Territorial dispute at the dawn of the independence
Territorial disputes were hindering peaceful relations between two independent Azerbaijani and Armenian states since their foundation in May 1918 and up until their Sovietization in 1920-1921.

The reason was the national borders of the two independent nations not matching those between the former Russian governorates. Some nations displayed a maximalist approach to territorial claims, and their high representatives would not bother much with such details as geography, ethnic distribution or international politics.

For instance, one independent republic's desire to establish its boundaries on myths and legends (we are talking, of course, about Armenia) was met with counterarguments on the part of its neighbors.
Given mixed inhabitation of different ethnic groups across the South Caucasus, all attempts to resolve delimitation issues by way of repeated negotiations were automatically doomed to failure. The only way left was to perform demarcation by force, and it increasingly became the solution of choice for conflicting parties.

The main object of conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia were frontier lands of Yelizavetpol and Irevan governorates with mixed Armenian-Azerbaijani population. From its very onset, the solution of this territorial conflict was defined by geopolitical and military factors of external nature.

In May-October 1918, the Ottoman Empire played a decisive role in establishing borders of Azerbaijan and Armenia. The first Armenian state in the South Caucasus was set up late in May 1918 with the capital in Azerbaijani town of Irevan, which was given to Armenia pursuant to the 29 May 1918 resolution of the Azerbaijani National Council. The 4 June 1918 Treaty of Batumi between the Turkish leadership with each individual republic only established their respective borders in relation to Turkey itself. Now they needed to define and establish borders between themselves.

Article III of the Treaty of Batumi stated that the mutual borders between Azerbaijan and Armenia should be formalized by protocols signed between the parties and constituting an integral part of the Treaty [1]. The parties, however, did not sign any mutual border-related protocols in Batumi.

Judging by the statement made by the Azerbaijani National Council on 14 June 1918, they had reached a verbal agreement on territorial delimitation during a joint meeting with the Armenian National Council representatives in Tiflis [2]. This agreement overlaid the arrangement the parties had reached in Batumi; Azerbaijan would not object declaring Irevan the capital of Armenia, and the latter, in its turn, would waive its claims to the part of Yelizavetpol Governorate, that is, the mountainous part of Karabakh.

The Armenian side, however, refused to have talks in such format, as the Armenian delegation chair A.Agaronyan reported in his 8 July 1918 cable to Armenian Foreign Minister H. Ohanjanyan from Istanbul, which since late June 1918 had been hosting government delegations of the South Caucasian republics that participated in the peace conference with the Central powers.

Agaronyan's cable wrote that Batumi talks had become meaningless as they concerned the borders of Transcaucasian districts rather than the three independent states. The Armenian side believed Armenia's borders should now encompass at least Shusha, Karyagino, Jevanshir, Zangezur, Daralgez, Surmali, Nakhchivan, Sharur [3]. Armenia was therefore trying to expand its territories at the cost of lands in Yelizavetpol and Irevan governorates, where the Azerbaijani population outnumbered their Armenian counterpart. In his 31 July 1918 dispatch to M.A. Rasulzade, head of Azerbaijani delegation to the Istanbul Conference, ADR Council of Ministers Chairman F.K. Khoyski suggested refusing to cede Irevan and a part of Gazakh Uyezd to Armenia in case the latter would put forward claims to Karabakh [4].

Nagorno-Karabakh: Shift from Geographical to Political Terminology
While "Karabakh" was a purely geographical term before 1918, Armenians had been imbuing it with political associations ever since independent states had emerged in the South Caucasus.

Just before the collapse of the Russian Empire, Karabakh was a part of Yelizavetpol Governorate and encompassed four uyezds, namely Shusha, Zangezur, Jevanshir, and Karyagino (later Jabrayil). Its total population according to the 1917 Caucasian Calendar was 242,000 Armenians and 322,000 Azerbaijanis. The reported count of Karabakh Armenians was inflated by adding a big number of Armenian artisans and workers, who in reality had nothing to do with the sedentary population of Karabakh [5].
Andranik (in the center) during World War One.
Taking advantage of the ADR Government having their hands tied due to liberation of Baku during the first months of independence, Armenians convened on 22 July 1918 the so-called First Congress of the Armenians of Karabakh and adopted the resolution on setting up their own administrative bodies, led by the National Council.

