Western Azerbaijan (political concept)

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Khanates of the Caucasus in XVIII

Western Azerbaijan (Azerbaijani: Qərbi Azərbaycan) is an irredentist political concept that is used in the Republic of Azerbaijan mostly to refer to the territory of the Republic of Armenia. Azerbaijani statements claim that the territory of the modern Armenian republic were lands that once belonged to Azerbaijanis.[1] Its claims are primarily hinged over the contention that the current Armenian territory was under the rule of various Turkic tribes, empires and khanates from the late medieval period until the Treaty of Turkmenchay signed after the Russo-Persian War, 1826-1828. The concept has received official sanction by the government of Azerbaijan, and has been used by its current president, Ilham Aliyev, who has repeatedly stated that the territory of Armenia is a part of "ancient Turk and Azerbaijani land."[2]


A map presented by the Azerbaijani delegation at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, laying claims over its neighbor Armenia. Azerbaijani territorial pretensions at the time stretched all the way to the Black Sea, envisioning Armenia as a rump state centered around Yerevan and what is now northern Armenia.[3]

The present-day territory of Armenia and the western part of Azerbaijan is historically known as Armenian Highland.[4]

Prior to the Caucasian khanates (in some sources referred to as the northern Azerbaijani khanates),[5] the Oghuz Turkic tribal federations such as the Kara Koyunlu and Ak Koyunlu held sway in the region. Afterward the area was under the control of the Safavid Empire.

From the 17th-19th centuries, the area was administered by the Khans of the Qajar tribes which were of Turkic origin,[6][7] under the Safavids, Afsharids, and Qajar Iranians, while Armenians had autonomy under the immediate jurisdiction of the melik of Erevan. Later on in 1828, the administrative khanate was dissolved and became a part of the Russian Empire as an outcome of the Treaty of Turkmenchay.

Demographic basis[edit]

Surrender of Erivan Fortress in 1827 painted by Franz Roubaud
Comparison table of Armenian, Azerbaijani and Kurdish population of Armenia

From 1795 to 1804 during the clashes between the Russian and Persian Empire Armenians were taken as captives to Iran.[8] There were also 20,000 Armenians who moved to Georgia.[9] The Armenian-American historian George Bournoutian gives a summary of the ethnic makeup after those events:[10]

After the incorporation of the Erivan khanate into the Russian Empire, Muslim majority of the area gradually changed, at first the Armenians who were left captive were encouraged to return.[8] As a result of which an estimated 57,000 Armenian refugees from Persia returned to the territory of the Erivan khanates after 1828, while about 35,000 Muslims (Persians, Turkic groups, Kurds, Lezgis, etc.) out of a total population of over 100,000 left the region.[11] Russia also had some anti-Armenian policies which included their removal.:[12]

Migrations, albeit on a lesser scale, continued until the end of the 19th century.[11][13] While the territory of Erivan khanate had a notable Muslim majority since the Armenian population was brought to Iran and left captive during the clash against the Russian Empire, the situation had been reversed under Russian rule by 1832.[14]

At the beginning of the 20th century, there were 149 Azerbaijani, 91 Kurdish and 81 Armenian villages in Zangezur.[15]

According to the Russian census of 1897, a significant population of Azeris still lived in Russian Armenia. They numbered about 300,000 persons or 37.8% in Russia's Erivan Governorate (roughly corresponding to most of present-day central Armenia, the Iğdır Province of Turkey, and Azerbaijan's Nakhichevan exclave, but excluding Zangezur and most of northern Armenia). Most lived in rural areas and were engaged in farming and carpet-weaving. They formed the majority in 4 of the governorate's 7 districts (including Igdir and Nakhichevan, which are not part of Armenia today and Sharur-Daralagyoz district which is mostly in Azerbaijan) and were nearly as many as the Armenians in Yerevan (42.6% against 43.2%).[16] At the time, Eastern Armenian cultural life was centered more around the holy city of Echmiadzin, seat of the Armenian Apostolic Church.[17] Traveller Luigi Villari reported in 1905 that in Erivan the Azeris (to whom he referred as Tartars) were generally wealthier than the Armenians, and owned nearly all of the land.[18]

