restricted access Red Passage to Iran: The Baku Trade Fair and the Unmaking of the Azerbaijani Borderland, 1922–1930

From 1922 to 1930, the Baku trade fair played a key role in the development of economic relations between the Soviet Union and Northern Iran. Conceived by Azerbaijani leaders as a means to increase their influence in the Transcaucasian Federation and vis-à-vis the central authorities, it maintained a high level of economic interdependence between Soviet Azerbaijan and Iranian border regions. It was also a powerful channel for political and cultural interactions. However, the spatial revolution that accompanied the consolidation of the Bolshevik regime entailed a progressive refiguring of Soviet peripheries and severing of traditional cross-border economic and cultural contacts. The end of the NEP created a rift between Iranian merchants and Soviet economic institutions, undermining the importance of the fair. After the first crisis in 1926–1927, the Baku trade fair was subjected to ever increasing criticism and was eventually abolished in early 1930. Its disappearance illustrated the successful reshaping of the Caucasian borderland by Soviet authorities and the disruption of traditional Azerbaijani links with Iran and the Middle East.