«Edgar Elbakyan Edgar Elbakyan: Yerevan State University, Armenia. Email: elbakyan.edgar Abstract: The current research aims at proposing a ...»
On the 24th of August, the British mission abandoned Karabakh [Abrahamian, 22]. On the 19th of February, 1920 Sultanov made it clear that hence he disregarded the soon-to-be Peace Conference and the issue of Karabakh should be settled on his own. He urged the National Council to convene a new gathering to recognize the Azerbaijani supremacy. However, the eight Congress of Armenians of Karabakh, gathered in Shosh village, declined Sultanov’s demand and once again announced about reunification with Republic of Armenia [Harutyunyan, 2013, 38]. According to his plan (see above), Sultanov decided to subdue Armenians by military means. He received reinforcement from Baku via Jebrayil of 90 wagons of arms and ammunition. In March and April a full-scale war took place over almost the entire territory of Karabakh. Azerbaijanis seized the opportunity and devastated the Armenian town of Shushi, killing almost 8000 civilians. This phase of Armenian-Azerbaijani war in Karabakh was crucial, since for the first time Republic of Armenia officially marched its armed forces to Karabakh (April 14, 1920). The republican forces led by Drastamat Kanayan defeated Azerbaijanis and besieged Sultanov in Shushi [Ibid., 40-41]. The ninth Congress of Armenians of Karabakh reiterated the decision of the people to reunite with Republic of Armenia.
The rise of Russia after the collapse of the Russian Empire and Russian Civil War as well as the national rehabilitation of Turkey under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal abruptly changed the balance of power between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Unlike Azerbaijan, Armenian lost its national and military capacity during the last phase of its existence. In late September, 1920, Turkey attacked Armenia. During the Turkish-Armenian war the latter lost half of its territory and militia. Also on the 29 th of November, when the Turkish-Armenian war was still officially continuing, the Red Army invaded Armenia and proclaimed a communist rule in the country. After Azerbaijan, Armenia was the second Transcaucasian country which lost its sovereignty, However, Armenia also lost its economic and military potential – the essential tools to run national policy.
The Soviet Russia took the first step in modern times to find a legal solution to the Karabakh issue (i.e.
which country it should belong to). The Bolsheviks created a seven-member committee, the Caucasus International Journal of Social Sciences Vol. 3/No. 5/special issue/2014 Bureau (typically referred to as the Kavburo). Under the supervision of the People's Commissar for Nationalities, the future Soviet ruler Joseph Stalin, the Kavburo was tasked to head up matters in the Caucasus. On 4 July 1921 the committee voted 4–3 in favor of allocating Karabakh to the newly created Soviet Socialist Republic of Armenia but a day later the Kavburo reversed its decision and voted to leave the region within Azerbaijan SSR.
4. The eruption of the frozen conflict: from Soviet times to modern days:
The Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (NKAO) was created in 1923, leaving it with a population that was 94% Armenian. The reversal was substantiated with the economic connections the region had with Azerbaijan. The capital was moved from the devastated city of Shushi to Khankend, which was later renamed as Stepanakert. NKAO was formed on a smaller part of the mountainous part of Karabakh. The districts joining Karabakh with the Armenian heartland were cut from Karabakh and directly subdued to Azerbaijan. Until 1926 Armenia and NKAO had land communication via the city of Lachin (formerly Avdallar), however, later Azerbaijan put it under its jurisdiction. During the Soviet times Azerbaijani policy was aimed at a) cutting the territory of NKAO; b) forcing Armenians of NKAO to abandon their living places, c) azerbaijanize NKAO. The Armenian villages of Harar and Hogher were taken from Hadrut province, NKAO and left to Kubatlu and Fuzuli districts of Azerbaijan. The Armenian village of Gyulabli, Martuni, NKAO was forcibly joined to the district of Agdam. The Armenian population of Lesnoy and Jamillu villages was deported to Stepanakert: the villages were subsequently resettled by Azerbaijanis. For 65 years of the NKAO's existence, the Karabakh Armenians were the object of various restrictions on the part of Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijani authorities deliberately severed the ties between the oblast and Armenia and pursued a policy of cultural de-Armenization in the region, of planned Azerbaijani settlement, squeezing the Armenian population out of the NKAO and neglecting its economic needs. The census of 1979 showed that the general number of inhabitants of Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region was counted as 162,200 persons, from them 123,100 Armenians (75.9%) and 37,300 Azerbaijanis (22.9%). In addition to that, it is noteworthy that until 1980 in Nagorno-Karabakh 85 Armenian villages (30%) have been liquidated and none at all Azerbaijani. Moreover, NKAO was in the leading position with the amount of people affected with cancer which can be explained by a hypothesis that Azerbaijani authorities deliberately contaminated the rivers flowing to NKAO from the adjacent western districts [Babayan, 2006, 169-172].
