Tragic loss of «Red Pasha». Part II


Part I

It should be noted that the Kremlin vision of the situation was in general correct (apart from the fact that Abdelaziz believed that Hussein deserved to be decrowned). Hakimov started to act relying on this scheme. Moscow turned out to be seeking to establish a single Arab state and looked for Arabs to rely on against the disclosed English.

On the first stage everything was fine in Hakimov’s work. Sharif (and by then already the King) of Mecca Hussein (or Gussein as mentioned by Chicherin) paid a visit to Hakimov and talked with him for an hour and a half. He realized he was extremely weak and needed any foreign support. The diplomatic corps was excited by the manners and skills of Hakimov who spoke good Arabic, knew the Quran and regularly appeared at the receptions in a national Arab dress. He managed to win trust of local people and many diplomats.

The English diplomats however did not believe that Hakimov arrived only in order to set up relations with Hejaz. The English believed that the Arab Five was busy with propaganda among pilgrims. That work was allegedly aimed at distributing of anti-colonial materials. The group worked with the pilgrims and not against the people of Sharif Hussein orAl Saud. Different active operational events, as the British saw it, were organized with other foreign consulates including the Consulate General of India. In other words, the group was engaged in two different tasks – open political and covert directed at establishment of communist cells in the Arab world.

Unfortunately, the political situation in Hejaz changed very quickly. Hussein was losing his authority and power. His Khalifat was infected with corruption. The English subsequently downgraded their support especially after he refused to sign not only the Versailles Treaty (in protest to the establishment of a national home for Jews) but also proposals brought to him by Lawrence on the Anglo-Hejaz Treaty. In accordance with it, the ruler of Mecca would have received subsidies from Great Britain and concluded a military treaty with London in return to recognition of its special interests in Hejaz.

Soon all of it started to lose sense. In the middle of October 1924 Abdelaziz Ibn Saud triumphantly took over Hejaz (Mecca) and did it very elegantly with the help of his sons. In a way the analysis of Chicherin even if it was correct at some stage came quite late. Sharif of Mecca Hussein fled the country and left it to his son Ali. Hakimov as a true diplomat tried to reconcile enemies and set off for Mecca (he had privilege to be a Muslim and to be able to visit Mecca unlike his western colleagues), which was used as headquarters of the new ruler of Arabia since 1924.

This outstanding personality deserves consideration too. Abdelaziz Ibn Abdelrahman Ibn Feisal Al Saud came from the ancient clan of Saud. After January 15, 1902 when he conquered Riyadh he gained the upper hand over the rest leaders of the clans in Arabia. He was a commander and a politician by his virtue. Resting upon his strong belief in the religion of Islam and unadorned energy, purposefulness and confidence in his cause he managed to achieve outstanding results. The English had to acknowledge this, though they had not expected such a rise on his side. On December 26, 1916 they signed a new treaty with the new leader. Under this treaty they recognized Nejd, Al-Hasa, Qatif, Jubeil and their dependencies as well as the ports on the coast of the Persian Gulf as countries under the rule of Ibn Saud and his ancestors. By this Ibn Saud won their recognition as an independent ruler and the only absolute leader of the tribes of Arabia (Jonh S.Habib 2003: 33).

Towards the end of 1924 Abdelaziz came closer to his goal – to take under control the entire Arabian Peninsula. Now he, and not Hussein, was seen by shrewd Hakimov as a leader the Kremlin could built its relations with on the basis of supporting the idea of a single Arab state and counteraction to Great Britain. Abdelaziz, a two-meter tall and broad-shouldered giant, looked more convincing as a man of principle and decision than Hussein.

Reaching this new lucky and energetic personality was not an easy task. Hakimov could make it due to his personal features and friendly relationahip with Jack Philby (also known as Harry St John Bridger Philby), who was the father of the Soviet intelligence officer Kim Philby.

«Jack» Philby was quite unique. He gave up his colonial service (he worked before in India, Iraq, Transjordan) and made his way to Arabia in the 1920-s. First time he visited this country in 1917-1918 from Iraq as the Head of the British mission to have negotiations with Abdelaziz. Later he settled down and married an Arab woman, started wearing an Arab dress and lived like an Arab converted to Islam (officially he made it in 1930). He was a graduate of Cambridge, an enlightened and able orientalist. By his character he was extremely independent and never considered himself bound by any commitment to the British crown (at least he never made a show out of this) and did what he was interested in. His interest was King Abdelaziz who he considered for many reasons as the greatest Arab since prophet Mohammed times. These words of him there upon were cited often by the Western diplomats with reference to King Abdelaziz.

