CHAPTER 12 “THE ARMENO-TATAR WAR” 1905-1906

On November 18 the Gandzak slaughter began. The market was full of armed Tatars. It was the day of Muslim “juma” – Saturday. Tens of unarmed Armenians were murdered, their shops were looted. Then came the turn of the craftsmen. The goods were loaded on carriages and taken away. The Gandzak massacres were described in the periodical “Caucasus” and in book “Yelizavetpolsk” and “Bloody Days”. Several testimonies confirm the fact that one of the organizers of the Gandzak slaughter was Chief Governor Takaiashvili. The police had closed themselves in their houses, turning blind eye to the massacres.

Issue n.27 of 1906 of “Caucasus” condemned Takaiashvily, bringing several facts of his assistance to the extremists. He failed to prevent the mob from violence and burnings. The better part of the town was destroyed by fire. He even blocked up the way to the bridge, from where the Armenians could come to save their dying brothers. The cannons were directly aimed at Armenian targets. The n.238 issue of “Mshak” (1905) reported that Takaiashvily was the only one responsible for the destruction. Visiting the Armenian districts he even made fun of the people who had lost their heads in expectance of an attack. And indeed the attack came. The survived Armenians took refuge in their cathedral for four days. Their houses had become the prey of the flames. Soon they organized a self-defence and threw back the mob of the Chailu and Molla-Jallu districts. On November 22 the Turk-Tatars burnt the Norashen district. As a result of the counter-attack of the Armenian self-defence forces, the two above mentioned Tatar districts were intentionally destroyed. The bandit Dali-Ali (mad Ali). arrived in Gandzak to organize an attack from the Banghmanlar district. The giant resident of Gandzak, Hambo, crossed the river with his volunteers and attacking the guards of Baghmanlar, frightened them to death and scattered all over the district. The number of Armenian casualties was 150 in Gandzak, 60 shops were looted, tens of houses burnt. After all this events Takaiashvily was relieved of his office. The Gandzak slaughter too was an undivisible part of the pan-Turkic project and the Armenians should be conscious of the need to organize self-defence beforehand, more particularly after the massacres in the Ottoman Empire. The wave of pogroms triggered deportation of Armenians. As a result of the attacks on 38 villages of the Gandzak province, three of them were emptied and robbed. The village of coppersmiths Bada set up a strong resistence against the Turks. The residents continued to fight in the streets and in their houses to their fast breath. A 70 year old man fell after killing ten bandits. After Bada the villages Getabek and Ghazakh became the prey of the mob. The Getabek residents hid in their houses, which were sel alight. The Chardakhlu village sheltered the survivors and continued its fighting, throwing the mob back for tens of times.

Further clashes took place in Baku, the most violent in September. Infuriated by the news from Shushi, the Tatars attacked the Armenians. For several days a murderous battle raged in the town, ringed round by flames arising from the oil-fields, set afire throughout the whole region. Considerable material damage was done to the owner, most of which were Armenians. But the greater part of the 600 victims were Tatars. In late 1905 a third wave of pogrom broke out from Baku and the war spread from here to Tiflis and Yelizavetpol, where the Armenians were better organized and maintained law and order quickly, suffering fewer casualties than the Tatars. On the whole the fightings ended with the defeat of the Tatars, as a result of a successful Armenian self-defence, led by the revolutionary parties. Trying to counter the influence of these parties the Tsarist authorities authorized the re-opening of schools and restored the property to the clergy. The next outbreak of violence occurred in 1906 in Shushi. The Tatar nomads from the plain, going up into the Mountainous Karabakh with their herds, cut the roads and isolating Shushi began to liquidate the surrounding Armenian villages. Preparations were made in Aghdam (a Tatar town lying on the strategic road from Shushi to Yerlakh) for an attack on Shushi. Despite the pro-Tatar attitude of the Russian authorities, the Armenians won this battle of Shushi too. The fighting came to an end on 22 July 1906. The Shushi residents, though numerically inferior, won an absolute victory over the Tatars.

Nationalistic confrontation intersified in the whole Transcaucasia. The fighting moved to the neighbouring Zangezur district, from where the Turkish population was driven out, and then to Yerevan. During the two years of fighting 252 villages were destroyed, among the 119 were Armenian. Totally 14680 houses were destroyed. The number of casualties is 10 thousand.15

The Viceroy of Caucasus Vorontsov-Daskov initiated to serve as a peaceful mediator for both sides. On February 20, 1906 he invited 30 representative from each party to his palace to conduct talks. The Armeno-Tatar assembly lasted 15 days. All the high rank officials of the Divan Viceroyalty took part in it, the Yerevan and Tiflis chief governors included. But the mediation efforts failed to succeed, the conflict continued to escalate as the instigators of it conflict did not take part in the negotiations and were far from taking steps to solve the conflict. Moreover, they were provoking new clashes. But on the whole their intentions to oust the Armenians from the Transcaucasian region, resulted in a failure, as the Armenians set up a strong resistence in respond to their pun-Turkic theories. They hoped that the stateless nation wouldn’t be able to organize a self-defence and frightened to death would leave the region, migrating to Russia, Europe, America. The common people held their ground. Those who left the country were the prosperous Armenians, who having invested inormous somes in the economy, were afraid to lose them. Only the villages in the Karvacharr(Tsar), Lachin (Kashatagh), Zangilan (Kovsakan) regions were emptied as the population of the mentioned areas was heavily intermixed with Kurdish and Tatar settlers.

These wars were far from being religious, though the organizors would be glad to give it such a shade. The Transcaucasian Turkic language speaking Tatars practiced the Shii Muslim faith as the Iranians, that’s the reason why the pan-Turkic leaders always stressed the common roots, persuading the Transcaucasian nomads that they belonged to the Turkish race. They even founded special organizations in Transcaucasia to unite the Turkic-Tatar tribes and arouse national self-awareness and spirit in them.

The Turko-Tatar press condemned the Russian authorities and the Armenian Dashnak for the conflict, trying to hide the real instigators. But in fact the Armeno-Tatar clashes raised the esteem of the Dashnak revolutionary party in the eyes of the nation, as they were the only effective armed group prepared to protect the Armenians. Their armed power reversed the anti-Armenian policy of the Russian authority. Soon the Russian policy was to change to a pro-Armenian for the first time in several decades.

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