Obshaya Gazeta (Moscow), May 30, 1998.
Re-published in: Bakinskiy Rabochiy (Baku), June 6, 1998.
Keep On Dividing Into Ours And Outsiders.
Azerbaijanis were also exposed to genocide.
By: Grigory Volinski,
Candidate of Historical Sciences.
This thought is not as disputable as it is unusual. It is accustomed to consider other nations to be victims of genocide. And so much of absolute truth crushed down when it became possible to evoke facts that have been hid in the archives for a long time as x-files. The history of Azerbaijan is as tragic as the history of its neighbor: recently, regarding this, president Heydar Aliyev has signed a decree about the genocide of Azerbaijanis. But these papers were condemned by the Armenian official government, which had been under a strong impact of the radical party "Dashnaksutun" lately. And this is my opinion: it is immoral to divide nation according to whether they have suffered more or less, and it is immoral to try to usurp the right on grief and search for sympathy towards it.
35 years ago Azerbaijan celebrated jubilee of the Russian-Iranian Gulistan Peace Treaty. The holiday was called "The 150-th anniversary of Azerbaijan's annexation to Russia". The posters glued all over the walls of the houses in Baku showed us two girls smiling and hugging each other, standing against the background of the farm field: a blue-eyed blond in a red sarafan* and a tall brunet in a white and blue national dress -nimtane. Kumach's* slogans were glorifying the Russian-Azeri friendship; television and movie theaters were demonstrating the picture "Bakhtiyar", where the young hero was singing in a pretty good alto: "Russia-I am your native son"; at the banquets Nicholas Podgorni was dancing "lezginka"* together with the members of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan and the guests from the rest of the brother republics. And only the main thing was missing - an attempt to explain impartially why the leaders of the largest nation of Transcaucasus annexed it to Russia.
But the choice was realized. Azerbaijanis, who belonged to the Shiite branch of Islam religion could not strive for the power of Ottoman sultan- sacred head of Sunni Moslems. The Turkish roots and language were an obstacle to the complete integration into the Persian society.
And on the other hand, the power of the Russian czar, - absolute in eastern way and strong, enlightened in western way- seemed to be the sample of power and justice to many Azeri khans, who declared themselves the vassals of the Russian czar.
The aristocracy of Azerbaijan looking forward to becoming a part of the ruling class of Russia, actively began getting accustomed to the European civilization. Beys, who received officer ranks in the Russian Army started speaking French, and even more, they wrote poems and plays in this language. The Russian service men and diplomats, who were the best Orientalists of that time, considered the new citizen of the country a constructive element for Russia. And they complained of the fact that the officials of the citizenship administration, who were replacing the service men, didn't know Islam and were discriminating Moslems in their rights.
Petersburg did not worry about the loyalty of Azerbaijanis until the moment, when Russia added Yerevan and Nakhchivan khanates, that bordered Turkey. These territories populated by Azerbaijanis and bordering the enemy nation-state seemed dangerous to strategists, who did not realize the essence of the Sunni-Shiite contradictions. The top level of the Russian ruling class worked out a plan of populating the strap of land between Azerbaijanis and Turks by representatives of other faith, that is Armenians. This idea was especially defended by a Russian diplomat of Armenian origin colonel Lazarev. He stated that Armenians needed "to be returned to Yerevan, Nakhchivan and Karabakh, from where their ancestors were forced to flee to Turkey and Persia". Alexander Griboyedov*, who knew the history of the region, named these statements absolutely groundless and appealed to explained Azerbaijanis that Armenians would be migrated to their lands temporarily. But soon Griboyedov perished in Persia...
