Научная статья на тему 'Nagorno-Karabakh: old delusions and new interpretations'

Nagorno-Karabakh: old delusions and new interpretations Текст научной статьи по специальности «Философия, этика, религиоведение»

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Аннотация научной статьи по философии, этике, религиоведению, автор научной работы — Hasanli Jamil

The author takes a look at the ethnic and political processes that unfolded in Karabakh from the early 19th century to the early 1920s. Prof. Hasanli relies on a vast body of historical sources to analyze the events and demonstrate that in 1920 Soviet power transformed Karabakh, one of the Muslim khanates of Azerbaijan, into a target of Armenian territorial claims. The recent discussions organized by the Russian Regnum Information Agency show that in recent years everything related to the Karabakh issue has been falsified. This adds special historical and political importance to what is examined below.

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Текст научной работы на тему «Nagorno-Karabakh: old delusions and new interpretations»



D.Sc. (Hist.), Professor at Khazar University (Baku, Azerbaijan).



The author takes a look at the ethnic and political processes that unfolded in Karabakh from the early 19th century to the early 1920s. Prof. Hasanli relies on a vast body of historical sources to analyze the events and demonstrate that in 1920 Soviet power transformed Karabakh, one of the Muslim khanates of

Azerbaijan, into a target of Armenian territorial claims. The recent discussions organized by the Russian Regnum Information Agency show that in recent years everything related to the Karabakh issue has been falsified. This adds special historical and political importance to what is examined below.


The Kazan meeting of the presidents of Russia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia rekindled an interest in the history of Nagorno-Karabakh. However, most publications grossly distort both the pre-Soviet history of its unification with the Russian Empire and the vicissitudes of Soviet history. The fact that professional historians distort or even falsify history cannot but cause concern and regret. I won-

1 The article was first published in Russian by the Regnum Information Agency on 25, 26, 27 and 30 July, 2011.


der who profits from these distortions? Indeed, who needs history adjusted to the current political context? The truth can easily be recovered from numerous documents in which the military and diplomatic services of the Russian Empire and Soviet Russia carefully registered the facts and which are kept in Russian archives. Some time ago, the Regnum Information Agency published a series of articles by S.N. Tarasov, a fellow student, in which he discussed the recent history of the mountainous part of Karabakh. He doubts that it was part of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic in 1918-1920, while trying to create an alternative story related to the well-known declaration of Nar-iman Narimanov of 1 December, 1920, and insists that Stalin transferred the mountain part of Karabakh to Azerbaijan in 1921 (which is not true). He relies on archival documents, but instead of clarifying the issue his selection distorts the far from simple circumstances even more. This cannot but cause regret.

How the Karabakh Khanate was United with the Russian Empire: the True Story and Its Distortions

Russia, which came to Karabakh in the early 19th century, created a new political situation; it was seeking social and ethnic support among the Armenians, which pushed to the fore the Christian element in Karabakh. In fact, the disagreements of our days are rooted in the early 19th century.

In 1801, having conquered Georgia, Russia approached the borders of contemporary Azerbaijan. In March 1803, Commander of the Russian Caucasian Army General Tsitsianov began a siege of Ganja, the largest of the Azeri cities; on 3 January, 1804, Russian troops, which had broken the fierce resistance of the city inhabitants headed by Javad Khan, entered the city. To gain a foothold in the Transcaucasus, the Russians needed the Karabakh, Sheki, and Shirvan khanates, the strongest in this region. During the protracted talks, Prince Tsitsianov threatened the khanates with the sad fate of Ganja and argued that Russia's military might made its patronage the best option for the three khans. The Russian commander, who was rubbing up against Iranian interests in the region and knew this, preferred the wait-and-see policy, a wise decision in view of the Muslim khanates' considerable military potential.

In 1805, broken by the pressure, ruler of Karabakh Ibrahim Khalil Khan signed a Promise on Oath with Russia, the first legally binding document; the first step toward uniting Karabakh to Russia had thus been made. The treaty signed in the Kurakchay military camp became known as the Treaty of Kurakchay; its eleven articles gave Russia all the advantages. From that time on, the Karabakh Khanate became a Russian protectorate: it renounced its right to deal with third states and with its neighbors on its own; the khan was expected to pay Russia an enormous annual tribute of 8,000 chervontsy (24 thousand Russian rubles); cover the upkeep expenses for his grandson held hostage at the Tiflis residence of the commander-in-chief; and accept a unit of 500 Russian soldiers stationed at the Shusha fortress.

Russia, in turn, pledged not to interfere in the khanate's internal affairs—the only concession Ibrahim Khalil Khan wrung from the Russian negotiators. As soon as the treaty was signed, on 8 July, 1805, Czar Alexander I made the khan a Russian lieutenant-general; from that time on, he was expected to obey the orders of the commander-in-chief of the Russian troops in the Caucasus. As a diplomatic document, this treaty meant that the Karabakh Khanate became a Russian protectorate as a Muslim state.2

2 See: "Treaty between the Karabakh Khan and the Russian Empire on the Transfer of the Khanate under Russia's Power of 14 May, 1805," State Historical Archives of the AR (GIAAR), rec. gr. 130, f. 14, sheets 245-248 (all archival


Having captured the strategically important Karabakh Khanate, the Russians could move on to occupy the rest of Azerbaijan. The khanate's mountainous part allowed Russians to control the west of the country. The rest proved easy; the task was made even easier by the khans, who, unable to agree on the common future of their peoples and khanates, failed to close ranks in the face of Russian pressure. Prince Tsitsianov was prompt to grasp the advantages of joining Karabakh to Russia under the Kurakchay Treaty of 22 May, 1805. In a letter to the Russian emperor, he described the new acquisition as the "gate to Azerbaijan;" he wrote that Karabakh moved Georgia closer to Baku "which we expect to capture this fall."3

The Azeri khans, very much afraid of Iran but still hoping it would win the first Russo-Iranian war (1804-1813), followed the ups and downs of the hostilities with bated breath; the Russian army, in turn, did not trust the local Muslims very much. In 1806, when Iran attacked Shusha, Major Lisanevich, who was in command of the Russian garrison, murdered Ibrahim Khalil Khan and all his family to prevent unpleasant surprises on his side; he spared Mekhti Kuli Agha, one of his sons. The military rank of lieutenant general of the Russian Army the emperor conferred on the khan was obviously no more than symbolic. Having disposed of Ibrahim Khalil Khan, Russia preserved the status of its khanate: on 10 September, 1806, under a deed of Emperor Alexander I, Mekhti Kuli Agha replaced his father as ruler of Karabakh. The deed signed by His Imperial Majesty on September 1806 said in part: "We send Our amiable loyal subject M.-Gen. of the Karabakh land and heir Mekhti Kuli Agha. Our Imperial Grace and Kindness. Having conferred on you and all the people of the Karabakh land the grace of the Supreme Deed in the last year of 1805 to receive you as Our loyal subjects and the benevolent adoption of all conditions which your late father and Our General of the Infantry Prince Tsitsianov set in the interests of the people and your house for all times, We were sorry to hear of the incident which caused the death of Your father Ibrahim Khalil Khan. Today, being assured that you not only remained determined to perform your duty to Our Imperial throne, but that You also served our troops on your own initiative, We reward this commendable confirmation of your loyalty by appointing you khan of Shusha and Karabakh and allow you to own this land under Our Supreme patronage, the patronage of the state and protection of the Russian Empire, to which you should pledge your loyalty as a subject and recognize Our power over yourself. By Our supreme will, We hereby entrust both you and your future descend-ents with all the obligations of the Karabakh Khanate and the rights and advantages attached to it and confirmed word for word in this deed. By this We entrust you with the task of ruling the Karabakh people with meekness and fairness and We are convinced that you and your heirs will be unshakable in your devotion to Our Imperial throne and faithful performance of your obligations in accordance with the demands of your loyalty. This, Our Imperial deed, was issued with the hope and as proof of Our Royal benevolence to you and the people of Karabakh; it was personally signed and sealed with the State Stamp. Signed: Alexander."4

The Russian emperor presented Mekhti Kuli Agha with a flag and a saber decorated with precious stones as a symbol of his new position. Like the Treaty of Kurakchay before it, the imperial decree of 1806 (the Treaty's legal extension), which appointed Mekhti Kuli Agha ruler of Karabakh, in short, all the documents relating to both the mountainous and valley parts of Karabakh, which was being gradually occupied, speak of the members of the Javanshir House as rulers whom all social groups had to obey. The new khan hated the Iranians and mistrusted the Russians, who exterminated his family, yet as appointed khan he had certain obligations to perform and had to demonstrate caution; his anti-Iranian feelings eventually prevailed.

documents are in Russian unless otherwise stated); Akty Kavkazskoy arkheograficheskoy komissii. Arkhiv Glavnogo up-ravlenia namestnika Kavkaza, Vol. II, ed. by Commission Chairman A.D. Berge, Tiflis, 1868, p. 705.

3 Akty Kavkazskoy arkheograficheskoy komissii, Arkhiv Glavnogo upravlenia namestnika Kavkaza, Vol. II, p. 698.

4 "Vysochaishaia gramota general-mayoru Mekhti Kuli Agha ot sentyabrya 1806 goda," Akty Kavkazskoy arkheograficheskoy komissii. Arkhiv Glavnogo upravlenia namestnika Kavkaza, Vol. III, Tiflis, 1868, pp. 336-337.


The victory over Napoleon allowed Russia to tighten up its Eastern policy. General Yermo-lov, who was appointed as governor of the Caucasus in 1816, regarded the Muslims as potential enemies; he used any more or less plausible pretext to liquidate the khanates, which at any moment could have become the driving force behind a liberation movement. Armenian General V. Mada-tov, who represented the governor in Northern Azerbaijan, likewise demonstrated a lot of zeal; together they moved steadily toward their aim: in 1819, the Sheki Khanate was liquidated. Unable to stand the Russians' pressure any longer, Mekhti Kuli Khan fled to Iran, and the Karabakh Khanate became a Russian province. Russian writer and diplomat Alexander Griboedov wrote that 3 thousand Muslim families followed the khan. Two years before that, Mustafa Khan of Shirvan escaped to Iran. The khanates were liquidated in violation of the earlier signed treaties. In 1826, the second Russo-Iranian war began with Karabakh serving as the battleground once more. The Iranians, who besieged Shusha for 48 days, had to retreat. On 10 February, 1828, the sides signed a new peace treaty in the village of Turkmanchay outside Tabriz under which the khanates of Northern Azerbaijan, including Karabakh, as well as the Nakhchivan and Irevan khanates, finally became parts of the Russian Empire.

Unification of the Transcaucasus and Russia abounds in illuminating details. Recently, some Armenian and Russian historians and part of the political establishment have been saying that Karabakh was attached to Russia as part of Armenia. Today, some Russian and Armenian historians insist that throughout the 18th century Armenians comprised 97 percent of the population in Karabakh.5 If this is true, why was it the Karabakh Khanate headed by the famous Turkic tribe of Jawanshirs rather than the Armenian state which appeared in Karabakh in the mid-18th century? Three percent of the total population stands no chance of establishing their own state and ruling the other 97 percent: this has never happened in human history.

