Deportation of Azerbaijanis from Armenia

Summary

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Mass deportation of Azerbaijanis from Armenia took place several times throughout the 20th century, and have been described as acts of forced resettlement and ethnic cleansing.[1][2][3][4][5]

Prior to the October Revolution, Azerbaijanis had made up 43 percent of the population of Yerevan.[6] The Tartar (i.e. Azerbaijani) population endured a process of forced migration from the territory of the First Republic of Armenia and later in the Armenian SSR several times during the 20th century.[7][8] Under Stalin's policies, approximately 100,000 Azerbaijanis were deported from the Armenian SSR in 1948.[6] Their houses were subsequently inhabited by Armenian repatriates who arrived in the Soviet Union from abroad.[9][10]

Azerbaijanis continued to live in the Armenian SSR until the outbreak of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in 1988-89, when practically all Azerbaijanis in Armenia left or were expelled concurrently with the expulsion/flight of Armenians from Azerbaijan.[4]

Beginning of the 20th century

As a result of Armenian-Azerbaijani interethnic conflict in the beginning of the 20th century, as well as Armenian and Azerbaijani nationalists' coordinated policy of ethnic cleansing, a substantial portion of the Armenian and Azerbaijani population was driven out from the territory of both Republic of Armenia and Republic of Azerbaijan. Starting from the middle of 1918, Armenian paramilitary forces under the leadership of General Andranik Ozanian destroyed Muslim settlements in Zangezur (the southernmost part of modern-day Armenia). The British command, which had its own political objectives didn't allow Andranik to extend his activity to Karabakh. Andranik brought 30,000 Armenian Genocide survivors from Western Armenia in the Ottoman Empire, mainly from Mush and Bitlis. Part of Armenian refugees from the Ottoman Empire remained in Zangezur, whereas many others were settled in regions of Yerevan and Daralagoz, where they took the place of outcast Muslims in order to making Armenia's key regions ethnically homogeneous.[7] According to data from Caucasian Ethnographical Collection of Academy of Sciences of the USSR, "the settlements of Azerbaijani population in Armenia had become empty." Nataliya Volkova writes that the ruling party of the First Republic of Armenia, the ARF-Dashnaktsutyun, followed a "policy of 'cleansing the country from outsiders'" which "targeted the Muslim population, especially those who had been driven out from Novobayazet, Yerevan, Echmiadzin and Sherur-Daralagoz districts.[8]

Volkova writes:

In 1897, out of the 137,9 thousand people living in Zangezursky Uyezd, 63,6 thousand was Armenian (46,2%), 71,2 thousand was Azerbaijani (51,7%), 1,8 thousand was Kurdish (1,3%). According to agricultural census of 1922, the whole population of Zangezur was 63,5 thousand people, including 59,9 thousand Armenians (89,5%), 6,5 thousand Azerbaijanis (10,2%) and 200 Russians (0,3%).[8]

Soviet Armenian historian and Bolshevik politician Bagrat Boryan charged that the ARF had not established state authority for the administrative needs of Armenia, but for the “extermination of the Muslim population and looting of their property”.[11] Russian-American historian Firuz Kazemzadeh claims that "massacres and pillage of the Muslim population reached tremendous proportions" in the territories reoccupied by the Armenian Army after the retreat of the Turkish Army,[11] while Taner Akcam writes about those massacres that they were exaggerated or even outright fabrications.[12]

Relocation from the Armenian SSR

Resettlement ticket of an Azerbaijani person from Armenian SSR (from Chobankand, Zangibasar district)

