found no one willing to make the exchange. Finally, the government decided to dismiss Mr. R. without further ado. This decision was made about 10 days before my final departure from Baku. However, even this decisive decision of the government was not implemented. They were waiting for my departure to reinstate Mr. R. in his previous, effectively unchanged, position.

    Leaving without exposing the known wrongdoing seemed unseemly to me. It would have appeared as if I were covering up this wrongdoing. Therefore, I initiated two cases against Engineers Skurevich and Amirov.

    Engineer Skurevich was in charge of the bridges, and in November, he was replaced by Engineer Bogdatyan. Skurevich was then transferred to the position of project draftsman. A few days after this transfer, bridge workers came to me and claimed that they had not received the money they had earned a year ago during holidays. Some of this money was for municipal work, and some was for work on the construction of the post office, which was being done privately, independently of municipal service, by Mr. Skurevich.

    This situation surprised me. Making municipal workers perform private work and not paying them for a year is, in my opinion, unforgivable. Knowing how Russian workers insist on immediate payment of every kopeck, I couldn’t explain to myself the delayed demand for money other than as fear of the workers before their supervisor.

    I reported this matter to the government. However, the government delayed the case, not giving a definite answer. But it seemed to me that Skurevich was interested not in the government’s decision but in the ethical aspect of the matter. Skurevich denied the workers’ fear and, even more so, any deliberate withholding of a few dozen rubles. He explained everything by forgetfulness. I demanded a more conscientious attitude toward the workers and saw a great evil in this.

    A thought occurred to me. Skurevich wants to clear his name of the serious accusation I made against him. I will give him the opportunity to do so through a more clear and meaningful process than the government’s decision. I proposed arbitration to him. He gladly accepted my offer and actively advocated for a speedy resolution of the case. The arbitration issued the following resolution: Novikov should have initiated the case, but the accusation against Skurevich of abuse of power lacks sufficient grounds. Skurevich is only guilty of simple forgetfulness. This decision was made after a thorough examination of the case. Witnesses, including workers and foremen, were heard. While the arbitration found me in the wrong, I was completely satisfied. Isn’t this how such issues should be resolved? The government’s decision could have no moral significance. A year ago, when the Duma and the government were on my side, they would have expelled Skurevich, an innocent man. Now, if I had lost my authority, they would have acquitted Skurevich, a guilty man. Expelling an engineer or any other public servant is a matter of administrative, even if it is a collective decision, but it cannot clear or tarnish a person’s reputation. Only a conscience-driven arbitration can prove to him and to society whether he is truly foolish or good.

    And when the arbitration cleared Skurevich, I welcomed this decision with sincere joy, as it didn’t allow me to harm his good name.

    The situation with Amirov unfolded differently. I proposed arbitration to him on the following occasion: a few days after my arrival in Baku, he approached me.
    — “Alexander Ivanovich, do you agree to build a house for the workers on the water distiller?” he asked.
    — “Do you have the money?” I inquired.
    — “Yes,” he replied.
    — “Well, of course, I agree. Go ahead and build.”

    A few days later, I signed an allocation of 300 rubles to contractor Kasumov for the construction of a house on the water distiller. However, I later learned that Mr. Amirov was building a stable for his stallion on the water distiller, not a house for the workers, as originally agreed. Another bill from Kasumov arrived, this time for over 200 rubles for the stable.

    I summoned Kasumov.

    — “Why did you build a stable on the water distiller?” I asked.
    — “A stable,” he replied.
    — “Why did you present the first bill for a house, then?”
    — “I wrote the bill for the stable, but Mr. Amirov instructed me to rewrite it for a residential house.”

    I took a phaeton and went with Amirov to the water distiller. The structure turned out to be a stable for two horses: one large compartment with iron bars occupied by Amirov’s stallion, and another, simpler compartment occupied by the town horse Vaska, taken from the transport team. It was clear that Vaska could have stood in the stable all his life and didn’t need fancy accommodations.

    When we arrived, a coachman-like man, dressed entirely as a coachman, appeared despite it being a weekday, and he turned out to be a town blacksmith.

    On the way back, Mr. Amirov seemed disheartened. He talked about committing suicide, offered me a thousand rubles for charity, just to avoid pursuing the matter, and swore that he loved and respected me so much that he wouldn’t serve without me. I told him that he wouldn’t shoot himself and that he would serve just fine without me.

    To add to the woes, there was another bill for leather, brushes, and something else for the horse, ensuring that no more Vaskas would ever set foot there. The inscription on the bill read: “Pay according to such and such article. Amirov.”

    I demanded an explanation from Mr. Amirov, which he provided unsatisfactorily. He asked me not to pursue the matter and handed me a resignation request signed a few days later to make the connection between the resignation and the stable construction less noticeable.

    Privately, I told the government about this and many people about the incident, but to my surprise, it didn’t seem to surprise anyone. During this time, I proposed arbitration to Skurevich.

    “Let’s,” I thought, “I’ll settle the matter with Mr. Amirov in a court of honor.”

    He gladly agreed, but then an unexpected situation arose that I couldn’t have foreseen. Whether it was Mr. Amirov’s fault or not (I want to believe it wasn’t), the arbitration didn’t take place. The judges didn’t convene. So I left Baku, and Mr. Amirov stayed in his position, as I had predicted.

    Chapter 2

    If it’s not so painful to lose power or influence when you want to persecute or punish someone—indeed, the ability to punish people is not so sweet—then not having the ability to defend an innocent person from unscrupulous attacks can be very offensive and annoying. I had to witness such attacks upon my arrival from Petersburg. The case concerned Kardashev, who, if the reader recalls, organized our school administration.

    He set it up exemplarily, considering that there was no such administration before him. Each incoming teacher bought whatever they wanted, wherever they wanted, and the administration merely paid the bills presented. Kardashev established a warehouse from which everything was distributed. Everything was bought cheaper than before, and only what was necessary was distributed. I’ll characterize the whole thing with one remark: In 1903–04, the number of students was one and a half times more than in 1902–03, yet the cost of the entire national school affair was the same in both years.

    Kardashev wrote a report on the school warehouse’s activities, showing that everything cost the city less than before. The report was clear, concise, convincing, and most importantly, truthful. Anyone who has seen Stepan Martynovich Kardashev even once cannot help but see that this man can offer nothing but the truth.

    The honorable council members had only to thank him for his fruitful service (he worked from morning till night). But no, the opposite happened.

    Having received Stepan Martynovich’s report, the school committee paid him special honor. Typically, such reports and statements are unread by anyone. But this report interested the committee, which passed it on for review to the heads of the schools. It would seem that their own agent should be made to control the schools, but here, on the contrary, control over the city’s agent was entrusted to the heads. And so the trial of Kardashev began. Unfortunately, the teachers did not immortalize their attacks in protocol form (perhaps because many things unworthy of writing can be said?).