In summer 1918, Armenian detachments under the command of Andranik Ozanian appeared in Karabakh and Zangezur, robbing and murdering Muslim people. Interestingly, Armenia's leadership denied any association with Andranik's crimes, claiming he had defied their orders and was therefore discharged from Armenian army, only to continue independently [6].
According to the Extraordinary Investigative Commission under the Government of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Andranik's detachments carried out reprisal operations across the region in late summer and autumn 1918; in Zangezur Uyezd alone, 115 Muslim (Azerbaijani) villages were razed to the ground, over 10 thousand people were killed or wounded, and nearly 50 thousand became refugees [7]. The yearend 1918 saw over 150 Muslim (Azerbaijani) villages of Karabakh devastated and sacked, with a throng of refugees flooding its lowland areas [8].

First Steps to Restore Order in Nagorno-Karabakh
The government of Azerbaijan attempted to get the situation in the region under control; Turkish military officers were appointed commandants to Shusha, Agdam, and Karyagino, only to see their authority not recognized by local Armenian ringleaders. On the eve of arrival of Turkish troops to Shusha, Azerbaijani and Armenian delegates were dispatched to the town to prepare its population.

Azerbaijan newspaper wrote on 19 October 1918 that, having learned that Turkish troops were about to arrive in Shusha, local Azerbaijanis had hurried to meet the allies in a stately manner. A triumphal arch was erected at the entrance to the town. Similar arches were also erected on the Shah Bridge, at the entrance to local marketplace, on the road to Meydan (town square) and in many other places.

The Turkish forces under the command of Jamil Jevad Bey were to arrive in Shusha early in October 1918. The Armenian community leaders readily convened an extraordinary meeting, which only on the fifth day resolved to acknowledge Azerbaijan's authority. From that moment on, Armenians started decorating their part of the town as part of preparations for Turkish army's arrival; they erected arches in front of the international committee and at the Upper Meydan, as well as at the entrance to the town [9].

In its 22 October 1918 issue, Mshak newspaper provided the following account of Turkish army's arrival in the Armenian part of the town: "Bishop Vagan gave a loyal address. Jevat Bey then suggested Armenians surrender their weapons. The latter collected nearly 150 guns and loaded them onto a cart to go turn them in. The Turkish troops decided to stay in the "Realniy" school's building." [10]

Despite these actions, tensions in Karabakh remained high amid rumors of Andranik's eventual assault, and the situation remained unstable up to the moment when Turkish forces left the region, whereupon British troops, which had arrived in Azerbaijan after mid-November 1918, seized the control over the region.

British Domination in The Region
After World War One culminated in capitulation of the Central Powers, the Turkish army has withdrawn from the South Caucasus in October-November 1918 and the Entente took control over national-administrative setup of the region.

There begins the British domination in the South Caucasus, with its defining role in resolution or escalation of territorial disputes between national republics. The conflicts left the Brits no choice but to intervene and dispatch their troops to hot spots. Having assumed the mantle of a regional law-and-order-keeper, Britain had to tackle the resolution of interstate and other conflicts that broke out over almost a year.

Which criteria or political considerations drove British military towards supporting one or another conflicting party (or keeping neutrality altogether) might be a subject of an individual study. In any case, they prioritized political expediency over other considerations.

After Azerbaijani PM F.K. Khoyski submitted to Lieutenant General William Thompson, commander of British forces in the region, a written request on the topic of atrocities committed by Andranik in Karabakh, Thompson demanded early in December 1918 Andranik stop military actions against Azerbaijani population. In his cable to Armenian leaders in Ganja, Gazakh, and Jevanshir uyezds Thompson called on them to cease violence and looting of Azerbaijani community: "All Armenians are advised to remain indoors and keep a low profile, otherwise they will be called to account for bloodshed and crimes." [11].

"All Armenians are advised to remain indoors and keep a low profile, otherwise they will be called to account for bloodshed and crimes."

Lieutenant General Sir William Thomson
Commander of British forces
It is beyond doubt that Armenians did not see that coming, neither were they prepared for the General Governorate established in Karabakh and Zangezur in January 1919 by the order of the Azerbaijani government. The suggestion to isolate Karabakh and Zangezur into an individual general governorate vested with special authorities was put forward back in early 1919 by the Minister of Internal Affairs in his report to the Azerbaijani government.

The reasoning behind such suggestion was separatist trends among local Armenians stirred by emissaries from Armeni; bloody massacres of Muslim (Azerbaijani) people; weak local authority without any military support; and not so well established communication between the central government and the region [12].
Khosrov Bey Sultanov, Governor General of Karabakh
The Azerbaijani government resolution of 15 January 1919 appointed Khosrov Bey Sultanov, who had a medical background, Governor General of Karabakh [13]. British military command, which backed territorial isolation of the conflict zone by setting up a special administration at that stage of Armenian-Azerbaijani territorial conflict in Karabakh and Zangezur, did approve of the establishment of this governorate. The Brits oversaw the entity through its military representative, who had a decisive vote in the administration.

