The Gulustan and Turkmenchay treaties, signed in 1813 and 1828 respectively, laid the foundation of the split of the Azerbaijani people and division of their historical lands, subsequently leading to expropriation of those lands. In a very short span of time, the mass resettlement of Armenians to Azerbaijani lands began.
Although Armenians, who were resettled in the territories of Iravan, Nakhchivan and Karabakh khanates, were less in numbers than the Azerbaijanis living there, they managed, with support from their patrons, to establish an administrative unit called the “Armenian oblast”. This artificial division of state territories encouraged the displacement of the indigenous people of Azerbaijan from their lands as well as the execution of genocidal policies against the Azerbaijani people. In order to realize the idea of “greater Armenia” on Azerbaijani lands, Armenians began to falsify their own history and the history of Azerbaijan and the entire Caucasus.
Inspired by the idea of creating “Greater Armenia”, Armenians carried out a series of bloody massacres against Azerbaijanis between 1905 and 1907 in Azerbaijan as well as Azerbaijani villages located in the territory of present-day Armenia. Hundreds of Azerbaijani settlements were destroyed and razed to the ground, and thousands of civilians were brutally killed.
Seizing the opportunity of the First World War as well as the February and October revolutions, which took place in 1917 in Russia, Armenians attempted to carry out their despicable intentions under protection of the Bolsheviks. From March 1918, the Baku Soviet, under the pretext of combating counter-revolutionary elements, developed a plan to exterminate Azerbaijanis in Baku Province.
31 March – Day of Genocide of Azerbaijanis During those tragic events, tens of thousands of peaceful civilians in Shamakhi, Guba and other cities, as well as in Baku province were killed on ethnic and religious grounds, settlements were destroyed, cultural monuments, mosques and cemeteries were razed to the ground. In the later stages, Armenian nationalists continued their barbaric acts, carrying out mass killings, looting and ethnic cleansing in Karabakh, Zangazur, Nakhchivan, Shirvan, Irevan and other regions.
The March 1918 events became the focus of attention following the proclamation of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (ADR) and in order to investigate violence against the Azerbaijani population the Council of Ministers on 15 July 1918 adopted a decision on the establishment of the Extraordinary Investigation Commission (EIC).
At the first stage, the commission was involved in investigating the March genocide and the brutalities and grave crimes committed by Armenians in the provinces of Shamakhi and Iravan.
A special authority was established at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to increase the world community`s awareness of the truth about these tragedies. In 1919 and 1920, Azerbaijan Democratic Republic commemorated 31 March as a national day of mourning. In fact, it was the first attempt to give political recognition to the genocide perpetrated against Azerbaijanis and to the occupation of our lands, which lasted for more than one century. However, this process was halted after the collapse of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, and the investigation and recognition attempts failed. Only 80 years later, on March 26, 1998, when President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev signed the Decree “On the genocide of Azerbaijanis” did those horrific events receive proper political recognition. March 31 was declared the Day of Genocide of Azerbaijanis. The Decree said: “All tragedies, which occurred in the 19th-20th centuries in Azerbaijan and were accompanied by the invasion of lands, constituted stages of the systematic genocide carried out by Armenians against Azerbaijanis. Attempts were made to give political recognition to only one of these tragedies – the March 1918 massacre. As a political successor of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, the Republic of Azerbaijan recognizes its historical duty to get political recognition of the events of genocide, which the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic failed to complete during its tenure.”
On the occasion of March 31-the Day of genocide of Azerbaijanis, national leader Heydar Aliyev said: “With the facts and evidence we have, we must continue to work with the world community and influential international organizations to bring awareness to the truth and to receive proper legal and political recognition of the genocide committed against our people and to change the distorted perception that prevails as a result of false information provided by the Armenian propaganda machine. It is the current generation`s sacred duty to the victims of the genocide.”
Numerous new facts and documents have been collected in the past years thanks to researches in this direction. The mass grave unearthed in Guba region reveals one of the bloody pages of this tragedy. In April-May 1918, in Guba region alone 167 villages were razed to the ground. The grave was discovered on April 1, 2007, during landscaping works on the site. In 2009, under the Decree of the Cabinet of Ministers, “Plan of action to perpetuate the memory of mass murder victims in Guba region” was approved and a decision was made to construct a memorial complex and carry out renovation works in the site where mass graves were discovered. In 2007, employees of the Institute of Archeology and Ethnography of Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences launched a large-scale research in the mass grave, which was completed in September 2008. The research revealed the mass grave as evidence of the genocide committed by Armenians against the local citizens in 1918. More than 400 corpses of people of different ages were found, including 50 children, 100 women, and the elderly. The research also found that among those brutally killed and buried in the grave were members of the Lezgi, Jewish, Tat, and other ethnic groups also living in Guba at the time.
The official opening ceremony of the Guba Genocide Memorial Complex which was erected at the site was held on September 18, 2013. Addressing the ceremony, the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev said: “History was falsified during Soviet times, so clearly this occurrence was also concealed from us. For many years, criminals like Shaumyan and others, who shed the blood of the Azerbaijani people were portrayed as heroes. I think this is a great tragedy. For many years, those who committed atrocities against our people were presented in Soviet history as heroes and were remembered by statues erected in many cities of the USSR. Only after independence did we restore justice. We cleared our beautiful city, our Baku from these statues, and in their place today there are beautiful parks, including the Sahil Park. In other words, history and justice prevailed. Today we reflect on our history. We know and should know all aspects of our history. The younger generation also needs to know what disasters our nation was faced with in the past.”
On January 18, 2018, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev signed an Order on commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the 1918 genocide of the Azerbaijanis. The Order read: “The historical evidence revealed that the geography of bloody acts committed by March-April of 1918 and in later years was much more widespread and the victims of this tragedy were far more numbered than previously estimated.”
The people and the government of Azerbaijan continue to pay tribute to the victims of the genocide and urge the world community to learn from these historical events and to expose the true nature of Armenian fascism.