Western universities and biased research of the 1918 South Caucasus genocides

western academia azerbaijan armenia

By | Rachel Brooks

November 19, 2020 

Analysis| Commentary

Image credit “Harvard Business School – Baker Library” by roger4336 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Despite being the leading voice of tolerance and peace, the western university and liberal arts system engages in a profoundly tolerated racism and disinformation against Turkic people. This is fueled, in part, by failing to address active slander against Turkish and Azerbaijani students, while also spreading misinformation about current race relations between Turkic people and Armenians. A common example of this is the weaponization of the 1915 era Armenian systematic massacres by the Young Turks political party, now called the Armenian genocide. 

The western university system fails to acknowledge at the same time the systematic extermination of large Azerbaijani and Jewish communities in 1918, which overlaps with the era of Armenian massacres perpetrated by political extremism. This era was riddled with such extremism that did not discriminate solely on race, but impacted the region.

The Armenian systematic extermination of Azerbaijanis during this era led to the changing of Khankendi’s name to Stepanakert, which was named thus for an . Khankendi, a city of Azerbaijan’s western region, is a heavily sought-after city that Armenia previously hailed as the capital of the illegal Nagorno-Karabakh settlement. These massacres against Azerbaijani people, which likewise mixed in ethnic Jews, has been documented by The Jerusalem Post. 

In 1917, the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia led to Russia’s desperate need for oil deposits. Vladimir Lenin once famously stated that newly-formed Russia could not survive without the Baku oil deposits. Lenin’s quote came after the fact of the massacres that would follow. But in 1918, when the embolden young Russia thirsted for that oil, it set off on a campaign now known as the March Days Massacre. This has also been documented by Liberty Voice news. There is a slight deficit of English-language coverage of these issues. 

This is due likely to western biases of the events that surrounded the early history of Armenia and Azerbaijan as republics. The west focuses on the conspiracy theories within the two nations. There is little influence of equal dialogue between the two nations for their own internal reconstruction. This is, in part, because of the miscommunication of the external world. 

The western historical focus of the Nagorno-Karabakh centers around the most famous events. The Young Turk killings of Armenians in 1915 and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict of 1988-1994. Misinformation of these two eras runs deep into the root of the western academic system, with biases reflected in the records even of the U.S. Library of Congress. Congress has been pushing to legitimize the claims of the Armenian genocide and call them by that term in the 109th Congress, 2005-2006 era. The congressional documents recognize the crimes against Armenians but have failed to address the simultaneous massacres of the Azerbaijani people. 

This is a flaw of western political discussion. The west tends to lean toward a simplification of issues, a bipartisan flavor of civic approach. Western logic tends to look at political issues in terms of “good vs. evil” or “right vs. wrong.” It is for this reason, that, post the Soviet era and communism, the western world tended to demonize the Russian and Slavic bloc. The crimes of the Soviet government have reflected upon all Russian and Slavic people in the western mindset, leaving a sour taste when moving forward with all Russian-western relations of today. Rather than working to categorize those groups which violate international law and agreements, the western opinions tend to see “Russia” as an “enemy.” This has somewhat reflected on Turkey in the wake of the Ottoman empire. 

Armenia has been able to hide its own social sins behind the veil of this western “good vs. evil” block group simple politics. This is a primary reason why Armenia, a minority group, a professing Christian group, receives sympathy from the west. Armenia is seen as the victim of Turkey and Russia. Because Azerbaijan is composed of a cousin race to Turkey, and due to the complex history between Azerbaijan and Russia, the Armenian rhetoric towards its neighbor sticks in western political label systems. 

Therefore, Armenian’s can weaponize the events of 1915 and guarantee that the western researcher will be reluctant to look into the events of 1918. In which, 4,000 well-trained Armenian soldiers attacked Azerbaijani houses in Baku’s densely Azerbaijani populated areas. The residents then were slaughtered, both stabbed and bayoneted, some of them even children. In that same event, the ransacked houses were set fire to and children were thrown into the blazes. Investigations into the massacre had a difficult time numbering the exact count of the dead because whole families were slaughtered, and there were no relatives left to make a positive identification of the corpses. 

When 1918 is brought to the surface, the western research academic will point not to the March days but to the September Days, in which Azerbaijan took back Baku and killed Armenian forces. Public records pages, such as Wikipedia, listed this as a massacre that “some sources say were in retaliation to the March Days.” It is an oversimplification on the part of the western world to refer to the killings in this era in such terms because it fails to address the civil war that led to the incident. Likewise, the Wikipedia public sources refer to the September Days in no uncertain terms as a “genocide.” For the March Days, the page uses language open to interpretation. 

“Azerbaijan officially refers to the March Days as genocide (soyqırım).[17][18] Other sources interpret the March events in the context of civil war unrest.[19] These were followed by the September days where 10,000 ethic Armenians were massacred by Army of Islam and their local Azeri allies upon capturing Baku,” says the Wikipedia for March Days. 

