Azerbaijan’s myths about a million Azerbaijani refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh – a refutation in numbers

For the past 30 years, the Azerbaijani authorities have been spreading lies, or rather myths about a million Azerbaijani refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh. Moreover, Azerbaijani historiography is silent about where this figure is taken from.

Meanwhile, a couple of clicks on the Internet are enough to debunk this fable. Open sources contain not only accurate data on the population of Nagorno-Karabakh, but also evidence of de-Armenization of the territories of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region (NKAO) during the period under Azerbaijani jurisdiction.

So, according to data from open sources, in 1918 in Nagorno-Karabakh, which consisted of the Shusha district, parts of the Elizavetpol (Gyulistan), Karyagin and Jevanshir districts, there lived 165 thousand Armenians (71.4%), 59 thousand Muslims ( 25.5%), of which 20 thousand lived in Shushi or its environs, as well as 7 thousand Russians (3.1%).

The autonomous region of Nagorno-Karabakh was created from the predominantly Armenian-populated part of Nagorno-Karabakh. According to the 1923 census, Armenians made up 94% of the AONK; of the remaining 6%, the vast majority were Azerbaijanis. Among other minorities, Kurds stood out, who have long inhabited these lands and Russians, settlers or descendants of settlers of the 19th-20th centuries; there were also some Greeks, also colonists of the 19th century.

During the years of Soviet power, the percentage of the Azerbaijani population of the NKAR increased to 21.5%, while the percentage of the Armenian population decreased to 76.9%. This is explained by the purposeful policy of the authorities of the Azerbaijan SSR to change the demographic situation in the region in favor of the Azerbaijanis.

Heydar Aliyev, the third president of Azerbaijan (1993-2003), who in 1969-1982 served as the first secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Azerbaijan SSR, on July 22, 2002, received the founders of the Baku Press Club at the Presidential Palace on the occasion of the National Press Day, commenting on this topic, he said: “… I’m talking about the period when I was the first secretary, I helped a lot at that time the development of Nagorno-Karabakh. At the same time, he tried to change the demographics there. Nagorno-Karabakh raised the issue of opening a university there. We all objected. I thought and decided to open. But with the condition that there are three sectors – Azerbaijani, Russian and Armenian. Opened. We sent Azerbaijanis from the adjacent regions not to Baku, but there. They opened a big shoe factory there. There was no labor force in Stepanakert itself. Azerbaijanis were sent there from the places surrounding the region. By these and other measures, I tried to have more Azerbaijanis in Nagorno-Karabakh, and reduce the number of Armenians.”

The share of the Russian population in Nagorno-Karabakh, as follows from the table, increased rapidly in the pre-war years and, having reached a maximum in 1939, began to decline just as rapidly, which correlates with the processes taking place throughout Azerbaijan. In 1939, the largest proportion of Russians was in Stepanakert (5.4%).

Of the five districts of the NKAO, Azerbaijanis were the majority in the smallest Shusha district, where in 1989, according to the last Soviet census, 23,156 people lived, of which 21,234 (91.7%) were Azerbaijanis and 1,620 (7%) Armenians. In the city of Shushi itself, 17,000 people lived, of which 98% were Azerbaijanis. According to the 1939 census, the population of the Shusha region was 10,818 people, of which 6,306 (58.3%) were Azerbaijanis and 4,177 (38.6%) were Armenians. Moreover, most of the Azerbaijanis lived in the city of Shushi, the population of which was 5424 people, in the rural part of the region, Armenians made up the majority.

At the same time, by the beginning of the 20th century, the majority of the population in the city of Shushi and in the Shusha district were Armenians. Thus, in 1886, Armenians made up 81.7% (72,785 people) of the population of that part of the Shusha district, which later became part of the NKAR, and 56.7% (15,188 people) of the population of the city of Shushi (Azerbaijanis 17% and 43.3%, respectively)] . According to the ESBE (1904), Armenians made up 58.2% (81911 people) of the population of the county and 56.5% (14496 people) of the population of the city (Azerbaijanis 41.5% and 43.2% respectively). The vast majority of the Armenians of Shusha were killed or left the city as a result of the Shusha massacre at the end of March 1920 (Ethnic cleansing and pogroms during the Armenian-Azerbaijani war (1918-1920)).

Moreover, according to the 1989 census, the population of the NKAO was 189.1 thousand people. The overwhelming majority of the population were Armenians – 145.450 thousand or 76.92%, 40.688 or 21.52% were Azerbaijanis, 1.922 or 1.02% Russians, and less than 1% other nationalities.

Thus, a non-rhetorical question arises about what million refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh the Azerbaijani authorities are talking about. Maybe then it would be advisable to recall the order of 500 thousand Armenians who left the territory of Azerbaijan after the pogrom in Sumgayit, Baku, Kirovabad and other Azerbaijani cities in the early 90s of the last century.

In this regard, today’s cynical statement by the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry, which accuses the Armenian side of hostility in connection with the statement on the events in Maragha, is simply bewildering.

“We reject another unfounded, illegal, hostile statement of the Armenian Foreign Ministry, we strongly condemn the destructive position of the Armenian side at the time when decisions were made to take steps towards normalization between the two states,” the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry said, and for some reason the Armenian the side was not indignant when last week, the Azerbaijani side “sang well about some kind of genocide of the Azerbaijani people”, it’s hard to remember which one.

From the statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan it turned out that Armenia subjected to “ethnic cleansing about 1 million Azerbaijanis.” Again, it is not known where this figure is taken from? Moreover, Armenia is also responsible for the fate of about 4,000 Azerbaijanis who went missing in the early 90s, who participated in the hostilities. For some reason, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan forgets that the Armenian side has the missing, and not only in the early 90s of the last century, but as a result of the last large-scale military aggression of Azerbaijan against Artsakh in the fall of 2020.

Moreover, there is a lot of video evidence on the World Wide Web about the atrocities of Azerbaijanis against Armenians, about the torture of prisoners of war and civilians, their murder, using the methods inherent in ISIS militants, and posted by the Azerbaijani warriors themselves.

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