From the first days of Karabakh General Governorate, the Armenian government and representatives of the so-called "Armenian National Council of Karabakh and Zangezur" flooded the British military authorities with letters, cables, and appeals, protesting the establishment of the special administration in Karabakh and Zangezur, subordinate to the Azerbaijani government. In doing so, the Armenian government branded Karabakh and Zangezur "integral parts" of its territory and even dispatched State Commissar A.Shakhmazyan to Gerus. The Armenian National Council even suggested isolating Armenian parts of Zangezur and Karabakh into an individual general governorate, led by a British military officer and not subordinated to the Azerbaijani government [14].
While visiting Irevan late in March 1919, General Thompson met Armenian PM A. Khatisov and offered his explanation of the British military administration decision to set up a general governorate under the auspices of Azerbaijan. He said his position on the Karabakh issue depended on the provision of relief to refugees and the necessity to secure communication routes: «There is a restless city of Agdam on the road to Karabakh. Based out of Yelizavetpol, General Mehmandarov is in charge of Yevlakh-Shusha road security; since there is no road from Shusha to Erivan, he could not suggest Armenians oversee the administration of Karabakh. Zangezur is cut off just as well. I did this deliberately; it will facilitate the supply of food from Azerbaijan. I have dealt with the Azerbaijani government many a time, and I believe it well appreciates its responsibility. Empowering of Muslims (Azerbaijanis) does not predetermine the solution of territorial issues in this region's future..." [15]

Such statements from the mouth of the British military administration would result in Armenian separatists boosting their subversive activities. The letters written in March 1919 by the Armenian National Council to the Armenian government and its commissar in Karabakh and Zangezur tasked them to: get the Azerbaijani general governorate disbanded; include Armenian representative from Karabakh and Zangezur in the Armenian delegation to the Paris Peace Conference; establish a uniform military administration in the region and provide it with experienced commanders, munitions, funds, etc [16].

But it was not until the British military administration in Karabakh in person of Colonel Digby Shuttleworth officially recognized on 3 April 1919 Governor General Sultanov as a sole supreme authority and called on the population to execute his orders in full obedience that the Brits started acting more consistently [17].

Armenia's diplomatic envoy to Georgia reported on 8 May 1919 that, dwelling on Karabakh and Zangezur reports by Colonel Shuttleworth and Major Monck-Mason, General Thompson had concluded the law and order suffered due to the fault of Armenia's government representatives, who were fomenting a mutiny among the Armenian community against the Azerbaijani government [18]. In May 1919, the Brits deported the Armenian government's representative A.Shakhmazyan (and later another one, M.Arzumanov) from the region [19].

Not long after, however, both the Armenian government and the Armenian National Council pressured the British forces in the person of Colonel Shuttleworth into issuing the 14 May 1919 order, whereby the interim Azerbaijani administration was not introduced in the districts of Zangezur Uyezd already under the Armenian National Council's administration. The final decision on this issue was put off. The order, however, highlighted the following point: should it be decided that the interim Azerbaijani administration had to be introduced, a certain timeframe shall be set, upon expiry of which any resistance on the part of local authorities to such interim Azerbaijani administration would constitute an act of war [20].

This type of relations between the Armenian National Council and the Azerbaijani government was stated in the 15 August 1919 agreement; clause 1&2 stipulated that the mountainous Armenian-populated part of Karabakh, that is, Shusha, Jevanshir, and Jabrayil uyezds (Dizak, Khachen, Varanda, and Jerabert) acknowledged itself as a part of the Azerbaijan Republic until the time this issue would find its resolution at the Peace Conference [21]. That was the first document that used the term "Nagorno-Karabakh" in a political sense and recognized this territory as a part of the Azerbaijan Republic.

Short to prevent the Armenian government-backed separatists from further subversive activities, it was a legal document of importance to Azerbaijan from the standpoint of subsequent talks over the status of the region. It is only fair to say that it was on demand of the British military administration that Andranik and his gangs were removed from Karabakh and Zangezur in spring 1919. It becomes clear from the UK Foreign Office report of February 1919 that the Entente powers that had previously funded Andranik's detachments would now spend a fortune to disband them in an orderly manner. The reason behind such attitude was to prevent these detachments from splitting to small gangs that would go on stirring up unrest across Karabakh [22].
Overall, the Armenian government was quite unhappy with the British administration's position on the Karabakh issue. The cable sent by the Armenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to its envoy to Georgia on 16 September 1919, that is, after the British troops had been withdrawn from Azerbaijan, says: "Thompson's and other general's reports concerning the Karabakh issue in particular and other issues related to us in general always were to the detriment of our interests. Britain is leading a disguised pro-Muslim policy in Caucasus and elsewhere. The Brits' decisions on Karabakh overlie their firm intention to give this Armenian-populated region to Azerbaijan."

