CHAPTER 13 KARABAKH UNDER SIEGE (1917-1920)

The Armenian Council decided to gain time, prolonging negotiations with the Turks. The situation was examined in the third Congress of Karabakh Armenians, convened on September 26, which concluded to refuse the demands of submission to Azerbaijan,23 and agree to the deployment of a division of 600-1000 soldiers in the Tatar district of Shushi. Meanwhile the Turkish force of 5000 men advanced from Aghdam and flooded the Karkarr valley. They launched attacks on the villages Margushan-Maragha, Varazbuin and Nakhichevanic. Despite the resistence put up in all the villages, on October 6, 1918, with the help of the Muslim population, the Ottoman army of Nuri Pasha (4 thousand men) entered Shushi. The Ottoman army settled in the Armenian part of Shushi. Although the population was determined to fight, but the Karabakh government preferred being condenscended to and waiting for the British aid, who were to come, originally, to halt the Turkish advance.

Arrests and plunder followed the Turkish capture of Shushi. Seventy members of the Karabakh national government were arrested. The Armenians of the region were aware that they would soon meet same fate as that suffered by the Turkish Armenians. But soon, unable to control the vast region, the Turks retreated, wreaking their revenge by massacring the Armenian population on their way. The intervention of Great Britain in Baku and the British support of the National-Turkish government of Azerbaijan led to the replacement of the Turkish rule by the British in Karabakh. Harutiun Tumian wrote;

“The British presence in Baku was enthusiastically accepted by the Karabakh Armenians and especially by the intelligentsia, who counted on the British support and hoped that their presence would abolish the Turkish threat, the blockade of the region would be lifted, the roads would become safe, and friendly relations with the Muslim neighbours would be restored, peace would be established all over the region, the economical situation would improve and at last the issue of attachment of Karabakh to Armenia would be solved positively would achieve a positive solution.”

But the inability of the Armenian leaders to understand, recognize and judge the British expansion, proved damaging for the Armenians. They were at first blind to the British threat.24 Even the experience of the past failed to teach them a lesson. Suffice to mention the treaties of Berlin and San-Stefano, where the Armenians were left unprotected against the Ottoman power. The historian Leo noted that; “Despite being disillusioned of the nullity (Article 61 of Berlin Treaty), the naive and politically immature Armenians became over-joyed and lost their heads. Taking romantic ideas for reality, they saw the day of their liberation, and considered Armenia a concern of European powers.”25

Armenians profoundly affected by their divisions between great empires, by the immediate threat to national survival presented by their Muslim neighbours and by the loss of the hold on the historical homeland, might see the realistic hope for an ethnic homeland only in their power to unite “to establish an independent state, to take control of their own destiny and not turn to foreign powers for support. They had to understand that only the statehood was able to protect its population.

Britain’s guilt in leaving the Armenians unprotected was later recognized by the English Prime Minister (1916-22) David Lloyd George, who was one of the authors of the Paris Peace Conference and 1919 Veral Treaty. In 1938 he noted that the Treaty of Berlin was “entirely due to our minority Pressure” and the Treaty was “acclaimed by us as a great British triumph which brought peace with honour as with honour. Armenia was sacrificed on the triumphal alter we have erected. The Russians were forced to withdraw: the wretched Armenians were once more placed under the heel of their old masters…”26

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