The Armenian nationalist extremism emerged in the territory of Ottoman Empire began to expand its activities in the territory of Russian Empire, more precisely, in the South Caucasus since the last quarter of the 19th century.
Armenians were applying the methods of terror and violence, which they practiced in the Ottoman territories, against the government circles and peaceful Muslim population here as well. Paradoxical it may sound, but Russia itself, which for a long time had been using the Armenian factor to weaken the Ottoman state and supporting Armenian nationalists’ ethno-criminal and terrorist activities in the Ottoman territory, became the main target of Armenian extremism in the late 19th and early 20th century.
Russia’s activism in the “Armenian question” increased after its successful completion of the 1877-1878 Russian-Turkish War. However, Russia’s leading role in the “Armenian question” and its territorial gains (Ardahan, Kars, Beyazit, and Batumi were transferred to Russia) achieved by the Treaty of San Stefano disturbed Great Britain, feeling concerned for Russia’s strengthening position and for the change in balance of power in the Eastern Mediterranean. The treaty, signed in Berlin in July 1878, deprived Russia of an exclusive role it played in the “Armenian question” and of some territories it seized after the war. In accordance with the Article 61 of the Berlin Treaty, the Ottoman side undertook to carry out reforms in the provinces inhabited by the Armenians and eventually, several Powers – Russia, Great Britain, France, Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy would superintend their application (28, p. 205). Thus, under the pressure of European states, Russia obliged to accept that leading positions in the “Armenian question” already weakened. The Treaty of Berlin did not cause any serious changes in the situation of the Armenians living in Turkey. The European states were satisfied with only expressing objections against Turkey and did not take specific measures for practical realization of certain provisions of the Treaty regarding Armenians. To this extent, one cannot disagree with the US historian Guenter Lewy, saying, “Armenians became hostages of Europe’s struggle for power and authority” (25, p. 15).
Diplomatic defeat of Russia at the Congress of Berlin weakened its activism and interference in the “Armenian question” in Ottoman state. On one hand, this was related to the fact that the European states prevented Russia from strengthening its positions and the Ottoman state from weakening too much. On the other hand, the shift in Russia’s foreign policy course towards the struggle for circles of influence in Central Asia and the Far East should also be taken into account. The “Armenian question” became the second priority matter for Russia. However, along with the foreign policy factor, the domestic policy interests of Saint Petersburg played a crucial role in the shift of Russia’s position. It should not be forgotten that up until the signing of the Treaty of Berlin, there were serious problems between the Russian government and Armenian church. These problems manifested in the issue of Echmiadzin Catholicos’ rights, as well as in government oversight of religious schools. It is true that, nevertheless, Russia did not avoid using the Armenian population of Anatolia for its own purposes during the Russian-Turkish War of 1877-1878. However, Russia, should first have maintained the balance between its protective image and its interests. In its turn, these interests did not prove that the government had good relations with the Armenians. Certain political circles understood that the Armenians’ autonomy claim in Turkey was a threat to Russia’s interests, as the Armenians might raise the same demand before Russia. The domestic policy, which was pursued after the enthronement of Alexander III in 1881 and aimed at fighting against national and separatist movements, also played a role in weakening of Russia’s activism in the “Armenian question”.
The extent of Russia’s interest was that the Armenian separatist movement in the Ottoman state and armed rebellions in the 90s of the 19th century do not pose a threat to its security and the stability of its borders in the South Caucasus. The society and political elites of Russia were sympathetic towards the Armenian movement in Turkey and protested the prosecution of terrorists by the Ottoman government, and the tsarist censorship allowed the publication of praiseful articles about the Armenians’ struggle. At the same time, the government took measures on the borders to prevent crossing of weapons and bandit gangs from Turkey to the Caucasus. However, in spite of the measures taken by the government to prevent the spread of Armenian nationalist extremism in the territory of Russia, it was impossible to do so. One of the main causes of this failure related to allowing the refugees from the Ottoman state to cross to the South Caucasus. After every Armenian revolt and repressive actions of the Sultan government, tens of thousands of Armenians were resettling to the South Caucasus from the Ottoman-Russian border, without any obstacles. There were numerous Armenian bandits among the displaced people who were directly involved in terrorist activities against the population and the Turkish government. Their existence in the Caucasus would lead to the serious threats to regional stability. Flow of tens of thousands of refugees had an impact on the Armenians of the South Caucasus as well, which caused the Armenian national idea and revolutionary atmosphere to become widespread. Chauvinist ideas had influenced the Armenian media and literature. Gregorian Church, which had been in a conflict with the Russian government and pretending itself as a defender of not only the Turkish Armenians, but also of the Russian Armenians, stimulated these processes. The Armenian clergy was supporting the separatist movement from both moral and organizational viewpoint and sometimes directly involving in the movement.
