Azerbaijanis misrepresent George Bournoutian

April 4, 2018

This is a quick reference for anybody who hears the common claim that "Armenians were not the majority of the population of the Yerevan/Armenian province until a late date." This argument is also often backed up by the supplement "Even the Armenian historian George Bournoutian admits this."

Specifically they are referring to the population transfer that took place as a result of the 1828 Treaty of Turkmenchai. Tens of thousands of Armenians were repatriated from Iran into the Russian province of Armenia whilst a similar number of Muslim groups moved into Iran and the Ottoman Empire.

Are they wrong in quoting Bournoutian this way? Let's have a look.


"Immigration from western Armenia and the Russian annexation of Kars and Ardahan, as well as improved economic conditions, resulted in the increase of the Armenian population from half a million in 1840, to over one million in 1897, and slightly under two million in 1917. The Muslims continued to remain a majority in the cities of Nakhichevan and Ordubad. Yerevan only achieved an Armenian majority prior to the First World War." (1)


This looks conclusive. If even an Armenian historian admits this discrepancy, then surely the principle of "who was there first and most?" can only show Armenians to be newcomers compared to the other Caucasian races, right?

Perhaps not. If these people actually took the time to read the book they insist on quoting they might take great interest in the following passages from the chapter on the Persian-Armenian relationship throughout history.



"It was Shah Abbas the Great who left the biggest imprint on the Iranian Armenian community... By the start of the 17th century, Abbas felt strong enough to break the peace he had made with the Ottomans in 1590... The Armenian merchants of Julfa, who had been engaged in international trade for some time were especially happy with the Iranian capture of Julfa... The same source adds that Abbas deported the Armenian merchants of Julfa to Iran at this time in order to prevent the region from regaining its economic viability. All other contemporary sources, however, indicate that only the main fortress of Nakhichevan was destroyed in 1603 and that the Armenian population was not moved until 1604. In November 1603, Abbas laid siege to the fortress of Yerevan, (lasting seven months) In the summer of 1604, at the news of an Ottoman counteroffensive, Abbas laid waste much of the territory between Kars and Ani and deported its Armenians to Iranian Azerbaijan.

... The Ottomans did advance, catching the Shah unprepared. Orders went out from Abbas to forcibly remove the entire population residing in the regions of Bayazid, Van, and Nakhichevan and to carry out a scorched earth policy. According to primary sources, some 250,000 to 300,000 Armenians were removed from the region between 1604 and 1605. Thousands died crossing the Arax River. Many of the Armenians were eventually settled in Iranian Azerbaijan." (2)


This is especially damning because not only does this passage explain the small Armenian population of Yerevan, but it also explains the same situation in Nakhichevan and other parts of Western Armenia/Eastern Turkey. Even more awkward is the fact that Azerbaijani nationalists often cite Shah Abbas and the Safavids as part of their own historical identity.


However, if this is not a convincing argument I would like to ask the following. Do claims to being the majority ethnic group in a region alone justify territorial claims? If so, then Azerbaijanis would also have to concede that Tiblisi must belong to Armenia since Armenians were once the majority ethnic group in the 19th century. This would obviously be absurd and it wouldn't only be Georgians saying so. What followed and what preceded it must be taken into account.





(1) A Concise History of the Armenian People, George A. Bournoutian. Mazda Publishing. Page 284

(2) Pages 209-10




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