Vol. 5, No. 10 (May 15, 2012)

Russian-Turkish relations between the Sovietization of Azerbaijan and the Sovietization of Armenia

Part V (A). 
Azerbaijan’s territorial gifts to Armenia

Jamil Hasanly, Dr.*
Professor of History
Baku State University

The Revolutionary committee (Revkom) established with the direct participation of Turkey declared in Gumri, on November 28, 1920, about the victory of Soviet power in Armenia, while a day later, the Revkom formed by the Bolsheviks in the district city of Kazakh in the west of Azerbaijan also proclaimed Soviet power in Armenia.  However, in order to give the new structure a legitimate character and to avoid the possible dissatisfaction of the Turks, the Soviet-organized Revkom listed as its place of formation the Armenian city of Dilizhan.  The Revkom itself reached Dilizhan only a day later, on November 30. [1] It should be noted that at that time only one member of the Revkom was in Dilizhan, while Sarkis Kasyan, the chairman of this new organ, hurried to join him.  The arrival of the remaining members of the committee was expected on December 3. [2] 
An intense struggle for the right to be the first to enter Erivan, to seize power throughout the entire republic and thereby obtain legalization at an all-Armenian level broke out between the two revolutionary committees.  In order to give political weight to the so-called Dilizhan Revkom which was under Russian control and in a celebratory manner send it on to Erivan, according to a directive from Moscow on November 30, N. Narimanov, the chairman of the Azrevkom, and M.D. Huseynov, the peoples commissar of international affairs, sent the Armenian communists in Dilizhan a telegram of greetings concerning the results of the session of the Political and Organizational Bureaus of the Central Committee of the AKP(b) in which the participants were G. Ordzhonikidze, S. Ter-Danelyan (Sarkis), Ye. Stasova, G. Kaminsky, N. Narimanov, A. Karayev, M.D. Huseynov, and others.  At the session of the bureaus, the following decision was adopted: from now on, no borders exist between Soviet Azerbaijan and Soviet Armenia; Zangazur and Nakhchivan pass to the jurisdiction of Armenia. [3]  
On December 1, 1920, a celebratory session of the Baku Soviet devoted to the proclamation of Soviet power in Armenia took place in Baku.  At this session, N. Narimanov, the chairman of the Azrevkom, spoke and publicized the Declaration adopted earlier by the Political and Organizational Bureaus: “Soviet Azerbaijan, having seen the struggle of the fraternal Armenian toiling people against the power of the Dashnaks, who have shed and continue to shed the innocent blood of our best Communist comrades within Armenia and Zangazur, declares that from now on no territorial issues can be the cause of mutual bloodletting of two immemorial neighboring peoples, the Armenians and the Muslims, and that the territory of Zangazur and Nakhchivan districts are an inalienable part of Soviet Armenia.” [4] In the most complex situation when Armenia, having suffered defeat at the hands of Turkey, had practically broken into pieces and the Revkoms proclaimed at Dilizhan and Gumri could not resolve to appear in Erivan, this declaration turned out to be something unexpected even for the Armenians themselves.  When on November 30, G. Ordzhonikidze by direct line declared to A. Nazaretyan this surprising news, the latter involuntarily responded: “Bravo, Azerbaijanis!” [5] 
It is worth noting that the concession of part of the territory of Azerbaijan to Armenia at the end of 1920 was not the first and not the only such a case in the history of the two republics.  The first time this issue arose was on May 26, 1918, after the Georgian fraction left the Transcaucasus Seim and proclaimed the independence of Georgia.  Confronted with a fait accompli, the Azerbaijani and Armenian fractions of the Transcaucasus Seim began active talks about defining the borders of their future states.  On this issue, Armenia turned out to be in a complicated situation.  That was made more difficult because the Armenians could not agree on what city should be the capital of their republic.  Aleksandropol (Gumri) remained under the control of the Turks, and more than half of the population of Erivan was made up of Azerbaijanis; they had their own deputies in the Transcaucasus Seim, and a Muslim National Council had been running the city since the Russian revolution of 1917.  The Muslim deputies of Erivan gubernia voted for the declaration of independence of Azerbaijan in the borders of the territory of Baku, Yelizavetpol and part of Erivan gubernias.  In order to resolve this important issue, the leaders of the Azerbaijani and Armenian fractions met already on the eve of the proclamation of the independence of their republics.  On the basis of those meetings, they agreed that Azerbaijan would not oppose the declaration of Erivan as the capital of Armenia, while Armenia—in response to this gesture of good will—would withdraw its demands for part of Yelizavetpol gubernia, that is, to the mountainous part of Karabakh. [6] 
On May 29, 1918, F. Kh. Khoyskiy advised the Azerbaijan National Council about negotiations with the Armenian National Council and, in explaining the situation, indicated in particular that the Armenian federation needs a political center.  Since Aleksandropol had been seized by the Turks, Erivan could be such a center and therefore he advanced the proposal of conceding this city to the Armenians.  Kh. Khasmammadov, M. Yu. Jafarov, A. Sheikhulislamov, and M. Maharramov, who spoke after him, called the concession of Erivan to the Armenians an inevitable evil.  Fifteen delegates of the 28 members of the National Council voted in favor of making this concession to the Armenians, one voted against, and three abstained. [7] However, two days later, the members of the National Council who represented Erivan gubernia—Mir Hidayat Seyidov, Bagir Rzayev, and Nariman-bey Narimanbeyov—protested the concession of Erivan to the Armenians.  The Azerbaijani National Council at its session of June 1, 1918, rejected the demands of these Erivan deputies. [8] Bagir Rzayev, who spoke at the next session of the Muslim National Council, said the following prophetic words: “I am certain that none of you will go to Erivan gubernia where we Erivantsy will be going, but we ask you one thing: Having formed your own independent Azerbaijan, do not forget those of us who are left on the territory of the Armenian Republic.” [9] The National Council sent M. Seyidov, B. Rzayev, and M. Jafarov to Erivan for resolving the issues arising in connection with the transfer of Erivan to the Armenian National Council. 
