The Zangezur Massacres
During 1918-20, Zangezur was one of the provinces of Azerbaijan that suffered the most from Armenian ferocities. The Dashnak aggression hampered the links between the uyezd and Shusha and partially blocked communication with Jabrayil. The local Muslim population was surrounded by armed gangs in the Armenian villages and well-trained Armenian troops under the command of Andranik. Following the order of the Armenian government, Andranik and his troops marched into Azerbaijani territory and required the Muslims either to yield to Armenian rule or leave Zangezur, claiming that the uyezd was part of Armenia’s territory. When the Muslim villagers refused to obey, the Armenians initiated wide-scale massacres.
As described in the papers of the Extraordinary Investigation Commission, all Muslim villages in the first police district, most of the villages in the second police district, and a number villages in the third, fourth, and fifth police districts of Sisian province were ruined. Some of the villages were razed to the ground, and the lands under these villages were turned into plowed field by the Armenians. More than fifty thousand Muslims took refuge in the fourth police district and in the Jabrayil uyezd.
A report by the commission stated that 115 Muslim villages in the Zangezur uyezd were reduced to the ground by the Armenians; the names of the ruined villages are provided therein. The casualties suffered by Azerbaijanis in Zangezur uyezd are laid out in the commission’s papers: 3,257 men, 2,276 women, and 2,196 children were murdered, and 1,060 men, 794 women, and 485 children were injured in 115 villages. The total casualties in Zangezur alone summed up to 10,068 people. The report maintained that even these shocking figures do not fully depict the Armenian savagery in the region and suggests that not all Muslim victims were included in the lists since it had been extremely difficult to identify all of them at the time of the wide-scale turmoil.
In the Vagudu village, over four hundred Azerbaijanis rushed into a mosque in search of protection, thinking that the Armenians would not lay hands on a place of worship. But the Armenian vandals surrounded the mosque and threw hand bombs inside, and then they set the mosque on fire and burned people alive. Corpses of children, cut in two, were scattered on the streets of the Sheki village. During the bashing of Irmishli village, the Armenians stabbed infants with bayonets and raised them aloft, and then they quartered their bodies.
The Armenians demanded that the Muslim villagers in Agudi convert to Christianity; Agudi’s women who refused to change their faith were disgraced. The Armenians sabered nine bedridden Muslims in the Chullu village. In the Baghibeyli village, an Azerbaijani family of seven was taken out of their house and burned alive by the Armenians. Arms, legs, heads were chopped away, and bodies were defaced so badly that it was impossible to identify the dead.193 These episodes were realized in Zangezur under the direct command of Andranik during summer and fall of 1918.
Over one hundred Muslim villages in Zangezur were shattered. Tens of thousands of cattle and hundreds of thousands of sheep and goats were driven away. Gardens, cornfields, and pastures were burned; the entire economy of the province was wrecked. The population suffered roughly one billion mantas of material losses. In November, the Armenian gangs launched military operations against the Muslim villagers of Okhchu, Atgiz, Shabadan, and Piravdan. From December 1919, Armenians intensified their attacks against the Muslim population of Zangezur.
The atrocities of the Armenian nationalists in Zangezur became more severe in the beginning of 1920. The Armenian Republic was the sole initiator of all incidents in Zangezur since January 1920. The main goal was to ethnically cleanse Zangezur from the Muslims and extend the Armenian jurisdiction over the uyezd under the auspices of the Paris Peace Conference. Over ten thousand regular troops of the Ararat Republic were involved in the ethnic cleansing operations hand in hand with the Armenian gangs. From January 1920, the reports on the massacres in Zangezur received by the parliament and the government of the Azerbaijani Republic and the party leaders were more and more alarming. A telegram addressed to the Parliament of Azerbaijan on January 21, 1920, by a member of the Parliament, Jalil Sultanov, read, “It has been four days now since the Armenian gangs along with the regular army have been attacking Zangezur using artillery and machine-guns . . . We suffer great casualties. The people flee in fear in search for protection . . . On behalf of the miserable population of the uyezd I plead with you to stop protesting on paper and take active measures. Please save one of the most gorgeous places in Azerbaijan from being totally obliterated. Karabakh will be next to share Zangezur’s fate. You will be held liable for loosing these lands before the Azerbaijani people and Azerbaijan”.