    Those who were at the subcommittee meeting, chaired, it seems, by the “The Caspian” Melikov, say that it was outrageous. Not only the heads of Russo-Tatar schools, to whom much is forgiven that is not forgiven to others, but also the female inspectors of Russian schools tried to outshout each other in accusing Kardashev; he responded calmly, as always, but in the end, even this unflappable man could not stand it and left…

    The scene, they say, was outrageous. But everyone knew that I was leaving, that there would no longer be a hated chairman of the school committee for the inspectors, that the old freedom to buy luxuries at the city’s expense would return. And so it was necessary to discredit Kardashev.

    “Crucify him, crucify him!” the teachers shouted, and the vocal Melikovs echoed these wild and lawless cries through the pages of the “The Caspian.”

    There is a fashion for people. Once, slaves were forced to teach children. Then, obviously, there was no one more despised than a teacher. Now, a teacher, especially a public one, is in fashion. A teacher is supposed to be a quiet, modest person, dedicating their life to children. Alas! This is not always the case. An example is the female inspectors of Baku.

    Also in fashion are the so-called “workers of the pen.” And if you dig a little, what might you find under this tender name? Let the vocal members of the Baku council, Topchubashov, Melikov, Aghayev, blinded by hatred for me and by ricochet for all Novikovians, let their lies and slanders be explained and justified by this blindness. But what to say about the various Don Diegos, Fausts, and others, disgustingly and shamelessly slandering and insulting the Kardashevs just to please their masters? Or are you also going to command us to bow down before these pen workers?

    “Crucify him, crucify him!” was heard in every phrase of these gentlemen directed against Stepan Martynovich [Kardashev]. The commission did not convene in the spring. By chance, the vocal members Melikov and Raichenko, both opponents of Kardashev, appeared at the school commission. I cornered them.

    — “You constantly slander Stepan Martynovich,” I said. “So point out the evil, the falsehoods in his report.”
    — “The entire report is a lie.”
    — “Point out the specifics so I can judge.”
    — “He didn’t record things in the right category. Brushes, ladders should be under small items, but he recorded them under furniture. The figure for small items is deliberately understated.”
    — “Let it be so, but then the figure for furniture is overstated. The cost per student hasn’t changed. Does it matter? And why would Kardashev intentionally, as you say, transfer a figure from one category to another? What else can you point out?”
    — “Look. Wood used in 1904 is recorded in 1903. Is that an accurate report?”
    — “Let it be so, but the report is for 1903. According to you, it seems Kardashev artificially increased the cost, say, of heating, to his own detriment.”
    — “Knives were distributed without the required paper from the inspector. Is that proper?”
    — “Yes, but the watchman took a receipt, saying the inspector forgot to record the knife in the requisition list…”

    And so on. There were no more serious accusations. But in the “The Caspian” and in the air, there were rumors about poor management, hints of abuse.

    The extent of the accusers’ dishonesty was evident from the fact that not one member of the commission, not one vocal member, had ever set foot in the basement where the warehouse was. And so they judged a man, so spoke the vocal members, even in the council!

    All were just rumors that were invented, spread, and fanned.

    “Crucify him, crucify him!” That’s how the municipal history is written. It really pained me not to have influence over this dark realm. I so wanted to make them be silent and swallow their slander.

    How the matter with Kardashev ended, I don’t know. Whether they removed him from the budget or not, I did not know when leaving Baku, as I did not stay until the end of its review.

    The administration, however, had already turned against Kardashev. Ten thousand rubles were allocated to the administration for office supplies and various small items in the budget. This was spent, God knows how. And Kardashev had his own school warehouse of writing supplies. I suggested entrusting him with the administration’s warehouse too, giving him 300 rubles out of 10,000 for the extra trouble. Of course, not 300 but 3,000 rubles could have been saved. But these 300 rubles were necessary for Kardashev as an addition to his meager salary.

    For a year and a half, things went this way, and everyone was silent. But when a campaign against Stepan Martynovich was raised by the teachers, the “The Caspian,” and the school commission, the administration couldn’t stay behind. How could they not join in? And so Mr. Arutyunov finds that the spending of these 300 rubles is illegal (they are not in the budget), and therefore the warehouses should be separated, transferring the administration warehouse to the executor without any special compensation.

    That the executor could not manage things properly was clear, as he had neither assistants nor an accounting system. Nevertheless, the administration unanimously (except for me) agreed with Mr. Arutyunov. An anti-Kardashev manifestation was made. The council had to be satisfied.

    Chapter 3

    As with all activities of the Baku administration that are not influenced from outside, such as in the two years when I was the head, it boils down to placing their own people and cronies, starting from the position of a member of the administration and ending with the last guards. Naturally, our administration immediately reverted to this path after my departure on leave. Since everyone knew that my return was not for long, this continued even in my presence.

    First of all, the placement of cronies began in the construction department. They started firing the old foremen and hiring new ones. They dismissed the good ones and hired the bad ones. This could still be excused as a healthy nationalist tendency, which is understandable among Armenians. If there was an intention to place good Armenian people, it would be acceptable. But no, they placed their own (in the narrow sense, almost as if in a family), almost the worst people, unfit for anything outside the administration. People who had nothing to do with construction were hired.

    Ryashentsev was dismissed without fault. Yuriev was fired against the architect’s wish for a misuse that later turned out not to be a misuse. A foreman for a building under construction was hired, about whom the chief architect told me to consider him as a retiree. Finally, they needed to place someone else, but there was no position. What to do? There was a directive from the administration and an order given by the administration’s bookkeeper not to allow any employee to pay salaries from advance funds if the employee was not hired by the administration with a special order. But why be constrained by the administration’s directives? They were made and written to constrain me, to weaken the influx of fresh forces. But if it’s necessary to place one’s own people, then down with all directives, barriers, brakes.

    So, they needed to place a certain Babaev, and despite the architects’ reluctance, he was assigned here and there among them. The architects paid his salary from the advance funds on the order of the administration member Makedonsky.

    I arrive: I see four people have been placed, none of them suitable. The position of a foreman is not such that people unfit for anything else can be put there.

    I think to myself: the administration doesn’t know this. Let me report to them that with Yuriev’s misdeeds, they have blundered, that Babaev is working illegally, that the foreman at the building is a retiree, and so on.

    When I used to propose firing an obvious thief, the administration demanded—and quite rightly—immediate clarification from the suspect, inquiries, questioning of witnesses.

    But with Yuriev! I prove with the architect Konovitsky’s paper that he is not at all guilty of the misuses for which he was fired, I read his own tearful petition… And what? The administration unanimously (except for me) decides that since Yuriev was fired, the matter is closed. Makedonsky is right. Justice is not for all, but for one’s own.

    And the foreman whom the architect calls a retiree?—”Let him stay. This is Makedonsky’s business.”

