Western Azerbaijan during the Tsarist Russia

1747–1827 – With the establishment of the Iravan Khanate, the center of which was the city of Iravan, a large part of the Western Azerbaijan became one of the independent states of the khanate period of Azerbaijan. Russian Empire’s struggle for dominance in the South Caucasus during the early 19th century resulted in the occupation of the Iravan Khanate and other regions of the Western Azerbaijan. The plan to carry out this occupation during the 1804–1813 war was not realized, and a new war began after a 13-year hiatus.

1. Occupation of Iravan and initial armenianization measures (October 1827 – March 1828)

1826-1828 – New war between Russia and Iran. The central issue of this war was the conflict between the Russian Empire and the Iravan Khanate. Following the decline of the Khanate, Russian forces entered South Azerbaijan by crossing the Araz River.

October 1, 1827 – Occupation of Iravan by the Russian Empire during the course of the Russia-Iran War (1826-1828). Conclusion of the occupation of the Khanate and its dissolution, leading to the creation of the Iravan Province.

October 1827 – October 1917 – Western Azerbaijan within the Russian Empire. As with other Azerbaijani territories previously annexed by the Russian Empire, the historical western Azerbaijani territories came under the rule of a Christian state. The Russian Empire pursued a policy of Christianization and Armenianization symmetrically with the infringement of Azerbaijani rights.

October 6, 1827 – General guidelines for the administration of Iravan Province prepared by General I.F. Paskevich, the commander of Russian troops in the Caucasus. According to the guidelines, a Temporary Administration is established for civil affairs, led by A.I. Krasovski as Chairman, and members including Bishop Nerses and temporary commander of the Iravan fortress, A. Borodin. [4, док. 432, с.480-481]

February 10, 1828 – Treaty of Turkmenchay between Russia and Iran. Formalization of the annexation of the Nakhchivan and Iravan Khanates to the Russian Empire. [11, док.1794, с.123-130] The Treaty marked the conclusion of the division of Azerbaijani territories between Russia and Iran. Colonial system was established in the territories transferred to the Russian Empire, with one of its main indicators being the division of ethnic and national territories into artificially created administrative units. The administrative division established by the Russian Empire in the South Caucasus included five governorates (Tiflis, Iravan, Baku, Kutaisi, and Elisavetpol (Ganja)), and Azerbaijani territories were divided among four governorates except for Kutaisi. The Western Azerbaijani territory was subjected to a more rigid form of colonial rule, which differed in its severity. Armenian historiography, however, attempts to create non-scientific concepts, such as “Eastern Armenia” for the western territories of Azerbaijan and “Western Armenia” or “Turkish Armenia” for the eastern Anatolian territories, aiming to substantiate the progress of “Eastern Armenia” within the Russian Empire. [19 və b.]

1828–1831 – According to the agreements of Turkmenchay and then Edirne (1829), the mass transfer of Armenians to North Azerbaijan, including the territory of the former Iravan Khanate. According to the report of Colonel L. Lazarev (Lazaryan) to Paskevich on June 14, 1828, 3,900 (52.3%) of the 7,458 Armenian families transferred from Iran were settled in Iravan province. According to official statistical information, the number of Armenian families relocated in 1829-1831 was 6,946 (35,560 people). Of them, 366 families (1715 people) were located in the city of Iravan, respectively 4193 (21853 people) were located in 10 districts of Iravan. These figures for Iravan city and districts were 4559 families (65.6%). In fact, these numbers were much higher. The number of Armenian families transferred from the Ottoman Empire under the Treaty of Edirne was 14 thousand or more than 100 thousand people. Together with those transferred from Iran, the total number reached 145 thousand. [18, c. 32-33, 39] Russian batalist artist Moshkov (Mashkov) described this event in his painting “The transfer of 40,000 Armenians to the Russian borders by the personal order of Colonel Lazarev”.

March 21, 1828 – creation of “Armenian Province” on the territories of Iravan and Nakhchivan khanates of Azerbaijan by decree of Nicholas I (1825-1855). [11, док.1888, с.272-273] A certain political line was formed in relation to the captured Azerbaijani khanates during the first period of Russian occupation. Khanates that resisted were abolished and turned into provinces. The khanates annexed through treaties were allowed to maintain khanates system temporarily. In relation to the Khanates of Iravan and Nakhchivan, a sharper anti-Azerbaijani step was taken. Without any basis “Armenian Province” was organized on the historical lands of Azerbaijan. The matter does not end there, unlike other occupied territories of Azerbaijan, this province was included in the emperor’s title.

1829–1873 – Conducting of revision list (tax census) among the population of the “Armenian province”, and later the Iravan uezd and governorate.

