AZERBAIJAN AT THE VERSAILLES CONFERENCE
Excerpt from Chapter XVII from the book “STRUGGLE FOR TRANSCAUCASIA” / Oxford, 1951
Maps: Richard G. Hovannisian and Robert H. Hewsen
The Claims of Azerbaijan
Upon its arrival in Paris the Azerbaijani delegation addressd a note to President Wilson, making the following requests:
1. That the independence of Azerbaijan be recognized,
2. That Wilsonian principles be applied to Azerbaijan,
3. That the Azerbaijani delegation be admitted to the Peace Conference,
4. That Azerbaijan be admitted to the League of Nations,
5. That the United States War Department extend military help to Azerbaijan, and
6. That diplomatic relations be established between the USA and Azerbaijan.
President Wilson granted the Azerbaijani delegation an audience, at which he displayed a cold and rather unsympathetic attitude. As the Azerbaijani delegation reported to its Government, Wilson had stilted that the Conference did not want to partition the world into small pieces. Wilson advised the Azerbaijanis that it would be better for them to develop a spirit of confederation, and that such a confederation of all peoples of Transcaucasia could receive the protection of some Power on the basis of a mandate granted by the League of Nations. The Azerbaijani question, Wilson concluded, could not be solved prior to the general settlement of the Russian question.
The Claims of Persia
The work of the Azerbaijani delegation was considerably hampered by the efforts of the hostile remnants of the Russian Tsarist diplomatic apparatus, who left no stone unturned to discredit the Transcaucasian delegations and the very idea of an independent Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia. Moreover, Persia presented to the Conference her claims to a part of the Russian territory. Ali Qoli Khan Moshaver'ol’Mamalek, the Persian representative, handed the Conference a memorandum, which included the following claims:
“In the North, the cities and provinces wrested from Persia after the Russian wars. We will cite Bacou, Derbent, Chakki, Chemakha, Guendja (Elizabethpol), Karabagh, Nakhdjevan, Erivan. These provinces must be returned to Persia, for they had already formed part of Persia. The large majority of their inhabitants are Musulmans, and the generality of them are Persians in origin and race. In fact, from every point of view, historic, geographic economic, commercial, religious, cultural, they are attached to Persia. Furthermore, a large portion of the inhabitants of these provinces have lately appealed to the Government of Teheran, to protect them, and they have expressed the wish to be restored to Persia”.
The claims of the Persian delegation were fantastic. They showed a complete lack of understanding of the historical forces which were shaping the destinies of the world. Poverty-stricken Persia, whose own existence was threatened every day, the corruption of whose Government and the weakness of whose army made her an easy prey to the internal as well as the foreign plunderer, was certainly in no position to enter the struggle for Transcaucasia. The efforts of the Persian delegation did not end with the presentation of an official memorandum to the Conference. They tried to mobilize public opinion in their favor by holding meetings and distributing literature. But the conference dealt unkindly with them. They were not even admitted In its work.
Fortunately for Azerbaijan, Persian claims were not taken seriously. The cold reception accorded to the Azerbaijan delegation by Wilson did not discourage them. Having failed to win the heart of the American President, they presented the Conference with their official claims:
The Peace Conference approves the separation of the Caucasian Azerbaijan from the former Russian Empire. Azerbaijan shall form an absolutely independent State under the name of the Demo¬cratic Republic of Azerbaijan . . .
The representatives of the Republic of Azerbaijan shall be admitted to the work of the Peace Conference and its Committees.
The Republic of Azerbaijan shall be admitted among the members of the "League of Nations", under the high protection of which this Republic wishes to be placed like other States”.
Azerbaijan failed to gain recognition in 1919. The issue was complicated by the presence of the Volunteer Army in the Northern Caucasus, by the plans to place Transcaucasia under Italian protection, by the uncertainty of the position of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, and finally by the constant quarrels of the Azerbaijani and the Armenian delegations, in Paris, quarrels which reflected the state of affairs in Transcaucasia.
A sharp conflict developed at Paris over the Nakhjavan district, thr Azerbaijani delegation trying to prove that this area, claimed by Armenia, should really belong to Azerbaijan. The Armenians were not to be outdone. They came back with stacks of documents, accusing the Azerbaijanis of exaggerating the number of Muslims in the Nakhjavan district and in Karabagh, and of harboring sinister designs against innocent Armenia.
