"The Griboyedov project and the "red projects" in the South Caucasus

12.09.22 10:50

The well-known pro-Armenian edition "Regnum" published an extensive interview of its editor Modest Kolarov with Stanislav Tarasov under the title "Stanislav Tarasov on Heydar Aliyev and the Tsarist power and intelligence in Transcaucasia" ( ). In this interview Stanislav Tarasov gives his interpretation of well-known historical processes and events, trying in every way to make Dashnaks "innocent victims of processes" and shifting the responsibility for historical cataclysms on the tsarist intelligence service, Stalin, etc:


"...Stanislav Tarasov: The Tsarist administration of the Vorontsov-Dashkov period, the governor, after the bloody events of 1905 in the Transcaucasus, when the Dashnaks practically took control of all the Transcaucasus, the base centres, even Baku, decided on a special status for the governorship with a view to the Griboyedov project. Griboyedov's project - at the time when Griboyedov was a diplomat before Persia was a creation of Russian Transcaucasian Company based on the version of Russian-American Company with establishment of autonomous protectorate status within Russia.

Modest Kohlerov: And what borders was the empire ready to add to Russian Transcaucasia for creation of this protectorate?

Stanislav Tarasov: This is where the Vorontsov-Dashkov project started. The Vorontsov-Dashkov project included the following: Transcaucasian Democratic Republic was the first project, the United States of Transcaucasia. And by the way, the tsarist military intelligence was involved here. The position was very simple: we had not digested the Caucasus, preparations were being made for World War I, we could not hold the Caucasus, we had no resources, the Caucasus should be given a special status, preferably one that would be loyal and under protectorate control. Hence the question arose: What to do with the titular nations? Armenians, Georgians and Transcaucasian Tatars, as the Azerbaijanis were then called. Of the three ethnic groups, the most politically advanced were the Armenians, the Dashnaktsutyun Party, the first political party established in Russia in 1890. It was, incidentally, a foreign-type party. It was not fixed as a Russian party. The only party that had a program of state-building, independence and so on. But the centre of state building for it was Western Armenia.

Modest Kohlerov: Western Armenia, which was part of the Ottoman Empire at the time.

Stanislav Tarasov: Absolutely right. This, by the way, is the reason for all this struggle, the litigation that was going on with the Armenians. It is known that, for example, the property of the Armenian Church was seized. Why? Because it was a special policy, the Young Turks, with whom we also worked actively. Why? Because an interesting thing was taking shape, there was an elaboration of how the future was seen: Transcaucasian United States or three state entities. The political term "Azerbaijan" was first used by the Tsarist Military Intelligence in 1911. The term was subsequently used as the state name by the Musavat party. The Musavat party was a product of tsarist military intelligence, it was supposed to build statehood. And for the Dashnaktsutyun party, the centre of Armenianness was Western Armenia, the territory of Ottoman Turkey. Now the question arose: What about the Georgians? Because Georgians had nationalist parties of federalist type, then Menshevik deviations and so on. The Mensheviks did not position themselves autonomously as separatists, they were part of Russian Social-Democracy, and then their leaders were known to have led the Petrograd Soviet. They did not alienate themselves from Russia. Nicholas II granted Vorontsov-Dashkov the status of his plenipotentiary viceroy, a status almost that of supreme ruler. His own intelligence service, his own counterintelligence, his own army, his own rank. Things went so far that in the Transcaucasus Vorontsov-Dashkov was granted the right to confer the rank of general. Incidentally, Armenian fighters were given general ranks in the Transcaucasus. They were not on the register of imperial general ranks - general ranks in Russia were awarded by the emperor, and these were not on the Russian register. They were not Russian generals. But they were wearing uniform and so on.

Modest Kohlerov: They were Russian Transcaucasian generals?

Stanislav Tarasov: Russian Transcaucasian generals. It is a special status. There was the special policy, hence the special relations with Persia, special relations with Turkey...".


It is strange that Stanislav Tarasov does not mention a well-known fact - the Caucasian Viceroyalty (the most populous part of which would be the South Caucasus) with its capital in Tiflis, which already had a special status in the Russian Empire, a kind of "semi-autonomy". The level of self-government here was somewhat lower than that of fully autonomous Finland (which would have its own parliament) but higher than that of Poland (which after the numerous Polish uprisings had been stripped of most of the attributes of statehood, stripped of its rights and relegated to the status of 'Privilian provinces'). Thus, the Viceroyalty of the Caucasus and its administration in the Russian Empire was a "state within a state" and had huge rights (part of which Stanislav Tarasov mentioned, in particular, the ability to assign "their" general's ranks). 


