Nakhichevan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic

Нахчыван Мухтар Совет Сосјалист Республикасы  (Azerbaijani)
Naxçıvan Muxtar Sovet Sosyalist Respublikası
Nakhichevan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic
Autonomous unit of the Azerbaijan SSR

Flag Coat of arms
Location of the Nakhichevan ASSR between Iran and
the Armenian SSR.
Modern subdivisions of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic.
Capital Nakhichevan
39°12′N 45°24′E / 39.200°N 45.400°E / 39.200; 45.400Coordinates: 39°12′N 45°24′E / 39.200°N 45.400°E / 39.200; 45.400
Government Republic
Historical era 20th century
  Soviet Republic of
   Nakhichevan establisheda
July 1920
  Nakhichevan ASSR
16 March 1921
  Treaty of Kars 13 October 1921
  Transcaucasian SFSR 1922–36
  Transferred to the
   Azerbaijan SSR
9 February 1924
  Independence declared January 1990
  Nakhchivan Autonomous
19 November 1990
Today part of  Azerbaijan
a. Whilst the 11th Soviet Red Army occupied land under de facto control of the Democratic Republic of Armenia in 1920, the territory was theoretically under British occupation (replacing Ottoman occupation). De jure, the former Nakhichevan Khanate had passed to the Russian Empire after the 1828 Treaty of Turkmenchay, while the Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic had been replaced by competing claims from the Democratic Republic of Armenia and the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. In addition, the Azeri Republic of Aras had also declared Nakhichevan as its territory.
Soviet Union stamp featuring Nakhichevan, 1974.

The Nakhichevan ASSR (Nakhichevan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic; Azerbaijani:  Нахчыван Мухтар Совет Сосјалист Республикасы Naxçıvan Muxtar Sovet Sosyalist Respublikası) was an autonomous republic within the Azerbaijan SSR, itself a republic within the Soviet Union. It was formed on 16 March 1921 and became a part of the Azerbaijan SSR proper on 9 February 1924.

In the 1940s, when the Azerbaijani Latin alphabet was being replaced by Cyrillic, the flag (shown in the infobox) is presumed to have fallen out of use, being replaced by a Soviet flag with "Нахчыван МССР" in gold and a dark blue bar along the fess.[1]


War and revolution

In the final year of World War I, Nakhchivan was the scene of more bloodshed between Armenians and Azerbaijanis, who both laid claim to the area. By 1914, the Armenian population had decreased slightly to 40% while the Azeri population increased to roughly 60%.[2] After the February Revolution, the region was under the authority of the Special Transcaucasian Committee of the Russian Provisional Government and subsequently of the short-lived Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic. When the TDFR was dissolved in May 1918, Nakhchivan, Nagorno-Karabakh, Zangezur (today the Armenian province of Syunik), and Qazakh were heavily contested between the newly formed and short-lived states of the Democratic Republic of Armenia (DRA) and the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (ADR). In June 1918, the region came under Ottoman occupation.[3] The Ottomans proceeded to massacre 10,000 Armenians and razed 45 of their villages to the ground.[4] Under the terms of the Armistice of Mudros, the Ottomans agreed to pull their troops out of the Transcaucasus to make way for the forthcoming British military presence.[5]

Under British occupation, Sir Oliver Wardrop, British Chief Commissioner in the South Caucasus, made a border proposal to solve the conflict. According to Wardrop, Armenian claims against Azerbaijan should not go beyond the administrative borders of the former Erivan Governorate (which under prior Imperial Russian rule encompassed Nakhchivan), while Azerbaijan was to be limited to the governorates of Baku and Elisabethpol. This proposal was rejected by both Armenians (who did not wish to give up their claims to Qazakh, Zangezur and Karabakh) and Azeris (who found it unacceptable to give up their claims to Nakhchivan). As disputes between both countries continued, it soon became apparent that the fragile peace under British occupation would not last.[6]

In December 1918, with the support of Azerbaijan's Musavat Party, Jafargulu Khan Nakhchivanski declared the Republic of Aras in the Nakhchivan uyezd of the former Erivan Governorate assigned to Armenia by Wardrop.[3] The Armenian government did not recognize the new state and sent its troops into the region to take control of it. The conflict soon erupted into the violent Aras War.[6] British journalist C.E. Bechhofer described the situation in April 1920:

You cannot persuade a party of frenzied nationalists that two blacks do not make a white; consequently, no day went by without a catalogue of complaints from both sides, Armenians and Tartars [Azeris], of unprovoked attacks, murders, village burnings and the like. Specifically, the situation was a series of vicious cycles.[7]

