Azerbaijan commemorates martyrs of 20 January
As every year, the people of Azerbaijan will commemorate the 31st anniversary of the bloody events of January 20, 1990. This history is one of the grave tragedies of our people and at the same time the heroic page of our history.
In the late 1980s, the former USSR (United Soviet Socialist Republics) was on the verge of collapse. Economic and ideological decline, improper implementation of reforms, and mismanagement further accelerated the collapse of the empire. The sharp drop in world oil prices, which formed the basis of the USSR’s economy, had a deadly effect on the country’s economy.
During that time, territorial claims against Azerbaijan were made by neighbouring Armenia SSR, by the Armenians living in the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region, which was established in Azerbaijan SSR by the USSR leadership after the occupation in 1920.
The USSR leadership turned a blind eye to the arbitrariness of the Armenians and their policy of ethnic cleansing against the Azerbaijani people. In 1987-1989, more than 250,000 Azerbaijanis were expelled from their ancestral lands in Armenia. They still demanded the annexation of Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia.
The people of Azerbaijan protested against all the injustices. Beginning in February 1988, people began to protest at mass rallies. The leadership continued to support Armenia, which further inflamed the protests.
On 20 January, 1990, at the order of the USSR leadership, the Soviet Army committed the January 20 tragedy in Azerbaijan’s capital of Baku in order to keep the communist regime in power and stifle the awakening that was becoming a strong national liberation movement. According to official estimates of Azerbaijan 147 civilians were killed, 800 people were injured, 841 people were illegally arrested and five people went missing.
At that time, nationwide leader of Azerbaijan people late Heydar Aliyev, living in Moscow, visited the Azerbaijani representation in Moscow, held a press conference and expressed his strong protest against the events without fear and hesitation. It was a demonstration of cruelty by the leadership against its own people. It was also a sign of misguided political thinking. In the United States and the United Kingdom news media outlets carried reports on the atrocities during ‘Black January’.
After this tragedy, the people of Azerbaijan began to openly demand independence. A state of emergency was declared in the country until mid-1991. On 30 August 1991, the Supreme Soviet of Azerbaijan, based on the Constitutional Law of 23 September, 1989, declared the restoration of state independence declared by the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan in 1918. Finally, on 18 October, 1991, the session of the Supreme Soviet of Azerbaijan adopted a historic document – the Constitutional Act on State Independence.
The martyrs of 20 January were buried in the most beautiful Mountainous Park in Baku, and this place is now called the Alley of Martyrs. The red carnation flower given to the lovers in Azerbaijan became a symbol of mourning in memory of the martyrs after that day.
We would like to emphasize once again that extremism has never existed in Azerbaijan. Throughout history, Azerbaijan has been a tolerant country where different religions and peoples lived and live now in peace and friendship. Today, the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, successfully continues this policy. Monuments of all divine religions are protected and repaired in our country. Representatives of all nations are proud to be citizens of Azerbaijan and proved in the last Karabakh war that they are ready to sacrifice their lives for the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan if necessary.
In September-November of 2020, during the ‘44 Days War’, the Republic of Azerbaijan took confident steps to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, restored its territorial integrity and implemented four UN Security Council resolutions (822, 853, 874, 884) at the cost of the lives and blood of Azerbaijani soldiers. Unfortunately, the diplomatic talks mediated 28-years by the OSCE Minsk Group have not yielded positive results due to Armenia’s unconstructive position and the lack of necessary international pressure on the aggressor.
Martyrs will never die, the homeland will never be divided! We bow before the souls of our martyrs. God’s mercy is upon them. Their heroism gave us independence and victory.