Any attentive researcher of the international legal documents of the period will never fail to question the formula according to which Russia acquired not only Karabakh, but also Armenia. Georgia became part of Russia under the Treaty of Georgievsk in 1801, while the Azeri khanates joined Russia under the Gulistan (1813) and Turkmanchay (1828) treaties. The question is: what treaty made Armenia and the territories it claims part of Russia? Prominent Armenian historians did not look far: disdaining the ethics of academic studies, they preferred to ignore the well-known historical facts to write: "Under the Treaty of Gulistan of 1813, which ended the Russo-Persian war of 1804-1813, Russia acquired the Ganja and Karabakh khanates together with the other northeastern provinces of eastern Armenia (the Lori-Pambak, Shamshadin, Zangezur, Kafan, and Shoragel uezds)... Under the Treaty of Turkmanchay (February 1828), which ended the second Russo-Persian war (1826-1928), Russia acquired the Erevan and Nakhchivan khanates and the Ordubad uezd. In this way, East Armenia became part of Russia."6 To prove their point, they refer to a documentary collection published by G. Yuzefovich in St. Petersburg in 1869.7 They insist their falsifications, even though they know that neither the Gulistan nor the Turkmanchay treaties published in Yusefovich's collection say anything at all about the Armenian lands, either eastern or western; no Christian lands are mentioned either. The documents relate to the Muslim khanates, their territories, and their unification with Russia. The Irevan Khanate was a predominantly Muslim state; this is amply confirmed by Russian historical sources. In 1828, when the so-called Armenian Region was set up in the territories of the Irevan and Nakhchivan khanates, three quarters of its population were Muslims. General Paskevich wrote to the Chief of General Staff to express his displeasure

5 See: V.A. Zakharov, S.T. Sarkisian, "Azerbaidzhano-karabakhskiy konflikt: istoki i sovremennost," in: Mayen-dorfskaia deklaratsia 2 noyabrya 2008 goda i situatsia vokrug Nagornogo Karabakha, Collection of articles, Moscow, 2008, p. 230.

6 Nagorny Karabakh: istoricheskaia spravka, Erevan, 1988, pp. 14-15.

7 See: Dogovory Rossii s Vostokom, politicheskie i torgovye, Collected and published by G. Yuzefovich, St. Petersburg, 1869, pp. 208-214.


with General Krasovsky, who was appointed in 1827 as head of the "interim administration" of Irevan, and with member of the interim administration Archbishop Nerses, accusing the former of "giving free rein to Archbishop Nerses in everything and of harmful protection of the Armenians, while three quarters of the region's population were Muslims."8

The lost status turned the khanates, including Karabakh, into a colony; it was a long process and took several decades, during which the administrative division of the Transcaucasus changed several times to reach its final configuration in the latter half of the 19th century. The khanates of Northern Azerbaijan were replaced with military administrations; Karabakh, with Shusha as its center, became part of the Muslim District administered by the Military-District Head of the Muslim provinces. The new division contradicted the ethnographic, historical, religious, and everyday specifics of the local people, Karabakh being the most glaring example of this. Demography began developing into a political instrument. On 19 July, 1811, at the beginning of Armenian resettlement, the Russian administrators submitted a document to the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs which said that out of 12 thousand families, 2,500 were Armenian and the rest Muslim.9

In 1823, the Russian administrators prepared the Description of the Karabakh Province based on ethnographic and confessional statistics. This valuable historical source says that there were 600 settlements in Karabakh, 450 of them were Muslim; the others (150) were registered as Armenian10 . This highly reliable source says that in 1823 there were 20,095 families in the Karabakh Region (15,729 of them being Muslim and 4,366, or 21.7%, Armenian). Russian researchers and official publications of the 19th century dealing with state politics supply an unbiased picture of Karabakh.11

According to the population census of 1832, there were 20,456 families in Karabakh; while the share of Armenian families increased to 31.6%.12 Whereas in 1823, in Shusha, the center of Karabakh, 1,111(72.5%) out of a total of 1,532 families were Muslim and 421 (27.5%) were Armenian, in 1832, the share of Armenian families increased to 44.9% due to Armenian settlers. Russian military historian Vassily Potto wrote that the first large group of Armenians arrived in Karabakh in 1828; on 16 March, 1828, 40 thousand Armenian families moved from Iran to the Irevan Province; later, because of food shortages, 5 thousand of them (the first group of migrants) had to live for a long time on the banks of the Arax River before being finally sent to Karabakh.13

Russian writer Sergey Glinka, likewise, supplied interesting information about the Armenian migrations from Iran to Karabakh. An address by G. Lazarev, an activist of Armenian migration, to the Persian Armenians testifies to the political nature of resettlement. He wrote: "Christians! I have received reliable information that certain ill-wishers are spreading not merely stupid lies, but are also trying to frighten those who have applied for permission to move to blessed Russia in order to force them to retreat from their cherished wish. To disprove this and in conformity with the trust the Armenian people have placed in me, as well as in keeping with the obligation imposed on me by our Commander-in-Chief, I announce that our generous Monarch of Russia allows all who wish to find a safe and happy home in His state to move to Erivan, Nakhchivan, and Karabakh, anywhere you would like to live. There you will receive enough fertile land, partly sown, of which only a tenth part is tilled for

8 V.A. Potto, Kavkazskaia voyna. Persidskaya voyna 1826-1828 gg., Vol. 3, Stavropol, 1993, pp. 594-595.

9 See: Prisoedinenie Vostochnoy Armenii k Rossii, Erevan, 1972, pp. 560-561.

10 See: Opisanie Karabakhskoy provintsii, sostavlennoe v 1823 godu, po rasporiazheniiu glavnoupravliaiushchego v Gruzii Ermolova, deystvitelnym statskim sovetnikom Mogilevskim i polkovnikom Ermolovym 2-m, Tiflis, 1866, 415 pp.

11 See: Grazhdanskoe upravlenie Zakavkaziem ot prisoedineniia Gruzii do namestnichestva Velikogo Kniazia Mikhaila Nikolaevicha. Istorichesky Ocherk, Compiled by V.N. Ivanenko on instructions of the Department of Military History, Tiflis, 1901, 525 pp.; V.A. Potto, Kavkazskaia voyna. Persidskaya voyna 1826-1828 gg., Vol. 3, Tiflis, 1901; I.I. Shavrov, Novaia ugroza russkomu delu v Zakavkazye: predstoiashchaia rasprodazha Mugani inorodtsam, St. Petersburg, 1911.

12 See: Grazhdanskoe upravlenie Zakavkaziem..., p. 146.

13 See: V. Potto, op. cit., Vol. 3, Stavropol, 1993, p. 591.


the State. —For six years you will be exempt from dues of all kinds, the poorest of you will receive help; —Those who have real estate at home may, after sending their families to Russia, leave agents behind to sell their property; under the Treaty of Turkmanchay, you have five years to accomplish this; —You will leave behind your Motherland, which you love, but the very thought that you are moving to a Christian land should enrapture you. Today, scattered across the Persian lands, Christians will see themselves united; do you know how the Great Monarch of Russia will reward your loyalty? Hurry up! Time is short.—By sacrificing small things for a short time, you will acquire everything forever."14 According to the same author, "Armenians from different villages adjacent to Turkmanchay started moving to Karabakh."15 He also wrote: "In three and a half months, over 8 thousand families crossed the Arax."16 In the spring of 1828, when the flow of Armenian migrants was moving toward Arax, Ivan Paskevich gave instructions for the poorest to be settled in Karabakh; this is confirmed by Russian authors.17 This explains why in 1832 Armenians accounted for 31.6% of the province's population; the Muslims comprised the other 68.4%.18 Beginning in 1828, Armenian migration to the Muslim provinces of the Transcaucasus (and to Karabakh among other places) was regulated by Art XV of the Treaty of Turkmanchay.19

Under Emperor Nicholas I's decree of 21 March, 1828, an "Armenian Region" was set up in the former Irevan and Nakhchivan khanates: "On the strength of the treaty signed with Persia, the Irevan and Nakhchivan khanates, which was detached from Persia to be united with Russia, should be called an Armenian Region everywhere, this name should become part of Our title."20

The second volume of Favorite, a historical chronicle of the times of Catherine the Great written by Valentin Pikul, a widely popular 20th-century author, describes an interesting episode in a conversation between Count Potemkin and the empress where the count tells her that he summoned Suvorov (a brilliant Russian military commander.—J.H.):

"I'll ask the archpriest of Kronstadt to convince him to make it up with his wife. Then I shall convene a meeting: him and myself, and a couple of Armenians—Lazarev and Argutinsky. They are quick on the uptake—they have already chosen Erivan as the capital. "'What can they do with it if they have no state?'

"'If there is no state now, there will be a state in the future,' said Potemkin."

Russian general and Georgian Prince A. Chavchavadze was appointed head of the "Armenian


At that time, the Muslims comprised 75% of its total population; while the war was still going on, there were 49,875 Muslims and 20,073 Armenians living in the Irevan Region. As soon as the "Armenian Region" was set up, 45,200 Armenians moved there from neighboring countries.22 Similar processes went on in the Nakhchivan Region: by the time the Russians had occupied it completely, there were 17,138 Muslims and 2,690 Armenians living there. As soon as the khanate was liquidated, 10,670 Armenians arrived within a very short period of time. More or less similar processes were underway in the Ordubad part of the Nakhchivan Khanate: 1,340 Armenians moved in to join the 2,388 Armenians already living there to balance out the 7,247 Muslims.23

14 S.N. Glinka, Opisanie pereseleniia armian Adderbidzhanskikh v predely Rossii, Moscow, 1831, pp. 107-111.

15 Ibid., p. 48.

16 Ibid., p. 92.

17 See: Ibid., pp. 90-91.

18 See: Obozrenie Rossiiskikh vladeny za Kavkazom v statisticheskom, etnograficheskom, topograficheskom i finan-sovom otnosheniakh, Tiflis, 1836, p. 267.

19 See: Polnoe sobranie zakonov Rossiiskoy imperii, Vol. III, St. Petersburg, 1830, p. 130.

20 Ibid., pp. 272-273.

21 See: Akty Kavkazskoy arkheograficheskoy komissii. Arkhiv Glavnogo upravlenia namestnika Kavkaza, Vol. VII, Tiflis, 1878, p. 487.

22 See: Obozrenie Rossiiskikh vladeny za Kavkazom, p. 229.

23 See: Ibidem.


In 1911, Russian researcher N. Shavrov published a book called New Challenges to the Russian Cause in the Transcaucasus—Upcoming Sale of Mugan to Aliens based on historical documents, in which he wrote that in 1828-1830, 40 thousand Armenian families had moved to the Transcaucasus from Iran and 84,600 of them had arrived from Turkey; they settled in the Elizavetpol and Irevan gubernias where Armenians had been practically unknown. He wrote: "Out of the 1 million 300 thousand Armenians who now live in the Transcaucasus over 1 million are newcomers. Russia moved them there."24 The desire to make the Transcaucasus a predominantly Christian region was too strong; however the local specifics suggested caution.

