CHAPTER 13 KARABAKH UNDER SIEGE (1917-1920)

The 1917 February revolution was warmly greeted by the Armenians, as a result of the declaration of the Provisional Government that recognized as Armenian several disputed areas of Transcaucasia, including Karabakh.7 A Council of Commissars was set up in Tiflis, and an Executive Committee in Shushi. The Regional Committee was replaced by a Regional Council of Commissars. The major of the town Gerassim Melik-Shahnazarian took an active part in the political life of the town. The Tatar nobility set up the “National Committee” in their district. The soldiers of the 532 Simbirian division and the veterans of the Russo-Turkish war set up their “Council of Military Delegates”.

The national tensions exploded after the October Russian (Bolshevik) Revolution, or rather as a result of the dissolution of the Russian Empire. The dispersal of the Russian troops opened the way for the Turkish authorities to fulfil their pan-Turkish aims.

Mountainous Karabakh was cut off from the rest of the world. The Tatar bamdits attacked the Karabakhian soldiers returning from Western Armenia on the way Yerlakh-Shushi. Anarchy began to reign all over the region. Again the pan-Turkic preachers instigated clashes and wars between the Armenians and the Tatars. The latters declared a boycott and spearheaded an economical blockade of Karabakh. The Armenians were not allowed to sell or buy anything in the Aghdam market. The Tatars cut the road of Yerlakh, isolating Karabakh. In response to this the Armenians blocked up the road Shushi-Askeran. Karabakh was left without most consumer goods. Hostilities spread all over the region.

A Russian regiment of 500 left Shushi for Russia. The Armenian intellectuals tried to persuade them to postpone it to a better time, as the Yerlakh road was far from being safe. But the Russians insisted on. In Aghdam they were attacked by the “dikaya divizia”, the “wild division” of Tatars. Only some of them, unarmed and looted, managed to reach Yerlakh.

In December 1927 the representatives of different parties set up a joint plan to put an end to the anarchy and Armeno-Tatar hostilities. A “Provisional Council of Parties”, with 14 members was formed. The chairman of the council was the historian Hairapet Mussaelian. The council was called “Interparty Bureau”.8 The national committee of the Muslims approved the Armenian offer of establishing an “inter-national body”. The former Shushi judge Iosif Kobiev was elected a chairman of that structure. He was a Georgian and was greatly respected both by the Armenians and the Tatars.

As a result of the taken measures the Shush-Yerlakh and Shush-Goris roads were guarded by an armed brigade. Civil and military representatives were authorized to watch all the important locations all over the region. These representatives were responsible for the activity of armed groups, had to maintain law and order in all the settlements, and organize self-defence if needed. Since the Armenians had no illusious about a lasting coexistence with the Tatars, they were quietly preparing for self-defence. The military commissar H. Tumanian, accompanied by a group of 300 riders on January 6 left for the Jraberd region to abolish the threat of the armed bandits on the way. With the assistance of the peasants the bands were destroyed in eight days.

Soon the Russian army of half a million refusing to carry out the order of attack of the Provisional Government, accepted the Bolshevik appeal “Peace without annexations and contributions” and deserted the front. The Russian army collapsed. The Turkish army, functioning in the Caucasian front, was weakened as a result of previous Russian attacks, but seeing the dissolution of the Russian army, crossed the 1914 Transcaucasian border and attacked the defenceless Caucasian peoples. A part of the army advanced to Iranian Azarbaijan – Urmia, Tabriz, Gharadagh, Salmast, Khoi massacring the Armenian population there. The Urmia Armenian and Assyrian self-defence groups failed to resist them. The survived residents of the region migrated to Syria.

The troop-train took the Russian soldiers of the disoluted Russian army to Gandzak. Here on January 9, at night, the “wild division” surrounded the train. The train was destroyed by the artillery bombardment. Twenty thousand soldiers were killed. A month ago the Tatars had disarmed the 219 regiment deployed in Gandzak. At the same time the Shushi garrison of 100 men was formed under the command of Captain Artashes Vardapetian. In 1918 the regional congress was held in Shushi. The Shushi, Jivanshir and Zangezur Armenian and Tatar representatives took part in it. It lasted four days. It dealt with duck problems as the peace-keeping, spring works and provision of the region with supplies.

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45