CHAPTER 13 KARABAKH UNDER SIEGE (1917-1920)

The Regional Committee might constitute of seven Armenians, three Muslims, one representative from Yerevan and one from Baku, as well as the head of the British Mission with the right of veto. This project was sent to General Thompson, with a letter, which read; “In contrast to your call, after the arrival of the Allied Mission, Azerbaijan has deployed troops in strategic military outposts of Askeran, Khankendi, Zabugh and Kariagino. Moreover, Ottoman Turkish groups, under Turk officers, are active in borderlands.”40 This activities meant that with the connivance of the British, Azerbaijan was undertaking an aggression on Karabakh.

The policy of Great Britain in Karabakh, more or less openly allied with the Musavats of Azerbaijan, was contemporary with the new French policy adopted in Cilicia, of closer relations with the Kemalist Turks. In both cases the allies were contributing to drive the Armenians out of the area. They reached this aim in Cilicia but not in Karabakh, where, despite the lack of any outside aid, the population resisted all attempts to drive them out.41 Thus the seeds of the future conflicts were largely sown by the British, who thereafter withdrew from Karabakh and later from the Caucasia.

At the end of August 1919 the British military representative in Yerevan, Colonel J.C. Plowden noted that; “The handing over of Karabakh to Azerbaijan was I think the bitterest blow of all… being the cradle of their race and their last traditional sancfuary, their last refuge when their country has been invaded. It is Armenian in every particular way and the strongest part of Armenia, both financially, militarily and socially.”42

Despite this expression of high sentiments, this British diplomat would act as the loyal British subjects General Thomson or Colonel O.I. Shuttleworth who later replaced the former and was heard to threaten the Armenian delegation to do his utmost to force them to submit.

General Thomson was aware of the presence of the Turkish officers in Baku, which were obliged to leave in accordance with the armistice signed in Mudros on 30 October. He even granted Nuri Pasha the control of Baku,43 of course aware of the fact that the massacre of 35 thousand Armenians in Baku was organized by the Turk.

Furious with the attitude of Armenians, the British undertook to arrest all the prominent leaders of Karabakh. In April General Thomson was appointed Commander-in-Chief of British in Transcaucasia, Colonel D.I. Shuttleworth replaced him in Baku. The latter demanded that Karabakh should obey the orders of Governor-General Sultanov without contradicting him in any way. According to some sources, the Allies were dissatisfied of British Transcaucasian policy. The member of Baku National Council H. Bahatrian in a letter addressed to the Compatriotic Union of Karabakh and Zangezur Armenians (Chairman-Leo), reported that according to some Tehran reports, the British policy had given rise to vigorous protests of the French Mission, who were against the appointment of an Azerbaijani Governor-General in Karabakh.44

The objections raised by the Armenian government in the meeting of the National Council, which was attended by Colonel Shuttleworth, had no effect on the fate of Karabakh.

On April 23, 1919 the Fifth Congress of Karabakh Armenians met at Shushi. Sixty nine delegates took part in it. Official Armenian representatives Michael Arzumanian and Hovsep Arghutian were present there too. Once again the Congress persisted in its refusal to submit to Baku. The Congress considered “unacceptable any administrative project related to Baku, the enforcement of such a project would lead to nationalistic clashes and bloodshed, for which the Fifth Congress of Karabakh Armenians can’t be responsible.”45 This dicision of the Congress was taken a vote on and carried unanimously in the presence of Colonel Shuttleworth and Khosrov Bek-Sultanov. Calling on the National Council to submit to Baku, the British Colonel added, “Take into consideration that your roads can be blocked. In this case how can you deliver supplies to the region?, how can you realize communication with the outside world?. And if you are put under an economical boycott, are you able to live without bread? And if the over-excited and armed crowd attacks you, will you be able to defend yourselves?”

“The prophecy” of the Colonel fulfilled in a short period of time.

Colonel Shuttleworth declared that unable to accept the National Council as a governing administrative body, the British Mission would have no further relations with it.47

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