A Document Obliging Turkey to Compensate for the Massacres of Armenians in Baku

A Document Obliging Turkey to Compensate

The reader undoubtedly remembers that in December 1918, the Military Inter-Allied Commission of Control was established by England, France, and the US in Baku. In essence, it was an official and international commission, with only 7 Armenians among its 30 members.

The commission invited the residents of Baku to submit estimates for the purpose of paying cash compensation. Then, it began to verify the authenticity of the submitted lists. In April 1919, the Commission published the final results.

It recognized the following to be legally paid: 453,184,126 rubles to Armenians, 48,824,531 rubles to Russians and representatives of other nationalities, 3,995,049 rubles to Georgians, 2,226,822 rubles to Muslims, and 83,871,114 rubles to institutions and enterprises. In addition, each provider of estimate lists was presented with a corresponding check.

Who should have paid these amounts? According to the commission, it was Turkey.

In the National Archive of Armenia, one precious document is stored. It is a telegram from Armenia’s chargé d’affaire in Georgia A. Djamalian to the Armenian Foreign Minister dated November 29, 1918. In this letter, Djamalian cites the text from the November 21 telegram of General Thomson to Nuri-Pasha:

“Upon arrival in Baku, reports on looting and damage to property by Ottoman soldiers were received. A commission was convened in Baku, consisting of representatives of Great Britain, France, and the United States for the assessment of the total cost of proven damage. Since the amount to be tracked will be attributed to Turkey, I am writing to you so that you can return the property. I inform you that other commissions will be appointed to deal with complaints if necessary. Therefore, we thought that we should inform you and your generals of such an intention.”

What is the value of this document? In 1919, the head of the Armenian National Delegation to Paris Boghos Nubar sent a commission to Turkey, which consisted of Armenian and foreign experts whose task was to find out the extent of material damage to Western Armenians as a result of the genocide.

After a long and detailed investigation, the commission unanimously concluded that the value of the tangible property of Armenians appropriated by Turkey was $3,350 million. We have no doubt that Turkey will challenge this amount when the time of compensation comes (and this time will come sooner or later). At least because the commission was formed by Boghos Nubar.

In the case of the Baku Armenian genocide in 1918, the situation is completely different: the commission was created by representatives of the allied states, and Thomson directly pointed out who should be responsible, and the amounts of compensation were calculated and published up until the last ruble.

However, there is a political sub-text approach here: the allied states and, in particular, England, recognized Turkey responsible for compensation because they needed the Baku oil. Meanwhile, the Azerbaijani Republic established by the Turks was to bear equivalent responsibility for the genocide and plunders of Armenian property that both occurred in the territory of Azerbaijan, which had proclaimed Baku as its capital, had a government, a parliament – the Majlis – and thus was a valid entity. This is one of the legal foundations.

There is also a second legal justification. On October 18, 1991, A. Mutalibov signed the “Constitutional Act of the Republic of Azerbaijan on Restoring State Independence of the Republic of Azerbaijan.” In the preface of this act, there was typical Azerbaijani bragging:

“On May 28, 1918, the National Council of Azerbaijan adopted the Declaration of Independence, thereby renewing the centuries-old traditions of the statehood of the Azerbaijani people.

…The RSFSR… has occupied the territory of the sovereign Azerbaijan Republic, forcibly overthrew the legally elected authorities, and put an end to the independence achieved at the cost of the enormous sacrifices of the Azerbaijani people.”

It turns out that the Azerbaijani people had not only existed for centuries but even had “centuries-old traditions of statehood.” And it turns out that there had been “legally elected” authorities. When have these elections taken place?

But we are interested in one of the articles of this Constitutional Act, which reads: “Article 2. The Republic of Azerbaijan is the successor of the Republic of Azerbaijan that existed from May 28, 1918, to April 28, 1920.”

With this article, Azerbaijan recognizes one of the Armenians’ arguments which states that Nagorno-Karabakh has never been part of Azerbaijan because it was forcibly attached to Azerbaijan in 1921.

Finally, in this article, the successor state takes responsibility for the genocide committed by its ancestor state…

We are not so naive to think that Azerbaijan will officially recognize the genocide tomorrow, but if it is useless to talk about moral values with the Azerbaijanis, then they are, first of all, obliged to compensate for the financial harm.

We have made simple arithmetic calculations that are mechanical and far from being professional, without taking into account inflationary processes and rounding the figures in favor of Azerbaijanis, the results of which we want to present below.

