The history of the Karabakh conflict is a short episode in the almost 200-year chronicle of interaction between the Armenian ethnos and the peoples of the Caucasus. The cardinal changes in the South Caucasus were caused by the large-scale policy of resettlement which was started by the Tsarist Russia in the 19th-20th centuries and then continued by the USSR up to the moment of dissolution of the Soviet state. The process of resettlement can be divided into two phases:
- The 19th-early 20th century, when the ethnic Armenians moved from Persia, the Ottoman Empire and Near East to the Caucasus.
- The 20th century, when migration processes were taking place within the Caucasus and the indigenous peoples (local population) -- Azerbaijanis, Georgians and smaller peoples of the Caucasus -- were pushed out from the areas of settlement of ethnic Armenians, which resulted in creation of ethnic Armenian majority in those areas for the purpose of furthering the territorial claims against the peoples of the Caucasus.
To clearly understand the causes of the Karabakh conflict, we have to embark on a historical and geographic journey of the Armenian people. The Armenian term for Armenian is Hay, and the mythical motherland is called Hayastan.
The Armenian (Hay) people arrived in their current geographic area of settlement -- the South Caucasus -- on account of historical events and geopolitical struggle among great powers in the Near East, Asia Minor and the Caucasus. As it stands in the present-day historiography of the world, the majority of the researchers of Ancient Middle East concur on the opinion that the original motherland of the Hay people was the Balkans (South-Eastern Europe).
"Father of History" Herodotus pointed out that Armenians were descendants of the Phrygians, residents of the South Europe. I. Shopen, the Russian Caucasus scholar of the 19th century, also argued that the "Armenians are essentially new arrivals. They are the genus of Phrygians and Ionians, who moved to the northern valleys of the Anatolian mountains."
Prominent Armenia scholar M. Abegyan pointed out: "It is supposed that long before the new era, the ancestors of the Armenians (Hay) lived in Europe, near the ancestors of the Greeks and Thracians, whence they migrated to Asia Minor. In Herodotus's period, in the 5th century BC, people still remembered that Armenians came to their land from the west."
The ancestors of the modern Armenians, the Hay, migrated from the Balkans to the Armenian plateau (eastern part of Asia Minor), where the ancient Medes and Persians, who lived nearby, gave them the name of their earlier neighbors, the Armen. The Greeks and the Romans adopted the name for both the new people and the area which they occupied, and through them, the ethnonym "Armenians" and toponym "Armenia" gained currency in the historical science, although the Armenians themselves still call themselves Hay, which is just another proof that they are immigrants in Armenia.
V.L. Velichko, a Russian scholar of the Caucasus, noticed in the early 20th century: "The Armenians, a people of unknown origin with unquestionable admixture of the Jewish, Syrian-Chaldean and Gypsy bloods; by far not everyone who consider themselves Armenian belong to the original Armenian tribe."
From Asia Minor, the Armenian settlers started to arrive in the Caucasus -- the present-day Armenia and Karabakh. In connection with this, researcher S.P. Zelinskiy noted that the Armenians who arrived in Karabakh in different periods did not understand one another's language: "The main difference between the Armenians of different areas of Zangezur (which was part of the Karabakh khanate) is the language they speak. There are almost as many tongues as there are districts or individual villages here."
Several conclusions can be drawn from the statements by the 19th-early 20th century Russian researchers of the Caucasus above: The Armenian ethnic group cannot be indigenous not only in Karabakh or Azerbaijan, but in the South Caucasus in general. The "Armenians" who used to arrive in the Caucasus in different periods of history did not know about one another's existence and spoke different languages, in other words, back then there was no single Armenian language or Armenian people.
So, stage by stage, the ancestors of the Armenians had acquired a motherland in the South Caucasus, where they occupied the native lands of the Azerbaijanis. The phase of mass resettlement of the Armenians to the South Caucasus was marked by a favorable attitude to the process in the Arab Caliphate, which sought social support in the conquered territories and was therefore lenient toward the resettlement of the Armenians. The Armenians found home in the Caucasus, on the territory of the state of Caucasian Albania, but soon enough the Albanians (ancestors of modern-day Azerbaijani) would pay the price for their hospitality. With help from the Arabian Caliphate, the Armenian Gregorian Church made an attempt to take control of the Albanian Church in 704, and the library of Albanian Catholicos Nerses Bakur was destroyed once it was transferred under control of the Armenian clergy. Arab Caliph Abd al-Malik Umayyad (685-705) issued orders to merge the Autocephalous Albanian Church and Christian Albanians who had not converted to Islam with the Armenian Gregorian Church. But back then, this plan could not be implemented in full, and the Albanians had defended their church and statehood.
In the early 15th century, the situation of the Armenians in the Byzantine Empire worsened, and the Armenian Church shifted its focus toward the loyalist Caucasus, where it started to pursue the goal of founding its own state. The high-level Armenian clergymen paid a number of visits and wrote a large number of letters to the Albanian patriarchs with requests to give a refuge in the Caucasus "to their Christian brothers in distress." The Armenian Church, forced to wander around the Byzantine cities, had eventually lost most of its Armenian congregation, which adopted Catholicism, and therefore faced the threat of total disappearance. As a result, the Albanian patriarch allowed some of the Armenian clergymen to move to the Echmiadzin (Three Muezzins) -- Uchkilise Monastery in the South Caucasus circa 1441, which is on the territory of modern-day Armenia, and they had finally found a long-awaited peace and place where they could pursue their political plans.
