The history of Karabakh

29.08.2012 | 14:28

1346232591_1343129365_290px-qarabakh_khanateKarabakh is one of the most ancient districts of Azerbaijan. it is located in the territory between the Lesser Caucasus and the Kur and Aras rivers. According to several historical sources, the word Karabakh was used in the 7th century for the first time, but was widely used during the 12th century. The word «Karabakh» was formed from the combination of two words – “kara” (black) and “bakh” (garden). (In Turkic languages, particularly in Azerbaijani, “black” also means “great”, “thick” or “dense”). Some scholars claim that “karabakh” means “a great garden” or “a beautiful garden” also. The history of Karabakh In some historical sources, the mountainous part of Karabakh is called «Artsakh.» Etymological studies have revealed that the word derived from “Sak.” “Sak” is the name given to one of the ancient Turkic tribes that lived in Karabakh. Artsakh is thought to be formed by the conjunction of “er” (man) and “Sak” meaning “man of Sak.” Karabakh is considered one of the most ancient inhabited lands in the world. The settlements and remains of primitive people were discovered in the Azykh Cave (Fuzuli region). This fact implies that Karabakh was one of the first lands, besides the areas of the Mediterranean Sea and East Africa, where Homo sapiens lived. Primitive tools found in the bottom of Azykh Cave were identified with the Guruchay Culture. Archaeological excavations finally led to one important discovery when in 1968, a fragment of a Homo sapiens’ lower jawbone was found. The primitive man became known as Azykhanthropus (“Azykh man,” living 350 – 400 thousand years ago). During the Stone Age, particularly the Neolithic period (6th – 4th millennia B.C.), and in the Bronze and early Iron Ages (mid 4th – early 1st millennia B.C.), significant changes took place in the history of Karabakh. The late Bronze and early Iron Ages (12th – 7th millennia B.C.) were marked as the Khojaly – Gedabek Culture. In one of the Khojaly burial mounds, scholars discovered agate beads with engraved cuneiform writings mentioning the Assyrian king Adadnerari. Throughout human history, Karabakh has been part of Azerbaijan. In the prehistoric period and the early Middle Ages, Karabakh belonged to Caucasian Albania (4th century B.C. – 7th century A.D.). After the Christian religion became the state religion in Albania, people in Karabakh and particularly, in the highlands of this area became Christian believers. The Arab invasion (7th – 9th centuries) and the subsequent fall of the Albanian State in 705 influenced hugely the history of Karabakh. Before this conquest, the population of the region was mono-ethnic. This picture became fully distorted in the aftermath of the Arab advance. As a result of the tragic policies of the Caliphate regarding Azerbaijan, the influence of the Albanian Church in Nagorno Karabakh weakened. This led to the growing impact of the Armenian-Gregorian Church in the region. These historical developments became a friendly way for the Armenian Church’s clergy to expand its authority among Albanian Christians of Karabakh. In turn, this process encouraged local Albanians to adopt the Gregorian branch of the Christian faith and later, the Armenian language. After the collapse of the Arab Caliphate, Karabakh started to gradually join the Azerbaijani state of Sheddadids (975-1075), and then, the Seljuk Empire (mid 11th – early 12th centuries), the Azerbaijani state of Atabeks (1136-1225). In the late 12th – early 13th centuries, the Khachyn Principality started to form in the mountainous area of Karabakh. During the later periods small local kingdoms (such as Khachin, Varanda, Dizag, Gulustan (Talysh), and Chilabord) emerged. In the 13th – 14th centuries, Karabakh joined the Mongol Empire, and in the late 14th and 15th centuries, Tamerlane’s state. Ibrahim I, the ruler of Shirvan (1382-1417), joined the Karabakh lowlands to his principality. In the 15th and early 18th centuries, Karabakh was part of several small states such as the Kara-Koyunlu (1410-1468), the Ak-Koyunlu (1468-1501), and the Safavids (1501-1736). Under the rule of the Safavids, the Khanates of Karabakh and Ganja were merged into a single province. In 1514-1555 and 1578-1590, when the wars broke out between the Safavids and the Ottomans, Karabakh became a disputed land. Following Karabakh’s entry into the Ottoman Empire after the 