Azernews.-2016.- January 20.-¹5.-P. 2.

 

Black January, day of mourning, national pride

 

By Amina Nazarli

 

Twenty five years have passed since the January events of 1990 which has been written with black blood in the history of Azerbaijan.

The collective punishment of people aspiring to gain independence from the Soviet empire after 70 years of subordination was brutal and unprecedented.

Thousands of people were marching on the central square (now Azadliq or Freedom Square) and on the streets of Baku to struggle for the ideals of freedom, independence and sovereignty to preserve the nation's territorial integrity.

During an operation which began from January 19th night and continued into January 20th, 26,000 hostile and aggressive-minded Soviet special forces called "Alfa" entered Baku and committed atrocities against the Azerbaijani people. They stormed and murdered hundreds of civilians without declaring a state of emergency.

They also began to open fire on protesters crushing many of them with tanks, and arrested hundreds more for imprisonment and torture. The invasion was launched at midnight. It was committed with brutality. Even children, women and the elderly were targeted.

Though the final death toll is still disputed to this day, at least 130 people died from wounds received during the subsequent violent confrontations. A vast majority of the casualties were civilians, with over 700 of them wounded.

Baku residents with indomitable and unwavering will to freedom marched through the main streets of the city under the muzzles of guns to bury the dead. The country stood still for 40 days, mourning the victims, and protesting the bloody suppression.

The tragic event marked a turning point in the history of Azerbaijan’s independence from the Soviet Union and revealed the strong determination of the people to build their own independent country.

The day went into the history as the Day of Remembrance of the totalitarian regime victims. The people of Azerbaijan commemorate the victims every year, laying fresh flowers at a memorial at the Alley of Martyrs on January 20.

Mourning for the martyrs, Azerbaijanis at the same time are proud of those who sacrificed themselves for the independence of their homeland. With their blood, they entered the heroic, glorious page of the history of Azerbaijan.

Use of force in Baku reflected a desperate attempt of the former Soviet leaders to stop the dissolution of Communist rule in Azerbaijan. The Soviet Army had been sent to do everything in their power to keep Azerbaijan under the thumb of the government in Moscow. Their efforts proved useless, because just 20 months later, on October 18, 1991, the Azerbaijan parliament declared their independence.

A report by Human Rights Watch titled “"Black January in Azerbaijan" states: "Among the most heinous violations of human rights during the Baku incursion were the numerous attacks on medical personnel, ambulances and even hospitals."

”The report concluded that: “"Indeed the violence used by the Soviet Army on the night of January 19-20...constitutes an exercise in collective punishment... The punishment inflicted on Baku by Soviet soldiers may have been intended as a warning to nationalists, not only in Azerbaijan, but in other Republics of the Soviet Union."