On January 22, the Jabrayil School supervisor, Huseyn Akhunzade, sent a wire to the Parliament: “Since morning of January 19 the Armenian armed forces have been keeping the Muslim villages along the front from Zangezur and Khojahan to Galadere under artillery and machine gun fire. Six villages are totally ruined, nine villages are in fire. The Armenians have no mercy for women or children and cruelly kill the Muslims and destroy their villages. The Muslims have no protection against the aggressors and can survive only by fleeing and leaving their property behind.”
The Azerbaijani population was driven to despair by the carnage initiated by the Armenian nationalists in Zangezur and the inadequate response by the authorities. On January 23, 1920, Huseyn Akhundzade sent another wire with the following message: “Please accept my sincere condolences for the Zangezur Muslims. No matter how loud the Zangezur population cried, nobody heard them, their wail could not get across the Zangezur mountains, valleys and hamlets. Old women were disgraced, headless bodies of innocent infants stained with their blood are scattered in fields. Young women are taken captive and dishonored by the Armenians. Only few men remain in Zangezur able to stand against the Armenians. But they are also desperate. We appeal to our fellow believers and call them to respond to our pleas for help to stop the killing of our brothers, sisters, and innocent children.”
Jalil Sultanov writes in his third telegram sent on January 23 to the Parliament directly from the battlefield: “The Zangezur uyezd was evened with the ground by the regular army, which arrived from Erivan with ten cannons and numerous machine-guns. There are roughly 10,000 soldiers in the regular Armenian army. The population, desponded to receive aid from the Government, appeals to all Azerbaijani Turks. According to the information received, tomorrow Armenians will attack the Jabrayil uyezd from Zangezur. Their goal is to join with the Karabakh Armenians and subsequently interrupt our communication with Nakhchivan, and thus solve both Karabakh and Nakhchivan issues once and for all. It is high time to stop protesting on paper and expose the real face of the Armenian traitors, who have annihilated over 200,000 Muslims of Zangezur. I beg you to take urgent measures to rescue at least the Shusha and the Jabrayil uyezds. Every minute counts. Delay in this matter equals to crime and betrayal of the nation and the motherland.”
In August 1918, the massacres of the Azerbaijanis in the Igdir and the Echmiedzin uyezds were arranged under the command of General Dro (Drastamat Kanayan). By his order, more than sixty Muslim villages were destroyed and burned. The population suffered extreme cruelties. The units under Andranik attacked Aghbulag, Ardanish, Beriyabad, Emirkheyir, Yanigtepe, Golkend (Kara-Koyunlu), Toghluja, Chaykend, Jivikhly, Jil, Shorcha, and other villages of Chemberekend province and cruelly tortured and killed the people, destroyed the villages, looted the possessions of the Muslims, and slashed with sabers the women, the elderly, and the children who had failed to run away. Though the Azerbaijanis comprised the majority in Echmiedzin in 1918, most of the villages in the province were subject to atrocities by the Armenians. As a fact, the Ayarly village underwent an absolute genocide in 1918. Most of the seven hundred villagers were tortured and killed, and the rest were expulsed from their dwellings and were destined to die in the mountains.
The population of another Azerbaijani village, Garghabazary – some eight hundred people – underwent tortures and was murdered by the Armenian military. The village was pillaged, destroyed, and burned. The Gemerli village did not escape disaster as well. Approximately five hundred Azerbaijani villagers were killed by the Armenian military, and the rest had to leave their dwellings. The majority of Azerbaijanis in Yukhary Garkhun, Yukhary Turkmenli, Kichik Zeyve, Kurekenli, Mammadabad, Molla Dursun, Haji Gara, Hajilar, Haramly, and other villages of Echmiedzin was forced to run in order to survive the genocide.
In 2004, the Republican Party of Armenia published the booklet Garegin Nzhde i ego uchenie (Garegin Nzhde and his teaching) dedicated to the events that occurred in Erzurum, where the Armenian barbarism is acknowledged as well: “During the 2 years of ceaseless fighting the Syunik government lost only several dozens of fighters, while the enemy had 15,000 dead. About 200 villages of the Turks and the Tatars [Azerbaijanis] were returned to the Armenian peasantry.