"Under the Musawat Government, the Whole of Karabakh was Part of Azerbaijan"

On 28 April, 1920, Soviet troops occupied Baku. Russian troops entered Karabakh a month after they had occupied Baku; Azerbaijan lost its independence; some time later this happened to Georgia and Armenia. In this way, in two years, Russia, now Soviet Russia, regained its grip on the Transcaucasus. Soviet power detached bits and pieces of Azerbaijan's territory. In the first years of Soviet power, when the Center joined primordial Azerbaijani lands to Armenia, Nariman Nar-imanov, unable to reconcile himself to this injustice, wrote to Lenin to complain that the lands which had, beyond a doubt, been part of Azerbaijan under the Musawat government had become disputed areas under Soviet power. He warned that the common people were aware of all this and were discontented.25

From the very first days of Soviet power, the Armenians in Karabakh and elsewhere demonstrated a lot of activity; their violence against the Muslims was not punished, mainly because Azerbaijan and its army were not strong enough, while the troops were demobilized. On 29 June, 1920, Sergey Kirov informed People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs Georgy Chicherin that the Dashnaks were exterminating Muslims and Russians: "Only 15 thousand of the 30-thousand Russian population in the Kars Region remained; the others either fled to Turkey or Russia or were


On 19 June, N. Narimanov, M. Mdivani, A. Mikoyan, and A. Nurijanyan sent a telegram to Chicherin in which they informed him of the Dashnak army's onslaught and its success in Kazakh and Kedabek. A copy sent to Grigory (Sergo) Orjonikidze in Vladikavkaz contained the following telltale passage: "The Armenians are in fact in a state of war with Azerbaijan. As for the allegedly disputable Karabakh and Zangezur, which have become part of Soviet Azerbaijan, we categorically state that these places should, without doubt, in the future too, remain within Azerbaijan."27 On 22 June, 1920, the People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs, enraged by the fact that the well-known Bolsheviks working in the Caucasus, Baku and, on the whole, Azerbaijan were dead set against the Center's policy, complained to the Politburo of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.) about "the lack of discipline among the Baku comrades and the scandalous contradiction between their actions and the line of the C.C." He wrote

24 N.I. Shavrov, op. cit., pp. 59-60.

25 For more detail, see: "Results of Soviet Construction in Azerbaijan," Report of N. Narimanov to V. Lenin. 15.09.1921, Russian State Archives of Social-Political History (RGASPI), rec. gr. 5, inv. 1, f. 1219, sheet 12; Letter of N. Narimanov to V. Lenin, Archives of Political Documents at the Administration of the President of the Azerbaijan Republic (APD UDP AR), rec. gr. 609, inv. 1, f. 71, sheet 51.

26 Telegram of S. Kirov to G. Chicherin. 29.06.1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 5, inv. 1, f. 2178, sheet 1.

27 Telegram of N. Narimanov, M. Mdivani, A. Mikoyan, A. Nurijanyan to G. Chicherin. 19.06.1920, State Archives of the Azerbaijan Republic (GA AR), rec. gr. 28, inv. 1, f. 211, sheet 115.


that if the disputed territories captured by Russia were transferred to Azerbaijan, an agreement with Armenia would be impossible.28 People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs Chicherin followed his own, very specific logic. He went on to explain to Lenin that "so far Russia is not transferring these lands to the Armenians so as not to offend the Tatars. When conditions for the Sovietization of Georgia and Armenia appear, the problems will disappear of their own accord."29 His numerous explanations and telegrams sent to Lenin, Orjonikidze, and Narimanov make it abundantly clear: Karabakh was nothing but "small change" and bait in the talks with Armenia.

Stronger Armenian claims to the mountainous part of Karabakh forced those Bolsheviks who were well known in the Caucasus (N. Narimanov, M. Mdivani, A. Mikoyan, and B. Naneishvili) and even members of the Military Council of the 11th Army, Zh. Vesnik, M. Levandovsky, and I. Mikhaylov, to send a letter to the C.C. R.C.P. (B.) which said: "We believe that it is our duty to inform the C.C. of our concerted opinion about Karabakh and Zangezur; the decision which is planned as intermediate in the talks with Armenia will contradict the interests of the revolution in the Caucasus. Under the Musawat government, the whole of Karabakh was part of Azerbaijan. The inseparable cultural and economic ties between Karabakh and Zangezur and Baku, which employed tens of thousands of workers ^from these provinces, and the complete isolation of these provinces from Erevan were confirmed in 1919 by the Congress of Armenian Peasants of Karabakh which, even under the Musawat regime (which was insufferable for the Armenians) and despite provocation by Armenian agents, resolutely supported complete unity with Azerbaijan on the condition that a peaceful life be guaranteed for the Armenians." The authors concluded that the Muslim masses would regard Soviet power as perfidious if it proved unable to preserve the old borders of Azerbaijan. They wrote that this would be taken as Armenian-philism or as the weakness of Soviet power and warned against indecision in the question of Karabakh and Zangezur "so as not to turn Azerbaijan into a mongrel supported by the Red Army and handed out to the Armenians and Georgians."30

In an effort to make Soviet recognition of Armenia look official Chicherin tried to convince Oijonikidze that Soviet Russia needed a compromise with the Dashnak government of Armenia: "The Azerbaijani government has described as disputable not only Karabakh and Zangezur, but also the Sharur-Daralaghez Uezd. The latter has never been disputed and even the Musawat government always regarded it as Armenian. Without it, Armenia will have practically nothing left. After resisting for a long time, the Armenian delegation at the peace talks agreed to accept Karabakh and Zangezur as disputed territories in the hope of finally acquiring large chunks of them. The delegation is firm about the Sharur-Daralaghez Uezd. On the other hand, we need an agreement with the Azerbaijani government so that our treaty with Armenia does not contradict the demands of Azerbaijan. We ask you to use your exceptional influence in Baku to convince the Azerbaijani government to yield on its demand to describe the Sharur-Daralaghez Uezd as a disputed territory and limit it to Karabakh and Zangezur."31

After receiving Chicherin's ciphered telegram of 2 July, 1920 and discussing the issue with newly appointed Envoy Plenipotentiary of Soviet Russia to Armenia B. Legran and A. Gabrielyan, Oijonikidze informed Moscow directly that "Azerbaijan insisted on the immediate and unconditional unification of Karabakh and Zangezur. I think this should be done since economically both uezds are attached to Baku and have absolutely no ties with Erivan. The Bayazet Turkish Army, which has wedged its way in, has made this especially obvious. According to Comrade Gabrielyan, the Armeni-

28 See: Letter of the People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs G. Chicherin to the Politburo of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.), 22.06.1920, APD UDP AR, rec. gr. 1, inv. 1, f. 2a, sheet 9.


30 Letter of Narimanov, Mdivani, Mikoyan, Naneishvili, Vesnik, Levandovsky and Mikhaylov to the C.C. R.C.P. (B.).

' G. Chicherin's reply to Lenin's enquiry. June 1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 2, inv. 1, f. 1451, sheet 1.

10.07.1920, APD UDP AR, rec. gr. 1, inv. 44, f. 118, sheet 25-27.

31 G. Chicherin's ciphered telegram to G. Orjonikidze. 02.07.1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 85, inv. 3c, f. 2, sheet 3.


an delegation will undoubtedly accept this. In this case, it will be possible to convince Azerbaijan to drop its claims to the other regions. I think that Karabakh and Zangezur should be immediately united with Azerbaijan. I will force Azerbaijan to grant autonomy to these regions; this should be done by Azerbaijan, but in no way should this be mentioned in the treaty."32 By means of another direct communiqué, Oijonikidze informed Lenin, Stalin, and Chicherin in so many words that the Armenian government had deliberately misinformed them: "Today Gabrielyan told me that the Armenian delegation will accept immediate unification of Karabakh and Zangezur with Azerbaijan if it drops its claims to the Sharur-Daralaghez Uezd and the Nakhchivan Region. We have agreed among ourselves that when we are in Baku we will talk to Narimanov about this. You can see for yourself that there is no lack of clarity or understanding. I assure you that we are fully aware of our peaceful policy and are sticking to it. I am convinced, and this is my deepest conviction, that to strengthen Soviet power in Azerbaijan and to keep Baku in our control, we must join Nagorno-Karabakh; its valley part is out of the question: it has always been Azeri and part of Zangezur. Azerbaijan has guaranteed safety of the Armenians living there. We shall grant autonomy and organize the Armenian population without moving Muslim armed units there." He deemed it necessary to warn: "Any other decision will shatter our position in Azerbaijan and will give us nothing in Armenia. I know that we might need Armenia under certain political circumstances. The decision rests with you; we shall follow suit. Let me tell you that this treatment of Azerbaijan undermines our prestige among the broad masses of Azeris and creates fertile soil for the efforts of our adversaries."33

After the April coup of 1920, Orjonikidze remained for some time on the side of Azerbaijan, which was considered "Soviet power's firstborn in the Caucasus" in its relations with Georgia and Armenia. Some people in Moscow did not like this; the irritation being especially obvious in the People's Commissariat for Foreign Affairs. Georgy Chicherin, who headed this group, blackmailed Or-jonikidze, whom he called a latent Orientalist and lover of the Muslims. Orjonikidze parried the attacks by saying that he had nothing to do with Muslim nationalism and there was not a single Tatar among his ancestors.34

Orjonikidze knew who was stirring up the trouble in the Center and had to go directly to Na-dezhda Allilueva, an official in the Council of People's Commissars and Stalin's wife, with a request to tell Stalin that Chicherin and Karakhan pushed me into a tight corner once more."35 Chicherin was of a different opinion; in a telegram to Oijonikidze dated 8 July, he wrote: "We all know that the time will come for Armenia's Sovietization; it is too early to do this now. The best we can do now is to declare Karabakh and Zangezur disputed areas; to do this we need an agreement from the Azerbaijani government. We badly need this; we should sign an agreement with Armenia. The situation in the world demands this; this can be done if we declare Karabakh and Zangezur, and only them, disputed areas."36

Chicherin and Karakhan pushed the People's Commissariat for Foreign Affairs toward cooperation with Armenia at the expense of Azerbaijan. On 16 July, Orjonikidze, unable to withstand the pressure, telegraphed Lenin, Stalin, and Chicherin with a request not to enter a peace treaty with Armenia before the Azeri delegation arrived. He wrote: "The local comrades are very concerned about the possibility of peace with Armenia without involving Azerbaijan."37 Anastas Mikoyan, member of the C.C. Communist Party of Azerbaijan (Bolsheviks), was of the same opinion. On 29 June he wrote to Orjonikidze: "We are all enraged by the Center's policy toward Karabakh and Zangezur. You

32 G. Orjonikidze's reply on direct line to G. Chicherin's telegram of 2 July about the disputed territories claimed by Azerbaijan and Armenia. July 1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 85, inv. 3c, f. 2, sheet 6.

33 Direct reminder to Lenin, Stalin and Chicherin. July 1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 85, inv. 3c, f. 2, sheets 8-9.

34 See: Telegram from G. Orjonikidze to G. Chicherin. 1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 64, inv. 1, f. 17, sheet 53.

35 Direct note to N. Allilueva. 07.07.1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 85, inv. 3c, f. 2, sheet 20.

36 Telegram from G. Chicherin to G. Orjonikidze. 08.07.1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 64, inv. 1, f. 17, sheet 60.