From there, the Armenian settlers started to move to Karabakh, which they decided to call Artsakh from then on in an attempt to prove that it was an Armenian land. It has to be noted that the toponym "Artsakh," which is sometimes used to refer to Nagorno-Karabakh, is of local origin. In the modern Udin language, which was one of the languages of Caucasian Albania, "artsesun" means to "sit" or "sit down." The verb form gave rise to "artsi" -- "settled; non-nomadic people who lead a settled life style." In Azerbaijan and the North Caucasus, there are tens of geographic names with formants of the -akh, -ekh, -ukh, -okh, -ikh, -yukh, -ykh types. Toponyms with the same formants still exist in Azerbaijan today: Qurm-ux, Qoxm-ux, Mamr-ux, Mux-ax, Cimcim-ax, Sam-ux, Arts-ax, Sad-ux, Az-ix.
In her fundamental academic work "The Caucasian Albania and Albanians," Old Armenian Language specialist, Albania researcher and historian Farida Mammadova, who in the Soviet era studied medieval Armenian manuscripts, established that many of these manuscripts were written 200-300 years ago, but are described as "ancient." Many Armenian chronicles are based on ancient Albanian books to which Armenians gained access after the abolition by the Russian Empire of the Albanian Church in 1836 and transfer of its entire legacy to the Armenian Church, which rewrote on this basis the "ancient" Armenian history. Effectively, after arriving in the Caucasus, the Armenian chroniclers cobbled up the history of their people from on the tombstone of the Albanian culture in a very real sense.
In the 15-17th centuries, under the powerful Azerbaijani states of White Sheep Turkomans, Black Sheep Turkomans and Safavids, the Armenian Catholicoi wrote humble letters to the rulers of those states with reassurances of their loyalty and implorations for assistance in resettlement of Armenians to the Caucasus to deliver them from the "yoke of the perfidious Ottomans." In this manner, taking advantage of the confrontation between the Ottoman and Safavid empires, a large number of ethnic Armenians moved to the Safavid territories on the border between the two states -- the modern-day Armenia, Naxcivan and Karabakh.
However, the period of rise of the Azerbaijani state of Safavids gave way by the early 18th century to feudal disunity which resulted in a split of state into 20 khanates with practical absence of a centralized authority. The period of rise of the Russian Empire started, and under Peter I (1682-1725) the Armenian Church, which pinned great hopes on the Russian crown in its efforts of resumption of the Armenian statehood, started to broaden its ties and contacts with the Russian political circles. In 1714, the Armenian vardapet (archimandrite) Minas sent to Emperor Peter I the "proposal to build a monastery on the shore of the Caspian Sea in the interests of the expected war between Russia and the Safavid state, which might act as a fortress during the combat operation. The main objective of the vardapet, however, was persuading Russia into acceptance of the ethnic Armenians who were scattered all over the world as its subjects, which was what Minas asked Peter I to do later, in 1718. He petitioned him on behalf of "all the Armenians" and asked him to "free them from the yoke of the infidels and accept them as Russian subjects." However, Peter I's Caspian campaign (1722) was never finalized because of lack of success from the outset, and the emperor did not populate the Caspian coastline with Armenians whom he considered "the 'best way' of consolidating Russia's positions on the newly acquired territories in the Caucasus."
But the Armenians did not despair and kept sending numerous petitions to Emperor Peter I, imploring him to protect them. Reacting to these petitions, Peter I sent to the Armenians a document which allowed them to visit Russia without hindrance for trade and which instructed the "Armenian people to get encouraged by the imperial grace and reassure them of the emperor's readiness to extend his auspices to protect them."
At the same time, on 24 September 1724 the emperor instructed A. Rumyantsev, who was about to leave for Istanbul, to persuade the Armenians to move to the areas along the Caspian coastline and tell them that the local residents there 'will be evicted and they, the Armenians, will be given their lands.'" Peter I's policy on the "Armenians issue" was continued by Catherine II (1762-1796) by "expressing her assent to reestablish an Armenian kingdom under Russia's auspices." In other words, the Russian Empire decided to "reestablish" in the Caucasus Tigran I's Armenian state which once existed for only several decades in Asia Minor (now Turkey).
Catherine II's courtiers developed a plan which indicated "for the initial period, there is a need to gain foothold in Derbent, seize Samaxi and Ganca, and then from Karabakh and Sighnaghi, if sufficient forces are mustered, seizing Yerevan will be easy." As a result, already in the early 19th century Armenians started to move to the South Caucasus in noticeable numbers because the Russian Empire already brought the region, including northern Azerbaijan, under its control.
In the 17th-early 19th centuries, the Russian empire fought eight wars with the Ottoman Empire and finally established itself on the three seas -- Caspian, Azov and Black, annexed the Caucasus and Crimea and extended its influence to the Balkans. The territory of the Russian Empire was further extended in the Caucasus after the Russian-Persian wars of 1804-1813 and 1826-1828. All this was bound to change the orientation of the Armenians who, with every new Russian victory, increasingly leaned towards Russia.
In 1804-1813, Russia conducted negotiations with Armenians from the Ottoman vilayet of Erzerum in Asia Minor. The talks were about migration to the South Caucasus, mainly the Azerbaijani lands. The Armenian reply was: "When with God's grace Yerevan is occupied by the Russian troops, all Armenians will certainly agree to come under Russia's auspices and live in the province of Yerevan."