1829–1832 – Conducting of revision list by I. Schopen (the famous composer’s relative). The census of the “Armenian Province” provides information about the population and ethnic composition of Iravan after its occupation by Russia. These figures played a fundamental role for subsequent periods, so it’s important to highlight them. The number of Muslims: 1807 families, 3749 males, 3582 females, total 7331 individuals. It’s also worth noting that a certain portion of the Muslim population had left the city during the occupation. Schopen divides the Armenians into two groups: locals (those who were there earlier) and newcomers. The number of “locals” was as follows: 567 families, 1220males, 1149 females, total 2369 individuals. The newcomers were divided into those coming from Iran and those coming from Türkiye. Those from Iran numbered: 366 families, 903 males, 812 females, total 1715 individuals. Those from Türkiye numbered: 11 families, 25 males, 23 females, total 48 individuals. As evident from the figures, if newcomers were not taken into account, the population of Iravan would have been 9700 individuals, of which 75.58% were Muslims and 24.42% were “local” Armenians. Due to migration, the ethnic composition of Iravan’s population began to change. The number of migrated Armenians (1763 individuals) comprised 18.17% of the existing population (9700 individuals). As a result, within the total population (11463 individuals), Muslims constituted 63.95% and Armenians constituted 36.05%. [20, с.543-546] Despite the policies of the Tsarist government, up until 1918, it was not possible to turn Iravan into a political or economic center for Armenians. These territories were not part of the Armenian notion of homeland. Armenian politicians and finances were primarily focused on Baku and Tiflis.

February 27, 1833 – Acceptance of the emblem of the “Armenian Province.” The analysis of the emblems of this province, and later the Iravan uezd (1843) and governorate (1878), demonstrates that Tsar Nicholas I persistently tried to Armenianize and Christianize the Iravan region, and his successors continued this policy.

June 22, 1833 – The 16-article tsar’s decree “On the administrative structure of the Armenian Province, with the addition of the states of this administration”. According to the decree, an administration for the collection of taxes and duties was established in Iravan. The Iravan province, consisting of 10 districts, was divided into Iravan, Sharur, Sardarabad, and Surmeli districts. Colonel Ehsan Khan and Mayor Shikhali Bey remained as governors in Nakhchivan and Ordubad. [12, док.6282, с.374-375]

March 11, 1836 – Adoption of the Statute on the Armenian-Gregorian Church. Important rights were granted to the Armenian Church by the tsarist government. It is no coincidence that this Statute refers to the Armenian Church not of the Transcaucasia (This term reflects the geopolitics of the Russian Empire. The terms South Caucasus or Transcaucasia are also used. When talking about the reality of the time, that term is kept, and in the author’s commentary, the term South Caucasus is preferred.-K.Sh.), but generally referred to as the Armenian-Gregorian Church, it meant the unification of Armenians around the world. According to the statute, 6 dioceses were defined within the borders of Russia. Among them were the dioceses of Iravan, Karabakh and Shirvan, which were within the territories of Azerbaijan. [13, doc. 8970, с.194-209] The Armenian-Gregorian Church, using this Statute, gained a strong position both politically and materially. Although an attempt was made by the tsarist government to weaken this position in 1903, it failed. In addition to the statute, the tsarist government tried to increase the influence of the Armenian-Gregorian Church by other means. Nicholas I met with the Armenian Catholicos during his visit to the Caucasus.

September 20–October 26, 1837 – Emperor Nicholas I’s visit to the Caucasus. The emperor arrives in Gyumri on October 4. He lays the foundations of the church named after St. Alexander and allows the city to be called Alexandropol. On October 5, the tsar arrives in Sardarabad, from there to Etchmiadzin, and then to Iravan. A very interesting event took place at the Sardar Palace in Iravan during a dinner attended by the commander-in-chief of the Russian troops in the Caucasus, Baron Rosen, and representatives of the military and civil administration. There were shouts from the crowd gathered near the palace: “We have complaint, they don’t let us.” From these statements recorded by A. Berge, who dedicated an article to this trip, it can be seen that these people were Azerbaijanis. Tsar’s question “What’s that sound?”, Rosen responded that it was an indication of joy at the arrival of the tsar. The tsar, who did not agree with this, instructs his men to clarify the case. After dinner, the tsar himself approaches the crowd and hears many complaints. The head of the province Armenian V.O. Bebutov is removed from his post due to his abuses. [6, p. 385] The importance of this rare historical fact is that ordinary Azerbaijanis were able to protect their rights even in front of the Russian emperor. After his visit to Iravan, Nicholas I became convinced on the spot that the “Armenian Province” administration method had not proved itself and it should be changed. One fact should be mentioned here. Berge, while talking about the meeting of the tsar with the Catholicos in Etchmiadzin, writes that he was able to explain in Azerbaijani as well as in Armenian. [6, p. 383] This confirms the influence of the Azerbaijani language, its widespread use among Armenians and its common means of communication.

