This dissertation investigates the Imperial Russian and Soviet resettlement policies in the South Caucasus with a focus on Azerbaijan, and their implications for the ethno-territorial conflicts in the region. The periods of 1817-1840 as well as from 1878- 1914 during Russian Imperial rule are juxtaposed to the period of 1941-1953 of the Soviet administration in the South Caucasus. The selection of this time frame is based on the most active phases of the resettlement practices carried out by respective empires in the South Caucasian borderland. According to this time period, the most affected ethnic groups involved in the Russian-Soviet resettlement policies were Armenians, Azerbaijanis, Germans and Russians.
As a contribution to transhistorical studies, this dissertation seeks to find not only parallels and continuity between the resettlement policies of Imperial Russia and the Soviet Union, but also aims at analyzing the modalities and complexities of empire-building in the borderlands under investigation. Thus, the dissertation will focus on differences in methods and approaches employed by the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union as they had different ideologies in empire- and state-building, which subsequently affected their resettlement practices. The research examines the imperial tools employed for refashioning the population in the borderland, such as Christianization and the “civilizing mission” and their connection to resettlement practices. I argue that one overarching theme of the resettlement policies was consistent throughout the Tsarist and Soviet administrations – the extension of imperial power in the borderland despite declared goals of economic development or religious refashioning of the region.
The study advances a thesis that the Russian and Soviet resettlement policies emanated from similar geopolitical and security considerations in the South Caucasian borderland, and were aimed at changing the demographic composition of the region. In doing so, the Russian-Soviet administrations unevenly treated the ethnic groups involved in the resettlement projects and the local population which had inhabited the region prior to the Russian conquest in the beginning of the 19th century. The result of resettlement policies – coupled with Russian-Soviet rule – was one of the major factors causing the ethno-territorial conflict between Azerbaijanis and Armenians.