Azerbaijan has a statehood history of more than five thousand years. A thousand years of three millennia, beginning from Mannea – our first centralized state, are considered as a period of independent states, and two thousand years as a period of occupations.
During the occupations, the aggressor states always preferred a resettlement policy. This policy was at the heart of “divide and rule” principle of the invaders and currently, it goes like this. As it was the case during the Sassanid and Arab conquests, the resettlement policy during the Russian occupations was of utmost importance for the strangers.
Russia’s policy of resettlement to the Northern Azerbaijan started after the II Russian-Persian war. As the outcome of this policy, the Armenians were massively resettled to Azerbaijan as well, along with the Russian villagers.
Iran did not want to accept the occupation of Caucasus by the Russians, was waiting for the favourable condition to liberate these territories from Russia’s occupation and preparing for war. In accordance with an agreement in this regard, England was supporting Iran and helping in the construction of weapon factories in Tabriz and other cities. Russia’s strengthening position in the Caucasus was contradicting the interests of England and Turkey, along with Iran. Thus, it brought these countries closer together. In 1818, Iranian Government launched talks with Turkey and Fatali shah sent his representative to the Palace of Sultan. Among the Muslim population of khanates occupied by Russia, low-income group of population, as well as the majority of higher ranks were in a hostile position of Russian colonial regime. In its turn, it was in Iran’s favour. The news regarding the Decembrist revolt of aristocrats, which took place in December 1825 in Saint Petersburg, reached to Iran in the beginning of 1826. Presuming that it was high time to begin the war with Russia, Shah launched preparations for military operations. In June 1826, Islamic clergy of Iran declared “holy war” against Russia. On 13 July, 60,000 soldiers troop of Abbas Mirza, together with Javad khan’s son Ughurlu khan, Huseyngulu khan of Baku, Mehdigulu khan of Karabakh, Selim khan’s son Huseyn khan of Sheki, Mustafa khan of Shirvan and others, crossed Aras River and started war against Russian invaders. Population considered the army of Abbas Mirza and khans accompanying him as their liberators, helped them in almost all territories and rebelled against Russians. Expansion of “united Muslim rebellion” disturbed the Tsarist Government. Armed group of beys in Karabakh clashed with Russians and burned the mansion of R.G. Madatov, who was Yermolov’s assistant and attracted Muslim population’s hatred. With the help of local population in Shirvan, Mustafa khan restored his authority. Moreover, Mirhasan khan restored his authority in Talysh province, Ahmad khan in Guba province, and Huseyn khan in Sheki. However, after receiving help from Moscow, Yermolov took the advantage in the balance of powers. The territories of the khanates were reoccupied and khans obliged to return to Iran. Russians shed blood and took brutal measures against hostage rebels. In Guba province, 3 khans and 7 beys out of 57 detained in 1826-1827 were sentenced to death penalty. Others were sentenced to long-term imprisonment. On 16 December 1826, the commander of Muslim provinces fon-Krabbe sent instructions to Guba, Shirvan and Baku provinces, which stated to exile all detained beys to do heavy works in ore mines and to send their mature-aged sons to the Astrakhan military-orphan department. The instruction proposed to confiscate immovable and movable property of all beys, who were in a hostile position against the Russian government and transfer it to the treasury of the Russian state. Accordingly, a judgement was issued on the confiscation of all villages of the following persons: 342 men who went with Ahmad khan, including 81 beys and aghas, more than 40 beys went with Huseyngulu khan from Baku province, 43 beys and aghas from Karabakh province. 49 villages with 1,477 backyards in Shirvan province, 125 fruit gardens and vineyards were seized and transferred to the Tsar’s treasury. 5,139 cattle and 24,322 livestock were given at the disposal of storing department. Beys from the Talysh khanate had brought 1,150 villager families to Iran with themselves. 3,301 backyards were also seized in favor of the treasury. (3, p. 50-51)
