Azerbaijan's unsung role in the World War II



Today marks the 70th anniversary since victory over fascism. This day is commemorated as an official holiday in Azerbaijan, with celebratory events held in Baku and all over the country.

Azerbaijan's role in the deadliest war of human history is largely underreported. However, hundreds of thousands of Azeris perished during the Second World War. The country also served as a vital energy supplier for the Soviet Union, accounting for over 70% of the USSR's total oil output during the war.

About 700,000 Azerbaijanis fought in the Second World War, with 400,000 never returned home by some accounts. Between 1940 and 1946, the population of Azerbaijan decreased from 3.27 million to 2.73 million, a loss of at least 534,000 people, according to One out of every six Azeris became a victim of the Second World War

Many Azeris were decorated, such as Division 130 awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union. Division 30 received the Order of Glory.  Over 170,000 Azerbaijanis were awarded orders and medals from the USSR, including the two-time Hero of the Soviet Union Major-General Hazi Aslanov.

Born into a working class family in 1910, Aslanov rose to prominence in the army and gained his captain rank in 1939. He served during the Battle of Stalingrad, for which he received his first star in 1943. Discriminatory treatment within the Soviet army prevented him from earning his second medal, which Aslanov was posthumously awarded in 1991.

Other Azeri heroes included Israfil Mammadov, Ruslan Vezirov, Adil Guliyev, Ziya Bunyadov, Garay Asadov, Huseynbala Aliyev, Gafur Mammadov, Melik Maharramov and Mehdi Huseynzade, generals Mahmud Abilov, Akim Abbasov, Tarlan Aliyarbekov, and Hajibala Zeynalov.

Azeribaijan's oil resources played a pivotal role for the Soviet Union during the Second World War. Baku was the main source of fuel for the USSR and produced as much as 23.4 million tons in 1941, which accounted for 71.4 per cent of the Union's total output that year. In total, 75 million tons of oil was pumped from Azerbaijan during the Second World War, as well as 22 million tons of gasoline.