Azerbaijan remembers 1990 Soviet massacre
More than 200 people were killed and hundreds were wounded by the 26,000-strong Soviet army in and around Baku ahead of independence.
Emergency rule was declared and Soviet forces fired into crowds of protesters.
The power supply at Azerbaijan’s state television station was blown up, ending broadcasts. All the major roads, airports, train stations and ports were blocked.
The Kremlin was trying to prevent the breakup of the Soviet Union but the crackdown only strengthened the independence movement and Azerbaijan became a sovereign state on October 18, 1991.
The US established diplomatic relations in February 1992.
Steve Chabot, a US Congressman, marked the 30th anniversary.
His statement said: “In the Soviet brutality, more than 145 innocent civilians died, around 800 people were injured and hundreds were arrested.
“The Soviet crackdown was meant to smother the independence movement in Azerbaijan which was gaining momentum at the time. It proved to be a futile attempt to prop up the rule of the Communist Party, and really the whole Soviet Union. In fact, it had the opposite effect, further inflaming the independence movement and strengthening other such movements throughout the former Soviet Union.”
“I urge my colleagues to join me and the Azerbaijani people as they remember the events of Black January and celebrate that brutality cannot stifle the thirst for freedom.”
Azerbaijan’s ambassador to Turkey, Khazar Ibrahim, said: “The people of Azerbaijan, those who were in the streets, were massacred, for a very simple reason: they were demanding independence. They were demanding territorial integrity. They were demanding dignity for Azerbaijan.”
Today is the national mourning day when citizens head to the Alley of Martyrs (pictured) to pay their respects.
“It’s a day of sorrow, but at the same time, it’s a day of pride for us, because those who perished, they laid the ground for us to become independent. They showed the unbending will, will of the people of Azerbaijan to fight and always be together to require, to demand the right to be a member of the international community and always stay independent.
“It was not just gaining independence, it was a restoration of Azerbaijani republic, which we proudly established in 1918, which functioned for 23 months until 1920,” he said.
The Azerbaijani Democratic Republic declared independence from Tsarist Russia under Mehmet Emin Resulzade in May 1918 but was toppled after almost two years by the Soviets.
The Alley of Martyrs memorial in Baku. Picture credit: Flickr