Author: Natig NAZIMOGHLU
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the tragedy that went down in history as Black January. It became an important milestone in the modern history of Azerbaijan, a milestone that made a turning point in the consciousness of Azerbaijanis, who sacrificed a lot to gain freedom and independence.
The Baku massacre
On the night of January 20, 1990, military troops from various regions of the then Soviet Union entered the capital of Azerbaijan, Baku. The military operation initiated and led by the heads of the Soviet power structures involved large groups of ground, naval and air troops, as well as special forces of the KGB and the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
Although the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet declared the state of emergency in Baku on January 19, 1990, its introduction and curfew was officially announced only seven hours after the entry of the troops. By that time, dozens of innocent people had already been killed. In total, the punitive operation of the Soviet troops in Baku and the regions of Azerbaijan took the lives of more than 170 people of different ages, nationalities, and confessions, while over 800 people were injured and over 100 were missing.
By the way, the operation was carried out without coordination with the Presidium of the Supreme Council of Azerbaijan SSR, that is with gross violation of constitutions of the USSR and Azerbaijan SSR, as well as the Constitutional Law on the sovereignty of the republic.
Heydar Aliyev, who had been removed from the top leadership of the Soviet Union and persecuted by the then President of the USSR Mikhail Gorbachev, made a number of statements from Moscow to defend his people. On January 21, he visited the Permanent Mission of Azerbaijan in Moscow and openly accused the Soviet government, the ruling Communist Party and Gorbachev personally of committing a crime against the Azerbaijani people.
The main reason for the January tragedy was that the Soviet government decided to crush the people of Azerbaijan and to use all available resources to prevent Azerbaijan’s imminent withdrawal from the USSR. But it is important to keep in mind that the events that took place in Baku and other cities of Azerbaijan had both a national liberation and a democratic orientation. The people took to the streets to protect their national identity and to get rid of the shackles of totalitarianism. By the end of the Soviet empire, Azerbaijan has become one of the epicentres of genuine democratic movement, driven by the aspirations of freedom and democracy. It was a mass rally free of any influential political or financial resources from the outside. Millions of Azerbaijanis demanded the protection of their rights and freedoms. But the first, fundamental demand was the protection of Karabakh from Armenian aggression.
Undoubtedly, the movement for the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan was the background of all the socio-political processes that took place in Azerbaijan in the late 1980s and early 1990s. By January 1990, the people of Azerbaijan had finally understood that the Union was incapable and did not even bother protecting it from the invasion of Armenian nationalists. It became obvious that it was the Armenian nationalist movement that had undermined the international peace in the USSR—the main guarantor of co-existence of a huge multinational power in the Union—courtesy of Mikhail Gorbachev and his entourage. By promoting Armenian separatism, the Kremlin gave consent—voluntarily or involuntarily—to the collapse of a common single state, where everything was based upon internationalism and nothing seemed foretell the 'battle of the peoples". The treacherous policy of the Soviet leadership led by Mikhail Gorbachev convinced the Azerbaijanis that they did not have to wait for help at a crucial historical moment when they had to choose between the life and death.
Another important reason for the tragedy was the actual betrayal of the leadership of the Azerbaijan SSR, which did not make the necessary efforts to prevent the monstrous bloodshed. As well as the irresponsibility of certain representatives of the Azerbaijani popular movement, who considered themselves the leaders of the movement. They were completely unprepared—neither morally nor intellectually—to fulfil this mission though.
An external factor had also played an instrumental role in the crimes against Azerbaijan 30 years ago. Not only was the Soviet government, who tried to preserve the empire by all means seeing a direct threat to its goals in rebellious Azerbaijan, interested in the defeat of the national liberation and democratic movement, but also those who tried to ensure the collapse of the Soviet Union as soon as possible. The West was objectively interested in tragedies like the one in Baku, as it pursued the goal of splitting the USSR by providing support to power circles shaking the country from the inside. That is why none of the states of the so-called 'free world' did condemn the military operation in Baku, while Gorbachev, who is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Azerbaijanis, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize at the end of the 1990s.