The relocation of the Azerbaijani population during the Stalinist era happened after the establishment of the Armenian SSR. According to the First All-Union Census of the Soviet Union of 1926, Azerbaijanis made up 9.6% of the Republic's population (84,705 people).[13] According to All-Union census of 1939, 130,896 Azerbaijanis lived in Armenian SSR.[14] Results of All-Union census of 1959 show that this figure decreased to 107,748,[15] although Azerbaijanis had one of the highest birth rates in the Soviet Union. The Soviet-era deportation of Azerbaijanis from Armenia and relocation of Armenians living outside the borders of the Soviet Union to Armenia, favoured by the Stalinist policy was the main factor of decrease in the size of Azerbaijani population. In 1937, Muslim Kurds were deported to Kazakhstan from border districts of Armenia with Turkey, immediately after appearance of the problem in USSR-Turkey relations, because of Turkey's denial of the Soviet Union's request for joint control of the Black Sea straits. In 1945 the Soviet Union presented a territorial claim to Turkish territories of Kars and Ardahan. This confrontation in the relations of both countries lasted until Stalin's death. These policies continued until 1953, and Stalin's decisions became the significant step of offering Armenians living in other countries to move to Soviet Armenia. The Armenian SSR was located in an advantageous military-geographical territory at the eastern frontier of Turkey (who killed 1.5 million people during the Armenian genocide of 1915) within the context of influencing Turkey. Cleansing Armenia of the Azerbaijani Muslims with the purpose of strengthening Armenia's stronghold was one of the plans of the Soviet regime. In the Soviet government's judgement, “disloyal”[16] Azerbaijanis could be “the fifth column” in case of conflict with Turkey and for this reason Stalin allowed Azerbaijani population's deportation from Armenian SSR in 1947–1950, according to the Soviet Union's Council of Ministers’ Resolution #4083 from December 23, 1947.[17] One clauses of the resolution stated:

To allow the Council of Ministers of Armenian SSR to use the buildings and houses, which were vacated by Azerbaijani population in connection with their resettlement to Kura-Aras Lowland of Azerbaijan SSR for settlement of foreign Armenians coming to Armenian SSR.[18]

Details of resettlement were defined in the Soviet Union's Council of Ministers’ Resolution #754. The part of kolkhoz's (collective farm) moveable property was assigned and gratuitous transportation of this property to the new settlement was provided for the deported. The price of moveable property abandoned in Armenia was paid for in kolkhozes at places of the new settlement of Azerbaijanis. Some benefits were given to migrants and at the same time, permanent grants of 1000 rubles were given out per head of the family and 300 rubles per each member of the family. According to historian Vladislav Zubok, due to calls of Grigory Arutinov, the First Secretary of Armenian SSR's Communist Party's Central Committee, Stalin ordered to deport Azerbaijani population from the Armenian SSR to the Azerbaijan SSR. At the same time, he gave consent for repatriation of 90,000 Armenians to the settlements of the newly deported Azerbaijanis.[19][20][21] The resettlement was not voluntary.[22]

According to Krista A. Goff, First Secretary of the Azerbaijan SSR Mir Jafar Baghirov and Arutinov worked together to facilitate Azerbaijani relocation.[23]: 77  At the time, the Kura-Aras lowlands in Azerbaijan were sparsely populated, infrastructurally undeveloped, and economically unproductive. Through resettlement of Azerbaijanis in the Armenian SSR to the Azerbaijan SSR, Azerbaijan gained a labor force that could make the Kura-Aras region productive. For the most part, Soviet Azerbaijani officials chose to collaborate in the Azerbaijani resettlement. On some occasions, they accused Armenian officials of subverting the resettlement, on the grounds that they were obstructing the relocation of Azerbaijani migrants and not returning the migrants who came back to Armenia. Indeed, some Armenian officials did obstruct resettlement to keep Azerbaijani collective farmers producing in the Armenian SSR.[23]: 78 

Numerous reports were received of Azerbaijanis stating their unwillingness to leave the Armenian SSR. The Armenian SSR Interior Ministry reported in 1948 that some Azerbaijanis would even visit cemeteries and pray to the souls of their ancestors "to help them stay in their lands". On the other hand, some groups decided it was better to leave as, in the case of a war with Turkey, they were convinced they would be massacred by Armenians. According to Thomas de Waal, the Azerbaijanis of Armenia once again fell victims to the Armenian–Turkish question.[24] According to Arsene Saparov, as a result of deportation, more than 100,000 Azerbaijanis were forcibly resettled to Kura-Aras Lowland of the Azerbaijan SSR in three stages: 10,000 people in 1948, 40,000 in 1949, and 50,000 in 1950.[25] According to Krista A. Goff, though Stalin sought to resettle 100,000 Azerbaijani kolkhozniks in his 1947 decree, only approximately 40 percent of that number were successfully resettled.[23]: 269 

Stalin signed decree ordering deportation of Azerbaijanis from Armenian SSR and replacement of Armenians in their houses on December 23, 1947

