CHAPTER 16 THE KARABAKH PROBLEM AS A RESULT OF THE PAN-TURKIC POLICY OF THE BAKU AUTHORITIES

After the Bolshevik victory it was only the foreign press that made weak attempts to tell the truth about Karabakh. In 1926 during his tour of the Caucasian land the publicist Marietta Shahinian, visiting Karabakh, wrote that the situation was deplorable there as “the budget of the region was the most tragic in the country”.11 When in 1921 the Caucasian Bureau made its decision of leaving Karabakh within the borders of Azerbaijan, it regarded the economic links between Nagorny and Lower Karabakh, its constant tie to Azerbaijan, instructing the Central Committee of the Azerbaijan Communist party to carry out the resolution of granting extensive territorial autonomy to the region and undertake economical measures, which was never done. The decision-making process that led to the establishment of the territorial autonomy of Nagorny Karabakh took a good three years and showed that its population was denied even the most minimal possibility of participation. No state organ could be authorised in any way to make such wide – ranging decisions over the heads of the people concerned. A change for the worse was made in later decisions and regulations. In the constitution of Azerbaijan of March 14, 1937, the Autonomy of Nagorny Karabakh was taken into consideration in many respects, but only formally, without taking the ethnic characteristics of the region into consideration in any way. In the post – Stalin period the Karabakh Armenians dreamed, in vain, that unjustice would be repaired. The anti-Armenian policy of the Baku authorities emerged during the trial of the First Secretary of Azerbaijani Communist Party Mirjapar Bazirov in 1953. The historian B. Ulubabian was present of the court and later described the process.12 The former chairman of the Karabakh Regional Executive Committee Suren Badumian, who was sent into exile and passed 17 years there, witnessed that Bazirov was conducting an anti-Armenian policy in the region. Nearly all the famous Armenians were being labelled “bandits” or “anti-Soviet” and sentenced to death. The armed bands of Bazirov were wandering all over the region, terrorizing and killing those Armenians who failed to win their favour. The Armenians constantly lived in an atmosphere of terror and saw no way out. If an Armenian functionary was called to Baku, there was no hope of his coming back home.13

In the Fifth Party Conference of the Communist Party of Karabakh in 1928, the First Secretary of the Executive Committee A. Sahakian said that “the solution of nationality problem in Azerbaijan SSR and in NKAR is of great importance, effecting the political situation of the region”.14 Even this subtle remark was characterized as “anti-Soviet” by the Azerbaijani officials and set up a campaign against the leadership of the region, A. Sahakian, T. Mirzabekian among them. The chauvinist policy of Azerbaijan designed to ruin the economy of the region and eventually force the Armenians to leave. Nothing was being done to develop the agriculture of the region, in addition to which culture and education were on decline. The situation in the northern districts was even worse. There existed the electric dependence of the region upon the Republic of Azerbaijan. Not even one hydro-electric power station was built on numerous rivers of Karabakh, though they could provide even the whole of Azerbaijan with electricity. Even the irrigation canals and reservoirs were in the hands of the Azerbaijanis. For example the farms of the Martakert region could irrigate their fields only with the permission of the officers residing in Mir-Bashir (an Azerbaijani village). Under these circumstances the whole of the region could be easily blockaded.

The silk factory of Stepanakert produced 16 millions of high-quality silk annually. The silk was taken to Shaki as a product of a second sort, and being dyed there, was sold as a high quality textile. This affair brought considerable income to Azerbaijan, while the Stepanakert factory workers hardly made both ends meets.

In the 60 years between 1913 and 1973 industrial production grew in the USSR 113-fold, in Armenia about 221 – fold in Azerbaijan about 40-fold but in Nagorny Karabakh however only 14 fold. In 1970 only 10% of the population was employed in industry, compared to an average of 24% in the Republic of Azerbaijan. Between 1980 and 1986 the basic funds of production in the Republic of Azerbaijan rose by 43 whereas in the same period they decreased by 17% in Karabakh.16

The capital investments in the region were far below the national avarage in the forties and stagnated at this lowlevel. In 1986 in Azerbaijan 473 roubles were invested per head of the population, in Karabakh it was less than a third of that, namely 181 roubles. The Autonomous Republic of Nakhichevan, meanwhile populated entirely by Azerbaijanis, was practically twice or welloff with investments of 342 roubles per head.

A large part of the investments went towards the building of the artificial lake of Sarsang, which was important to the economy of Azerbaijan but only stood to a small extent at the disposal of the people of Nagorny Karabakh for their water supply, even though the supply of water to the area was extremely strained. In the capital of Stepanakert water was only made available during two phases of the day even though it would have been possible to tap wells in the city area. Because of this large scale project and other one-sided concentration on points of emphasis, particularly in the wine industry, only minimal resources were left for capital investment. Under such circumstances it was not especially surprising that the socio-economic development of the region was more or less lagging behind in nearly all fields and according to nearly all indicators, in comparison to Azerbaijan and to the Union’s average as a whole.

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