Undoubtedly, the Armenian Diaspora has also played an instrumental role in the January tragedy, having created the malicious image of Azerbaijan and ensured information blockade in the country. Even 30 years after those terrible events, Armenia and its patrons are trying to present Azerbaijan as the culprit of the Black January. By manipulating historical facts, misinterpreting and falsifying them, the Armenian invaders are trying to justify their criminal policies against Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan speaks the truth
On the eve of the 30th anniversary of the Black January events, Armenia launched a political propaganda campaign to convince the world community that the Soviet troops allegedly entered Baku to put an end to the 'Armenian pogroms'. President of Armenia, Armen Sargsyan, in his message related to the events of January 1990, stated that "the pogroms of Armenians in Baku are a consequence of the anti-Armenian policy of Azerbaijan." Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan made a similar statement "on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the pogroms of Armenians in Baku". As well, a number of Armenian politicians have decided to "hold Azerbaijan accountable at the international level." The ombudsman of the so-called “Nagorno-Karabakh Republic", Artak Beglaryan, said that "the Soviet army stopped the massacre of Armenians lasting seven days, overcoming the fierce resistance of the troops of the National Front of Azerbaijan". The "human rights defender" not only misinterprets the facts blasphemously, representing peaceful Azerbaijanis as the "troops” of the never-existing National Front of Azerbaijan (the organization was called the Popular Front of Azerbaijan). He does not even bother about the fate of hundreds of thousands of peaceful Azerbaijanis, who were killed or expelled from their native lands by Armenian occupiers. Beglaryan dares to accuse Azerbaijan of "racial hatred of Armenians".
Armenian leaders deliberately hush up a number of facts that directly prove the guilt of Armenia and Armenian nationalists in unleashing bloody hostility between the two peoples, the ongoing Karabakh war.
First, the first blood in the conflict was shed on the territory of the Armenian SSR. This happened before the beginning of the active phase of the Karabakh conflict, at the end of 1987, when Armenian nationalists brutally killed hundreds of Azerbaijanis in Gafan, Gugark and other areas of the Armenian SSR. With the first separatist demands in the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Republic of the Azerbaijan SSR calling for the annexation of Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia, more than 200 thousand Azerbaijanis, the last representatives of the indigenous population of the region, were expelled from Armenian SSR - the ancestral Azerbaijani lands of Iravan, Goycha, Zangezur. In late 1987, the first Azerbaijani refugees from Armenia appeared in Baku, Sumgait and other cities of Azerbaijan.
Against the background of complete inaction of the authorities, the situation soon led to great troubles for the Azerbaijani people, threatening the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. In response to these challenges, a popular movement emerged with demands to ensure the security of Azerbaijanis and the sovereignty of the republic. To justify the need to suppress the increasingly popular Azerbaijani popular movement, the Armenian nationalists and their patrons in the USSR provoked the so-called "pogroms of Armenians" in Baku in January 1990. The first monstrous practice of this kind was tested in Sumgayit in February 1988. The fact that the pogroms in Sumgayit were led by Armenian nationalists has long been proven by the investigating authorities.
Gorbachev’s attempts to justify his decision to send troops to Baku allegedly to "protect the Armenian population", as well as similar statements by the Armenian side encouraging the punitive operation in Baku on January 20, 1990, are void and thoroughly saturated with lies and hypocrisy. If the Union were to protect the Armenians, its troops would have entered Baku a week earlier, when violent actions provoked in the city against the Armenians took place. But they entered the moment when it became clear that the Soviet regime in Azerbaijan was going through the last days. In this sense, the events of January 20 are not only a tragedy, but also a demonstration of the heroism of the Azerbaijani people. And the Soviet regime has thrown all its power to suppress it.
As for the attempts of the Armenian leadership to blame Azerbaijan, they are absolutely meaningless. Indeed, no one will be able to erase the truth and irrefutable facts from history - the instigator and perpetrator of the Karabakh conflict, which has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people on both sides, is Armenia. No excuses of the former and current leaders of the aggressor country can hide the truth...
In this context, it is worth quoting the statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan: "Armenia is engaged in provocative propaganda regarding the events of January 1990 in order to conceal the long-standing genocide against the civilian population of Azerbaijan, the ethnic cleansing policy, and the brutal killing of 613 civilians in Khojaly in one night. Instead of unsubstantiated accusations of Azerbaijan, the Armenian Foreign Ministry should pay attention to its own history, recognise the policy of ethnic cleansing, which was personally approved by the former president of Armenia, a gross violation of the fundamental rights of hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijanis, as well as the occupation policy that it has been pursuing for many years despite strong condemnation by the international community."