By mid-June 1919, however, Armenia succeeded in establishing control over Nakhchivan and the whole territory of the self-proclaimed republic. The fall of the Aras republic triggered an invasion by the regular Azerbaijani army and by the end of July, Armenian troops were forced to leave Nakhchivan City to the Azeris.[6] Again, more violence erupted leaving some ten thousand Armenians dead and forty-five Armenian villages destroyed.[4] Meanwhile, feeling the situation to be hopeless and unable to maintain any control over the area, the British decided to withdraw from the region in mid-1919.[8] Still, fighting between Armenians and Azeris continued and after a series of skirmishes that took place throughout the Nakhchivan district, a cease-fire agreement was concluded. However, the cease-fire lasted only briefly, and by early March 1920, more fighting broke out, primarily in Karabakh between Karabakh Armenians and Azerbaijan's regular army. This triggered conflicts in other areas with mixed populations, including Nakhchivan.


In July 1920, the 11th Soviet Red Army invaded and occupied the region and on 28 July, declared the Nakhchivan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic with "close ties" to the Azerbaijan SSR. In November, on the verge of taking over Armenia, the Bolsheviks, in order to attract public support, promised they would allot Nakhchivan to Armenia, along with Karabakh and Zangezur. This was fulfilled when Nariman Narimanov, leader of Bolshevik Azerbaijan issued a declaration celebrating the "victory of Soviet power in Armenia," proclaimed that both Nakhchivan and Zangezur should be awarded to the Armenian people as a sign of the Azerbaijani people's support for Armenia's fight against the former DRA government:[9]

As of today, the old frontiers between Armenia and Azerbaijan are declared to be non-existent. Mountainous Karabagh, Zangezur and Nakhchivan are recognised to be integral parts of the Socialist Republic of Armenia.[10][11]

Vladimir Lenin, although welcoming this act of "great Soviet fraternity" where "boundaries had no meaning among the family of Soviet peoples," did not agree with the motion and instead called for the people of Nakhchivan to be consulted in a referendum. According to the formal figures of this referendum, held at the beginning of 1921, 90% of Nakhchivan's population wanted to be included in the Azerbaijan SSR "with the rights of an autonomous republic."[10] The decision to make Nakhchivan a part of modern-day Azerbaijan was cemented 16 March 1921 in the Treaty of Moscow between Bolshevist Russia and Turkey.[12] The agreement between the Soviet Russia and Turkey also called for attachment of the former Sharur-Daralagez uyezd (which had a solid Azeri majority) to Nakhchivan, thus allowing Turkey to share a border with the Azerbaijan SSR. This deal was reaffirmed on 23 October, in the Treaty of Kars. Article V of the treaty stated the following:

The Turkish Government and the Soviet Governments of Armenia and Azerbaijan are agreed that the region of Nakhchivan, within the limits specified by Annex III to the present Treaty, constitutes an autonomous territory under the protection of Azerbaijan.[13]

So, on 16 March 1921 the Nakhchivan ASSR was established. On 9 February 1924, the Soviet Union officially placed the Nakhchivan ASSR under the jurisdiction of the Azerbaijan SSR. Its constitution was adopted on 18 April 1926.[3]

Nakhchivan in the Soviet Union

As a constituent part of the Soviet Union, tensions lessened over the ethnic composition of Nakhchivan or any territorial claims regarding it. Instead, it became an important point of industrial production with particular emphasis on the mining of minerals such as salt. Under Soviet rule, it was once a major junction on the Moscow–Tehran railway line[14] as well as the BakuYerevan railway.[3] It also served as an important strategic area during the Cold War, sharing borders with both Turkey (a NATO member state) and Iran (a close ally of the West until the Iranian Revolution of 1979).

Facilities improved during Soviet times; education and public health especially began to see some major changes. In 1913, Nakhchivan only had two hospitals with a total of 20 beds. The region was plagued by widespread diseases including trachoma and typhus. Malaria, which mostly came from the adjoining Aras River, brought serious harm to the region. At any one time, between 70% and 85% of Nakhchivan's population was infected with malaria, and in the region of Norashen (present-day Sharur) almost 100% were struck with the disease. This situation improved dramatically under Soviet rule. Malaria was sharply reduced and trachoma, typhus, and relapsing fever were completely eliminated.[3]

During the Soviet era, Nakhchivan saw a significant demographic shift. Its Armenian population gradually decreased as many emigrated to the Armenian SSR. In 1926, 15% of region's population was Armenian, but by 1979, this number had shrunk to 1.4%.[15] The Azeri population, meanwhile increased substantially with both a higher birth rate and immigration from Armenia (going from 85% in 1926 to 96% by 1979[15]).

Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh noted similar though slower demographic trends and feared an eventual "de-Armenianization" of the area.[12] When tensions between Armenians and Azeris were reignited in the late-1980s by the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Azerbaijan's Popular Front managed to pressure the Azerbaijan SSR to instigate a partial railway and air blockade against Armenia, while another reason for disruption of rail service to Armenia were attacks of Armenian forces on the trains entering the Armenian territory from Azerbaijan, which resulted in railroad personnel refusing to enter Armenia.[16][17] This effectively crippled Armenia's economy, as 85% of the cargo and goods arrived through rail traffic. In response, Armenia closed the railway to Nakhchivan, thereby strangling the exclave's only link to the rest of the Soviet Union.

December 1989 saw unrest in Nakhchivan as its Azeri inhabitants moved to physically dismantle the Soviet border with Iran to flee the area and meet their ethnic Azeri cousins in northern Iran. This action was angrily denounced by the Soviet leadership and the Soviet media accused the Azeris of "embracing Islamic fundamentalism".[18] In January 1990, the Supreme Soviet of the Nakhchivan ASSR issued a declaration stating the intention for Nakhchivan to secede from the USSR to protest the Soviet Union's actions during Black January. It was the first part of the Soviet Union to declare independence, preceding Lithuania's declaration by only a few weeks.

Heydar Aliyev, the future president of Azerbaijan, returned to his birthplace of Nakhchivan in 1990, after being ousted from his position in the Politburo by Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987. Soon after returning to Nakhchivan, Aliyev was elected to the Supreme Soviet by an overwhelming majority. Aliyev subsequently resigned from the CPSU and after the failed August 1991 coup against Gorbachev, he called for complete independence for Azerbaijan and denounced Ayaz Mütallibov for supporting the coup. In late 1991, Aliyev consolidated his power base as chairman of the Nakhchivan Supreme Soviet and asserted Nakhchivan's near-total independence from Baku.[19]

On 19 November 1990 it became the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic within the Republic of Azerbaijan.


In 2008, the National Bank of Azerbaijan minted a pair of gold and silver commemorative coins for the 85th anniversary of the creation of the Nakhichevan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic.[20]

See also


  1. Nakhchivan in the Soviet Union on Flags of the World
  2. Ian Bremmer and Ray Taras. New States, New Politics: Building Post-Soviet Nations, p. 484. ISBN 0-521-57799-3
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 (Russian) Great Soviet Encyclopedia. Nakhichevan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic
  4. 1 2 Hewsen, Robert H (2001). Armenia: A Historical Atlas. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 266. ISBN 0-226-33228-4.
  5. Michael P. Croissant. The Armenia–Azerbaijan Conflict: Causes and Implications, p. 15. ISBN 0-275-96241-5
  6. 1 2 3 Dr Andrew Andersen, PhD Atlas of Conflicts: Armenia: Nation Building and Territorial Disputes: 1918–1920
  7. Thomas de Waal. Black Garden: Armenia And Azerbaijan Through Peace and War. New York: New York University Press, pp. 128–129. ISBN 0-8147-1945-7
  8. Croissant. Armenia–Azerbaijan Conflict, p. 16.
  9. De Waal. Black Garden, p. 129.
  10. 1 2 Tim Potier. Conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia: A Legal Appraisal, p. 4. ISBN 90-411-1477-7
  11. Croissant. Armenia–Azerbaijan Conflict, p. 18.
  12. 1 2 Ian Bremmer and Ray Taras. New States, New Politics: Building Post-Soviet Nations, p. 444. ISBN 0-521-57799-3
  13. Text of the Treaty of Kars
  14. De Waal. Black Garden, p. 271.
  15. 1 2 Armenia: A Country Study: The New Nationalism, The Library of Congress
  16. Thomas Ambrosio. Irredentism: Ethnic Conflict and International Politics. ISBN 0-275-97260-7
  17. Stuart J. Kaufman. Modern Hatreds: The Symbolic Politics of Ethnic War. ISBN 0-8014-8736-6
  18. De Waal, Black Garden, p. 88–89.
  19. Azerbaijan: A Country Study: Aliyev and the Presidential Election of October 1993, The Library of Congress
  20. Central Bank of Azerbaijan. Commemorative coins. Coins produced within 1992–2010: Commemorative coins dedicated to 85th anniversary of Nakhchivan Autonomy Republic. Retrieved on 25 February 2010.
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