CHAPTER 13 KARABAKH UNDER SIEGE (1917-1920)

In late 1917 the Bolsheviks had already published several false declarations and appeals about the self-determination of the nations. On December 29 the Council of Commissars published a decree about “Turkish Armenia” where “the government of Russian workers and peasants supported the right of self-determination of the Turkish Armenians inhabiting the territories occupied by Russia to the point of independence.” The document was signed by Lenin and Stalin. Another such a declaration was sent to the eastern Muslims, which made the Musavatists believe that they could pursue their previous policy basing their claims on the false affirmation that the disputed regions had been under the authority of the Musavat and realize their aims of forming a Turko-Tatar state in eastern Transcaucasia. The appeals of Bolsheviks for social revolution, land to peasants, self-determination to nations and even a kind of greater all-Russian nationalism found supporters. Lenin’s estimation that national separatism would be reduced by central Russian tolerance and willingness to allow national self-determination to the point of independence appeared to be a political dissimulation, and soon the Bolsheviks began to fight against that principle both in Russia and Caucasia.70 One of its first expressions was the Brest Peace Treaty between Russia and Germany and its allies. Russia handed the Armenian Kars, Ardahan and the Batum district over to the defeated Turkey,71 and were soon to hand over Karabakh, Zangezur and Nakhichevan, realizing the eastern projects of Turkey.

On April 29, 1920 in Martakert the Ninth Congress of Karabakh Armenians opened. Sixty-two delegates from seventy villages took part in it. The Congress decided, emphasizing the Turko-Tatar massacres of Karabakh, to unite with Armenia, refusing to obey to the Shushi Revolutionary Committee, with its chairman former Musavatist and Pan-Turkist Khosrov Bek-Sultanov. Karabakh was declared as an integral part of Armenia.72 The same resolution had been accepted by the representatives of Dizak and Varanda in the village Taghavard on April 25. The Ninth Congress annuled the “provisional agreement” with Azerbaijan accepted by the Seventh Congress of Karabakh Armenians, on the grounds that it was violated by Azerbaijan, attacking Shushi and the Armenian inhabited areas of the region. The second article declared Mountainous Karabakh an integral part of Armenia. Article 3 of the resolution applied to the Armenian delegation in Moscow; the Levon Shant Mission to inform the Russian government about the decision of the Karabakh Congress.73

On April 29 the executioner of Armenians, Khosrov Bek Sultanov published his declaration;

“The revolutionary Karabakh, always supporting the recognition of the Soviet Azerbaijan, liberating of its proletariat from the violences of capital, has looked forward to the arrival of Soviet Russia. Now the Karabakh democratic forces are happy facing the realization of their dreams and are sure in their success, due to the unity with Soviet Russia. The Karabakh democracy is sure that the working class should be free and independent of Britain and all the other western imperialist states, based on the common efforts of Soviet Russia, Azerbaijan and Turkey. Long live Soviet Azerbaijan, Turkey, the Red Army and their proletarian leaders!”

Chairman of Karabakh Revolutionary Committee Sultanov

April 29, 1920, Shushi74

Probably Sultanov hoped to reinforce the conquest of Karabakh this way. On 12 May 1920 the 181 brigade of 32nd division of the 11th Red Army marched into Shushi, under Commander-in-Chief Abazarov and military commander Gaidelov. On May 18 the President of the Military Council of Caucasian front S. Orjonikidze arrived in Shushi. The atmosphere of the region was absorbed with the Bolshevik propaganda. The Commander of Armenian forces Dro, convinced of being unable to fight against Bolshevism, evacuated Karabakh after the acceptance of Sovietization of Karabakh. He left for Zangezur, which was defeated by General Nzhdeh, and who too was in favour of leaving Karabakh to the Bolsheviks. This was the big mistake of the Dashnak party, as it was followed by the enterance of the Red Army to Armenia soon.75 However, they had no way out, as before the Sovietization of Karabakh Dro had tried to mobilize the population to fight against the Bolshevik power, but in contrast to him the population chose to side with the new power. Thus the principle threats of the Armenian ethnic enemies, Ottoman Turks and the Azerbaijanis, completed what two decades of revolutionary propaganda had been working to accomplish; the effective mobilization of the Armenian population to vote and fight for the national future as defined by the Dashnak party. The Dashnaks should have paid much attention to Karabakh, Zangezur and Nakhichevan than to the western Armenian areas, where the population was eliminated and as such couldn’t provide a base for the Dashnak activity, whether in the above menthioned 3 areas, they could have achieved fruitful results. Their strategic mistakes testify the absence of mass media and political analitical units in Armenia, without which the state looks like a blind man.

Dro’s telegram of 21 May 1920 to Armenia read; “Soviet Power is established in Jivanshir”76 In May a revolt against the Bolsheviks was organized by Nuri Pasha. The rebells abolished the Soviet power in Gandzak and Shushi and prepared to attack the 11th Red Army units. But the armed forces of the Gandzak highlanders and Giulistan peasantry came to the Bolsheviks’ help. Yegor Ter-Avetikian’s (from the Banants village) and Mnatsakan Hovhannisian’s (from the Buzlukh village) brigades in three days vigorous fighting abolished the threat to the Soviet power, which they believed would bring them “a safe and peaceful life” and support them in their cause.

On 26 May 1920 the Tenth Congress of Karabakh Armenians met in the Taghavard village of Varanda. All the delegates were Bolsheviks. The Congress welcomed the entry of the 11th Army to Karabakh, declared it as Soviet and established a Revolutionary Committee under Sako Hambartsumian.

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