With the emergence of independent states – Azerbaijan and Armenia on the political map of the South Caucasus – interethnic clashes between Armenians and Azerbaijanis, which took place for the first time in 1905-1906, grew to the level of interstate conflict.
It was based on the attempts of the Dashnak government of Armenia to seize the territories of the Elizavetpol and Iravan gubernias, controlled by the Azerbaijani government, populated by Armenians. In June-September 1918, the activity of the Armenian volunteer units, who earlier fought on the Caucasian front during the World War I on the side of Russia against the Ottoman Turkey, intensified sharply in the South Caucasus. The most active of them were gangs of Andranik Ozanyan. This Armenian cut-throathad a great experience in the destruction of the peaceful Muslim population in the territory of the Ottoman Turkey during the Balkan War of 1912-1913, as well as during the First World War, when he fought as a member of the Russian army at the head of the 1st Armenian Volunteer Corps (It is interesting that among his volunteers there were such well-known personalities as A.Mikoyan and Kh.Bagramyan).
In 1917, the Russian High Command gave Andranik the rank of Major-General. After the formation of the Ararat Republic in late May 1918, relationsbetween Andranik and his governmenttook a rather complex turn. When, on June 4, 1918, the Armenian government signed a peace treaty with the Ottoman Turkey in Batumi, Andranik considered these actions “treacherous”and announced that he was breaking with the Armenian Dashnak government and would continue his armed struggle with the “Turkish invaders”.
Beginning from June 1918, Andranik’s detachments implemented several bloody actions against the Muslim population of Nakhchivan and Julfa. These events were highlighted in the periodical press of the timein the following way: “Andranik’s bandit detachments destroyed a large number of Turkic villages.”
On August 15, 1918, the Azerbaijani government protested to the government of Armenia concerning the encroachment of the detachment of General Andranik into the territory of the Republic of Azerbaijan.In a return telegram dated August 17, the Armenian diplomatic representative in Georgia stated that by order on the separate Armenian corps “General Andranik himself and his entire detachment was long ago excluded from the list of the Armenian troops, after which they refused to recognize the authority of Armenia and its officials and to obey them. Thus, General Andranik and his detachment have nothing to do with Armenian national forces and its bodies, and therefore, the Government of the Republic of Armenia, can in no way be responsible for their irresponsible activities.”
Thus, the Armenian government wanted to relieve itself of responsibility for Andranik’s crimes, although he used him in its policy of conducting ethnic cleansing in the territories of Iravan and Elizavetpol provinces. After the occupation of the Nakhchivan and Julfa regions by the Turkish troops in August 1918, Andranik transferred his bloody actions to Garabagh and Zangazur. It was associated with the military activity of Andranik that the strengthening of separatist sentiments among the Armenian population of Garabagh.
The actions of the Andranik’s armed detachments aimed at systematic killing of the Muslim population of this region were reflected in numerous telegrams and reports of the afore-mentionedperiod, which were sent from the places to the Ganja governor, prime minister and the Minister of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan, as well as pages of the periodical press of the time.
As reported by the newspaper “Our Time”(The Times/Наше время), arriving on September 4, 1918 in Sisian (Zangazur), Andranik announced here the mobilization among the 20 to 30 years oldmen. Arrival of the Andranik’s detachments inspired the local Armenians, who, as seen from the report of the governor of the Zangazur uyezd Melik-Namazaliyev from September 11-12, 1918, began to attack the Muslim villages of the Zangazur region more often, inflicting enormous losses on its population. According to Melik-Namazaliyev, Armenians, under the command of the bloodthirsty Andranik, destroyed dozens of Muslim villages, in which the number only of dead exceeded 500 souls. In the report, Melik-Namazaliyev stressed that Andranik destroyed the villages at the instigation of local (Zangazur) Armenians.
After the signing of the Mudros Agreement on October 30, 1918, according to which Ottoman Turkey undertook to evacuate its military units from the South Caucasus, the situation in this region became more acute. The withdrawal of the Turkish troops contributed to the fact that the military formations of Andranik tried to establish control over Garabagh from the territory of Zangazur. Beginning from November 1918 attacks on the Azerbaijani population in Garabagh and Zangazur, inspired by the “Armenian leader”, had become systematic.