General Paskevich was one of the supporters of the Russia's relying on the Moslem population of the region. To his mind, the Karabakh, Yerevan and Nakhchivan cavalries were included in Russian forces during the regular Russian-Turkish war. They were assigned to protect the boarders with Persia. The counter Paskevich highly appreciated the military valor of Azerbaijanis. Thanks to his petition, the emperor Nicholas I rewarded the service men of the Moslem provinces with his banners. But after the general's return to Petersburg, the hostile treatment towards Moslems (which is understandable for the country, which has been fighting with Turks and Tatars for a long time), lead to the fact that Nakhchivan and Yerevan khanates were announced an Armenian province, which seemed to Russian military men to be a springboard for wars against Turkey. Of course the point was obtaining Konstantinopol* and control of the straits. Thus, the first immigrants from Turkey - 8 thousand Armenian families started appearing in Nakhchivan.
In Turkey according to the Moslem rights, Armenians were a part of the "protected population" and were supposed to develop trade, crafts and industry. Considering themselves to be infringed upon their political rights, they were eager to immigrate to the Christian Russia.
According to the Russian historian N.Shavrova, just in the years of 1828-1830 more than 100 thousand Armenians were settled on the best fiscal lands of Karabakh and Yerevan (present Armenia) regions, where the number of Armenian population was insignificant. They were given 200 thousand dessiatina* of the private Moslem lands. For comparison: Russians were given about 70 thousand dessiatina of land. Out of 1.2 million of all the immigrants to Transcaucasus Armenians made up 1 million. Encouraged by the government, newcomers without land they turned into influential part of the Caucasian society.
In Tiflis and Baku these former Turkish Armenians formed a bourgeoisie strata, which controlled the trade and a big share of oil industry. Keeping in touch with relatives living in Turkey they formed local organizations of the revolutionary party "Dashnaktsutun" in these cities. This party is famous for its terrorist activity, aimed at establishing an independent Armenian nation-state within the Armenian boarders of the II-III centuries. (According to the Armenian version, it included the territory of the Middle East and the whole Transcaucasus). The First World War and the Russian Revolution considerably speeded up the activity of the Dashnaks*.
The next wave of Turkish Armenians' immigration on Russian territory (Yerevan and Nakhchivan) took place in 1915 after the unsuccessful attempt of establishing an Armenian state in Turkey. The Dashnak armed divisions blamed Azerbaijanis in their failure, saying that Azerbaijanis were out of this Armenian-Turkish conflict. Since the year of 1918 population started to be driven away from Yerevan and other places populated by Azerbaijanis.
Andranik, an Armenian officer who had been chased by Turks himself, ruined more than 40 Azeri villages in Nakhchivan and Zangazur. In Zangazur alone more than 10 thousand people were killed (the third of it were children). After that Andranik sent a telegram to the Chairman of the Baku Communa, Stepan Shaumian, in which he declared himself supporter of the Soviet government.
But Shaumian was already surrounded by distinctive supporters of the new government members of Baku Soviet. On March 18, the Dashnak armed divisions encouraged by Shaumian organized Azeri massacre in Baku, under pretense of fighting with the counterrevolution. 12 thousand people were killed, several Moslem blocks of the city were burnt down, the main Baku mosque was fired at. The massacres were stopped after the energetic interference of other Baku commissars - Petrov and Japaridze, who threatened to start shelling the Armenian blocks of the city. The Dashnak armed divisions withdrawn from Baku, ruined and plundered the ancient capital of Azerbaijan - Shamakhi, Guba and other cities. And Shaumian, explaining his alliance with Dashnaks, wrote, that while struggling with the enemies of the Soviet government he, purposely wanted it to look like a national massacre in order not to let announce Baku the capital of Azerbaijan striving for independence.
In 1918-1919 about 280 thousand Azerbaijanis were driven away from Yerevan, no less that 70 thousand were killed. What else can we name this, but genocide? And this crime seems even more pointless and cruel (if that is possible) when one realizes: people were killed even not for their nationality, but for its similarity with the other one, ethnically relative nationality, they were revenging for what Turks have done once. The history has not known anything like that before.