    And the foreman who receives a salary from the advances, without a directive?—”Leave him, because there was, supposedly, a discussion about him in the administration during my absence.” That was the verbal (sic) directive justifying Makedonsky’s actions.

    I had to admit defeat. The unity of the administration was touching. You scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours. You can go far with that.

    I must clarify. Mr. Belyavsky and Arutyunov, as far as I know, don’t place their own people; but they must be given credit for not only not hindering others (the members of the center) but actively supporting them.

    Understandably, the administration’s attitude towards the vocal members also changed. Approaching Baku, I read an outrageous, in my opinion, case in the newspapers.

    There was a council resolution that residential buildings on the piers of private individuals—and there are nearly a hundred such piers in Baku—are prohibited. This is both unsightly, unhygienic, and dangerous. But the people of Baku don’t like restrictions.

    Among the vocal members who were Muslims, there were two millionaires, Rasulov and Ashurov—pier owners, steamship owners, homeowners. They submitted a request to the administration to be allowed to build residential houses for their workers at the piers. The administration, at its next meeting—despite having hundreds of cases queued up for years—introduced this request to the council. And with what conclusion, do you think? To satisfy the request of Ashurov and Rasulov, unlike others.

    And the council satisfies the petition of its members, unlike others. This is so typical of Baku, such a normal phenomenon for Baku, that no one even spoke about it. Even the “Bakinskie Izvestiya” did not draw public attention to this disgrace.

    So to say that in the Baku council and the Baku administration, the law is not written for the vocal members—I consider it impossible. There is a limit to cynicism.

    Chapter 4

    It pains me to speak about the most troubling issue for me. Up until now, I thought it possible to endure everything, to reconcile myself with everything, blinding myself to the fact that I was supposed to bring water to the city. For thirty years, they couldn’t provide it, but I would provide water, lots of water, cheap water, the best water. Humiliations, failures in everything else could be endured for the sake of this one practical goal.

    I already mentioned that the matter of subterranean investigations was entrusted to a small commission of four members under my chairmanship. The commission was elected from opponents of the Lindley investigations. Only one deputy, Hajisky, was chosen at my request. Things were somehow moving forward until, in my absence, a contract was concluded with a French drilling company for investigations against the will of Lindley’s representatives.

    The situation became terribly complicated. Lindley conducted investigations through his representatives, and the city interfered with them in every possible way. Moreover, I made a mistake—judging only by external signs, I recommended a young Armenian engineer to be the city’s representative at the site of the investigations. He turned out to be far from capable for the position. Disputes arose. There was an atmosphere of hostility against Lindley and me. There were constant talks about stopping the investigations. Everyone felt out of place. How can one work properly if they feel insecure and expect to be dismissed at any moment? This was how Lindley’s representatives, the city employees, and the employees of the French drilling company felt.

    The company itself worked lackadaisically, prolonging the drilling and making the city’s overhead costs unbearable.

    I arrived, convened the commission. I saw they only wanted to break ties with me, with Lindley, and with the investigations. I suggested a joint trip to the site of the investigations. They agreed. Only Hajisky went with me. On site, we realized that things were going poorly, and the main reason for the failure was the uncertainty about the future. Only the council, by firmly stating its intentions, could provide certainty. We introduced the question of the investigations into the agenda. The council convened. A series of proposals began, which were hard even to formulate. The majority leaned towards stopping the subterranean water investigations in the Hil Heights, limiting themselves to the Shollar springs.

    I and some deputys objected. I listed again all the benefits of subterranean water. Deputy Gukasov or Kyandzhuntsev eloquently explained to the council that it’s unreasonable to start investigations one day and then abandon them the next without reason. He reminded how much effort it took from the city head and the Minister of Agriculture to get permission for the investigations and to spend one and a half hundred thousand from the reserve capital. This is not a child’s play. Today we send the head to Tiflis and Petersburg to hustle… and tomorrow we drop everything like a child bored with a toy. It’s unworthy of self-government. The project was started, and it’s a good one, it must be completed. That’s what we said. But the decision was apparently predetermined. Our words, nor the statement of Hajisky, the only deputy who had been on site, had any effect. Deputy Iretsky, while acknowledging that Shollar, especially in deep layers, provided excellent water during the last drilling, still spoke against further investigations on top.

    I noticed that Iretsky’s acknowledgment of Shollar’s water as superior—after his previous speeches where he called Shollar-Kara-su and argued that its water caused yellow fever—was a big step forward, and I once again asked the council to provide water that is not only the best but also the cheapest. Alas! Nothing helped. The majority voted to stop the investigations!

    The project was doomed! The most important of those I led (I speak, of course, about purely practical matters).

    Looking back, I still do not consider my participation in the investigation a waste of time. Even the Shollar spring had no hope of providing water to the city of Baku. I fought for Shollar to the extent that even the gentlemen Iretskys acknowledged it. In any case, Baku will not receive river water, but spring water.

    But I think that’s not enough. I believe that the public opinion of the city of Baku, not of the deputys, but of the entire city capable of understanding these matters, is in favor of Hil subterranean water. One way or another, but the time will come when healthy public opinion will prevail. And Baku will get Hil water. It’s too absurd to reject science.

    As much as I try to console myself, I must admit that the council’s decision affected me in the most depressing way. I began to count the days until I could leave Baku. But before leaving, I wanted to report to the council the reasons for my departure. I wanted to give them a picture of what was happening. And for this, I needed to expedite the budget as soon as possible, considering it my duty, if not to open their eyes (you can’t open the eyes of someone who deliberately squints), then at least to express everything that had accumulated in my soul and in which I was convinced by experience.

    Chapter 5

    The budget, meanwhile, was still not ready. First of all, the administration was delayed. The previous system I introduced, where the administration reviewed the budget jointly with the finance committee, was rejected by the committee. However, this was the only sensible system. The administration provides all the necessary explanations for the committee. Here, engineers, doctors, heads of individual departments are heard. The matter becomes clear to the administration itself, and even more so to the committee, whose members are often completely unfamiliar with the matter, neither directly nor even through reports. It was a lively work. The budget turned out to be conscious.

    Now the committee, headed by Chairman Antonov, demanded that the administration alone compile the budget, and then it would go to the committee for review. The committee, as everyone had long realized, had one concern: to cut expenses. Somehow, but to cut. And the committee had one enemy — me. Everyone was afraid of the Novikovian nightmare, easily invoked by G.G. Kyandzhuntsev. I asked the committee members:

    — “Why not review the budget together?”
    — “You will talk us into it.”

    Consider this situation. Determined to cut expenses, they preferred to deliberately wander in the dark, just to avoid being persuaded. That was the starting point, not speaking in favor of the committee members and not boding well. But it was even worse.

    The administration (without me—I was in St. Petersburg) reviewed the budget. It was easy for the administration because it received projects, budgets from the heads of individual departments, people closely familiar with the matter. And the budget was passed on to the committee in parts.