However, the Viceroyalty of the Caucasus was governed by governors appointed 'from the centre', the vast majority of whom were Russians. Representatives of Caucasian peoples were also included in the administration of the Viceroyalty, but not for reasons of their national and ethnic interests, but again, for reasons of imperial policy. Meanwhile, the Armenian nationalists had a plan to create their own, ethnic "Armenian" statehood in the South Caucasus. The status of "viceroyalty" did not suit them. Even if one viceroy could be "wooed" and held hostage to the interests of the Armenian lobby (as was the case with Vorontsov-Dashkov), the Tsar could at any time replace the viceroy. All schemes of "Armenian domination" over the Caucasus would then collapse. 


A "Transcaucasian democratic republic" was what suited Armenian capital the most. After all, "democratically", any number of "their" deputies and representatives, both ethnic Armenians and "bought-off" representatives of other ethnic groups, could be put into legislative bodies and administrations. As a result, the government of this "democratic republic" would initially be puppets of the Armenian oligarchy. After all, neither the Georgians nor the Azerbaijanis actually had their own politically active and strong bourgeoisie to compete with the Armenian powerbrokers.


Looking ahead, it should be noted that it was no accident that when the Transcaucasian Commissariat was established after the 1917 revolution and the Transcaucasus (South Caucasus) was declared a Federation, Turkey and Germany insisted on making peace separately with independent Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia, rather than "with the entire Transcaucasus", realising full well that Armenian capital would dominate this "Transcaucasus". 


One way or another, Stanislav Tarasov in fact admits that the so-called "Griboyedov project" or the project of the "Transcaucasian Democratic Republic" was a purely Armenian or even Dashnak (Armenian nationalist) project. However, the situation was complicated by the fact that the Dashnaks wanted to have 'their' state not only in the territory of the Caucasus, which was part of the Russian Empire, but also in the territory of the Ottoman Empire. For this purpose, they were destroying both the Ottoman and the Russian empires from within. But Stanislav Tarasov for some reason does not mention destructive and terrorist activities of Dashnaks against Ottomans, as well as participation of Armenian terrorists in the fight against the Russian Empire and the 1905-1907 revolution.   And very slyly he tries to make the Russian Tsarist intelligence service "to blame" for the collapse of the Ottoman Empire: 


"Modest Kohlerov: Did they want to annex part of the Ottoman Empire to Russia or not?

Stanislav Tarasov: The most important opponent and at the same time the main partner of the Tsarist administration was Dashnaks. Dashnaksutiun party had two bureaus, Eastern and Western. The Eastern Bureau was located in Tiflis, the Western Bureau in Geneva and partly in Paris. Their task was as follows: these were to use the resources of the Russian Empire, and those were to use the resources of the Western Empire. Tactically, they had to behave in a diverse way, while the strategy was a big Armenia. The task was to drag the Eastern Bureau to the Russian side and the Western Bureau was to work differently. This, by the way, marked the tragedy of Armenians, because the Eastern Bureau decided that it was independent and contacted the Young Turks, Enver Pasha, Nazim Pasha and they financed the Dashnak party. And the Dashnaks promoted introduction of the Russian version of pan-Turkism. Hence, there is another conclusion: pan-Turkism was a product of the tsarist military intelligence service.

Modest Kohlerov: Modelled on Austria-Hungary...

Stanislav Tarasov: A multinational empire where Turks are numerically the majority, but there are enclaves: Armenian strong, Greek, Jewish enclaves and so on. Turks are in second place, there is no dominant Turkish ideology, Turkish is not an official language, the leadership of the Ottoman Empire is French speaking, Francophile. How to break this empire? You have to take the leading ethnos and say: build a nation state. Then the other ethnic groups start to vibrate. This doctrine is subtle, it was worked out in two centres: in St. Petersburg, at the university, by officers of the General Staff with scholars in oriental studies, and in Kazan. And this ideology was implemented in Turkey. Gasprinsky, Akcura were its entire products. They worked on the so-called Russian Slavic unity to weaken the Ottoman Empire and create pseudo-state formations on the scraps of the Ottoman Empire. And all pan-Turkic publications in the Ottoman Empire from 1908 to 1914 were funded by the Tsarist government. St. Petersburg scholars published a monograph entitled "The Young Turks in the Service of Reaction", or something like that, where they cited documents for the first time, which I have used..."