37 Telegram from G. Orjonikidze to V.I. Lenin, I.V. Stalin and G.K. Chicherin. 16.07.1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 85, inv. 3c, f. 2, sheet 12.


should also defend our opinion in the Center. We have nothing against peace with Armenia but not at the expense of Karabakh and Zangezur."38

This shows that, strange as it may seem, Soviet Russia and Dashnakian Armenia were engaged in secret negotiations about Azerbaijan, to which it was not invited and to which it had not agreed. The developments in Armenia copied what had happened with Georgia a month before: a lot of interesting information had traveled in the ciphered parts of the telegram Orjonikidze and Kirov sent to Lenin and Stalin. They believed that a treaty with Georgia without clarifying the position of Azerbaijan was fraught with failure: "We want to know why we are signing a treaty with Georgia and refusing to sign a treaty with friendly Azerbaijan. If you have different plans for Azerbaijan, why are we being kept in the dark?" In the ciphered part they warned: "You should not put forward the name of Karakhan as the author of the Eastern policy. Here the Zakataly scandal (the reference is to the promise to transfer the Zakataly District to Georgia under the Moscow Treaty of 7 May, 1920.—J.H.) is interpreted as Armenian perfidy."39 Lev Karakhan, who filled the post of Deputy People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs, did play an important role in shaping and realizing the anti-Azeri policy of the People's Commissariat for Foreign Affairs of Soviet Russia. The ciphered and open documents of the time directly point to him as the main plotter. Grigory Orjonikidze wrote in an open letter: "Karabakh is another Zakataly of our Commissariat for Foreign Affairs. An enormous provocation is underway here: it is rumored that this is stirred up by the Armenians in Moscow."40

Despite the Center's unprecedented pressure on Azerbaijan, the gap between the Azeri and Armenian positions remained as wide as ever. The talks between Kirov and People's Commissar M. Huseynov and the Armenian representatives in Tiflis ended in nothing. On 6 August, he wrote to Chicherin that he had only convinced the Azeris to cede the Sharur-Daralaghez Uezd to Armenia; the Azeris regarded the rest, that is, the Nakhchivan Uezd, Ordubad, Julfa, Zangezur, and Karabakh, as decidedly their own. The Armenian representatives were no less determined to claim the regions. The Azeris argued that under the Musawat government these regions had belonged to Azerbaijan and that, therefore, if it ceded them, Soviet power would lose its prestige in the eyes of the Azeris, Iranians, and Turks.41

On 10 August, 1920, the talks in Moscow and Irevan ended in a treaty of six articles, four of which dealt with a deliberately fanned territorial dispute with Azerbaijan. Under Art 2, the troops of the R.S.F.S.R. occupied the disputed regions of Karabakh, Zangezur, and Nakhchivan; the Armenian troops remained in a specified strip. Art 3 said that the occupation by Soviet troops of the disputed territories did not predetermine the answer to the question about the rights of the Republic of Armenia and the Azerbaijan Socialist Soviet Republic to these territories. The same article further stated that the temporary occupation by the R.S.F.S.R. of these territories was intended to create conditions conducive to a peaceful resolution of the territorial disputes between Armenia and Azerbaijan; in the future, the issue, said the Treaty, would be settled by means of a comprehensive agreement between the Republic of Armenia and the R.S.F.S.R."42 Russia hastened to sign the treaty with Armenia because, the same day, Turkey and the Entente signed the Sevres Treaty, under which Armenia could have gained a lot. The Russian Soviet diplomats feared, with good reason, that Armenia might be tempted and would fall under the influence of the Entente. Under pressure from Moscow, the half-baked diplomatic document was signed; Armenia was promised the Azeri lands previously transformed by Soviet Russia into disputed territories.

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38 Telegram of A. Mikoyan to G. Orjonikidze. 29.06.1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 64, inv. 1, f. 17, sheet 134.

39 Ciphered telegram of G. Orjonikidze and S. Kirov to V. Lenin and I. Stalin. 12.06.1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 85, inv. 2c, f. 2, sheets 9-11.

40 Telegram from G. Orjonikidze to G. Chicherin. 1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 64, inv. 1, f. 17, sheet 304.

41 See: Letter of S. Kirov to G. Chicherin. 06.08.1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 80, inv. 4, f. 102k, sheets 1-2.

42 See: Treaty between the R.S.F.S.R. and the Republic of Armenia. 10.08.1920, APD UDP AR, rec. gr. 1, inv. 169, f. 249/II, sheets 11-12.


From the very first days of Soviet power in Azerbaijan, much was done to transform the primordial Azeri lands into disputed territories; this is best illustrated by the Russian-Armenian treaty. On 19 June, 1920, Grigory Orjonikidze, dispatched to Azerbaijan, telegraphed Lenin and Chicherin that Soviet power had been proclaimed in Karabakh and Zangezur and that both areas believed themselves to be part of Azerbaijan. He deemed it necessary to warn: "In any case, Azerbaijan cannot survive without Karabakh and Zangezur. I think that we should invite an Azeri representative to Moscow to discuss all the issues related to Azerbaijan and Armenia before the treaty with Armenia is signed; repetition of the Zakataly scandal stirred up by Armenians will undermine our position here."

The Treaty of 10 August between Soviet Russia and Armenia, of which Azerbaijan was not informed, can be described as a logical result of the political course of the Central Bolshevist government and of the People's Commissariat for Foreign Affairs in particular, designed to infringe on the interests of Azerbaijan.

Some people placed the stakes on Armenia in the territorial disputes between the two republics; some of the top officials in Moscow never hesitated to tell lies and never shunned provocations. Long before the treaty was signed, People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs Chicherin wrote in his report to Lenin: "The Azeri government has claimed Karabakh, Zangezur, and the Sharur-Daralaghez Uezd along with Nakhchivan, Ordubad, and Julfa... This combination should not be accomplished by Russian hands—this is unacceptable. We should remain objective and unbiased. It would be a fatal mistake for our Eastern policy to rely on one national element against another national element. If we take any lands from Armenia and transfer them to Azerbaijan, our policy in the East will be distorted."43 G. Chicherin managed to present at least some of his ideas as official and transform them into instructions for the Revolutionary Military Council of the Caucasian Front sent in the name of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.) not to let either Azeri or Armenian officials into the disputed territories. The territories described as disputed were in fact parts of Azerbaijan and were still controlled by the Azeri authorities. This meant that Chicherin's instructions were nothing more than a violation of Azerbaijan's sovereign rights and territorial integrity.

The new leaders of Azerbaijan found themselves in a quandary: on the one hand, enticed by revolutionary zeal, Azeri Soviet power imagined that it was close to Soviet Russia; on the other, Soviet Russia, the workers' and peasants' ally, detached the lands which had undoubtedly belonged to Azerbaijan under the previous government. This looked ugly, even to the Soviet officials dispatched from Moscow to Azerbaijan. The injustice was glaring. In a long report to Lenin, N. Soloviev, one such person, who filled the post of Chairman of the Council of National Economy of Azerbaijan S.S.R., wrote: "People pinned their hopes on Moscow, but the peace treaties with Georgia and Armenia, under which chunks of Azeri territory with Muslim population were transferred to these republics, shattered, if not killed, these hopes. The Muslim masses concluded that Moscow had not only captured Azerbaijan, but also increased Georgian and Armenian territories at its expense... The treaty with Armenia under which it acquired part of Azeri territory with Muslim population and a railway of immense strategic and economic importance which blocked the only corridor uniting Azerbaijan with Turkey was the heaviest blow. The ordinary Muslims were puzzled, while certain members of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan explained that the treaty had been compiled on the instructions of influential Armenians who filled high posts in the Center and called themselves Communists while being conscious or unconscious nationalists."44

Nariman Narimanov was enraged by Soviet Russia's arbitrariness toward Azerbaijan; he knew that these provocations had been devised and realized by People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs

43 Copy of a memo to V.I. Lenin. 29.06.1920, APD UDP AR, rec. gr. 1, inv. 1, f. 2a, sheets 13-14.

44 See: Information of N.I. Soloviev to V.I. Lenin "Our Policy in Azerbaijan in Two Months (May-June) after the Coup. 1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 17, inv. 84, f. 58, sheet 15.


Chicherin (who since the summer of 1919 had been dead set against Narimanov's Eastern policy) and his deputy Lev Karakhan. Their posts as heads of the People's Commissariat for Foreign Affairs allowed them to shape and realize the foreign, especially Eastern, policy of the Soviets. In his opposition to Chicherin, Narimanov tried to rely on Lenin, who had pronounced many high-sounding words and been lavish with his promises. Still expecting Lenin to be fair and unbiased, he wrote to him in mid-July: "Comrade Chicherin's telegram shows that you are receiving biased information or that the Center has succumbed to those who are still cooperating with what remains of Deni-kin's crowd against Soviet power in Azerbaijan. If the Center wants to sacrifice Azerbaijan and keep Baku and its oil and renounce its Eastern policy, it is free to do this. I deem it my duty, however, to warn you: you will not be able to keep Baku separated from the rest of Azerbaijan with the perfidious Dashnaks and Georgian Mensheviks as your neighbors. On the other hand, I would like to find out what the Center thinks about us, the Muslims, and how it dealt with these important issues without us. The Center was free to mistrust us, but such senior officials as Orjonikidze and Mdivani, likewise, disagree with its decision. Let me plainly say that with its decision about Kara-bakh the Center deprived us of our weapon, etc. It added plausibility to the provocative statements of the Musawat Party, which is holding forth that the Muslim Communists allegedly sold Azerbaijan to Russia, a country which recognizes the independence of Armenia and Georgia and, at the same time, insists for some reason that the areas which belonged beyond a doubt to Azerbaijan before Soviet power, become disputable. Comrade Chicherin says that we should obey the Center's policy, but is the Center aware that it is using us as a screen? We are told in plain terms: 'You cannot secure the absolutely undisputed territories, but you are holding forth about liberating the East.'"45 In another letter to Lenin, Narimanov informed him about a serious threat to Azerbaijan: "The situation is catastrophic. The Center has recognized Georgia and Armenia as independent states and recognized Azerbaijan's independence. At the same time, the Center has transferred undisputed Azeri territories to Armenia. Had they been transferred to Georgia, public opinion could have been pacified, but the fact that they were given to Armenia and the Dashnaks is a fatal and irreparable mistake."46

Soviet Russia preferred to ignore Narimanov's resolute and sometimes even oppositional stand; it followed the policy of humiliation of Azerbaijan devised by the People's Commissariat for Foreign Affairs. On 20 July, Commissar for Foreign Affairs Chicherin telegraphed Narimanov with a great deal of sarcasm: "So far neither you, nor Orjonikidze have clarified in your telegrams why you and the local Communists are dissatisfied with the occupation of Karabakh and Zangezur by Russian troops and why you want, without fail, their formal annexation to Azerbaijan... We should establish good relations with Armenia because if Turkey turns against us, Armenia, even Armenia of the Dashnaks, will serve as an outpost of our struggle against the advancing Turks."47 In another letter, Georgy Chicherin deemed it necessary to warn the Politburo of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.) that relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia should be treated as part of Russia's Turkish policy: "When discussing the Azeri-Armenian disagreements, I have always pointed out that if the Turks acquired aggressive trends in the Caucasus, Armenia will serve as a barrier and will defend us."48

As Soviet Russia was consolidating its position in Azerbaijan, the republic was gradually being turned into a toehold for the Bolsheviks' regional policy; its natural resources and territories were used to lull the Georgian and Armenian bourgeois republics and to create conditions conducive to Sovietization of Armenia. On 23 September, 1920, Boris Legran sent a ciphered telegram to Lenin in

45 Letter of N. Narimanov to V.I. Lenin, July 1920, APD UDP AR, rec. gr. 609, inv. 1, f. 71, sheets 41-42.

46 For the letter of Narimanov to Lenin, see: N. Narimanov, K istorii nashey revolutsii v okrainakh (Letter to I.V. Stalin), Baku, 1990, p. 117.

47 Urgent telegram of G. Chicherin to N. Narimanov. 20.07.1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 5, inv. 1, f. 2097, sheet 1.

48 Letter of G. Chicherin to the Politburo of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.). 05.10.1920, Foreign Policy Archives of the Russian Federation (AVP RF), rec. gr. 04, inv. 39, Folder 232, f. 52987, sheet 40.


which he described Soviet Russia's intentions regarding the Azeri territories: there is no danger in transferring Zangezur and Nakhchivan to Armenia. The very idea that Russia needed these territories for its liberating military operations in the Turkish and Tabriz sectors was utopian. One could not disagree with the territorial claims of Azerbaijan. Moscow's objective and subjective considerations would undoubtedly satisfy Azerbaijan; as for Karabakh, it was possible to insist on its unification with Azerbaijan.49 In another of his telegrams dated 24 October, 1920, this time addressed to Chicherin, Boris Legran described his agreements with the Armenians regarding the Azeri territories: "The Armenians categorically insist that Nakhchivan and Zangezur immediately be recognized as theirs. I pointed out that without Azerbaijan this issue cannot be resolved and that it can be raised only if the Armenians drop their claims to Karabakh. After long discussions they agreed, with minor stipulations, to renounce their claims to Karabakh."50 After a short while, however, late in November 1920 when Soviet power had been established in Armenia, the struggle for the mountainous part of Karabakh entered a new stage.

