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AUTHOR: TIGRAN TOROSYAN THE ORIGIN OF THE NAGORNO KARABAKH CONFLICT AND ITS ESCALATION INTO WAR Indeed,

the study of a conflict cannot be exhaustive without a review of the historical developments preceding it. The present chapter treats the problems relating to the original causes and resumption of the Karabakh conflict in 1988 without touching upon its earlier history, which is widely treated in a large number of works.1 The following lines by G. Starovoitova summarise the information conveyed by the majority of these works, Without going too far into the regions ancient and medieval history, it should nevertheless be noted that the Armenian side can produce an impressive number of objective sources suggesting that it has dominated the region for over a millennium. The Karabakh khanate, incorporated into the Russian Empire in 1813, brought a Turkic population to the region no earlier than the beginning of the eighteenth century, eventually establishing its rule over the Armenian majority. As in tsarist Russia, administrative boundaries were not drawn along ethnic lines during this period in the regions history.2 A. Yamskov, who touched upon this problem in relation with another issue, reaches the same conclusion: As far as the Armenians are concerned, the problem is easy to resolve. The Armenian population has been permanently living within the borders of Nagorno Karabakh for at least two thousand years. It is also very well-known3 that in the 1920s, the Armenians constituted about 94 per cent of the permanent residents of the autonomous region.4 In view of the fact that the Azerbaijanians led a nomadic life and historically Nagorno Karabakh served them as a transit zone towards Alpine pastures, Yamskov considers that this right of the Azerbaijanian nomads should be reckoned with during the resolution of the conflict. The Origin of the Karabakh Conflict The first quarter of the 20th century was marked with certain historical events well-documented in an abundance of works5 and bearing direct or indirect relation to the conflict of Karabakh. This part of our work, however, does not thoroughly deal with that period: it will represent an analysis of the events that were to prove decisive from the standpoint of the subsequent developments and are still of great importance for the understanding of the logic and motivation of the contemporary processes. With this respect, of special significance are two issues, namely the emergence of the state of Azerbaijan and the roots of the Karabakh conflict. After the October Revolution of 1917, the newly-established Soviet Russian authorities faced the task of consolidating their position not only in the capital, but also in the central parts of the former Russian Empire. The period following the Revolution was marked with great instability in the remote regions of the Empire although the Bolsheviks made every possible endeavour to keep the situation under control. In Transcaucasia this state of unsteadiness was especially flagrantly manifested in Baku, where reins of power shifted to the Baku Soviet Commune early in November (this body, however, had a very unstable rule). The instability that reigned in the remote regions of the Russian Empire during the first six months following its fall often grew into anarchy thus creating quite favourable conditions for various forms of mutiny and armed clashes. Unprecedented as it was, great activity was observed within national parties. On 30 March 1918, the Musavat Party of Caucasian Tatars rose in rebellion against the Commune of Baku. Two months later, three newly-established states were proclaimed in Transcaucasia: the Republic of Armenia, the Democratic Republic of Georgia and the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan. Indeed, the restoration of Armenian and Georgian statehoods after the collapse of the Russian Empire was only natural. As for the establishment of the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan, which had

advanced claims to the Provinces of Baku and Yelisavetpol as well as to Nakhijevan, it can be explained in no other way but as the re-emergence of the Turkish factor in the region as possessing quite a new quality. The territorial claims of the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan also pursued a definite objective, namely connection with Turkey via the route Nagorno-Karabakh-ZangezurNakhijevan. Of great interest are the assessments of this newly-emerged state offered by some contemporary figures. One of them, B. Baikov, who held membership of the Russian National Council of Baku between 1918 and 1919, wrote the following, To have a clear understanding of those standing behind the idea of that new state and of the goals it pursued, one should imagine what that newlyestablished republic