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Museum G-Brief

KARABAKH AND TURKEY’S GENOCIDAL ATTEMPTS


10.03.2011

At least three times in history Turkey has tried to commit genocidal acts while striving to implement the policy of total extermination and deportation of the Armenian population from Karabakh. From the historical point of view Turkey’s current stance and attempts to put preconditions to Armenia and the policy of pressure with the intent to get necessary concessions from Armenia in the settlement of Karabakh issue seem very actual; moreover, the references to the historical records are important in shedding a light on the origins of the ‘Turkish strategy’ in Karabakh issue.

The first attempt

The expansion of the borders of the Ottoman Empire in the Caucasus has started from the 16th century. On the way to the Caspian shores the Turkish armies faced with the heavy resistance of the Armenians of Artsakh (Karabakh) and many times have suffered defeats from the organized resistance of the Karabakh Armenians. In 1725 Sultan Ahmet III (1703-1730) issued a special fatwa to exterminate Armenians for their successful resistance against the Ottomans and ordered to kill them all for bringing the Russians into the Caucasus and blocking the access of the Ottomans towards Baku. The confession of a Turkish general Saleh pasha, who was captured by the Armenians in Karabakh, confirmed that Sultan was aimed at total extermination of local Armenians. He said: “Sultan ordered to exterminate Armenians and Persians (Shia’s – H. D.), since the troops of the Russian Tsar had occupied that shore of the (Caspian) see, thus we have to assault on them. We should remove the Armenians, who are like a wedge between us. We should destroy any obstacle existing on our way and open the way. If there were not you (Armenians), we would have already stepped on Derbend and Baku that belong to us from the ancient times.” [1]. In this 18th century document we see the formation of the Turkish approaches towards ‘non-obedient’ Armenians, who as it was stated, were like a wedge between Istanbul and the Turkic East. After suffering thousands soldiers and pashas, Sultan’s and his allies’ attempts to annex Karabakh and to station the Ottoman forces there failed. Thus, the first attempt of the Ottomans to commit genocide against Karabakh Armenians was not successful, but this was just the beginning…

The second attempt

The second attempt to destroy the Armenian population of Karabakh took place after the Ottoman armies invaded the Caucasus during the WWI and created an artificial state baptizing it under the name of ‘Azerbaijan’ – using the name of the North Iranian province with the purpose of annexing the latter to the newly born Azerbaijan Republic. But this was not the only example of the Turkish state-building engineering. The proclamation of ‘Araz republic’ and the ‘South-Eastern Caucasus democratic republic’ followed the creation of Azerbaijan with the intent to ease the Turkish expansionism. (the modern example of such policy is the creation of the Turkish republic of Northern Cyprus after the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974). The Caucasus campaign of the Ottoman army resulted in capturing Baku city and committing horrible massacre of the Armenian population of the city in September 1918. After taking Baku, the Ottoman forces launched a new military campaign this time ‘to tranquil’ Armenian resistance in Karabakh. Ottoman war minister Enver pasha, who was one of the architects of the Armenian Genocide in 1915, ordered his cousin Nuri pasha, the commander of the Turkish forces in Azerbaijan, “to clear Azerbaijan of Russians and Armenians, in order to ensure Turkish-Turkic territorial continuity”(!)[2] A week after this order Turkey admitted its defeat in the WWI. The Ottoman army suffered its last defeat in WWI just in Karabakh when a detachment of the Ottoman army on their way of the punitive expedition towards the Southern villages of Karabakh were ambushed by Armenian villagers who destroyed about 400 Ottoman solders. The end of WWI and the Turkish withdrawal failed the second attempt of genocide. Later, as a result of Bolshevik and Kemalist Entente, Karabakh was annexed to Soviet Azerbaijan in 1921.

The third attempt

We are not going to claim that the third attempt was a direct policy of an extermination of Karabakh Armenians, but Turkey’s strong support to Azerbaijan in the latter’s attempts at deportation and the crimes against humanity enable us to claim that Turkey was directly involved in a new attempt of committing genocide against the Armenians in Karabakh. It is enough to say that hundreds of soldiers and officers of the Turkish regular army, including 10 generals were involved in the military operations performed against the Armenian self-defense forces. And again Turkey was loser in Karabakh, this time together with Azerbaijan and became a passive spectator of the Baku’s humiliated defeats in 1992-1994.

The Thrkish interference in Karabakh conflict and the open support to Azerbaijan in the war against Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia made Turkey more a part of the conflict rather than the its settlement. The Turkish involvement in the conflict included the following components: threats of military intervention, pressure by displaying armed forces, imposing transportation and energy blockade of Armenia; providing military support to Azerbaijan; developing initiatives directed to the formation of anti-Armenian coalition and informational isolation of Armenia; lobbying Azerbaijani interests in international organizations [3].

Permanent military menace and attempts at escalation, the blockade of Armenia and the efforts to isolate Armenia from the regional and international politics created a direct threat towards Armenia and Karabakh. Let’s sum up. The first statement based on the above mentioned historical facts is that having the case of the Turkish approaches towards the solution of Karabakh issue in the historical and modern dimensions in some way turned Karabakh into a polygon for approbation and implementation of genocidal policies by Sultans, Young Turks and Kemalists/Republicans. Moreover, Azerbaijani state created by the Ottoman Turkey has adopted the very Turkish code of demographic engineering, i.e. to solve the entire national or minority issues by imposing forced deportations or commiting mass killings and, in this way pave a way to the “safer and more secure” nation state. Nation states of Turkey and Azerbaijan were formed as a result of the extermination of other nations; thus, this fact represents one of the main threats for the future of both states.

Based on the above mentioned facts and records we can claim that 1. Turkey stands at the origins of the creation of Karabakh issue by the establishment of Azerbaijani state and has attempted to attach Armenian-populated region to it 2. Turkey is one of the sides in Karabakh conflict with an open support to Azerbaijan.

Triple genocidal attempts and defeats of Turkey in Karabakh from the local Armenians must have a clear message to Ankara: Turkey must recognize the Genocide committed against Armenians and many other nations in the ‘Pax Ottomanica’ since, the rewriting of the history is necessary to make ‘zero problem’ with its own history and memory since Realpolitik is not a solution for the country’s current national identity crisis.

For Turkey there are not other alternatives.

[1] Armenian-Russian Relations, Yerevan, 1967, vol. II, part II, Document 315 (in Russian)
[2] FO 371/3388, file 1396, no. 173495, the Director of Military intelligence’s no. B. I/565 (M.I.2), secret to the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, dated 18 Oct. 1918 see Jacob Landau. Pan-Turkism. From Irredentism to Cooperation. London, 1995. P. 55.
[3] Hayk Demoyan. Turkey and Karabakh conflict. Yerevan 2005.


by Hayk Demoyan

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