Based on this message, the envoy to Georgia was strictly instructed to develop an exhaustive report on the Brits' activities in Karabakh and participation in the Karabakh issue resolution, notably on Shuttleworth and other senior commanders [23].

Outlining the British military presence in Caucasus (1918-1919) and its stand on territorial conflicts, one should but point out that it depended in the first place on its ability to accumulate considerable forces in the region, a hub of intertwining national interests and numerous ethnic disputes. Still, the evacuation of British troops from the South Caucasus in summer 1919 was not at all final because the main bulk thereof was relocated to neighboring countries, Qajar Iran and Ottoman Turkey. Early in 1919, the British government recognized its further presence in the South Caucasus as financially and politically inexpedient.

Early in April, the Supreme War Council of the Entente decided to withdraw British troops from the region. They left the South Caucasus on 28 August 1919, but left a small contingent in Batumi in order to preclude never-ending disputes over the entitlement to the port between General Denikin, Georgia, and the Ottoman Empire.

After the withdrawal of British troops from Azerbaijan, Colonel William Gaskell of the US Army Staff, appointed back in July 1919 high commissioner of the Allied powers in the South Caucasus by the resolution of five major powers (USA, Britain, France, Italy, and Japan), arrived in the region. Col. Gaskell headed to Irevan on 20 August, from there came to Tiflis on 23 August, and finally arrived in Baku on 28 August. His tour primarily stemmed from the commencement of active talks between the Allied powers and representatives of national states that had risen from the ruins of the Russian Empire concerning the recognition procedure of their independence.

The South Caucasian republics found themselves in the center of this process; one of Gaskell's most important tasks was to figure out on the spot whether the fledgling republics were consistent with the content of the memoranda their respective delegations had submitted to the Peace Conference, and draw up the report on this issue. The border item was the most critical of all, and Gaskell was undoubtedly up to speed on territorial conflicts ongoing in the South Caucasus. He also was aware of the former British military administration's position on the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Karabakh and Zangezur. So it was not by chance that, starting from his first statements, Gaskell's position on this very issue was clearly consistent with that of his British allies.

During his 28 August 1919 meeting with Azerbaijani PM Nasib Bey Usubbeyov, Col. Gaskell was acting on the premise that Karabakh and Zangezur were an integral part of Azerbaijan. He also refuted sensational highlights from his speech in the Armenian parliament, in which he had allegedly made threats towards Azerbaijan [24].

At the same time, the Armenian government issued a protest against the Azerbaijani military presence in Zangezur, claiming it was a part of Armenia, and maintained that it considered any such actions on the part of the Azerbaijani government inconsistent with the British military administration's orders and potentially leading to undesirable consequences and bloodsheds. The Armenian government therefore suggested its Azerbaijani counterpart to resolve this issue through an individual bipartite conference. In a response note, the latter pointed out that it considered Zangezur issues an internal affair of Azerbaijan, and therefore would not take any note of discussing the matter at hand with the Armenian government.

It was also stated that it had been a long time since the British military administration had carried out the provisional delimitation of territories, admitting both Karabakh and Zangezur as a part of Azerbaijan as a result. The Azerbaijani government still agreed to the Azerbaijani-Armenian conference in Baku, provided its decisions would not be temporary but rather would put an end to any and all territorial disputes between the two countries. This qualification was not at all accidental; Azerbaijani diplomats well knew Armenian tactics of debuting with loud conflict resolution statements and playing devoted peacekeepers, and then denying their words at the last minute.

With this in mind, Azerbaijani Minister of Foreign Affairs M.Y. Jafarov openly warned the Armenian party during his 13 October 1919 meeting with Plenipotentiary Representative of Armenia in Baku Tigran Bekzadyan: "The Transcaucasian Conference, which partially developed territorial dispute resolution principles, has shown that, given Armenians' intransigent attitude, we are definitely going to hit the dead end. The projected conference will fail as well, unless we arrange a meeting and through a preliminary exchange of opinions figure out the matters in dispute and the biggest mutual concessions we can afford. Unless we hold such a preliminary meeting and outline a path forward, I deem it useless to convene a conference just to demonstrate our uncompromising attitudes. So please discuss the issues I have raised with your government if, of course, it is the genuine intention of the Armenian government to reach a mutual agreement." [25].