was like in the light of history. Those two provinces (Baku and Yelisavetpol) have never constituted a joint political entity. They have never had a common name, let alone Azerbaijan. This name is used with reference to one of the northern provinces of present-day Persia. The new state appropriated a geographical name which pertains to a part of another state.6 The word Azerbaijanian, as denoting the people living in this state and the language used by them, was to come into being only years later, viz. as a result of the establishment of the state of Azerbaijan. This is a rare example in universal history: the state founded entailed the emergence of a people and a language whose names derive from the name of that state. Those who assumed the ethnonym Azerbaijanian or Azerbaijani in 19367 did not even have a recognised common name: they were referred to as Tatars,8 Mussulmans9 or Turkis10 and spoke the Turkish language. This was established in a decree on the Nationalisation (Azerification) of the State Institutions of the Azerbaijanian SSR issued by the Central Executive Committee of Azerbaijan on 31 July 1923: From the moment of the establishment of Soviet rule in Azerbaijan, the Turkish language, i.e. the majority language [in the country], was proclaimed as official language. The language of communication with the Autonomous Oblast [Region] of Karabakh is Armenian.11 The available indisputable facts come to attest to the truthfulness of the words of Professor of Massachusetts University Alstadt stating that the Azerbaijanian identity originated in the Soviet period, for the Azeries, just like the Uzbek and the Kazakh, merely represented semi-nomadic Turkic tribes before the establishment of Russian rule in the region. Alstadt continues that for them, clannish and family connections were the marginal elements of social organisation.12 During this period of immense significance to the future of the whole region of Transcaucasia, Turkey did not hide its interest in the events unfolding there and strove hard to secure its presence in Baku, at the same time also settling the problem of the Armenians extermination. Although Turkey was not living through its best times, it was able to predict the inevitability of the emergence of new states and could not keep aloof from the ongoing events that were of pivotal significance to it, given its far-reaching goals. Several days before the proclamation of the ADR, on 23 May 1918, Ambassador of Germany to the Ottoman Empire Bernsdorf wrote in a telegraph addressed to the German Foreign Office, that the Turks took control over the Provinces of Yelisavetpol and Baku with the support of the local Tatar population. He also adds in the same telegraph that the Turkish army kept on plundering the Armenian towns and slaughtering their inhabitants, being always accompanied by Kurdish and Tatar volunteers.13 Even after the declaration of the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan, when the Musavat Party took the reins of power in Baku, Turkey did not give up its plans for securing its military presence there, another fact proving that it did pursue far-reaching objectives. Moreover, when the first congress of the accredited representatives of the people of Nagorno Karabakh, held between 22 and 26 July, renounced Musavatist Azerbaijans claims to Nagorno Karabakh and established a peoples government, this made Nagorno Karabakh another important target for Turkey. In a report dated Tiflis, 4 August 1918, General Kres von Kresenchtein, the Head of the German Mission in Caucasia, wrote to Germanys Ministry of Foreign Affairs that the Turks had attempted to invade the purely Armenian Province of Karabakh and disarm the local population. He

warned that if they did not take any measures to prevent it, the mountaineers of Karabakh who were able to defend themselves would inevitably struggle against the Muslims.14 On 15 September, the Turkish troops took Baku and what they did there first of all was to perpetrate a massacre among the Armenians living in the city, as evidenced by an eye-witness, B. Baikov: The mass slaughter of the Armenians [launched] by the dregs from the very first days of the conquest of Baku was not prevented at all. It was stopped only after the local foreign consuls as well as the Russian and Jewish public figures had made a number of speeches [against it].15 According to Officer of the German Secret Service East of Constantinople Wilhelm Litten, 30,000 Armenians fell victim to the carnage in Baku.16 However, this was only the tip of the iceberg. The very existence of the Armenian-populated region of Karabakh posed a major obstacle for the realisation of the Turko-Tatar plans and due to this fact, ten days later, on 24 September, the Turkish army units, led by Nuri Pasha, entered Karabakh from the side of Aghdam and invaded