Why the Caucasian Bureau of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.) Treated the Karabakh Issue as "Strictly Confidential"

As soon as Soviet power was established in Armenia on 29 November, 1920, the Communists returned the Karabakh issue to the political agenda. On 30 November, 1920, Chairman of the Azerbaijan Revolutionary Committee (Az.R.C.) Nariman Narimanov and People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs Mirza Huseynov congratulated the Armenian Revolutionary Committee in a telegram. The telegram, however, did not entirely correspond to the decision adopted by the joint meeting of the Politburo and Orgburo of the C.C. of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan held on 30 November. Nariman Narimanov's speech at the grand meeting of the Baku Soviet on the occasion of establishing Soviet power in Armenia and the Declaration he read on 1 December, 1920 also contained certain contradictions.

The Declaration said: "Soviet Azerbaijan, which intends to appease the fraternal Armenian working people fighting the Dashnaks who have spilled and are spilling the innocent blood of our best Communist comrades in Armenia and Zangezur, declares that from this time on territorial issues will never cause bloodshed between two peoples who have been neighbors for centuries; the territories of the Zangezur and Nakhchivan uezds are an inalienable part of Soviet Armenia. The toiling peasants of Nagorno-Karabakh are granted the right to complete self-determination; all military actions in Zangezur are being suspended, while the troops of Soviet Azerbaijan are being pulled out."51

It should be said that the Declaration of 1 December contradicts the decisions of the C.C. Az.C.P. (B.) of 4 and 30 November. On 4 November, 1920, after discussing the Russian-Armenian treaty, the meeting of the Politburo of the C.C. Az.C.P. (B.) attended by Stalin and Orjonikidze decided that "the suggestion that Nakhchivan and Zangezur should be transferred to Armenia is disadvantageous both politically and strategically." On 30 November, 1920, however, the C.C. Az.C.P. (B.) passed a decision on the transfer of Zangezur to Armenia (the Nakhchivan issue was not discussed). Several days later, on 2 December, Envoy Plenipotentiary of the

49 See: B. Legran's telegram to V.I. Lenin. 23.09.1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 5, inv. 1, f. 21, sheet 144.

50 Secret telegram of B. Legran to G. Chicherin. 24.10.1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 5, inv. 1, f. 2178, sheet 20.

51 Kommunist, 2 December, 1920.


R.S.F.S.R. in Armenia Boris Legran pointed out that Soviet Russia had recognized only the transfer of Zangezur (out of the three territories mentioned above) as legal.52 The Declaration Narimanov read on 1 December mentioned Nakhchivan in addition to Zangezur as the territories transferred to Armenia. Jorg Baberowki of Humboldt University asserts that in the summer of 1920 Narimanov under the pressure of Orjonikidze agreed to transfer Zangezur, Karabakh and Nakhchivan to Armenia.53

The text which appeared in the Baku newspapers had been falsified by Orjonikidze. On 1 December, he informed Legran and People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs of the R.S.F.S.R. Georgy Chicherin of the following in a ciphered telegram: "Azerbaijan has already responded and transferred Nakhchivan, Zangezur, and Nagorno-Karabakh to Soviet Armenia."54 On 2 December, in another telegram, he informed Lenin and Stalin of the following: "Yesterday Azerbaijan announced that Nakhichevan, Zangezur, and Nagorno-Karabakh were transferred to Soviet Armenia."55 On Stalin's initiative, two days later "good news" appeared in Pravda. Stalin's article based on a distorted telegram written when Soviet power was established in Armenia, which appeared on the same day in Izvestia, was later included in Volume IV of Stalin's Works and reappeared in the collection of articles Vneshnyayapolitika SSSR (Foreign Policy of the U.S.S.R.). It still remains a favorite with certain authors.56 The question arises: Was Grigory Orjonikidze misinformed, or was it a lie? When Soviet power was established in Dilijan, G. Orjonikidze discussed the issues mentioned in the Declaration of the government of Azerbaijan with Amayak Nazaretyan by direct telephone line and said in particular that "today, the Soviet gathered for its gala meeting in Baku where Narimanov read the Declaration of the government of Azerbaijan, which pointed out that there were no longer borders between Soviet Armenia and Azerbaijan. From this day on, the territory of the Zangezur and Nakhchivan uezds has became an inalienable part of Soviet Armenia. The Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh have been granted the right to self-determination. The riches of Azerbaijan—oil and kerosene—have become the riches of both republics." Overjoyed, A. Nazaretyan exclaimed: "We shall start shouting in the press: Bravo, Azeris!"57

This means that the Declaration of the Chairman of the Azerbaijan Revolutionary Committee of

1 December, 1920 was "slightly" changed by the Bolsheviks. Two Baku newspapers (Kommunist on

2 December, 1920 and Bakinsky rabochy on 3 December, 1920) wrote about the "right to self-determination" granted to the toiling peasants of Nagorno-Karabakh, while on 7 December, 1920 the Armenian Kommunist informed readers that "Nagorno-Karabakh has been recognized as part of the Armenian Socialist Republic." The flagrant falsifications enraged Nariman Narimanov. In June 1921, he instructed People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs Mirza Huseynov, who was in Tiflis, to inform the Caucasian Bureau about his true opinion on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue.58

Did anyone in Armenia see the real text of the Declaration? We know that the text signed by Narimanov and Huseynov was telegraphed to the Armenian Revolutionary Committee. After reading the document, Askanaz Mravyan (a member of the Armenian Revolutionary Committee) informed Armenian representative in Moscow Saak Ter-Gabrielyan that Azerbaijan had announced that Zange-

52 See: Radiogram of B. Legran to G. Orjonikidze. 02.12.1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 85, inv. 14, f. 33, sheet 16.

53 See: J. Baberowski, Vrag est vezde. Stalinism na Kavkaze, Moscow, 2010, p. 237 (Jörg Baberowski, Der Feind ist überall: Stalinismus im Kaukasus, Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Munich, 2003, p. 882.)

54 G. Orjonikidze's ciphered telegram to Legran and Chicherin. 01.12.1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 85, inv. 14, f. 33, sheet 12.

55 G. Orjonikidze's letter to V. Lenin and I. Stalin, 02.12.1920. RGASPI, rec. gr. 85, inv. 14, f. 33, sheet 20.

56 See: "Narodny komissar po delam natsionalnostey I.V. Stalin o pobede Sovetskoy vlasti v Armenii," Izvestia, 4 December, 1920; Vneshnyaya politika SSSR. 1917-1920, Vol. I, Moscow, 1944, p. 532.

57 Conversation between A.M. Nazaretyan and G.K. Orjonikidze by direct telephone line. 01.12.1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 85, inv. 14, f. 37, sheet 1.

58 See: K istorii obrazovaniya Nagorno-Karabakhskoy avtonomnoy oblasti Azerbaidzhanskoy SSR. Dokumenty i materialy, Baku, 1989, p. 89.


zur and Nakhchivan had been united [with Armenia] and that a referendum would take place in Nagorno-Karabakh.59

The collection of documents Velikaya Oktyabrskaya sotsialisticheskaya revolutsia i pobeda Sovetskoy vlasti v Armenii (The Great October Socialist Revolution and the Victory of Soviet Power in Armenia) published in 1957 in Erevan contained the original text of the Declaration kept in the Central State Archives of Armenia.60 Since the mid-1980s, however, Armenian authors have been using the "doctored" text; recently some Russian politologists have been indulging in the same. This is not the first and certainly not the last manipulation with the Karabakh documents.

Why did Narimanov suggest in his Declaration that Zangezur be transferred to Armenia? The idea belonged to the Politburo of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.). Grigory Orjonikidze was behind this Declaration; this means that the man convinced that Zangezur belonged to Azerbaijan suddenly changed his mind. Why? He wanted to drive a wedge between Azerbaijan and Turkey to reduce to naught Turkey's potential threat to Azerbaijan. On 23 November, 1920, Stalin, while travelling from Baku to Moscow, used a direct line from Rostov-on-Don to inform Lenin that, according to Orjonikidze, the Turks' desire to establish a common border between Turkey and Azerbaijan looked threatening and that the Turkish plans could be upturned by transferring Zangezur to Armenia.61 This explains why the Turks regarded the treaty between Soviet Russia and Dashnak Armenia and friendly relations between these countries when Armenia became Soviet to be an obstacle on Turkey's road to the Muslim peoples of the Caucasus.62

Back on 4 November, 1920, during his "famous" trip to the Caucasus, Stalin attended a joint meeting of the C.C. Az.C.P. (B.) and the Caucasian Bureau of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.), which listened to Legran's report on the situation in Armenia and passed a decision. Point "b" of the document, which related to the discussed treaty between Russia and Armenia, said the following: "To inform, at the same time, that the Politburo insists that the point on the transfer of Nakhichevan and Zangezur (suggested by Moscow.—J.H.) is not advantageous either politically or strategically and can only be carried out in an emergency." Point "d" instructed Nariman Narimanov to substantiate the Politburo's opinion about Nakhchivan and Zangezur.63

This meant that there was no Karabakh problem at all initially, which was why it was not discussed. On 20 November, 1920, a diplomatic mission of Soviet Russia arrived in Erivan to monitor the talks between Turkey and Armenia underway in Gumri and to sort out Armenia's territorial claims to Azerbaijan and Georgia. People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs Georgy Chicherin was informed that "today, the continued existence of the Armenian people depends not so much on military force as on diplomacy. We should abandon party romanticism and arm ourselves with grim realism." The diplomatic mission deemed it necessary to remind the people's commissar that "when talking to the Turks in Batumi (at the peace conference held in Batumi in May-June 1918.—J.H.), Kachaznuni and Khatisyan agreed to transfer Karabakh to Azerbaijan."64

Despite the fact that on 1 December, 1920, Nariman Narimanov made public the Declaration of the Revolutionary Committee of Azerbaijan, Nakhchivan and Karabakh (both its valley and mountain parts) still belonged to Azerbaijan. Under the Moscow Treaty of 16 March, 1921 between

59 See: From a member of the Armenian Revolutionary Committee (A. Mravyan) to representative of Soviet Armenia Ter-Gabrielyan. 04.01.1921, AVP RF, rec. gr. 04, inv. 39, folder 232, f. 53001, sheet 14.

60 See: Velikaya Oktyabrskaya sotsialisticheskaya revolutsia i pobeda Sovetskoy vlasti v Armenii, Erevan, 1957, pp. 437-438.

61 See: Conversation between Stalin and Lenin by direct line. 23.11.1920, AVP RF, rec. gr. 04, inv. 39, folder 232, f. 52987, sheet 47.

62 See: Letter of B. Legran to G. Chicherin. 22.12.1920, RGASPI, rec. gr. 5, inv. 1, f. 212733, sheet 5.

63 See: Protocol No. 4 of the joint meeting of the C.C. Az.C.P. (B.) and Caucasian Bureau. 04.11.1920, APD UDP AR, rec. gr. 1, inv. 1, f. 22, sheet 20.

64 The Diplomatic Representatives of Soviet Russia in Erivan to People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs Chicherin. November 1920, GA AR, rec. gr. 28, inv. 1, f. 38, sheet 15.


