CHAPTER 13 KARABAKH UNDER SIEGE (1917-1920)

During an official visit to the representative of the British Mission, Michael Arzumanian was told that the Armenian government had admitted Karabakh’s submission to Baku, and he himself must do his best to support that decision. But the Armenian representative told Arzumanian that he had declared Karabakh as an integral part of Armenia and the statement as if accepted by him, was far from being true.48 The English were already explicitely showing their orientation. As a result of Armenian persistence, Sultanov decided to apply strong measures. All the roads leading to Karabakh were cut off. A Tatar cavalry attacked the village Khtsaberd. Many other villages suffered the same fate. The blockade brought famine to Karabakh. The Azerbaijani government decided to put Karabakh under a boycott. Trading with the Armenians was forbidden on pain of death. A Muslim, who sold oil to an Armenian, was executed on order from Sultanov. The Chairman of the National Council Yeghishe Ishkhanian, Manager of Military Affairs Harutiun Tumian and Astvatsatur Avetissian were sent into exile, many other leaders were arrested. Soon the Kurdish and Tatar irregulars led by Sultanov’s brother, attacked the Gheibalishen village, 6 kilometres distant from Shushi. The Tatar population of the village had been warned to leave the village in advance. From 700 Armenians only 11 men and 87 women and children survived. The Armenian villages Jamilu, Krkdzan and Dashushen were also destroyed by the terrorist brigade. The inhabitants of the village Karin Tak hindered their advance and defeated them. The British officers witnessed all these atrocities. The silk plants of David Nersissian and Daniel Aharonian were looted and burnt down. All these actions aimed at squeezing and driving the Armenians out of the area. But as a result they became more persistent and unbreakable. The defenders of the Sghnakh village offered Shushi their support. But the National Council answered that it was trying “to reach an agreement” with Sultanov.”49 While the Shushi Armenians possessed only 400 cartriges, the Tatars were armed with caunons, guns and a big supple of arsenal.

The British policy towards Karabakh is expressed in the talk between the British General Corr and the head of the Armenian delegation to the Tiflis conference of Transcaucasian republics. The diplomatic representative of Armenia in Georgia reported to the Armenian Foreign Minister Ohanjanian the view of the British General.50 “The situation is inflated. Certainly there were some disturbances, as a result of which both sides suffered a loss of 15 people, including the one killed and two injured British soldiers.” He also stressed that such course of events would make him take tough measures and “break everything to pieces.” The Armenian representative added on his part, “By the way the General, smiling widely noted that we, the Armenians are more quick in conquering countries than the Europeans. He meant that we took Olti without the British permission, but despite this remark, he had sent a message to Constantinople ordering General Miln to recognize Armenian control over Olti.”

On June 17 the officer of British Mission Hockance told the Armenian delegation, “We shall drive out all the women and children of that region to the highlands and then we’ll kill the male population of that region to the last. Karabakh must be annexed to Azerbaijan. Convene congresses, hold conferences, die if you wish, that’s your own business. Even if the whole of Karabakh is reduced to rubble and burnt to ashes, we’ll be only spectators to the scene…”51

In mid June the British were already leaving Karabakh. By that time it was clear that an attack on Zangezur was imminent. The operation was led by the officer of the Ottoman army Kiazim Pasha. The Turkish generals, Ittihadists Nuri Pasha and Khalil Pasha were still in Baku.52

On June 29 in a battle near the village Yeghvard the Armenians won an absolute victory over the Turkish army, seizing 3 cannons, 120 guns and 15 horses loaded with cartridge.53

On August 13 in the village Shosh, not far from Shushi, the Seventh Congress of Karabakh Armenians opened. Sultanov appeared on August 14 with an ultimatum to the effect that within 48 hours the Council must undertake negotiations with Baku. At last the Armenian leadership accepted recognition of the government in Baku. A resolution with 26 articles was adopted. It stated;

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