Shushi, their ultimate goal being the subjugation of Nagorno Karabakh to Azerbaijan. The Armenians of the region were able to organise their selfdefence quite rapidly, and on 17 October, the large units of the Turkish occupation army were defeated at Msmna. Nor was Turkey victorious on the other fronts so that a short time later it was obliged to admit its defeat by the Entente. In accordance with the Peace Treaty of Mudros signed on 30 October, the Turkish troops were pulled back from Transcaucasia. Within a short time (on 17 November), English troops were deployed in Baku, but this did not change the situation of Karabakh Armenians for the better. On the contrary, the British Military Mission stationed in Shushi did not make the slightest attempt to settle the problems facing these people and appointed Sultanov as Governor General early in May 1919. This designation aroused a storm of protest both by the Armenians of Nagorno Karabakh and the authorities of the Republic of Armenia, for it exposed an apparently biassed attitude towards one of the disputant parties claiming possession of the region in that atmosphere of ethnic tension. In addition, that assignment was a rude challenge to the Armenians as Sultanov was notorious for his flagrant hatred for Armenians. Truly, the consequences of his appointment in that position soon revealed themselves: within a month, i.e. on 4 June, the slaughter of the Armenian inhabitants of the villages adjacent to Shushi was perpetrated under Sultanovs poorly-veiled command and the passiveness of the British Military Mission.17 In order to appease the situation in view of the consideration that ...the fate of Nagorno Karabakh is to be determined at the Peace Conference and clashes are disastrous for the population of Karabakh,18 on 26 August, the National Council of Nagorno Karabakh signed an interim agreement with Azerbaijan under which Nagorno Karabakh (the Districts of Shushi, Jevanshir and Jebrail) was provisionally put within the borders of Azerbaijan until the Peace Conference of Paris. Of special interest is the fact that by signing this agreement, the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan actually recogniseddespite its territorial claimsthe National Council of Nagorno Karabakh as an equal legal entity and a legitimate body entitled to defend the interests of Nagorno Karabakh. Nevertheless, even this agreement did not put an end to the intrigues and violations committed by Azerbaijan. The climax of all this was the invasion of the multi-ethnic city of Shushi by Tatar troops on 23 March 1920, followed by plunder, conflagration and massacre amidst the local Armenian population. In the aftermath of this carnage, Shushi turned into a Tatar (later Azerbaijani - T. T.) citadel.19 Dwelling on these events in a report of the Caucasian Bureau of the Communist Party of Russia submitted at the first conference of the Communist Parties of Transcaucasia, G. Orjonikidze said, In the Dashnaks times, the City of Shushi was devastated, with its Armenian part being totally wiped out.20 The 9th conference of the peasantry of Nagorno Karabakh, held between 23 and 29 April, annulled the interim agreement signed by the 7th conference and subsequently ...violated by the Azerbaijani Government as the Azerbaijani troops have launched attacks against the peaceful civilian population of Karabakh and have slaughtered the inhabitants of Shushi and the neighbouring villages.21 The conference also made a declaration about Nagorno Karabakhs incorporation into Armenia.

The resolution of the conference was further reinforced with the Bolsheviks coming to power in Azerbaijan on 28 April 1920. The new authorities of Azerbaijan did not recognise the legitimacy of their predecessors and therefore, they did not acknowledge Soviet Azerbaijan as a legal successor of the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan. Anyway, the Sovietisation of Azerbaijan was to rapidly become a serious factor in the settlement process of the problem of Nagorno Karabakh, a factor that ran absolutely counter to the interests of Nagorno Karabakh. Two months later, J. Stalin wrote the following to G. Orjonikidze in a telegram dated 8 July, To my mind, it is impossible to endlessly manoeuvre between the parties and we should definitely take sides with one of them; in this case, indeed, it is Azerbaijan with Turkey. I have already spoken to Lenin: he does not mind this.22 In May the Bolsheviks took power in Karabakh as well, but it did not prove of any essential impact on the general situation. It was the orientation of the foreign politics of the Republic of Armenia and not that of Nagorno Karabakh that mattered most to Russia. After the Sovietization of Azerbaijan, Armenia had to direct its struggling forces not only against the Turkish and Azerbaijani troops, but also the 