Islamabad, 19 January 2022 (TDI): Embassy of Azerbaijan to Pakistan, Institute of Regional Studies, and Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology Islamabad hosted a Seminar on “20th January 1990 – Bloody and Glorious page of Azerbaijan’s history” dedicated to the January 20 Martyrs of Azerbaijan at the Institute of Regional Studies.
While speaking on the occasion Khazar Farhadov, Ambassador of Azerbaijan to Pakistan said that the day of January 20 will live forever in the memory of Azerbaijanis. This day has become not only a tragedy but also a symbol of unshakable will in the name of national independence, freedom of the Azerbaijani people.
Ambassador has highlighted the significance of the day by saying that the reasons for the January tragedy go deep into history, beginning from the territorial claims of Armenians against Azerbaijan.
Tragic events began when Baku residents came out to protest against the policy pursued by the then USSR leader Mikhail Gorbachev, since Armenian nationalists demanded joining the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous region of Azerbaijan to Armenia.
Highlighting the historical past, Ambassador said that back in 1987 the Armenian academics and official figures claimed to the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan and conducted propaganda in this direction.
Taking advantage of the Soviet Union’s last leader, Mikhail Gorbachev’s reconstruction policy, Armenians once again resumed their insidious policy towards Azerbaijan.
Then, the Soviet government had an intention to realize the Armenian policy by diplomatic means in 1988 but failed because millions of Azerbaijanis headed to the streets to protest Armenian aggression and separatist forces fueling unrest in the ancient land of Azerbaijan — the mountainous Karabakh region.
Azerbaijani people launched the square movement to defend their rights and motherland. Indeed, the Central government sent military forces to suppress the national movement and even crushed the protestors by force. But that was temporary. Azerbaijanis were determined to protect their territorial integrity and did not step back, showing their sacrifice and vigor for national freedom.
20th January Tragedy
Ambassador has explained to the audience about the fateful events of the 20th of January. He said that the protests received totally inadequate answers — the Soviet troops committed unimaginable atrocities in Baku from the late hours of January 19 into January 20.
In 1990, the night of January 19 to 20, the former Soviet military troops attacked Baku by the land and sea and carried out the punitive measures with unprecedented cruelty. As a result of this accident, 147 innocent civilians including the children, women, and the old were killed, 744 wounded, and 841 were illegally arrested.
The terrorist savagery attack of the Soviet army against the Azerbaijani people, carried out by the order of USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev was written in the history of mankind in black letters as one of the worst crimes committed against humanity.
During the 20 January tragedy, the news was put under a blockade in the country, a power block of radio and television was brutally exploded by armed militants, the media was banned. The aim was to make the people unaware of this terrible tragedy.
Heydar Aliyev statement on 20th January
Immediately after the tragedy, on January 21, 1990, Heydar Aliyev, the National Leader of Azerbaijan arrived in Azerbaijan’s representation in Moscow. President Heydar Aliyev expressed solidarity with his people, sharply condemned the Soviet leadership for committing the bloody tragedy, and exposed those who led the operation:
The great Azerbaijani leader said “I consider the events that took place in Azerbaijan as a violation of law, democracy, and of humanity and the principles of constitutional state-building. Had necessary measures been taken by the top party leadership at the beginning of the Nagorno-Karabakh events, we would not have faced escalated tensions that led to the deadly military assault launched on civilians on the night of 19 – 20 January 1990. Everyone involved in this crime must be appropriately punished.”
Ambassador of Azerbaijan shared the statement made by the President of Azerbaijan National Leader Heydar Aliyev at a session of the Milli Majlis of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic on November 20, 1990, describing the January tragedy as an assault on the Azerbaijani people’s sovereign rights: “I think this tragedy, which took place on January 19-20, is a result of the great fault of the political leadership of the Soviet Union, namely Gorbachev and his dictatorial ambitions, as well as of the then Azerbaijani leadership’s betrayal and crimes against their own people.
As I know, since the end of the Great Patriotic war there have never been internal mass killings of this gravity in the Soviet Union – nowhere, not in any territory of any region. And it is the Soviet army that committed this. The gravity of this crime is evidenced by the fact that the Minister of Defense of USSR Yazov and Minister of Internal Affairs of the USSR Bakatin came to Baku in advance and commanded these military operations.
The defense minister was rarely seen on the forefront during the war, but look just how important these operations were deemed, how large-scale they were considered, that marshal Yazov came to Baku and personally led the operations. All of these facts confirm that this was military aggression, an insult, as well a crime against the Azerbaijani people”.
The aftermath of 20th January Tragedy
In 1993, after the return of the National Leader Heydar Aliyev to political power, important steps were taken on the investigation of the causes of the outbreak of the January 20 events and the sentence of the offenders.
The significant measures were implemented in informing the world community about the 20 January tragedy, its place and role in the history of Azerbaijan, and the perpetuation of this tragedy.
Though the Azerbaijani people suffered military, moral, and political aggression, they displayed their ability to maintain the traditions of historical heroism and resist the cruelest attacks for the sake of the freedom and independence of their motherland, even at the cost of losing their lives.
The seminar was attended by a large number of students, faculty members, members of the civil society from different walks of life.