Armenian–Azerbaijani War: Wikis


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Armenian-Azerbaijani war (1918 - 1920)
Part of World War I and Russian Civil War
Azeri army soldiers.jpg
Soldiers of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic in 1919
Date March 1918-1920
Location Armenia and Azerbaijan
Result Azerbaijanian military victory. Dispute over Karabakh territory is settled in favor of Azerbaijan
Armenia  Democratic Republic of Armenia
Nagorno-Karabakh Republic Republic of Mountainous Armenia
Nagorno-Karabakh Republic   Nagorno-Karabakh rebels

Only for the Battle of Baku: United Kingdom British Empire
Flag of the Centrocaspian Dictatorship.svg Centrocaspian Dictatorship
Azerbaijan  Azerbaijan Democratic Republic

Only for the Battle of Baku: Ottoman Empire

After April 1920:
Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic  Russian SFSR
Flag of Turkey.svg Turkish Revolutionaries
Azerbaijansovietrep1920-1921.svg  Azerbaijan SSR
Armenia Andranik Ozanian
United Kingdom Lionel Dunsterville
Azerbaijan Samedbey Mehmandarov
United Kingdom Dunsterforce 1 000 elite Australian, British and New Zealand soldiers.

The Armenian-Azerbaijani war, which started after the Russian Revolution, was a series of brutal and hard to classify conflicts in 1918, then from 1920 to 1922 that occurred during the brief independence of Armenia and Azerbaijan and afterward. Most of the conflicts did not have a principal pattern with a standard armed structure. The Ottoman Empire and British Empire were involved in different capacities: the Ottoman Empire left the region after the Armistice of Mudros but British influence continued until Dunsterforce was pulled back in 1920s. The conflicts involved civilians in the disputed districts of Kazakh-Shamshadin, Zanghezur, Nakhichevan and Karabakh. The use of guerrilla and semi-guerrilla operations were the main reasons for the high civilian casualties, which occurred during the nation-building activities of the newly-established states. The reasons behind the conflict are still far from being resolved after nearly a century.

The story of this campaign has very different perceptions; according to Armenian historians, the Democratic Republic of Armenia aimed to include Nakhichevan among the basic (Eastern Armenian) territories of Yerevan province, as well as the eastern and southern parts of Elisavetpol (present-day Ganja) province.



The first clashes between the Armenians and Azeris took place in Baku in February 1905. Soon, the conflict spilled over to other parts of the Caucasus, and on August 5, 1905 the first conflict between the Armenian and Azeri population of Shusha took place. As a result of mutual pogroms and killings, hundreds of people died; more than 200 houses were burned only in the town of Shusha.

Active stages

In the March 1918, ethnic and religious tensions grew and the Armenian-Azeri conflict in Baku began. Musavat and Committee of Union and Progress parties were accused of Pan-Turkism by Bolsheviks and their allies. Armenian and Muslim militia engaged in armed confrontation, which resulted in heavy casualties. Many Muslims were expelled from Baku, or went underground.

Meanwhile the arrest of General Talyshinski, the commander of the Azerbaijani division, and some of its officers all of whom arrived in Baku on March 9, increased the anti-Soviet feelings among the city's Azeri population. On 30 March the Soviet based on the unfounded report that the Muslim crew of the ship Evelina was armed and ready to revolt against the Soviet, disarmed the crew which tried to resist [1] This led to 3-day fighting resulting in the death of up to 12,000 Azeris.[2][3][4]

The Bolshevik account of the events of March 1918 in Baku is presented by Victor Serge in Year One Of the Russian Revolution: "The Soviet at Baku, led by Shaumyan, was meanwhile making itself the ruler of the area, discreetly but unmistakably. Following the Moslem rising of 18 March, it had to introduce a dictatorship. This rising, instigated by the Mussavat, set the Tartar and Turkish population, led by their reactionary bourgeoisie, against the Soviet, which consisted of Russians with support from the Armenians. The races began to slaughter each other in the street. Most of the Turkish port-workers (the ambal) either remained neutral or supported the Reds. The contest was won by the Soviets."