11th Red Army. In fact, Russia was engaged in war against Armenia. In August the Republic of Armenia and the Soviet Socialist Federative Republic of Russia signed an agreement on cessation of arms.23 Nevertheless, the 11th Red Army remained as the most important tool for the implementation of the Russian policy in Transcaucasia, since the issue of the Sovietisation of the region comprised a core point, i.e. the question of the belonging of Nakhijevan, Zangezur and Karabakh that was of fatal significance to Armenia, Turkey and Azerbaijan. Not only did the 11th Red Army attempt to keep these three disputed territories under control and impede the actions of the Armenian troops there, but it also often supported the Turkish and Azerbaijani army units in their movements. The Armenian Revolutionary Committee, established in Azerbaijan on 29 November, declared Armenia as a Soviet Socialist Republic. On 2 December, this Committee seized power in Yerevan assisted by the 11th Red Army. Now the entire region of Transcaucasia was under the Bolshevik rule and the settlement of all problems, including the so-called disputed territories (Nagorno Karabakh, Zangezur, Nakhijevan) was dictated from Moscow. B. Legran, the accredited representative of SSFR in Armenia, was actively engaged in conducting negotiations and kept daily contact with Peoples Commissar of Foreign Affairs G. Chicherin. However, it was Stalin and Orjonikidze that had a most decisive influence on the subsequent development of events. On 2 December, G. Orjonikidze, who held membership of the Caucasian Bureau of the Russian Communist Party and of the Revolutionary Military Council of the Caucasian front, sent a telegram to Lenin and Stalin: Convey to Comrades Lenin and Stalin the following: we have just received an announcement from Yerevan stating that Soviet rule has already been proclaimed there [and] the former authorities have been overthrown... Yesterday Azerbaijan made a declaration about shifting Nakhijevan, Zangezur and Nagorno Karabakh to Soviet Armenia.24 The declaration of the Revolutionary Committee of Azerbaijan, adopted on 30 November and published in the Communist newspaper of Baku on 2 December, read slightly different from the aforementioned lines: The territories of the Districts of Zangezur and Nakhijevan constitute inseparable parts of Soviet Armenia and the working peasantry of Nagorno Karabakh are granted with a full right to self-determination.25 Two days later, on 4 December, the Pravda newspaper published an article in which Stalin declared that the Soviet authorities had found a solution to the Armenian question, namely, Azerbaijan had voluntarily annulled all its claims to the disputed territories and placed Nakhijevan, Zangezur and Nagorno Karabakh into the possession of Soviet Armenia.26 The following day the authorities of Russia declared that upon getting the news of the revolution made in Armenia and the establishment of Soviet rule there, the Soviet Russian Government immediately made a decision to place the disputed territories of Zangezur, Nagorno Karabakh and Nakhijevan within [the borders of] Soviet Armenia.27

Nevertheless, this period was to last but a very short time. Fully realising the danger the change of the situation was fraught with, Turkey turned to drastic measures threatening Russia with establishing alliance with its former enemy, the Entente. In February 1921, anti-Bolshevik revolts broke out in a number of settlements in Armenia and the Bolsheviks lost the reins of power. Under these circumstances, the issue of the disputed territories again became a subject of fervent discussions and multi-step, complicated combinations. First and foremost, the question of Nakhijevan was cut off from the general problem of the disputed territories. Russias stance concerning it was well-expressed and irreversible: as far as Nakhijevan is concerned, the final word remains with the representative of Azerbaijan.28 This is what Stalin wrote to Peoples Commissar of Foreign Affairs of the RSSFR Chicherin on 6 March 1921. Within a short time, this decision was firmly established in the RussoTurkish Treaty of Moscow signed on 16 March. As a bilateral treaty which also incorporates solutions to problems directly relating to another two countries, i.e. Armenia and Azerbaijan, this document is extremely untenable, as assessed within the framework of international law. The subsequent course of history, however, was not favourable for having it reconsidered. Practically, this was especially impossible given the fact that six months after the conclusion of the Treaty of Moscow, i.e. on 13 October, Turkey and the Soviet Socialist Republics of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia signed the Treaty of Kars, with Russia playing a most influential role in its conclusion. Formal as it was, this treaty