The Azerbaijani and Armenian delegations in Batumi also discussed border issues and reached an agreement that Azerbaijan agreed with the organization of an Armenian canton within the borders of Aleksandropol gubernia and that Erivan would be handed over to Armenia only on the condition that they would drop claims on portions of Yelizavetpol gubernia, having in mind Karabakh. [10] The Azerbaijani delegates promised also to assist in the conclusion of a treaty between Turkey and Armenia.  The Batumi talks were completed on June 4 with the signing by all three republics of a treaty “of peace and friendship.”
At the conclusion of the Batumi conference, Turkey on June 4, 1918, signed treaties with Georgia and, as a result of the mediation of the Azerbaijani delegates, with Armenia, recognizing their independence.  Armenia in turn, in its treaty with Turkey, recognized the Brest-Litovsk Treaty, Echmiadzin and Aleksandropol were handed over to Turkey, which also obtained the right to use the Aleksandropol-Julfa road.  The border of Armenia passed near Erivan and there were only six kilometers of railway left under its control.  According to the Batumi treaty, the territory of the Armenian Republic in the Transcaucasus amounted to about 10,000 square kilometers. [11] R. Kachaznuni, A. Khatisyan and M. Papadzhanov signed for Armenia.  The Batumi treaty required that Armenia would guarantee the security and free development of Muslims living on its territories and would create conditions for their education in native language and the celebration of religious rites.  The existence of such agreements among the sides is also confirmed in the book of the member of the Georgian delegation to the Paris Peace Conference, Z. Avalov. [12] 
Then-Azerbaijani Prime Minister F. Kh. Khoyskiy also mentioned the concession of Erivan to Armenia in his instructions to M.E. Rasulzade, the head of the Azerbaijani delegation in Istanbul: “I am sending you the maps you asked for in one copy with the designation of the borders of Azerbaijan, which you should insist on as strongly as possible; if the Armenians make demands on Karabakh, then you should withdraw the concession to them of Erivan and part of Kazakh district, if the Armenians remain where they are on the basis of the existing oral agreement, then it would be possible to concede to them that portion of Erivan district which is marked on the map by points.” [13] This fact was made public on October 8, 1918, in Tiflis during the negotiations of M. Yu. Jafarov and the Armenian diplomatic representative A. Dzhamalyan, who reported to the Armenian foreign ministry that, “Today, Mr. Jafarov came to me … The conversation rapidly passed onto the question about Karabakh.  He recalled the good attitude that Azerbaijanis showed to us during the Batumi conference, that by their efforts, the independence of Armenia was recognized and that Erivan was ceded to us in exchange for our promising not to raise the issue about Karabakh.” [14] Two years after these events, Zangazur experienced the tragic fate of Erivan as a result of its unconscionable concession to Armenia by the Azrevkom, which generated disappointment and anger in the Turkish command. 
According to the testimony of B. Shakhtakhtinsky who was in Gumri at the moment of the publication by N. Narimanov of the Declaration of December 1, 1920, this unexpected step of the Azrevkom generated deep regret and anger in Turkish commander Kazym Karabekir-pasha who noted the victory over Dashnak Armenia and the proclamation at the same time of Soviet power in Dilizhan.  In a conversation with B. Shakhtakhtinsky, he said: “For tactical considerations, the Azrevkom must not have hurried with the resolution of this issue, at least until the completion of the conference since this action is ascribed to the influence of Russia.” [15] In turn, B. Shakhtakhtinsky following his conversation with Kazym Karabekir-pasha, could only see a way out of the situation generated by such a rapid and unthoughtful step of the Azrevkom in declaring the independence of Nakhchivan under the protection of Russia.  He wrote that, “this most important in strategic terms place must not be handed over to the protection of the Turks.  The independence of this kray under the protection of Russia should satisfy the Turks.  It is possible that in a not distant future, circumstances will force us in the name of an independent Nakhchivan kray to make a move toward Persian Azerbaijan, but this must never be done from Turkey or in the name of Armenia.” [16]  
It is worth stressing that Moscow did not oppose the possible transfer of Nakhchivan to the Turks, but only under the condition that Turkey take upon itself the heavy mission of advancing the revolutionary movement in the Muslim East.  B. Legran in connection with this wrote to G. Chicherin that, “if it turns out that the Turks are capable of putting revolutionary pressure on the neighboring Muslim countries and that they would be able to raise the revolutionary movement in the East, this would be wonderful; then they would have to be given independence of action, given Nakhchivan, and the size of Soviet Armenia would be reduced, and the like.  However, we should test the Turks first.” [17]   