1590 agreement, a census book was developed (1593) in the region. According to census information, 61% of the population in the province of Ganja-Karabakh was Muslim while the rest was non-Muslim. In fact, the non-Muslim category represented the Christianized (or rather, Gregorianized) Albanians. In the first quarter of the 18th century, Azerbaijan became divided between Iran, Russia, and the Ottoman Empire with Karabakh remaining part of the Ottoman Empire. Official Ottoman documents from that period confirm that Azerbaijanis dominated the local population of the region. According to the figures, there were 122,000 inhabitants in the Ganja-Karabakh area in 1727 and 80,300 (66%) of them were Azerbaijanis; 37,800 (31%) were Armenianized Albanians; and 3,700 (3%) were Kurds. After seizing the Caspian coast of Azerbaijan, the Russian Tsar, Peter the Great (1672-1725), wished to increase Russian influence in the region. With this in mind, he issued a decree (November 10, 1724) ordering Russian troops to accommodate and protect Armenians wishing to settle in the occupied territory, to be friendly to them, and to give them evacuated houses and fertile lands. To fulfill this order, many Muslims faced deportation from their native lands. Nadir Shah dethroned the last Shah of the Safavid dynasty, Shah Abbas III (1732-1736), and came to power. However, the governors of the Ganja-Karabakh provinces refused to recognize him as a legitimate ruler. The use of force against the governors strengthened the position of the Albanian tsars and stirred up stronger separatist feelings among them. Following the death of Nadir-Shah in 1747, separate khanates emerged in the territory of Azerbaijan. The former province of Ganja-Karabakh disintegrated into two khanates – the Khanate of Ganja and the Khanate of Karabakh. The Karabakh Khanate took an important place in the history of Azerbaijani statehood. The founder of the Karabakh Khanate Panahali-Khan (1747-1763) undertook important measures to ensure political, social, economic, and cultural development in this region. Shusha’s importance increased significantly as the political center of the Khanate. A resolute battle erupted against the separatist actions of the Karabakh-Albanian provinces. Ibrahimkhalil Khan (1763-1806), the son of Panahali Khan, continued the activities of his father aimed at developing the Khanate further and uniting the lands of Azerbaijan. The crusade against the khanate organized by the provinces and their ally, the Russian Empire, failed. At the end of the 18th century, the Khanate of Karabakh faced another serious threat from Agha Mahammad Shah Gajar (1795-1797). Though Shusha resisted siege for 33 days during the 1795 crusade, in 1797 Gajar invaded Shusha. However, Shah Gajar died here later as a result of assassination. In the late 18th – early 19th century, the Russian Empire expanded its hostile actions in the South Caucasus. In 1801, east Georgia was merged into the Empire. Then, the area of Jar-Balaken and the Khanate of Ganja fell under Russian occupation in 1803 and 1804, respectively. Given such circumstances, the Khanate of Karabakh had to sign the Kurakchay Treaty with Russia on May 14, 1805. It meant the seizure of the Khanate by Russia. The occupying regime came to Karabakh. In 1806, Ibrahim Khan and members of his family were assassinated cruelly. As a result, the position of Mehdigulu Khan (1806-1822), who took power in Karabakh at this time, was not strong. Tsarist Russia tried deliberately to shatter the economic strength of the ruling Muslim elite who dominated the area at the local level and to increase the role of Armenians who were then in weak positions. With this goal in mind, Russia eliminated the Khanate of Karabakh by turning it into an ordinary province in 1822. A command management system was established. The province of Karabakh became part of the Military-Muslim County (with its centre located in Shusha). During this period, the Russian lieutenant general, ethnically Armenian V.G. Madatov, established the Armenian-Russian colonial system in Karabakh. As a result of the administrative reform implemented on April 10, 1840, the County of Shusha was created in Karabakh and attached to the Caspian Province (with its centre located in Shemakha). As a result, Karabakh lost its political significance and remained only a geographical designation. Due to a new administrative territorial partition in 1846, the