Turkey Attempts Genocide of Karabakh Armenians

Genocide Institute Director, Hayk Demoyan


At least, on three occasions in history, Turkey has attempted genocidal acts, in its effort to implement a policy of total extermination and deportation of the Armenian population from Karabakh. From a historical perspective, Turkey’s current position and attempts to force preconditions on Armenia, as well as its continued pressure on Armenia to make concessions in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict resolution process, are very real. Referencing historical records are important in shedding light on the origins of the “Turkish Strategy” vis-à-vis the Karabakh issue.

The first attempt
The expansion of borders of the Ottoman Empire to the Caucasus had started from the 16th century. On the way to the Caspian shores, the Turkish armies faced with heavy resistance from the Armenians of Artsakh (Karabakh) and, on many occasions, they suffered defeats as a result of the organized resistance of Karabakh Armenians.

In 1725 Sultan Ahmet III (1703-1730) issued a special fatwa to exterminate Armenians for their successful resistance against the Ottomans and ordered to kill them all for bringing the Russians into the Caucasus and blocking access of the Ottomans toward Baku.

The confession of a Turkish general, Saleh pasha, who was captured by the Armenians in Karabakh, confirmed that the Sultan aimed to completely exterminate local Armenians. He said: “The Sultan ordered the extermination of Armenians and Persians, since the troops of the Russian Tsar had occupied that shore of the (Caspian) sea, thus we have to attack them. We should remove the Armenians, who are like a wedge between us. We should destroy any obstacle existing in our way and open the way. If it weren’t for you (Armenians), we would have already marched on Derbend and Baku that belong to us from the ancient times.” [1].

In this 18th century document we see the formation of the Turkish approach toward the “non-obedient” Armenians, who as it was stated, were like a wedge between Istanbul and the Turkic East. After losing thousands soldiers and pashas, the Sultan’s and his allies’ attempts to annex Karabakh and station Ottoman forces there failed. Thus, the first attempt of the Ottoman regime to commit genocide against Karabakh Armenians was not successful, but this was just the beginning.

The second attempt
The second attempt to destroy the Armenian population of Karabakh took place after the Ottoman armies invaded the Caucasus during the WWI and created an artificial state and calling it “Azerbaijan” by using the name of the Northern Iranian province with the purpose of annexing the latter to the newly born Azerbaijan Republic. But this was not the only example of the Turkish state-building engineering. The proclamation of “Araz republic” and the “South-Eastern Caucasus democratic republic” followed the creation of Azerbaijan with the intent to ease Turkish expansionism. (the modern example of such policy is the creation of the Turkish republic of Northern Cyprus after the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974).

The Caucasus campaign of the Ottoman army resulted in capturing the city of Baku and committing horrible massacre of the Armenian population of the city in September 1918. After taking Baku, the Ottoman forces launched a new military campaign this time
“to quell” Armenian resistance in Karabakh.

Ottoman war minister Enver pasha, who was one of the architects of the Armenian Genocide in 1915, ordered his cousin Nuri pasha, the commander of the Turkish forces in Azerbaijan, “to clear Azerbaijan of Russians and Armenians, in order to ensure Turkish-Turkic territorial continuity”(!)[2]

A week after this order, Turkey admitted its defeat in WWI. The Ottoman army suffered its last defeat in WWI in Karabakh, when a detachment of the Ottoman army, which was on its way to invade the southern villages of Karabakh, was ambushed by Armenian villagers who warded off about 400 Ottoman solders. The end of WWI and the Turkish withdrawal became the second failed attempt of genocide in Karabakh. Of course, later,  as a result of Bolshevik and Kemalist Entente, Karabakh was annexed to Soviet Azerbaijan in 1921.

The third attempt
I will not claim that the third attempt was a direct policy of extermination of Karabakh Armenians, but Turkey’s strong support of Azerbaijan in the latter’s attempts at deportation and crimes against humanity, enable us to claim that Turkey was directly involved in this new attempt to commit genocide against the Armenians in Karabakh. It is enough to say that hundreds of soldiers and officers of the Turkish regular army, including 10 generals were involved in the military operations carried out against the Armenian self-defense forces. And again, Turkey was the loser in Karabakh, this time together with Azerbaijan, and became a passive observer of Baku’s humiliated defeats in 1992-1994.

Turkish interference in the Karabakh conflict and the open support to Azerbaijan in the war against Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia made Turkey more a part of the conflict than its resolution. Turkish involvement in the conflict included the following components: threats of military intervention, pressure by displaying armed forces, imposing transportation and energy blockade of Armenia; providing military support to Azerbaijan; developing initiatives directed to the formation of anti-Armenian coalition and informational isolation of Armenia; lobbying Azerbaijani interests in international organizations [3].