There is also a substitution of notions with regard to pan-Turkism. Objectively, in the late 19th early 20th century the ideas of Pan-Turkism were developing in the same way as, for example, the ideas of the same Pan-Slavism. There was nothing surprising about this. The nascent national intelligentsia of individual Turkic, as well as individual Slavic peoples were looking for ways to further develop their nations in interaction primarily with peoples related by blood and language. The Tsarist intelligence mainly developed the "pan-Slavic" project. And it is understandable why, since the majority of the population of the Russian Empire were Slavs, including Russians. 


But there was also an understanding that by analogy, pan-Turkic ideas among Turkic peoples were inevitable. This is an objective process and it is useless to fight it. And if you can't fight it, then why not try to "lead" it, at least in that part which is under your power? In the Russian Empire, Turks made up to 20% of the population at that time. 


Similarly, Austria-Hungary had its own "pan-Slavic" movement among the Slavic peoples of that empire. And this movement was indeed led by "loyal subjects" of the Austrian authorities. But this does not mean at all that Pan-Slavism was a "project of Austrian intelligence. It was the same with the Russian empire and pan-Turkism. Especially because the idea of Turkic unity was not dominant in the Russian Empire. The idea of Slavic unity dominated there, and that was the reason Russia was dragged into the First World War (defending its "Slavic brothers" Serbs). And Turkic unity in any case led to the fact that it would be dominated by Turkey, most of whose population was composed of Turks, which the Russian Empire did not need at all.


Next, Stanislav Tarasov essentially repeats the myths of the "perestroika period" and the Armenian nationalists about "insidious Stalin" and again makes him the "author of the Great Turan project". The task is clearly an attempt to prove that, firstly, Azerbaijan is allegedly an "artificial state", which, supposedly, was created by "bad" Georgian Stalin. And everything was done to offend the "great and ancient Armenians": 


"...Modest Kohlerov: Any other important conclusions from your thesis, which has remained closed? Did the Bolsheviks in the footsteps of Vorontsov-Dashkov also perceive these developments of the Russian military intelligence?

Stanislav Tarasov: The issue of the Sovietisation of the Transcaucasus is also an unscripted fact. Lenin acknowledged and demanded the Sovietization of Azerbaijan, but with the attributes of an independent state. Because he needed oil and resources. As for Georgia and Armenia, Lenin was against sovietisation, and he believed that the Georgian Mensheviks should be left alone as one of the experimental reserves of Menshevik-type social democracy and through them, since the Second International, as you know, condemned the Bolsheviks, to go to the International and get the International to unblock Soviet Russia. He was giving Georgia to the West. As for Armenia - Armenia was Dashnak, the Dashnaks came to power, they maintained relations with Denikin, of course they got into trouble, they got into conflict. They were oriented towards the West, it was a purely pro-Western party. And Lenin thought let them go. And when the draft of the Sèvres Treaty of 1920 arose, Lenin was generally not against it. But what was going on at the top of the Central Committee? Stalin, in correspondence with Ordzhonikidze, states: "Sergo, if we are left without territory (Transcaucasia), Lev Davidovich will throw us out, the party does not need us as theorists. Lev Davidovich does not have a territory - he has an apparatus, a historical role - and we have a territory". Lev Davidovich was informed about this... He had good intelligence, tsarist military intelligence, he used it very strongly.

Modest Kohlerov: So, Stalin in his struggle against Trotsky decided to keep Transcaucasia as his territory for future struggle.

Stanislav Tarasov: Yes, they conducted sovietization of Transcaucasia. And what is more, they used - this moment is still a mystery - alliance with Ataturk, the project of creation of socialist Turan...

Modest Kohlerov: Yes, this is Trotskyist Red East.

Stanislav Tarasov: But the thing is the Turan project was being worked on by tsarist military intelligence service. And the task was to work off the project of Pan-Turkism to their own interests. I already have this document, where Russian resident writes: "The 20 million Turks living in the Russian Empire is the material with which we can conquer the East". That is to turn Turkism in the direction of Russia.

