An exceptional fact. In the first half of 1921, Nagorno-Karabakh officially was a part of Soviet Armenia. This is evidenced by the official statement of the People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs of Soviet Armenia on the status of Nagorno-Karabakh, which is dated back to June 1921.
The noteworthy document is kept in the collections of the National Library of Armenia. It was published in June 1921 by the People’s Commissariat (Ministry) of Foreign Affairs of Soviet Armenia “Bulletin” (Armenian: “Բյուլլետենն”).
Along with other legal acts, this collection contains one exceptional and little-known text of a declaration, according to which Nagorno-Karabakh was declared an integral part of Soviet Armenia. Below, we present the text of this declaration in full.
“Based on the official statement of the government of the Soviet Armenian Republic, the declaration of the Revolutionary Committee of the Soviet Socialist Azerbaijani Republic, and the agreement between the governments of the Soviet Socialist Republics of Azerbaijan and Armenia, Nagorno-Karabakh is henceforth an integral part of the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic.”
Information Department of the People’s Commissariat for Foreign Affairs of the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic, Bulletin A, p. 13, Yerevan, June 1921.
What was the background of this document?
On December 1, 1920, the Revkom, the highest executive body of Soviet Azerbaijan, published an official declaration signed personally by the chairman of the Revkom Narimanov. This declaration was printed in all newspapers in Baku the next day.
The declaration of the Azerbaijani Revolutionary Committee, in particular, stated: “Zangezur and Nakhichevan districts are now considered integral parts of Soviet Armenia, and the working people of Nagorno-Karabakh are given full right to free self-determination.”
After that, the Council of the Azerbaijan SSR, taking into account the agreements between the Revkom of Azerbaijan and the governments of the Soviet Socialist Republics of Azerbaijan and Armenia, proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh an integral part of Armenia.
After the Azerbaijani declaration, Soviet Armenia also issued a declaration, according to which Nagorno-Karabakh was a part of Soviet Armenia.
It should also be noted that the texts of both the Armenian and Azerbaijani declarations were published in the official press of Azerbaijan.
All this testifies to the fact that within the first seven months after the Sovietization of Armenia, there was a full-fledged consensus on the issue of the ownership of Nagorno-Karabakh between the two neighboring republics. Nagorno-Karabakh, without objections from both sides, was proclaimed an integral part of Soviet Armenia, and only the question of the coordination of the inter-republican borders remained. However, unfortunately, everything suddenly changed in a month.
On July 4, 1921, the Caucasian Bureau of the Russian Communist (Bolshevik) Party convened a plenary session in Tbilisi. At the meeting, the integration of Nagorno-Karabakh in Soviet Armenia was again approved.
However, at the request of Moscow and Stalin’s personal intervention on the night of July 5, without complying with the protocol, the legal decision of the previous day was reviewed. A decision was made to transfer Nagorno-Karabakh to Soviet Azerbaijan and create the Armenian Autonomous Region of Nagorno-Karabakh on its territory.
This decision is considered a rude violation in the history of international law because the party body of a third country without any legal basis or authority decided the status of Nagorno-Karabakh.