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History, The Soviet Period

Armenian people, Armenian Apostolic Church, Great Purge, death of Stalin, Armenian Church

Armenian nationalists entered a political agreement with the Bolsheviks in December 1920, forming a new coalition government that then proclaimed Armenia a socialist republic. In an agreement signed the same month, Bolshevik-controlled Azerbaijan agreed to make the territories of Naxc?van and Nagorno-Karabakh part of Armenia. In early 1921 the Bolsheviks took complete control of the government, expelling the Armenian nationalists. Together with Georgia and Azerbaijan, which had also come under Bolshevik control, Armenia was incorporated into the Transcaucasian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic (SFSR) in March 1922. In December the Transcaucasian SFSR became one of the four original republics of the Bolsheviks’ new state, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Despite the earlier agreement, the Soviet authorities placed the territories of Naxc?van and Nagorno-Karabakh under Azerbaijani governance.

The new Soviet Communist regime sought to neutralize nationalist sentiment in Armenia. The ARF was outlawed in 1923, and the Armenian Communist Party was the only party allowed to function. Leaders of the Armenian Church were persecuted, churches were closed, and church property was confiscated. Beginning in the late 1920s many Armenian nationalists and others suspected of opposing the Soviet regime were executed or deported to labor camps. The purges intensified in the mid- and late 1930s, when the Great Purge masterminded by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin extended throughout the entire Soviet Union. Also in the mid-1930s the Soviet regime banned literature by 19th-century Armenian authors, such as Hakob Melik-Hakobian (pen name, Raffi).

The Soviet regime also implemented policies to fully integrate and centralize the economy of the Soviet Union. Armenia soon became one of the USSR’s primary sources of copper. During the 1930s new industries such as chemical-manufacturing plants were rapidly introduced in Armenia, while private farms were forcibly combined into large state-owned farms. The collectivization of agriculture met with fierce resistance among the peasantry, which initially slowed the process. By 1936, however, the revolts were largely subdued by force. That year the Transcaucasian republic was dismantled, and Armenia became the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR) within the USSR.

Soviet authorities began to allow some leniency in the cultural sphere during World War II (1939-1945). The Communist government, although officially atheistic, called upon the Armenian Apostolic Church to rally the Armenian people behind the Soviet war cause. Some expressions of nationalism were tolerated, especially after the death of Stalin in 1953. However, substantial political and social reforms did not take place until several decades later.

Article key phrases:

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