Some Azeri sources claim that currently there is not a single Azerbaijani in Armenia.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Present-day Armenia located in ancient Azerbaijani lands - Ilham Aliyev". News.Az. October 16, 2010. 
  2. ^ See, for example, (Azerbaijani) Ilham Aliyev's speech in Baku. "We do not argue any territorial claim against Armenia. However we can, because the territory which present-day Armenia locates is an ancient Turk and Azerbaijani land."
  3. ^ See Hovannisian, Richard G. (1982). The Republic of Armenia, Vol. II: From Versailles to London, 1919-1920. Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 192, map 4; 526–529. ISBN 0-520-04186-0. 
  4. ^ A. West, Barbara (2008). Encyclopedia of the Peoples of Asia and Oceania, Volume 1. Facts on File. p. 52. ISBN 0-8160-7109-8. 
  5. ^ Tadeusz Swietochowski Russian Azerbaijan, 1905-1920, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press 1985, first paperback edition 2002, p. 2
  6. ^ Abbas Amanat, The Pivot of the Universe: Nasir Al-Din Shah Qajar and the Iranian Monarchy, 1831-1896, I.B.Tauris, pp 2-3; "In the 126 years between the fall of the Safavid state in 1722 and the accession of Nasir al-Din Shah, the Qajars evolved from a shepherd-warrior tribe with strongholds in northern Iran into a Persian dynasty.."
  7. ^ Choueiri, Youssef M., A companion to the history of the Middle East, (Blackwell Ltd., 2005), 516.
  8. ^ a b The Cambridge History of Iran by William Bayne Fisher, Peter Avery, Ilya Gershevitch, Gavin Hambly, Charles Melville, Cambridge University Press, 1991 p. 339
  9. ^ Akty sobrannye, docs. 559, 564, 568, 570, 573, 582, 586, 614; and S. Glinka, Sobranie aktov otnosiashchikhsia k obozrenii istorii Armianskogo naroda, II (Moscow, 1838), pp. 163-166.
  10. ^ Bournoutian, George A. (1982). Eastern Armenia in the Last Decades of Persian Rule, 1807 - 1828. Malibu: Undena Publications. pp. xxii + 165. 
  11. ^ a b Potier, Tim (2001). Conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia and South Ossetia: A Legal Appraisal. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. p. 2. ISBN 90-411-1477-7. 
  12. ^ Muriel Atkin writes Russia & Iran 1780-1828 CB, by Muriel Atkin, University of Minnesota Press (1980) p. 85
  13. ^ Asian and African Studies by Ḥevrah ha-Mizraḥit ha-Yiśreʾelit. Jerusalem Academic Press., 1987; p. 57
  14. ^ Cornell, Svante (2001). Small Nations and Great Powers: A Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict in the Caucasus. Routledge. p. 67. ISBN 0-7007-1162-7. 
  15. ^ (Russian) Кавказский календарь на 1900 г., III Отдел. Статист. свед. с. 42-43, Елизаветпольская губерния. Свод статистических данных извлеченных из посемейных списков населения Кавказа., Тифлис, 1888, с.V
  16. ^ Russian Empire Census 1897
  17. ^ Thomas de Waal. Black Garden: Armenia And Azerbaijan Through Peace and War. New York: New York University Press, p. 74. ISBN 0-8147-1945-7
  18. ^ Fire and Sword in the Caucasus by Luigi Villari. London, T. F. Unwin, 1906: p. 267
  19. ^ (Azerbaijani) Qərbi Azərbaycanla bağlı toponimlər barədə nə bilirik, Sevinj Rza qizi 2010, azpress.az, 6 August, access date: 2 October 2010