Philby was sincerely admired by the King and became his personal friend (however it was not him to discover Abdelaziz Ibn Saud for Britain but the British agent in Kuwait with the sonorous surname Shakespeare, who met Emir of Nejd in 1913 and reported to London on him as a rising leader). Jack helped young monarch in many affairs and in commerce for his personal sake. He managed to preserve good relations with the metropolis and sometimes visited London where he was greeted in glory addressing his audience with lectures on Saudi Arabia which became very famous thanks to his books on the Rub Al Khali desert. He continued to carry out delicate tasks of the British crown, although every time the winner in these cases was the Saudi monarch. Later Philby became a key person to make the Saudi Arabia oil flow to the American control (more exactly under control of the Rockfellers) and the country itself established a special partnership with the US. We will get back to this issue.

The question how Hakimov managed to reach Philby remains open. Both of them might have liked each other. Both of them were independent and shared sympathies to the Arab and Muslim world. The fact is the Philby convinced Ibn Saud to receive Hakimov as a person who wanted to advocate the rights of the Soviet Muslims to pilgrimage (around 15 thousand a year). The problem was with the English who did not allow the Russians pass the straits, fearing that the Russian presence would increase and the Communist infection could infiltrate. When meeting Abdelaziz Ibn Saud in person, Hakimov asked him to help with Hajj issues. However the conversation could cover other political issues.

In any way after that conversation Hakimov recommended that Moscow should not interfere in the confrontation between the Hashimis and Saudis which was in the interests of Emir of Nejd. Ibn Saud would not forget this favorable stance. Thanks to his intuition and inborn diplomatic talents Hakimov understood the situation correctly and saw who was really stronger in the Arabian Peninsula.

On December 22, 1925 the army of Ibn Saud who by that time controlled Mecca took over Jeddah. The son of Hussein Ali gave up everything except for the treasury of 800 000 golden sovereigns and emigrated. The hesitant English whose plans rested on the sons of Hussein hesitated and took indecisive position. Hakimov wisely made use of the situation. Moscow outrun London at “the final mile” and was the first in the world to recognize the authority of Ibn Saud over the united territories of Nejd and Hejaz. On February 16, 1926 Hakimov sent a note to Ibn Saud in which the Kremlin recognized the Saudi power.

  • What is more, Russia was very positive towards the Wahhabis at that time and actively assisted in acquiring the international recognition by the new state.

With this goal and at the request of Abdelaziz Ibn Saud the Soviet Muslim delegation arrived in Mecca on September 26, 1926 to participate in the World Muslim Congress organized by the new ruler to ensure his recognition not only as the new king but also in the capacity of the Custodian of two Holy sites of Islam - Mecca and Medina. In the absence of the UN at that time this would increase his authority and legitimacy in comparison with other representatives of the region. Following Hakimov’s recommendation, the Russian delegation was headed by the Chairman of the Central spiritual association of the USSR Muslims, Mufti Riza-Uddin Fahretdinov1.

Fahretdinov gave his account of the Soviet participation in the Congress. “First, it is necessary to express our negative attitude to all the attempts of the imperial powers to exploit in their interests the religion of Islam and the desire of the Muslim peoples to unite. For this reason we did not take part in the Qatari Congress that had been convened and organized under the English conditions on the Khalifat issue.

Second, we express our desire to help in every possible way to strengthen the revived independence of the Arab state under Ibn Saud leadership. With this it is important to keep beating off all the attempts to discredit the leader of this state among Muslims and to foil his initiative to convene the first Muslim congress” (Izvestiya 224 (2855)).

The total number of 68 delegates took part in the life-changing forum. The Soviet delegation was quite active in its efforts to ensure the recognition of the Kingdom and personally the king as the Custodian of the Holy sites (despite the fact that unlike Hussein Al-Hashimi his genealogy had no relation to Prophet Muhammad). This position of the Soviet delegation won them respect. Of course this favour of Moscow did not go unnoticed by the king who was always thankful to Hakimov personally rather than to the country which the latter served. During the Muslim congress the king invited Hakimov to join him for Hajj that was the sign of his highest respect.

  • London believed that due to these efforts the King had gained too much strength and was becoming independent from the British crown, with Abdelaziz aspiring to be self-determining.