county of Shusha became part of the newly established province of Shemakha (which became known as the province of Baku after 1859). The province of Shusha joined the province of Yelizavetpol (Ganja) when it was created in 1867. At that time, the county of Shusha consisted of the counties of Zangazur, Javanshir and Jabrayil. Thus, the province of Shusha lost its administrative-political status. The conquest of northern Azerbaijani territories by the Russian Tsar went along with the increasing number of Armenians settling in these territories, particularly in Karabakh. Following the Turkmenchay Treaty signed in 1828 this situation became more common. Item 15 of the Treaty envisaged the settlement of Armenians. On the basis of the Edirne Treaty of 1829, Armenians of the Ottoman Empire started to move to the newly occupied territories, including Karabakh. It became yet another step to change the ethnic panorama of the Karabakh population in favor of Armenians. According to the order of A.R. Yermolov, the Commander-in-Chief of Russian troops in the Caucasus (1816-1827), the census of the population in the province of Karabakh was conducted in 1823 following the liquidation of the Khanate of Karabakh. The results of the census were as follows: The total number of families was 20,095. Of that number, 15,729 (78.3%) were Azerbaijani families (1,111 in towns and 14,618 in villages); 4,366 (21.7 %) were Armenian families (421 in towns and 3,945 in villages). The mass migration of Armenians to Karabakh led to the formation of new Armenian villages, such as Maragaly, Janyatag, etc. (When Armenians laid territorial claim against Azerbaijan in the 20th century, they started hastily to destroy and erase the monument erected in honor of their move to these lands to cause people to forget the history). According to the official data, during the years of 1828-1830, 90,000 Armenians moved from the Ottoman Empire and 40,000 Armenians came from Iran to northern Azerbaijan, including Karabakh. Their number exceeded 200,000 including all other non-official Armenian settlers. The move of Armenians continued further in the coming years. According to the official data of 1911, over 1 million Armenians out of 1.3 million living in the South Caucasus were new settlers. Already by 1916, the population of Karabakh (within the borders of the Khanate) consisted of 51% Azerbaijanis and 46% Armenians. The majority of newly settled Armenians found their refuge in the mountainous part of Karabakh. The pro-Armenian policy of Tsarist Russia enabled Armenians to advance their role in the administrative sector, increase dramatically in numbers through settlement processes, and gain stronger economic potential. Armenians strengthened their position in the economic life of Karabakh with the comprehensive support and favorable conditions created by the Tsarist regime. Thus relying upon Russia, Armenians, who were active in all fields of social, economic, military-political, and cultural life, staged an open fight to realize their futile dreams of building “Great Armenia.” One of the main components of this notorious policy envisaged the extermination of the local Turkic-Muslim population living in Karabakh, Irevan, Nakhchivan, and other lands of Azerbaijan and seizing these territories. Starting from the 1890s, treacherous actions of Armenians against the central authorities in the Ottoman Empire were doomed to failure so Armenians decided to move the bulk of their fight to northern Azerbaijan by committing hideous genocide in Baku and other districts of the country in 1918. In 1905, Armenians perpetrated an awful genocide against local Azerbaijanis, which became known in history as the Armenian-Muslim war. The genocide against Azerbaijanis was more dramatic in Karabakh. Thirsty for more blood in the aftermath of genocide against the Turkic-Muslim population in 1905-1906, Armenians attempted to misuse the conditions formed in the period of the First World War (1914-1918) to perpetrate more tragic genocide in Baku and other regions of Azerbaijan in 1918. The establishment of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (ADR) on May 28, 1918, was an important event in the history of Karabakh. The Democratic Republic considered the entire historical territory of Karabakh as an integral part of the Republic and aspired to enforce its political power in this region. The Republic of Armenia declared in Tbilisi laid