In Yerevan and partially in Tiflis the process of "deAzerbaijanization" of historically Azeri lands began. More that 400 Azeri place-names were replaced by Armenian ones, a lot of Azeri cultural monuments were destroyed, none was left out of 14 mosques in Yerevan. If in 1920 Azerbaijanis were making up 45% of the population of Armenia, then in 1988 they were only 6%.
Josef Stalin considered it his duty to continue the czar's policy of conquering the Black Sea strait. With this aim, "to strengthen the rears" in 1948 he permitted repatriation of Armenians abroad. By 1953 about 150 thousand Azerbaijanis were moved out of Armenia in order to make room for the repatriates.
Since Turkey as a NATO member has lost its military independence, it seems that it is high time to reject the stereotypes, dividing nations into ours and outsiders. And though the Central Committee department on international relationships could have made an efficient report to the General Secretary, saying that during the Russian-Turkish war Azerbaijanis were fighting for Russia only, Mikhail Gorbachev closed his eyes on the proscription of the last 200 thousand Azerbaijanis from Armenia in 1988.
The Soviet troops watched passively the proscription of Azerbaijanis from Armenia. By that time the leaders of "Dashnaktsutun" have already moved from Athens to Yerevan.
The further we go, the more we see. At the beginning of 1992, just when Karabakh war was in full swing, Vice Prime Minister of Armenia Grant Bagratyan addressed to Yegor Gaydar, who was carrying out the duties of the Prime Minister of Russia. Bagratyan asked Moscow's permission to organize production of assembling-constructing, sport and hunting cartridges. Gaydar's resolution said: " To the Ministry of Industry of Russia (Mr. Titkin). Please discuss and make a decision. "As if it was not clear what these cartridges would be used for.
The Russian-Armenian cooperation that starting with the production of cartridges grew into the famous large scaled deliveries of armament to Armenia. And while talking about the vulnerability of this country, which is "doomed to alliance with Russia" it is ignored that none of the neighbor states claims its territory. Iran and Georgia are friends with Armenia. There is a large Armenian community in Istanbul, members of which are even in the parliament, in Istanbul only there are more that 10 newspapers and magazines published in Armenian language. Isn't this the base for strong future relationships between two neighbor states, which are interested economically in each other?
Now, when 1 million of Azerbaijanis had been driven off their lands we can hear: Russia just like the US needs a advanced post in Islamic world, and Armenia, "surrounded with enemies" is something like a Russian Israel, ready to defend Russia's interests in the region.
But the theorists are using 30 year old American intellectual working outs. Israel did oppose Arabs. But Azerbaijan is a member of CIS, it is Russia's ally. And the United States never supported Israel against the countries that they had oil interests in, they were never against the countries that were culturally and economically oriented on the USA. And finally, despite the long war with Arabs, in Israel 14% of citizen profess Islam, and the Arabic language is considered the second state language.
Having paraphrased the famous apothegm of Nietzsche, we can say: stereotypes are worse enemies of the truth than lies. Politics are history turned into the future. And it can not succeed, if untrue stereotypes of the past are in its base. Czar Nicholas I did not know the difference between Shiites and Sunnis; the General Secretary Stalin did not admit moral limits in expanding the empire; General Secretary Gorbachev kept on dividing nations into ours and enemies, which led to the collapse of the country.
The Azerbaijanis had paid completely with the blood of their sons and with their lands for getting accustomed to the European civilization.
1. sarafan - national dress of Russia
2. Kumach - a Russian composer. Majority of his songs is devoted to the strength of the Soviet Union
3. lezginka – traditional fast-pace dance in the Caucasus
4. Griboyedov - a Russian writer and politician. Used to be Russia's ambassador to Persia
5. Konstantinopol - historical name for Istanbul
6. dessiatina - measure of land, = 2.7 acres
7. Dashnak - member of the party "Dashnaktsutun".
For Virtual Azerbaijan Republic (VAR), 1998-1999.
[Translated by Janna. Edited by Adil]