The history of Armenian extremism in the years of 80s and 90s of the 19th century is known as the period of establishment of the revolutionary organizations and parties. The absolute majority of them considered the use of only violent means acceptable to achieve the objectives decided. While the first Armenian parties were established outside Russia (except “Dashnaksutyun”), the separate nationalist organizations were operating in the South Caucasus. Thus, there was “Gaya-Ser” and “Aska-Ser” (Armenian nationalists and patriots) circle in Irevan in the 1880s. This circle was trying to form independent Armenian state in the future and hereby, was raising money to buy weapons manily for the Armenians of Turkey (26, p. 224).
The “Armenakan” organization, established by M. Portukalian in Marseille in 1885, intended to draw the attention of European states to the “Armenian question” and with their help, to establish autonomy in Eastern Anatolia, which Armenians traditionally called “Armenia of Turkey”. Following the 1896 Van Rebellion, members of the organization moved to Russia and established the Armenakan community in the South Caucasus. In his report (in 1898), the head of Gendarmerie Department of Tiflis Governorate wrote that the main work of this community was to raise money and buy weapons. It enjoyed financial support of wealthy Armenians. These weapons were sent to Iran, where the gangs were formed to cross the RussianOttoman border. After dissolution of the organization, some of its members joined Hunchaks and others to Dashnaks (14, p. 366-367).
The “Hunchakian” (“Clarion”) party was founded in 1887 in Geneva by a group of Armenian students. Despite the socialist nature of the party program, the Hunchaks’ aim was to form independent Armenia consisting of the territories of Ottoman, Russia and Iran. “Hunchakian”, preferring radical methods, made use of terror against its political opponents (25, p. 17- 18). Local organizations of “Hunchakian” were established in Baku in the 90s of 19th century and in Shusha and Elisabethpol (present-day Ganja) in 1902 (11, p. 203).
In 1890, new Armenian political party “Dashnaksutyun” (“Armenian Revolutionary Federation”) was founded the South Caucasus. One of the theories in the program of the Tiflis-based party was to achieve political and economic independence of the eastern provinces of the Ottoman state by way of revolution. The Dashnaks stated that the party “could not agree with those who want to use only diplomatic means to achieve this purpose. Europe is not for us. It will not help us. Let the Armenians know that they will not gain anything without shedding blood…” (24, p. 171). In addition to propaganda methods, the Dashnaks considered possible to organize and train the battle groups, to equip the people with weapons, to commit terror, to develop channels for sending weapons and to destruct the government buildings (24, p. 173).
In 1892, the Dashnak party held a meeting in Tiflis and adopted a decision to commit an act of terror against the Ottoman government, as well as to rise rebellion for “liberation” of the eastern provinces of Turkey. In such meetings held in other cities of the Caucasus in 1893, the issue of providing support to the Armenians of Turkey had been discussed (1, p. 45). Local organizations of “Dashnaksutyun” party in the northern Azerbaijan were formed in the early 20th century (11, p. 215). The declaration, found in the confidential printing house of Dashnaks in Baku in September 1903, concluded with the following words: “We should be ready for final battles; if the fight against the dead predator [the tsarist government – F.J.] is carried out for freedom, then it is not frightening” (13, p. 33).
Thus, the South Caucasus gradually were becoming a point of support for Armenian extremists, and in their turns, these extremists were launching attacks to Anatolia from here, collecting money and weapons for the rebellions, preparing terrorists, and rovocating among the population. In order to stop these criminal acts, the tsarist government took some preventive measures. For instance, criminal cases were launched against some Armenians, dealing with involving people in the gangs and sending them to Turkey.
