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

The Karabakh intelligentsia followed the developments of the situation in Nakhichevan with great anxiety. The fate of Nakhichevan Armenians was in question. The region had formed one of the administrative states of greater Armenia since times immemorial. In the first century AO the Christianity spread to Armenia from the Artaz and Nakhichevan regions. The creator of the Armenian alphabet Mesrop Mashtots set up the first schools in the Goghtn district of Nakhichevan. The European travellers described the Armenian way of life in medieval Nakhichevan in their memoirs. In the 17-18th centiries when the Russian Empire set to expanding the Transcaucasian regions, because of political considerations the governors of Iran strengthened their northern territories by settling the Caucasian Muslims (the Tatars) in those territories.23 Due to the Russo-Persian war the Armenian population of Nakhichevan migrated to Russia. In the years of 1829-1832 the 41,2% of the population of the region was Armenian. By the census of 1916 approximately 50.000 Armenians, i.e. 40% of the population was Armenian. On February 9, 1924 Nakhichevan, under pressure from Turkey, went not to Armenia but rather to Azerbaijan, receiving the status of “Autonomous Socialist Soviet Republic, whereby, in order of precedence of the autonomous regional units of the USSR, it stood one level higher than the Autonomous Region of Nagorny Karabakh. Of the 50.000 Armenians who lived there in 1917, only about 10.000 were counted in 1926. In 1959 their number decreased to 9.500 (6,7%).28 Finally, in 1979 only two Armenian villages existed in the Autonomous Republic of Nakhichevan, with approximately 3.400 inhabitants, i.e. 1,4% of the population. Their number sank further until 1987, and since 1989, no Armenian can call Nakhichevan his home.

The decrease in the absolute and relative numbers, especially in direct comparison to the steep rise in the Azerbaijani population in the Azerbaijani enclave of Nakhichevan, provides the strongest proof of the massive discriminatory neglect of the region by the Azerbaijani government. The process truelly may be called “a white massacre”. The Azerbaijani politician Heidar Aliev played a great role in the realization of ethnic cleansing of Nakhichevan. Parallel to the driving out of Armenians the destruction of Armenian monuments took place. The Armenian intelligentsia protested about the neglect and destruction of Armenian cultural monuments in Nakhichevan and Karabakh, such as the blowing-ups of monasteries and churches, cross-stones and fortresses and many other monuments, to the Kremlin – to the Central Committee, which turned to be fruitless.

In 1960, on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Sovietization of Armenia, people dreamed that injustice would be restored. In 1963 the problem was brought to open notice, a petition signed by 2500 Karabakh Armenians was submitted to the Centre, which turned a deaf ear to the appeal. In June 1965 another petition, addressed to the Communist Party and the government, was sent to Moscow. The petition asking for Mountainous Karabakh to be re-attached to Armenia, was signed by 13 prominent figures of Karabakh, including B. Ulubabian – president of the Writers’ Union of Karabakh since 1949 S. Shakarian – the president of the Stepanakert Executive Committee, L. Gasparian – editor in chief of the regional newspaper “Soviet Karabakh, G. Stepanian – editor-in-chief the regional radio committee. In 1966 it was the turn of Yerevan to send a petition to Moscow demanding the re-attachment of Karabakh to Armenia but without results. Meantime Azerbaijanis were trying to repay the Armenians for their timid protests, cases of illegal imprisonment, murders and official threats took place. In 1968 many Armenian intellectuals of Karabakh were forced to go into exile on pain of death.

The directors of the Stepanakert N2 and Sos state farms A. Babayan and A. Makanian, the head of the Regional Cultural Administrative Committee G. Gabrielian, poet B. Jananian, artist M. Korganian, the director of the building enterprise A. Manucharov, the director of the electrotechnical enterprise A. Seiranian, editor-in-chief in the local radio committee M. Avanessian and chief engineer of the building enterprise S. Grigorian addressed a lengthy letter to the Presidium of the USSR Central Committee, as well as to Brezhnev, A. Kosigin and A. Mikoyan. The letter read;

“Can Karabakh be considered as a part of Azerbaijan, when the leaders of Azerbaijan threat it as a land inhabited by foreigners. Do they think that a black mark on map is enough to split nation of ancient history, phychology and fate…. Separated from the ethnic brethren for 45 years, the Karabakh Armenians are deprived of economical, cultural perspectives. It’s the international duty of the Azerbaijani Communist Party, the government and the nation to respect the rights of the Armenians of Karabakh and return the region to Armenia. The working people of Karabakh have dreamed of it for years. Ask them one by one and you’ll be requested and begged to unite Karabakh with Armenia. We are not collecting signatures, not to provoke people, but dissatisfaction is growing day by day being expressed in nagative forms. We apply to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the USSR and the government, hoping that they will consider the legitimate demands of Karabakh Armenians and will attack the Nagorny Karabakh Autonomous Region to the Armenian SSR”.30

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