After the arrival of Andranik’s gangs in Ghorus on 22 November 1918, in a short time, 30 Muslim villages were destroyed here. In early December, with the consent of Major-Gibbon, the head of the Anglo-French mission in Ghorus, and under the orders of the Commander of the British troops Thomson, 4/5 of the entire territory of the Zangazuruyezd was placed at the complete disposal of Andranik, who established here a peculiar kind of “governorship”.
Describing these events, the English journalist Scotland-Liddell wrote in 1919: “Ghorus is a hotbed of anti-Tatar (anti-Azerbaijani) agitators. Andranik is still there, and he refused to recognize the Armenian government in Iravan. Ghorus was, in fact, his own state; even to this day the city is cut off and is governed by the Armenian council.”
Within these territories, with the actual indulgence of the Anglo-French mission, a policy of terror against the Zangazur Muslims was carried out. And despite of the fact that on November 19, 1918, at the insistence of General Thomson the “chief of the Armenian special shock detachment”, Major-General Andranik ordered the military commanders-in-chief of Varand, Dizak, Khachen and Javanshir, all commissars and the Armenian population “to stop immediately military operations against the Tatars and the Turks.”
The newspaper “Azerbaijan” rightly noted that this document shows that “the slaughter of the defenseless Muslim population of Garabagh, created by the Andranik’s gangs, is not accidental, not “elemental”, but is implemented according to a previously agreed plan.”On December 26, 1918, under the leadership of the British mission was organized a meeting of representatives of the Muslim and Armenian delegations in Ghorus. The purpose of this meeting was to listen to both sides and establish a truce. However, instead of assisting in the prevention of the slaughter and the conclusion of the agreement, Major Gibbon announcesthe above-mentioned order of General Thomson about the transfer of the entire Zangazur uyezd,as a matter of fact to Andranik.
A member of the Azerbaijani Parliament, a native of the Zangazur uyezd, agronomist by profession Jalil bey Sultanov, after having an audience with Major Gibbon, had a half-hour conversation with him. In his report to the government on the results of this meeting and his observations, J. Sultanov wrote: “The British are deceiving us. In my opinion, under the guise of rendering assistance to the Andranik’s detachment, they pay salaries to all armed Armenian detachments operating in the Zangazur uyezd.”
Subsequent events confirmed this and showed that Andranik, issuing an order to halt immediatelymilitary operations against Muslims, was insincere. Having taken in Zangazur, allegedly at the suggestion of the peasant congress and the national council “to assume the chief command over the armed forces with all the powers of the commander-in-chief”, Andranik continued to devastate the Muslim villages with fire and sword. And all these atrocities were occurringbefore the eyes of the Anglo-French mission, advocating the establishment of peace and tranquilityonly in words.
In another telegram from the chief of Zangazur uyezd Melik-Namazaliyev to the government of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic dated December 11, 1918, is spokenabout the new atrocities of Armenians under the leadership of Andranik in Zangazur uyezd.In this regard, it is reported that Armenians, attacking the Muslim population of the Zangazur uyezd, “… they brutally cut out without distinction of sex and age, violate corpses, more than 12 villages were burned on December 9, and 10 women are currently held captive by Armenians …”
On December 20, 1918, the situation in this region was discussed at the session of the Parliament of the Republic of Azerbaijan. In his speech on this issue, the head of the government F.Kh.Khoysky noted that “Andranik’s plan “to cleanse” Zangazur and Shusha from the Muslim population and tear these“areas” from the living body of Azerbaijan.”Having informed deputies of the numerous attempts of the government to settle the conflict through peaceful negotiations with Andranik, he spoke about the reluctance of the latter to make any contacts with representatives of the ADR government. The discussion of this issue resulted in a resolution adopted on the need for the government to take a complex of military and political measures to repel foreign aggression.
The bloody crimes of Andranik’s armed bands in the territory of Zangazur and Garabagh that continued intermittently from the summer of 1918 to the spring of 1919 were stopped only after the decision of the government of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic and with the approval of the British command in January 1919 the territory of Garabagh and Zangazur was torn into a separate general-governorship headed by Kh.Sultanov.
