History of Karabakh

Karabakh in 1920-1980

The phase of reconstruction of the Tsarist Russian boundary started with the strengthening of the Soviet regime.

The Eleventh Red Army consolidated its troops on the northern frontier of the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan and obtained a number of commands and decrees to invade Azerbaijan.

Within the Azerbaijan Parliament, the forces that sponsored the Soviet regime and the March uprising of Armenian Dashnak rebels in Karabakh intensified the downfall of the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan.

23 months passed before the 11th Red Army overthrew the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan and the Soviet government was formed in Northern Azerbaijan. The crisis in Karabakh has therefore entered a new phase.

History of Daghlig Garabagh: geography and the concept

History of Karabakh (1)

To shed light on this issue, let’s first concentrate on the geography of Daghlig Garabagh and the definition of “Daghlig Garabagh.”

For its geography, the area of Karabakh is split into plains and mountainous regions. This is a fact that is scientifically recognized.

Hence, in his article entitled “The Caucasus Uprising”, A.M.Skibitski, the son of the famous Caucasus scientist M.A.Skibitski, says :

The Karabakh Khanate mountainous region was once named Daghlig Garabagh. tIt consisted of a region between the mountains of Karabakh on the east and the mountains of Zangezur on the west, and also the plateau of Karabakh, dividing Daghlig Garabagh from the plain of Lower Karabakh.

As can be observed, whereas the territories of the Karabakh khanate were subject to various administrative districts as part of Tsarist Russia, the idea of Karabakh had lost its true administrative identity.

The term of Karabakh, nevertheless, gained its initial description during the time of the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan (1918-1920). The concept of Daghlig Garabagh was developed by Dashnaks at that very moment, as seen from the aforementioned perspective of S.Shaduns.

The definition of “Daghlig Garabagh” has not only gained geographical but also political significance since that time.

This idea became significant from the bureaucratic and political point of view with the creation of the Bolshevik forces in North Azerbaijan, changing to the main concept in the political vocabulary of Azerbaijan-Armenian relations and Russia, which sponsored the latter.

The surroundings of Daghlig Garabagh transformed geographically at that stage. Here, we refer to A.M.Skibitski ‘s writings as continues to follow:

“… In 1923, the Karabakh plateau was attached to the status of autonomy and was renamed Daghlig Garabagh Autonomous Province or barely” Daghlig Garabagh “inside the current borders of Azerbaijan.”

The Soviet Socialist Republic of Azerbaijan (Azerbaijan SSR) was founded on 28 April 1920. The evidence indicates that the Armenians achieved in growing their area at the expense of Azerbaijan during the 70 years of Soviet rule and displacing the Azerbaijanis from their historic territories.

The foregoing strategy was applied consistently and methodically throughout that time. As a consequence, under Soviet rule, the territory of Azerbaijan, which consisted of 114,000 sq.km in 1918-1920, was decreased to 86,600 sq.km.

On 30 November 1920, Armenia was included in the western portion of the Zangazur Ouezd. As a consequence, the Nakhchivan area has been cut off from Azerbaijan’s mainland.

On 13 October 1921, in Kars, with the support of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, the Treaty of Friendship between the Armenian SSR, Azerbaijan SSR and the Georgian SSR, on the one side, and Turkey, on the other, was signed.

The Governments of Turkey, Armenia, and Azerbaijan conveyed their understanding in Article 5 of the Treaty that ‘the Nakhchyvan oblast… constitutes an autonomous region within the control of Azerbaijan.’

Azerbaijan was part of the Transcaucasian Soviet Federative Socialist Republics (hereinafter-TSFSR) from 12 March 1922 to 5 December 1936.

Before the inclusion of Azerbaijan into the TSFSR, the boundaries of the Russian Empire in the Basarkechar area of New-Bayazid uezd and 2/3 of Sharur-Daralayaz uezd were included in Armenia.

A substantial percentage of Gazakh uezd, many villages from Jabrayil uezd and the Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic of Nakhchivan (hereinafter Nakhchyvan ASSR) have been included in Armenia following Azerbaijan’s entry into the TSFSR.

The Council of Ministers of the USSR introduced special resolutions on the relocation of joint farm workers as well as the other Azerbaijani population from the Armenian SSR to the Kur-Araz lowlands in the Azerbaijan SSR on 23 December 1947 and 10 March 1948 on the grounds of repatriating the Armenians arriving from abroad.

According to these measures, over 100,000 Azerbaijanis were forcefully repatriated from their former homelands, which were the mountainous territories of Armenia, to the then waterless lowlands of Mughan and the Mil plateau during the time between 1948 and 1953.

The Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast of Azerbaijan SSR

History of Karabakh (2)

The Caucasian Bureau of the Central Committee of the Russian Communist (Bolshevik) Party decided the following on 5 July 1921, in reaction to the territorial demands of the Armenian SSR concerning this territory of Azerbaijan:

“Considering the need for mutual peace between Muslims and Armenians, the role of economic ties between Upper and Lower Karabakh and the ongoing ties among Upper Karabakh and Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh remains within the borders of the Soviet Socialist Republic of Azerbaijan and large autonomy between Nagorno-Karabakh with Shusha city Karabakh is granted”.

In the mountainous part of Karabakh, the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (NKAO) was founded on 7 July 1923. Most of the population were Armenians. As the administrative center of the autonomy, the city of Khankandi was specified. The name of the town was changed to Stepanakert in September 1923, after Stepan Shaumian, chief of the Dashnak and “Bolsheviks.”

The boundaries of the NKAO were established in such a way that the majority of the Armenians was ensured. See the demographic distribution of the Autonomous Province of Daghlig Garabagh (by census enumeration: thousand people):

National composition1939195919701979
Whole population150,8100130,4100150,3100162,2100

(Obtained from “Достижения Нагорного Карабаха в девятой пятилетке. Стат. сб. Степанакерт, 1976, с.8, Самедзаде З. Нагорный Карабах: Неизвестное о некоторых аспектах социально-экономического и демографического развития региона, Баку, 1995, с.31.”)

The population of the Autonomous Oblast was roughly 189,000 residents, as per the population census of 12 January 1989. Of these, about 139,000 Armenians made up 73.5 percent, about 48,000 Azerbaijanis made up 25.3 percent, and about 2,000 other nationality individuals made up 1.2 percent of the total population.

At the very same time, about 200,000 Azerbaijanis densely lived in Armenia were refused cultural sovereignty, which was opposed by both the central government of the USSR and the SSR government of Armenia.

The accusations of persecution against Nagorno-Karabakh’s Armenian community do not hold up to inspection. The NKAO had, in fact, all the basic elements of self-government.

The position of Nagorno-Karabakh as an autonomous oblast inside the SSR of Azerbaijan was specified in the 1936 and 1977 USSR Constitutions.

The legal status of the NKAO was regulated by the provisions ‘On the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast,’ approved by the Supreme Soviet of the Azerbaijan SSR on 16 June 1981, after its referral to the Soviet of People’s Deputies of the NKAO, in compliance with the Constitutions of the USSR and the Azerbaijan SSR.

The NKAO, as a national-territorial unit, possessed a degree of administrative autonomy and had a range of rules which guaranteed, in effect, that the essential necessities of its people were met.

A broad variety of powers were available to the Soviet People’s Deputies of the NKAO, the government authority in the region.

All important matters are resolved on the basis of the interests of people residing in the Oblast and with respect to its national characteristics and other distinctive qualities.

In the function of all executive, regulatory and judicial bodies and the Procurator’s Office, as well as in education, the Armenian language has been used, representing the language requirements of the large majority of people of the area.

Local TV and radio programs, the publishing of Armenian language newspapers and magazines were also assured at the NKAO.

Socio-economic development

483 million rubles of capital spending were directed into the growth of the NKAO during the period 1971 to 1985, 2.8 times more than in the previous 15-year period.

The amount of per capita capital spending has risen almost fourfold since the previous 20 years (226 rubles in 1981-1985 vs 59 rubles in 1961-1965).

In Azerbaijan as a whole, per capita, housing development amounted to 3.64 square meters over the previous 15 years, while the average for the NKAO was 4.76 square meters. The number of hospital beds was 15 percent higher per 10,000 people than in the rest of the country.

In terms of the total quantity of pre-school places open, the NKAO ranked comparatively high among the republic’s territories. Therefore, the growth in the number of positions in children’s institutions per 10 000 people in the Oblast for the period 1971 to 1985 was 1.4 times the republic’s total. The same refers to the rise in the size of places per 10 000 people in schools, with the NKAO leading by a margin of 1.6.

The provision of housing, products, and services was superior to that which was characteristic of the social and cultural growth of the Oblast in the republic overall. The living area per person in the region’s apartment blocks was approximately one-third higher than the republic’s average, whereas rural dwellers had 1.5 times more living area than villagers in the republic as a whole.

Large numbers of medium-level medical staff and hospital beds were available to the people of the oblast. There was a wider network of facilities that offered cultural and media services (more than three times the number of cinemas and clubs and half the number of libraries) and 1.6 times the number of books and journals per 100 subscribers.

The NKAO has, in fact, grown faster than Azerbaijan overall. For instance, while industrial development in the republic improved threefold between 1970 and 1986, it rose by a rate of 3.3 in the NKAO (the rate of growth was 8.3% greater).

3.1 times more capital investment resources were used in the Oblast in 1986 than in 1970. The NKAO achieved the average republic-wide level of life metrics in the SSR of Azerbaijan as far as basic social growth indicators were involved.

There has been a substantial improvement in the promotion of creative institutions, both in the Oblast and in the republic.


There were 136 general education secondary schools in Nagorno-Karabakh in the 1988/89 school year, employing Armenian as the language in schools (16,120 pupils) and 13 foreign institutions (7,045 pupils).

In Azerbaijan overall, there were 181 Armenian schools (20,712 pupils) and 29 foreign schools (12,766 pupils) during the school year.

More than 2,130 scholars, mainly Armenians, studied at the State Pedagogical Institute in Khankandi in its Azerbaijani, Armenian and Russian branches. Nagorno-Karabakh, meanwhile, had hundreds of comprehensive high schools and technical education educational institutions providing Armenian and Russian curriculum.

In the Armenian language, five separate magazines and newspapers emerged. The NKAO was provided with technological facilities for receiving television and radio programming, unlike many other Azerbaijani administrative-territorial units situated far off the capital of the republic in mountainous regions.

As was seen previously, and as evidenced by the presence and growth of the NKAO in Azerbaijan, the developed model of autonomy completely represented the unique economic, social, cultural, and national elements of the people and the mode of living of the autonomous region.

There were 130 thousand Armenians registered in Baku in 1828 in the exclusion of any documented 170 thousand in 1988. The nation was home to 500 thousand Armenians. The main positions were held by 500 thousand Armenian Azerbaijani commerce, government offices, and enterprises.

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