Armenian Area Is Put Under Moscow Rule

Times Staff Writer

The Soviet government announced Saturday that the troubled enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh will now be governed directly from Moscow in an effort to avoid further ethnic tension between Armenians and Azerbaijanis.

A decree published Saturday by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, the highest organ of the state, placed rule for the region in the hands of a committee headed by Kremlin envoy Arkady I. Volsky, who was appointed the government’s trouble-shooter on Nagorno-Karabakh last July.

Seventy-eight people have died in ethnic violence between Armenians and Azerbaijanis since early last year as the enclave’s majority Armenians, who are Christian, pressed for its inclusion in the Soviet republic of Armenia. The enclave has officially been designated an autonomous region within Azerbaijan since 1923. Azerbaijan’s citizens are mostly Muslim.

The Kremlin move, which dissolves all local government in Nagorno-Karabakh, appeared likely to be applauded by many Armenians, according to Western diplomats. While not meeting their full demand for annexation by Armenia, it at least takes government rule away from Baku, capital of Azerbaijan.


The Presidium decree said that the step was taken “in connection with the persistent strain in inter-ethnic relations in Nagorno-Karabakh and around it with a view to preventing their further aggravation and to stabilizing the situation in the region.”

Power Over Local Bodies

According to the decree, which was made public by the Tass news agency, the “special administration committee” headed by Volsky will be accountable directly to the authorities in Moscow, and Volsky will wield executive powers of the local bodies.

The committee has the right to suspend the activities of local governing bodies as well as “independently acting associations if they run counter to the constitution and legislation of the U.S.S.R. or, if necessary, dissolve them.”

This appeared to be a direct reference to the Armenian Karabakh Committee, which has had a direct hand in organizing demonstrations aimed at forcing the authorities to transfer Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia. Many of its leaders have already been arrested on charges of violating public order.

Although advance word said the new measure would be temporary, the published decree did not indicate how long rule by the special administrative committee would last.

The committee will apparently take control of all aspects of daily life in Nagorno-Karabakh, including education, industry, and administrative bodies. In a previous effort to meet the demands of the enclave’s residents, the authorities had offered to increase facilities for the teaching of the Armenian language.

Violence in the area flared in November and December, causing tens of thousands of people to flee their homes in both Armenia and Azerbaijan to join their co-religionists.

The eruption of violence in Armenia led many analysts to conclude that questions of nationalities could be among the most troubling problems now emerging for the Soviet leadership, with unrest also reported in the Baltic states of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia.