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April 23, 2002

Dr. Ara Sanjian Speaks to Metro Detroit Armenian
Community on "The Armenian Quest for Nagorno-Karabagh"

 

Dearborn, MI--Despite the enticing 85-degree sunny weather outside, over seventy-five eager people came to the Hagopian World of Rugs to hear Dr. Ara Sanjian expound on "The Armenian Quest for Nagorno-Karabagh" on Tuesday, April 16, 2002.

Dr. Sanjian is the Chairman of the Department of Armenian Studies at Haigazian University in Beirut, Lebanon. The young professor studied for five years in Armenia and then went on to get a Ph.D. at the famous School of African and Oriental Studies of the University of London.

He was introduced by Dr. Dennis R. Papazian, the director of the Armenian Research Center, who thanked Edgar Hagopian for the venue and the refreshments and Mr. Arsen Sanjian for his cosponsorship of Dr. Sanjian's visit.

Dr. Sanjian briefly discussed the pre-Soviet situation of Nagorno-Karabagh, noting that Nagorno-Karabagh became a bone of contention between the newly established republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan only early in the 20th century. In the 19th century, under Russian rule, it was treated as just another region in the Empire.

Before the 19th century, Dr. Sanjian argued, Nagorno-Karabagh enjoyed various degrees of autonomy under Persian rule. It was annexed to the Russian Empire in 1813. In 1918, however, Ottoman armies occupied much of Transcaucasia and favored Azerbaijani claims to Nagorno-Karabagh, although the region itself was not occupied militarily.

In 1919, the hegemonic power was Great Britain, which favored Azerbaijani claims in part, Dr. Sanjian believes, because Armenia, it was thought, was to be compensated by receiving portions of the heretofore Armenian-populated vilayets of Western Armenia from the Ottoman Empire. From 1920 onwards, the hegemonic power in Transcaucasia was Soviet Russia.

Soon after the sovietization of Armenia very late in 1920, Nagorno-Karabagh was promised to Armenia by Soviet leaders, possibly to bolster the new Communist regime there, but this stance was soon reversed and in 1923 Nagorno-Karabagh became an autonomous oblast inside of Azerbaijan.

Beginning in the 1920s, the Armenians began anew their quest for Nagorno-Karabagh. Sanjian noted that both the Dashnaks and the Ramgavars, now based in the Diaspora, were active in the Armenian quest for Nagorno-Karabagh, along with Armenian patriots in the Armenian SSR. He mentioned the contacts that Archag Tchobanian, the French-Armenian activist and ADL leader, had with Aghasi Khanjyan, the head of the Armenian Communist Party, in the 1930s. Little specific is known about the Armenian quest during this time since archival material from this period is not accessible yet to the public.

More information is available for Nagorno-Karabagh under post-WWII Soviet rule, Dr. Sanjian said, although it consists mostly of memoirs authored by Armenian activists. He discussed the immediate post-war efforts for Nagorno-Karabagh reunification with Armenia in the context of the Nergaght, the repatriation movement. As we know, this effort did not lead to Nagorno-Karabagh's joining the Armenian SSR, but rather led to the temporary relocation of some 100,000 Azeris from Armenia to Azerbaijan.

Next, Dr. Sanjian discussed the 1960s petition efforts on behalf of Nagorno-Karabagh and the heretofore unknown Soviet responses, which partially consisted of commissions sent out from Moscow to investigate the problem. He then went on to explain the attitude of the leadership of the Armenian SSR to the Nagorno-Karabagh question.

Dr. Sanjian was in Armenia at the time of the Karabagh movement in the late 1980s, and he noted that Haydar Aliyev's fall from political power in 1987, with his removal from the Politburo, encouraged new calls for Nagorno-Karabagh's unification with Armenia.

The last part of Sanjian's lecture was devoted to the analysis of the current paralysis in the negotiations to find a solution to the Karabagh problem.

A question and answer period followed the lecture, which itself was then followed by a reception giving the audience an opportunity to meet with the speaker informally. This lecture was the second of two which Dr. Sanjian delivered in the Detroit area. The first presentation, on "Turkey and Her Arab Neighbors, 1953-1958," took place on Monday, April 15, 2002, on the campus of the University of Michigan-Dearborn.

Sanjian's lecture was sponsored by the Armenian Research Center of the University of Michigan-Dearborn, the Hagopian Family Foundation, and Mr. Arsen Sanjian.

The audience of more than 75 people listens attentively to Dr. Sanjian at Hagopian World of Rugs. On the left is Dr. Dennis R. Papazian.]

Mr. Edgar Hagopian (standing in the middle), of the Hagopian Family Foundation, congratulations Dr. Ara Sanjian (standing on the left) and thanks Dr. Dennis R. Papazian (standing on the right)

From left to right, Mr. Arsen Sanjian; Dr. Mary A. Papazian, Dean at Oakland University; Mr. Edgar Hagopian, of the Hagopian Family
Foundation; Dr. Ara Sanjian; and Dr. Dennis R. Papazian

 

 

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