    Armed with budgets from the previous year 1903 and even earlier 1902 (pre-Novikov era), they worked very simply: cutting all Novikovian things and going back to the pre-reform times.

    Not only were they freed from my pressure, but they did not even want the presence of individual members of the administration… Not only that… they did not consult doctors, architects, or other responsible employees about why and for what changes were made in the budget.

    It turned out — I say without exaggeration — people wanted to work only in the dark. Something childishly helpless was felt. — “We, say, want to make cuts; probably, it’s not possible to make them; but we will cut anyway. So we won’t let anyone in, or they won’t let us make cuts.” It’s hard to imagine a more blatant admission of their own incompetence.

    However, they listened to two employees. First, Andronikov, who managed to win everyone over; second, Bogdanyan, the engineer responsible for paving.

    They listened to Andronikov and reluctantly agreed with him — it’s the only area of our administration whose budget was not only not cut but increased compared to the previous year. That’s the power of personal sympathies!

    They began asking Bogdatyan about his part, but when he wanted to give the committee a fuller understanding of the matter, the chairman cut him off:
    — “Just answer the questions.”

    That’s how the finance committee worked, consisting of the best, so to speak, vocal members. Antonov, A.G. Aivazov, Safaraliev — all leaders of our center. The committee didn’t cut the budget enough.

    “Why are we here,” exclaimed committee member Sharabandov, “if we’re not going to reduce expenses?”

    No one saw beyond their narrow task.

    They say you can’t curse as disgustingly in any language as you can in Russian. They are wrong: it’s even worse in Tatar. And such cursing among us is a privilege of the lower classes, and even then when drunk; but among Tatars, even more cultured elements curse. Cursing is not considered offensive; they curse for the sake of a colorful expression, for the beauty of speech. Encouraging themselves, each other, the committee members spewed such curses.

    — “Stand firm, say, don’t give in, or else…”

    It’s incredibly sad that the fate of Russian self-governance depends on such meetings.

    I arrive. I hear about all this. Woe to me! What about my financial report? What did they decide after studying it? Did they agree with my arguments?

    Alas, my untouched report lies there, and as 3 – 4 members of the finance committee discussed it — at their discretion to which I submitted it, and only the vocal member Agaev — thank him — the only one from the whole council who came to the private meeting I convened, the only vocal member who conscientiously dealt with Natanson’s work and mine.

    “But what,” I ask, “don’t the vocal members need to familiarize themselves more closely with the matter? After all, they had the first opportunity to judge the city’s financial situation from this report.”

    — “They don’t need anything. They cut the budget offhandedly.”

    I decided to confront some of the vocal members. I meet A.G. Aivazov in the club; the council listens to him, considers him an expert.

    — “Alexander Grigorievich, did you read my financial report?”

    He laughs:
    — “I did not!”
    — “But how did you cut the budget?… After all, first you need to familiarize yourself with the situation, and then discuss the details.”

    I met another member of the finance committee in the council, Gandzhuntsev—a vocal member who was educated, intelligent, and serious. He had resigned from the position of a member of the finance committee.

    — “Hayk Grigorievich, did you read my financial report?”

    He seemed a bit embarrassed:
    — “No, I must confess, I haven’t read it.”
    — “So how do you dare to judge the financial situation of the city and discuss the budget?”

    I met him again the next day. He had read the report, but apparently, he was not satisfied. No one read anything, doesn’t read, doesn’t want to read. And everyone talks. It even becomes amusing.

    The review of the budget in the council began. Initially, there were rumors that the council would accept the budget of the finance committee without objections. But fortunately, a proposal by Mr. Melikov in this regard did not pass. That would have been too shameless.

    Nevertheless, it was clear that they had conspired to fail the administration’s budget. Whatever was discussed, the majority shouted:
    — “Accept the figure of the finance committee.”

    Sometimes the committee’s cuts were too unfounded. Members of the administration and I explained to the vocal members that such reductions could not be made without significant harm to the work.
    — “The finance committee did not familiarize itself with the matter. It didn’t even hear the administrative agents. Why are there three clerks here? Does the committee know their work? Has it familiarized itself with their work? In the current budget, there were 4. Previously there were 2. So they wrote down 3… off the cuff.”

    Antonov, the chairman of the committee, vetoes.

    — “I find your comment inappropriate that the committee worked off the cuff. I would think there should be greater respect for the work of the vocal members, especially since it’s unpaid.”

    And Mr. Antonov, not giving me time to respond, demonstratively leaves the room. Mostly, the council agreed with the opinion of the finance committee, but sometimes the obvious prevailed, and they had to agree with the administration. The unfoundedness of the committee’s arguments was repeatedly pointed out by the vocal members. Mr. Antonov several times stopped me when I expressed doubt about the committee’s figures and my misunderstanding of how its budget was compiled and familiarized with the affairs.

    With him, it came to a complete breakdown. The vocal members attacked him for the unfounded figures of the committee. He blamed the administration.

    — “If you saw what the administration gave us instead of a budget, you would understand that we couldn’t do anything.”
    — “What was wrong with the administration’s budget?” I ask.
    — “It was not only not printed, but it was written on scraps of paper, the figures were crossed out several times. It was difficult to understand the actual figure.”
    — “Presumably, the one that was not crossed out! However, now the ministries and even ministers have repeatedly stated that the form should not be paid attention to. I didn’t know that the form was so important in the relations between the administration and the committee. I didn’t see the administration’s budget, being in St. Petersburg at the time of its compilation, but I know that the administration’s figures are all substantiated, and the administration gives you explanations for them. Your figures, however, testify to a complete lack of knowledge of the matter and even unwillingness to familiarize yourself with it. You have changed your opinion several times, reworked your decisions. One protocol contradicts the other.”

    Deputy Antonov vetoes.

    — “Your attitude towards the finance committee is completely intolerable. The vocal members of the committee worked conscientiously and without compensation (and you, on the other hand, receive a salary!), and you allow yourself to accuse them of poor work…”
    — “Yes, but I am proving…”
    — “And almost of dishonesty. Under these conditions, I consider it beneath my dignity to sit here any longer.”

    That’s approximately what the senior vocal member, Antonov, a prominent member of the center, said, and he left the hall. He no longer attended the council under my chairmanship.

    In other words: I am a deputy, and everything is allowed for me: to speak without knowing the matter, and to scold you, a hireling. And you… I pay you a salary,—though from city funds,—I am your boss, and you still dare to speak to me as an equal…

    Chapter 6

    It so happened that on a very important day of reviewing the budget for accounting and technical departments, I had an attack of fever. Belyavsky presided. The finance committee managed to write the accounting section in such a way that it could be understood differently. It could be thought that the committee wanted to return to the pre-Novikov times. It could also be understood that they wanted to leave the Natanson’s reorganization untouched. But the real issue was not with the committee.

