Deportation of Azerbaijanis from Armenia

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The deportation of Azerbaijanis from Armenia took place as an act of forced resettlement and ethnic cleansing throughout the 20th century.[1][2][3][4][5] Their houses were inhabited by Armenian repatriates who arrived in the Soviet Union from abroad.[6][7]

Prior to the Revolution, Azerbaijanis had made up 43 percent of the population of Erevan.[8] Azerbaijani population was systematically migrated from the territory of Democratic Republic of Armenia and Armenian SSR several times by force during the 20th century.[9][10] Approximately 100,000 were deported from the Armenian SSR in 1948.[8]

Causes and targets of deportations and ethnic cleansings[edit]

The statement, circulated at the regular session of Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in 2006 which had been signed by several deputies of Azerbaijan, Italy, France, Ukraine, Turkey, Romania asserted that the purpose of ethnic cleansing of Azerbaijanis in Armenia was the establishment of "Greater Armenia".[11]

Ethnic cleansing in the beginning of the 20th century[edit]

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.[9] Starting from the middle of 1918, Armenian paramilitary forces played a great role in destruction of Muslim settlements in Zangezur and ethnic cleansing of the region under the guidance of Andranik. The British command, which had its own political objectives didn’t allow Andranik to extend his activity to Karabakh. Andranik brought 30,000 Armenian refugees from Eastern Anatolia, mainly from Mush and Bitlis. Part of Armenian refugees from Turkey 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.[9] According to statistical data from Caucasian Ethnographical Collection of Academy of Sciences of the USSR, "the settlements of Azerbaijani population in Armenia had become empty. The policy of “cleansing the country from outsiders” practised by Armenian Dashnaks, targeted all Muslims, especially those who had been driven out from Novobayazet, Yerevan, Echmiadzin and Sherur-Daralagoz districts.[10] Hereinafter the data collection states:

In 1897, 63,6 thousands were Armenians (46,2%), 71,2 thousands were Azerbaijanis (51,7%), 1,8 thousands were Kurds (1,3%) out of 137,9 thousands population. According to agricultural census of 1922, the whole population of Zengezur was 63,5 thousands people, including 59,9 thousands of Armenians (89,5%), 6,5 thousands Azerbaijanis (10,2%), 0,2 thousand Russians (0,3%)[10]

According to American historian F. Kazemzade, who cited Armenian historian A. Boryan, the Dashnak administration of independent Armenia of 1918-1920 was not founded for administrative needs, but for “deportation of Muslim population and seizure of their property”.[12] F. Kazemzade also claims an extermination of Muslims in the territories, which had been controlled by Turkey and later occupied by Armenian Army scaled up;[12] while Taner Akcam writes about those massacres that they were exaggerated or even outright fabrications.[13]

Deportation of Azerbaijani population from the Armenian SSR[edit]

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

Deportation of Azerbaijani population was continued even after the establishment of Armenian SSR. According to the 1926 First All-Union Census of the Soviet Union of population, Azerbaijanis made up 8,8% of the republic’s general population (78,000 people).[14] According to All-Union census of 1939, 130,896 Azerbaijanis lived in Armenian SSR.[15] Results of All-Union census of 1959 show that this figure decreased to 107,748,[16] although in the rate of natality, Azerbaijanis took one of the highest places in the Union. Deportation of Azerbaijanis from Armenia and relocation of Armenians living outside the borders of the Soviet Union to Armenia 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 straights. In that period (1945) the Soviet Union presented a territorial claim to Turkish territories of Kars and Ardahan. This confrontation in the relations of countries lasted till Stalin’s death. The preparation for foundation of these claims continued till 1953, and Stalin’s decision became the significant step of offering Armenians living in other countries to move to Soviet Armenia. The Soviet Armenia was located on the most advantageous military-geographical territory at the eastern frontier of Turkey within the context of influencing Turkey. Cleansing of Armenia from Azerbaijani Muslims with the purpose of strengthening Armenia’s stronghold was in the plans of the Soviet regime. In the Soviet government’s judgement, “disloyal”[17] 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.[18] 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. Price of moveable property abandoned in Armenia was paid for in kolkhozs at places of 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 family and 300 rubles per each member of family. According to historian Vladislav Zubok, due to calls of Grigory Arutyunov, the first secretary of Armenian SSR’s Communist Party’s Central Committee, Stalin ordered to deport Azerbaijani population from Armenian SSR to Azerbaijan. At the same time he gave consent for repatriation of 90,000 Armenians to settlements of newly deported Azerbaijanis.[19] Resettlement was not a voluntary action.[20] As it was planned,[21] the houses of Azerbaijanis were occupied by Armenian settlers.[22] Numerous reports were received of Azeris stating their unwillingness to leave Armenia. The Armenian interior ministry reported in 1948 that some Azeris 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. Once in Azerbaijan, though, some deportees could not adapt to the local climate and died soon after the resettlement. According to Thomas de Waal, Azeris of Armenia once again fell victims to the Armenian–Turkish question.[23] 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 were resettled in 1949, 50,000 people in 1959.[24]