The Armenians developed channels to help the armed rebellions in the Ottoman state from the South Caucasus. First of all, it included the purchase of weapons and their transfer from the Russian-Ottoman border. Turkish researcher Mehmet Perinchek found in one of the Russian archives that three Armenians, who were Ottoman subjects, were detained in Irevan in 1897 due to sending weapons to Turkey. The weapons were delivered with the help of Russian soldier S. Kovalenko. A. Janpoladov, a resident of Irevan, was a mediator in this regard (5, p. 38-40). Another channel for sending weapons was revealed in Moscow in 1899. It became known that two persons arrested had illegally obtained the parts of firearms as the metal from the state-owned weapon plants and Moscow armories, and secretly ransferred them to the Armenians. All these operations for delivering weapons to the South Caucasus were conducted by the help of Armenian doctor living in Moscow (5, p. 55-57). From the archives of Georgia and Russia, Azerbaijani historian Musa Gasimli revealed numerous facts about weapon acquisition of Armenians. For example, “Poseidon” ship carrying weapons for the Ottoman Armenians was held at Baku customs in 1896. Weapons were brought for Armenians from Moscow to Shusha in 1897, to Yevlakh in 1898, to Tiflis and Baku in 1899 (1, p. 53).
Another important problem for Russia was border violation acts by the Caucasian Armenians, helping the Ottoman Armenians. Under the influence of clashes took plain in Erzurum in the first half of the 1890s, it was begun to form voluntary groups among the Armenians of the South Caucasus and sent them to Turkey. Along with the propaganda among the population, there were attacks to the Turkish villages bordering Russia, resistance to the police, and killings and plunders. Local clergies and officials of the villages, who participated in this movement, were spreading rumors that the Russian government supported the rebellions of Turkey Armenians. The propaganda was carried out through the dissemination of maps of “Great Armenia”, paintings illustrating its past, photographs of armed gangs, and patriotic songs (29, p. 54). Numerous documents kept in Turkish archives confirm that from the second half of the 1890s, Armenian gangs had repeatedly attempted to cross the Ottoman border. These attacks mainly took place in the areas between Nakhchivan and Irevan. From there, Armenian bandits crossed to the territory of Iran – Khoy, Salmas, Maku provinces, and then to the territories bordering Turkey. Despite the fact that Turkish government had always been in contact with Russian and Iranian governments on border security, it was not always possible to prevent the Armenian attacks. One of the factors blocking the issue was that the territory of Caucasus region bordering Iran was under the control of militants of Armenian origin (15, p. 25). The Fourth Ottoman Army informed the government that the Armenian militants serving on the border were instructing bandits and helping them cross the border (3, pp. 1-10). Moreover, G.S. Golitsyn, General Governor of Caucasia wrote to the Minister of the Interior V. K. Plehve that the Ottoman government was sure that the Armenian movement in Turkey was controlled by the Caucasian Armenians, the population of eastern provinces had always been in contact with the Caucasus revolutionary committees and these committees were preparing armed gangs attacking the territories of Turkey. (6, p. 32). V.F. Minorsky, the interpreter of Consulate-General of Russia in Tabriz and sent to Khoy and Salmas for official journey, wrote to the government in December 1904 that due to the weak protection of border, the armed groups crossed to the Ottoman territory, as well as general revolution propaganda plans were under way by the Russian Armenians (15, p. 19).
Armenian Dashnaks also arranged the sources for funding the separatist movement. Necessary financial means were collected from the charitable concerts, literary evenings, lotteries, membership fees and donations (29, p. 27). Every member of the party, as well as the “assistant members” (who voiced solidarity with the ideas of “Dashnaksutyun”, provided financial support or took part in the propagation) would have to transfer at least 2% of their salary or income to the party fund. Well-known Caucasian millionaires A.I Mantashev, P.O. and A.O. Gukasovs, B.Lalayev and many others (6, p. 43-44; 9, p. 193; 18, p. 1; 22, p. 698) were among the people sympathizing Dashnaks and supporting them from financial point of view. Various public organizations operating in Baku and Tiflis closely also supported Armenian nationalist parties. For instance, the Armenian Charitable Society in the Caucasus, the Armenian Humanism Society for the Saint Gregory, the Armenian Books Publishing Society, and the Armenian Women’s Charitable Society of Tbilisi, in fact, served for the purposes of the nationalist movement under the name of enlightenment and charitable activities. Several members of these societies were also members of the “Dashnaksutyun” Party and dealing with the revolutionary propaganda and the dissemination of ideas for the united independent Armenia (10, p. 1-3).