After the establishment of the Garabagh general-governorship, Armenia’s position in this region was greatly shaken. Therefore, along with diplomatic activity (notes, appeals to all instances – from the British mission in Shusha to the Paris Peace Conference), the Armenian government using local Armenian separatists launched subversive activities in Zangazur and especially in Garabagh. In a secret report to the Soviet of Ministers of Armenia, signed on March 17, 1919, by the delegate of the Armenian National Soviet of Garabagh, Levon Zarafyants was asked “to do everything possible so that Zangazur would now become an indisputable part of the Armenian Republic.” And to achieve this, it was pointed out that it was necessary to leave Andranik at any cost in Zangazur.
However, these plans were not destined to come true. In April 1919, Andranik left Zangazur with his detachment and through the corridor allowed by Azerbaijani government returned to the Armenian Republic. Here he dismissed the detachment, and himself fled to emigration via Tiflis.
Andranik, disappointed with the unwillingness of the British mission in Azerbaijan to contribute to the plans for the annexation of Garabagh and Zangazur to Armenia together with other Armenian politicians left for Paris. Here Pogos Nubar Pasha, the head of the Turkish Armenian delegation to the peace conference, organized his meeting with French President Raymond Poincare Пуанкаре, during which Andranik expressed his dissatisfaction with the neutral position of the allies in the Garabagh issue.
The main results of the bloody actions of the Andranik’s gangs in the region were reflected in the materials of the Extraordinary Commission of Inquiry, established at the suggestion of the Minister of Foreign Affairs M.Hajinsky in July 1918 and functioning till April 1920. The commission for investigating the crimes of Armenian armed gangs against the peaceful Muslim population in Garabagh and Zangazur was headed by the investigator for special cases N.Mikhailov.
The investigation on the events in four uyezds of Garabagh was completed in May 1919. Materials on the events in the Zangazur uyezd made 2 volumes and 80 pages. Based on the testimony of witnesses and according to official documents, the commission found out that only in the late summer and autumn of 1918, 115 Muslim villages were destroyed and ruined in Zangazur uyezd. In all listed villages, 3257 men, 2276 women and 2196 children were killed, 1060 men, 794 women and 485 children were injured, and altogether 10068 people were killed and maimed in the entire uyezd.
The rout of over a hundred Muslim villages of the Zangazur uyezd, the stealing of several tens of thousands of neat and small cattle, the destruction of orchards, fields, all this fundamentally undermined the economic situation of the Muslims of the uyezd, forming up to 50,000 beggars who fled to different villages of Azerbaijan, and caused at the most modest calculation of about a billion rubles of losses. However, the author of the report believed that even this appalling figure does not fully cover the number of killed and wounded civilians in the Muslim villages of Zangazur uyezd, since the fate of so many Muslims remained unclear until the time of the inquiry. The report recorded the names, surnames, place of residence, social status of 48 leaders and perpetrators of the pogroms of Muslim villages of the afore-said uyezds. The author considered it necessary to specify only persons with full names and surnames. These names of criminals were also confirmed by the testimony of many witnesses. The members of the commission came to a fair conclusion that all these atrocities of Armenians were carried out under the general leadership of General Andranik, sent by the Armenian Republic in order to seize and appropriate the primordial Azerbaijani lands.
After the formation of the Garabagh general – governorship in January 1919, which along with the Shusha, Javanshir and Jabrayil uyezds, also included the Zangazur uyezd the Armenian National Council that settled down in Zangazur and was a permanent hotbed of interethnic tension in the region, began actively to bombard the British military mission in Shusha with telegrams, in which he demanded the withdrawal of Zangazur from the subordination of the Azerbaijani general – governorship and its subordination to Armenia. It is interesting that in the agreement of August 15, 1919 between the Armenian population of Garabagh and the government of the ADR, among the territories that were part of the general-governorship, Zangazur was not mentioned.
