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

“The ellimination of national suppression and inequality in whatever form, the replacement of national enmity and national hate with the international solidarity of the workers and the brotherly cooperation of the peoples in a uniform state union, is one of the main tasks of the workers’ and peasants’ revolution of the Soviet Power. In fulfilling this task, the Azerbaijani Central Executive Committee of the Soviets has decided;

1) to form an Autonomous Region out of the Armenian part of Karabakh, with

the administrative centre Khankent as an integral part of the Azerbaijani SSR.

2) The administrative organizations of the Autonomous Region are the regional

Executive Committee and the local Soviets.”

It was followed by the formation of the “Kurdistan Region” (Red Kurdistan). This deliberate act excluded the “corridor” formed by Lachin, Kelbajar and Kubatli, connecting Karabakh with Armenia. Mountainous Karabakh was cut off from Zangezur, which together with Karabakh had formed the ancient Siunik province of Armenia. Both districts had the same culture, dialect and developed under the same socio-economical influences. But soon the new political unit of Kurdistan, having fulfilled its mission of seperating Karabakh from Armenia, dissolved, giving birth to three Azerbaijani districts of Kelbajar, Lachin, Kubarli and Zangelan. On the north the districts of Shamkhor, Khanlar, Dashkasan and Shahumian (the former Giulistan) were seized from Karabakh. the population of these districts was predominently Armenian (90%).

Instead of Shushi, Khankendi (Vararaku till 1847) became the regional centre of Mountainous Karabakh and was renamed Stepanakert (after Stepan Shahumian). This way the Baku leaders tried to abolish the Armenian spirit of Shushi, preserving it as a Muslim towm in the heart of the region. The establishment of Shushi as a regional cente would mean restoring the Armenian life in the destroyed city, which was against the Tatar plans, what followed the formation of Kurdistan defied logic. Shushi was declared the capital of Kurdistan region 32 (the capital of one political unit on the territory of another).

Thus the region designated as autonomous was only a part of previous Karabakh. The Bolshevik Armenak Karageuzian was appointed President the Regional Committee, who enthusiastic in celebrating the Armenian defeat stated; “The Armenian worker-peasant received his autonomy not from imperialism or their Dashnak or Musavat lackeys, but only from the proletariat of Baku and the revolutionary peasantry of neighbouring Azerbaijan.”33

Thus, thanks to its diplomacy Azerbaijan succeeded in seizing Karabakh and Nakhichevan from Armenia. With the help of far-sighted Russian diplomats (Chicherin, Karakhan) and due to Nzhdeh’s anti-Bolshevik revolt, Zangezur remained an integral part of Armenia.

As to the Caucasian Bureau’s decision on “organizing a referendum, restricted to Karabakh”, the Baku government successfuly ignored and soon forgot it. There was no doubt that the results of the referendum would confirm the Armenian wish of uniting with the Motherland. The rights of the Armenian population of the historical Utik province (Gandzak highlands) were ignored and forgotten too. Thus in summer of 1923 in the mountainous part of the historical Artsakh a new, mutiliated administrative unit was established, called “The Autonomous Region of Mountainous Karabakh”. On July 23, 1923, the Presidium of the Central Committee of the Azerbaijan SSR substituted “the Revolutionary Committee of the Autonomy Region” instead of the “Karabakh Committee.” The work on the Organization Statute was continued in a special commission, which probably acknowledging the interests of the Armenian population more strongly, was dissolved by the Presidium of the Azerbaijan Communist Party, which was unsatisfied with its work and a new one was constituted without any Armenian members. The result was the Organization Statute of Nagorny Karabakh, which was published on April 26, 1924. Its second article stated;

“All the official acts, judicial proceedings and teaching in the Autonomous Region of Karabakh will be carried out on the mother tongue of the region.”

The responsible organizations of the Azerbaijan Republic had forgotten, and defined “the language of the region” at no point. So, if Armenian was meant by this, but this was deliberately not mentioned, then it was the “Nagorny Karabakhian” language, the existence of which so far is not observed. The Autonomous Region consisted of the following districts – Shushi (122 settlements), Jivanshir (56 settlements), Kariagin (31 settlements) and Hubatli (a group of Berdadzor villages).34 As was mentioned in the decree of 23 July 1923 of the Azerbaijani Soviet Central Executive Committee, the Autonomous Region of Mountainous Karabakh was formed “from the Armenian part of the region”35, where the Armenians represented 94,4% of the population, that is 157,8 thousand, living on an area covering a territory of 4,4 thousand kilometres.36 In 1913 the population was 176 thousand.37

Innumerable migrations and massacres had resulted in the decrease of the population in the region.

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