CHAPTER 13 KARABAKH UNDER SIEGE (1917-1920)

Returning to their native town only in 1929, the Armenians lifted hundreds of skeletons from their wells. The exact number of the victims was never known. The Tatar soldier Ismail Almanderbekov wrote to his brother in Baku; “The Armenia which you have seen (the Armenian part of Shushi) is burnt down. Only five of ten houses remained. More than thousand Armenians are taken captive. All the male population is slaughtered, even the Kaliph is slain (Bishop Vahan Hakobian) and all the dignitaries…. Many famous Armenian leaders are beheaded, their heads are paraded throughout the markets…. You’ll find no Armenian in the area, and no Turk without less than one hundred thousand roubles worth pillage. Some of them owe goods worth one million roubles. Now there are no classes, we all are equal, there are no rich and no poor… All the wealth of the Armenians is ransacked by the Muslim dwellers of the town. (April 7, 1920).”61

Visiting Shushi in 1926 the writer Marietta Shahinian wrote; “The scene of skeleton buildings in rows lay before me. Nothing is left… Ruins of rubbles everywhere, and stones, only stones like white, fleshless bones. The fact is that from the 35 thousand inhabitants of Shush none is left.”62

In the Askeran front Armenians gained a series of victories over the regular Azerbaijani army. Armenians were short of arms and ammunition. The officer of Ottoman army Khalil Pasha took the leadership of the Turkish troops. An army of 3 thousand men was fighting against to thousand badly armed Armenians. When the supply of cartridges was over, the Armenians let the enemy approach their positions and continued the fighting with swords. The Baku authorities provided the Turkish army sending large amounts of arms and reinforcements of Azeri troops. The Jivanshir, Gandzak third, Tatar, Karabakhian third legions, Selim Bek Sultanov’s cavalry of 600 constantly stormed the Armenian positions. It was estimated by Tumian that an 80 thousand Azerbaijani army was fighting in Karabakh. The total length of the front was 300kms.63 On April 3 Khalil Pasha succeeded to break through the left wing of the Askeran front and take the village Khramort. The other wings were forced to retreat. The defence of Askeran lasted 12 days. The Tatars took control over the strategic road Aghdam-Zabugh. The defence of Karabakh was devided into two; Dizak and Varand on one side, Khachen, Jraberd and Giulistan on the other.

The Musavat government of Baku believed that they could already destroy the region bit by bit and then Turkicize it. The Azerbaijani Minister of Defence ordered, “to spare neither the Armenian villages nor its inhabitants.”64

But the Azerbaijani troops were humiliated by defeat in Khachen, although they destroyed all the highland and lowland villages of Giulistan. The population of those villages had fled to the woods before the attacks of Tatars. The villages Giulistan, Armavir, Karachinar, Suluch, Manashid were razed to the ground. The inhabitants of the Talish village retreated to the forest after resisting for some days. Once again on April 11 the Azerbaijani forces were humiliated by defeat near the village Getashen. Gandzak was ringed and kept under siege.65 Thirty nine villages of Shaki (Nukhi) and Aresh were completely destroyed. The population of the villages Nidzi, Vardashen and Jalut was physically eliminated.66 After massacring the population of Nukhi on the night of March 26, a special state commission arrived to confiscate the Armenian property.67

On April 14 the Turkish army underwent a sudden dissolution. Thus in March and April months of 1920 a real genocide was taking place on the Azerbaijani administrative territory. The policy of Turkicization of Karabakh was the epitaph of the Musavat government of Baku. Profiting from the radical international changes and from the fact that the bulk of the Azeri army was operational in Karabakh, the 11th Red Army marched into Baku on 28 April. Meanwhile the military forces of Armenian Republic were engaged in fighting for Nakhichevan. Iran remainded neutral.68

The Transcaucasian congress held in Tiflis, decided to put an end to the Karabakh fightings. Soon Dro’s and Ndzdeh’s troops entered Karabakh. The Armenian control was established in Karabakh

After entering Baku on April 28, a Red Army division advanced to Nakhichevan and demanded Armenia to leave Nakhichevan declaring it an integral part of Azerbaijan. On May 19 the representatives of the 11th Red Army arrived at the Gharabulagh village of Varanda to inform the commander of the Karabakh forces Dro about Orjonikidze’s intention to send a Red Army division to Mountainous Karabakh, as it was decided that the Karabakh territory up to the river Haagar belonged to Azerbaijan, ignoring the right of Karabakh’s self-determination. Dro proposed applying to the Armenian government.

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