Soviet Russia and Kemalist Turkey, the Nakhchivan Region became an autonomous territory as a protectorate of Azerbaijan on the condition that it would never cede protectorate to a third state. This revived the problem of the mountainous part of Karabakh as an urgent issue between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

On 3 June, 1921, members of the Caucasian Bureau, G. Orjonikidze, F. Makharadze, N. Narimanov, A. Myasnikov (Martuni), I. Orakhelashvili, A. Nazaretyan, and Yu. Figatner, candidate for bureau member, Secretary of the C.C. of the Azerbaijan C.P. G. Kaminsky, and member of the C.C. of the Communist Party of Georgia, Sh. Eliava, attended a plenary session of the Caucasian Bureau of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.).

Its evening sitting was expected to discuss three questions:

(1) the Azerbaijani issue;

(2) the issue of Zangezur;

(3) the nomads.

Protocol No. 6 deals with the decisions on the first and third points; the second was discussed separately in the Addendum to the Protocol,65 which started all the trouble.

■ First, as distinct from Protocol No. 6, the decision on Zangezur, which consisted of 7 points, was marked as "strictly confidential."

■ Second, of the seven points only six dealt with Zangezur, while Point 5 said: "The declaration of the Armenian government should mention that Nagorno-Karabakh belongs to Ar-menia."66

This meant that Armenia was "strictly confidentially" instructed to issue a government declaration saying that Nagorno-Karabakh belonged to Armenia.

On 12 June, the Council of People's Commissars (CPC) of Armenia issued a decree on joining the mountainous part of Karabakh to Armenia. The decree said: "Proceeding from the declaration of the Revolutionary Committee of the Socialist Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan and from the agreement between the socialist republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan, it is declared that from this time on Nagorno-Karabakh has become an inalienable part of the Socialist Soviet Republic of Armenia."67 The same day, A. Myasnikov and M. Karabekyan signed the document; three days later, on 15 June, it was discussed by the C.C. C.P. of Armenia, which passed the following decision: "The decree on the unification of Nagorno-Karabakh and Soviet Armenia should be published." The same sitting discussed the fifth point of its agenda on dispatching a representative to Karabakh; it was decided "to send Comrade Mravyan together with Pirumov, Akop Ionisyan, Ter-Simonyan, and a group of other comrades to Karabakh;"68 the government issued a corresponding decree, which the Armenian Revolutionary Committee published a week later, on 19 June. Askanaz Mravyan was appointed chargé d'affaires extraordinaire in Nagorno-Karabakh.

As distinct from the Decree of the CPC of Armenia of 12 June, the Declaration of the Azerbaijan Revolutionary Committee did not mention the transfer of Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia; this was not discussed by the republics which had never concluded any legally valid agreement either. It seems that the authors of the Decree were inspired by the "strictly confidential" decision on the Zangezur issue which the Caucasian Bureau had passed on 3 June 1921. The sitting was chaired by Orjonikidze

65 See: Protocol No. 6 of the evening sitting of the plenary session of the Caucasian Bureau of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.). 03.06.1921, RGASPI, rec. gr. 64, inv. 1, f. 1, sheet 76rev.

66 Addendum to Protocol No. 6 of the evening sitting of the plenary session of the Caucasian Bureau of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.). 03.06.1921, RGASPI, rec. gr. 64, inv. 1, f. 1, sheet 77.

67 Bakinsky rabochy, 22 June, 1921,

68 Protocol No. 8 of the meeting of the C.C. of the Communist Party of Armenia. 15.06.1921, RGASPI, rec. gr. 64, inv. 1, f. 105, sheet 11rev.


with Figatner acting as a secretary. The decree of 12 June did not mention the 3 June decision of the Caucasian Bureau because, first, it was "strictly confidential" and second, the Caucasian Bureau was not empowered to pass decisions of this kind.

In fact, the first step in this direction was made after the Moscow Treaty of 1921 when the government came up with a document of six points entitled The Basic Premises on Uniting Nagorno-Karabakh and the Republic of Armenia. It said that the mountainous part was separated from Lower Karabakh by a low mountain range. Convinced that this mountain range should be joined to Nagorno-Karabakh, the Armenians argued that, first, this zone was allegedly used by the Armenians and, second, there were strips of arable land. Art 5 of the document is especially interesting. It reads: "The transfer of Nagorno-Karabakh to the Republic of Armenia should be naturally accompanied by the transfer of so-called Kurdistan, a narrow mountainous strip between Karabakh and Zangezur. Its very specific location and the nationalist sentiments of its population, however, might cause certain problems. The following should be done to neutralize possible complications: this area is situated higher than the northern Shusha-Gerusi road and consists of six village communities with a total population of 27 thousand. This area can be transformed into a canton governed by the Republic of Armenia or, as a last resort, placed under Azerbaijan's protectorate." The sixth, concluding, article of the document states the true intentions of the Armenian government in clear terms: "The Kaladarasi and Jamilli communities with their predominantly Armenian population are found to the south of Kurdistan in the Akkara valley. This strip with a road offers the only connection between Zangezur and Nagorno-Karabakh as a future single administrative unit with a single administration. Without this, there is no sense in joining Nagorno-Karabakh to the Republic of Armenia."69

In May 1921, the Armenian government, guided by the above and never bothering about the legal arguments, unilaterally decided to join Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia. The plenary session of the C.C. of the Communist Party of Armenia held on 23 May, 1921 appointed Akop Ionisyan as envoy of Armenia in Nagorno-Karabakh. After listening to D. Pirumov, who informed the plenum about the statement of the Zangezur commission, the meeting ruled the following: "The note to Azerbaijan should be postponed until the Nagorno-Karabakh issue is clarified at the next plenary session of the Caucasian Bureau of the R.C.P. (B.)."70 In May, Armenia obviously took practical measures to join Nagorno-Karabakh and overcome Azerbaijan's resistance. The Armenians were informed of the upcoming discussion of the problem at the June plenum of the Caucasian Bureau of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.).

What caused the hasty and legally untenable actions designed to transfer Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia? What was behind Armenia's actions and the decision of the Caucasian Bureau of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.) in May-June 1921?

The answer is simple. On 15 June, the commission on border problems among the Transcauca-sian republics was to meet in Tiflis. On 2 May, 1921, the plenary session of the Caucasian Bureau set up a commission of representatives of the three republics headed by Sergey Kirov to delimitate the administrative borders.71 On the eve of the Tiflis meeting, the Caucasian Bureau (by its decision of 3 June) and the Armenian government (by a decree of 12 June) wanted to confront Azerbaijan with the accomplished transfer of Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia.

On 26 June, the CPC of Azerbaijan discussed A. Karaev's report about his trip to Nagorno-Karabakh and Nakhchivan and decided that the Armenian claims to Nagorno-Karabakh should be

69 The Basic Premises on Uniting Nagorno-Karabakh and the Republic of Armenia. 1921, RGASPI, rec. gr. 64, inv. 1, f. 137, sheet 7-7rev.

70 Protocol No. 4 of a meeting of the C.C. of the Communist Party of Armenia. 23.05.1921, RGASPI, rec. gr. 64, inv. 1, f. 105, sheet 5rev.

71 See: Protocol No. 2 of the sitting of the Caucasian Bureau of C.C. R.C.P. (B.). 02.05.1921, RGASPI, rec. gr. 64, inv. 1, f. 1, sheet 57.


studied and summarized in a detailed report to the Council. A group of three (Shakhtakhtinsky, Vezi-rov, and Aliev) was set up to cope with the task. It was decided to suspend the powers the Armenian government had extended to Mravyan until the group had completed its report and to inform G. Or-jonikidze, Chairman of the Armenian Revolutionary Committee A. Myasnikov, Navy Commissar of Azerbaijan A. Karaev, and A. Mravyan of this decision.72

On 27 June, Narimanov, in fulfillment of the decision, informed G. Orjonikidze and A. Myasnikov by telegraph that the CPC of Azerbaijan had unanimously deemed the unilateral decision on Nagorno-Karabakh passed by the Armenian Revolutionary Committee without discussion at the CPC of Armenia and the arrival of A. Mravyan in Nagorno-Karabakh as envoy extraordinary of Armenia to be an unprecedented political and tactical mistake. It was also requested that Mravyan be immediately recalled.

On 27 June, a joint sitting of the Politburo and Orgburo of the C.C. of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan discussed the problem of borders between Azerbaijan and Armenia and dismissed the Nagorno-Karabakh issue raised by A. Bekzadyan as untenable in view of the region's obvious economic bias toward Azerbaijan. Likewise, it was administratively and economically untenable to divide the localities with Armenian and Azeri populations between the two republics. On the basis of Narimanov's declaration, involving Armenian and Muslim villagers in wide-scale Soviet construction was suggested as the only answer. It was also suggested that all discussions be discontinued until relevant information had arrived from Tiflis. Even before the sitting adjourned, A. Shirvani, instructed by Narimanov,73 informed Huseynov in Tiflis of this decision. His message said in part: "The Council of People's Commissars has agreed with the decision. Comrade Narimanov asked me to inform you that the question must be resolved in this way, otherwise the Council will divest itself of all of its responsibilities, since if this is the way Soviet Armenia wishes to make a good impression on the Dashnaks and the non-party masses, we should bear in mind that by the same token we will be reviving anti-Soviet groups in Azerbaijan similar to the Dashnaks."

At this point Narimanov took the receiver and said to Huseynov: "Tell them that this is the unanimous opinion of Politburo and Orgburo. My declaration, to which they refer, merely said: 'Nagorno-Karabakh is being granted the right to free self-determination.'" Nariman Narimanov said: "Today we sent you a telegram, with copies to Sergo, Myasnikov, and Karaev, to inform you that Comrade Mravyan has been recalled from Karabakh." Narimanov asked Huseynov to tell Orjonikidze that "our Armenian comrades are only thinking about the territory and are not concerned about the wellbeing of the poorest Armenian and Muslim groups or about strengthening the revolution."74

Who allowed the Armenians to speak in the name of the Azeri leaders? Later, however it turned out that it had been Orjonikidze and Kirov who gave the Armenians this permission. Having concentrated real power in the Caucasus, they were looking for ways to transfer Karabakh to Armenia. It was they who handed Narimanov the telegram on 26 June with Bekzadyan's idea about dividing Karabakh on national-ethnic grounds. The telegram read: "If you want to know our opinion, it is the following: to smooth out the friction and establish genuinely friendly relations when dealing with the Nagorno-Karabakh issue, we should be guided by the principle that none of the Armenian villages should be united with Azerbaijan, just as none of the Muslim villages should become part of Armenia."75

72 See: Protocol of a sitting of the Council of People's Commissars of Azerbaijan. 26.06.1921, GA AR, rec. gr. 411, inv. 1, f. 12, sheet 1.

73 See: Protocol No. 20 of the sitting of the Politburo and Orgburo of the C.C. Az.C.P. (B.). 27.06.1921, APD UDP AR, rec. gr. 1, inv. 74, f. 1231, sheet 64.

74 Conversation of A.G. Shirvani and N. Narimanov by direct phone line with M.D. Huseynov. 27.06.1921, RGASPI, rec. gr. 64, inv. 1, f. 215, sheet 14.

75 Telegram of G. Orjonikidze and S. Kirov to N. Narimanov. 26.06.1921, RGASPI, rec. gr. 85, inv. 18, f. 229, sheets 1-2.


