The Kremlin today installed an Armenian as the Communist Party chief of a disputed territory in a bid to end ethnic protests in Soviet Armenia that a dissident said involved up to 200,000 people.
Protesters in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, want the Nagorno-Karabakh region in neighboring Azerbaijan turned over to Armenia, smallest of the Soviet Union's 15 republics.
Yerevan was the scene Tuesday and today of industrial strikes, school boycotts and public demonstrations said to be the largest in the Soviet Union's 70-year history.
In a dispatch tonight marked "urgent," the official press agency Tass said the regional party organization named a 56-year-old Armenian, Genrikh Pogosyan, party leader in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Steps to Restore Order
While Tass specified that Pogosyan was Armenian and in fact was born in Nagorno-Karabakh, it did not specify the nationality of his predecessor. The surname of the former leader, Boris Kevorkov, indicates that he is Russian or Azeri.
Tass also said party leaders plan to take all necessary steps to restore order in Yerevan, effectively declaring an end to the dispute.
The demonstrations today and Tuesday were the latest in a recent burst of ethnic conflicts in a huge nation that stretches from Europe through Asia and encompasses more than 100 nationalities, under a central government dominated by ethnic Russians.
Paruyr Ayrikyan, an Armenian activist who spent 17 years in labor camps and internal exile for national activities, said 200,000 people gathered today in the central square of Yerevan.
'We Want a Session!'
He said they chanted "We want a session!" to demand a special meeting of the republic's legislature to decide whether Nagorno-Karabakh should become Armenian.
Western reporters were unable to travel immediately to Yerevan, and telephone contact with the region was only intermittently successful.
About 150,000 people, most of them Armenians, live in the disputed region of the Caucasus Mountains, which has 1,760 square miles and is smaller than Delaware. Annexation would increase Armenia's area by about 14% and its population, currently about 3.4 million, by about 4%.
The Communist Party Central Committee in Moscow declared recently that Nagorno-Karabakh should remain part of Azerbaijan. That caused Armenian protests and began an argument about whether the party has the right to decide such issues.