As the Armenian-Azerbaijani peace conference launched on 20 November 1919 in Tiflis, Jafarov's fears were fully confirmed.

On the eve of the conference, Azerbaijani government ordered its troops in Karabakh to stand down. According to government reports, the dispatch of troops to help Karabakh Governor General had been necessitated by the irrefutable proof of the Armenian government having dispatched professional troops and munitions (the latter was distributed among the local Armenian population) to Zangezur. They intended to wait for the right moment and stir up a mutiny to demonstrate the local Armenian community's unwillingness to recognize Azerbaijani authorities.

The government just could not remain indifferent, even more so because they had to bring back home over 60 thousand Azerbaijani refugees [26] who fled of fear of reprisal attacks by Andranik's armed gangs between mid-1918 and early 1919.

As a result of the conference, the parties in person of Armenian PM A. Khatisov and Azerbaijani PM N. Usubbeyov signed on 23 November 1919 a peace treaty. They agreed to resolve any and all disputes, including those related to the borders, through peaceful negotiations rather than by military force. The parties also established that since the effective date of the treaty none of the governments involved would attempt forcibly establishing its authority in the districts that had not recognized it as of the date of treaty [27].

Complying with the treaty, Azerbaijan withdrew its military units from Zangezur; Armenia, on the other hand, immediately sent its troops there, thereby grossly violating the arrangements.

Then in Baku, British war journalist Robert Scotland Liddell reported to London that right after the execution of the 23 November treaty "…the Armenians very treacherously attacked the Mussulman [villages in Zangezur] […] and within a few weeks had succeeded in destroying over forty Mussulman villages." [28]

*"The Armenians very treacherously attacked the Mussulman [villages in Zangezur] […] and within a few weeks had succeeded in destroying over forty Mussulman villages."

Robert Scotland Liddell
British war journalist
Touching upon recent events in Zangezur, Azerbaijani PM N. Usubbeyov shared his concerns in his 8 December 1919 to High Commissioner William Gaskell; he said that with the Armenian population of Zangezur keeping artillery and machine guns there was no guarantee whatsoever they would not rise again and the region would not fall into anarchy.

Azerbaijani PM therefore suggested sending, no later than in a 5-day period, a commission of US military officers to Zangezur Uyezd in order to seize artillery and machine guns from local Armenian gangs. The Azerbaijani government warned that it would otherwise have no way but take a concrete action to force the perpetrators to comply with peaceful coexistence principles in Zangezur [29].

In his response dated 11 December 1919, Gaskell said he "received the cable and forwarded it to Armenian PM with the following addition: should these charges be confirmed as a result of investigation, it would deal the hardest blow to Armenia's future." [30]

That Armenian military forces were violating the 23 November 1919 agreement was also reported by Oliver Wardrop, former British Consul General in Moscow and High Commissioner of Transcaucasus, who arrived in Baku right after the withdrawal of British troops from Azerbaijan. His primary objective was to secure British trade and political interests in the region and provide moral support and advice to the governments of the three republics, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia, without making any permanent commitments on behalf of His Majesty's Government. He was also tasked with preventing hostilities between the South Caucasian republics on the one hand and General Denikin's armies on the other.

Referring to Azerbaijan's Foreign Ministry, Wardrop informed London of bloody crimes Armenian troops committed in Erivan and Yelizavetpol governorates against the peaceful Azerbaijani population between October 1919 and April 1920.

Wardrop's reports once again prove that the Allies lacked a clean-cut political line in their relations with independent republics of the South Caucasus; there was a discrepancy among political circles of Western powers, ranging between recognition of nations and indifference to their fate. That eventually resulted in the South Caucasian republics losing political independence and being "absorbed" by Soviet Russia.

Wardrop's report dated 11 December 1919 writes that "according to Karabakh's military commander, on 1 December Armenian regular troops with 2 cannons and 6 machine guns assaulted 9 Tatar (Azerbaijani) villages in Kigy Pass (gorge), and sacked and razed them to the ground. On 26 November, they gathered all peaceful Muslims (Azerbaijanis) from Okhchu area, killed men with a dynamite blast, and drove the rest, including women and children, to the mosque where they all were slaughtered. The Muslims (Azerbaijanis) of Zangezur are in panic" [31].

