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

Meanwhile famine and epidemics reigned in Karabakh. Nothing besides the tumid speeches about the friendship and brotherhood between the two nations and internationalism was done to save the nation from the disasters. “meanwhile the infuriated spirit of military communism was wandering in the streets, destroying relatively safe households and families”, wrote B. Ulubabian.11 The Armenian villages were disposed by the Muslim “revolutionaries”, who pillaging and discriminating the peasants still further, made their lives unbearable. Protesters were arrested or killed. The national fury gave birth to an armed rising. The rising was well-organized in Dizak under Tevan Stepanian, who had been an officer in the Tsar’s army. He abolished the Soviet power in Dizak. But soon he faced the resistence of Jebrail, Varanda and Dizak Bolshevik forces. Tevan held on for six months, after which, unable to fight three divisions of the 11th Red Army, passed to Zangezur joinded Nzhdeh’s army.

Narimanov practised all kinds of methods to achieve his aims. The public opinion was forced to accept Karabakh as an old Azerbaijanian territory. The Baku historian D. Guliev provided this theory with a base, stressing the economical links between Karabakh and Baku. He persisted that Armenia was economically weak and undeveloped, while the Baku oil could make Karabakh a flourishing region. Narimanov’s claims were supported by the People’s Commissar of Nationalities I. Stalin. His position was defined in a letter to Orjonikidze;

“It is essential to take sides firmly with one of the two parties, in the present case, of course, with Azerbaijan and also Turkey.”12

Armenia was unable to resist the Red Army in the disputable regions, so had to agree to the Bolshevik occupation of the three regions. On 10 August 1920 an agreement was signed in Tiflis between the Armenian representatives and the Russian envoy Legrand. (It was the day that saw the signature of the Treaty of Sevres). With the treaty of Tiflis Russia occupied Karabakh, Zangezur and Nakhichevan, in order to maintain law and order there till the “creation of favourable and peaceful conditions for an equitable solution of the territorial disputes between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The “favourable conditions” probably meant the Sovietization of Armenia, which would give in to Bolshevism preferring to preserve its territorial integrity. Despite the stated goals of the Bolshevik party, and the establishment of the Russian Republic “on the basis of a free union of free nations”, and placing the national principle at the base of its federal structure, later these principles were opposed, fearing the dissolution of a unitary state. The Tiflis treaty was the first phase of the project of secedeing Karabakh, Nakhichevan and Zangezur from Armenia. Soon the provisional occupation of the disputed regions was followed by an attack of Turkish “red” troops under Kiazim Karabekir Pasha on Armenia. This was one of the measures of “bolshevization” from which both Turkish and Russian sides gained. New massacres of Armenians took place in Kars, Ardahan and Kazvin. The Armenians were killed with guns that Russia had sent to their “red” brothers. For several months had the Turks been waiting for such favourable opportunities, and now, with the help of Russia and Narimanov they fulfilled their aims. It was still in June 1920 when Mustafa Kemal asked Lenin to provide him with gold and arms as if to fight against Entente in the western front. The answer was positive, though Chicherin in a letter to Lenin sounded doubtful about the use of the arms, fearing that they should be used against Russia one day.

As Tatar one of the Dashnak leaders; Hovhannes Kajaznuni mentioned, Armenian Dashnaks failed to understand analyze the political situation of the period neither in the region nor internationally. Of course it was absurd to demand an Armenia stretching from the Black Sea to Mediterranean the Paris Peace Conference, and it would be right to come to an agreement with the Turks, conducting negotiations in Sevres in September 1920. Turkey suggested an Armenia of 54 thousand square kilometres. Giving up some of the rights confirmed by the Sevres Treaty they could at least preserve the territories that they had, and not lose later.

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