In January, 1920, the Allied Supreme Council suddenly extended its de facto recognition to Azerbaijan. Bulletin d'information de I' Azerbaidjan wrote: "The Supreme Council at one of its last sessions recognized the de facto independence of the Caucasian Republics: Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Armenia. The delegations of Azerbaijan and Georgia have been notified of this decision by M. Jules Cambon at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 15th January, 1920." Behind the sudden recognition there was a weighty reason: the failure of Denikin,
Allied Concern over the Threat of Bolshevism
The defeat of the Volunteer Army worried the Allies. A short article in the London Times revealed their apprehension over the future:
“As a result of the Bolshevik occupation of Trans-Caspia, which may now be regarded as practically complete, the situation in the Caucasus has become one of considerable difficulty . , . Georgia and Azerbaijan are anti-Bolshevik, both as regards their V Governments and the population, but their armed strength is insufficient to resist invasion which now threatens them from the north, where Denikin's right wing is being pressed back, and from the east across the Caspian.”
By recognizing the Transcaucasian Republics the Allies hoped to itrengthen their position in regard to Soviet Russia.
In the House of Commons the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Greenwood, was asked on what date recognition had been extended to Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia, and whether "in accordance With such recognition, official representatives have been exchanged, and the boundaries of the Transcaucasian Republics defined," Mr. Greenwood replied:
“Instructions were sent to the British Chief Commissioner for the Georgian and Azerbaijanian Governments that the Allied Powers represented on the Supreme Council had decided to grant de facto recognition to Georgia and Azerbaijan, but that this decision did not prejudge the question of the respective boundaries . . . There has been no change in representation as a result of recognition; as before, His Majesty's Government have a British Chief Commissioner for the Caucasus with Headquarters at Tiflis, and the three Republics have their accredited representatives in London ...”
On 15th January, 1920, the London Times wrote that with the defeat of Denikin the Transcaucasian republics would have to lean on Persia, while a French radio station broadcast on 21st January, 1920, that the British were ready to send ten thousand men to Baku in order » to prevent the Bolsheviks from occupying that important city. The broadcast stated that Lloyd George had forced the French Government j |o increase their army of occupation in Germany so as to relieve the British who would be sent to the Caucasus, and said bluntly that for once Lloyd George and Churchill were agreed in their desire to stop the Bolshevik penetration which threatened Persia, India, Turkey, and Mesopotamia.
The sensational announcement of the Lyons radio is not to be taken seriously, but even this fantastic broadcast indicates the general feeling which prevailed in Europe in 1920. "Stop the Bolsheviks!" was the battle-cry, to which, however, only a few responded. Europe had suffered too much in the war, the wounds were too fresh, she would not concern herself with peoples whose very names were unknown to I her masses. Soviet historians have exploited newspaper headlines which called for a crusade against Bolshevism, and the statements of such determined anti-Communists as Winston Churchill, to show that the entire world had united against their young Republic. Facts tell a rather different story. The Allies recognized the Transcaucasian Republics partly because of their fear of Bolshevism, but their activities directed against Bolshevism, at least in Transcaucasia, did not go much beyond words, the strongest of which were status quo, recognition, demarche, and a list of standard diplomatic remonstrances.
No British troops arrived in Azerbaijan. At the end of the winter of 1920, it looked from Paris as though the situation in the Caucasus was beginning to stabilize. The Georgian and Azerbaijain delegations addressed a joint note to the Ambassador of the United States in Paris, pointing out that their countries had been granted de facto recognition by the Conference and requesting the establishment of diplomatic relations between them and America. The American Government ignored this request. There was little more that the Azerbaijani delegation could accomplish. They could only wait for events to take their course.
 Bulletin d'Information de 1'Azerbaijan, No. 1, September I, 1919, pp. 6-7,
 "Report of the Delegation", No. 7, June, 1919, Fund of the Ministry Of Foreign Affairs, Dossier No. 3, p. 7, as cited in Raevskii, Angliiskaia interventsiit l musavatskoe pravitelstvo, p. 53.
 Claims of Persia before the Conference of the Preliminaries of Peace at Paris, March, 1919, Paris, p. 9.
 Comite nationale d'etudes sociales et politiques, Les aspirations nationales de la Perse, Paris, 1919, p. 19
 Claims of Azerbaijan, p. 49
 Bulletin d'information de I'Azerbaidjan, No. 3, October 13, 1919, pp. 1-2
 Delegation de la Republique Armenienne, Donnees statistiques des population* de la Transcaucasie, Paris, 1920, passim.
 Bulletin d'information de I'Azerbaidjan, No. 7, January, 1920, p. 1.
 The London Times, January 16, 1920.
 125 H. C. Debs. 5s., February 24, 1920, p. 1467.
 The London Times, January 15, 1920.
 Azerbaijan, No. 17, January 25, 1920, as cited in Raevskii, op. cit., p. 168.