Russian troops occupied Iravan and Nakhchivan khanates, and in the late 1827 crossed Araz River and entered the southern lands. After that, both sides launched negotiations. As an outcome of the negotiations, on 10 February 1828, in Turkmenchay village located in the south of Tabriz, Russian-Persian treaty consisting of 16 Articles was signed. The second Russian-Persian war ended with the Turkmenchay Treaty. According to the treaty, troops of Tsarist Russia withdrew from the territories on the south part of Araz. In addition to the lands envisaged in the Gulistan Treaty, the newly occupied Iravan and Nakhchivan khanates were compromised to the full subordination of Russia (Article III). In addition, Iran assumed to indemnify 20 million silver coins to Russia (Article VI). The occupied southern provinces would remain under Russia’s control until the provision of compensation. As to public vessels, Russia preserved its exceptional right to have public vessels in the Caspian Sea (Article VIII). Article X envisages the opening of trade consulates. Article XI envisages the restoration of affairs broken by the war. Articles XII, XIV, XI refer to the movement of the population between two countries and the other issues. Articles XIV and XV envisage the resettlement of Armenians from Iran to the South Caucasus. These articles read as follows:
ARTICLE XIV – None of the agreed supreme parties shall require the delivery of deserters or traitors passed to the opposite site before and during the later war. To prevent negative outcomes from ill-intentioned relations between those refugees and their countrymen or those under its leadership, the government of Iran obliges now and in the future to prohibit the settlement of the people listed by the Russian government in its territories between the rivers Araz and Chara, the Lake Urmiya, and the outfall of the rivers Jakatu and GizilUzen. The Majesty of the Emperor of Russia promises to prevent the settlement of Iranian refugees in the territories of Karabakh and Nakhchivan khanates, as well as in the part of Iravan khanate on the right bank of the Araz. But it is evident that this term is also applicable to those with an official rank or of any dignity: khan, bey, religious superiors or mullahs, which may have negative influence over former countrymen or their subordinates with a personal example, advice and secret relations. As to the population of both states, the agreed supreme parties decided that the citizens of both countries that have transferred or will transfer from one territory into another, may settle anywhere with the permission of the government.
ARTICLE XV – With the favorable and lasting wish to re-gain stability for his country and to keep his citizens away from all that may increase harm that was done in the war concluding with peace by this treat His majesty King forgives all of the population and officials of the Azerbaijan province. Despite the rank, none of them to be prosecuted for their behaviour during war or the temporal occupation of the mentioned territory and shall not be insulted for religious faith. A year’s time to be assigned from this day to those officials and citizens that must move from Iran to Russia with their families, to carry their movable property without any prevention of the government and the supremacy without any tax on their property or things for sale. As to unmovable property, a five-year timeframe is assigned for the sale or for its self-disposal. This permission is not to be applied to those who committed a crime during the above-mentioned one-year period. (2)
During the I and II Russian-Persian wars in the beginning of 19th century, the diplomats, along with the army, were closely engaged in the implementation of Russia’s occupation policy. One of them was A.S.Griboyedov.
He played a crucial role in preparation, approval and implementation of the Treaty of Turkmenchay. The leading role of this famous Russian poet and diplomat in dividing the people of Azerbaijan and in resettling Armenians in the territories of Azerbaijan raised the local Muslim population’s hatred of him and thus, he became the victim of his criminal acts.
In his notes of August 1828, Griboyedov wrote that “he was ready to die for his miserable compatriots, namely the Armenians”. His house was situated in Armenian bazaar in Tiflis and he was enjoying friendship with General Madatov. Thus, Griboyedov established close relations with more than 30 Armenians and drafted various plans against the Muslim population in the last two years of his life. After the conclusion of Turkmenchay Treaty, while some Russian diplomats considered indemnifying the expenses by Iran associated with the war as the top priority, Griboyedov thought preferable the resettlement of Armenians to the Northern Azerbaijani territories. By resettling Armenians in the border districts with Iran, Russia wanted to create reliable human support in these areas and to change the ethnic situation profoundly in Nakhchivan, Iravan and Karabakh, where Azerbaijani population were living and whom it did not rely on.
