25 October 2013
In early 1919, the UK government recognized its further presence in the South Caucasus financially and politically impractical. In early April, in Paris, the Supreme Council of the Entente took the decision to withdraw the British troops from the region.
On August 28, 1919 British troops were withdrawn from the South Caucasus, leaving a small garrison deployed in Batumi to prevent the immediate dispute between General Denikin, Georgia, and Turkey on the ownership of the port.
At the same time, realizing that there existed forces that could cause a fall of the young republics at any time, the British government sent a diplomatic mission to Tbilisi led by Oliver Wardrop, which arrived there in August 1919. The British ambassador was instructed to insure British interests, to provide moral support and advice to governments of the republics — Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia without the involvement of the Government of His Majesty in any form of extended liability. He was also entrusted with prevention of enmity between the countries of the South Caucasus, as well as between the latter and Denikin. . .
On September 28, 1919 Wardrop arrived from Tbilisi to Baku accompanied by a diplomatic representative of Azerbaijan in Georgia F.Vekilov and diplomatic representative of the Georgian government in Azerbaijan Alshebay. In Baku O.Wardrop held a number of official meetings. Later, he documented his observations in a dispatch sent to his government Oct. 2, 1919
O. Wardrop recalled a meeting with H. Taghiyev, “an older man, the richest man in Baku,a gentleman who received me in his home on behalf of the Azerbaijani government” with special warmth. He highly appreciated a meeting with the Prime Minister of the Republic of Azerbaijan Nasibbek Usubbekov. The Prime Minister left an impression of a well-read, well-educated, liberal-minded man with friendly manners, wit, and personal charm. O. Wardrop also held a meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic Mammad Yusif Jafarov, knew him as a person who had received a good education in Russia, a former member of the IV State Duma of the Russian Empire from the Cadet Party.
On October 1, 1919, O. Wardrop visited Ganja. During the four-hour stay in Ganja, he had a meeting with the leadership of the city and with the Governor-General, Dr. Khudat Bey Rafibekov. Wardrop visited a city mosque, as he wrote, of “the liberal monarch Shah Abbas the Great.”
Wardrop describes his impressions of the visit to Ganja as follows: “I was gratified to visit this city, which had showed the Transcaucasia an example of tolerance, the true human brotherhood among people of mixed religions and nationalities during the challenge.”
In general, his first visit to Azerbaijan left a belief that “the people and the government of this country are capable to deal with their own affairs, and are eager to take their own place in the new world.”
In his subsequent dispatches and cipher telegrams to London Wardrop gave detailed information about the political and economic situation in the South Caucasus and Azerbaijan, the stance of the Azerbaijani government against the army of Denikin, border conflicts between Azerbaijan and Armenia and Georgia, the Turkish influence and activity of the Bolsheviks, the national parties, the Parliament and the Government of Azerbaijan, etc.
Wardrop made a particular emphasis on the information about the Armenian-Azerbaijani territorial conflict, which was the starting point of all the problems between the two republics. In his reports, citing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan, he informed London of the bloody actions committed by Armenian armed forces on the territory of the Erivan and Yelizavetpol provinces against the civilian Muslim population during October 1919 — March 1920.
In a report sent to London on October 2, 1919, he noted: “Armenians have recently destroyed 60 Muslim villages in New Bayazit, Alexandropol, and Erivan.” In a telegram of 24 November, 1919, Wardrop sent the British Foreign Minister Lord Curzon a text of the agreement signed on November 23, 1919 in Tbilisi between the Prime Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan, in which the parties pledged to halt hostilities and not to resort to arms. However, in his report dated December 3, 1919, he points out: “The Prime Minister Usubbekov expressed his displeasure with ongoing military actions of the Armenians, despite the agreement dated November 23, and reported of the destruction of 9 villages.” In a dispatch sent the next day, he wrote: “The Government of Azerbaijan informed me about the recent massacre of Muslims committed by the Armenian regular troops in Zangezur and Daralagez, and destroying 15 villages. I sent a protest note to Erivan, demanding an immediate investigation and punishment of those responsible and the direction of the Armenian delegation to meet with the Azerbaijanis without delay.”