Fight for Baku and Karabakh, 1918-1919

Place of British forces after Armstice
British forces marching to Baku

At the same time the Baku Commune was involved in heavy fighting with the advancing Caucasian Ottoman Army in and around Ganja. Enver Pasha, the Ottoman Empire, began to move forward with the newly established Army of Islam. Major battles occurred in Yevlakh and Agdash, where the Turks routed and defeated Dashnak and Russian forces.

Dunsterville ordered the evacuation of the city on September 14, after six weeks of occupation, and withdrew to Iran; most of the Armenian population escaped with British forces. The Ottoman Army of Islam and its Azeri allies, led by Nuri Pasha, entered Baku on September 15 and slaughtered between 10,000 - 20,000 Armenians in retaliation for the March massacre of Muslims.[5] The capital of the Azerbaijan was finally moved from Ganja to Baku. However, after the Armistice of Mudros between the United Kingdom and the Ottoman Empire on October 30, Turkish troops were substituted by the Triple Entente. Headed by British general W. Thomson, who had declared himself the military governor of Baku, 5,000 Commonwealth soldiers arrived in Baku on November 17, 1918. By General Thomson's order, martial law was implemented in Baku.

Karabakh Reconciliation commission

The Armenian government tried several times to seize Shusha militarily. Beginning with 1918, Republic of Mountainous Armenia was declared in the region. However throughout the summer of 1918, Armenians in the mountainous Karabag region, under the leadership of Andranik Toros Ozanian resisted the Ottoman 3rd army[6]. After the Armistice, the Ottoman Empire began to withdraw its forces and Armenian forces under Andranik seized Nagro-Karabagh[7]. Armstice of Mudros brought General Adriank the chance to create a base for further expansion eastward and form a strategic corridor extending into Nakhichevan[7]. In January 1919 Armenian troops advanced towards Shusha, captured and destroyed 9 Azeri villages on their way but eventually had to retreat. Just before the Armistice of Mudros was signed, Andranik was on the way from Zangezur to Shusha, to control the main city of the Karabakh. The Armenian government tried several times to seize Shusha militarily, before. In January 1919, while Armenian troops advancing, the British military command ordered Andranik back to Zangezur, and gave him the assurances that this conflict can be solved with the Paris Peace Conference, 1919. Andranik pulled back his units and British command at Baku gave the control to the Dr. Khosrov Bek Sultanov. Khosrov bey Sultanov, a native of Karabakh was appointed the general-governor of Karabakh. He had three Armenian and three Azeri aides.

Fight for Karabakh, early 1920

A correspondent for the British media Scotland Liddell reported on January 30:

Three months ago there was fighting between the Armenian and Azerbaijan forces. Following this, an agreement was signed in Tiflis on November 23 between the two governments and it was hoped that the two sides would remain at peace one with the other until such a time when all the vexed questions would be settled by the world's Great Powers. Almost immediately after the signing of the agreement, however, the Armenians, taking advantage of the withdrawal of the Azerbaijan forces, treacherously attacked the Mussulmans in Zangezour, in which district they caused the ruin of about forty Mussulman villages. A protest from the Azerbaijan government only met with a denial, but now an official note from the Armenian Foreign Minister states that on January 19 the Armenian government troops together with armed bands of Armenian irregulars started to advance in the direction of the Shusha district in Karabagh province. All the Mussulman villages on their way - nine to date - have been ruined and most of the inhabitants have been inhumanly massacred. [...] The independence of Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenian has been recognized, de facto, by the Supreme council, but the various frontier lines have still to be traced. And now, while Georgia and Azerbaijan are peacefully awaiting the decision of Paris as to their future boundaries, Armenia is throwing discretion and a torn-up agreement to the winds, and is earning further hatred for herself by waging war against innocent peasant people out of an all-consuming territorial greed. [...] In the present aggression in Zangezour the Armenians are assured of a temporary success. Many of their regular troops served formerly in the Russian army; whereas Azerbaijan's military forces are composed almost entirely of young recruits.[8]

The Azerbaijan Foreign Minister Fatali Khan Khoyski noted: "Pointing out once more the absolute inadmissibility of such proceedings on the part of the Armenian Republic, I insist categorically on the immediate cessation of the aggressive proceedings of the Armenian troops..."[8]

The largest Armenian-Azeri ethnic clashes in Shusha took place on March-April 1920. On the night from March 21-22, 1920 when the Azeris were celebrating Spring Equinox (Novruz Bayram), the Armenians of Karabakh began to revolt and organized a surprise attack.