After the Treaty of Turkmenchay, the Tsarist Russia began to implement the resettlement policy in order to expand and strengthen the borders of Russian Empire. Along with the Russian villagers, the Armenians and other Christian population were gradually resettled to Azerbaijan. During the first three and a half months after the treaty, 1,2 thousand Armenians were resettled from other side to Iravan, Nakhchivan and mostly to Karabakh khanates. Russian historian N. Shavrov wrote: “We started our colonialism policy with the resettlement of nations …, other than the Russians, in the South Caucasus… Within two years (1828-1830) following the war, we resettled more than 40 thousand and 84 thousand Armenians, accordingly from Iran and Turkey to the South Caucasus, in the best places of Yelizavetpol (Ganja) and Iravan governorates… Those Armenians inhabited in the mountainous part of Yelizavetpol governorate (presentday Nagorno-Karabakh) and the shores of the Goycha Lake. Total number, together with the people unofficially resettled, exceeded 200 thousand. Consequently, over one million Armenians out of 1,3 million living in the South Caucasus in the beginning of 20th century were not indigenous and were resettled by us.” (1)
The Russians, resettled from Russia, were mainly landless villagers who were dissatisfied with the Tsar and the church and sharing separate religious belief. For example, most of the people resettled from Russia to Azerbaijan were the Russian villagers called Molokans. They considered their faith as clean as milk (in Russian “moloko” – the name of this religious group derived from this. M.Z.). Moreover, as they did not own lands, they were dissatisfied with the tsarist regime. Tsar had somewhat prevented dissatisfaction in Russia by resettling this population to Azerbaijan, and obtained support and pursued a policy of Russification by distributing lands to the Russian villagers in Azerbaijan. (3, p. 57-58)
There was a plan to resettle 80 thousand Russian Cossacks to the Northern Azerbaijan until 1827. However, when Griboyedov was head of the diplomatic department in Tbilisi, he rejected this plan, put forward the idea of resettlement of Armenians and achieved to have this plan confirmed by the official authorities. This process was implemented under the supervision of Colonel Lazarev, of Armenian origin, in Iravan. In a short period of time, 8 thousand Armenian families (totally 40,000 people) were resettled in the northern Azerbaijani territories. The resettled Armenians were provided with financial support thanks to the Russian treasury and the fund, indemnified by Iran for the expenses associated with war.
Following the occupation of Tabriz by the Tsarist troops in 1828, merely on the initiative of Griboyedov, “Law regulating the governance of occupied province (Southern Azerbaijan)” was drafted.
A.S. Griboyedov was doing his best to strengthen Russia’s position not only in the South Caucasus and Iran, but also in the Near and Middle East. His “Guidelines Project” served at these purposes. In order to make rich natural resources of the South Caucasus, including northern Azerbaijan, come into the possession of Russian colonists, A.S. Griboyedov suggested to establish Transcaucasian company in Tiflis in 1827 and involved well-known Russian businessmen and entrepreneurs in this plan. It was envisaged to involve well-known Georgian and Armenian businessmen in the future as well. The reason for the absence of local Muslim businessmen in this project stemmed from the hostile position against the population.
Russia was provoking contradictions between Iran and Turkey and trying to make use of it for its own benefit. Moreover, it did not refrain from weaken these two Muslim counties by putting them against each other and hereby, wanted to realize its occupation intentions. A.S. Griboyedov was one of the key ideologists for the realizations of this aggressive policy. In order to secure the victory of the tsarist army in the Russian-Turkish war, broke up in the spring of 1828, the execution of Turkmenchay Treaty was of significant importance. At that time, A.S. Griboyedov further expanded his affairs in order to use the Russian troop of 25,000 soldiers, stationed in the south part of Azerbaijan, against Turkey.
Unlike Russia, England was trying to settle the contradictions between Iran and Turkey and to use the power of these states against Russia.
After the conclusion of Turkmenchay Treaty, on 25 April 1828, under the instruction of Tsar Nicholas I, the Senate adopted a decision on setting up the “plenipotentiary embassy” in Tehran and the consulate general in Tehran. The appointment of A.S. Griboyedov as a plenipotentiary ambassador to Iran proves that the tsar and higher diplomatic circles of Russia had a great confidence in this person. He was distinguished by his hostile attitude towards the local population and pro-Armenian position, in comparison to all Russian diplomats who carried out the duty of ambassador in Iran before or after him. However, in Russian and Soviet historiography, as well as the modern time Russian historiography, there is a misconception by M. Nechkina. According to her, the reason of A.S. Griboyedov’s appointment to this position was that as if he was a supporter of Decembrists and thus, tsar appointed him as an ambassador in order to expel him from Saint Petersburg. However, the facts disprove these views. The main reason of his appointment as an ambassador to Iran was that he loyally performed his duties for tsar and that devoted himself as a diplomat in realization of occupation policy.
A.S. Griboyedov enjoyed positive recognition in his country for his role as a diplomat in expanding the borders of the Tsarist Russia, as well as for being a writer. Even at present, there would be very few number of Russian intellectuals that could express negative attitude towards Russia’s occupation policy throughout the history. Thus, it would be appropriate to view Griboyedov through the eyes of nations who witnessed occupation and suffered aggression, but not the eyes of Russian citizens.