    Despite its own resolution a year ago, which introduced new staff positions, and despite the fact that people had already been hired and were working in the newly reorganized accounting department, and despite explanations from the accountant Gukovsky and the administration, the council decided to reduce the number of employees by one-third, and to cut the salaries of the remaining by an average of one-third.

    In other words, they disregarded the Novikov reports and Natanson’s accounting. They weren’t interested in reading reports or accounting records. And in general, it’s still not proven whether light is better than darkness. Some still doubted whether the new accounting was useful or not. People are not used to embracing the big picture, so the overall financial picture of the city seems excessive to them.

    In short, they decided to revert the accounting to the old times and old methods. A mass of people were decided to be thrown out onto the street, and the remaining ones had their already meager livelihoods reduced. The administration was deprived of its steering wheel; a field was opened for abuses; the city’s self-governing employees were treated as a good peasant would not treat a long-serving laborer.

    The same happened in this memorable session with the technical department, reducing half of the architects and two-thirds of the foremen and reducing the remaining salaries by about 30%.

    Apart from offending a mass of employees, this decision seemed to say: forget about your supervision. We, the homeowners, violate building regulations, and we will deceive you. You wanted to tax the pipes passing through the streets of the Black City; but the pipes are ours. Forget about it! The less supervision, the better!

    The next day there was confusion in the administration. Understandably so. People are not serving some rich peasant. They serve the city, the self-government. And suddenly, like a twig, you are thrown out onto the street or deprived of the opportunity to educate your son.

    The employees in the accounting department gathered, talked among themselves, and decided to write a petition to the council, asking to reconsider the decision. The council’s decision was very wrong, no matter how you looked at it.

    Work was not going well all day. Hands were falling. The architects also gathered and decided that it was impossible to work under such conditions. They took and submitted requests for resignation. The foremen did the same, taking the accounting department’s petition and writing a similar one. “Reconsider your decision,” they said. The city was agitated. They made a mountain out of a molehill. In the evening, the council barely gathered in the legally required number. There was a crowd of the public. They came to listen to the protest of the employees. Faces that had never been seen in the council before were flickering.

    I reported the situation again, saying that the matter could not be dragged out in uncertainty for long, as the productivity of the employees, who were under the threat of unreasonable dismissal or, at best, a reduction in salary, had greatly decreased. I explained to them how harmful this would reflect on the work and how unworthy it was of self-governance. An employee of self-governance should feel secure, but here the position of an employee turned out to be less stable than in any ordinary oil company.

    There were objections, but they were weak. Deputy Sultanov kept probing me, asking what I meant by reduced productivity and whether there was any punishable wrongdoing involved. Unfortunately, he remained fixated on his inquisition. No wrongdoing was found.

    Nevertheless, the majority understood that things couldn’t continue this way. However, they felt that it was not possible to revise the previous decision with such a minimal attendance.

    Deputy Ahmedov spoke for everyone.

    “Tell the employees that everything will be sorted out, so they shouldn’t worry,” he said. “Now let’s refer these issues for additional review to the construction and finance committees. Gather them tomorrow, on Sunday. I assure you, we will meet. Everything will be sorted out.”

    That was the decision made.

    Alas! Mr. Ahmedov took too much upon himself. He and a few others came to the construction committee, but no one showed up for the finance committee. Perhaps they deemed it necessary to take offense following Mr. Antonov’s lead. The construction committee developed technical staff positions, more or less suitable to the previous ones.

    But then a turn of events happened that I, I must admit, did not expect and which hastened the resolution. The council stopped convening.

    It was a terribly busy time. It was June, when Baku’s residents are drawn to the countryside. They could disperse at any moment! And here, the budget was not ready. The governor was urging, and quite insistently. After all, being half a year late with the budget was a disgrace.

    On Monday, you start gathering for the council meeting. The minimum legal quorum for us is 19 people. I hear 17… 18… and it stops there.

    I’m told: a deputy came downstairs, asked if you were here, and upon learning that you were, left, taking two more with him from upstairs. One comes in, another leaves… the meeting is disrupted… The next day, the same thing happens…

    Rumors spread in the city that the deputies no longer gather with me present. Some said they didn’t want to give me a chance to explain the reasons for my departure, while others—more believably—said they did this to force me to leave sooner.

    I couldn’t stay without causing clear harm to the city, so I immediately submitted my resignation and simultaneously requested leave, fearing that my resignation might be delayed. My fears were unfounded. The process with my resignation proceeded unusually quickly, and I received it within three days.

    I left Baku on June 14th, having been the head for two years with little interruption. Before leaving, I wrote a letter to the vocal members, in which I said that, having submitted my resignation, I could not explain the reasons to the council, so I would lay out these reasons in a separate book, which would be published by autumn.

    Chapter 7

    A few weeks before my departure, some of the Novikov supporters began leaving. Rostkovsky, the secretary of the administration, left due to the abolition of his position by the finance committee and the council. He obtained a corresponding position in Tbilisi, where, it seems, he was received not in the Baku manner. Then some of the lower-ranking employees of my office started looking for better and more stable positions. Many positions were abolished here. After all, these were all Novikov people. And if people abolished in other departments could hope to find some corresponding position, Novikov supporters could not have such hope. Non-Novikov people also began to leave. Dr. Arnoldov, a dear doctor, couldn’t bear it and left silently.

    Then it was my turn. One might think that I should have been eagerly awaiting my departure from Baku. Practically, I had managed to accomplish only a tenth of what I had set out to do. Some increased school activity and the investigations at Shollar were all my practical achievements.

    Nothing compared to the list of failures. The Gilyan investigations didn’t succeed, nor did the loan, nor the reorganization of the administration in sanitary, construction, and other respects; the council not only failed to come under my influence but became hostile; I couldn’t instill new, healthy principles in the administration. That was my list of failures.

    Yet, I regretted leaving this city, which was not very welcoming to me. Why? They say a cat gets attached to a place, a dog to a person. Maybe I have both dog and cat tendencies. I get attached to both places and people. It can’t just be instinct that makes me feel regret at leaving Baku. The roots of this feeling run deeper.

    My connection with Baku remained, and I think it was a strong one. It wasn’t expressed in affairs, nor in feelings of solidarity with the council—no. I felt a closeness to the people of labor, those who in self-governance are referred to as the third element.

    I could compare the third element, i.e., people of labor and thought without any rights, with the vocal members, people of capital, idleness (in city affairs, of course), often incapable of work and endowed with a mass of rights even concerning the workers, actually working for the city.

    It’s customary to consider people in self-governance as the best local people. And here, a zemstvo vocal member, some landowner engaged only in his estate, dealing with district or provincial affairs for a week or two a year when he comes to town to meet acquaintances, is considered a local, and therefore a better person.

