CHAPTER 14 THE ESTABLISHMENT OF SOVIET POWER IN TRANSCAUCASIA. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE KARABAKH AND NAKHICHEVAN ANNEXATION TO AZERBAIJAN (1920-1923)

The Turkish diplomats were shrewd enough to understand that their Russian orientation could help them to achieve their aims. The reinforcement of Kemalo-Bolshevik links was full of future promise. In May, the Soviet army, allied to the Persian revolutionary Kuchuk Khan, established the Gilan Soviet Republic on the southern Caspian coast. Though the political situation remained fluid and unstable in Iran, the Tehran government appeared prepared to distance itself from the British and influence and initiate direct negotiations with Russia.

Again the question of the three disputed territories became the burning problem of the time. The Bolsheviks preserved the name “Azerbaijan”, adopting the pan-Turkic and Musavat policy of uniting “the northern and southern Azarbaijans”. They hoped to give an impetus to the spreading of Bolshevism to Iran in this way. The Soviet outstanding scientist, academician Bartold, explaining the origin of the name “Azerbaijan”, writes; “The name Azerbaijan was chosen for the Republic with the further prospect of integration of Iranian Azarbaijan into the Republic of Azerbaijan.”3 The Iranian scholar Ennaitolah Reza notes; “The population of Azarbaijan, men, women or children of the territories from Tabriz to far-away villages or towns, who rose against the foreign conquerers and fought against the Ottoman armies, opposed to the idea of establishment of another state by the name of their country.”4 Another prominent Iranian researcher Ahmade Kiasravi, who belonged to the Azarbaijan land in his work “The history of Azarbaijan’s Eighteen Years”, writes about the renaming;

“From the first days of the rising, Haji Ismail Agha Amirkhizi, who was one of the freedom-loving persons of the past and one of the Khiabani’s supporters suggested, considering the fact that Azarbaijan had strived for the Iranian Constitutional order and Freedom, naming it “Freedomland”…. In the books that country (the Azerbaijan Republic) is mentioned as “Arran”, but now it is not used and on the other hand the founders of that state were hopeful and expectant to unite with Azarbaijan…”5.

It was evident that despite political shifts and theories, Russia always remained the inheritor of Peter the Great’s policy of extending to the Indian Ocean and to Tsargrad (Constantinople). Everything depended upon the shrewdness of the parties to do all in its power to guess the Bolshevik intentions, win their favour and make use of them. The president of the Azerbaijani Revolutionary Committee Nariman Narimanov didn’t even try to hide his policy towards the disputable territories, as reported by the Armenian ambassador in Baku.6 Once again the Armenian diplomacy faltered, whilst the Tatars were actively trying to maintain close relations with Bolsheviks. Narimanov changed his tactics and methods from time to time. The Russian press was full of anti-Armenian articles, which criticized the “imperialist nature” of the country, which “exploited and persecuted Turkey and the Republic of Azerbaijan.” Narimanov tried, with the help of Russia, to subdue the Karabakh Armenians, who meanwhile were supported by the national Dashnak Party from Armenia, and this fact wasn’t favoured by the Bolshevik leaders. “To weaken the Dashnak Armenia” Narimanov demanded the attachment of Zangezur and Mountainous Karabakh to Azerbaijan, adding that the going of the two territories to Armenia would “disgrace the Soviet power in the eyes of Iran and Turkey”.7 At the end of June there was a proposal that Nakhichevan should go to Armenia, Karabakh to Azerbaijan and the status of Zangezur to be decided by the special Russian envoy Legrand. Armenia belonged its reply, still trusting in the Paris Peace Conference. The Armenian delegation in Moscow, the “Levon Shant Mission” tried to normalize relations with Moscow, but it turned out to be late, as the Kemalists had already reinforced the Kemalo-Bolshevik links. But not all the Bolshevik leaders were convinced in the arguments of the Azerbaijani government and Turkey. The Russian Peoples’ Commissar for External Affairs Georgi Chicherin wrote Lenin on June 29;

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