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Claims to the Armenian lands

The Russian Revolution of 1917 put an end to czarist administrative division of Caucasus. In March of 1918, the Armenian, Georgian and Moslem leaders of Caucasus united to form an independent multiethnic Transcaucasian Confederation. The Confederation was, however, shortly dissolved, due to strong divergences between the tree peoples. The complete evacuation of Russian armies left the entire region defenseless in the face of the Turkish aggression.
On May 27, the Moslem deputies of the Confederation proclaimed a Musavatist Republic of Azerbaijan. The new Turkish state immediately laid claims to the entire territory of the former Elizavetopol Guberniya. Nun Pasha, commander of Ottoman forces, made an ultimatum to the Armenians of Karabakh to submit to Azerbaijan. In August, the Congress of Armenians of Karabakh unanimously rejected the ultimatum.

The Turkish invasion in Baku and Shushi
In September 1918, the Turkish forces invaded Baku, unleashing ruthless massacres of the peaceful Armenian population. Afterwards, the Turkish army entered Shushi. The war was impending, as the army of Armenian volunteers led by General Andranik approached Karabakh for help. However, General Thompson, British Commander of Caucasus stopped Andranik, promising to solve the problem during the Paris Peace Conference. In the summer of 1919, leaning on the British guaranty and trying to gain time and prevent the massacres, the 7th Congress of Armenians of Karabakh temporarily recognized the authority of Azerbaijan pending the final decision of the Paris Peace Conference.

Shushi destroyed

However, shortly thereafter Britain began the withdrawal of its forces from Caucasus. The Paris Conference gave no result. Getting carte blanche for a definitive capture of Karabakh, the General Sultanov appointed governor of Karabakh presented a new ultimatum, demanding immediate attachment of Karabakh to Azerbaijan. Armenians rejected the ultimatum again.
In March 1920, after fierce fighting the Turkish forces invaded Shushi. Some 20,000 Armenians were killed and the city was burned to the ground. The arriving of the Armenian forces rescued the rest of population from the total annihilation.
On April 23, 1920 the 9th Congress of Armenians of Karabakh proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh an integral part of Armenia.

Bolsheviks in Armenia

The situation changed again after the Russian Red Army annexed Azerbaijan. On April 28, 1920 Azerbaijan became a Soviet Republic. Now the Republic of Armenia began receiving ultimatums from both Soviet Azerbaijan and Russia to withdraw Armenian troops from Karabakh and Zanguezour. In May 1920, Karabakh was Sovietized by the 11th Red Army. However, the region remained independent de facto, for the Soviet Government declared it a "contestable" territory.
Meanwhile, the Republic of Armenia, facing both Turkish and Bolshevik aggressions was next to the total destruction. Despite numerous resolutions and agreements, such as the Treaty of Sevres, bounding Turkey to return the Armenian lands, the Armenian government could not expect physical help from anywhere. On November 29, 1920 the power in Armenia was transferred to the Bolsheviks, and the country became a Soviet Republic. Surprisingly, on the next day a telegram was sent from the government of the Soviet Azerbaijan to the new Armenian government, declaring Karabakh, Nakhichevan and Zanguezour integral parts of the newborn Armenian Soviet Republic. This telegram was signed by Azerbaijan's Bolshevik leaders Narimanov and Guseinov, who urged to "communicate the decision of Azerbaijan to the fraternal Armenian people".

Karabakh and Nakhichevan annexed

Soon afterwards, however, the Turkish and Russian leaders were able to reach understanding upon carve-up Armenia. The year 1921 brought tragic territorial losses for Armenia. The Treaty of Moscow (March 1921), the Treaty of Kars (October 1921), and plenary sessions of the Caucasian Office of Russian Communist Party (June-July 1921) tore away historical lands from Armenia, reducing its territories thrice. With the stroke of a pen, Nakhichevan and Nagorno-Karabakh were forcibly attached to the Soviet Azerbaijan.