Wardrop's report dated 15 December 1919 writes: "Azerbaijani PM sent a cable, accusing Armenian regular artillery detachments of committing a massacre in Zangezur's villages. He said that on 9 December the villages of Kedaklaklu, Askerlar, and Perjivan to the southeast of Gerus were devastated, besieged Muslim villages Okhchu and Kiziljik shelled by artillery and their entire population killed. He said Azerbaijan did not have a single soldier in Zangezur. His Excellency requests to dispatch military from neutral countries to disarm Armenians in Zangezur, lest Azerbaijan will have to take action." [32]

Wardrop's report dated 28 January 1920 writes: "Still getting reports of Armenian aggression in Zangezur; these events are increasingly aggravating people's mood, making them demand the government take urgent action." Wardrop goes on writing: "It was a primary objective of my visit to Erivan to pressure Armenian PM into withdrawing regular forces and artillery from Zangezur and discipline the culprits. I have already send a cable to His Excellency, saying that unless the Armenian government ceases its aggression, I will have to advise His Majesty's Government against providing assistance to Armenia." [33]

In his ciphered cable dated 28 February 1920, Wardrop cites the Azerbaijani government's protest against its Armenian counterpart, whose regular troops, notwithstanding the 23 November agreement, razed nearly 20 Azerbaijani villages in Zangezur; besides, on 19 January 1920 they launched a joint assault with irregular Armenian units on Shusha, burning villages on the way. In conclusion, he wrote that he was doing his best to maintain peace.

Meanwhile, the next Armenian-Azerbaijani peace conference was held on 14 through 21 December 1919 in Baku, following up on November talks in Tiflis and striving to resolve all the critical issues between the two countries.

The most painful issue on the agenda was concerning territorial disputes between the republics. The parties split over it; the Azerbaijani side suggested bringing the three South Caucasian republics into a confederation, believing such political entity would be the best and most acceptable way to resolve territorial and other discrepancies. The Armenian side, on the other hand, assumed a non-constructive position, maintaining that an interim demarcation agreement should be signed before establishing the final borders [34].

That was all but expected: unwilling to commit to any long-term border agreements with its neighbors, Armenia was looking forward to the Paris Peace Conference resolving the "Armenian Issue". Were it resolved in favor of Armenia, the republic would lay its hands on the entire Irevan Governorate, Karabakh, and Zangezur. Armenians were still dreaming of the "Greater Armenia" with borders, according to the first Armenian PM H. Kachaznuni, extending "from the Mediterranean Sea through to the Black Sea, and from mountains of Karabakh through to deserts of Arabia." [35]

With such great perspectives in mind, Armenia apparently did not want to bother itself with such nuances as an agreement with Azerbaijan in respect with some sections of the border. The Armenian delegation was again dodging, on various excuses, the final recognition of mutual borders with Azerbaijan. The Armenian delegation's suggestion to draw the demarcation line, on the other hand, was virtually unfeasible due to the actual ethnic and demographic situation in the frontier area.

It always so happened that Azerbaijani cattle farmers traditionally drove cattle to high mountains of Zangezur in summer and to plains of Lower Karabakh in winter. Armenia's claims to the mountainous Zangezur and attempts to hinder cattle driving by introducing identification documents and cattle camp certificates would be stirring up tension between the sides. The Azerbaijani government's protests were remaining unheeded. That the peace conference wrapped up without any tangible outcomes was not a surprise to anyone.

Early in 1920, Azerbaijani villages in Zangezur and Karabakh kept on getting assaulted by Armenian troops, supported by the local Armenian population. Taking advantage of insignificant Azerbaijani forces deployed to maintain order in the Karabakh region, Armenian militia, regular forces and artillery units launched a simultaneous surprise attack on Azerbaijani military units in Shusha, Khankendi, Askeran, Khojaly, Terter and other towns; to that end, they had previously cut telegraph and telephone lines.

The town of Askeran, defended by a small 50-strong unit, put up a good resistance at first but was eventually taken over on 22 March. The other towns, however, repelled these bold attacks and dealt a heavy damage to Armenians. The latter also subjected high grounds of Shusha and Askeran to artillery shelling.

Sizeable Armenian troops attacked Azerbaijani villages in Jabrayil and Zangezur uyezds on the next day, with some villages razed to the ground. Facing a danger of total annihilation, the Muslims (Azerbaijanis) of Karabakh gathered in small groups to defend themselves; in some locations, they even managed to thwart Armenians' surprise attacks on the first day, and kept on standing at bay in other places. The Azerbaijani government took urgent action to restore order in Karabakh and prevent recurrent attacks [36].