    Similarly, a council vocal member, occupied with his trade, capitals, or houses, coming to the council meeting to look at people and show himself, to do his profitable business or find a position for a relative, is also considered a local, and therefore a better person.

    On the other hand, take a doctor, an architect, an accountant, a clerk, who has been serving the city for 5, 10, 20 years, who has become akin to it not by raids but by constant work without respite, who has grown to love his work out of habit. No, he’s not a local, not a better person! He can be scolded in the council without defense; he can be dismissed with a stroke of a pen; he is somehow considered harmful, almost dangerous.

    Isn’t this outrageous? Isn’t it an appalling injustice? It was with them, these rightless people, that I was sorry to part; from the very beginning, I felt closer to them than to the city fathers. The farewell to them further strengthened this feeling of closeness.

    On the eve of my departure, I asked them to gather in the council hall and said a few words of farewell. I couldn’t say more. Something was constricting my throat. The acting commissar, a Muslim, responded to me.

    The next day I left. A few dozen people came to see me off, exclusively from the third element. There were lower-ranking employees. Not a single member of the administration, not a single deputy. And thank God!

    From their side, it would have been pretense if they had come. I would have had to pretend too. In the end, from the side of 4-5 people, it wouldn’t have been pretense but an act of cold politeness. Here there was none of that. It was more beneficial for them not to see me off than to do so. Therefore, those who came did so not out of self-interest, not out of cunning.

    Here is the speech made by one of those who saw me off (as reported in the newspapers):

    Highly esteemed Alexander Ivanovich, it falls to me the honorable duty to express on behalf of my colleagues our sincere regret at your departure from the position of Baku’s city head.

    I cannot fully appreciate the loss we suffer in parting with such an ideal person. I do not want to say ‘leader,’ because you always treated us not as a leader, but as a fellow human being. I will only say that in dealing with you, we all felt at ease, and everyone, from the simple street sweeper to the highest officials of the city administration, equally found in you a responsive attitude. I’ll say more: you were the strongest advocate for all the minor employees of the administration, your humane approach elevated these humble people in their own eyes, and they grew in the awareness of their human dignity, awakened in them by you. This awakening of human dignity will forever remain an unshakable monument among the people around you. You uplifted the downtrodden personalities of the minor employees, and for this, they express their heartfelt thanks and deep regret at losing their dear leader and advocate of their interests.

    Be happy, dear man, and always remain as we know you.

    If this speech had been given to me by someone close to me, a Novikov supporter, I would have received some satisfaction. It’s not difficult for me to treat people close to me humanely. But it was not a Novikov person who spoke; it was the accountant of the old-service office, Anton Fedorovich Sklyarevsky, who was not only not close to me but with whom our personal relationship had ceased lately due to non-service related matters. Among those who saw me off were many personal—not enemies, but at least people far from me in their worldview, in their ideals. In this, I found the greatest consolation.

    I set myself the task of working for the little people in life. And if I managed to be a person, not a boss, for the little people, for the poor people, even those subordinate to me, if I contributed to them feeling not worse, and maybe better, than those before whom they had to bow down, then it means I managed to kill in myself the person of high life, the landowner, the nobleman, the zemstvo leader. I managed to become simply a human being. And there is nothing higher than that in the world.

    To feel like a human being means to not consider your dignity lower than anyone else’s, but also not to consider yourself above others. As a zemstvo leader, I felt close to the peasants, but it was the closeness of a father to children… no, not a father… a stepfather, a boyar, maybe even a torturer…

    Only with a feeling of absolute equality can a person be fully satisfied. I have long strived for this, but even in Baku, I had a white bone and a black bone: not by origin, not by wealth, not by position, not by power, but still, it was there. The white bone for me were people of the same aspirations, the same ideals as me—these were the Novikov people; the black bone for me were the anti-Novikov people.

    Only there, at the station, did I feel that one must seek and be able to find a human being in everyone. And if you press the right button, even in a villain, you might find a human being.

    The employees I’m talking about, whom I considered not people because they didn’t agree with me, still felt like humans with me, probably because I didn’t let my personal relationships spill over into professional ground. But that’s not enough, if I had been more humane not just as a leader but also as a private individual, might I not have achieved greater results! And in terms of spreading my ideals.

    And the Duma members? Indeed, they too might be human beings, despite their wealth and power! What if, instead of the pride with which I initially approached them, instead of—well, let them forgive me—the contempt, I had shown them a desire to get closer, in other words, if I had treated them more humanely from the beginning, what would have happened? Maybe the human in the property owner would have emerged.

    It’s difficult to think, but it’s possible.

    True, even in the majority of the third element, which was not specially selected by me according to a particular recipe, I didn’t look for human beings; they found themselves for me. But there, it was easier to awaken the human aspect. It was enough not to look down on them, and they already responded.

    Now I am convinced that with them, in other matters too, greater results could have been achieved. But this is the third element, the working proletariat. With the vocal members, success would have been much more problematic. To start with, they are not used to bowing to others; on the contrary, they expect bows from others. But then again, who knows? Maybe those are right who say that if I didn’t achieve what I wanted from them, it’s my fault…

    I reconsidered a lot while sitting in the train…

    But even now, I cannot recall without emotion the last moments spent in Baku. I tried several times to speak, to wish them to maintain that spark of human dignity that had been kindled in them, begged forgiveness for any unintentional harm or perhaps deliberate offenses I caused them, asked them not to break off relations with me if anyone felt the need for moral support…

    I was greeted by Armenians who happened to be at the station; I saw tears in many eyes, and I myself was choked with tears…

    Some of the closest people accompanied me for a couple of stations, where the trains crossed paths.

    I will long remember that day…


    If I could go back two years, to when I moved from a calm governmental position to the tumultuous role of Baku’s city head, what would I answer to the proposal of Baku’s Duma members? Would I go to Baku, knowing from experience that in two years I would have to leave? In other words, did I bring enough benefit in these two years to justify my action, which many deemed rash?

    This is the question anyone in my place would ask themselves. Of course, I ask it too.

    What did I practically do for the city? What did the city gain that it wouldn’t have without me? I’m talking about public institutions.

    A new gymnasium, a secondary technical school instead of a lower one, 4,500 students in public schools instead of 3,000, the Shollar investigations with the conviction that this is ideal water, several clinics.

    That’s all… In two years… Not much. Yes, perhaps it’s reasonable to say that all this, or at least much of it, would have been done even with another head.

    Yes, another person might have achieved brilliant results in a whole range of other areas of the economy, for which I did nothing!…

    Yes! Little was done under me, very little.