groundless claims to Karabakh. The Government of Azerbaijan rejected these claims firmly. Despite the peaceful policy of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, Armenians continued their genocide policy in Karabakh. Considering the situation, the Democratic Republic adopted a decision on January 13, 1919, to appoint a General Governor to the counties of Javanshir, Shusha, Jabrayil, and Zangezur. Khosrovpasha bey Sultanov was appointed to this post. He came to Shusha in February of 1919 to execute his duty. Despite the protest of the Republic of Armenia and the strained relations with the US and UK, a great deal of work was fulfilled in Karabakh. However, Armenians attempted to maintain their ethnic cleansing policy in Karabakh and committed massacres against Azerbaijanis in the counties of Javanshir, Shusha, Jabrayil, and Zangezur. The war of separatism and invasion staged by Armenians in Karabakh on the basis of orders from Bolshevik Russia forced the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic to deploy its military forces in that region. This made it difficult to defend the northern borders of the Republic. Following the fall of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic on April 28, 1920, Soviet power came to the counties of Shusha, Jabrayil, and Javanshir in the first half of May. As Soviet power was declared in Armenia on November 29, 1920, a large part of Zangezur was handed over to Armenians with the direct assistance and participation of Bolshevik Russia, and as a result, Nakhchivan became an exclave of Azerbaijan. The foundation of the Nagorno Karabakh Autonomous District (Nagorno Karabakh’skaya Avtonom’naya Oblast’ – NKAO in Russian) in the mountainous area on July 7, 1923 laid the basis of the future separatism of Armenians. In addition, the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic continued its claims to Nagorno Karabakh. During the period from 1920-1930, Armenians failed to realize their plans, and therefore, they re-activated this policy after the Second World War. In November 1945, Arutyunov, then leader of the Central Committee of the Communist (Bolshevik) Party of Armenia asked Stalin to attach the region of Karabakh of Azerbaijan SSR to Armenia SSR. The text of his appeal was sent by G.M. Malenkov, the Secretary of the Central Committee of All-Union Communist (Bolshevik) Party to M.J. Bagirov to be reviewed. Bagirov’s reply sent on December 10, 1945 proved undeniably that “the Nagorno Karabakh Autonomous District had never been terrestrially linked to Armenian SSR, and it is not as such now.” The claims of Armenian SSR failed again. Taking advantage of the situation at the end of the 1980s and not giving up its territorial claims against Azerbaijan, Armenia in fact staged a war. Armenians committed genocide against Azerbaijanis in Khojaly in February 1992 with the help of Russian military forces. Afterwards, 7 regions around Nagorno Karabakh (20% of the national territory) fell under Armenian occupation and almost 1 million Azerbaijanis were expelled from the lands of their forefathers. Though the United Nations Security Council adopted 4 resolutions (#822, 853, 874, and 884) demanding the withdrawal of Armenian armed forces, Armenia failed to fulfill these resolutions. The Republic of Azerbaijan pursues an active policy for peaceful and fair resolution of the Armenia-Azerbaijan, Nagorno Karabakh conflict, the liberation of the occupied lands and the restoration of its territorial integrity. Since ancient times, Karabakh has been one of the main economic and cultural centers of Azerbaijan. In ancient and medieval times, Barda, Beylegan and other cities of Azerbaijan emerged and developed in this region. As the capital of Caucasian Albania, the city of Barda played an important economic role. In later centuries, Shusha reached a highly developed level. Karabakh had contacts with main trading centers of the world and handicraft products made in this region were exported to those centers. Karabakh and not only Azerbaijan contributed strongly to world civilization and gave momentum to the development of mugham, considered one of the masterpieces of world music heritage. One of the specific important features of Karabakh, which is an integral part of Azerbaijan, is the formation of its own carpet-weaving school.


Karim SHUKUROV, PhD in History.

29.08.2012 14:28

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