As soon as appointed as an ambassador, A.S. Griboyedov began to abuse his powers and behave as an absolute leader. However, this resulted in his and his assistants’ tragedy. Firstly, together with 40 persons, he paid a visit to Tabriz, to the palace of Abbas Mirza, leader of Azerbaijan, and then to Tehran. Under his direct instructions, fellows of “the embassy”, having regarded the Article 13 and Article 15 of Turkmenchay Treaty, interfered in the local affairs of Iranian citizens and committed violence in the houses under the pretext to free Christian hostages and to resettle Armenians to the northern Iran without a delay. In Gazvin district, Russians had entered the house of sayyid and wanted to take his wife, who was of German origin and adopted Islam), by force. After strong objections of the woman and avoiding population’s anger, they obliged to release the women.
By pursuing pro-Armenian policy, A.S. Griboyedov caused moral and material damage to the Azerbaijani population. Ardabil Dar al-Irshad, Sheikh Safiaddin library, was one of the richest libraries in the Middle East, which included valuable manuscripts of ancient times and collected with special care of Shah Ismail’s son Shah Tahmasp I and grandson Shah Abbas. The library was plundered under the supervision of Griboyedov and these manuscripts were sent to Russia under the pretext of copying. The manuscripts collected in this library were unique works of art decorated with miniature art of painting on the parchment and on the paper. After preparing the first catalogue of 166 worthy manuscripts in Tbilisi, AbbasguluBakikhanov sent these pearls of art to Saint Petersburg and they are being kept there. Moreover, among the properties sent to Peterborough as loots, there were throne of Abbas Mirza, seven cannons made by Iranian masters, and two paintings illustrating battlefield heroism of Abbas Mirza.
Arriving in Tehran on 12 January 1829, A.S. Griboyedov and his assistants behaved disgracefully and gravely violated the diplomatic norms. Together with Cossacks, they were making noise in bazaars and streets in a drunken situation, and entering houses under the pretext to find “Christian hostage”. Moreover, he demonstrated negligent and impolite attitude towards shah, won MirzaYagub (Markaryan), head of the shah’s harem, to his side, took two Armenian women from the house of Chief Vizier Allahyar khan to the embassy for the so-called interrogation, even rejected shah’s demand to release them, and committed other actions. All of these caused anger in city population and resulted in his tragedy.
Under the call of clergy of Tehran, more than hundred thousand people gathered in front of the embassy building where Griboyodov and his assistants were hiding. By the command of Griboyedov, the guards began shooting peaceful population, and consequently, many people were wounded. The death of 14 years old boy as a result of Russian shooting exhausted people’s patience. They entered the building and killed Griboyedov and 53 people living in the embassy (15 out of them were Armenians). The corpses of Griboyedov and two other Russians were dragged by the horses in the streets for three days. On the fourth day, several Armenians secretly buried the corpses thrown at the outskirt of the city. (4)
Consequently, A.S. Griboyedov, ideologist of Russia’s aggressive policy in the South Caucasus, including Azerbaijan, became the victim of his criminal acts. The one, who committed criminal actions against the people of Azerbaijan, is eventually punished. Tragedy of Griboyedov in early 19th century, Polyanichko in late 20th century, Strovoytova and others should be a lesson for many.
- Шавров Н.Н. Новая угроза русскому делу в Закавзье. СПб., 1911, с.59-61
- Трактаты заключенный в Туркменчае, от 10 февраля 1828 г. Doqovorı Rossii s Vostokom politiçeskie i torqovıe. Sobral i izdal T. Özefoviç..,СПб, 1869, s. 214 – 222; Azərbaycan tarixi. Uzaq keçmişdən 1870-ci iləqədər. Red. S. Əliyarlı. Bakı 1996, s.617-624.
- Zülfüqarlı M.P. Azərbaycan tarixinə yeni baxış. Bakı 2007
- Zülfüqarlı M.P. “Rus diplomatı A. Qriboyedovun cinayətləri və cəzası”. “Ədalət” qəzeti 08 aprel 2005-ci il.
Professor of Azerbaijan University of Tourism and Management
Doctor of Sciences in History
“EXPOSURE OF ARMENIA’S OCCUPATION POLICY (COMPILATION OF ARTICLES)”. BAKU – 2019, p.189-199