His report on December 11, 1919 stated that “according to the commander of the Karabakh, on December 1, the regular Armenian army with two cannons and six machine guns attacked 9 Tatar villages in the aisle (gorge) Kighy, burned and robbed them. On Nov. 26, they captured all the Muslim civilians from Okhchu, blasting with dynamite all the men of military age, and killing the rest of the population, including women and children, in a mosque. Zangezur Muslims are in a panic.”
Wardrop’s dispatch dated December 15, 1919, stated: “The Prime Minister of Azerbaijan sent a letter accusing the Armenian regular artillery troops that committed a massacred and destroyed Zangezur villages. He noted that on December 9, the villages Kedaklaklu, Askerlar, and Perjivan to the south-east of Gerus had been destroyed and that the besieged Muslim villages in Okhchu and Kiziljik southwest Gerus, were destroyed by artillery fire, with the population slaughtered. He said that Azerbaijan didn’t have a single soldier in Zangezur. His Excellency requested that the officers of the neutral countries were sent to disarm the Armenians in Zangezur, otherwise Azerbaijan would have to take measures to ensure good neighborliness.”
In his report sent on December 30, 1919 to his government, Wardrop stated: “According to reports received today, the Armenian government began military operations against Muslims in Zangibazar district and destroyed Kargabazar village on December 21, exterminating the village Ulukhanlu the following day. They are fighting now for the village Chobanlu and Gharakilis. If these reports are true, then Armenia unquestionably violated the agreement dated November 23.”
The dispatch dated January 28, 1920 stated: “There are continuing reports about the Armenian aggression in Zangezur, which increases the discontent of the population by the government of Azerbaijan, demanding urgent measures.” Then, Wardrop pointed out: “The main purpose of my visit to Erivan was to put pressure on the Armenian prime minister to withdraw the regular troops and artillery from Zangezur and punish those responsible. I have telegraphed to His Excellency that if the Armenian government doesn’t stop the aggression, I will be forced to recommend to the Government of His Majesty to provide no assistance to them.”
In a coded telegram dated February 8, 1920, Wardrop said of the protest of the Azerbaijani government against Armenia. It notes that, despite the agreement of November 23, strictly enforced by the Azerbaijani side, the Armenian troops destroyed near twenty Muslim villages in Zangezur, and starting from January 19, 1920, together with other irregular Armenian units advance on Shusha, destroying villages. In the end he added that he was making every effort to keep the peace.
In a report on March 4, 1920, Wardrop also provided information about the tragic situation of the Muslim population in the Kars region, controlled by Armenia after elimination of South West Caucasian Republic by the British in May 1919. On March 11, 1920, Wardrop stated: “The Azerbaijani representatives by contacting with their government on March 5, reported that the Armenian authorities had ordered the Muslims of the areas Chaldyr, Zarushdat , Shuragel to leave their villages, and sent an ultimatum to the population to disarm on March 1, the seized villages destroyed. The petition of refugees to allow them to enter into Azerbaijan was adopted.”
Wardrop believed that preventing further escalation of events in the region required the presence of the Allied officers here. Wardrop noticed right that a large-scale feud between Armenians and Azerbaijanis paved the way for the Bolsheviks in the Caucasus. Wardrop’s reports also confirm that the Bolsheviks once again used the Armenians in the occupation of northern Azerbaijan, being faithful to the traditions established in the period of Tsarist Russia. In this sense, a report by Wardrop sent to London on April 1, 1920, shortly before the occupation by the Soviet troops of Northern Azerbaijan April on 28, 1920 is of great interest.
The representative of the British mission reported to his government: “I was informed that the Bolshevik troops deployed now in Petrovsk consist mainly of Armenians.” Therefore, Wardrop urged his government to immediately recognize the independence of Azerbaijan, “genuinely support it by sending weapons and ammunition, to put the Azerbaijani government in such a position that it can prevent the Bolshevik control of the country.”
These reports by the representative of the British diplomatic mission in the South Caucasus, covering the period from October 1919 to April 1920, give an opportunity to recreate the scale of the disaster which befell the people of Azerbaijan in Yerevan Province, Zangezur, and Karabakh, where unarmed civilians were exterminated by the Armenian armed forces and irregular Armenian troops. They demonstrate once more the lack of a clear plan for the Allies with regard to the young republics of the South Caucasus, and reflect the confusion in the political circles of the Western powers, which straddled between recognition and polite indifference. Ultimately, it cost the South Caucasus republics the loss of their political autonomy and their absorption by the Soviet Russia.