To make payments, it was first necessary to determine the exchange rate of the ruble because the civil war raging in Russia and the disrupted economy have led to enormous inflation. Moreover, nearly 200 of the “republics” appearing and disappearing in Russia issued their own banknotes. We were unable to figure out the exchange rate of the ruble against the pound sterling, the franc, the mark, or the dollar in 1918.

Then, we took Stepan Lianosyan’s deal as a basis. The reader undoubtedly remembers that in the autumn of 1919, he from the Bank of England received official certification of guaranteed support in the amount of 400,000 pounds sterling and in a 1:10 ratio issued 4 million rubles of the Northwest Republic. Since the inflation rate of the ruble was much higher in 1919 than in 1918, it is more than acceptable to apply the same ratio to the due compensation amounts.

Reducing the aforementioned amounts by 10 times and converting them to pounds sterling, we get the following figures: Armenians were to be paid 45,318,412 pounds sterling, Russians and representatives of other nationalities – 4,882,453, Georgia – 399,504, Muslims – 222,682, collective owners, institutions, and businesses – 8,387,111 pounds.

Despite the fact that Turkish troops together with the Azerbaijani government entered Baku and started robbery and plunder along with local Azerbaijanis on September 15, 1918, we took October 1 as a starting point.

There is one more important point. In the then world banking practice, there was the following principle: if contractual relations didn’t specify any interest rates, then the minimum interest rate was considered 5% (we have a lot of evidence to support this.)

So, October 18, 1991. Azerbaijan with its constitutional act proclaimed itself the successor of the Republic of Azerbaijan that had existed from May 28, 1918, to April 28, 1920, therefore assuming the responsibility for paying the financial compensation.

The time period for which Azerbaijan must compensate includes October, November, December of 1918, the entire 1919, the first four months of 1920, the last three months of 1991, and 1992-2006. Adding a 5% bank rate for each year and months, we get the following picture.

Azerbaijan now owes 102,674,461 pounds sterling to Armenians, 11,062,275 to Russians and representatives of other nationalities (Germans, Austrians, Jews, Poles, Czechs, French, Latvians, etc.), 905,159 to Georgians, 504,529 to Muslims (Azerbaijanis, Persians, Lezgins, etc.), and 19,002,855 to institutions and enterprises.

At the same time, it should be emphasized that we did not differentiate the collective owners on the basis of nationality (for example, the amount of recognized material damage to Armenian Philanthropic Society alone was 308,777 rubles 50 kopeks). At the same time, we are aware of most of them and are ready to present their list to the relevant authority.

Thus, present-day Azerbaijan, the successor to the first Azerbaijan Republic, owes the successors of those killed or not killed and robbed in Baku in 1918 134,149,279 pounds sterling.

However, the British General Thomson with his historic telegram directly pointed at those responsible and recognized Turkey as a debtor.

We have made other calculations on the same principle. However, unlike Azerbaijan, the time interval for the formation of the amount of debt of Turkey covers the last three months of 1918 and 1919-2006. The Military Inter-Allied Commission of Control recognized the debt of Turkey to be 59,210,165 pounds sterling.

Add to this amount a 5% interest rate for each year, and it turns out that presently, the compensation amount owed by Turkey for the material damage to Baku residents is 4,552,032,960 pounds sterling, of which 3,518,847,403 pounds sterling are owed to Armenians.

What do we offer? To hope that Turkey and Azerbaijan will accept their historical crimes without external pressure – the genocide of 1.5 million Armenians in Western Armenia in 1915 and the Baku Genocide of Armenians in 1918 respectively – is pointless.

The recognition of the genocide is a moral category. Consequently, it is necessary to communicate with them in a legal language. It is necessary in the relevant international instances to begin the process of legal prosecution in regard to the financial compensation for what has happened in Baku.

Turkey and Azerbaijan may not wish to recognize the Armenian Genocide, but how can they refuse material compensation if there are all legal grounds? Unlike France, England and the United States of America may not recognize the Armenian Genocide, but how can they refuse to authenticate the decisions of the Commission that has been established at their own initiative?

Excerpt from the book “Armenians of Baku” by Khachatur Dadayan

Read also: “Armenians and Baku” by Khachatur DadayanThe Term “Azerbaijani” Did Not Exist Before 1918Armenians in the Period of the Russian Expansion in TranscaucasiaThe Role of Armenians in the Development of the Baku Oil IndustryArmenian Oilmen During the Governmental Lease Program of Oil Fields in Baku – 1872Baku Oil Industry Development from the Late 19th to the Early 20th Centuries, Armenians in The Management of The “Congresses of Baku Oil Owners” – 1884, Alexander Mantashiants – The Great Armenian Oil Magnat, Negotiations of Oil Owners and The Business Development of Mantashiants

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