Soon after that the policy of Moscow underwent significant changes. Havibg given support to the new state, Russia made a sharp turn from the all-out policy of penetration in the Middle East helping counter west revolutions and anti-British struggle to the policy of establishing trade relations with all the countries in the region including Saudi Arabia. Moscow became more concerned about the USSR’s industrialization and the need to achieve it. The first goal was to reach trade agreements with Riyadh. This can be inferred from all the instructions from the capital to Hakimov.

The next Soviet diplomat Nazir Tyuryakulov who succeeded Hakimov in 1927 started to work on the agreement. In 1929 he received confidential instructions from the capital to sign a general treaty with Abdelaziz. The deputy foreign affairs commissar, the Head of the Middle East Department Karahan2 instructed Hakimov on May 21, 1929 as follows: “The main issue which needs to be settled is to arrange our trade activity in Hejaz” (Mansurov Tair 2001:193).

Such a change, which began during Hakimov’s service in Hejaz, caused his internal protest. He was a devoted revolutionary, romantic and sincere Muslim and in 1927 he asked permission to come back to the USSR. This can be seen in the note to Joseph Stalin from Karahan on November 16, 1927 (Mansurov Tair 2001:149). Before that Hakimov several times had refused his wife Hadice from returning home, though she was very stressed after the death of their son Shamil in 1925 as a result of dysentery. And now suddenly he asked to go home himself. One of the reasons could be his new task. Instead of mobilizing support to the world revolution in 1927 he was instructed to arrange a trivial shipment of essential commodities from Odessa to Jeddah by sea. He made it, delivered sugar, diesel and flour – the local population would not forget it: since then the high grade flour has been called “Moscobi” in recognition of Moscow.

But the Bolsheviks still needed Hakimov in Hejaz. From the very beginning they cynically referred to him as an “exposed man”, but at the same time recognized that “he got used to our policy”. Soon after that Hakimov was appointed the Representative of Export-Import Company in trade with Turkey and the Middle East “Blizhvostgostorg” in Yemen. The decision was taken at the Political Bureau meeting on May 9, 1929 and was based on the proposal of the Foreign Affairs Commissariat (Protocol 79). Hakimov was appointed as the General representative in Yemen where he worked for two consecutive years – from June 1929 till December 1931 (РГАСПИ. Ф. 17, оп. 163, д. 784, л. 62). His activity there was also double-sided - as a Plenipotentiary Representative he at the same time headed the coordination work of the local department of Comintern. In 1929 thanks to his efforts the USSR signed a trade agreement with Yemen (with Imam Yahya3). Of interest is the fact that the Arab Five did not fall apart. One of its members Naum Pavlovich Belkin became a merchant and concluded a deal to supply foodstaffs from Soviet Russia to Yemen. A trade network was created which worked under different flags but traded Soviet goods.

In a note to Karahan on March 10, 1930 Tyuryakulov underlined that “the trade issue is one of the main tasks gaining due political importance” in relations with Saudi Arabia (cited by Mansurov, “The Arabian epic of Nazir Tyuryakulov”, p.229). It should be noted that Tyuryakulov did not forget his predecessor. In a secret note to Karahan on March 25, 1930 he demanded that Moscow send Hakimov to Hejaz “to perform Hajj” (!) and “to work out with him provisions of the trade agreement, if it was possible, along with other trade issues” (cited by Mansurov, “The Arabian epic of Nazir Tyuryakulov”, p.228).

In 1932 Hakimov lived in Moscow where he attended the course of the Red Professorship. Along with it he was preparing for the visit of the son of Abdelaziz Prince Faisal and personally met him at the Belorussian railway station.

The visit of Prince Faisal to Moscow was mainly arranged owing to the remarkable diplomatic efforts of Hakimov. Soviet Russia was perceived by Saudi Arabia as a friendly country thanks to his contribution. Riyadh deemed it necessary to look for supporters of the young state and included the USSR in its list of potential sponsors together with the USA and Great Britain.

When Prince Faisal arrived at the Belorussian railway station on May 29, 1932 the entire second row of political, military and diplomatic leadership of the USSR was there meeting him. Among them only two faces were familiar to him, namely Tyuryakulov and Hakimov. Moscow was the last capital in his tour over European countries. The main goal of the visit along with settling trade issues was to get a loan from the USSR for the Saudi Kingdom experiencing serious financial difficulties.

