On Monday, the people of Azerbaijan marked the 30th anniversary of the Soviet Army’s invasion of Baku. The commemoration was held at the Embassy of Azerbaijan in Budapest.
Ambassador Vilayat Guliyev, who eye-witnessed the cruelty of the invading army 30 years ago, shared his memories from that tragic night. He noted that what happened in Baku on January 20, 1990, wasn’t anything new:
the Hungarian people lived through a similar tragedy in 1956.
Both events played the profound role in shaping national pride for the heroic resistance and forming collective memory. The ambassador emphasized that the communist regime succeeded killing many people and failed to achieve its main goal – to subdue and kneel the Hungarian and Azerbaijani peoples.
Eventually, both nations regained their freedom and independence, said Guliyev.
Azerbaijani students from Hungarian universities and their Hungarian friends attended the commemoration event. Actually, it was organized mostly by the students with the support of the embassy and the diasporal “Qardashliq” (Brotherhood) Hungarian-Azerbaijani Society. The program included reading patriotic poems, singing songs. The documentary with rare video recordings from the bloody night of January 20, 1990, was screened.
Mr. Ákos Pataki and Ms. Anjelika Takács addressed the Azerbaijani friends and expressed their sympathy and solidarity. They noted many common features in the bloodshed of Budapest and Baku.
By the end of the 1980s, the Soviet regime entered its death agony. The independence movements in the constituent republics, on the one hand, and violent ethnic separatism, on the other, coupled with the overall economic disaster, brought the 70-year-old communist empire to the edge of a total collapse. Armenia expelled the Azerbaijani population from its own territory and inspired separatism in the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. Refugees were arriving from Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh region every day.
Passiveness of Moscow and Gorbachov’s general indifference had galvanized the Azerbaijani society, which demanded from the central government either to enforce the Constitution to stop the Armenian invasion and ethnic cleansing or to give broader sovereignty to Baku which was ready to establish the rule of law in the separatist region on its own. Gorbachov’s response was sending the Soviet troops to… Baku, instead of Armenia. The operation that killed 141 unarmed residents of Baku just in one night of January 20 was supposed to send a warning message to all other republics, and first of all to the three Baltic republics: Moscow was fully ready to brutally suppress any independence aspirations and it would never allow exit from the USSR, even at the cost of a bloodshed.
However, it was a terrible miscalculation and the effect was exactly the opposite: by killing its own people, the Soviet regime, in fact, signed its own death verdict.
Those skeptical about leaving the USSR and considering an independent Azerbaijan something “unreal” and “unthinkable” changed their mind overnight: in the morning after the massacre, it was rather the further remaining of Azerbaijan within the Soviet Empire that turned for them to be “unthinkable”, than what they believed the day earlier.
Heroes and martyrs of 1956 and 1990 shall never be forgotten! They sacrificed their lives for our freedom.
Written by Parvana Garayeva