    I will not listen to the voice of “The Caspian”. This opinion is too insignificant. But here’s an opinion I heard from people worth listening to—”You’re a bad administrator!”
    — “Why?”
    — “Well, you see, one must judge by the results. What do you leave behind except an empty treasury?”
    — “I’m surprised to hear you, an intelligent person, say this. First of all, what does it mean to be a good administrator? A city head of a big city with a two-million budget cannot be a specialist in all areas of the economy.”
    — “Nobody expects that from you.”
    — “Good. So, what is required of a head-administrator? To delve into every detail, to monitor everything? He wouldn’t have enough time for that, and he would miss the main point.”
    — “And no one asked that of you.”
    — “So what then? In my opinion, a head is expected to have a certain breadth of vision, not miserliness, but rather the ability to find the needs of the residents, satisfy them, and find the necessary means for it. I understand a good administrator-head as someone who equally monitors all areas of the complex economy and delves well into the financial part. And most importantly, he should be able to surround himself and the administration with honest and knowledgeable people of action, specialists.”
    — “Well, you see. And what did you do? Everything continues as before, you revitalized nothing, and you managed to attract few people.”
    — “Me? I? What could I have done? From afar it seems the head can do everything. In reality, a head can do a lot only with the sympathy of the administration and the support of the council. And you know, the administration deliberately chose the worst employees to spite me, and the council, you saw for yourself, even though you rarely attended—did it ever support me in the last year?”
    — “Yes, of course. Everyone knows that the head alone can do nothing, but that he is merely at the head of the administrative and council collegium.”
    — “In that lies the issue. But personally, what can you blame me for? I focused mainly on the financial aspect; thanks to me, the accounting was reorganized; thanks to me, for the first time, you could untangle your capitals and understand how your chronic deficits are formed. I personally wrote reports for you about school affairs, construction, medical issues, land management, and the organization of material resources. Almost all of these you rejected, almost without reading, because, let’s face it, you gentlemen do not like reading about city management. You gave me a few people, indeed significant ones, by my choice. But then you hampered the machine. Remember the issue with the architects. And Lagovsky left because of you, one way or another. I wanted action, I wanted working people down to the lowest positions… but you established a few positions… here, take them… but don’t touch our anthill. Allow us to plant our incompetent relatives, storekeepers, cooks in city positions. And this nastiness you covered up with the notion of ‘Baku patriotism’, not even nationalistic, but some kind of familial and, excuse me, unclean.
    — “You’re changing tactics: from a defensive position to an offensive one; let’s talk about you, not about us. But isn’t it a mandatory virtue of a head to be able to live with people? You didn’t go into a desert to establish whatever orders you liked; you didn’t expect to rule everything autocratically. No! You went to live and serve with people. Therefore, my dear, you need to know how to live with people. And for that, you need more tact, which you, unfortunately, completely lack. That’s the main reason for your failures. You could have done everything if you had tact. But with your tactlessness, you brought your relationship with the administration to such a point that there was only one thing left to do: leave.”
    — “This I could hear from many Baku residents, and especially from the good vocal members. I’m not talking about the ‘The Caspian’ people, of course, who would be happy to pick up or even fabricate a rumor about me, like that I committed a robbery or worse. But the accusation of tactlessness was made against me by completely impartial people, perhaps even inclined to forgive or at least diminish some of my faults.
    — “No tact! But where is the line between tact and criminal indulgence? And if I had tact… What would have happened? Would I have achieved everything I strived for? Unlikely. I would have served my four years and would have been re-elected—this would have been more financially beneficial for me. How would that have reflected on the work? I might have achieved something more than I did now. Let’s say I achieved quite significant results, although I don’t think so—there are too many personal interests involved in every issue, even the major ones like land. In short, I would have achieved what opportunists always achieve everywhere.

    But I didn’t go down that path from the start. At the very beginning of my service, Arutyunov, undoubtedly a smart man, noticing my straightforwardness, told me: ‘You want to go the straight path. In vain. You can’t do that in Baku. You’ll fail.’ I replied that I would go straight and believed in the triumph of truth. He shook his head. Practically, he turned out to be right. I cured myself of my naivety. But I do not regret the path I chose. I was always straightforward, both in the administration and in the council. Even in the one instance where I compromised, I did it straightforwardly: I give you a sinecure, you give me a new position. This was done openly, straightforwardly. I didn’t hide this deal from anyone. Of course, I regretted it later, even for this one reason: I was deceived.

    To understand that it’s impossible to be tactful in Baku, you need to know the environment I had to deal with. Too much of one’s human dignity would have to be sacrificed. You see that a certain deal, say, a land one, causes losses to the city and continues because the other party is a vocal member. Stay silent. It would be tactful. They say, ‘Anyway, you won’t achieve your goal, but you’ll make enemies.’ I say, in such cases, silence is a sin. Even if the city got a tramway for a few such silences.

    Then, there’s this incredible atmosphere of falsehood in Baku that gives the concept of tact a different meaning than in other places. Everything and everyone is steeped in falsehood. I had a conversation with someone I frequently interacted with about a third person. My companion started with ‘I love him like a brother.’ And in fifteen minutes, he painted him as an idiot and a scoundrel. Don’t think this would prevent them from joining forces against me tomorrow. This is constant: flattery, friendly bows on one side, and tripping and slander on the other.

    I’ve talked about the indulgence towards scoundrels. A factory owner told me about another who stole oil from him, got caught, was exposed, and how much he paid. And in the evening, they dined together at the club.

    A prominent person was telling a story about how another prominent person, who was incidentally in prison for fraud, had hired people to beat him up at night. And what then? They shook hands and spoke as friends.

    And a thousand such examples can be given. Enmity even to the point of wanting to kill, contempt, hatred for each other—all are covered up by the astonishing Baku-style amicability. A prominent, very prominent person is on first-name terms with everyone, with the older and the younger, with the higher-ups and the lower-downs. I seem to be the only one who avoided this fate. This is also called tact. This is how influence spreads.

    And as for me being on first-name terms with anyone, I often had to make an effort just to shake someone’s hand.

    How do you shake hands with a person you despise as a thief? Or at least to a personal enemy, who the devil knows what he smeared about you in the morning issue of The Caspian? Or a subject whom you simply despise as a scoundrel, or for the type of occupation that he has chosen. In general, shaking hands in Baku turned out to be an important issue for me. I defended and, I think, defended my right to my own hand. So you need to be transported into this atmosphere of lies, falsehood, amicotonism, arrogance and cynicism, taken together, in order to understand that a very special, enhanced tact is required from the Baku head. I am incapable of such tact. When I left, I wanted to make farewell visits to those people who had treated me well. I found five of these.

    One of them, only Tagiev, was always and unconditionally on my side, until the last minute. In matters of water and land, he always had a correct, broad view. He could not help but see my mistakes, for example, in the matter of statistics. But he did not try to use them against me. I had no personal relations with him (there is nothing to say about business ones). I avoided simple visits to him, so that they would not say that I was currying favor with him. Regarding the complaint he filed against the assessment commission and the council about the assessment of his apartment, I spoke against him, and that’s all. Yet he never stood up to me. Moreover, he always supported me.