Faisal paid visits to plants and military garrisons, museums, parks, theatres in Moscow. He held negotiations with all the leaders of the USSR except for Joseph Stalin. On May 31, 1932 a grand reception in his honor was held in the Kremlin by the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the USSR Molotov4.

However despite the splendor of the reception mutual disappointment over the visit was rather visible. The Bolsheviks saw in Faisal not the leader of the national liberation movement as they had expected relying on the stories of Hakimov but rather a pious son of the absolute monarch seeking money from whatsoever source. Moscow refused Prince Faisal a credit. He in turn was very annoyed not only by this but also by not being given a chance to meet with Fahretdinov for no evident reason. The guess is that the refusal for such a meeting was on the account of a huge anti-Islamic propaganda that had been launched in Russia at the end of the 1920-s. From December 1929 10000 out of 12000 mosques were closed. At the beginning of 1931 service was stopped in the main mosque of Leningrad. Therefore the authorities feared that Prince Faisal would hear from Fahretdinov complaints on repressions against Muslims in Soviet Russia. Finally Prince Faisal became certain that the USSR was an atheist country apart from the fact that unlike Great Britain or the USA it was not developed.

  • Soon after the visit King Abdelaziz Ibn Saud announced about the establishment of Saudi Arabia. Based on the report of his son the King decided to choose cooperation with the western powers, rather than with the USSR.

That was evidently the heaviest personal blow to Karim Hakimov who passionately stood up for the development of relations with Saudi Arabia. The changing atmosphere in Moscow which no longer thought of the world revolution and considered Islam as the ideological rival of Communism made it clear for Hakimov that nothing would help in the situation, his career and in the course of time - even his life. Guided by the pragmatic considerations Moscow posted Hakimov in 1936 instead of Nazir Tyuryakulov to push development of trade relations with Saudi Arabia. Tyuryakulov grew tired of underproductive trade negotiations with the stubborn Saudis and asked to be returned home. In July 1937 Tyuryakulov was arrested. On November 3 he was executed.

Hakimov seemed to know that troubles were brewing on the horizon. The indirect evidence to that was the letter of Tyuryakulov from Berlin to some “Comrade Zukerman” on January 26, 1936. Without any connection to the text of the main message (Tyuryakulov complained about difficulties in Saudi Arabia) it contained strange sentence at the end: “Comrade Hakimov left Paris highly depressed (cited by Mansurov, “The Arabian epic of Nazir Tyuryakulov”, p.299). Why Hakimov was in Paris remains a mystery.

It is only known that Hakimov did not escape the fate of Tyuryakulov. On September 6, 1937 he was called back to Moscow. He courageously returned having strong presentiment on his future lot. Still, Hakimov believed he would be proved innocent. In November he was arrested and on January 10, 1938 executed by shooting to death.

In 1937-1938 almost all members of the Arab Five underwent repressions. The only survivor was Belkin (this is left for readers to judge why) who was dismissed but at the start of the war he returned to office. He died in Iran in 1942 by natural death fulfilling his regular mission.

The well-known orientalist Akselrod was shot to death on February 27 in Moscow. Amirkhanov was shot to death in Kazan on November 3, 1938. Gulmetov was executed on February 19, 1938 on the execution plaza “Kommunarka” at the same place where Hakimov had been shot. The wife of Hakimov Hadica was sentenced to 8 years of labour settlement in Kazakhstan.

Of note is the following fact. The King received the news on the death of his friend from John Philby. “Jack” allegedly went to Moscow with a purpose to check the fate of the outstanding diplomat (according to some sources, he under nickname “Counsellor Abdullah” arrived in Cairo in 1943 where he inquired on the fate of Hakimov in the Soviet Embassy which had been opened in Egypt). The news of the death shocked the King. He decided to break up the relations with the Soviet Union. This state of affairs lasted for the next 60 years.

What is known about John Philby? He never failed. He saw what a talented revolutionary Karim Hakimov focused on the world did not see. Philby focused on oil. The English were the first in the Middle East to turn their attention to oil mostly in Iraq and Iran and to a lesser extent in the Persian Gulf. In Saudi Arabia they relied on Philby who became a Representative of “Iraq Petroleum”.

But this independently thinking Englishman undertook a broader approach. He agreed to a proposal of the US “Standard Oil of California” – one of the leading oil companies of the Rockefellers. He acted this way guided by the position of the King – to grant the oil concession to the highest bidder. His feeling to the British crown did not prevent him from taking a rational decision (Vasiliev A.M. 2010: 120-8).

