Major Repetition – Resettlement (1948-1953)

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Like many other nations in the former USSR, Azeris also became the victims of the Stalinist deportation, incited by the Armenian nationalistic intrigues. At least 150,000 Azeris in Armenia fell the victims of deportation. Every third of them who couldn’t adapt to a new climate and who hadn’t had basic everyday social conditions died, as a result of hunger and diseases.

This can’t be named resettlement; it would be right to call it repression. This process of resettlement happened as following. Having used the favorable time when three superpowers discussed the Soviet-Iranian relations in the Teheran conference in 1943, the Armenian diaspora, applied to the minister of foreign affairs of the USSR Molotov requesting to allow resettlement of Armenians living in Iran to Armenia. Having talked about this issue with Stalin, Molotov gave his consent to it. In relation with resettlement of foreign Armenians to Armenia, the Armenian leader of the time Arutyunov used this as a pretext and pushed to the acceptance of the decision on forceful deportation of Azeris from Armenia.

According to the information of the newspaper «Golos Armenii» (November 11, 1990), the first decree about the forceful resettlement of the Azeris from Armenia for locating there the Armenians living abroad was issued as a response to the letters by Bagirov (Azerbaijan SSR) and Arutyunov (Armenian SSR) dated December 3, 1947. In response to this appeal the Soviet of the Ministers of the USSR accepted two decrees.

First one was dated from December 23rd, 1947 «Regarding the resettlement of the collective farmers and other Azeris from the Armenian SSR to the Kura-Araz lowland of the Azerbaijan SSR». For Azeris this decree signed by Stalin was a sudden strike, a blatant repression. Without prior argumentation, introduction and explanation this hastily prepared document demanded to resettle all Azeris from Armenia, not taking into consideration the expenditures.   The second decree of the Soviet of the Ministers of the USSR dated from March 10, 1948 set fourth the plan of measures for implementation of the first decree.

The decree of the Soviet of Ministers dated from December 23rd 1947 ordered resettlement on «voluntary basis» of 100,000 Azeris living in the Armenian SSR to the Kura-Araz lowland of the Azerbaijan SSR. The expression «on voluntary basis» was used in the decree with a special intention. In fact it was a real repression. In accordance with the decree 10 thousand people had to be resettled in 1948, 40 thousand – in 1949, 50 thousand – in 1950.

If to investigate these events based on the archive documents, we can come to a conclusion that Center’s persistence on its demands to complete the resettlement process and the fact that it gave the Soviet of the Ministers of the Armenian and Azerbaijan SSR only a month for preparing an extensive plan of these measures was not incidental. The main reason of this haste becomes clear in the last 11th point of the decree. «To allow the Soviet of the Ministers of the Armenian SSR to use the freed buildings and dwelling houses of the Azeri population for locating there the Armenians coming from abroad». This is a historical truth.  But in reality the implementation of this decree was accomplished even with more zeal. Overall, 150 thousand people were resettled from Armenian SSR to Azerbaijan SSR instead of planned 100,000 during 1948-1953.

After Stalin’s death the resettlement was decidedly stopped. After that a backward process began. The fates of tens of thousands of people, who were forcefully resettled from the Aktin, Karabaklar, Yekhednadzor, Azizbekov and other mountainous regions to the Kura-Araz lowland proved to be mournful. Every third resettled person who couldn’t adapt to a new climate and who hadn’t had basic everyday social conditions died, as a result of hunger and diseases. As seen from the archive documents part of the refugees had to live in cowsheds and some even had to live in one premises with the animals. Of the remedies issued for the settlers only 45-47% was used, dwelling houses were not built for the refugees. A big group of settlers settled independently in the villages of Kuschu and Hunushak of the Martuni region in Mountainous Karabakh Autonomous Region (MKAR). Armenian leaders of the region together with Armenian leaders of Azerbaijan commission on resettlement (Brutents, Sevumyan) expelled them even from the Martuni region of Azerbaijan under various pretexts. No single Azeri, who was resettled during 1948-1953 from Armenia, was allowed to settle down in Mountainous Karabakh.

The second tragedy for Azeris of the period of resettlement was their return beginning yet from late 1948 to their native land. The chairman of the Soviet of the Ministers S. Karapetyan estimated the return of 376 families to Armenia during 1948-1950, as a «disaster» for Armenia. In fact it was a disaster to the Azeri refugees who had to return to Armenia from Azerbaijan.

But still, despite all the obstacles, 40-45% of those Azeri refugees, who survived managed to return to their native land within five years.
It is important to note one more aspect of the resettlement process. Resettlement of Azeris from the land of their ancestors was envisaged for the purpose of locating Armenians coming from abroad in their places. But, in fact, the goal was to cleanse Armenia from Azeris. Here is the fact proving that: even today there are hundreds of ruined and unutilized villages, where Azeris lived. As noted at the January 1975 plenum of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Armenia, 476 villages remained unutilized31. As Armenian nationalists declared themselves in 1990 «Lands and housing freed as a result of resettlement of Azeris was not used for locating the Armenian coming from abroad».[32]

All the said above brings us to an only conclusion: forceful resettlement of Azeris from Armenia was not aimed neither at locating the Armenians coming from abroad, nor the development of cotton-growing in Kura-Araz lowland in Azerbaijan. Quite the opposite- it was the result of politics aimed at creating of mono-national Armenia – ancient dream of the dashnaks. But they didn’t succeed in 1948-1953 again.

Source: «Historical geography of the Western Azerbaijan» Baku 1998 (In Russian)

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