Before we continue the description of the process of resettlement of the ethnic Armenians, there is a need to review the history of Yerevan, which was given its current name after the occupation by the Russian troops of the Irevan khanate and the city of Irevan (Erivan). Yet another proof of the fact that the Armenians are immigrants in the Caucasus and in particular, in the present-day Armenia, is the history of celebrations of the anniversaries of founding of the city of Yerevan. It seems that many people have already forgotten that before the 1950s, the Armenians did not even know the age of the city of Yerevan.
Let us digress a little and note that, according to historical facts, Irevan (Yerevan) was founded in the early 16th century as a pivotal fortress of the Safavid (Azerbaijani) Empire on the border with the Ottoman Empire. To stop the expansion of the Ottoman Empire eastwards, Shah Ismail I Safavi ordered to build a fortress on Zengi River in 1515. Vizier Revan-Quli Khan was put in charge of construction. Hence the name of the fortress, Revan-Qala. Eventually, Revan-Qala became the city of Revan, and then Irevan. Later, when the Safavid Empire was in decline, more than 20 independent Azerbaijani khanates were created, one of which was the Irevan khanate, which existed until the invasion of the Russian Empire into the region and seizure of Irevan in the early 19th century.
However, let us go back to the artificial "aging" of the history of the city of Yerevan which we witnessed in the Soviet era. This started when in 1950, the Soviet archeologists found near Lake Sevan (old name - Goyca) a cuneiform tablet. Although the inscription read "RBN" (cuneiform script did not include vowels), this was immediately interpreted by the Armenian side as Erebuni. This was name of the Erebuni fortress in the ancient kingdom of Urartu, which is believed to be founded in 782 BC, and immediately the authorities of the Armenian SSR seized the opportunity to celebrate 2,750th anniversary of Yerevan in 1968.
Researcher Shnirelman wrote about this strange story: "At the same time, there is no direct connection at all between the archeological discovery and the celebrations (in Soviet Armenia) which were held later. After all, the pompous celebrations were organized not by archeologists, but by the Armenian authorities, who had spent huge amounts of money on that... Besides, what does the Armenian capital, Yerevan, have in common with an Urartian fortress whose link with Armenians is yet to be proven? The answer to these questions is no secret to anyone who is familiar with the recent history of Armenia. It has to be sought in the events of 1965, which caused a stir, as we will see below, in the entire Armenia and gave a powerful impetus to the rise of Armenian nationalism." ("Wars of memory, myths, identity and politics in the Transcaucasus," V.A. Shnirelman).
In other words, had there been no accidental and incorrectly interpreted archeological finding, the Armenians would have never learned that their "native" Yerevan is more than 2,800 years old. But had Yerevan been part of the ancient Armenian culture, this would have been kept in the memories and history of the Armenian people, and for all these 28 centuries, the Armenians would have celebrated the founding of their city.
Going back to the process of movement the ethnic Armenians to the Caucasus -- Armenia and Karabakh -- let us resort to prominent Armenian scientists. In particular, American-Armenian historian, Columbia University Professor George (Gevork) Burnutyan, wrote: "When they deal with the statistics after the 1830s, a number of Armenian historians misinterpret the number of ethnic Armenians in Eastern Armenia (Burnutyan uses this term to describe the present-day territory of Armenia) in the years of Persian rule (i.e. before the Turkmanchay Treaty of 1828), citing the figure of 30 to 50% of the total population. In the reality, however, according to the official statistical data after the Russian annexation, ethnic Armenians hardly accounted for just under 20% of the total population of Eastern Armenia, while the Muslims constituted more than 80% of the population... So, there is no evidence that ethnic Armenians constituted a majority in any of the districts during the years of the Persian administration (before the occupation of the region by the Russian Empire)... Only after the Russian-Turkish wars of 1855-56 and 1877-78, after which even more ethnic Armenians arrived in the region, and even more Muslims left it, so the Armenians had finally become the ethnic majority there. Even after that, however, the city of Irevan remained predominantly Muslim until the early 20th century." Another Armenian scientist, Ronal Suny, confirms this information. (George Burnutyan, article "The Ethnic Composition and the Socio-Economic Condition of Eastern Armenia in the First Half of the Nineteenth Century" in the book "Transcaucasia, Nationalism and Social Change. Essays in the History of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia," 1996, pp 77-80.
As for the settlement of Armenians in Karabakh, Michigan University Professor Ronald G. Suny, wrote in his book "Looking Towards Ararat": "From the antiquity and through the Middle Ages, Karabakh was part of the principality (in the vernacular, 'kingdom') of the Caucasian Albanians. The independent ethno-religious group, which does not exist in any more, converted to Christianity in the 4th century AD and was close to the Armenian Church. In time, the top echelon of the Albanian elite was Armenized... The people (Caucasian Albanians) who were the direct ancestors of today's Azerbaijanis spoke a Turkic language and adopted Shi'a Islam from the neighboring Iran. The mountain areas (Karabakh), however, remained predominantly Christian, and eventually the Karabakh Albanians were absorbed with immigrating Armenians. The center of the Albanian Church, Ganzasar, became one of the dioceses of the Armenian Church. The vestiges of the once independent national church can be found only in the status of the local arch-bishop, whose title is Catholicos" (Prof. Ronald Grigor Suny, "Looking Towards Ararat," 1993, p. 193).