During the Soviet times, in 1963 Armenians wrote a petition to the First Secretary of the Communist Party, Nikita Khrushchev, while in 1965 another document was sent to the Central Committee, this time with 45,000 signatures. In 1966, the Secretariat of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union accepted a decision that tasked Armenia’s and Azerbaijan’s Central Committees with a joint discussion of the issue. In 1977 the Karabakh issue was once again in the spotlight as part of discussions over the USSR’s new constitution. However, no solution emerged because of the Azerbaijani sabotage.
With the beginning of the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the question of Nagorno-Karabakh re-emerged. On February 20, 1988, NKAO weighed up the results of an unofficial referendum on the reattachment of Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia, held in the form of a petition signed by 80,000 people. On the basis of that referendum, the session of the Soviet Oblast of Nagorno-Karabakh adopted the appeals to the Supreme Soviets of the USSR, Azerbaijan and Armenia, asking them to authorize the secession of Karabakh from Azerbaijan and its attachment to Armenia. Azerbaijan retaliated by organizing pogroms in Sumgayit and Baku. Some skirmishes also took place in Armenia, however immeasurable with the death toll of Sumgayit and Baku massacres. During the first 2-3 years of the conflict Armenians, residing in Azerbaijan, and Azerbaijanis/Turkic speaking peoples, residing in International Journal of Social Sciences Vol. 3/No. 5/special issue/2014 Armenia, abandoned the country of residence. The non-violent phase of the conflict lasted no more than half a year and soon after the emergence of the Armenian movement, Azerbaijani then authorities with the help of the Soviet Internal Security Forces and OMON, launched a military attack towards the Armenian population in Karabakh intending to disarm the local Armenian self-defense militia detachments and uproot the Armenian livings in the given region. The active phase of the conflict, i.e.
war of national liberation of Karabakh Armenians against the newly independent Azerbaijani Republic began on 1991. The battlefield of the war was in and outside the territory of NKAO. The kernel and internal logics of the war was the following – Azerbaijanis were using their settlements inside and outside NKAO as a stronghold for launching ground and air attacks, Armenians were counter-attacking, taking those territories under their control. Short-term cease-fires were used by the sides for the reallocation of the forces, after which Azerbaijan used to continue offensives. Besides, Azerbaijan again resorted to the long-tested strategy, that is – blockading the roads of Karabakh and trying to annihilate and/or deport the Armenian population of the region (see above). In the beginning of the war, Azerbaijanis had concentrated large ammount of militia and ammunition in Shushi, the stronghold of Karabakh having a dominating position over Stepanakert. By early 1992 the bombing intensified. In a course of one week the city was bombed with over 1,000 shells (800 of which were reactive shells). This left 20 civilians dead.
