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Establishment of NKAA

The decision of the Caucasian Bureau caused ambiguous reaction in Azerbaijan. On 19 July 1921, having approved the decision of the Caucasian Bureau to leave Nagorny Karabakh in the territory of Azerbaijan, the leaders of the local communist party were careful on the issue of granting autonomy, fearing that that would have difficult consequences in the future. On 26 September 1921, the Politburo of the CC Communist Party of Azerbaijan decided: “To ask the Caucasian Bureau to reconsider its decision on the separation of Nagorny Karabakh: henceforth not to announce autonomy before that”.

A month later, on 21 October, the conference of communists of Nagorny Karabakh also came forward against providing the region with the autonomy. The delay of the issue of granting Nagorny Karabakh autonomy 15 months later forced the communists of the South Caucasus to return again to the Karabakh problem on 27 October 1922 and to demand that the CC of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan implement the decision of the Caucasian Bureau dated 5 July 1921. Only later, on 15 December 1922, was the commission on that issue established.

However, resistance to Nariman Narimanov who, according to his own words, “was against that autonomy just because Armenian-peasants did not want that themselves” lay ahead (100). O nly after Narimanov was transferred to work in Moscow beginning in January 1923, did the situation in Azerbaijan suddenly change. On 27 June 1923, it was decided in a session of the plenum of the Transcaucasian District Committee of RCP (b) to charge the new leadership of the communist party of Azerbaijan with solving the issue of granting Nagorny Karabakh autonomy in a one month period. Already on 1 July 1923, the leadership of the communist party of Azerbaijan passed the corresponding decision and on 7 July 1923 the government of the republic passed a decree to establishment an autonomous area (NKAA) with the center in K hankendi from the Armenian part of Nagorny Karabakh.

A week later, on 16 July, the leadership of the communist party of Azerbaijan again returned to that issue and made a decision to expand the territories of NKAA, including Shusha and a number of the low- lying lands of Karabakh in it. Finally, on 18 September of the same year, 1923, it was decided in a session of the Karabakh regional committee of Azerbaijan to rename the administrative center of the NKAA from K hankendi to Stepanakert in the honor of Stepan Shaumyan.

Deportations of Azeris from Armenia from 1948-1952

The establishment of soviet power in Armenia and Azerbaijan did not remove the Karabakh issue from the agenda, but simply transferred it into another level. That was explained by the fact that the idea “of Great Armenia from sea to sea,” the active propaganda of the Dashnaks, at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries still existed and had many supporters in Armenia, which was by that time communist. It was natural, as many generations of Armenians were brought up on that idea. That is why in 1923, Kachaznuni, one of the leaders of the Dashnaks, openly declared to his companions- in-arms in the party: “Dashnaktsutun led the Armenian issue and brought the political release of the Armenian people to a certain point. From here to the next point Bolshevik-Armenians should lead it… Bolshevik-Armenians are Dashnaktsakans per se, the only Dashnaktsakans today, and there are more Dashnaktsakans than me and you” (101).

The experienced politician was well aware of the psychology of his nation, as if he foresaw the future. In fact, to begin with, in the 30s the leadership of the communist party of

Armenia began a campaign to replace Azeri geographic names in the republic with Armenian ones. Most important during that time was the decision of the Supreme Council of Armenia dated 3 January 1935, according to which 51 Azeri names of villages we re Armenised within the republic. Afterwards, particularly between 1946 and 1952, as well as from the 60s to the 80s, that campaign took on a multi-dimensional character and, by the beginning of the Karabakh conflict in 1988, more than 600 Azeri toponyms were Armenised. That was an intentional policy of the leadership of Armenia to do away with the evidence of the Azeri presence in the region.

After that, a downturn in the Azeri population, and that of the Muslim Kurds came. An excuse for that soon appeared: immediately after the end of the World War II, a movement to return to the homeland developed in many foreign Armenian colonies. Mainly because of Anastas Mikoyan Stalin highly regarded that, and in November 1945, he gave his agreement to organize the repatriation of foreign Armenians to Soviet Armenia. As at the beginning of 1946 the number of those wishing to return to Armenia had already reached 130 thousand people, a Committee under the government of the republic to accept and place the repatriated Armenians was established (102).

Taking advantage of that, Grigoriy Arutyunov, the acting head of the communist party of Armenia at that time, in November 1945 applied to Stalin with a letter in which he raised the issue of including NKAA in the territories of Armenia in the capacity of Karabakh area (103). On the instructions of Stalin, secretary of the CC UCPB (b) Malenkov sent an inquiry to the secretary of the communist party of Azerbaijan Mir Jafar Baghirov about the proposal of Arutyunov. Bagirov offered another decision; namely a territorial exchange: the whole territory of the NKAA besides the Shusha district populated mainly by Azeries would be passed to Armenia. In lieu thereof, three districts of Armenia bordering on Azerbaijan and populated mainly by Azeries would pass to Azerbaijan.

Such an alteration obviously did not suit the Armenians and that is why they preferred to pull the issue of NKAA from the agenda and, before that, to finally solve the “Azeri issue” in Armenia itself. For that the leadership of Armenia found the support of Stalin. O n 10 March 1948, Resolution N 754 of the Council of Ministers of the USSR “Concerning events on the resettlement of collective farmers and other Azeri population from Armenian SSR to K ura- Araxes lowland of Azerbaijan SSR” was signed by the hand of the “father of the people.” According to it, over a period of 3 years more than 100,000 people would be resettled “of their own accord” from five mountain districts of Armenia – Azizbekov, Yekhegnadzor, Sisian, Ved in (later renamed in Ararat district), Basa rkechar (later – Vardenis) – to the waterless Mil-Mugan steppe. Meanwhile, according to the plan, 10,000 Azeries were planned for the first year, 40,000 in 1949 and 50,000 in the next year. According to the resolution, all this was carried out in order to increase the population of those districts of Azerbaijan where … the pat grew. However, the real reason was explained in point number 11 of the resolution: “To permit the Council of Ministers of the Armenian SSR to use the buildings and dwellings released by Azeri population ….for the settlement of foreign Armenians who arrived in the Armenian SSR” (104).

Thus, already for the third time in the twentieth century, the exile of Azeris as well as Kurds from Armenia began. This time, it was organized under the control of state structures and concluded with Stalin‟s death. In fact, by early 1953 the number of the forcibly resettled freight- car Azeris and K urds reached the number of 150,000 people. As it was impossible to settle all of them in the steppe districts, some of them were placed in new cities – Sumgayit and Mingechaur-that were under construction at that period of time. Thus, a time-bomb was placed that would explode in forty years in Sumgayit.


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