Another Western historian, Svante Cornell, citing the Russian statistics, also described the dynamic of growth of the Armenian population in Karabakh in the 19th century: "According to the Russian census, in 1823 9% of the Karabakh population were ethnic Armenians (the remaining 91% were registered as Muslim), in 1832 their proportion increased to 35%, and in 1880, they were already the majority -- 53%." (Svante Cornell, 'Small Nations and Great Powers: A Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict in the Caucasus," RoutledgeCurzon Press, 2001, p. 68).
Pushing out the Persian and Ottoman empires, the Russian Empire expanded its territories southwards in the 18th-early 19th century, incorporating the Azerbaijani khanates. In the complex political situation of the period, the history of Karabakh khanate, which had become an arena for the struggle between the Russian and Ottoman empires and Persia, unfolded in an interesting manner.
Particular threat to the Azerbaijan khanates was posed by Persia, where in 1794 Aga Muhammad Khan Qajar, who was of Azerbaijani descent, became the shah and decided to restore the former glory of the Safavid state using as the guiding principle uniting the Caucasus lands with the administrative and political center in the south of Azerbaijan and Persia. The idea did not inspire many of the khans in the northern Azerbaijan, who felt inclined towards the rapidly growing Russian Empire. In that momentous and difficult period, the ruler of the Karabakh khanate, Ibrahim Khalil Khan, was the initiator of creation of the anti-Qacar coalition. Bloody wars started in Karabakh, and the Persian Shah Qajar personally led campaigns against the Karabakh khanate and his capital, city of Susa.
But all attempts of the Persian shah to conquer these lands failed, and in the end, despite the capture of the Susa fortress, Aga Muhammad Khan was killed there by his own courtiers, and the remnants of his troops escaped to Persia. The victory of Ibrahim Khalil Khan enabled him to start the final negotiations on accession of his land into the Russian Empire. On 14 May 1805, the Karabakh khanate and Russian Empire signed the treaty on incorporation of the khanate under the Russian authority, which made the destiny of these lands part of the Tsarist Russia's history. It has to be noted that the treaty which was signed by Ibrahim Khan of Susa and Karabakh and Russian General Prince Tsitsianov and which consisted of 11 articles did not mention the presence of Armenians. In the period, there were five Albanian melikdoms under the authority of the Karabakh khan, and there was no mention of any Armenian political entities, otherwise their existence would by all means be mentioned by the Russian sources.
Despite the successful end of the Russian-Persian war (1826-1828), Russia made no hurry about signing a peace treaty with Persia. Finally, on 10 February 1828, the Russian Empire and the Persian state signed the Turkmanchay Treaty, under which both the Irevan and Naxcivan khanates were also incorporated by Russia. Under its terms, Azerbaijan was divided into two parts, northern and southern, and the borderline ran along the Araz River.
Article 15 of the Turkmanchay Treaty was special in that it allowed "all residents and officials of the Azerbaijani district a one-year period for unimpeded resettlement with their families from the Persian areas to Russian." The article focused first and foremost on the "Persian Armenians." To implement this plan, the "sublime ukase" by the Russian Senate was passed on 21 March 1828, which read that "Pursuant to the treaty with Persia, which was signed 10 February 1828, we decree that the Erivan khanate and Naxcivan khanate, both incorporated into Russia, be henceforth called the Armenian district."
So, the foundation was laid for the future Armenian statehood in the Caucasus. A committee for resettlement was created, which controlled the migration processes, helping the immigrating Armenians get settled in the new places in a manner which would prevent the residents of the new settlements from contacting the residents of the local Azerbaijani villages. Failing to handle a huge stream of immigrants and settle them all in the Irevan Governorate, the Caucasus Administration decided to persuade most of the Armenian settlers to move to Karabakh. As a result of the mass migration of Armenians from Persia to northern Azerbaijan in 1828-1829, the total number of newcomers reached 35,560. Of these, 2,558 families, or 10,000 people, were settled in the Naxcivan province. In the Qarabag (Karabakh) province, some 15,000 newcomers were settled. In 1828-1829, 1,458 Armenian families (about 5,000 people) settled in the Irevan province. Tsatur Agayan cited statistics for 182: Back then, there are 164,450 residents in the Armenian district, of which 82,317 (50%) were ethnic Armenian and, as Tsatur Agayan pointed out, of this number 25,151 (15%) were local Armenians, while the rest were immigrants from Persia and the Ottoman Empire.
In short, in a few months after the signing of the Turkmanchay Treaty, 40,000 Armenian families moved from Persia to Azerbaijan. Then, implementing the treaty with the Ottoman Empire, Russia moved from Asia Minor to the Caucasus another 12,655 Armenian families in 1830. In 1828-1830, the empire resettled additional 84,600 families from Turkey to the Caucasus and gave them the best lands in Karabakh. In the period from 1828-1839, 200,000 Armenians settled in the mountain areas of Karabakh. In 1877-1879, during the Russian-Turkish war for the south of the Caucasus, additional 185,000 Armenians were resettled. As a result, considerable demographic changes took place in the north of Azerbaijan, which were further deepened by the departure of the local population from the areas populated by Armenians. These opposite migration flows were quite "legal" because the Russian authorities did not prevent departure of ethnic Turkic Azeri people to the Iranian and Ottoman lands.