Altogether, over 2,000 civilians were killed and thousands more injured in the bombardment in 1992;
moreover, the city's infrastructure was completely severed with the destruction of sewage networks, water pipes, gas and electricity. On April 27, the Armenian military leaders' plans were approved to move in and capture the town. On the 8th of May, the Armenian troops took control of Shushi, the Azerbaijani militia and the local population abandoned the city, mostly fleeing to Lachin. Secondly, Armenians gained control over Lachin itself, thus enabling to establish a land communication between Armenia and the enclave of NKAO. Armenians also attacked and took control over the small vilages neighboring Stepanakert and Askeran or lying on the strategically important roadways. In March-April, 1993 Armenians advanced on the north-western part of the front, seizing the territory of the Kelbejer district, located between Armenia and western boundaries of NKAO. The capture of Kelbejer enabled Armenians to decrease the line of front and create the second “corridor” for Armenia to send humanitarian and military aid. On 23 July, after several attacks, Armenians established a full military control over the city of Agdam, which was historically served as a military outpost to attack the Armenian villages of Varanda (Martuni) and Khachen (Askeran, Stepanakert/Khankend). Azerbaijanis continued ground military offensive from the territories of Fizuli, Jebrayil, Zengilan and Kubatlu districts, located on the south and southwestern parts of the former NKAO. The liquidation of the Azerbaijani military camps in Zengilan and Kubatlu had a strategic importance for both Armenia (Zangezur province) and Karabakh, since those regions were used to bomb the cities of Kapan and Goris as well as “Lachin corridor”. Besides, the takeover of the districts of Zengilan, Jebrayil and Fizuli (partly), neighboring with Iran through the river of Araks, once again enabled the war-torn Armenia (including Karabakh) to shorten the line of contact between the warring sides. During the summer and autumn of 1993 Armenians seized control over those territories. The local Azerbaijani and Kurdish population was everywhere given a free pass from their living spaces turned into battlefields by the Azerbaijani government. Azerbaijani leader Heydar Aliyev tried to regain the lost districts during the winter offensive of 1993-1994. The main target was the mountainous district of Kelbejer, adjacent to the Lachin corridor. However, Azerbaijanis failed in it.
The war was conluded by the Armistice agreement reached on 12 May, 1994. It is generally observed until now. No territorial or demographic exchange has been made between the sides.
The OSCE Minsk Group is delegated the mandate to provide a multilaterally acceptable peaceful resolution for both sides. The negotiations so far proved a little success, though they are an effective tool in keeping the fragile peace in the front line. Currently, negotiations are held on the basis of the Madrid proposals represented by co-chairs in November, 2007. The Madrid Principles are the following
- Withdrawal of Armenian forces from the regions surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh (i.e. former NKAO – E.E.);
- Definition of an interim status for Nagorno-Karabakh Republic;
- Resettlement of these regions with Azerbaijani refugees;
- Provision of an overland link connecting Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia through the Lachin corridor;
- Conduct of a referendum on the final status of Nagorno-Karabakh in some undefined, future date;
- Return of Azerbaijani refugees to the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh itself [Babajanyan, 2013].
These principles carry the outdated logic of the early phase of the current conflict. The foundations of those proposals were laid in 1992, when the war was not ended and the balance of power was different.
Moreover, the Armenian side was a newly-independent nation and had to yield at the negotiations.
The current study comes to prove that the (Nagorno-)Karabakh conflict is a much more complicated conflict and had emerged long before 1921 or 1988.
- Demographic dimension: Transcaucasia is a region connecting the East and West, South and North. Because of its strategic importance it was invaded by different tribes and rulers throughout the history. The Turkic tribes invaded Armenia, including Artsakh-Karabakh at the time of country’s feudal disunity. The interference of nomadic tribes, wielding a fresh military and demographic power, changed the normal chain of events. The demographic changes were usually initiated by the foreign rulers who had been occupied the region. For example, from 1604 Shah Abbas implemented a "scorched earth" policy in the region to protect his north-western frontier against any invading Ottoman forces, a policy that involved the forced resettlement of around 300,000 Armenians from their homelands. Next rulers of Persia used to forcibly draw Kurdish tribes to the provinces of Karabakh, adjacent to Syunik-Zangezur, with a general intention to avoid the unification of two Armenian princedoms under one title. As a result of this shifts, as well as high grade of fertility among the Muslim communities, compared to the Christian Armenians, the demographic balance was shifted against Armenians.