CHAPTER 13 KARABAKH UNDER SIEGE (1917-1920)

After establishing a new Muslim state in Transcaucasia, the Turks had another task to carry out in the region; to subjugate Karabakh to that state. Continuing this policy, they tried to isolate the region, cutting it off from Zangezur. The member of the National Government of Karabakh, historian Harutiun Tumian wrote, “It was due to the enterence of the Ottoman army into Azerbaijan that the relations between the Armenians became tense and hostile, and with the appointment of Turkish commandants in different frontier outposts, their pan-Turkic ideology spread all over the region”.16 From Tartarr, Aghdam and Kariagino “commandants” launched attacks on neighbouring Armenian settlements.

The strategic route Aghdam-Shushi was guarded by the Armenians. The situation of the Muslim and Christian population of Shushi was improving. The highland Gandzak, (the ancient Gardmank and Parrisos) whose population was 90% Armenian, as well as Giulistan, were declared as an integral part of Mountainous Karabakh by the government. The member of government Markos Astvatsatrian was sent there. The representatives of those regions, taking part in the first Congress, had applied to the government themself with the request of joining their historical region with Karabakh. The Giulistan (Talish) representatives begged the government to consider the critical and alarming situation of the peasantry of their regions and do their best to take them in hand.17

The Turks continued to launch attacks against the Armenian villages lying between the two districts. The regions, headed by the “commandants” appointed by Nuri Pasha “to maintain law and order” were especially active in destroying the Armenian villages one by one. Meantime the Armenian diplomatic representative in Tiflis protested to the head of German delegation against the Turkish intentions in relation to Karabakh. Von Kress promised to correspond the Turkish command and inform about the results. On August 10, 1918 the German diplomat expressed in document n.396 the reassurances of Nuri Pasha, that the Ottoman military commanders were appointed in different parts of Karabakh to maintain law and order only with “peaceful intentions”. The German diplomat promised to inform Armenians about further such appointments, warning the Armenian government not to encourage the clashes between the Armenian soldiers and the Turkish commanders. In n.357 document of August 14, 1918 the Armenian representative reported the Armenian Foreign Minister about “the Turkish encroachment upon Karabakh.” The government of Karabakh did his best to establish peace in the region. When, for example, investigating the case of the Armenian soldiers, who had returned to their native Khankendi and were launching attacks on the neighbouring Muslim villages, the authorities found out that the families of the soldiers were starving and they had nothing else to do, but loot the Muslims. This activity was strictly forbidden, and the soldiers were provided with supplies.

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