The greatest migration took place in 1893-1894. Already in 1896, the number of ethnic Armenian arrivals reached 900,000. Because of the immigration policy, the number of Armenians in the Transcaucasus in 1908 reached 1.3 million, of which 1 million were invited by the Tsarist authorities from foreign countries. Because of this, the Armenian state appeared in 1921 in the Transcaucasus. Professor V.P. Parsamyan wrote in his "History of the Armenian people -- Hayastan 1801-1900": "Before incorporation into Russia, the population of Eastern Armenia (Irevan khanate) was 169,155, of which 57,305 (33.8%) were Armenian... After the occupation of the Kars district of the Armenian Dashnak Republic (1918), the population increased to 1,510,000. Of these, 795,000 were Armenian, 575,000 were Azeris, and 140,000 were representatives of other ethnic groups."
By the late 19th century, a new phase of intensification of efforts of the Armenians started as a result of a surge in ethnic awareness among the peoples -- a phenomenon which spread to Asia from Europe. In 1912-1913, the Balkan wars started between the Ottoman Empire and the Balkan peoples, which had a direct effect on the situation in the Caucasus. At that time, Russia dramatically changed its policy for Armenians. On the eve of the World War I, the Russian Empire started to assign the role of its ally to the Armenians in the Ottoman Turkey, where Armenians revolted against their state, hoping to create an Armenian state on Turkey's territory with support of Russia and European powers.
However, the Ottoman Empire's victories of 1915-1916 on the battlefields of the World War I thwarted these plans: Mass deportation of Armenians from the area combat operations in Asia Minor towards Mesopotamia and Syria took place. But most of the Armenians -- more than 300,000 -- escaped to the South Caucasus with the retreating Russian Army, mostly to the Azerbaijani lands.
After the fall in 1917 of the Russian Empire, the Transcaucasus Confederation was created in the Transcaucasus, with Parliament in Tbilisi, where Georgian, Azerbaijani and Armenian parliamentarians played an active role. However, the differences and difficult military situation made preserving the confederate system impossible, and the last sessions of Parliament resulted in creation in May 1918 of independent states in the South Caucasus: The Georgian, Ararat (Armenian) and Azerbaijani democratic republics (ADR). On 28 May 1918, the ADR became the first democratic republic in the East and in the Muslim world with a parliamentary form of government.
However, the leaders of the Dashnak Armenia started a massacre of Azerbaijani population in the Erivan Governorate, Zangezur and other areas of what today is the Republic of Armenia. At the same time, Armenian troops, which were formed from detachments which deserted the fronts of the World War I, started to move around the territory to "clear the area" for the state of Armenia. During the difficult period, in an attempt to stop bloodshed and massacre of civilians by the Armenian detachments, a group of representatives of the leadership of the Azerbaijani Democratic Republic agreed to cede the city of Yerevan and its vicinities for creation of the Armenian state. The condition for this concession, which causes much controversy in the Azerbaijani historiography to this day, was that the Armenian side had to stop the massacre of the Azerbaijani population and would withdraw territorial claims against the ADR. When in June 1918 Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia signed, each country individually, "agreements on peace and friendship" with Turkey, the Armenian territory was 10,400 square kilometers. Undisputed territory of the ADR was about 98,000 square kilometers (with disputed territories about 114,000 square kilometers).
However, the Armenian leadership did not keep its word. In 1918, some of the Russian and Armenian soldiers were recalled from the Turkish front, and the detachments which deserted from the fronts of the World War I, which were mainly ethnic Armenian, were skillfully directed toward Azerbaijan and its capital, oil-rich Baku. On the way, they used the scorched earth tactic, leaving behind the cinders of Azerbaijani villages.
The Armenian militia, which was put together in haste, was made up of people who agreed to carry out orders by Dashnak leaders, headed by Stepan Shaumyan who was sent from Moscow to lead the communists in Baku (Baksovet), under Bolshevik slogans. Then Shaumyan managed to transform these detachments and man and fully arm a 20,000-strong grouping in Baku, whose 90% were ethnic Armenians.
Armenian historian Ronald Suny described in detail in his book "The Baku Commune" (1972) how the leaders of the Armenian movement, under the aegis of Communist ideas, were building the ethnic Armenian state.
Precisely with help of the 20,000-strong well-armed strike grouping, which was made up of enlisted men and officers with military experience of the World War I, the Dashnak leaders, armed with Bolshevik ideas, managed in the spring 1918 to organize a massacre of the population of Baku and Azerbaijan's provinces on a hitherto unprecedented scale. In a short period, 50,000-60,000 Azeris were killed, and the total number of Azeris killed in the Caucasus, in Azerbaijan, Turkey and Persia was 500,000-600,000.
The Dashnak groupings then decided to seize the fertile lands of Karabakh from Azerbaijan. In June 1918, the 1st Congress of the Armenians of Karabakh was organized in Susa, and which declared independence. The recently founded Republic of Armenia sent its troops and staged large-scale pogroms and bloodshed in Azerbaijani villages in Karabakh. Reacting to unjustified Armenian demands, Bakuvian communist Anastas Mikoyan reported to V. Lenin in his telegram dated 22 May 1919: "The agents of Armenian leadership -- the Dashnak -- are trying to incorporate Karabakh into Armenia. For the Karabakh Armenians, this would mean leaving their dwellings in Baku and making their future dependent on Yerevan with which they have no ties whatsoever. During their 5th Congress, the Armenians decided to recognize the Azerbaijani authority and accept it."
