CHAPTER 13 KARABAKH UNDER SIEGE (1917-1920)

Realizing its plans concerning the Transcaucasian region, Turkey withdrew leaving his emissars in the newly established state of Azerbaijan. It had succeeding in founding a base in eastern Transcaucasia, which, though seperate, formed a part of it. Though defeated Turkey was concerned in preserving the Ottoman Empire and withdrawing with the least losses. Before leaving they hostily mobilized a regular army of Tatars to replace them in the struggle with the Armenians.

Soon the Baku authoritied strengthened the Avdalar(Lachin) and Zabugh corridors. Aware of the facts that the Turks had evacuated Shushi in accordance with the Brest agreement and the British were calling on the Karabakh Armenians to submit to Azerbaijan, the hero of Zangezur; Andranik, determined to advance to Karabakh. He set out on November 29. Forcing his way through the Muslim resistence, he reached Karabakh in three days’ time. Hardly had he reached the Ttu Jur, when received a message from the representative of the British Mission in Baku General Thompson, who alarmed of the “Armenian movements” which might have “a negative effect on the Armenian issue, which was peacefully being solved in Europe”, warned Andranik not to go any further and threatened that if “anybody ceased to carry out the order, will be considered an enemy to Britain and will have to deal with us”.27 Andranik stopped, despite the persuasions of the officers to go forward. According to historian B. Ulubabian Andranik had to choose between two things at that moment; Karabakh and the Armenian question,28 as the Armenians were awaiting the results of Paris Peace Conferency, hoping that it could settle all issues, including the Armenian one. But the hopes of Armenians were again frusterated by the Great Powers of the time.

But Andranik, falling into the diplomatic trap of the Baku authorities, made a fateful mistake, which cost the nation numerous suffering, and the correction of which demanded great losses and victims. The new message from Thompson about suspending military operations made him return to Goris. As later S. Vratsian noted;

“Thus as a result of the warning of a British general, this last historic opportunity to attach Karabakh, once and for all, to the Armenian Republic, was not taken.”29

Meanwhile the London representatives were negotiating with the Musavatists for the attachment of Karabakh and Zangezur to Azerbaijan.30

Skillfully manipulating the British with the factor of the oil, the Baku authorities strived to annex new territories inhabited by Armenian to their state. The British diplomacy, trying to favour a pro-British Azerbaijan, promoted the Turkish and Azerbaijani designs on Karabakh, Zangezur and Nakhichevan. In a talk with the poet H. Tumanian still in 1914, the member of the British House of Commons Beckstone said; “The British have numerous interests in the Muslim world and you must never believe that Britain can protect the Armenians.”31

In accordance with the conventions between Allies, the British were kept in charge of the Caucasus. Their policy was inspired by two aims, even contradictory, but both anti-Bolshevik; to support Denikin’s White Army forces in the north, and to favour a strong and pro-British Azerbaijan in the south.32 Moreover, the British presence gave the Tatars a free hand to plunder and massacre the Armenians of the Karabakh region.

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