Mikhail Gorbachev’s Invasion Of Azerbaijan, 20th January 1990

“Azerbaijan – Bloody January Late at night on January 19, 1990, 26.000 Soviet troops stormed Baku. They acted pursuant to a state of emergency declared by the USSR Supreme Soviet Presidium, signed by President Gorbachev and disclosed to the Azerbaijani public only after many citizens lay wounded or dead in the streets, hospitals and morgues of Baku. More than 130 people died from wounds received that night and during subsequent violent confrontations and incidents that lasted in February; the majority of these were civilians killed by Soviet soldiers. More than 700 civilians were wounded. Hundreds of people were detained, only a handful of whom were put on trial for alleged criminal offenses. Civil liberties were severely curtailed. The behavior of Soviet armed forces in Baku must be judged in the context of their actual mission. Mikhail Gorbachev’s use of force in Baku was nothing but the desperate attempt to stop dissolution of Communist ruling in Azerbaijan. The Soviet army was trying to rescue the totalitarian regime, the rule of Communist Party and Soviet empire. For more information: http://www.euro-caspian.com/bloody_january.htm”

Gorbachev even appeared on popular TV chat show “Wogan” once, here in the UK. All we heard of his reign in “The West” was ‘free market’, ‘Perestroika’, and ‘Glasnost’, and everyone in the world (especially the lucrative market of US management consultancy, it turns out) was loving Gorachev but few ever heard about his invasion of the capital of Azerbauijan leaving hundreds dead, wounded, houses, cars, entire towns and lives destroyed, along with a trail of disappearances and allegations of torture.

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Filed under: Crime, History, Humanity, Journalism, Military, Russia, World Affairs, , ,

4 Responses

  1. Ilya says:

    I am not sure you can point to Gorbachev as the immediate culprit. What he did with perestroika etc. was to unleash centrifugal forces in the USSR which he and the rest of the Soviet foces simply were not able to control. The biggest factor was the return of local nationalism/separatism (depending on your viewpoint), bottled up prior to that (due in the main to Soviet repressions). What happened in Azerbaijan (and before then in Kazakhstan, and around the same time in Armenia and the Baltics) was an explosion of pent-up national fervour which was not really – or at least not primarily – anti-Soviet or anti-Communist per se. It was no doubt used by the local opportunist to present it as such. Gorbachev refrained from using forces in the other republics but Azerbaijan was overly provocative, by then it was survival.

  2. Ed says:

    No more or less, could it be argued, than you could point the finger at any leader of any nation’s armed forces that has embarked upon such atrocities? Surely any nation should be a part of any union by will, and democratic vote, alone?

  3. Ilya says:

    Agree in principle. Although centralised statism vs. nationalistic regionalism is not an easy question at times. In this specific case, however, what Grobachev was trying to do is to prevent an even faster and bloodier collapse. After all, it was him who started the democraticisation process. So my point is to exonarate the man but condemn the Soviet system, if you like.

  4. Ed says:

    Personally, I think there’s more to Gorbachev’s “democratisation” story than we realise.

    My quip about the US management consultancy sector in the original post has an anchor in truth. I heard the Soviets hired hundreds of American ‘economic management’ consultants to try and sort the whole debacle out. I think you can guess what happened.

    Consider the fall of Anderson (now Accenture) over Enron et al, and fairly recently the European Union’s de-villification, despite considerable crimes committed, of McKinsey Consultancies for fear of reducing competition in the market (it would have left 3 standing, technically an oligopoly and therefore illegal, requiring further dismantling).

    I think we wrongly perceive our governments and “free markets” (most not even actually free) as separate entities. What appears to us to be the pendulum-like swaying to and fro between public and private abuses of power is in fact the same power simply under two different names.

    I believe it is one of Machiavelli’s first principles. I’d imagine Sun Tzu even touched on it in some form.

    Be your enemy.

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I'm a Media and Communications graduate from Goldsmiths College, London, a Project Manager and Web Developer (C#, PHP). In my spare time I like to write fiction, music, and read current affairs.

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