Since 90s of the 19th century, Armenian chauvinism in the South Caucasus became further aggressive in comparison with the previous years. The separatist rebellions that began in the Ottoman state at this time encouraged the Armenians of the South Caucasus to provide material and armed support to their coreligionists. Merely in those years, the contradiction between the Russian government and the Armenian Apostolic Church was at final stage. Having regarded the influence of the church on everyday life of Armenians, restrictive and later repressive measures taken surely attracted the counter reaction of the radical part of Armenian political elite. According to official statistical data, in the late 1890s, the Armenians were carrying out broad anti-government activities in the South Caucasus. It appears clear from the Minister of Justice N.V. Muravyov’s report for 1897 and a brief summary of the anti-government movement in the years of 1894-1897 in Russia that the Armenians, among those accused of offences against the state, ranked third after the Russians and Poles (29, p. 18). N.V. Muravyov mentioned the case of secret Armenian societies in the South Caucasus among important criminal cases investigated in 1897. Totally 117 persons were detained in this criminal case, and the case of secret Armenian societies ranked second for the number of detainees among 13 biggest criminal cases of this kind (29, p. 20).
Taking note of the strengthening of nationalist extremism tendencies among the Armenians, the Russian government toughened up measures to prevent them. Prevention of the flow of Armenians, resettled from Turkey to the South and joined extremists, was of utmost importance among these measures. According to G.S. Golitsyn, it would also be desirable to expel the refugees from the South Caucasus, who previously resettled here. The decision of G.S. Golitsyn dated 9 November 1901 was an important step in restricting Armenians’ migration. Although the decision was aimed at restricting the number of Armenian refugees arriving in the South Caucasus and at making them return, the subsequent events showed that the outcome of the decision had not been unequivocal. According to the decision, the Armenians’ migration from Turkey to the Caucasus stopped and the people who resettled after 1892 would have to accept to be a subject to Russia or return (17, p. 8-8 arch.). It appears clear from the essence of the decision that its purpose had been to limit the Armenian flow from Turkey and to create more unfavorable conditions for them in the Caucasus. However, if we take into account that the rules were applied to people resettled after 1893, the number of Turkish Armenians living in the Caucasus in 1901 was not low. Therefore, even such kind of restrictions could not have a significant impact on the decrease of the number of Armenians in the region.
Referring to the results of G.S. Golitsyn’s decision, Armenian author Khachatur Dadayan wrote that less than half of the Armenian displaced persons had accepted to be a subject to Russia (21, p. 75). However, Dadayan did not provide specific information about what number is the case. Indeed, the number was very high – 75,000 persons. At the time of widespread Armenian extremism, it was not difficult to imagine that what could do these number people and what kind of problems would pose to the South Caucasus in the future.
One of the most dangerous circumstances was that there were many armed bandits among the Armenian refugees and they relocated in the border areas, as well as in big industrial cities and governorate centers. Merely these bandits comprised the majority of criminals in the South Caucasus. As noted by L.A. Frankel, Prosecutor of the Echmiadzin Synod, in 70 years, three or four generations of the Armenian youth in Turkey had grown up under the influence of the idea of opposing the government and that as is it is just action (27, p. 260). During the massacres of 1905-1906, they were the main force of Armenian terror against peaceful Azerbaijani population in Baku, Nakhchivan, Irevan, Zangazur, Elisabethpol and Shusha.
The Armenian nationalist extremism reached its peak in the early 20th century. Undoubtedly, the tsar decree dated 12 June 1903 on secularization of the property of the Armenian Apostolic Church had stimulated this. Clashes with the police and the troops during the delivery of church property took place mainly with the participation of Hunchaks and Danshnaks. Unlike “Hunchakian”, the “Dashnaksutyun” party was better equipped, had a military organization and was preferring terrorist tactics. And thus, it played an active role in this process. In a leaflet issued in Tiflis on secularization of church property, the party openly stated: “By stepping in the way of revolution, the Armenians were convinced that it’s the only way to protect the rights of the people, to obtain them, to protect human dignity, to achieve freedom and self-governance, to escape from the autocracy that is considered the greatest tyranny of our century”. (7, p. 33-36).