April 10, 1840 – abolition of the “Armenian Province” along the reforms in Transcaucasia. The organization of Iravan uezd (1840–1930) with the city of Iravan as its center within the newly created Georgian-Imeret governorate. [14, dok.13368, p.237] There were a number of reasons for the abolition of the “Armenian province”. Two of them are particularly noteworthy: 1. The struggle of Azerbaijanis against the Russian-Armenian rule (see Nicholas I’s visit to the Caucasus in 1837); 2. Ehsan Khan’s growing influence and activity in Nakhchivan, which was included in the province.

2. Iravan uezd (1840–1849)

April 10, 1840 – December 14, 1846 – Iravan uezd became part of the Georgian-Immeret Governorate.

December 27, 1844 – Creation of the Caucasus Viceroyalty (centered in Tiflis city), which also included Western Azerbaijan territories. It existed until 1881 and was re-established in 1905.

December 14, 1846 – According to the decree confirming the division of the Transcaucasus region, Georgian-Immeret Governorate was abolished, Tiflis Governorate was established, and Iravan uezd was included into this governorate.

December 14, 1846 – June 9, 1849 – Iravan uezd was part of the Tiflis Governorate.

June 9, 1849 – A decree by the Tsar on the creation of a governorate with the same name as its center, Iravan, within the Transcaucasian region. According to the decree, the governorate was divided into five uezds: Iravan (with the city of Iravan as its center), Novo-Bayazet (renamed from Kever village, given the status of a district center), Nakhchivan, Ordubad, and Aleksandropol. The administrative division of the governorate’s territory continued in 1867. Based on the decree of December 9, the following uezds were determined: Iravan, Aleksandropol, Erchmiadzin, Novo-Bayazet, and Nakhchivan. In 1875, two more uezds, Sharur-Daralayaz and Surmeli, were created. Thus, the number of uezds reached seven. [16, док.23303, с.311-312] According to the 1917 data about the Caucasus, the area of the Iravan Governorate was 26,210.11 km2. For the Iravan uezd, this figure was 3,078.46; for Aleksandropol, 3826.97; for Etchmiadzin, 3658.26; for Novo-Bayazet, 4658.72; for Nakhchivan, 4451.11; for Sharur-Daralayaz, 2980.37; and for Surmeli, 3556.21 km2.

January 1850 – February 1917 – Iravan Governorate during the reign of the Tsarist government.

1853 – Publication of the volume on the Iravan governorate from the series on the military-statistical overview of the Russian Empire. [7]

May 14, 1870 – Emancipation reform. “Statute of the land structure of the former state peasants living on the lands of Muslim nobles, as well as Armenian landlords in the Transcaucasia governorates: Yelizavetpol, Baku, Iravan and partially Tbilisi governorates.” As the name of the statute suggests, the historical reality is distorted. The Tsarist government strategically applies the concept of “Armenian landlords,” even though such an understanding wasn’t present in legal documents until then.

1877–1878 – Russian-Ottoman war. The Treaty of San Stefano (1878, February), and then the signing of the Treaty of Berlin (1878, July). [21, No. 54, p. 243-270] Annexation of Ardakhan, Kars and Batum to Russia. The emergence of the “Armenian issue”.

October 1, 1879 – In accordance with the city charter of 1870, Iravan City Duma began to function. Iravan duma became one of the main anti-Azerbaijani centers of the city.

November, 1881 – opening of the Iravan Teachers’ Seminary. On December 29, 2021, a decree was signed by the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan on the celebration of the 140th anniversary of the Seminary.

1882 – Creation of the Iravan theater. On July 14, 2022, the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan signed a decree “On the celebration of the 140th anniversary of the Iravan State Azerbaijan Dramatic Theater”.

1884–1914 – Reports of the governor of Iravan. It was one of the main official documents about the governorate. [9]

1887 – Organization of the Social-Democratic Gnchak (Bell) party in Geneva. The name “Bell” was taken from “Kolokol” by A. I. Gertsen. Andranik, one of the cruel enemies of Azerbaijan, was once a member of this party.

1890 – organization of Dashnaksutyun party in Tbilisi. At the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, the terms Armenian and Dashnak basically had the same meaning. It was an active organizer of every genocide against the people of Azerbaijan. It established a government during the first Armenian state, the First Republic (1918-1920), created on the lands of the Western Azerbaijan.