Nagorno-Karabakh conflict

According to the census of 1979, Azerbaijanis were the largest minority in Armenia making up 5,3% of Armenia's population (approximately 160,800 people).[26]

According to a 2003 United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees report, Azerbaijanis were expelled from Armenia or fled out of fear following the anti-Armenian pogroms in Sumgait and Baku of 1988–89.[27] Armenian nationalists, together with the Soviet republic's administration, were thought to have co-operated in driving Azerbaijanis out.[28] According to data collected by Arif Yunusov, about 40,897 Azerbaijani families fled and 216 Azerbaijanis died (127 of them killed by Armenians) during the resettlements in 1988-1991.[29] Soviet official statistics confirmed 25 victims from that list to be killed in the norther regions of Armenia, including the Gugark district, where 11 people were killed during the Gugark pogrom. The remainder of the Azerbaijani population was driven away from the country in 1991.[30] By 2004, not more than 30 Azerbaijanis were living in Armenia.[31]

Razmik Panossian refers to this population transfer as the last phase of Armenia's gradual ethnic homogenization and an episode of ethnic cleansing that increased the country's ethnic Armenian population from 97% to 98%.[32] According to Russian human rights defender Sergey Lyozov, the mass deportation of Azerbaijanis from Armenia in November 1988 was one of the factors that turned the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict into a "battle to the end" involving either physical extermination or total expulsion of an ethnic group.[33]

Changes in the demographic character were accompanied by a policy of renaming settlements and toponyms on the territory of Armenian SSR. In total, more than 600 toponyms have been renamed from 1924 to 1988 in Armenian SSR.[34] Such alterations of toponyms continued in post-Soviet period. According to State Committee's superior Manuk Vardanyan, 57 toponyms were further renamed in 2006, with plans to rename a further 21 settlements in 2007.[35] Azerbaijani cultural institutions in Armenia also suffered as a result of the expulsions. The Agababa-Childir and Daralagoz ashig schools entirely disappeared in the wake of the expulsion of Azerbaijanis from Armenia.[36]

Population statistics of Azerbaijanis in Armenia

Chronology

• 1947 - The Soviet Union's Councils of Ministers’ resolution about resettlement of Azerbaijanis from Armenian SSR to Azerbaijan SSR

• 1947-1950 - Eviction of Azerbaijanis from Armenian SSR

• November, 1987- Assault on Azerbaijanis in Kapan district of Armenian SSR

• January 25, 1988 - Azerbaijanis are driven away from Kapan district of Armenia SSR

• February 21, 1988 - Mass demonstrations began in Yerevan for the unification of Nagorno-Karabakh with the Armenia SSR

• November, 1988 - Mass deportation of Azerbaijanis from Armenia[37]

Number of Azerbaijanis in Armenia

1926 1939 1959 1970 1979 1989 2001
Azerbaijanis (number of people and their percentage as part of Armenia's population) 84,705 (9.6%) 130,896 (10.2%) 107,748 (6.1%) 148,189 (5.9%) 160,841 (5.2%) 84,860 (2.5%) 29 (0.01%)

Changes in the demographic structure of Yerevan

According to the Russian census of 1897, the town Erivan had 29,006 residents: 12,523 of them were Armenians and 12,359 were Azerbaijanis.[38] As outlined in the Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedia, Azerbaijanis (Tatars) made up 12,000 people (41%) of 29,000 people of the city.[38][39] However, the systematic ethnic cleansings in the Soviet Era and the arrival of Armenians from the Ottoman Empire fleeing the Armenian Genocide, the capital of present-day Armenia became a largely homogenous city. According to the census of 1959, Armenians made up 96% population of the country and in 1989 more than 96,5%. Azerbaijanis then made up only 0,1% of Yerevan's population.[40] Yerevan's population was changed in favor of the Armenians by sidelining the local Muslim population.[41] As a result of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the Azerbaijanis of Yerevan driven away and an Azerbaijani mosque in Yerevan was also demolished.[42][43]

See also

References

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    Prior to the Revolution, Azerbaijanis had made up 43 percent of the population of Erevan, but approximately 100,000 were deported from the Armenian SSR in 1948 (Dragadze 1990:166–7).

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Further reading