The tactics of the Armenians during the delivery of church property by the government were determined by “Dashnaksutyun”. In one of the archive documents, the party warned the clergymen, village elders, property managers, and tenants not to hand over any property to the Russian government in any way and not to sign any papers or documents. Otherwise, such persons would be considered treacherous and subjected to revenge by the Dashnaks (8, p. 78). In another document, the Dashnaks gave instructions on Armenians’ opposing behaviours against the government officials during secularization. The protest would have to manifest itself in the following forms: to hold crowded demonstrations, to close Armenian shops, to ring church bells, to gather around the property in the mourning dress, to sing national songs, to resist the police and to protest property seizures, and then to gather in churches collectively (8, p. 79).
As it can be seen, the decree of 12 June 1903 and its implementation deeply stimulated “Dashnaksutyun” party’s anti-government activities in Russia. Merely this event determined the dashnaks’ all further struggles in the Caucasus. Strengthened in the background of Armenian nationalistextremist movement, “Dashnaksutyun” actually played a role “state within the state” together with the church. While the church was financially supporting the Armenian movement and acting as its ideological center, “Dashnaksutyun” were performing the functions of police, court, and punishment. The union of the Church and the Dashnaks was the command of time and these two forces were united for a common purpose. Looking at the Armenian nationalist-extremist movement in the Caucasus, the reasons of active struggle by Armenian priesthood and “Dashnaksutyun” party against the Tsarist government become clear. Firstly, large part of the Armenian Apostolic Church’s income were spent to provide support for the Dashnak party and the intellectuals favoring the party. Therefore, deprivation of church from its property weakened both the material resources of church and “Dashnaksutyun”. Secondly, if “Dashnaksutyun” stood aside during the protests after the decree of 12 June, then the party could face a risk of losing its influence, as the Dashnaks had already become a real force of the Armenian nationalist-separatist movement in the Caucasus. It is not a coincidence that taking this into account, General Governor of Caucasia G.S. Golitsyn had prepared a large-scale plan to break the union of Dashnaks and church in the spring of 1904. According to that plan, the Armenian revolution and terrorist organization, gathered behind the Catholicos Mkrtich in Irevan governorate and Echmiadzin, would have to be abolished (16, p. 51). However, the suicide action against G.S. Golitsyn and his departure from the Caucasus could not allow realizing this plan.
When carrying out the secularization on the sites, the Russian officials faced serious difficulties in enforcing the decree of 12 June 1903. Sometimes these difficulties pose serious risks to their life and security. Alone in Irevan governorate and Kars province, 22 tsarist officials was caused harm by the Armenian revolutionary committee. Most famous criminal act of the terrorists was the suicide against G.S. Golitsyn. For the Armenians, G.S Golitsyn was the main initiator of the policy of restricting church authority. On 14 October 1903, three terrorists of the “Hunchakian” party attacked G.S Golitsyn and stabbed him in the head with a dagger (12, p. 392-393). The General Governor survived, but he went to Saint Petersburg in July 1904 and never returned to the Caucasus.
The start of struggle against the Russian government led to the changes in the strategy of “Dashnaksutyun” party. At the third congress of the party held in Sofia (Vienna in some papers) in February 1904, Dashnaks made a decision to move their activities to the territory of Caucasus. The Congress decided to accept the tactics of propaganda, terror, rallies and armed resistance regarding the Caucasus (24, p. 177). The report of the Russian Ambassador to Turkey I.A. Zinoviev dated 15 April 1904 about the Armenian movement stated that influential figures of that movement considered appropriate to stop the demonstrations in Turkey, because they saw Russia, distancing Armenian population due to its decisions concerning the church, as the main enemy, but not the Ottoman state. According to I.A. Zinoviev, the Armenians resolutely believed that if a war broke out between Russia and Turkey, they should be on the Ottoman side and fight against Russia, despite their hatred of Turks (31, p. 69-69 arch.).
