Black January - Azerbaijan's path to independence
By Abdul Kerimkhanov
Azerbaijanis mark the 30th anniversary of the Black January, meaning the killing of Azerbaijani civilians when Soviet troops took to the streets of Azerbaijan on the night leading to January 20, 1990 to crash the making of Azerbaijan’s independence. Operation Strike (Udar) Union killed over hundred Azerbaijani civilians.
A few hours before the deployment of troops, the power unit of the Azerbaijani television was blown up, which cut off information communications both within the country and with the outside world. All major highways, airports, train stations and the seaport were blocked.
Soviet troops totaling 40,000 people began to fire at civilians without warning. During a large-scale military operation, 147 Azerbaijani civilians were killed, 800 people were injured and five people went missing.
The massacre marked the beginning of the end of the Soviet rule and served as a trumpeter for the national awakening movement in Azerbaijan. People were shocked that the Soviet Union could turn against them and kill them. Countless number of people started renouncing their Communist Party membership and some even burnt their party membership cards publicly. The crackdown on Baku residents was carried out after Heydar Aliyev was dismissed from his position in the political bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
In 1995 Gorbachev apologized to Azerbaijan by stating: "The declaration of a state emergency in Baku was the biggest mistake of my political career."
It’s worth mentioning that Armenian armed forces, taking advantage of the critical situation in Baku, on the night of January 19 to 20, occupied the village of Karki of Azerbaijan’s Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic (NAR) and also attacked the village of Sadarak in Nakhchivan. Heavy Armenian artillery shelled other Azerbaijani villages in Nakhchivan causing civilian casualties.
The horrors of January 1990 failed to break the will of the Azerbaijani people and their desire for freedom. If anything, it made them stronger and more united.
Today, 30 years after the shocking massacre, thousands of people visit the Alley of Martyrs to pay their tributes by laying flowers and paying their tribute to the Azerbaijani heroes who gave their lives for their country’s independence.
Abdul Kerimkhanov is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow him on Twitter: @AbdulKerim94
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