The same day, 27 June, Huseynov, on Narimanov's instructions, moved the issue to the Caucasian Bureau, which ruled the following: "An extraordinary plenum of the Caucasian Bureau of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.) must be convened immediately. The following telegram should be sent to comrades Narimanov and Myasnikov: 'The Presidium of the Caucasian Bureau of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.) suggests that when you receive this you must immediately depart to attend the extraordinary plenum of the Caucasian Bureau to discuss delimitation of the republics. There are six members of the Caucasian Bureau in Tiflis; if you fail to arrive, their decision will be considered final, therefore we insist that you go there at once.'"76

On 28 June, the CPC met once more under N. Narimanov's chairmanship. Myasnikov's Declaration, which proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh part of the Armenian S.S.R., was declined; the meeting discussed the possibility of recalling Mravyan, extraordinary representative of Armenia in Nagorno-Karabakh. After this, Narimanov departed to Tiflis to attend the plenary meeting of the Caucasian Bureau of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.) scheduled for 4 July, 1921.

Why Are the Armenians Falsifying the Well-Known Documents of the Caucasian Bureau Relating to Nagorno-Karabakh and Implicating Stalin?

The famous sitting of the Caucasian Bureau of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.) of 27 June, 1921 never considered the historical and ethnographic aspects; the decision was based on Karabakh's economic pull toward Azerbaijan. On 4 July, however, at another plenum of the Caucasian Bureau attended by Stalin, Kirov, future head of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan (three weeks later he would have to become Secretary of the C.C. Az.C.P. (B.) of Azerbaijan.—J.H), and Orjonikidze (the Transcauca-sus republics' curator) voted for the following resolution: "To include (italics mine.—J.H.) Nagorno-Karabakh in the Armenian S.S.R. and limit the plebiscite to the mountainous part."77

The plenary session was attended by member of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.) Stalin and members of its Caucasian Bureau Orjonikidze, Makharadze, Narimanov, Myasnikov, Kirov, Nazaretyan, Orakhe-lashvili, Figatner; Breitman (Secretary of the Caucasian Bureau of the Central Committee of the Russian Young Communist League), and members of the Central Committee of the Communist Party (Bolsheviks) of Georgia Tsintsadze, Mdivani, and Svanidze. The discussion revealed two opposite opinions.

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The participants were invited to vote for the following:

(a) Karabakh should remain (italics mine.—J.H.) part of Azerbaijan (Narimanov, Ma-kharadze, and Nazaretyan voted "for"; Orjonikidze, Myasnikov, Kirov and Figatner, "against");

(b) The plebiscite should be carried out throughout the entire territory of Karabakh among the Armenians and Muslims (Narimanov and Makharadze voted "for").

76 Protocol No. 5 of a sitting of the Presidium of the Caucasian Bureau of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.). 27.06.1921, RGASPI, rec. gr. 64, inv. 1, f. 2, sheet 73.

77 Protocol No. 11 of the evening sitting of the plenary session of the Caucasian Bureau of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.). 04.07.1921, RGASPI, rec. gr. 64, inv. 1, f. 1, sheet 118.


(c) The mountainous part of Karabakh should be joined to Armenia (Orjonikidze, Myasnikov, Figatner, and Kirov voted "for").

(d) The plebiscite should be carried out only in Upper Karabakh (Orjonikidze, Myasnikov, Fi-gatner, Kirov, and Nazaretyan voted "for").78

The protocol contains a note: Comrade Orakhelashvili was absent when the vote on Karabakh was taken. This was a much more honest position than that of future Secretary of the C.C. of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan Kirov and Orjonikidze, who repeatedly demanded in his telegrams to Lenin and Chicherin that both the valley and the mountainous part of Karabakh be left in Azerbaijan. They voted "for" on the two last points. The adopted decision violated Azerbaijan's territorial integrity.

This made people wonder why Orjonikidze and Kirov, who several months earlier "could not imagine Azerbaijan without Karabakh," changed their minds in June 1921 and voted against Azerbaijan at the 4 July sitting of the Caucasian Bureau. Were they guided by the Center's secret instructions?

Here is an explanation: the Moscow Treaty of 16 March, 1921 between Soviet Russia and Turkey (with a point which preserved Nakhchivan within Azerbaijan on the condition that Azerbaijan would never cede protectorate to a third state) turned Nagorno-Karabakh into a target of secret and then open discussions at the Caucasian Bureau in June-July 1921 and triggered attempts to transfer Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia by force.

The text and the political sense of the decision of the Caucasian Bureau of 4 July was frequently falsified and misinterpreted. The Armenian authors performed a "minor" operation by replacing the verb "include" with the verb "keep within." Nariman Narimanov stated resolutely that "because the Karabakh issue is so important to Azerbaijan, I believe it necessary to transfer the final decision on it to the C.C. R.C.P." It was thanks to his protest that the meeting arrived at the following decision: "Since the Karabakh issue has caused serious disagreements, the Caucasian Bureau of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.) believes it advisable to transfer the final decision to the C.C. R.C.P. (B.)."79 This meant that the same sitting discussed the Karabakh issue as Point 5 of the agenda; the decision passed by a majority vote after Narimanov's statement (Point 6) annulled the previous results.

This issue was never discussed in the C.C. R.C.P. (B.) because, first, Orjonikidze had renounced his previous erroneous position and, relying on Nazaretyan, demanded that the decisions of the previous plenary session on Karabakh be revised.80

On 5 July the plenary session of the Caucasian Bureau adopted the following decisions on Point 2 of the agenda in view of the firm position of N. Narimanov and G. Orjonikidze's retreat from his previous stand:

(a) proceeding from the need to maintain national peace between the Muslims and the Armenians, the economic ties between Upper and Lower Karabakh, and its constant contacts with Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh should be left (italics mine.—J.H.) within the Azerbaijan S.S.R. with broad regional autonomy and its administrative center in the town of Shusha, which belongs to the autonomous region (for—4; abstained—3);

(b) the C.C. of Azerbaijan should be instructed to identify the boundaries of the autonomous region and present the results to the Caucasian Bureau of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.) for approval;

(c) the Presidium of the Caucasian Bureau of the C.C. should be instructed to talk to the C.C. of Armenia and the C.C. of Azerbaijan about a candidate for the post of commissar extraordinary of Nagorno-Karabakh;

78 See: Ibidem.

79 Ibid., sheet 114.

80 See: Protocol No. 12 of the plenary session of the Caucasian Bureau of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.). 05.07.1921, RGASPI, rec. gr. 64, inv. 1, f. 1, sheet 122.


(d) the C.C. of Azerbaijan should be instructed to identify the volume of rights of the autonomy of Nagorno-Karabakh and present the result to the Caucasian Bureau of the C.C. for ap-


When commenting on the repeal of the first "fair decision" on the Nagorno-Karabakh, the Armenian side referred to Stalin's unexpected arrival in Tiflis, who had allegedly pulled the strings for the Azeris in his usual manner. We have established that Stalin had arrived in Tiflis earlier, late in June and could not, therefore, suddenly arrive at the plenary meeting of the Caucasian Bureau of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.) on 5 July. Why do the Armenian historians who falsify the historical documents of the Caucasian Bureau implicate Stalin in "keeping" ("transferring" being their favorite term) Nagorno-Karabakh within Azerbaijan? Because the crimes perpetrated under Stalin give the Armenians a chance to present themselves as victims of the totalitarian regime and create the semblance of "fairness restored."

The Armenian authors and politicians who accuse Stalin of all misfortunes are fully aware of the truth about these dramatic sittings of the Caucasian Bureau of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.). Protocols No. 11 (the plenary session of the Caucasian Bureau of 4 July) and No. 12 (the 5 July session) provide an absolutely clear picture. Stalin, who was present at both sessions, said nothing about Karabakh. Protocol No. 8 of the plenary session of the Caucasian Bureau of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.) of 2 and 3 July is kept together with the protocols of 4 and 5 July in the same record group. Any impartial researcher will discover Stalin's name at the top of the list of those present at these plenums.82

It was Addendum to Protocol No. 8 that registered "the fact of the appearance of nationalist 'Communist' groups in the Communist organizations of the Transcaucasus, which were fairly strong in Georgia and Armenia and weak (in terms of their numbers and quality) in Azerbaijan."83

The results of the discussion of the Zangezur (3 June, 1921) and Nagorno-Karabakh (4-5 July) issues were caused by a wave of Communist nationalism in Armenia raised by the fact that the Moscow Treaty (March 1921) between Soviet Russia and Kemalist Turkey had registered the status of the Nakhchivan Region and the attempts of the Center to quench this wave. On 15 April, 1921, People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs of Armenia A. Bekzadyan (who headed the Armenian delegation at the Moscow talks) sent a long letter of protest to Chicherin in which he accused Soviet Russia of failing to protect the interests of the Armenians. The letter said: "The Armenian delegation finds it very important to point out that the Turkish delegation at the conference acted as a protector and defender of the Muslim population of the Transcaucasus and of the interests of Soviet Azerbaijan in particular."84 A. Bekzadyan was concerned about the fact that Turkey had managed to retain Nakhchivan, a border point of great importance for its safety in the east, within Azerbaijan. He deemed it necessary to stress that "the conference's decision on the Nakhichevan and Sharuro-Daralaghez issues deprived Armenia of the possibility of administering Zangezur, which belongs to it, in a normal way."85

Georgy Chicherin wrote a letter to Saak Ter-Gabrielyan, who represented the Soviet government of Armenia, informing him of the above, by saying that he was amazed by Bekzadyan's attempt to justify what the Armenian delegation had been doing at the Moscow conference and push the guilt onto the Russian delegation. He wrote that the Armenians with whom he had been com-

See: Protocol No. 12 of the plenary session of the Caucasian Bureau of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.).


82 See: Protocol No. 8 of the plenary session of the Caucasian Bureau of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.). 02-03.07.1921, RGASPI, rec. gr. 64, inv. 1, f. 1, sheets 87-88; Protocol No. 8 of the plenary session of the Caucasian Bureau of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.) with representatives of local party organizations and trade unions. 02-03.07.1921, RGASPI, rec. gr. 85, inv. 18, f. 59, sheet 14.

83 Protocol No. 8 of the plenary session of the Caucasian Bureau of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.) with representatives of local party organizations and trade unions. 02-03.07.1921, RGASPI, rec. gr. 85, inv. 18, f. 59, sheets 12, 14.

84 A. Bekzadyan's letter to G. Chicherin. 15.04.1921, AVP RF, rec. gr. 04, inv. 39, folder 232, f. 53001, sheets 58-59.

85 Ibid., sheet 62.


municating were well-aware of the conference's main aim and had never complained of its deci-sions.86 Chicherin sent a more or less similar telegram to Boris Legran in Tiflis, which said: "I strongly object to the way Bekzadyan is trying, first, to heap the guilt on the Russian delegation and, second, to purge the Armenian delegation of accusations in front of readers or listeners, of whom I know nothing, by distorting the facts and suppressing information of which the Armenian delegation was well aware."87

The Armenians resorted to blackmail of this sort to be able to take advantage of an opportune moment (in the context of the closed discussions of the Moscow Treaty) to appropriate Karabakh and pull the Center to their side. The Armenian leaders, who had remained silent at the Moscow Conference, suddenly formulated their claims to Soviet Russia; they obviously wanted Karabakh as a compensation of sorts. The Nagorno-Karabakh issue was discussed once more on 5 July at the insistence of Orjonikidze and Nazaretyan.

