By Ruslan Rehi̇mov
BAKU (AA) - People in Azerbaijan commemorated the victims, including women and children, massacred by the Soviet army in Baku and other provinces on Jan. 20, 1990.
Despite the past 30 years, the massacre, still fresh in the hearts of all Azerbaijanis -- and named as Black January in history -- was an important turning point for the country to gain its independence after 70 years of Soviet captivity.
The Upper Karabakh issue lays the ground of the Black January events that fueled the feeling of independence in Azerbaijanis and accelerated the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Since 1988, the Armenians increased their activities to break off the Upper Karabakh area from Azerbaijan, and in December 1989, the Supreme Council of the Armenian Soviet Republic decided to annex Upper Karabakh to Armenia.
Azerbaijan reacted to the decision with demonstrations held in Baku with hundreds of thousands of people. The people of Azerbaijan flocked to Azadliq (Independence) Square in Baku to protest the Soviet government and the Armenians' increasing demands for land.
Continuing demonstrations disturbed the Soviet management and a decision was made to deploy an army in Baku. The people blocked the city's entrance roads and shut the front of military units in Baku.
First, on Jan. 19, 1990, the energy provider of Azerbaijani television was blasted by the Soviet intelligence. In the evening hours, the Soviet army of 26,000 troops with armored vehicles entered Baku from five directions.
The Soviet army entered the city by shooting the unarmed civilians who tried to stop them. Tanks and heavy armored vehicles were driven over people, while fire was opened at ambulances and passenger buses. That night, 130 civilians lost their lives in Baku.
The Soviet army continued its massacre in other cities such as Neftcala and Lenkeran in the southern parts of the country, and a total of 147 Azerbaijani civilians became victims of the Jan. 20 massacre. Some 744 people were injured in the incidents, and about 400 people were detained by the Soviet army.
Although the state of emergency was declared by the Soviet administration in Baku, and the city was completely controlled by the Soviet army, people went out to the streets again to bury the martyrs.
The martyrs were buried in Dagustu (Highland) Park -- which was turned into a park in the Soviet times -- next to the graves of Azerbaijanis who lost their lives as a result of the attacks of the Armenians on March 31, 1918. The funerals were gathered in the Azadliq Square, from where they were taken on the people's shoulders to the cemetery, now called the Alley of Martyrs. About 1 million people accompanied the funerals.
The Black January massacre shook the confidence of Azerbaijani people in the Soviet administration, and the process leading to the country's independence began.
For the last 30 years, Azerbaijanis have been flocking to the martyrdom cemetery with carnations, which have become the symbols of Jan. 20 victims, and showing their gratitude to those who burned the fire of independence.
- Upper Karabakh conflict
Upper Karabakh is the internationally recognized territory of Azerbaijan illegally occupied by Armenia through military aggression since 1991.
Four UN Security Council and two General Assembly resolutions, as well as decisions by many other international organizations, refer to this fact and demand withdrawal of the occupational Armenian forces from Upper Karabakh and seven other occupied regions of Azerbaijan.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe refers to the region as being occupied by Armenian forces.
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk group -- co-chaired by France, Russia and the U.S. -- was formed to find a peaceful solution to the conflict, but has not reached any results yet.
* Writing by Jeyhun Aliyev from Ankara.