Posts Tagged ‘Gharapagh’

(Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee)




MARCH 23-26, 1920

The city of Shushi, capital of Karabagh and the third Armenian center in the South Caucasus after Tiflis and Baku, had a population of 43,869 inhabitants, according to the Kavkaskii Kalendar (Caucasus Calendar) published in Tiflis in 1916. Fifty-three per cent of the population (23,396 people) was Armenian, while 44% was Tatar (later called Azerbaijani).


After the independence of Armenia, the situation of Karabagh remained in a sort of limbo due to the Azerbaijani pretentions over the region and the pro-Azerbaijani attitude of the British representatives in the region, interested in securing the oil of Baku. Clashes between Azerbaijanis and local Armenians in 1919, as well as Armenian massacres incited by Azerbaijani Governor-General Khosrov Bek-Sultanov, ended with a British-brokered temporary agreement on August 22, 1919 that lasted a few months.


Sultanov broke the terms of the agreement in the beginning of 1920 and tightened the Azerbaijani blockade around Karabagh. He gathered armed forces in strategically important locations and armed the local Turkish population. Well-aware that the Armenian population was much less armed, he made preparations for “the final resolution of the Nagorno Karabagh issue,” as he wrote in one dispatch to the Azerbaijani government. On February 19, 1920, Sultanov issued a demand to the Armenian National Council of Karabagh “to solve urgently the question of the final incorporation of Karabagh into Azerbaijan.” At their eighth congress held from 23 February to 4 March, the Armenians responded that Azerbaijan’s demand violated the terms of the temporary agreement of August 1919 and warned that “repetition of the events will compel the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabagh to turn to appropriate means for defense.”


The Armenian quarters of city of Shusha destroyed by Azerbaijani armed forces in 1920 with the defiled Cathedral of the Holy Savior in the background.


The commanders of the Armenian self-defense tried to anticipate Sultanov’s movements. A small Armenian detachment entered Shushi in the early morning of March 23, 1920, when the Turkish population was celebrating the festivity of Novruz, and tried to take over the barrack, according to an uprising plan previously developed. The exchange of fire served as a signal for Shushi’s armed Turkish population, the Azeri army soldiers, and Kurdish gangs abounding in the town to attack the Armenian district, plunder and set everything on fire, and start a horrible massacre of the Armenian population. According to historian Richard Hovannisian, “Azerbajani troops, joined by the city’s Azerbaijani inhabitants, turned Armenian Shushi into an inferno. From March 23 to 26, some 2,000 structures were consumed in the flames, including the churches and consistory, cultural institutions, schools, libraries, the business section, and the grand homes of the merchant class. Bishop Vahan (Ter-Grigorian), long an advocate of accommodation with the Azerbaijani authorities, paid the price of retribution, as his tongue was torn out before his head was cut off and paraded through the streets on a spike. The chief of police, Avetis Ter-Ghukasian, was turned into a human torch, and many intellectuals, including Bolshevik Alexander Tsaturyan, were among the 500 Armenian victims.”


Much of the population fled, and the Armenian section of the city was completely destroyed. According to data of 1921, some 8,000 Azerbaijanis lived in Shushi, and the number of Armenians was about 300. The Armenian section remained in ruins for several decades.


The historical Armenian city became an Azerbaijani city during the Soviet period, until the Armenian forces of self-defense liberated Shushi on May 9, 1992, in one of the most crucial moments of the Karabagh war.

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(Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee [ANEC])


Mountainous Gharapagh
Becomes Part of Soviet Azerbaijan
(July 5, 1921)

The establishment of the Soviet regime in the Southern Caucasus between April 1920 and April of 1921 included the solution of ethno-territorial conflicts such as that of Mountainous Gharapagh, which had been in dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan since 1918.

Soviet Russia had recognized the mountainous area of Gharapagh as a disputed zone and, in August 1920, after an agreement signed by Soviet Russian and the Republic of Armenia, Russian forces had been temporarily deployed in the region.

On November 30, 1920, one day after the Armenian Bolsheviks had proclaimed Armenia as a Soviet republic (the power was actually transferred on December 2), the Revolutionary Committee of Azerbaijan (the highest executive power of the country at the moment) recognized that Gharapagh, Zangezur, and Nakhichevan, territories formerly pretended by Azerbaijan, were indivisible part of Armenia. GharabaghMap

The National Council of Azerbaijan, on the basis of the agreement signed by Soviet Azerbaijan and Soviet Armenia, proclaimed Mountainous Gharapagh as indivisible part of Armenia by the declaration of June 12, 1921. On the basis of the November 30, 1920 declaration and the agreement signed by the Soviet governments of Azerbaijan and Armenia, Armenia also made a similar declaration.

The text of the decree approved by the government of Armenia was published in the Armenian and Azerbaijani press (Bakinski rabotchi, organ of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan, June 22, 1921), thus confirming legally the union of Mountainous Gharapagh to Armenia. In the context of international law, this was the last legal act regarding Mountainous Gharapagh during the Communist regime.

The fact was totally overlooked by the Caucasian Bureau of the Communist Party of Russia, which invited to a plenary session on July 4, 1921 in Tbilisi, where the union of Mountainous Gharapagh to Soviet Armenia was confirmed as a fact. However, by suggestion of Moscow and the immediate intervention of Joseph Stalin, the decision of the previous day was revised in the wee hours of July 5 and a new resolution was imposed, which established that Mountainous Gharapagh would be part of Soviet Azerbaijan as an autonomous region. This resolution was an unprecedented legal act in the history of international law, when the party body of a third country (Russia), without any legal grounds or jurisdiction, decided the status of Mountainous Gharapagh after another decision had been agreed before.

The Soviet republics of Azerbaijan and Armenia were included in the process of the formation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in December 1922. Despite the resistance of the Armenian population, on a small fraction of the territory of Gharapagh, by decision of the Central Executive Revolutionary Committee of Soviet Azerbaijan, on July 7, 1923, the Autonomous Region (Oblast) of Mountainous (Nagorno) Gharapagh was formed as part of the Soviet Socialist Republic of Azerbaijan, without having any common borders with Armenia.

This would not solve, but just freeze the question of Gharapagh for the next six decades and half, until the popular explosion of 1988 and the beginning of the Gharapagh movement.


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