Modest KOLEROV: Has it been published, this document?

Stanislav Tarasov: It has not been published.

Modest Korolerov: Well, maybe we should publish it?

Stanislav Tarasov: Yes, I have it written out, the link. The idea was that Russia as a Turkic state, with 20 million Turks, could become the leader of the Turkic world. And by the way, this project was supported by Vorontsov-Dashkov. Pay attention, after the Sovietisation: the Soviet Socialist Republic of Armenia is inhabited by Armenians, with an official status; Georgia, Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic is inhabited by Georgians. But here, until 1932, in the Azerbaijani Soviet Socialist Republic the ethnos is Turks. Why Stalin refused to use the ethnonym "Azerbaijanis" until then? Why was there a common Turkic grammar? Why was pan-Turkic history being written? Because we nurtured a project until 1932 to create a single Turkic state. And what kind of a Turkic state? The Ottoman Empire, the Turks, and then joining Azerbaijan, the leader, and the Iranian Azeris on the southern underbelly. Here is the Vorontsov-Dashkov project...

Modest Kohlerov: Well, the Bolshevik project of creating a red Turan.

Stanislav Tarasov: The question came out, if you think logically, how did Stalin behave further? 1920s-1930s: Project of Red Kurdistan on the territory of Karabakh. After World War II: The Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan. Look at the experiments being conducted on the territory of Iran. Then in 1946, Turkey's territorial claims, there was a raging debate between the Communist Party Central Committee of Armenia and Georgia, a commission of academician Javakhishvili was set up, which specifically went to the territory of Eastern Anatolia, where the remains of Christian monuments were described...

Modest Kohlerov: But they have been traveling as far back as 1917.

Stanislav Tarasov: There were several expeditions.

Modest Kolelov: The first Georgian expedition to Turkey was back in 1916, under our occupation, and then in 1917.

Stanislav Tarasov: Yes, they were preparing for it. Georgians wrote that it was a Georgian monument, Armenians did not. The question is the following: this region was in uncertain geopolitical state. The borders on Araks until the collapse of the Soviet Union was never considered stable in terms of military logic. Never...".


First of all, when the "sovietisation" of the South Caucasus was taking place, Stalin's role in the leadership of the Bolsheviks (a "second order" figure at the time) was not comparable to that of Trotsky, who was actually in command of the Red Army. It is clear that as an ideological Bolshevik Stalin wanted to "sovetize" Georgia as well as Orjonikidze. But they could not particularly influence the position of Soviet Russia in this matter. At the same time, the role of Armenians in the Sovietization of Georgia was crucial (it was the Dashnaks who organized the Lori and Shulaveri uprisings and who "changed their colours" into "red rebels"). As a result of this sovietisation, Armenia received the Georgian lands - Lori. They also claimed Samtskhe-Javkheti, but the Bolsheviks decided that "it was too much".


Why the Bolsheviks at first supported "the red common Turkic project" (but nevertheless initially laid a "split line" in Zangezur), and then preferred to build separate Turkic "socialist" nations is also clear. Kemal Ataturk's Turkey was not a "supranational" Ottoman Empire. It was precisely a national state with a "Turkic" ideology, totally alien to the Bolshevik ideas of "world revolution". Understandably, the Bolsheviks did not really want to have an "ideological centre" of a totally non "red" Turkic project outside their sphere of influence.


As for South Azerbaijan or the "Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan", Stalin had indeed had a project to create a single Greater Azerbaijan after victory in the Great Patriotic War. All the more so because the Soviets had in fact occupied Northern Iran in 1941. But the Western "allies" were understandably against it.  "The Cold War began, we should recall, precisely because of Stalin's unwillingness to withdraw from Northern Iran (i.e. Southern Azerbaijan). 


Then the USSR had to yield to Western pressure, because it did not yet have nuclear weapons, while the Americans did. When the USSR got a nuclear bomb in 1949, South Azerbaijan was already lost and the Shah's government of Iran, with the help of the same U.S. and Britain, crushed the movement of the South Azerbaijanis in blood.  If South Azerbaijan had somehow managed to survive at least until 1949-50 (the time when the USSR obtained the nuclear weapon), world history may have moved in a different direction. In any case, despite the bloody war, in 1950-1953, North Korea was not surrendered by Stalin. Stalin did not surrender it.


Alexander Chkheidze

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