January 20: Nation marking courage of sons & daughters who ushered in long-awaited sovereignty
By Yusif Abbaszada
The formation of a nation and a nation-state is a lengthy and, at times, complex process that requires each individual to be determined, and courageous with a clear view of accomplishing holy missions.
Azerbaijan has been through thick and thin in its sacred journey of becoming a nation-state by undergoing huge and often unbearable tasks by bringing the day for which many bright figures of the nation struggled for years and centuries.
On the night of January 19-20, 1990, the military units of the former Soviet army entered the city of Baku, brutally massacring unarmed civilians who took to the streets to protest at the injustice of the central Soviet government vis-a-vis Azerbaijan as one of the 15 satellites of the then second empire.
As a result of the January 20 tragedy, 147 civilians were killed and 744 more were wounded and 841 people were arbitrarily arrested and taken away to unknown directions.
The tragedy left hundreds of residential buildings destroyed, causing material damage to the city residents and the national economy. The barbaric aggression of the Soviet army was met with anger and hatred across the republic by residents, who were calling for justice to be restored and for the Soviet troops pulled out of Baku and other regions of the country.
Mikhail Gorbachev, the then Secretary-General of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, who came to the leadership of the USSR in 1985, took an unfriendly policy towards Azerbaijan. Primarily, this was expressed in the fact that in the fall of 1987, Gorbachev achieved the removal of the then deputy chairman of the Council of Ministers of the USSR, Heydar Aliyev, from the Politburo of the CPSU Central Committee. Gorbachev was intimidated by Heydar Aliyev’s steadfast core and political influence. Aliyev’s dismissal let Gorbachev secure his position and have a free hand.
At the same time, the Armenian Dashnaks were plotting against Heydar Aliyev. With his removal, the Soviet government began to pursue a pro-Armenian policy, encouraging criminal formations in Armenia and Karabakh. Gorbachev's policy strengthened the separatism among Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh, who advocated the annexation of this territory to the then Armenian SSR.
All these ignited hatred of the Soviet government by the Azerbaijani people, who, in turn, kicked off the process of protests across the country. At that instant, the masks were off and the world saw all the crime and "democracy" of the Soviet government, built on blood and death. That day paved the way for the independence drive in Azerbaijan with no more fear of the central government. The nation’s struggle went on day by day and succeed in the demise of the Soviet empire.
Back then, what the people truly needed was a hero, whose mission they would follow and trust, and it was Heydar Aliyev who became that person. At this truly fateful hour for the republic, Heydar Aliyev's voice of protest sounded in Moscow.
Taking an incredible risk, and demonstrating unmatched courage, he became the people’s long-awaited light at the end of the tunnel. On January 21, a day after the tragedy that happened in Azerbaijan, Aliyev, together with his family members, came to the representation of Azerbaijan in Moscow, where by that time thousands of Azerbaijanis living and studying in Moscow had gathered. Here he made his famous brief speech, in which he called the decision of the top Soviet leadership to send troops to Baku "inhumane, anti-democratic and anti-constitutional" and demanded that "all those involved in the tragedy must be punished".
The fateful speech inspired every Azerbaijani man and woman, instilling in the nation the most important - confidence in freedom and sovereignty. In his appeal to the people, he did not pick up any epithets and words, the leader called a spade a spade, making it clear to the criminal Soviet leader that this would not go unpunished. Having challenged the crumpling system, national leader Heydar Aliyev became one with his people, regardless of the future consequences.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev annually commemorates the day with government officials by paying homage to those who sacrificed their lives for the freedom and future independence of the country. Holding the date in deep respect, Ilham Aliyev is doing everything to ensure that Azerbaijan continues to be a strong and sovereign state. The history of our country shows that our strength lies in the unity, sovereignty, and democracy of Azerbaijan
January 20, 2023, marks the 33rd anniversary of the bloody event, and the cruelty and scale of the crime committed still haunt the minds of those who were not yet born at that time. Our nation has had too many trials and tribulations through which we have passed with valor and courage without yielding holy principles. Looking at those who gave their lives for well-being, unity, and independence, we are obliged to prepare generations able to protect and secure the Land of Fire from any future threats and occupations, and judging by unfolding developments to this end, we can safely say that the mission is in secure and reliable hands.
Dear martyrs, rest in peace! Your services are cherished and will always be remembered with love and respect!
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