Today Azerbaijan commemorates tragic events which happened over the night from 19 to 20 January 1990 when hundreds of innocent Azerbaijanis were killed and wounded by the Soviet Army forces. As before, on this Day of Nationwide Sorrow thousands Azerbaijanis will visit the Martyr’s Alley in the capital city of Baku and a series of events will be held all over the world marking the twenty-sixth anniversary of the “Black January” tragedy and paying tribute to our courageous compatriots who sacrificed their invaluable lives for Azerbaijan’s freedom and independent future.
On those days in 1990 unarmed people using their civil rights were peacefully protesting on the streets and squares of Baku and other major cities against unjustified territorial claims and aggressive actions of neighboring Armenia and policy of connivance by the leadership of the Soviet Union with criminal attempts to undermine the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. In response, they were unexpectedly and brutally attacked by the Soviet troops.
As a result of a full-scale military assault, 147 civilians were killed, 744 people were wounded and 841 were indiscriminately detained or arrested. Unprecedented atrocities were committed by the Soviet armed forces in Azerbaijan, among them executing the wounded, firing at passerby and at dwellings, stores, medical and other facilities.
All these facts were confirmed by independent reports, including the investigation conducted by the Helsinki Watch/Memorial group, which testified that “Soviet troops used unjustified and excessive forces resulting in unnecessary civilian casualties, including scores of deaths”. The investigation concluded that “heavily armed Soviet soldiers assaulted the city of Baku as though it were an enemy position intended for military destruction”.
The aim of the Soviet Union leadership was to break peaceful resistance and maintain the communist rule in Azerbaijan. However, on that dark winter night in 1990 the invincible will and struggle for justice of the people of Azerbaijan overcame the Soviet military machine. Heroism demonstrated by brave sons and daughters of our country against the totalitarian regime became the cornerstone which laid the firm foundation of Azerbaijan’s independence. On 22 January 1990, 2 million people attended the funeral ceremony of martyr’s in Baku. On 18 October 1991, after 71 years Azerbaijan restored its independence. The “Black January” is a tragic, nevertheless a heroic page in the history of Azerbaijan. Self-sacrifice of our fallen citizens has been the torch lighting Azerbaijan’s way to freedom and memories about their deeds will live in the hearts of every future generation of Azerbaijanis.