They seized the approaches to Shusha, Khankendi, and the Askeran fortress, attacking the Azeri part.

On March 22-26, 1920, the massacres of Shusha (Shushi) Armenians[9][10][11][12] took place, which resulted many Armenian deaths and the destruction of the Armenian quarter of the city.

The fighting increased in intensity by February 1920 and martial law was introduced in Karabakh, which was enforced by the newly formed National Army, led by general Samedbey Mehmandarov.

Sovietization of Azerbaijan, April 1920

In early April 1920 the Republic of Azerbaijan was in a very troubled situation. In the west, the Armenians still occupied large parts of Azeri territory; in the east, the local Azeri communists were rebelling against the government; and to the north the Russian Red Army was steadily moving southward, having defeated Denikin's White Russian forces.

On April 27, 1920 the government of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic received notice that the Soviet army was about to cross the northern border and invade the ADR. Faced with such a difficult situation, the government officially surrendered to the Soviets, but many generals and local Azeri militias kept resisting the advance of Soviet forces and it took a while for the Soviets to stabilize the newly-proclaimed Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic, headed by the leading Azeri Bolshevik Nariman Narimanov.

While the Azeri government and army were in chaos, the Armenian army and local Armenian militias used the opportunity to assert their control over parts of Azeri territory, taking Shusha, Khankendi, and other important cities. By the end of April the Armenian forces were in control of most of western Azerbaijan including all of Karabakh with the surrounding areas. Other area captured included all of Nakhichevan and much of Kazakh-Shamshadin district. In the meantime, the Armenian communists attempted a coup in Armenia, but ultimately failed.

Azeri and Soviet counter-attack, May 1920

After having gained firm control of Azerbaijan, the Soviet forces moved on to reclaim the Armenian-occupied areas in the west for the Azerbaijan SSR. The Azeri army was reorganized along Soviet lines and reequipped with Russian weapons.

The Russian and Azeri offensive started in early June and resulted in quick defeat of Armenian forces. On June 5 the Armenian forces were expelled from Shusha. In early July Armenians withdrew from Tatev and suffered several defeats in Kazakh-Shamshadin area. On 28 July the Soviet forces and their Turkish allies staged an assault on Nakhichevan City, expelling Armenian forces and establishing a joint Russian/Azeri/Turkish control of the province. In early August, Armenian troops made one more attempt to take over Nakhichevan but were defeated at Shakh-Takhty by joint Soviet-Turkish corps. Thus, the Azerbaijan SSR was fully restored to the borders of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic prior to Armenian invasion.

On August 10 1920, the cease-fire agreement was signed in Yerevan between Soviet and Armenian forces, ending the hostilities and forcing Armenia to recognize the Azeri control of Karabakh and temporary independence of Nakhichevan. Sporadic fighting continued in Karabakh district where several Armenian warlords refused to stop guerilla war.

End of hostilities, September-November 1920

In September 1920 Armenia was engaged in a bitter war on another front against Turkish Revolutionaries. The Turkish-Armenian war of September-November 1920 stripped Armenia of most of its south-western territories, including Kars and Alexandropol, severely exhausted the military capacity of Armenian army, and left Armenia broken and abandoned. However, the Turkish forces were unable to completely defeat Armenia and after their defeat near Yerevan, Turkey signed a cease-fire.

