Shusha Pogrom - Background

Background

According to the latest statistical data published in Caucasus calendar in 1917, in 1916 just before the Russian revolution, the population of the town of Shusha was 43,869, of which 23,396 (53%) were Armenians, and 19,121 (44%) were Tatars (Azerbaijanis).

At the end of the First World War, the ownership of the territory of Nagorno-Karabagh was disputed between the newly founded republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan. Shusha - the territory's largest settlement, its capital, and with a mixed population consisting mostly of ethnic Armenians and Azeris - found themselves at the center of dispute.

The government of Azerbaijan proclaimed in Baku about the annexation of the disputed territory and, on January 15, 1919, appointed Khosrov bek Sultanov, the "owner of vast tracts of Karabagh ... an ardent pan-Turkist, a friend of the Ittihadists of Constantinople, and a terror to all Armenians", as governor-general of Karabagh. Britain (which had a small detachment of troops stationed in Shusha) agreed to Sultanov's appointment as a provisional governor, but insisted that a final decision on the territory's ownership should be decided only at a future Peace Conference.

In response to Sultanov's appointment, the General Assembly of the Armenians of Karabagh (Armenian National Council of Karabagh), meeting in Shusha on February 19, "rejected with legitimate indignation all pretense of Azerbaijan with regard to Armenian Karabagh, which said Assembly has declared an integral part of Armenia".

On April 23, 1919 the National Council of Karabagh met again in Shusha and rejected again Azerbaijan's claim of sovereignty, insisting on their right of self-determination. After this, a local Azerbaijani detachment encircled the Armenian quarters of Shusha, demanding the inhabitants to surrender fortress. Shots were fired, but when the British mediated, Armenians agreed to surrender to them.

On the 4 and 5 June 1919, armed clashes occurred in Shusha between the two communities and Sultanov began a blockade of the town's Armenian quarters. American nurses working in Shusha for Near East Relief wrote of a massacre "by Tartars of 700 of the Christian inhabitants of the town". A cease-fire was quickly organised after the Armenian side agreed to Sultanov's condition that members of the Armenian National Council left the town. However, a new wave of violence then swept through neighbouring Armenian-populated villages: in mid-June Azeri mounted "irregulars", about 2,000 strong, attacked, looted and burnt a large Armenian village, Khaibalikend, just outside Shusha, and approximately 600 Armenians lay dead.

The seventh Congress of the Armenians of Karabagh was convened in Shusha on August 13, 1919. It concluded with the agreement of August 22, according to which Nagorno-Karabagh would consider itself to be provisionally within the borders of the Republic of Azerbaijan until its final status was decided at the Peace Conference in Paris.

On February 19, 1920 Sultanov issued a demand that the Armenian National Council of Karabagh "urgently to solve the question of the final incorporation of Karabagh into Azerbaijan". The Council, at their eighth congress held from 23 February to 4 March, responded that Azerbaijan's demand violated the terms of the 22nd August provisional agreement and warned that "repetition of the events will compel the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabagh to turn to appropriate means for defence". Armenians of Karabakh prepared a revolt against the Azerbaijani power.

Read more about this topic:  Shusha Pogrom

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