10 июня 2013 г.

 The 25th anniversary of the mass deportation of the Azerbaijani population of Armenia

Rizvan Huseynov

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the mass deportation of Azerbaijanis from Armenia. In April-May 1988 this process reached its peak - the total banishment of the indigenous Azerbaijani population was accompanied by violence, murder and looting. As a result over 200,000 Azerbaijanis were banished - "the last of the Mohicans", who remained in the land of their forefathers and once comprised about 90 per cent of the population of present-day Armenia. 

It is worth noting that Azerbaijanis had been attacked and murdered for ethnic reasons at the end of 1986 and in 1987-88. But the ultimate expulsion of the Azerbaijani population from Soviet Armenia began after 24 April 1988: this was how the Armenians "marked" the so-called "genocide" of the Armenians in 1915.

On 26 April 1988 an attack was carried out on the Azerbaijani village of Kichik Vedi, and then on 11 May Armenian nationalists, led by the local authorities and militia, took reprisals against the Azerbaijani population of the village of Shirazli. Some 64 homes were destroyed, eight of them set ablaze, and the property of 130 Azerbaijani families was pillaged. The Armenian vandals destroyed a shrine and a place of pilgrimage and brutally beat up its warden, a 90-year old elder, Said Agbal oglu (Mir-Agbal Mir-Yaquboglu Nagiyev), who later died from his injuries. A two-month old boy, who was badly injured during the pogroms of the Armenians in Shirazli, also died, and another eight Azerbaijanis sustained serious injuries as a result of all these events. At this time dozens of other Azerbaijani villages were attacked and the inhabitants forced to flee their homes, leaving behind all their property.

Some 880 Azerbaijanis who were banished from Shirazli fled to the Soviet-Turkish border in search of rescue from the Soviet border guards, but failing to find it, the refugees forced their way through the border installations, climbed over the barbed wire and set up their tents on the central highway. Here, over the course of four months, they lived in the open on the banks of the Araz River near the Azerbaijani village of Shidli (now Ereknavan). They were joined on 20 June by people from another five Azerbaijani villages (about 10,000 people) in Ararat District.

A delegation of residents of the Azerbaijani villages who had taken refuge on the Soviet-Turkish border, made up of Agsaqals [the elders] and the intelligentsia, came to the Kremlin on a number of occasions to meet with the top Soviet leaders and to Baku to speak to the then authorities of the Azerbaijani SSR. However, neither in Moscow nor Baku was any help given to the Azerbaijanis who had been banished from their homes by the nationalists and the authorities of the Armenian SSR. It should be pointed out that the attacks on these villages were led not only by the heads of the district but also certain senior officials of the Armenian SSR, specifically the deputy chairman of the Council of Ministers, Suren Arutyunyan, who later became first secretary of the Armenian SSR Communist Party Central Committee. Desperate after failing to receive any help from the Soviet authorities after waiting several months, the Azerbaijani villagers, in order to survive, decided to force their way over the Soviet-Turkish border, swim across the Araz River and cross over into Turkish territory. And then, fearful of broad world publicity of this shameful situation for the allegedly internationalist USSR, the Soviet authorities, through the Interior Ministry and the border troops, resolved the problem of the Azerbaijanis by using the "Armenian method". In other words, instead of taking measures against the Armenian authorities and the Armenian nationalists for their riotous behaviour in the Azerbaijani villages, Moscow decided to ensure the evacuation of tens of thousands of Azerbaijanis who had been persecuted in the Armenian SSR, escorted by forces of the Soviet Interior Ministry and border troops. Over the course of several weeks the Azerbaijanis who had taken refuge on the Soviet-Turkish border were evacuated along the central highway from Armenia to Naxcivan, and from there to the Azerbaijani SSR.

On 4 November 1988, at a rally in Yerevan, an activist of the "Karabakh" Committee, Rafael Kazaryan (now an academician of the Armenian Academy of Scientists) openly called for "the emigration to be carried out by all possible means with the help of detachments which had been set up in advance. For the first time in all these decades we have been given a unique opportunity to cleanse Armenia of these Turks. I believe this is the greatest achievement of our struggle in these past ten months". ("Armenia: Twenty months of struggle." A collection of documents. Samizdat of the Armenian Nationwide Movement. Yerevan, 1985, p 15).

By the end of September 1988 not a single Azerbaijani remained in the Ararat valley and the Armenian authorities loudly declared themselves "a republic without Turks", after which in the course of 1989 the rest of the Azerbaijani population was deported. Then, throughout Armenia began the wholesale destruction of Azerbaijani cultural, architectural and historical monuments, as well as the total re-naming of place names.
Today, hundreds of thousands of refugees from Armenia have found refuge in Azerbaijan, Together with the forced migrants banished from the Armenian-occupied districts of Azerbaijan they now number about one million. Meanwhile, Armenia can do nothing to prevent the exodus of its population from the country in search of a better life. Armenian expert Vigen Akopyan, in an article "The Armenians and Armenia - when the nation was broader than the state", notes sadly: "The Armenian authorities admit that over a million people, i.e. one third, have left the country in the past 20 years. This is a quite bizarre figure which exceeds the average level worldwide ten times!" 

In other words, by virtue of its aggressive policy towards its neighbours, Armenia has failed as an independent state, and the incumbent Armenian authorities have no interest in saving their statehood. In search of a slice of bread and wishing to be as far away as possible from the policy of the ruling Karabakh clan, the Armenians are beginning to settle en masse along the Black Sea coast of Russia, Sochi, Krasnodar, Stavropol and other regions. The Armenians are virtually abandoning the southern Caucasus and the present Republic of Armenia to where they were once resettled to live out their lives. The concept of a "homeland" to the present-day Armenians is anywhere they can live where there is an Armenian diaspora and a church.