represented an amendment to the juridical flaws of the previous agreement. As of the spring of 1921, there did not exist the same clarity with regard to the Nagorno Karabakh problem, but the clock of history had already begun turning back. The telegram G. Orjonikidze and S. Kirov addressed to the Chairman of Soviet Azerbaijans Council of Peoples Commissars on 26 June still reflected some hopes of reaching a settlement acceptable for the people of Karabakh: For the purpose of establishing truly friendly relations, it is necessary to be guided by the following principle while seeking a solution to the problem of Karabakh: no Armenian-inhabited village should be incorporated into Azerbaijan and in the same way, no Muslim-populated village should be incorporated into Armenia.29 However, Azerbaijan, that had strengthened its positions and succeeded in removing the question of Nakhijevan from the agenda, was not slow in giving a resolute answer. The joint session of the Political Bureau of Azerbaijans Central Committee and the Bureau for Organisational Matters that was convened the following day, i.e. on 27 June, decided to consider the separation of Armenian- and Turkish-inhabited settlements for the purpose of shifting them to Armenia and Azerbaijan respectively as unacceptable from the standpoint of administrative and economic expediency.30 By mid-April, the Armenian Bolsheviks had already suppressed the revolt with the support of the Russian Red Army and restored their power, but those two months were enough for Turkey and Azerbaijan to settle all the problems they were interested in, although not so easily as that of Nakhijevan. Of fatal significance proved two decisions adopted by the Caucasian Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist (Workers) Party of Russia. Two variants of resolving the problem of Karabakh were put under consideration at the session held on 4 July, viz. to leave Karabakh within the borders of Azerbaijan or to incorporate the mountainous part of Karabakh into Armenia. The session decided c) to incorporate the mountainous part of Karabakh into Armenia [and] to hold a referendum in the mountainous part of Karabakh, with Orjonikidze, Myasnikov, Figatner [and] Kirov voting for it. On Narimanovs suggestion it was decided to leave the final settlement of the issue for the Central Committee of the Communist (Workers) Party of Russia.31 The voters for the reversed variant stipulating that Karabakh should remain within the borders of Azerbaijan were Nazaretian, Narimanov and Makharadze. The following day (5 July), on Orjonikidzes and Nazaretians demand the issue was reconsidered in favour of leaving Nagorno Karabakh within the frontiers of Azerbaijan out of the need for peace between the Moslems and the Armenians.32

The final decision concerning the fate of Karabakh was not only unacceptable for the Armenian side, but also illegal, for the party-affiliated body of a third country had adopted a decision on the territorial problems concerning two other states and there was no bilateral agreement signed. Perhaps, it is not incidental that the minutes of this decision omit the results of voting. These drastic turns that seem rather strange at first sight actually have quite a simple explanation: the point is that this problem as well as all the subsequent issues were resolved in Moscow where no conventions were reckoned with and every resolution made was motivated by the objectives of the Bolshevik leadership. In compliance with a decision made by the Central Executive Committee of Azerbaijan, on 7 July 1923, the Autonomous Oblast (Region) of Karabakh was established, and a mixed committee of the representatives of the authorities of Nagorno Karabakh and Azerbaijan was charged with ascertaining its borders within a month. The borders of the newly-established autonomous region were drawn absolutely arbitrarily so that its territory left out considerable portions of Nagorno Karabakh from the west, north and south. In several years time, some other major settlements of Northern Artsakh, 10 in number, were placed within the territory of Shamkhor District. In the 1930s, Azerbaijan finally succeeded in stripping Nagorno Karabakh of a common border with Armenia. The Armenians of Nagorno Karabakh who enjoyed an overwhelming majority there repeatedly applied to the Soviet authorities with a petition to reconsider the issue of the belonging of Nagorno Karabakh. There exists an abundance of factual material proving that the Armenian inhabitants of the region were constantly subjected to discrimination and pressure. Let us mention just a few examples to show this. The Soviet Union had eight autonomous regions. During the period between their establishment and the year 1986, in each of these regions the population initially grew by 60 per cent and then became four times