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Azerbaijan Compiles List of Individuals Deported from Modern-Day Armenia

By Nargiz Mammadli February 28, 2024

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The forced deportations began in the early 20th century, with over 250,000 Azerbaijanis expelled from their homes in what is now Armenia. Later in 1948-1953 and 1988, more than 150,000 and 300,000 Azerbaijanis, respectively, were forcibly deported from their historical homelands in the territory of present-day Armenia. / Courtesy

The Western Azerbaijan Community (WAC) will undertake a project to document the names of Azerbaijanis who were forcibly expelled from Armenia between 1948 and 1953, under the directives of Soviet Union authorities.

Aziz Alakbarli, the Chairman of WAC, stated that this endeavor aims to compile a comprehensive list of individuals who were deported during this period. This list will complement the existing records of Azerbaijanis who were displaced from the territory of present-day Armenia, historically referred to as Western Azerbaijan, during the later expulsion waves of 1987 to 1991.

“We will start compiling the list of our compatriots who were deported from Western Azerbaijan between 1948 and 1953. They were deported by the decision of Joseph Stalin. As you know, sometime after Stalin’s death, all the people and nations who were repressed and deported in the 1930s and 1940s were historically exonerated, except those deported from Western Azerbaijan, this is a historical injustice,” Alakbarli told local media.

According to him, the primary goal of this initiative is not only to document the injustices faced by the deported Azerbaijanis but also to secure historical recognition and vindication for them. He advocates for the acknowledgment of their descendants’ right to return to their ancestral homes, seeking recognition from the Armenian government, Russia as the successor to the USSR, and the global community.

The forced deportations began in the early 20th century, with over 250,000 Azerbaijanis expelled from their homes in what is now Armenia. Later in 1947-1948, the Armenian government with the assistance of Soviet Union's rulers succeeded in the adoption of the Order 4083 (23 December 1947) and the Order 754 (19 March 1948) and as a result more than 150,000 Azerbaijanis were forcibly deported during 1948-53 from their historical homelands in the territory of present-day Armenia. The situation further escalated in 1988, amid rising anti-Azerbaijani sentiments in Armenia, culminating in forcible deportation of 300,000 Azerbaijanis from their native lands in modern-day Armenia.

Following the Soviet Union’s dissolution in 1991, Armenia launched full-blown military aggression against Azerbaijan, marking the longest and deadliest war in the South Caucasus region. The bloody war ended with a ceasefire in 1994 and saw Armenia forcibly occupying 20 percent of Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized territories. Over 30,000 Azerbaijanis were killed, nearly 4,000 went missing, and one million were expelled from those lands in a brutal ethnic cleansing campaign conducted by Armenia.

Prior to the 44-day war with Armenia in 2020, Azerbaijan harbored approximately 1.2 million refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs), victims of the last ethnic cleansing conducted by Armenia in 1988-1994. The Azerbaijani government has initiated "Great Return" program in the internationally recognized territories of Azerbaijan liberated from the Armenian occupation during the 2020 war, while the WAC continues to champion the cause of ethnic Azerbaijanis displaced from current-day Armenia.

The western edge of Azerbaijan historically encompassed lands that were initially settled by ethnic Azerbaijanis. However, these lands were included in destructive plans developed by the Russian imperial and Soviet authorities. The city of Iravan (modern-day Yerevan) and the Zangezur region were among the centers of Azerbaijani population and culture before their forcible separation from the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (ADR) in 1918 and 1920, respectively.

Iravan was originally settled by ethnic Azerbaijanis after its establishment by their ancestors. Although Iravan was “willingly” handed over to the newly established Armenian state by the ADR government, historical sources claim that this act was organized and implemented forcibly under foreign pressure.

Zangezur is a historically Azerbaijani region that now forms the southern part of present-day Armenia as well as a portion of Azerbaijan’s territory. During the 11th and 12th centuries, Zangezur was part of the Seljuk Empire, which further expanded Turkic-Islamic influence within the region. Subsequently, Zangezur faced invasions from Mongol-Tatar tribes and the Timurid Empire. From the 15th to the 18th century, the region was part of medieval Azerbaijani states, including Garagoyunlu, Aghgoyunlu, and Safavids.

Demographic changes occurred in Iravan and the Zangezur region during the rule of Tsarist Russia and the Soviet Union. Under the Russian Empire, a massive relocation of Armenians from Ottoman and Iranian territories to the South Caucasus, including Iravan, Zangezur, and other Azerbaijani territories, took place. Similar population transfers continued from 1904 to 1915, resulting in the relocation of over 260,000 ethnic Armenians to Azerbaijani territories. Protests against these actions were largely disregarded, and approximately 130,000 Armenians were relocated to Azerbaijani provinces such as Iravan and Yelizavetpol (Ganja).

During the years of 1905-1907 and 1914-1921, Armenian armed groups committed massacres in Zangezur, resulting in the deaths of approximately half a million indigenous Azerbaijanis and other local Muslims. During this period, 115 Muslim villages in Zangezur were completely destroyed.

Iravan was ceded to the newly established Armenian Republic on May 29, 1918. Following the subjugation of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic by Bolshevik forces on April 28, 1920, a significant part of the Zangezur region was also ceded to the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic on November 30, 1920. These territorial annexations were facilitated by the Soviet Empire, which forced the Azerbaijani authorities to make concessions. Consequently, Nakhchivan became an exclave separated from the Azerbaijani mainland.

The annexation of Iravan had severe consequences for its indigenous Azerbaijani population and the cultural heritage of Azerbaijanis. In 1916, there were over 373,000 Azerbaijanis living in Iravan. However, according to census records from 1922, only 12,000 Azerbaijanis were registered.

In 1933, the territory of the Armenian SSR was divided into districts, and the name Zangezur was changed to new district names such as Gafan, Gorus, Garakilsa (Sisian), and Mehri.

The final phase of the “Armenianization” of Western Azerbaijan occurred in 1988 when over 300,000 ethnic Azerbaijanis were forcibly expelled from their ancestral lands. This expulsion was accompanied by anti-Azerbaijan sentiments, pogroms, and persecution of ethnic Azerbaijanis in Armenia. The underlying motive for this ethnic conflict was Armenia’s illegal territorial claims, particularly regarding the Karabakh (Garabagh) region of Azerbaijan. The deportation of Azerbaijanis set the stage for Armenia’s full-scale military attack on Azerbaijan, leading to the First Karabakh War from 1991 to 1994 and the subsequent occupation of internationally recognized Azerbaijani territories.