“The September Days (Armenian: 1918 թ. Բաքվի հայերի կոտորած, romanized: Bakvi hayeri kotorats, lit. ‘1918 massacre of Baku Armenians’) refers to a period during the Russian Civil War in September 1918 when Armenian inhabitants of Baku were massacred by Enver Pasha‘s Army of Islam and their local Azeri allies when they captured Baku, the soon-to-be capital of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic,” reads the Wikipedia for September Days.

Wikipedia, as an open-source publicly edited platform, is not considered a sufficient source of hard research proofs but is regarded as a research index. 

There is notably different rhetoric in these two events. The page in reference to the Armenian massacre does not use language to describe it as “civil war unrest,” even though the events of this incident were directly driven by the repeat assaults on Muslim Azerbaijani in the region during the months that preceded it. Azerbaijan took back Baku from the Bolsheviks and the Armenian armies driven by tactical motivation. 

A different version of the same history serves to illustrate the discrepancy between western bias-think on this subject and what was recorded by the region’s history. Visions of Azerbaijan, cultural society for the Azerbaijani people, describes the events of March 1918. The researcher, Atakhan Pashayev, stated that the Bolshevik demand for access to Baku’s oil was a motivation for the civil unrest that would follow. Armenians had been rapidly migrating to Azerbaijan at that time, to seek jobs from the oil industry. The Armenians were more accepting of Russian control because of shared ties of Christianity. Azerbaijani was at that time a Muslim majority, and to this day, though Azerbaijan is religiously and ethnically diverse, a majority of Azerbaijani profess Islam. The Russian Empire of the 1918 era weaponized the Armenian acceptance of their control against their Azerbaijani neighbors at this time. The Russian Empire granted Armenian immigrants to Baku special executive privileges in the oil industry. 

This domination was politicized, and Armenians were able to dictate their wishes to the Congress of Baku Oil Entrepreneurs. A workers party formed around this influence and Armenians became heavily involved in progressive and socialist movements in Baku. The Russian revolution saw the Dashnaktsutyun Party become an extreme nationalist movement which spread its ideology among Armenian oil entrepreneurs. 

As the Russian empire evaporated, the Armenians who remained in the Azerbaijani territory took advantage of the power vacuum left behind. This came as the Tsarist movement was overthrown in February of 1918. Bolsheviks seized control in an October 1918 Revolution. Armenians of the area in 1918 seized upon the ideals of this movement, and thus weaponized them against their naturalized country, using it to inflict politically-motivated terrorism upon Azerbaijan from 1918 to 1920. The Islamic Army and the Azerbaijani allies of 1918 took back control of Baku as a strategic way of gaining the upper hand over this radicalized movement. 

The Azerbaijani historical account of these events cites the testimony of Christian clerics who visited Azerbaijani mosques in the wake of the March slaughter. Islamic clerics urged the Azerbaijani citizens to remain calm and not retaliate prematurely in the wake of the March events, as the Armenian radical movement had deliberately launched attacks to incite an Azerbaijani uprising. The failure of Azerbaijani to revolt and react to the Armenian provocation led to the slaughter of women, children, and elderly people in an attempt to gain Azerbaijani provocation. A provocation would justify the Soviet march into the region. 

Similar tactics and rhetoric were seen in the Second Karabakh War, in the bombing of Barda and Ganja, in what appeared an attempt to provoke Russia to occupy Azerbaijan. Russia delayed its deployment of peacekeeping forces until Azerbaijan had reclaimed most of its territory by the virtue of its military force. Then, Russia brokered a peace deal that pushed Armenians out of the territory. Russia and Turkey have since had a presence along the border of the two nations, in what was said to be a means of stabilizing the frictions, but was seen by both sides as a backfiring outcome of the Armenian political agenda. 

Despite these facts, that outline the events of 1918 as civil unrest, and not as a systematic racial targeting of Armenians, the western world continues to teach the history of those days as if it was driven by racism. This is from the web wikis to the colleges and universities in the western world, which are directly as well as indirectly associated with one another. 

One can continue with the Wikipedia example. To illustrate, Wikipedia is owned by the Wikimedia Foundation, a project of the American entrepreneur Jimmy Wales. Wales is a highly-regarded American researcher, the former director of the Chicago Options research project. Wikimedia Foundation also ties him back to Harvard University. 

“In 2004, Jimmy founded Wikia. He was appointed a fellow of Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society in mid-2005, and in October of 2005 joined the Board of Directors of Socialtext, a provider of wiki technology to businesses,” reads the Wikimedia Foundation page. 

A reflection of bias in the public research page is also a reflection of bias in the western, in this case, the United States, research, and academic societies. They echo one another, as is evidenced by Harvard’s October 2020 statement on the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War. 

“On September 27, with open Turkish backing, Azerbaijan launched an all-out attack against Armenia and the Republic of Artsakh (alternately known as the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh). To Armenia and Artsakh, this is a battle for survival itself,” wrote the Harvard Armenian Law Students Association. It is worthy of note that there does not appear to be an Azerbaijani law society, or Azerbaijani societies within Harvard, to counterbalance this narrative. 

This echoes the same western rhetoric of “good vs. evil” between two parties that overly simplifies politicization conflicts among ethnic groups. In the Caucasus, with its rich ethnodiversity and history, there is no cut and dry simplification of ethnic relations.