* The article originally appeared, in Russian, in Russia’s Regnum News Agency at http://www.regnum.ru/news/1438182.html#ixzz1Xevxl1D3.


[1] Conversation by direct line of G. Ordzhonikidze with A. Nazaretyan, 30 November 1920, Russian State Archive of Social-Political History (hereafter RSASPH), f.85, op.14, d.37, l.1. 

[2] Letter of B. Legran to G. Chicherin, 22 December 1920, RSASPH, f.5, op.1, d.2127, l.2.

[3] Protocol of the session of the Political and Organizational Bureau of the Central Committee of the AKP(b), Political Documents Archive under the President of Azerbaijan Republic (hereafter PDA PAR), f.1, op.1, d.24, l.51-52. 

[4] Kommunist, 2 December 1920. 

[5] Conversation by direct line between G. Ordzhonikidze and A. Nazaretyan, 30 November 1920, RSASPH, f.85, op.14, d.37, l.1 op.   

[6] See Avalov, Z. (1924) Georgia’s Independence in International Politics (1918-1921),Paris, p. 57. 

[7] Protocol Number 3 of the Muslim National Council, 29 May 1918, SAAR, f.970, op. 1, d. 1, l. 51-52. 

[8] Protocol Number 4 of the session of the Muslim National Council, 1 June 1918, SAAR, f.970, op.1, d.1, l.53-54.

[9] Protocol Number 5 of the session of the Muslim National Council, 7 June 1918, SAAR, f.970, op.1, d.1, l.56. 
[10] See PDA PAR, f.276, op.9, d.1, l.47.

[11] See Suny, R. G. (1993) Looking toward Ararat: Armenia in Modern History (Indiana University Press), p. 126.

[12] See Avalov, Z. (1924) Georgia’s Independence in International Politics (1918-1921) (Paris), p. 57. 

[13] Dispatch of the Chairman of the Council of Ministers F. Kh. Khoyskiy to the head of the Azerbaijani delegation in Istanbul M.E. Rasulzade, 31 July 1918, PDA PAR, f.277, op.2, d.7, l.37. 

[14] Letter of A. Dzhamalyan to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Armenia, 8 October 1918, PDA PAR, f.276, op.9, d.65, l.18.

[15] Letter of B. Shakhtakhtinsky to G. Ordzhonikidze, November 1920, RSASPH, f.85, op. C /Turkey/, d.31, l.1. 

[16] Letter of B. Shakhtakhtinsky to G. Ordzhonikidze, November 1920, RSASPH, f.85, op. C /Turkey/, d.31, l.2. 

[17] Letter of B. Legran to G. Chicherin, 22 December 1920, RSASPH, f.5. op.1, d.2127, l.5.