The Ottoman state was aware of Dashnaks’ preparations for armed struggle against Russia. Commissioner of Turkey in Bulgaria informed Istanbul that Armenian committees in the Caucasus and Bulgaria were in a close cooperation and worked together with other Armenian committees in Europe (4, p. 1). It appears clear from the intelligence documents that committees were dealing with fundraising in the European cities for the preparation of revolution in Russia (2, p. 1-4, 6-7). The most noteworthy point in this information is that the Ottoman government expressed serious concern regarding the actions in Russia planned by the Armenians. Istanbul very well understood that although it sounded good to use Armeniannationalist extremism against the longtime rival – Russia, any action through such a dangerous tool would cause a threat to the security of Turkey, which thoroughly felt the bitterness of Armenian separatism.
In the context of increasing Armenian extremism in the South Caucasus, it is important to analyze another fact. The case is Armenian extremist parties’ attitude towards Azerbaijanis, the largest ethnic group in the region.
According to the sources, at that time, the political activism of the Azerbaijani community was not so strong in comparison with other peoples of Russia, for example, Russians, Armenians, Jews, Poles, and others. According to official data, only 6 out of 1894 detainees accused of offences against the state throughout Russia in 1894-1897 (29, p. 18), and 14 out of 4481 in 1898- 1900 (29, p. 64-69) were Muslims. It is true that although the government authorities regularly expressed concerns about the promotion of pan-Islamism ideas and the intention of Russian Muslims to unite with their coreligionists in Turkey and Iran (30, p. 8 arch.), any concrete facts confirming unfaithful attitude of Muslims, including Azerbaijanis, towards the government had not been found. The Pan-Islamism movement itself was aimed at the defense of Muslim nations whose rights were violated not only in Russia, but also across the world. In general, these ideas were popular among certain intellectuals and did not cover broad population audience. Another example confirming politically immature nature of Azerbaijani community is that unlike other countries, the political parties in Azerbaijan were established only in the early 20th century and socio-political figures of Azerbaijan had not been represented in country’s leading political parties (both right-wing and left-wing) to a certain period of time.
Muslims ranked last among the peoples of Russia in antigovernment activities. They were not inclined to take part in revolutionary demonstrations and resisted the attempts for engaging them in such events. Interestingly, such attempts were made by Armenians. Thus, in 1904-1905, the Dashnaks issued declarations in Baku and called on Azerbaijanis to join the fight together with the revolutionary parties against tsarism. However, the Azerbaijanis did not pay attention to adventurism of Armenians and stated that they would not take part in antigovernment rebellions (19, p. 84 arch., 181-181 arch., 252 arch.- 253).
The provocations of Armenians had not limited to dissemination of declarations. According to the information provided by the police, in order to incite Azerbaijanis to join the anti-government protests, Armenians were planning to throw grenades into the place in Baku where the Muslims gathered for the occasion of the death of Imam Hussein on Day of Ashura held by the Shiites on 15 March 1904 and to spread rumors that as if the crime was committed by the police. Government representatives had warned Muslim leaders in this regard (23, p. 105).
The Azerbaijanis definitely responded to the calls to join the anti-government struggle and rejected the Armenians’ proposal. However, such a response was not simply due to the fact that Azerbaijanis did not sympathize with revolutionary rebellions and showed their traditional Orientalist loyalty. It was a logical reaction to the contradictions between two nations built up over the years. Although the contradictions could never lead to large-scale inter-ethnic clashes, there would take place local conflicts. The Armenians with economic and political advantage were trying to make Azerbaijanis dependent on them and this was leading to a responsive reaction of the Azerbaijanis who dominated over the Armenians in previous times.
Local conflicts between Armenians and Azerbaijanis occurred without any serious political grounds. Mostly, it was domestic disputes. However, under the influence of contradictions and mutual hostilities, those disputes were accompanied by the armed conflicts and casualties. One of the first clashes took place in 1887 in Irevan. In response to the killing of two Azerbaijanis by Armenians, two Armenians were killed. On 5 January, shooting took place between the two nations in Irevan marketplace. The troop interfered in the action and the clashes calmed down. According to the report of the Governor of Irevan, the Armenians attacked Muslims and fired a shot on peaceful civilians in the streets during the clashes. As a result of the clash, 17 people were killed and wounded (1, p. 39-40).