January, 1897 – concucting of the first general population census in the Russian Empire. According to the results of the Iravan governorate, there were 29,006 people in the city of Iravan. Among the population, there were 12,359 (42.69%) people whose mother tongue was Tatar (Azerbaijan.-K.Sh.), and 12,153 (41.89%) people who spoke Armenian. The ratio of Muslims and Christians (Armenian-Gregorian and Armenian-Catholics) was 12537 (43.22%) and 12516 (43.15%). [9, p. 2-3] Compared to the 1829-1832 revision list (tax census), it appears that the population increased by 17,543 people (60.49%). There was a more serious change in the ethnic and religious composition of the population. The number of Armenians is almost equal to the number of Muslims.

December 5, 1902 – the opening of the Alexandropol-Iravan railway line. The construction of this and subsequent railway lines increased the strategic importance of Iravan.

June 12, 1903 – Tsar Nicholas II’s decree on the confiscation of the properties of the Armenian-Gregorian Church. Under the Armenian pressure, the property confiscated by the decree was returned on August 1, 1905. [17, doc. 23156, p. 778-779]

1905–1906 – During the “Armenian-Muslim conflict”, Armenians killed hundreds of Azerbaijanis in Iravan province, including the city of Iravan, and expelled them from their historical lands. [2, pp. 31-42, etc.; 5, c. 591-600]

1906 – The Iravan-Julfa railway line was put into operation.

1914–1916 – In the run-up to World War I, the population of Iravan was 29,366, of which 11,500 (39.2%) were Azerbaijanis and 15,531 (52.8%) were Armenians. In 1916, the population of Iravan increased by 51,286 (+21,920) from the 29,366 in 1914. Comparing to 1897, the demographic situation of Azerbaijanis in Iravan worsened sharply in the early 20th century. During the war period, the deliberate relocation of Armenian refugees to Iravan city led to the further pressure on Azerbaijanis.

August 1914 – Russia’s entry into World War I. Expansion of Armenian struggle, with the help of Russia, to create a state on the territory of the Ottoman Empire.

September-November 1914 – Creation of Armenian volunteer units by the Russian Empire. This unit actively participated in the genocide against Turks in Eastern Anatolia and later against Azerbaijanis in the Iravan region. By December 1917, these volunteer units transformed into the Armenian Volunteer Corps. Its leader, Lieutenant General Foma Nazarbekov, later became the Commander-in-Chief of the Republic of Armenia’s army from 1918 to 1920.

February-October 1917 – Western Azerbaijan under the rule of Interim Government.

March 9/22 – November 15/28, 1917 – Special Transcaucasian Committee (Ozakom), a local body of the Provisional Government, headed by V.A. Kharlamov (Cadet). The committee included members like M.Y. Jafarov, M.I. Papacanov, K.Q. Abashidze, and P.N. Pereverzev, who was later replaced by A.I. Chkhenkeli.

April 26/9 May 1917 – Adoption of the Interim Government’s decision on “Turkish Armenia”. According to this four-article decision, until the final status of “Turkish Armenia” was defined by a peace treaty, the part of its territory under the Russian army’s control would be subject to the civil administration of the Transcaucasian authorities, detached from the Transcaucasian front’s control, and placed under the authority of the Interim Government. A Turkish Armenian High Commissioner was established [3, с.356-357]. This demonstrated the Interim Government’s aim to bring Armenians closer to their side, applying the concept of “Turkish Armenia” with a focus on Turkey’s territory. Soviet Russia continued this policy. As will be clarified later, due to the liberation of these territories by the Ottoman Empire, the creation of the Armenian state was transferred to Transcaucasia – to Western Azerbaijan lands.

Late September – Early October 1917 – Formation of the Armenian National Council. Led by A.V. Aharonyan (Dashnak), Azerbaijan National Council held discussions about Iravan with this organization.

October 25/7 November 1917 – October Revolution in Russia, Bolsheviks came to power. Disintegration of the Russian Empire. Iravan Governorate, along with other Azerbaijan territories, leaves the Russian Empire. Despite the Russian Empire’s purposeful Armenianization policy of the historically formed administrative territorial structures, ethno-confessional composition, political structure and administration system of the Western Azerbaijan through occupation and colonialism which continued systematically for 90 years, it was not possible to change the fact that these lands, its native population and culture existing there belonged to Azerbaijanis. Western Azerbaijan, as a part of the entire Azerbaijan, left the Russian Empire as a Turkish-Muslim land and entered the territory of the Transcaucasian government.

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Karim Shukurov
Doctor of historical sciences, professor