In late November, there was yet another Soviet-backed communist uprising in Armenia. On November 28, 1920 blaming Armenia for the invasions of Sharur (20.11.1920) and Karabakh (21.11.1920), the 11th Red Army under the command of Anatoli Gekker, crossed the demarcation line between Democratic Republic of Armenia and Soviet Azerbaijan. The second Soviet-Armenian war lasted only a week.


The Armenian national liberation movement was exhausted by the 6 years of permanent wars and conflicts; the Armenian army and population were incapable of any further active resistance.

Sovietization of Armenia, December 1920

On December 4 1920, when the Red Army entered Yerevan, the government of the Democratic Republic of Armenia effectively surrendered. On December 5, the Armenian Revolutionary Committee (Revkom; made up of mostly Armenians from Azerbaijan) also entered the city. Finally, on the following day, December 6, Felix Dzerzhinsky's dreaded secret police, the Cheka, entered Yerevan, thus effectively ending all existence of the Democratic Republic of Armenia. [13]

The Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic was then proclaimed, under the leadership of Aleksandr Miasnikyan.

Treaty of Kars, 23 October 1921

The violence in Transcaucasia was finally settled in a friendship treaty between Turkey and the Soviet Union. The peace Treaty of Kars was signed in Kars by representatives of the Russian SFSR, Azerbaijan SSR, Armenian SSR, Georgian SSR, and Turkey. Turkey had another agreement, the "Treaty on Friendship and Brotherhood", also called the Treaty of Moscow, signed on March 16, 1921 with Soviet Russia.

By this treaty Nakhichevan was granted the status of an autonomous region within Azerbaijan. Turkey and Russia became guarantors of Nakhichevan's status. Turkey agreed to return Alexandropol to Armenia and Batumi to Georgia.


  1. ^ Документы об истории гражданской войны в С.С.С.Р., Vol. 1, pp. 282–283.
  2. ^ "New Republics in the Caucasus", The New York Times Current History, v. 11 no. 2 (March 1920), p. 492
  3. ^ Michael Smith. "Anatomy of Rumor: Murder Scandal, the Musavat Party and Narrative of the Russian Revolution in Baku, 1917-1920", Journal of Contemporary History, Vol 36, No. 2, (Apr. 2001), p. 228
  4. ^ (Russian) Michael Smith. "Azerbaijan and Russia: Society and State: Traumatic Loss and Azerbaijani National Memory"
  5. ^ Croissant. Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict, p. 15.
  6. ^ Mark Malkasian, Gha-Ra-Bagh": the emergence of the national democratic movement in Armenia page 22
  7. ^ a b Hafeez Malik "Central Asia: Its Strategic Importance and Future Prospects" page 145
  8. ^ a b Scotland Liddell, Tiflis, Jan 30, 1920 (National Archive Office of Azerbaijan, fund 970, list 1, doc. N1, p. 27-28)
  9. ^ "The British administrator of Karabakh Colonel Chatelword did not prevent the discrimination of Armenians by the Tatar administration of Governor Saltanov. The ethnic clashes ended with the terrible massacres in which the most of Armenians in Shusha town perished. The Parliament in Baku refused to even condemn those responsible of the massacres in Shusha and the war started in Karabakh. A. Zubov (in Russian) А.Зубов Политическое будущее Кавказа: опыт ретроспективно-сравнительного анализа, журнал "Знамья", 2000, #4,
  10. ^ "massacre of the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh's capital, Shushi (called Shusha by the Azerbaijanis)", Kalli Raptis, "Nagorno-Karabakh and the Eurasian Transport Corridor",
  11. ^ "A month ago after the massacres of Shushi, in April 19, 1920, prime-ministers of England, France and Italy with participation of the representatives of Japan and USA collected in San-Remo..." Giovanni Guaita (in Russian) Джованни ГУАЙТА, Армения между кемалистским молотом и большевистской наковальней // «ГРАЖДАНИН», M., # 4, 2004
  12. ^ Armenia in Crisis: The 1988 Earthquake - Page 6 by Pierre Verluise
  13. ^ Robert H. Hewsen. Armenia: A Historical Atlas, p. 237. ISBN 0-226-33228-4


See also

External links

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