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The 25th anniversary of “Black January”Struggle for independence and freedom

The following article was contributed by the Embassy of Azerbaijan in Seoul to The Korea Post for publication.--Ed.

Twenty-five years have passed since the January events of 1990 which went down in the history of Azerbaijan as “Black January”. On that day, the Central Soviet Authorities perpetrated an atrocious crime against the people of Azerbaijan. Hundreds of civilians were crushed or injured by the Soviet troops in Baku at one night, on an order from the USSR leadership that was trying to maintain the Communist regime in Azerbaijan.

▲Martyr´s Avenue, where the victims of 20 January are buried. Baku

In the fall of 1989, the national independence movement had reached incredible momentum with hundreds of thousands of people struggling for the ideals of freedom, independence and sovereignty to preserve the nation's territorial integrity. Thousands of people protesting against the policy of the USSR held demonstrations all day long in the central square (now Azadliq, or Freedom Square) and on the streets of Baku. At that time, Azerbaijan was also subjected to aggression from neighboring Armenia. The country violated the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, which has resulted in the occupation of 20% of Azerbaijani territory. Armenia's territorial claims and separatist activities were supported by the ruling Soviet regime.
On January 20, late at night 26,000 Soviet Special Forces without declaring a state of emergency, entered Baku and committed atrocities against the innocent Azerbaijani people. The invasion was launched at midnight and was committed with brutality; even children, women and the elderly were not spared. In total, as a result of the intrusion of troops into Baku and regions of the republic 133 people were killed, 611 wounded, 841 illegally arrested and five went missing.

▲People thronging to the funeral ceremony of the 20 January victims. Freedom Square, Baku

Looking to the background of the massacre committed by the Soviet troops, it was clearly understood that this military operation was totally planned and calculated act. This aggression against Azerbaijani people fulfilled step by step. Before the troops arrived in Baku, the Azeri Supreme Soviet and other political bodies were paralyzed; weapons were gathered from militia employees under the pretext of population disarmament. The Soviet authorities exploit the power block of televisions and stopped the broadcasting in Azerbaijan on January 19 in order to deprive population from getting information. Foreigners were not allowed to enter to the city. Western reporters were banned from traveling to Baku to cover the events. Soviet Defense and Interior Minister, and military officials came to Baku some days before, for realization of this calculated terrorist attack.
The Black January was a turning point in the history of Azerbaijan. This massacre did not stop the people of Azerbaijan from continuing their struggle until the achievement of the national independence of the country. Despite being subjected to military, political and moral aggression, Azerbaijani national movement succeeded to stand against Soviet challenge, and Soviet troops eventually had to withdrawn from Baku. Subsequently Azerbaijan declared its independence on October 18, 1991. With the Decrees of the President of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev of December 16, 1999 all the victims of the crackdown were awarded the title "Martyrs of January 20."
On 20 January 1990, the Azerbaijani people displayed their ability to maintain the traditions of historical heroism and resist the cruelest attacks for the sake of the freedom and independence of the motherland, even becoming martyrs. The people of Azerbaijan perished on 20 January 1990 while defending the freedom and independence of their motherland and by their bravery made a vivid history in the chronicle of heroism of Azerbaijan.
In spite of the fact that a few years has passed since those bloody days, Azerbaijani people remembers that dreadful night and expresses its deep contempt to those who committed that tragedy. Azerbaijan commemorates the day of tragedy of January 20 broadly every year, which had immortalized in the vital memory of Azerbaijani nation as a Day of the Nationwide Sorrow.
The Martyrs, who died in that day, are among the first, who sacrificed their lives for freedom that Azerbaijan nowadays enjoy and those heroes will never be forgotten. The sons and daughters of Azerbaijan killed at that terrible night have written a brightest page in the history of Azerbaijan, and paved the way to national liberation and independence of the Azerbaijani people.

이경식 기자  edt@koreapost.com

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