Azerbaijani military forces stationed in the region under the command of General Habib Bey Salimov managed early in April 1920 to suppress the rebels' main strongpoints in Shusha and Askeran, restoring Karabakh Governor General's power in the region. Armenian diplomatic representative to Azerbaijan Martiros Harutunian in his 9 April 1920 letter to Armenian Foreign Minister Hamo Ohanjanyan provides a detailed account of his meeting with Azerbaijani Foreign Minister F.K. Khoyski, which featured a discussion of the recent events in Karabakh.

According to Khoyski, two Armenian police officers with an armed escort (26 people per officer) had arrived in Shusha, allegedly to congratulate the Muslims (Azerbaijanis) with Novruz Bayram, and, joining armed Armenians already deployed in the town, attacked Azerbaijani troops in the deep of the night. Khoyski pointed out that, had Azerbaijan intended to fight Armenians, they would have never left only 50 soldiers in Askeran (of which only 15 managed to flee to Agdam and report the attack).

That had been a well-planned and thought-through assault, aimed at taking over all towns at once. Asked by Harutunian as to how many villages had been razed in Karabakh, Khoyski replied that one of two had been devastated near Shusha. When the military units entered the villages, they could not find any dwellers as they had left their homes in advance. The troops only met armed people, who tried to put up resistance but suffered a defeat and retreated.

Harutunian also touched upon the massacre of Armenian population during the recent events.

To which Khoyski replied: "No, the entire middle class in Shusha are under Sultanov's protection; the rest have retreated to the countryside together with rebels. That it was an organized attack is confirmed by guns we have found in individual villages. Our troops were under the strict order to refrain from violence against the peaceful Armenian population; those in default will be disciplined severely.
The most critical fact is the Armenian government backing certain activities in a systematic and organized way. We have found documents signed by Armenian government officials upon the bodies of armed militants in Askeran. It has been derived from those documents that Armenia's government had appointed officials to these areas. General Mehmandarov is a fair man; he has shown in his report that an Armenian army battalion had popped up in Karabakh. All of this is un irrefutable proof of these activities being backed by Armenia." [37]

Suffering a heavy blow, Armenian separatists and their patrons in the Armenian government started nursing new schemes to take Zangezur and Karabakh away from Azerbaijan. It may be derived from an intensive correspondence between Armenian PM A. Khatisov and Foreign Minister H. Ohanjanyan in spring 1920. Grieving over the defeat at Askeran, Khatisov in his 5 April 1920 cable to Ohanjanyan talks about a new offensive: General I. Kazarov was to assault Shusha, and S. Amazasp Jevanshir. To that end, Khatisov maintained, they had to procure Lebel rifles from the Georgian government and "obtain, by any means necessary, Mosin rifle cartridges". He also wrote he was in concurrence with Armenia's Plenipotentiary Representative in Georgia M. Tumanov's suggestion to dispatch delegates from Karabakh to Soviet Russia [38].

The Armenian government was thereby attempting to use the Red Army's onslaught on the South Caucasus to gain an upper hand in the conflict with Azerbaijan.

Interestingly, the ordinary conference on territorial disputes convened in April 1920 in Tiflis at the initiative of Georgian Foreign Minister E. Gegechkori, and all the three republics participated in it. However, as seen from Khatisov's cable dated 7 April 1920, yet before the conference the Armenian side considered it as a short convenient break on the eve of a new onslaught on Azerbaijan's territories. Trying to use Georgia as a source of provision, Khatisov reiterated in the cable that, as far as the Karabakh issue was concerned, Armenia "could mainly rely on our Georgian brothers and our own might."

Khatisov was apparently aware of the military pact between Georgia and Azerbaijan, so he attempted getting on the Georgian government's good side by suggesting "territorial concessions, as it is the only way the Georgians view our friendship." On the other hand, Khatisov was positive that Bolsheviks' advancement towards Azerbaijan's borders would rise concerns in Baku and make the government to relocate sizeable forces to the northern borders. He therefore writes that "any info on them (Bolsheviks) and from them is now of paramount importance. Bear this in mind and do all you can." In the very same cable, Khatisov also touched upon Wardrop-led British mission and the cables Wardrop had been sending to London since late 1919, in which he exposed acts of aggression committed by Armenian military forces in Karabakh and Zangezur. Khatisov accused Wardrop of collusion with Muslims (Azerbaijanis) and suggested Ohanjanyan persuade the British Commissioner that it was Azerbaijan rather than Armenia who had launched the offensive [39].

On 9 April, Khatisov sent a cable to Ohanjanyan, informing him of the government's decision in relation to the recent events in Karabakh and Zangezur. At his suggestion, the Council of Ministers of Armenia decided to stop military clashes by launching talks with Azerbaijan as part of the Tiflis conference and at the same time pressure the Azerbaijani government through the Allied powers, Wardrop in the first place. It was also decided to secretly help Karabakh and Zangezur with military supplies and ammunition in order to undermine Azerbaijan without declaring an open war [40].

