Azerbaijan International

Winter 1999 (7.4)
Page 18

Black January Events
Heydar Aliyev's Speech - January 21, 1990



Above left: Tanks in the streets outside the citadel gates of the Old City of Baku. January 1990.
Right: The agony of Black January when hundreds of civilians in Baku were killed by Soviet troops. Carnations became the symbol of mourning. At Shahidlar Khiyabani (Martyr's Cemetery, 1990.
Photos by Reza.

Aliyev was in retirement in Moscow when the tragic events of
Black January took place in Baku (January 19-20, 1990). On January 21, 1990, while the troops were still in Baku, Aliyev met with the leaders of the Permanent Representation of Azerbaijan in Moscow, seeking to have them convey his condolences to the Azerbaijani people. Aliyev was not permitted to return to Baku a few days later to attend the funeral of the victims of the massacre.

Dear Compatriots, Ladies and Gentlemen,

As you know, I served as First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Azerbaijan Communist Party and the First Deputy Chairman of the USSR Council of Ministers for many years. I was also a member of the Politburo. Then I had a heart attack [1987]. For the past two years, I have been in retirement because of my illness.

I have been informed about the events that occurred yesterday in Baku and, of course, I cannot be indifferent to them. I want to express my condolences to the Azerbaijan nation for the tragedy that has resulted in great numbers of casualties.

In regard to the events that have occurred in Azerbaijan, I consider them illegal, hostile to democracy and totally contradictory to the principles of human rights and the establishment of a legitimate nation [USSR]. . . .

Already two years have passed since the conflict began between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno - Karabakh. Two years should have been sufficient time for Azerbaijan to settle this problem and to put an end to internal and national conflicts, and to create conditions for independent life in the USSR for every citizen regardless of their nationality.

If, in the early stages of Karabakh problem, the party leaders of Republic had taken appropriate steps, the tension would not have escalated. . . and the parties would not have suffered so many casualties. What is more important is that there would not have been this massacre of January 19-20, 1990. . . .

Unfortunately, Azerbaijan government leaders as well as the Supreme Political leaders did not use such opportunities. It would have been possible to stop the encroachment of our borders [between Azerbaijan and Armenia] had it been done in time. Three months ago, the people put forward their demands regarding the borders. But nobody wanted to meet with them, to take their problem seriously. . . .

Let me repeat. It would have been possible to calm the people down. If the question of strengthening the party leaders of Azerbaijan had been considered, the situation would not have become tense, and it would not have been necessary for the army to enter. I think that there were many chances to control the situation from a political point of view. But these chances were not used, and the Soviet Army and a large contingent of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the USSR invaded Baku.

The result is obvious. We are all aware of the tragedies that have resulted. I consider this a political error. Yes, a political blunder has been committed. Authorities simply could not evaluate the real political situation in Republic. Nor did they know the psychology of Azerbaijani people as there were weak relations with various strata of the population. It seems that they did not realize that this would result in tragedy.

But all this should have been taken into account earlier and necessary steps should have been taken. The army invaded the city and innocent people died. . . . All those who were involved in wreaking this havoc on our country must be brought to justice.

From "Gatiyyatin Tantanasi"
(Triumph of Determination) Baku, 1995 (Azeri Cyrillic), pages 31-34.

Azerbaijan International (7.4) Winter 1999.
© Azerbaijan International 1999. All rights reserved.

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