Back then, the attempts of the Armenians nationalists to seize Nagorno-Karabakh and incorporate it into Armenia had failed. On 23 November 1919, thanks to the efforts of the Azerbaijani leadership, a peace treaty was signed in Tbilisi between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and bloodshed was stopped.
But the situation in the region remained tense, and on the night from 26 to 27 April 1920, the 72,000-strong 11th Red Army crossed the Azerbaijani borders and marched on Baku. As a result of the military assault, Baku was occupied by the troops of Soviet Russia, and the Soviet authority was established in Azerbaijan, which further consolidated the positions of Armenians. In those years, the Armenians, far from being oblivious of their plans, continued their struggle against Azerbaijan. The issue of Nagorno-Karabakh was discussed many times at the Caucasus Bureau of the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party of Bolsheviks, Transcaucasus Section of the Russian Communist Party of Bolsheviks, and at the bureau of the Central Committee of the Armenian Communist Party of Bolsheviks.
On 15 July 1920, at a session of the Central Committee of the Azerbaijani Communist Party of Bolsheviks, the decision was made on incorporation of Karabakh and Zangezur into Azerbaijan. But the situation started to unfold to Armenia's disadvantage, and on 2 December 1920, the Dashnak Government transferred power to the Military Revolutionary Committee under the Bolsheviks without putting up any resistance. The Soviet authority was established in Armenia. Despite that, the Armenians again raised the issue of dividing Karabakh among Armenia and Azerbaijan. On 27 July 1921, the political and organization bureau of the Central Committee of the Azerbaijan Communist Party of Bolsheviks discussed the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh. The bureau did not accept the offer by representative of Soviet Armenia A. Bezadyan and said that division along the lines of ethnic provenance of the residents and incorporation of part of the territory into Armenia and of another part into Azerbaijan was unacceptable both from the administrative and from the economic point of view.
Dashnak leader and head of the Armenian state Ovannes Kachaznuni wrote on this adventure in 1923: "From the very first day of our statehood we knew full well that a small, poor, devastated country like Armenia, which is separated from the rest of the world, cannot become truly independent and self-reliant; that there is a need for support, for some external power... Two real powers exist today, and we must reckon with them: These powers are Russia and Turkey. By dint of the current circumstances, our country today is joining the Russian orbit and is protected more than adequately from a Turkish invasion... The issue of expansion of our borders can be addressed only with reliance on Russia."
After the establishment in the Caucasus in 1920-1921 of the Soviet rule, Moscow decided not to change in the region the borders which were demarcated after the Armenian aggression among the former local independent states.
But this could not take away the appetites of the ideologues of Armenian national-separatism. In the Soviet period, the leaders of the Armenian SSR more than once petitioned, and even demanded from, the Kremlin in the 1950s-1970s that the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Area (NKAO) of Azerbaijan should be passed to Armenia. However, back then the USSR leadership categorically refused to satisfy the unfounded claims of the Armenian side. The changes in the position of the USSR leadership occurred in the mid-1980s, during the Gorbachev's Perestroika period. It is no accident that precisely with the beginning in 1987 of the Perestroika-related innovations in the USSR, Armenia's claims to the NKAO gained a new impetus and nature.
The Armenian organizations Krunk in the NKAO itself and the Karabakh Committee in Yerevan, which mushroomed after Perestroika, had again set out to implement the project of effective separation of Nagorno-Karabakh. The Dashnaktsutyun party emerged again: At its 23d Congress in Athens in 1985, it set as its top-priority objective "creation of a single and independent Armenia" and implementation of this slogan by incorporating Nagorno-Karabakh, Naxcivan (Azerbaijan) and Javakheti (Georgia) into Armenia. As always, the Armenian Church, the nationalist circles among the intelligentsia, and the foreign ethnic Armenian communities were involved in the implementation of this plan. Later, Russian researcher S.I. Chernyavskiy noted: "In contrast to Armenia, Azerbaijan did not -- and does not -- have an organized and politically active ethnic communities abroad, and the Karabakh conflict has effectively deprived Azerbaijanis of all support from the leading Western countries because these later have traditionally supported pro-Armenian position."
The process started in 1988 with deportation of new groups of Azerbaijanis from Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. The NKAO Soviet declared on 21 February 1988 Karabakh's withdrawal from the Azerbaijani SSR and accession to Armenia. First blood was shed in the Karabakh conflict on 25 February 1988 in Askeran (Karabakh), when two young Azeris were killed. Later, in Baku, in the district of Vorovskiy, an ethnic Armenian killed an ethnic Azeri policeman. On 18 July 1988, the Supreme Council of the USSR reaffirmed that Nagorno-Karabakh was part of Azerbaijan and territorial changes were impossible.
But Armenians continued to disseminate leaflets, issued threats to Azerbaijanis and set their houses on fire. As a result, the last Azerbaijani left the administrative center of Nagorno-Karabakh, the city of Xankandi (Stepanakert) on 21 September.
An escalation of the dormant conflict followed, which resulted in expulsion of Azeris from Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. In Azerbaijan, the authorities were paralyzed, and streams of refugees and growing anger among the Azerbaijani people were bound to result in mass Armenian-Azerbaijani clashes. In February 1988, the tragic act of provocation took place in the town of Sumqayit in Azerbaijan, in which Armenians, Azeris and representatives of other ethnic groups were killed.