Launched on 9 April 1920 in Tiflis with the participation of representatives from Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia, the peace conference adopted on 11 April the resolution to immediately cease all military clashes in Gazakh, Nakhchivan, Ordubad, and Karabakh. It also ruled that the most decisive action should be taken to preclude any clashes between Armenian and Azerbaijani communities within the respective republics.

Although during the conference the Azerbaijani government informed its Armenian counterpart of assaults and razing of Azerbaijani villages in Gazakh Uyezd by Armenian armed forces, Khatisov still wrote to Ohanjanyan in his 16 April cable that the major clashes had already stopped. At the same time, he called upon Ohanjanyan to refute the facts of atrocities committed by Armenian detachments led by Amazasp, Dro, and Abram (as reflected in British Foreign Secretary Lord Curzon's address). According to Khatisov, the rumors of massacre of all or a half of Shusha's Armenians had also been proven false [41].

Having suffered a heavy defeat at Askeran and Shusha in early April 1920, the Armenian government attempted combining diplomatic steps with warfare. Its regular forces were still attacking frontier Azerbaijani villages in Karabakh, Zangezur and Gazakh in violation of the ceasefire agreement.

As a result, the Azerbaijani government had to station sizeable military forces on western borders, thereby weakening its northern reaches despite an expected aggression from the Soviet Russia's Red Army. No matter how the Azerbaijani diplomats and politicians had been trying, a peaceful solution to the Karabakh and Zangezur conflict with Armenia was still far from reality when the Sovietization of Azerbaijan took place.

Recommended reading:
[1] Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. Foreign Policy (Documents and Materials). Baku, 1998, p.15
[2] Nagrono-Karabakh in 1918-1923: Collection of Documents and Materials / Under Executive Editorship of V.А. Mikaelyan. Yerevan, 1992, p.5
[3] Nagrono-Karabakh in 1918-1923: Collection of Documents and Materials, pp. 6-7
[4] Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. Foreign Policy (Documents and Materials). No original
[5] Caucasian Calendar-1917. Tiflis, 1916, pp.190-196, 216-221
[6] History of Azerbaijan According to Documents and Materials. Baku,1990, p.287
[7] History of Azerbaijan According to Documents and Materials, p.206
[8] History of Azerbaijan According to Documents and Materials, p.214
[9] History of Azerbaijan According to Documents and Materials, p.285
[10] Nagrono-Karabakh in 1918-1923: Collection of Documents and Materials, p.38
[11] Foreign Policy of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (1918-1920). Baku, 2009, p.198
[12] History of Azerbaijan According to Documents and Materials, p.214
[13] Nagrono-Karabakh in 1918-1923: Collection of Documents and Materials, pp.62-63.
[14] Ibid., pp.66-67, 73-75, 80-81
[15] Ibid., p.141
[16] Nagrono-Karabakh in 1918-1923: Collection of Documents and Materials, pp.117-120 , 125-128
[17] Ibid., p.149
[18] Ibid., pp.202-204
[19] Ibid., p.227
[20] Ibid., p.208
[21] Ibid., p.324
[22] Ibid., p.254
[23] Nagrono-Karabakh in 1918-1923: Collection of Documents and Materials, pp. 341-342
[24] Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. Foreign Policy (Documents and Materials). Baku, 1998. No original
[25] Ibid. No original
[26] Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. Foreign Policy (Documents and Materials). No original
[27] Ibid. No original
[28] History of Azerbaijan According to Documents and Materials, p.257
[29] Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. Foreign Policy (Documents and Materials). No original
[30] Ibid. No original
[31] N. Gezalova. Genocide of Azerbaijan's Muslim Turkic Population in Archive Documents of British Library (1918-1920). Baku, 2011, p.28.
[32] Ibid., p.30.
[33] Ibid., p.31.
[34] Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. Foreign Policy (Documents and Materials). No original
[35] Katchaznouni, Hovhannes. Dashnagtzoutiun Has Nothing to Do Anymore. Baku, 1990, p.43.
[36] Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. Foreign Policy (Documents and Materials), pp.571-572.
[37] Nagrono-Karabakh in 1918-1923: Collection of Documents and Materials, pp.417-418
[38] Social Science Digest of Armenia. 1996, No. 3, p.197.
[39] Social Science Digest of Armenia. 1996, No. 3, pp.198-199.
[40] Ibid., pp.199-200.
[41] Ibid., p.202.