Some of the Armenian authors, however, wrote (for obvious reasons) that it was Narimanov, not Nazaretyan, who together with Orjonikidze put the question back on the agenda on 5 July.88 In their joint article, which appeared in Moscow, V. Zakharov and S. Sarkisyan revived the erroneous statement that Nagorno-Karabakh had not been transferred to Azerbaijan until 5 July and associated this decision with Stalin's name.89

It is a well-known fact, however, that Stalin had been in Tiflis since the end of June 1921. Why did Stalin come to Tiflis in late June 1921? Anyone seeking an answer should look at the documents of the plenary meeting of the C.C. C.P. (B.) of Georgia held on the same day as the plenum of the Caucasian Bureau of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.). On 7 July, the plenary meeting of the Caucasian Bureau, at which Stalin was also present, was still in session. It passed a decision to join the neutral zone between Armenia and Georgia to Armenia. The same day, its members, having discussed the question ofjoin-ing the area at Akhalkalaki and Khram to Armenia, transferred it to the C.C. C.P. (B.) of Georgia to be discussed at its next plenary meeting.

The documents show that the plenary meeting was held the same day and that it was attended by all the members of the Caucasian Bureau of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.) apart from Narimanov. The verbatim report registered that all members arrived at 11:00 a.m., while Stalin and Orjonikidze showed up later, at 12:25 a.m. The meeting first discussed the Batumi question and asked Stalin to inform them about his negotiations with the delegation of Ajaria. The second issue on the agenda was related to the statement Nariman Narimanov made at the meeting of the Caucasian Bureau of 5 July to the effect that the Muslim population of Georgia should be given more attention. The plenary meeting suggested that the C.C. C.P. (B.) of Georgia should entrust Omar Faig (Namanzade) with this task. The same day, the plenary meeting of the C.C. C.P. (B.) of Georgia discussed another point worded as On Setting up the Peoples' Commissariat for the Muslims of Georgia. The plenary meeting approved the idea and created a commission headed by Omar Faig (with Kavtaradze, Kvirkeli, and Tumanov as members) to discuss the organizational forms and functions of the new commissariat. The plenary meeting asked the C.C. C.P. (B.) of Azerbaijan to dispatch 3 or 4 Muslim communists to form the core of the new structure.

The plenary meeting also discussed two more issues on its agenda (On the Press and On the Cheka of Georgia) before moving on to the main issue which brought Stalin from Nalchik to Tiflis,

86 See: G. Chicherin's letter to Ter-Gabrielyan. 21.04.1921, AVP RF, rec. gr. 04, inv. 39, folder 232, f. 53001, sheet 63.

87 G. Chicherin's telegram to B. Legran. 22.04.1921, AVP RF, rec. gr. 04, inv. 39, folder 232, f. 53001, sheet 65.

88 See: G. Melik-Shakhnazarov, "Politizatsia istorii kak istochnik napryazheniya mezhnatsionalnykh otnosheniy,"

in: Mayendorfskaya deklaratsia 2 noyabrya 2008 goda i situatsiya vokrug Nagornogo Karabakha, Collection of articles, Moscow, 2008, p. 311.

89 See: V.A. Zakharov, S.T. Sarkisyan, "Azerbaidzhano-karabakhskiy konflikt: istoki i sovremennost," in: Mayendorfskaya deklaratsia 2 noyabrya 2008 goda i situastiya vokrug Nagornogo Karabakha, p. 221.


namely, changes in the leadership of Georgia. Chairman of the Revolutionary Committee of Georgia Philip Makharadze pursued a relatively independent policy; he clashed with Orjonikidze and, in general, was not a favorite with the C.C. C.P.R. (B.). Under the pretext of the far from simple situation in the country, Stalin suggested that he should be replaced by Budu Mdivani. The majority (6 votes "for" and 4 abstentions; together with the votes cast by the members of the Caucasian Bureau, 9 votes "for" and 4 abstentions) made Budu Mdivani head of the Revolutionary Committee of Georgia.

For many years, Armenian and some Russian historians looked in vain for Karabakh's impact on this situation. Stalin, however, came to Georgia to replace more or less independent Philip Ma-kharadze, who had quarreled with Orjonikidze, with more pliable Budu Mdivani. In November 1921, Orjonikidze raised the question of removing Makharadze not only from Georgia but from the Caucasus on the whole. On 2 November, he wrote to Lenin and Stalin once more: "Philip should be immediately removed from the Caucasus."

In mid-August 1921, when talking on the phone to Orjonikidze, Alexander Myasnikov said that treatment of the Karabakh issue in Armenia had become more or less loyal.90

On 19 July, 1921, after discussing the decision of the Caucasian Bureau of 5 July and N. Nar-imanov's trip to Tiflis, the Presidium of the CEC of Azerbaijan ruled that "Nagorno-Karabakh remains an inalienable part of Soviet Azerbaijan with the right to internal self-administration within the Soviet Constitution with the regional Executive Committee as its governing body."91 Moreover, in his report, Narimanov spoke about the administrative borders between Azerbaijan and its Transcau-casian neighbors and informed that Nagorno-Karabakh remained an inalienable part of Soviet Azerbaijan within the Soviet Constitution with the right to self-administration. On 20 July, the day after the meeting of the Presidium of the CEC of Azerbaijan and after hearing what Aligeidar Karaev had to say about the situation in Karabakh, the Politburo and Orgburo of the C.C. Az.C.P. (B.) decided to set up a commission of representatives of the people's commissariats of internal affairs, justice, and foreign affairs to draft a constitution of the autonomous region.92

The decisions of the Caucasian Bureau of 5 July began to be implemented in the first days of August. On 1 August, 1921, an extraordinary Congress of the Soviets of the 2nd Part of the Shusha Uezd was held in the village of Kendhurt. L. Mirzoyan, who was invited to represent the Council of People's Commissars, delivered a report in which he proved that economically, spiritually, politically, and ethnically Karabakh was closely connected with Baku as the center of Azerbaijan. He described the decision of the Caucasian Bureau to set up an administrative unit subordinated directly to Baku in the mountainous part of Karabakh as absolutely correct93 and promised that with the establishment of an autonomy all the problems would be resolved. On his return, Mirzoyan supplied a detailed report in which he wrote, in particular, that the Karabakh issue had been created (and fanned) by top party and Soviet officials, on the one hand, and by the Armenian nationalist-minded intelligentsia, on the other.94

After 5 July, it was rumored that the Armenians had been evicted from Karabakh to Armenia (L. Mirzoyan mentioned in his report that the rumors were started by nationalist-minded Armenians); gradually this "information" reached the Caucasian Bureau of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.). It should be said

90 See: A. Myasnikov's talk with G. Orjonikidze by direct telephone line. August 1921, RGASPI, rec. gr. 85, inv. 18, f. 177, sheet 4.

91 Protocol of a sitting of the CEC of Azerbaijan. 19.07.1921, RGASPI, rec. gr. 64, inv. 1, f. 31, sheet 122.

92 See: Protocol No. 22 of the meeting of the Political and Organizational Bureau of the C.C. C.P. (B.) of Azerbaijan. 20.07.1921. APD UDP AR, rec. gr. 1, inv. 2, f. 18, sheet 94; RGASPI, rec. gr. 64, inv. 1, f. 92, sheet 51.

93 See: Protocol of the extraordinary Congress of the Soviets of the 2nd Part of the Shusha Uezd. 01.08.1921, APD UDP AR, rec. gr. 1, inv. 2, f. 18, sheets 120-120rev.

94 See: Report by L. Mirzoyan at the C.C. Az.C.P. (Copy to the Caucasian Bureau of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.)) about his trip to the mountainous part of Karabakh. 03.08.1921, RGASPI, rec. gr. 64, inv. 1, f. 95, sheet 3rev.


that all those who were displeased with the decisions of the Caucasian Bureau of 5 July acted through Kirov (when he was elected First Secretary of the C.C. of the Community Party of Azerbaijan). In August 1921, Secretary of the Caucasian Bureau Figatner wrote to Kirov that allegedly after the decision of the Caucasian Bureau of 5 July to keep Nagorno-Karabakh within Azerbaijan, "many Armenian villages were moved from Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia."95 After receiving this information, Kirov immediately asked Karaev and Mirzoyan (who were in Karabakh) to clarify it. They answered that there was an opposite trend: in the first months of Sovietization of Azerbaijan Muslims started moving away from Karabakh to other places.

The decision of the Caucasian Bureau on an autonomous status for the mountainous part of Karabakh forced the Center to closely follow the relevant developments. In a letter to Sergey Kirov, First Secretary of the C.C. Az.C.P. (B.), dated 22 May, 1922, Stalin wrote the following with a great deal of sarcasm: "They say that Fonstein, a "native" of Karabakh, represents it in the Central Executive Committee of Azerbaijan."96 In his letter dated 18 June, Kirov explained to Stalin that he had been deluded and listed the members who represented Karabakh at the CEC.97 At the same time, the Center was playing into the hands of the Armenians; it tried to prevent subordination of the party organization of Karabakh to the Communist Party of Azerbaijan. On 1 August, 1922, however, Kirov and Matyushin, who headed the organizational department of C.C. Az.C.P. (B.), telegraphed to Moscow: "The territory of Karabakh is part of Azerbaijan, while its party organization is part of the Az.C.P."98

On 7 July, 1923, the Central Executive Committee of Azerbaijan crowned three years of preparatory work with a decree on setting up the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region (NKAR) as part of the Republic of Azerbaijan. This is how the struggle over the territorial affiliation of Nagorno-Karabakh which began in the first years of Soviet power in the Transcaucasus ended. On 27 May, 1924, Nariman Narimanov wrote the following to Stalin: "Under Mirzoyan's strong pressure, Nagorno-Karabakh was made an autonomous region. I was not able to accomplish this, not because I was against the autonomy, but because the Armenian peasants themselves did not want this. Meanwhile, Mirzoyan, assisted by the Dashnak teachers, tilled the soil and pushed the decision through the Transcaucasian Territorial Committee."99 He knew that the trouble for Azerbaijan did not stop there; he predicted that the autonomy of Nagorno-Karabakh was the beginning of a future tragedy.

By Way of a Conclusion

Back in the 19th century, Alexander Griboedov, a Russian diplomat and poet, wrote: "We ... have been holding forth long enough about how to convince the Muslims to accept their current problems as not lasting forever and how to eradicate their fears that Armenians will seize the land on which they were allowed to settle temporarily."100 The fears proved justified: the Armenians put down roots in the Azeri lands and eventually became hostile toward the true owners of the land. At one time, Ilya Chavchavadze addressed the Armenians who found shelter in Georgia: "Whether we

95 Information supplied by Secretary of the Caucasian Bureau of the C.C. R.C.P. (B.) Figatner to Kirov. August 1921, APD UDP AR, rec. gr. 1, inv. 129, f. 107, sheet 58.

96 Stalin's letter about the situation in the Communist Party of Azerbaijan and the representative of Karabakh in the CEC of Azerbaijan. 22.05.1922, RGASPI, rec. gr. 558, inv. 11, f. 746, sheet 1.

97 See: S. Kirov's confidential letter to Stalin. 18.06.1922, RGASPI, rec. gr. 558, inv. 11, f. 746, sheet 2.

98 Telegram sent by Kirov and Matyushin to the C.C. R.C.P. (B.). 01.08.1922, RGASPI, rec. gr. 80, inv. 25, f. 2, sheet 1.

99 N. Narimanov, K istorii nashey revolutsii v okrainakh (Pismo I.V. Stalinu), Baku, 1990, p. 59.

100 A.S. Griboedov, Sochinenia v dvukh tomakh, Vol. 2, Moscow, 1971, pp. 340-341.


had a lot or not we gave you shelter, put a roof over your heads, and befriended you. Don't treat us as enemies in our own home!"101 Throughout the 20th century, the Azeris deeply regretted the hospitality with which they treated the Armenians. In the last two decades, this regret has become even more agonizing.

I. Chavchavadze, Armianskie uchenia i vopiiushchie kamni, Tiflis, 1902, p. 123.

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