Anti-Azerbaijani hysteria started in the Soviet press, in which an attempt was made to present the Azerbaijani people as cannibals, monsters, "pan-Islamists" and "pan-Turkists." Passions around Nagorno-Karabakh were flying high: Azeris who were banished from Armenia settled in 42 cities and districts of Azerbaijan. Here are the tragic results of the first phase of the Karabakh conflict: About 200,000 Azeris, 18,000 Muslim Kurds, and thousands of Russians were ousted from Armenia by force, at gunpoint; 255 Azeris were killed: Two were beheaded, 11 were burned alive, three were cut into pieces, 23 were driven over by car, 41 were beaten to death, 19 froze to death in the mountains, 8 went missing and so forth. Also, 57 women and 23 children were cruelly killed. After that, on 10 December 1988, the modern-day Dashnak declared Armenia a "republic without Turkic population." The nationalist hysteria which raged in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh and difficult lives of ethnic Armenians who moved in is described in the books by Bakuvian Armenian Robert Arakelov, "The Karabakh Notebook" and "Nagorno-Karabakh: Culprits of the tragedy are known."
After the Sumqayit events of February 1988, which were instigated by the Soviet KGB and Armenian emissaries, an open anti-Azerbaijan campaign was launched in the Soviet press and on TV.
The Soviet leadership and media, which were silent when Armenian nationalists were driving Azeris out of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, suddenly "regained consciousness" and grew hysteric over the "anti-Armenian pogroms" in Azerbaijan. The USSR leadership openly adopted Armenian position and strived to blame everything on Azerbaijan. The main target of the Kremlin authorities was the growing national liberation movement of the Azerbaijani people. On the night from 19 to 20 January 1990, the Soviet authorities under Gorbachev perpetrated a criminal act which was horrifying in its cruelty. In the criminal operation, 134 civilians were killed, 700 were wounded, and 400 people went missing.
Perhaps the most terrible and inhuman action by Armenian nationalists in Nagorno-Karabakh was genocide of the population of the Azerbaijani city of Xocali. On the night of 25 February 1992, the greatest tragedy of 20th century -- the Xocali genocide took place. First, the sleeping city was surrounded by Armenian troops with support of the 366th Motorized Rifle Regiment of the CIS, and then massive fire was opened on Xocali by artillery and heavy military hardware. With support of the armored hardware of the 366th Regiment, the city was seized by Armenian occupiers. Armed Armenians were shooting the civilians who were trying to escape, showing no mercy. On a cold and snowy night in February those people who managed to escape Armenian ambushes and flee into forests and mountains froze to death.
As a result of atrocities by criminal Armenian troops, from among Xocali resident 613 civilians were killed, 487 were mutilated, and 1,275 -- the elderly, children, and women -- were taken prisoners and subjected to unbelievable tortures, humiliation and insults. Nothing is known to this day about the fate of 150 people. It was genuine genocide. Of the 613 people who were killed in Xocali, 106 were women, 63 were children and 70 were elderly. Eight families were killed entirely without any survivors, 24 children lost both parents and 130 children lost one of the parents. Fifty-six people were killed in a particularly cruel and heinous way. They were burned alive, decapitated, skin was cut off their faces, eyes of children were cut out, bellies of pregnant women were cut with bayonets. Armenians insulted even the dead. The Azerbaijani state and people will never forget the Xocali tragedy.
The Xocali tragedy eliminated any chance which existed before of a peaceful regulation of the Karabakh conflict. Two Armenian presidents -- Robert Kocharyan and incumbent Serzh Sargsyan, as well as Defense Minister Seyran Oganyan, took an active part in combat operations during the Karabakh war and in killings of Azeri civilians, in particular in Xocali.
After the Xocali tragedy of February 1992, the righteous wrath of the Azeri people, caused by the atrocities and impunity of the Armenian nationalists, escalated into the open phase of the Armenian-Azerbaijani military confrontation. Bloody combat operations were launched, with employment of aviation, armored hardware, missile launchers, heavy artillery and large military formations.
The Armenian side use banned chemical weapons against Azerbaijani civilians. In the absence of practically any serious support from major international powers, Azerbaijan after a series of counteroffensive managed to liberate most of the occupied territories in Nagorno-Karabakh.
In this situation Armenia and separatists from Karabakh achieved cease-fire several times with mediation of world powers and started negotiations, but then, perfidiously violating the negotiated agreements, suddenly resumed military offensives on the front line. For example, on 19 August 1993, the talks were conducted in Tehran by the Azerbaijani and Armenian delegations on Iran's initiative, but precisely at that moment the Armenian troops, in violation of all agreements, perfidiously started an offensive on the Karabakh front towards the Agdam, Fuzuli and Cabrayil districts. The blockade of Naxcivan by Armenia also continued as the objective was to separate it from Azerbaijan.
On 4 June 1993, Surat Huseynov's revolt started Ganca when he turned his troops from the Karabakh front line and marched towards Baku to seize power in the country. Azerbaijan was on the verge a new, already civil war. Besides Armenian aggression, Azerbaijan encountered overt separatism in the country's south, where rebellious field commander Alikram Humbatov announced the founding of the "Talysh-Mugan Republic." In the difficult situation, on 15 June 1993, Milli Maclis (Parliament) of Azerbaijan elected Heydar Aliyev the head of the country's Supreme Council. On 17 July, President Abulfaz Elcibay stepped down and presidential powers were passed by Milli Maclis to Heydar Aliyev.