larger. The same, however, cannot be said about Nagorno Karabakh, where the population increased by only 12 per cent, which runs counter to the birth rate registered in the region in those years. In addition, in the same years, the populations of Armenia and Azerbaijan grew several times larger. In an interview given in 2002 Azerbaijans former president H. Aliyev did not even attempt to veil the state policy of discrimination that Azerbaijan implemented against Nagorno Karabakh: That problem [i.e. the problem of Nagorno Karabakh - T. T.] has existed since the early 20th century. The Soviet period did not pass without difficulties either, but we kept the situation in Nagorno Karabakh under control. How did we do that? First of all, the Soviet regime was of great help to us. Besides, I made a great contribution to the development of Nagorno KarabakhI mean during the period when I was First Secretary. In the meantime, I tried to change the demography [of the region]. Nagorno Karabakh raised the issue of opening an Institute there. I decided to do so, but on condition that it should have three departments: Armenian, Russian and Azerbaijani. It was there and not to Baku that we sent the Azerbaijanis coming from the adjacent districts. We opened a large shoe factory in Stepanakert, but it did not have workforce, so we sent Azerbaijanis there from the neighbouring districts of the region. By using this and other means I attempted to make the number of Azerbaijanis in Nagorno Karabakh larger and reduce the number of the Armenians.33 This policy was typical of not only Aliyev, but also all the other leaders of Azerbaijan. For more than fifty years the Armenian population of Nagorno Karabakh did not manifest any growth: it was only in 1979 that their number became equal to the figures registered as of 1921, although the birth rate in the region was higher than the average in Transcaucasia. In addition, the correlation of the Azerbaijanis unfailingly increased as contrasted with that of the Armenians: thus, in 1921 the latter constituted 94.6 per cent of the regions population; in 1979 they formed 75.9 per cent, whereas during the same period, the former grew from 5 to 22.9 per cent. Prominent Russian sociologist Zdravomislov provides a summary of reasons substantiating the petition of the Council of the Peoples Deputies of the Autonomous Region of Nagorno Karabakh for seceding from Soviet Azerbaijan and incorporating into Soviet Armenia. Although far from

being exhaustive, his list of reasons is, nevertheless, impressive: Those who form an idea about the evolution of the conflict with the help of a map can consider that decision quite natural: Nagorno Karabakh is separated from Armenia by a narrow strip of land. Most of the population of the autonomous region were the Armenians who had long been suffering all the hardships of being granted autonomy only formally. There existed some problems connected with the teaching of the Armenian language at schools. Direct communication between Armenia and the Autonomous Region of Nagorno Karabakh was very difficult to maintain as it was held via Baku and was controlled by the Azerbaijani authorities. Manpower policy in the region was conducted to the advantage of the Azerbaijanis.34 During this period, Nagorno Karabakh was slowly living through exactly what had taken place in Nakhijevan: Azerbaijan was consistently changing the demographic composition of the region by violence, pressure and discrimination. Those in Nagorno Karabakh fully realised that as soon as the correlation of the Armenians and Azerbaijanis approached the limit of 50/50, that process would drastically grow swifter, and the fate of Nakhijevan would become real for them as well: in 1988 the very last Armenian-inhabited village was forced into deportation in Nakhijevan and today it is totally stripped of its Armenian population.

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. 18, . 58, . 17. . (Minutes of the Plenary Session of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Russian Communist (Bolsheviks) Party and Resolution on the Incorporation of Nagorno Karabakh into Soviet Armenia and on Confining the Issue to the Final Decision of the Central Committee of the Russian Communist (Bolsheviks) Party. Central Party Archives of the Institute of Marxism and Leninism, fund 64, list 2, file 1, p. 118; fund 85, list 18, file 58, p. 17. Copy. Typescript). 32 , . 17, . 13, . 384, . 67, ; . 85, . 18, . 58, . 18. (State Russian Archives of Social and Political History, fund 17, list 13, file 384, p. 67, attested copy; fund 85, list 18, file 58, p. 18. Typescript). 33 , 25 , 2002 ., N. 139 (24318) /Bakinski Rabochi, 25 July 2002, No. 139 (24318); www.Zerkalo.az.24.07.2002/. 34 . . ., 1999, . 15 (Zdravomislov, A. InterEthnic Conflicts in the Post-Soviet Space. Moscow, 1999, p. 15).