The English did not believe in oil of Saudi Arabia and did not pay big money to Philby. This was done by Americans who heavily invested in supporting Abdelaziz and successfully signed an agreement on May 8, 1933. In accordance with the agreement they paid 35 000 pounds in cash and 5 000 pounds a year for the right to extract oil. For every ton of oil they promised to transfer 4 shillings to the Saudis. This was the dawn of the oil era in the Middle East which led to a privileged partnership of Saudi Arabia with the USA and to freezing out the USSR and partially Great Britain from the Middle East.

  • The English wanted to have all – from Arabs they wanted concessions for their support of a single Arab state, from the Rothschilds they sought compensation for their stance towards the Zionist project. In the final score they lost everything, the trust of Arabs, including King Abdelaziz, and came into conflict with the Zionist movement. They got only what they got – territories with the Sykes-Picot lines and Iraqi oil. However, after World War I the national liberation movements with the Soviet support managed to undermine the British sphere of influence. Israel with its birth in 1948 despite the support of Great Britain was quick to align with the USA.

Yet, one must give credits to the English. Following the USSR they managed to give a correct assessment to the Islamic factor. Unlike the Soviet Union, which was engaged in modernization and abandoned the idea to combine the Socialist ideas with the Islamic ones London did not skip its chance. In particular, the British supported the efforts of Hassan Al-Banna5 in 1928 and their network of Muslim Brotherhood that in the XXI century became a wide trans-regional movement, which split into different tides among Sunnis and Shia in the Middle East. Americans assumed custody over this power but the fact remains that the British were the first to discover it and give it a rise.

Washington won the game and took the leading role over the ageing empire. The strategy of the Rockefellers was victorious. The smell of money and oil was far more important than the ideologies of Islam and Communism, or the world revolution. Had Karim Hakimov been more focused on economic issues, with his talents and his friendly relations with the King theoretically he would have been more advantageous in rivalry with the English and the Americans in oil issues. It could have happened the same way as when he managed to be the first to recognize Saudi Royal. Unfortunately, Soviet Russia was not interested in oil and even supplied diesel to Saudi Arabia. The harsh prewar repressions against diplomats, whom the USSR authorities suspected of excessive internationalism became to some extent a logical ending to this story.


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1 Riza-Uddin Fakhretdinov (1859-1936) was an activist of Muslim culture in Russia. He was a historian and writer. He was the author of schoolbooks on the Tatar language in 1886-1887. He opened the Tatar school. In 1908-1917 he was the chief-editor of the literature magazine “Shura” in Orenburg. He was the Director of madrasa “Husainiya”. In 1922 he was appointed a Mufti in Ufa. He published more than 170 articles. The main achievement of Fakhretdinov was the multi-volume “Sochineniya” (Bim-Bad 2002:415).

2 Leo Karahan (1889-1937) – a Soviet statesman, a diplomat. Since 1917 he was the Secretary of Petrograd Council. Since November 1917 he was the secretary of the Soviet delegation to peace negotiations with Germany in Brest-Litovsk. In 1918-1920 he was the deputy Foreign Minister of the RSFSR. In 1921-1927 he served in Poland and China. In 1927-1934 he was the deputy Foreign Minister of the USSR. In 1934 he was the Representative of the USSR in Turkey. On May 3, 1937 he was called back to Moscow and arrested upon his return. On September 20, 1937 he was executed. Later he was rehabilitated.

3 Yahya ben Muhammad Hamad- Ad-Din (1867-1948) was a statesman in Yemen. He led the rebellion of Yemeni tribes of Zeid against Ottoman Turkey in 1904. In 1911 he gained the autonomy rights for internal affairs in Yemen. After the fall of the Ottoman Empire he was crowned the King of Yemen. He united the tribes of the Northern Yemen in a single state. In 1928 he concluded the Friendship and Trade Treaty with the USSR (Bolshaya Sovetskaya Encyclopedia 1969-1978).

4 Vyacheslav Molotov (Skryabin) (1890-1986) – a Soviet statesman. Since 1930 he was the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the USSR till May 1941. On May 1939 he was appointed the Foreign Minister

5 Hasan al-Banna (1906 — 1949) was a political leader in Egypt. He was the founder of the political association of Muslim Brotherhood (Razhbandinov 2003).