In the north of Azerbaijan, separatist sentiments gained currency among the Lezgi nationalists who intended secession of Azerbaijani districts on the border of Russia. The situation aggravated further because Azerbaijan at the same time was on the verge of a civil war among different political and paramilitary groups within the country. Taking advantage of the political collapse and an attempted military coup in Azerbaijan, where power struggle was under way, neighboring Armenia launched an offensive and occupied Azerbaijani lands adjacent to Nagorno-Karabakh. On 23 July, Armenians seized one of the ancient Azerbaijani cities, Agdam. On 14-15 September, Armenians made an attempt to break into Azerbaijani territories from their positions in Qazax, then in Tovuz, Gadabay, Zangilan. On 21 September the villages of the Zangilan, Cabrayil, Tovuz and Ordubad districts came under heavy fire.
On 30 November 1993, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister H. Hasanov delivered a speech at the OSCE meeting in Rome, in which he said that Armenia's aggressive policy in the name of creation of "Great Armenia," it had occupied 20% of the Azerbaijani territory. More than 18,000 civilians were killed, about 50,000 were wounded, 4,000 people were taken prisoners, and 88,000 residential buildings, more than 1,000 economic facilities, 250 schools and educational institutions were destroyed.
After Azerbaijan's and Armenia's accession to the UN and OSCE, Armenia seized the city of Susa after making the statement that it would follow the principles of these organizations. Back then, when a group of UN representatives was visiting Azerbaijan on a fact-finding mission to investigate Armenia's aggression, the Armenian troops seized the Lacin District and thereby established a corridor connecting Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia. During the unofficial meeting of the Geneva "Five," Armenians took control of the Kalbacar District, and during the visit of the head of the OSCE Minsk Group to the region, they seized the Agdam District. After adoption of the resolution that Armenians were to unconditionally liberate the Azerbaijani territories which they had seized, they occupied the Fuzuli District. And while the OSCE head Margaretha af Ugglas was in the region, Armenia occupied Zangilan District. After that, in late November 1993, Armenians seized an area near the Xudafarin bridge (Cabrayil District) and brought under their control 161 kilometers of Azerbaijan's border with Iran.
Finally, on 23 December 1993, a meeting war organization between Ter-Petrosyan and Heydar Aliyev with mediation of Turkmen President S. Niyazov. Numerous meetings were held with officials from Russia, Turkey and Armenia. On 11 May 1994, a tentative truce was declared. On 5-6 December 1994 at the OSCE summit in Budapest and on 13-15 May in Morocco, at the 7th Summit of the Islamic Conference Organization, H. Aliyev in his speeches condemned the Armenian policy and aggression against Azerbaijan. He also pointed out Armenians did not comply with the UN resolutions No 822, 853, 874 and 884, in which Armenia's aggression actions were denounced and demands were made for immediate withdrawal from the occupied Azerbaijani territories.
By the end of the First Karabakh War, Armenia occupied Nagorno-Karabakh and seven more Azerbaijani districts -- Agdam, Fuzuli, Cabrayil, Zangilan, Qubadli, Lacin, and Kalbacar, from which ethnic Azeris population was ousted, and all these areas were reduced to ruins by aggressors. At present, about 20% of Azerbaijan's territory (17,000 square kilometers) -- 12 districts and 700 towns and villages -- is under Armenian occupation. During the struggle of Armenians for creation of "Great Armenia," in the entire period of conflict, they have mercilessly exterminated 20,000 and captured 4,000 ethnic Azeris.
On the occupied territories they have destroyed about 4,000 industrial and agricultural facilities with the total area of 6 million square meters, about 1,00o educational institutions, about 180,000 residential apartments, 3,000 cultural and educational centers and 700 medical facilities. 616 schools, 225 kindergartens, 11 vocational schools, four colleges, one university, 842 clubs, 962 libraries, 13 museums, two theaters and 183 cinemas were destroyed.
There are 1 million refugees and internally displaced persons in Azerbaijan -- in other words, one citizen in eight. The wounds which were caused by Armenians to the Azerbaijani people are countless. In total, in the 20th century 1 million Azeris were killed, and 1.5 million Azeris were driven out of Armenia.
Armenia organized on the Azerbaijani lands mass terror: Explosions were frequent in the buses, trains, in the Baku metro trains. In 1989-1994, Armenian terrorists and separatist organized 373 terrorist acts on the territory of Azerbaijan, which killed 1,568 people and wounded 1,808.
Let us note that the adventure of the Armenian nationalists to create "Great Armenia" cost ordinary Armenians dearly. At present, the population of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh is half of what it was. In Armenia, the population is 1.8 million, and in Nagorno-Karabakh 80,000-90,000, which is half of the 1989 numbers. The resumption of the military operations on the Karabakh front might drive almost entire ethnic Armenian population out of the South Caucasus region and force them, as statistics show, to move to the Krasnodar and Stavropol territories of Russia and Ukraine's Crimea. This would be a logical outcome of the foolish policy of the nationalists and criminals who have usurped power in the Republic of Armenia and occupy the Azerbaijani territories.
The Azerbaijani people and leadership are doing their best to restore the country's territorial integrity and liberate the territories under the Armenian occupation as soon as possible. For this purpose, Azerbaijani pursues an integrated foreign policy, develops its military-industrial complex, and upgrades its Army which will restore Azerbaijan's sovereignty by force if the peaceful measures cannot persuade the aggressor nation of Armenia into withdrawal from the occupied Azerbaijani territories.