That decision was a logical consequence of the decision of the Caucasian Bureau of the Central Committee of the RCP (b.) of July 5, 1921, which stated: “To leave Nagorno-Karabakh within the Azerbaijani SSR, granting it a broad autonomy with the administrative center in the city of Shusha, which is part of the autonomous region.” Thus, the claims of the then-Armenia to give Nagorno-Karabakh to it were rejected, spokesman for Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry Hikmat Hajiyev said regarding the 95th anniversary of establishment of the Nagorno Karabakh autonomous republic within Azerbaijan.
“Throughout its existence, NKAO, called as such since 1936, enjoyed the widest rights of autonomy within the Soviet system of state and political order. The speculation about any harassment or discrimination of the Armenian population in NKAO actively undertaken since the late 1980s, does not stand up to the verification of facts,” he said.
According to the spokesman, at the very beginning of the establishment, the position on the location of the regional administrative center was changed, from the city of Shusha predominantly populated by Azerbaijanis which was proposed as a center from 1921, to the town of Khankandi, which was selected in 1923 and renamed in the same year in honor of Dashno-Bolshevik Stepan Shaumyan and gradually transformed into the largest city of the autonomy with the predominance of Armenians. The borders of the region were drawn up with the aim to ensure the Armenian majority within it. In the USSR atlas of 1928 its territory was indicated as 4,161 sq.km, but it gradually grew to 4,400 sq.km. The top officials of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region were Armenians, they also headed the authorities in all districts, except for Shusha. Everywhere, except for the Shusha district, the Armenian language was used in the office work, educational process, and the media. In the 1988/89 academic year, 136 secondary schools where studies were conducted in Armenian and only 13 only inter-national schools operated in the NKAO.
“Indicators of socio-economic development of the NKAO also exceeded the averages for Azerbaijan. For example, for 15 years from 1970 to 1985, capital investments in the amount of 483 million rubles were invested in the development of the region, which is 2.8 times higher than in the previous 15 years. The number of hospital beds per 10,000 people exceeded the republican indicators by 15%, the number of places in pre-school institutions – 1.4 times, in schools – 1.6 times. The number of cinemas and clubs per capita was 3 times higher than the general indicators for Azerbaijan, and libraries – 2 times.
“All these facts clearly indicate not only the absence of any purposeful line for oppressing the Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh, but, on the contrary, about the exceptional conditions created for the existence of this autonomy within Azerbaijan. While in the territory of the Armenian SSR, throughout its existence, a consistent policy was pursued to expel the indigenous Azerbaijani population therefrom. A striking documented confirmation of this policy is the Decree of the USSR Council of Ministers dated December 23, 1947, “On the resettlement of collective farmers and other Azerbaijani population from the Armenian SSR to the Kura-Araks lowland of the Azerbaijani SSR”, which led to the deportation of 100,000 Azerbaijanis in 1948-1953. The process of the complete expulsion of Azerbaijanis from Armenia that affected more than 200,000 people was completed in the late 1980s,” the spokesman said.
He went on to say that, however, the campaign of mass ethnic cleansing, unleashed by Armenia, was not limited to its borders, it spread to the territory of Azerbaijan – Nagorno-Karabakh and adjacent areas. The seizure of Azerbaijani settlements was accompanied by mass extermination and expulsion of their inhabitants. The Khojaly genocide and other war crimes against the civilian population committed by the Armenian armed forces in the Azerbaijani lands were the gravest international delicts demanding the restoration of justice.
“The expulsion from the former NKAO of the entire Azerbaijani population which by 1989 was about 48,000 people (a quarter in percentage terms), can not continue for a long time. Representatives of the Azerbaijani community of this region of Azerbaijan, now numbering more than 70,000 people, have an inalienable right to return to their native places liberated from occupation. Only on this basis is it possible to resolve the conflict and create conditions for the peaceful and safe coexistence of the Armenian and Azerbaijani communities of the Nagorno-Karabakh region of the Republic of Azerbaijan,” the spokesman concluded.