    Then I found four more deputies, two Mohammedans and two Armenians, whom I always considered fair to me. That’s all. Already from this, the reader will see that just as I arrived not as a nationalist, so I left. And I must admit, I didn’t have to particularly fight against nationalism if you don’t call Baku patriotism nationalism. But what is more anti-national than this feeling? There is a rivalry between the Tatars and Armenians, but may they forgive me – worse than nationalism is the desire to put more of their own on the city grain. One might expect Armenian nationalism, but there is none in the Duma either. Black oil smoothes everything out. Where there is a lot of fuel oil, there cannot but be opportunism of all kinds. But there is no such thing as nationalistic opportunism.

    It was these same fuel instincts that rallied everyone against me, both the Tatars and the Armenians. I don’t know what the townspeople would say in the broad sense of the word. Armenians are oil-free. I think they would vote for me. Tatars, if they are not really subordinate to “The Caspian”… however, I don’t know about the Tatars. All this is so, the reader will say, let it not be your fault that you achieved little practical results in the matter of urban management, which you took on; let you have reasons that you did not compromise; may your tactlessness be forgiven, may it be! But pray tell! What have you done? What benefit did it bring?

    I will answer this question without fear that I will deserve reproach for my self-confidence. Yes, reader, I think I have brought some benefit, and not even a small one. Not for flattery, but for the truth, I accept the words of Mr. Sklyarevsky, who spoke on behalf of many, that my monument will be in the hearts of many people, the awakening of their human dignity.

    I have already spoken about this. Let some laugh at this, but I think that awakening a sense of human dignity in people who did not have it is a much more precious matter than building a hospital or a school.

    I also spoke about the attitude towards the press. For two years I had no secrets from the press, including from The Caspian. If the censorship didn’t let something through, it’s not my fault. Fortunately, it was more permissible to scold me than my opponents. I think I have proven that no limits on publicity can and should not be set. And that’s worth something.

    The third thing I attribute to myself is the increased interest of the public in city affairs. Before, there were some people walking around, but not a single woman was in the public. Women, young people, and all kinds of people began to come. Even though they were attracted at first by numerous scandals, one way or another, I was convinced that their serious attitude towards the matter intensified. After all, indeed, townspeople cannot help but be interested in who runs their household and how. For the city economy is the economy of the townspeople, not the public.

    Finally, and this is the main thing, whoever reads these notes will involuntarily, I think, be convinced that it is not there that one should look for salvation, but where to look for it. Let the Moskovskaya Vedomosti draw a moral from my experience that the principle of self-government is no good, that’s what the Moskovskaya Vedomosti is for, but the vast majority of readers, of course, will be convinced that it’s not the right place to look for leaders, where they are, alas! search so often. It is not homeowners and landowners, not capitalists who will save the Russian local economy, but an element of the conscious Russian intelligentsia. If my experience helps to clarify this truth, then that’s already good.

    I read some of what was written here to friends.

    “Alexander Ivanovich, you’ll have to go to jail for this. Maybe! They won’t go to jail for slander, because slander here is not the slightest; and I’m ready for defamation as much as you like sit. Let my accusers sign for receipt.”


    • Alimardan bey Topchubashov (1862-1934) was a prominent Azerbaijani politician who served as foreign minister and speaker of the Parliament of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic.
    • Zeynalabdin Taghiyev (1821-1924) was an Azerbaijani industrialist, oil magnate, and philanthropist who played a significant role in the development of Baku during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
    • Mikhail Agavich Belyavsky was acting head of Baku mayoralty in 1898, 1901 and 1904 as well as as the secretary of Baku City Public Administration
    • Konstantin Aleksandrovich Iretsky (1842-1918) was a Russian nobleman and mayor of Baku in 1894-1898
    • Vahan Fomich Totomiants (1875-1964) Russian economist, publicist, researcher, theorist and promoter of the cooperative movement of Armenian ethnicity
    • Sir William Heerlein Lindley (1853-1917) British civil engineer and designer of Baku’s water supply system
    • Hasan bey Melikov a.k.a Hasan bey Zardabi (1842-1907) was an Azerbaijani journalist and intellectual, founder of the first Azerbaijani language newspaper Akinchi (“The Ploughman”) in 1875. His daughter was married to Alimardan bey.
    • Vladislav Stanislavovich Smolensky was a member of Baku City Public Administration and brought Lindley to Baku for the first time in 1899
    • Boris Alexandrovich Makedonsky was an assistant to a sworn attorney, a member of the City Duma (1903), and a director of the Baku Mutual Credit Society (1913)
    • Józef Gosławski (1865-1904) was an ethnic Polish chief architect of Baku
    • Israfil Hajiyev (1870-1940) was an Azerbaijani Tat landowner and merchant
    • Khristofor Sergeevich Antonov was acting mayor of Baku in 1894 and a member of the Council of the Congress of Oil Industrialists, funded Armenian national movement
    • Ambartsum Sergeevich Melikov (d. 1929) was an Armenian oil baron who son was married to Shamsi Asadullayev’s granddaughter
    • Ahmed bey Aghayev, later Ahmed Aghaoglu (1869-1939) was a prominent Azerbaijani and naturalized Turkish politician, publicist and journalist. He was one of the founders of Pan-Turkism and Difai movement.
    • Aivazov Alexander Grigoryevich was an ethnic Armenian retired police warrant officer and director of Baku Credit Society. His brother Stepan was also a member of Baku City Public Administration.
    • Alexander Fedorovich Lagovsky (b. 1853) was an industrial engineer and in 1888 he supervised the construction of the Feodosia-Subash water pipeline in Crimea.
    • Lev Grigoryevich Galperin (1856-1913) was a doctor and head of Baku City Hospital. Left Baku for Moscow in 1909.
    • Mammadrza agha Vekilov (1864-1944) was a doctor and later member of the Parliament of the Azerbaijani Democratic Republic
    • Safaraliyev Ismail and Kamil beys were cousins and had oil and fish business
    • Vladimir Andreevich Arnold(ov) (1861-1941) was a doctor of medicine, professor, hygienist; acting rector of Saratov University in 1918.
    • Luarsab Nikolayevich Andronikov (1872-1939) was a prominent Georgian lawyer who was later  the Russian Provisional Government appointed Senate Criminal Department Secretary in 1917.
    • Mark Andreyevich Natanson (1851-1919) was a Lithuanian Jewish revolutionary and activist. Later founded Party of Left Socialist-Revolutionaries-Internationalists.
    • Stepan Martinovich Kardashev (1852-1918) was a Ganja-born Armenian engineer and a former member of All-Russian Social Revolutionary Organization.
    • Shamsi Asadullayev (1840-1913) was an Azerbaijani oil baron from Baku. His granddaughter Kawsar Asadullayeva was married to Kevork Melikov, father of Souren Melikian