However, the presence of Azerbaijani troops in the uyezd caused the protest of the Armenian government, pointing out that Zangazur is part of Armenia. In response to these claims, the government of the Republic of Azerbaijan repeatedly reported to the Armenian government during 1919 that it considers the matter of Zangazur to be Azerbaijan’s internal affair and does not consider it possible to enter into any negotiations with the Armenian government on this matter. In response, the Armenian government stated that it still considers Zangazur a disputable area, and any actions of the Azerbaijani government in this area, as contrary to the decisions of the English command, consider it unacceptable that can lead to undesirable consequences and bloody incidents. However, in the response telegrams, the Azerbaijani government stated that the British command had long made a preliminary demarcation of the territories, placing Garabagh and Zangazur at the disposal of Azerbaijan (is meant the establishment of the Garabagh general – governorship).
In view of the current situation, the Armenian government deemed it necessary to invite Azerbaijan to resolve the issue at a special Azerbaijani-Armenian conference. However, on the eve of the conference the situation around Zangazur took a turn for the worse again. The Armenian government made a sharp protest over the sending of its regular troops by the government of Azerbaijan to help the governor-general of Garabagh to maintain order and tranquility in the Zangazur region. The sending of troops was caused by the fact that the Azerbaijani government had irrefutable proofs that the Armenian government sent its regular troops, weapons and other combat equipment to Zangazur for distribution among the Armenian population, intending that an uprising should be organized at the right time in order to show that the Armenian population of Zangazur did not want to recognize the authority of the Azerbaijani government.
Naturally, the Azerbaijani government could not remain indifferent to what was happening, especially since a huge number of Muslim refugees, about 60,000 people had to return to their native places and could be subjected to all kinds of attacks and violence by Armenian armed gangs. To avoid this, Azerbaijani troops were sent. This gave cause for the Armenian Council of Zangazur and the government of Armenia to make a big noise, as a result of which the small clashes that took place between the Azerbaijani troops and armed Armenian gangs were presented as real battles that supposedly lasted for several days. But in view of the fact that these events coincided with the approaching date of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conference, the Armenian government, fearing that the actual situation in Zangazur could change, as in Garabagh, not in its favor and, wishing to delay the solution of this issue, appealed for assistance to the Georgian government, to the British representative O.Wardrop and to the deputy of the Supreme Allied Commissar V.Gaskel-to J.Rey’s regiment with a request to suspend “military operations”. All of them addressed with appropriate telegrams to the Prime Minister of the Republic of Azerbaijan N.Usubbeyov.
After discussing the situation and giving in to requests, the Defense Committee of the Republic of Azerbaijan, not wishing to aggravate relations, decided to temporarily withdraw troops from Zangazur. But for all that, the Defense Committee of the Republic of Azerbaijan continued to remain exclusively on its previous view that Zangazur is an integral part of Azerbaijan. As a result, on November 23, 1919, between the heads of the governments of Armenia and Azerbaijan A.Khatisov and N.Usubbeyov, an agreement consisting of 5 points was signed. According to paragraph 2 of the agreement, the parties pledged to take effective measures to establish and open roads leading to Zangazur for peaceful movement thereon. Thus, the agreement did not say anything about the transfer of Zangazur to Armenia, which meant that the uyezd remained to be part of Azerbaijan. Moreover, Muslim refugees gradually began to return to their native villages. To prevent this process, the Armenian government, soon violating the terms of the agreement on Zangazur, in early 1920, again, subjected to the destruction up to 40 Muslim villages of the uyezd.
On the whole, these bloody events left a deep imprint on the future destiny of the uyezd, the western – Armenian part of which soon turned into a den of Armenian gangs. Hence during 1918-1921 they systematically committed bloody attacks in the direction of Nakhchivan and Garabagh. This played a decisive role in the gradual loss of control by the Azerbaijani government over the western part of the uyezd, which in 1921 ultimately led to its annexation to Armenia. The policy of mass ethnic cleansing carried out against the Muslim population of the uyezd, which led to a change in the numerical ratio of the ethnic composition of the uyezd’s population in favor of the Armenians, became the basis for Armenia to treat Zangazur exclusively as an Armenian territory.
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