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

Final expulsion of Azerbaijani population from Armenia[edit]

Besides Azerbaijanis, representatives of other ethnicities lived in Armenia: Azerbaijanis, Russians, Kurds, Ukrainians, Greeks and other ethnic minorities. According to census of 1979, Azerbaijanis were the largest minority in Armenia making up 5,3% of Armenia’s population (approximately 160,800 people).[25] Expulsion of Azerbaijanis in masses by Armenian extremists started in 1987 from district of Kafan.[26] According to Azerbaijani authorities, 216 Azerbaijanis died in Armenia as a result of pogroms and violence committed by Armenians. Bulk of the killed was from northern areas, where refugees poured from districts of Kirovabad formerly; especially to district Gugark, where 11 people were killed.[27] According to information of KGB of the USSR, in Armenian town Gugark: “…Azerbaijanis were taunted, killed and their houses were pillaged…”[28] According to Azerbaijani statistics, about 40,897 Azerbaijani families were totally deported. 216 people died during the resettlement,[29] 45 of them froze alive on mountains of Lesser Caucasus, 45 disappeared in mountain districts of Armenia, 34 people were tortured and killed, 6 people were allegedly killed by Armenian doctors in hospitals.[30]

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 90% to 98%.[31]

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.[32]

Statistics on Azerbaijani population of Armenia[edit]

The chronology of deportations and resettlements[edit]

• 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 Gafan district of Armenia • January 25, 1988- Azerbaijanis were driven away from Gafan district of Armenia • February 21, 1988- Mass demonstrations began in Yerevan • November, 1988- Mass deportation of Azerbaijanis from Armenia[33]

Change in number of Azerbaijanis in Armenia in terms of figures

1926 1939 1959 1970 1979 1989 2001
Azerbaijanis (number of people and as the percentage
of Armenia's population)

83,181 (9,4%) 130,896 (10.2%) 107,748 (6.1%) 148,189 (5.9%) 160,841 (5.2%) 84,860 (2.5%) no data available

Results of ethnic cleansings[edit]

As a result of the last ethnic cleansing in 1988, the last phase of republic’s homogenization was carried out in Armenia. As a consequence, Armenian population reached 98% of Armenia’s whole population. Responsibility for these events was imposed upon Armenian nationalists, together with republic’s administration.[34] Remainders of Azerbaijani population were driven away from country in 1991.[35] According to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ report, Azerbaijani population, being the largest ethnic minority in Armenia since 1988, was driven away from republic with assistance of local authorities after pogroms in Sumgait and Baku.[36] Today, Armenia is the only country of the former USSR with monoethnic population (97,9% Armenians).[37] According to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ estimations, today not more than 30 Azerbaijanis live in Armenia,[38] majority of whom live in rural areas and are members of mixed families (generally Azerbaijani women, who married Armenian men). Changes in demographic character were accompanied by total renaming of settlements and toponyms on the territory of Armenian SSR. In sum, more than 600 toponyms have been renamed from 1924 to 1988 in Armenian SSR.[24] Such alterations of toponyms were continued in postsoviet period as well. Renaming of Turkish toponyms remained in the territory of republic was the last stage. According to State Committee’s superior Manuk Vardanyan, 57 toponyms were renamed in 2006. It was planned to rename 21 settlements of the republic in 2007. This process lasted for a long time in connection with problem in the choice of new name.[39] Contributions of Azerbaijanis in Armenia to cultural diversity of Armenia suffered great losses. Agababa-Childir and Daralagoz ashig schools entirely disappeared in the wake of expulsion of Azerbaijanis from Armenia.[40]

Changes in the demographic structure of Yerevan[edit]

In 1897, the town Erivan had 29,006 residents in, 12,523 of them were Armenians, 12,359 Azerbaijanis.[41] According to the Russian Empire census of 1897, Azerbaijanis (Tatars) made up 12,000 people (41%) of 29,000 people of the city.[41][42] However, in the course of systematic ethnic cleansings during many years and migrations of Armenians from Persia and Ottoman Empire, the capital of present day Armenia became the city with monoethnic population. According to the census of 1959, Armenians made up 96% population of the country, but in 1989-more than 96,5%. Azerbaijanis made up only 0,1% of Yerevan’s population.[43] Forcible demographic changes in Yerevan diversity were enforced with the assistance of Armenian nationalists from “Dashnaktsutiun” party. They changed Yerevan’s population in favor of Armenians by terrorization of local Muslims.[44] As a result of ethnic cleansings, not only were the Azerbaijanis of Yerevan driven away, but Azerbaijani mosque in Yerevan was also destroyed.[45][46]


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See also[edit]