Ongoing military threats and attempts at escalation, the blockade of Armenia and the efforts to isolate Armenia from the regional and international politics created a direct threat toward Armenia and Karabakh.

Based on the aforementioned facts, we can argue that Turkey’s approaches toward the resolution of the Karabakh issue (both historical and contemporary), made Karabakh the nexus for implementation of genocidal policies by Sultans, Young Turks and Kemalists/Republicans.

Moreover, the Azerbaijani state created by Ottoman Turkey has adopted the very Turkish code of demographic engineering, i.e. to solve the entire national or minority issues by imposing forced deportations or committing pogroms on its road to creating a “safer and more secure” nation state. Turkey and Azerbaijan were created through the extermination and displacement of nationalities. This will have dire consequences for these to states in the future.
The three attempts at genocide against Karabakh Armenians and the defeats it received at the hands of the local Karabakh Armenians must send a clear message to Ankara that it has to recognize the Genocide committed against Armenians and many other nations during the “Pax Ottomanica” era. The imperative to reevaluate history can usher in a “zero problem” with its own history and memory, since Realpolitik cannot be applied to the country’s current national identity crisis.
     For Turkey there is not other alternative.

1. Armenian-Russian Relations, Yerevan, 1967, vol. II, part II, Document 315 (in Russian)
2. FO 371/3388, file 1396, no. 173495, the Director of Military intelligence’s no. B. I/565 (M.I.2), secret to the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, dated 18 Oct. 1918 see Jacob Landau. Pan-Turkism. From Irredentism to Cooperation. London, 1995. P. 55.
3. Hayk Demoyan. Turkey and Karabakh conflict. Yerevan 1995.

Hayk Demoyan is the director of the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute, which is housed at the Dzidzernagapert Memorial Complex.


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  1. facts said:

    Thx! Great article.
    so called ICG (International Crisis Creation Group – with office in Ankara) as well many similar corrupt “think tanks and so called experts” are simply another tools in the hand of Turkey for conduction anti Armenian propaganda!

    One could mean, as if Turkish politicians and “intellectuals” are born to hate Armenians and infect the world with there anti Armenian racist ideology!

  2. Truth said:

    Turkish propaganda machinery has nothing new to offer but: Turkish and Turkish Azerbaijani propaganda machinery is simple “editing” Armenian genocide (which is historical fact) and producing “Azerbaijani genocide #1 “,Azerbaijani genocide #2” ,“Azerbaijani genocide #3 “ (mostly replacing the name of “Armenia” with Azerbaijan(i)” and change place names)

    – Azerbaijani while writing there fake “genocides committed by Armenians”, read first of all the books written by well known international recognized genocide experts, in order to be informed ,how Turks indeed committed Genocide against Armenia people!

  3. Seervart said:

    I am glad that our people in Armenia are waking up to be well aware of our history and what transpired in the Caucasus and in Western Armenia to know the enemy, the mongolian/seljuk turks’ mentalities and the azeris as of late. Good job Mr. Demoyan, by knowing well your enemy, you will better brace yourself and know how to outwin them. Turkey will do everything in her power to win over both Armenia and Artsakh as they do not wish to see either one of our lands on the map; they still have this sick mentality to expand the ottoman empire through the east of the Caspian Sea to where their herdsmen nation first stepped in to the Caucausus and Western Armenia from the middle of Mongolia a thousand years ago. Armenia must become stronger with the help of her Diaspora and be united with Artsakh. That would be a good start. Armenia must support Diaspora to stand up against nations by sending a strong message to the world that they will not tolerate a denialist turkey and their antiques and games. This has to come from the Armenian government.

  4. George Apelian said:

    This is an excellent article. Thank you Dr. Haig.
    It seems the two ODD TWINS , armenians and turks, are deemed to be eternal enemies.
    Physicl law says no two objects or things can occupay the same place at the same time.
    Talaat dreamed to have “zero problem”s with us. He simply tried to annihilate us. He couldn’t make it. Will Erdogan or Davoud Oghlu be more successful or lucky? History will say. Let’s not be naive. Let’s take care of ourselves, strengthen our military, eliminate corruption in the country and impliment real democrcy. We have to stop immigration, we can’t afford this. The rest will be easy.

  5. Edward Demian said:

    White Genocide versus Red Genocide; it seems that as one wanes the other advances. We have as much to worry about foreign influences chipping away at the bedrock of our strength, as we do from physical threats. It seems that Armenia purchased their physical insurance, at the expense of some industrial assets and some foreign policy concessions. Just as in the middle ages and the dark ages. It never ends.

  6. manooshag said:

    Immigration will certainly lessen when the leaderships of Haiastan shall be patriots – not any as those who
    steal from Hiastan’s citizenry… for themselves. Patriots will be governing for ALL Armenians… world-wide. Manooshag

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