THIS WEEK IN ARMENIAN HISTORY
(Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee [ANEC])
Fall of Ardzevashen
(August 8, 1992)
The Soviet policy of “divide and rule” created ethnic enclaves (piece of land surrounded by foreign territory) under various pretexts, such as the incorporation in Azerbaijan of the highlands of the historically Armenian region of Karapagh as an autonomous region (the lowlands were directly annexed to that country). It also created exclaves (piece of land politically attached to a larger piece, but surrounded by foreign territory), such as Ardzevashen, part of the Kegharkounik province of Armenia.
The village of Ardzevashen was founded in 1854 with the name of Bashkend by Armenians from Shamshadin, although an inscription on the St. Hovhannes church of the village, dated to 1607, attests to an earlier Armenian presence on the site.
The population of the village was entirely of Armenian origin. It had a surrounding territory of 40 square kilometers (15.5 square miles) and enjoyed a town status in the 1980s, managing four factories. This included a branch of Haykork, the Armenian state carpet company.
In May 1991, during the last months of the Soviet Union, when the conflict for Karapagh had already started, the inhabitants of the village surrendered their weapons to Soviet military units to avert an imminent occupation.
Indeed, Azerbaijan was prone to occupy those portions of Armenian territory that were completely landlocked, and one of them was Ardzevashen. After a four-day resistance headed by the unit 016 of motorized artillery of Vanatsor, Ardzevashen was surrendered to Azerbaijani armed forces on August 8, 1992. According to The New York Times, Azerbaijan announced the “liberation” of the town, destroying enemy tanks and weaponry, and killing 300 Armenian “brigands,” while Armenian reports did not mention any dead, but said that 29 people were “missing without trace.” The bodies of 12 Armenian soldiers were later delivered; one of the Azerbaijani colonels declared: “They fought until the last bullet. They are the pride of your nation.”
The Armenian population was given one hour to evacuate the village. According to the Regional Administration of Kegharkounik, 719 families (around 2,800 people) were displaced after its occupation. A total of 664 families resettled in the towns of Chambarak and nearby villages, and the rest went to other provinces. The migrants were not considered a separate commune, but the government of the Republic decided to create a separate working staff, financed by the national budget. This staff takes care of problems related to documents and workbooks of displaced people, as well as claims of property rights and improvement of living conditions.