Autonomy formed

The autonomous region of Nagorno-Karabakh was formed on July 7, 1923. The map of the historical Artsakh was then systematically redrawn and some of its parts were cut off and included in the neighboring regions of the Azerbaijan Republic. For example, Gulistan became Shahumian region, Guetashen and Martunashen went to Khanlar region, and even Dadivank monastery found itself beyond the formal borders of Artsakh. Moreover, the Soviet power intentionally annexed and attached to Azerbaijan what are now Kaelbajar and Lachin regions, and so Karabakh was entirely cut off from Armenia and became an enclave.

"History of Azerbaijan" created

During the decades of Soviet rule, the Armenians of Artsakh repeatedly protested against the policy of barefaced discrimination and persecutions. Planning to change the ethnic structure of population, the government of Azerbaijan tried all ways to impede economic development of the region, and also pursued severe discrimination in cultural realm. Many Armenian schools and establishments ceased to exist, and the Armenian newspapers and periodicals were shut down. Out of more than 200 active Armenian churches no one was allowed to function. At the same, time both of the two mosques built in Shushi in the late 19th century functioned freely.
From 1936, a new concept of "Azerbaijanis" or "Azeris" was brought into general use in the Soviet Union. Before that, what is now Azeri was simply called Turk or Caucasian Tatar. Stalin ordered the Soviet historians to create the "history of Azerbaijan". As a result, many of the Armenian cultural-historical monuments in Karabakh were then destroyed or shamelessly declared belonging to the Azerbaijani heritage.

Armenian protests

Aghasi Khanjian, leader of Communist Party of Armenia tried to raise the Armenian grievances before Stalin. He was later shot dead by the odious Beria. Then a campaign of purges launched by Stalin swept hundreds of local leaders and activists in Artsakh. In 1945, Arutiunov, Secretary of Communist Party of Armenia wrote a letter to Stalin, asking for reunification of Artsakh with Armenia, but without result.
The next wave of mass protestations in 1965-1967 was suppressed by Azerbaijani government. Hundreds of Armenian activists were arrested on charges of nationalism and some of them were murdered in prisons. Despite the promises, the Soviet government shelved the issue for an indefinite time. In 1975, Kochynian, leader of Soviet Armenia was made scapegoat and removed from his post. The protest demonstrations continued under the next Armenian leader Karin Demirchyan.

By 1986-1987, the economic and cultural oppression against the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh culminated, making their life conditions intolerable. The declarations made by Gorbachev about the democratization of Soviet society, inspired the Armenians. During the entire year of 1987, mass demonstrations and public rallies took place throughout Artsakh. Over 80 000 inhabitants of Artsakh signed a petition demanding the reunification with Armenia. In February 1988, the deputies of Nagorno-Karabakh adopted a document to the parliaments of Azerbaijan and Armenia. At the same time, an unprecedented movement of support began in Armenia. The general strikes, marches and meetings paralyzed the life in both Armenia and Artsakh. The Armenian Diaspora throughout the world enthusiastically supported the people of Artsakh as well.

Beginning of violence
However, both Soviet and Azerbaijani governments firmly opposed to the idea of reunification of Armenia and Artsakh. The Soviet functionaries openly blackmailed the Armenian officials and community leaders, making it clear that the large Armenian population in Azerbaijan might become target of future irregularities.
On February 22, 1988 Azeri mobs marched from Aghdam to Stepanakert to punish the Armenians. The bloodshed was prevented. Yet 6 days later, the unparalleled bloody riots took place in the city of Sumgayit, near Baku. During the 3 days of bloodthirsty pogroms, dozens of innocent Armenians were killed, injured and raped while their apartments were ransacked and set to fire. The Soviet Army intervened on the forth day.

Special Administrations in Artsakh

On June 18, 1988 a session of Supreme Council of USSR convened in Moscow to solve the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. Following the decision of Gorbachev, a special administration directly subordinate to Moscow was set in Stepanakert. However, the situation even worsened, as Azerbaijan established a severe blockade of Armenia and Artsakh. The region was isolated from the rest of the world, and the Armenian population was on the verge of starvation.
In November of 1989, Gorbachev abolished the special administration and formed the Organizational Committee of Nagorno-Karabakh. In fact, the new ukase returned the region under the Azeri jurisdiction. In response to that, a joint session of deputies of Armenia and Artsakh adopted a document proclaiming the reunification of Armenia and Artsakh.

© ArmenianHistory.info

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