Deportation of Azerbaijanis from Armenia
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in the Soviet Union
The deportation of Azerbaijanis from Armenia took place as an act of forced resettlement and ethnic cleansing throughout the 20th century. Prior to the October Revolution, Azerbaijanis had made up 43 percent of the population of Yerevan. The Tartar (i.e. Azerbaijani) population endured a process of forced migration from the territory of the Democratic Republic of Armenia and later in the Armenian SSR several times during the 20th century. Under Stalin's policies, approximately 100,000 Azerbaijanis were deported from the Armenian SSR in 1948. Their houses were subsequently inhabited by Armenian repatriates who arrived in the Soviet Union from abroad.
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 played a great role in destruction of Muslim settlements in Zangezur and ethnic cleansing of the region under the guidance of General Andranik Pasha. 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. 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 the Dashnaks targeted the Muslim population, especially those who had been driven out from Novobayazet, Yerevan, Echmiadzin and Sherur-Daralagoz districts.
Hereinafter the data collection states:
In 1897, the population of the Zangezursky Uyezd were 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 Zangezur 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%)
According to American historian F. Kazemzade, who cited Armenian historian A. Boryan, the Dashnak administration during the Democratic Republic of Armenia was not founded for administrative needs, but for “deportation of Muslim population and seizure of their property”. He also claims an extermination of Muslims in the territories, which had been controlled by Turkey and later occupied by Armenian Army scaled up; while Taner Akcam writes about those massacres that they were exaggerated or even outright fabrications.
Relocation from the Armenian SSR
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). According to All-Union census of 1939, 130,896 Azerbaijanis lived in Armenian SSR. Results of All-Union census of 1959 show that this figure decreased to 107,748, although in the rate of natality, Azerbaijanis took one of the highest places 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 straights. 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 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” 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. 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.
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 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. The resettlement was not voluntary.
Numerous reports were received of Azeris 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 Azeris of Armenia once again fell victims to the Armenian–Turkish question. 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..
Gradual relocation from Armenia
Besides Azerbaijanis, representatives of other ethnicities lived in Armenia: 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). The expulsion of Azerbaijanis en masse by Armenian extremists started in 1987 from district of Kafan. According to Azerbaijani statistics, about 40,897 Azerbaijani families were wholly deported. 216 people died during the resettlement, Most of the victims were from northern areas, where refugees poured from districts of Kirovabad formerly; especially to district Gugark, where 11 people were killed. According to information of the KGB, in the Armenian town of Gugark: “…Azerbaijanis were taunted, killed and their houses were pillaged…” 45 of them froze alive on mountains of Lesser Caucasus, 45 disappeared in mountain districts of Armenia, 34 were tortured and killed and 6 people were allegedly killed by Armenian doctors in hospitals.
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%.
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.
Population statistics of Azerbaijanis in Armenia
• 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
Number of Azerbaijanis in Armenia
|Azerbaijanis (number of people and their percentage
inside 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 (0.0%)|
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. As outlined in the Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedia, Azerbaijanis (Tatars) made up 12,000 people (41%) of 29,000 people of the city. However, during the systematic ethnic cleansings in the Soviet Era and the systematic deportation of Armenians from Persia and the Ottoman Empire during 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. They changed Yerevan’s population in favor of the Armenians by sidelining the local Muslim population. As a result of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, not only were the Azerbaijanis of Yerevan driven away, but the Azerbaijani mosque in Yerevan was also demolished.
According to a 2003 United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees report, unidentified local authorities expelled Azeris in response to anti-Armenian pogroms in Sumgait and Baku of 1988-89. Armenians reached 98% of the national population. Armenian nationalists, together with the Soviet republic’s administration, were thought to have co-operated in driving Azeris out. The remainder of the Azerbaijani population was driven away from country in 1991. By 2004, Armenia was the only country of the former USSR with a homogeneous population (97,9% Armenians) and not more than 30 Azerbaijanis were living in Armenia.
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. Such alterations of toponyms were continued in post-Soviet period. Renaming of Turkish toponyms remaining in the territory of the republic was the last stage. 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. The contribution that the Azerbaijanis had provided to Armenia suffered a big blow in terms of cultural diversity and culture. The Agababa-Childir and Daralagoz ashig schools entirely disappeared in the wake of the expulsion of Azerbaijanis from Armenia.
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