CHAPTER 13 KARABAKH UNDER SIEGE (1917-1920)

On May 26 Georgia proclaimed itself independent. Following Georgia the Azerbaijani – Turkish forces in the region of Yelizavetpol proclaimed the Republic of “Azerbaijan”. No specifically Azerbaijani state existed before that day, and rather imagining themselves as part of a continuous national traditions, like Georgians and Armenians, the Muslims of Transcaucasia chose that name, which indicated Turkish strivings to Persian Azarbaijan, which contained a mixed population of Persians, Tatars, Armenians…. The chosen name surprised everybody as it was widely known that geographically the new state had no links with Iranian Azerbaijan prior. But the Turkish militants had far-reaching aims; to unite the two territoties of “Azerbaijans”, and after which no force could obstruct their way to Middle Asia. Christopher J. Walker and David Marshall Lang noted in their book that;

“The Tatar element, which gradually became the largest, took some time to forge the notion “Azerbaijani” or “Azeri”, which changed gradually from meaning “inhabitant of Azerbaijan” to “Muslim inhabiting Azerbaijan”, thus turning the large and ancient Christian minority into foreigners in the country”.

Ennaitollah Reza wrote;

“Supposedly the naming of Arran and Shirvan as “Azerbaijan” was the result of the Turkish demand to do so, as in contrast to the fact that the Turks had attacked the territories of Azarbaijan prior and massacred, the population for several times and facing their strong resistence, had realized the impossibility of winning their favour by direct and fair means. This is the reason why the Turks chose an indirect way and attempted to unite Transcaucasia and Azarbaijan prior under the name “Azerbaijan” and then annex the two territories to them.”9

And so the government of this new “Republic of Azerbaijan” moved from Tiflis to the city of Gandzak(Gianja), “liberated” by the Turkish army, since Baku was in the hands of the Bolshevik “Baku Commune”, ruled by 26 People’s Commissars.

In view of these developments Armenia (Yerevan and Nakhichevan) declared itself an independent Republic of Armenia on May 28. The members of the newly elected government Alexander Khatissian, Hovhannes Kajaznuni, Michael Papajanov and Simon Vratsian took part in the peace talks held in Batum. The Turkish delegation forced the Armenian part to leave Karabakh. The Ottoman Turkey intended to reinforce a subject Musavat government in Baku, establish a new state and joining Nakhichevan, Karabakh and Zangezur to it, set up a new way to Turkish Asia. During a “friendly talk” with Alexander Khatissian, the head of the Turkish delegation Vehib Mahmed Pasha said, “Our sacred dreams of a union of all the Turks and Islamists clash with the Armenians and we are forced to eliminate the obstucle on the way to our sacred national dreams and ideals.”10

The situation wasn’t favourabale enough to abolish the whole of Armenia, the first fase of it had been carried out in 1915 by physical elimination of the Armenian population of historical Armenia in their subject territories. By the terms of the Batum Treaty Armenia agreed to move back its western frontier, ceding Alexandropol and most of Nakhichevan to the Ottoman Empire. The subject of dispute between the Armenian and Turkish sides was the frontier between the newly established Armenian and Azerbaijanian Republics, in particular with regard to Karabakh and Zangezur. The Armenians were forced to give up their rights over the mentioned territories. In spite of the fact that the peace terms were humiliating for Armenia, the head of the Armenian delegation Alexander Khatissian in his letter addressed to the Chairman of the National Council A. Aharonian expressing his opinion, on the matter noted that the Armenia side didn’t suffer much losses, considering that on the whole they had achieved independence and creation of a state, which, though small in size (ten thousand square kilometres) had perspectives to grow and develop in the future.11 Thus, the small enclave around Yerevan became the only realistic hope for an ethnic Armenian homeland.

By late May 1918, in the context of Russian retreat and Turkish-German advance, the Georgians opted for the Germans, Azerbaijan turned expectantly toward the Turks, though Baku had chosen Soviet power, and the Armenians once again were placed under the Turkish heels.

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