Mutual attacks and murders had become systematic in Baku. In summer and autumn of 1904, several murders were committed on the grounds of revenge. This was proved by the ways of killing and the marks of violence on the corpses. Thus, after the snow melted in the city, disfigured corpses of Azerbaijanis were found and this fact led to just protests and concerns in the society (20, p. 120 arch.).
There was a definite thought in the society that the tensions between Armenians and Azerbaijanis were growing. The increase in the number of Armenian provocations was aimed at to incite Azerbaijanis to respond and to initiate unrests in the city. Hereby, the Armenians wanted to achieve two goals – to commit a terror against peaceful Azerbaijani population and to take the fight against the Russian government to a new level. Thus, the Armenian extremists wanted to apply the tactics in the South Caucasus, which they had tested for years in the Ottoman state – killings and violence against Muslims and anti-government struggle. The provocation of Armenians had created such a situation that even the smallest spark was enough to turn the mutual hostility into a large-scale conflict. In the early 1905, rumors were circulating that the conflict would take place between Armenians and Azerbaijanis in Baku. Rumors were various: some claimed that Armenians would massacre Azerbaijanis, and some claimed the opposite. Armenians were more active in this regard and by all means always advocated that the Azerbaijanis would commit a sabotage. If we look at the two-year Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict that began in February 1905, it is not difficult to understand why these tactics were chosen. It was intended to prepare the public opinion in a direction that as if the massacres were committed by Azerbaijanis and thus, the Armenians had been the victims. Armenians applied the technique they tested many times – they justified the terror by presenting themselves in the role of innocent victims of actions committed by the Ottoman state firstly, then Russia and now Azerbaijanis. Although the terror was shown as a responsive action, the Dashnaks, the Hunchaks, and the Armenian church had been preparing for it for a long time. One of the issues complicating the situation was that the Armenians possessed many weapons and the weapons were at the disposal of Dashnak bandits. Mass equipping of Armenians with weapons during the separatist movement in the Ottoman state opened a new arena for the Dashnak gangs, who were used to terror. This was struggle arena against Muslims of the South Caucasus.
In the late 1904 and early 1905, the situation in Baku was very tense: on one hand, the Decembrist revolt in the city and on the other hand, the terror and provocations of Hunchaks and Dashnaks paved the way to contradictions between Armenians and Azerbaijanis. All of these happened in the background of worsening of general political and economic situation in Russian Empire, standing on the doorstep of revolution. Political, inter-ethnic unrests and crimes became widespread every day and everywhere. Specific characteristic of the situation in the South Caucasus could not forgotten – Armenian nationalist extremism had clearly chosen a way of fighting against Russian autocracy. Referring to the information provided by the Turkish Commissioner on the Affairs in Paris, I.A. Zinoviev, Russian Ambassador to Istanbul, warned Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs: “current plans among the Armenian population in Russia soon will be directed at Russia and this will lead to serious incidents” (31, p. 69 arch.). The events of February 1905 proved that this concern was not baseless.
Thus, in the early 20th century, Armenian nationalist extremism was carrying out its fight in the South Caucasus in two directions – against the Russian government and Azerbaijanis. In the first front, this struggle manifested itself in strong equipping with weapons, in the formation of armed gangs, and in terrorist actions against the government officials. “Hunchakian” and “Dashnaksutyun” had joined the revolutionary movement of the left-wing parties, whose purpose was to break the stability in the region and to loosen the foundations of the state. In the second front of the struggle, the Armenians with economic superiority in the region saw the Azerbaijanis as the dependent nation and therefore, considered themselves in a position to make Azerbaijanis accept Armenians’ rules. Even the passive participation of Azerbaijanis in the anti-government protests showed the impression that Azerbaijanis were demonstrating loyal attitude towards the regime, which Armenians considered as their main enemy. Systematic murders, intimidations, humiliations, frightening declarations forced Azerbaijanis to respond, adding extra tension to the problematic relations between the two nations. The society was on the doorstep of a large-scale conflict that could lead to a bloody conflict. This conflict resulted in the first Armenian-Azerbaijani massacre took place in 1905-1906.
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Scientific Secretary of National Museum of Azerbaijani History of ANAS
Doctor of Philosophy in History, Associate Professor
“EXPOSURE OF ARMENIA’S OCCUPATION POLICY (COMPILATION OF ARTICLES)”. BAKU – 2019, p.167-188