The tragedy of Jan. 20, 1990, also called Black January, was an "important turning point" for Azerbaijan which proved that the nation's striving for liberty and independence was irreversible, said Azerbaijan's Ambassador to Turkey, Khazar Ibrahim.
"It led us to be more united and more determined to make our country the best and to get what we deserve -- independence," Khazar Ibrahim told Anadolu Agency, referring to the violent crackdown, massacre of more than 130 people and wounding of hundreds of civilians by the Soviet army in the capital Baku and surrounding areas on the eve of the country’s independence.
Marking the 31st anniversary of the tragedy and remembering the violence Azerbaijan witnessed prior to the breakup of the Soviet Union, Ibrahim said the events of Jan. 20 are regarded as the rebirth of the country, which in 1918 first gained independence that was later stamped out in 1920, when the country became part of the Soviet Union.
On the night of Jan. 19-20, under direct instructions from Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, the State Security Committee and Ministry of Internal Affairs entered Baku and nearby regions, massacring the civilian population using heavy military equipment and other weaponry.
Mass arrests accompanied the illegal deployment of troops and subsequent military intervention.
"It [the tragedy] has also changed us individually. Those people who went through those days have changed dramatically, including myself personally," he recalled.
Reasons behind tragedy
"Actually, it's not a secret anymore that the real rationale behind the Black January tragedy was the desire by the Soviet leadership to calm down, to suffocate the striving of the Azerbaijani people for liberties, rights and independence," he said, adding Gorbachev did not hide his "negative inclination" towards Azerbaijan.
The Soviet Army’s massacre on Jan. 20 – now National Mourning Day – completely shook Azerbaijanis' confidence in the USSR, accelerating the process leading to the country's independence.
"And the fact that there was an indiscriminate overwhelming reaction to people's rights, which was actually in the constitution of the Soviet Union, cannot be explained by anything else but by hatred, by the desire to keep the Soviet Union afloat," the envoy said.
He emphasized that the "hatred" was also influenced by the Armenian advisors who had lobbied Gorbachev for a long time, not only on the Jan. 20 issue but also on many other issues regarding Azerbaijan, in a negative way.
Azerbaijanis refer to Black January as a day of sorrow, but at the same time, as a day of pride, because the country's heroes who perished laid the groundwork for the state’s independence.
Nagorno-Karabakh issue as grounds for Jan. 20.
The Azerbaijani ambassador underlined that the Nagorno-Karabakh issue laid the grounds for the Jan. 20 tragedy.
The events that led to the tragedy of Black January actually date to the end of the 1980s, when attempts to annex Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia and another wave of the expulsion of native Azerbaijani people from their historical lands were gaining momentum.
He said that nearly three decades ago, the Azerbaijani territories had been militarily illegally occupied by Armenian forces through the "ethnic cleansing of Azerbaijanis" which led to hundreds of thousands of ethnic Azerbaijanis becoming both internally displaced persons as well as refugees because the cleansing also took place against Azerbaijanis living in Armenia.
Relations between the former Soviet republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan have been tense since 1991, when the Armenian military occupied Nagorno-Karabakh, also known as Upper Karabakh, internationally recognized as Azerbaijani territory, and seven adjacent regions.
When new clashes erupted on Sept. 27, 2020, Armenia launched attacks on civilians and Azerbaijani forces as well as violated several humanitarian cease-fire agreements.
During the nearly six-week-long conflict, Azerbaijan liberated its lands, while at least 2,855 of its soldiers were known at the time to be martyred. There are differing claims about the number of casualties on the Armenian side, which sources and officials say could be as high as 5,000.
The two countries signed a Russian-brokered agreement on Nov. 10 to end the fighting and work toward a comprehensive resolution. The cease-fire is seen as a victory for Azerbaijan and a defeat for Armenia, whose armed forces have withdrawn in line with the agreement.
The envoy stressed that the major factor behind the long-awaited victory was the determined leadership of Azerbaijan’s President and Commander in Chief, Ilham Aliyev.
Referring to the 44-day Patriotic War, Ibrahim said: "The kids who fled the occupied territories of Azerbaijan in the hands of their mothers came back [to those territories] on top of the tanks."
He highlighted that those fleeing "kids" emerged into a new generation after the territories were cleansed and destroyed, and today, they have become the soldiers of Azerbaijan, who couldn't have forgotten the "injustice" that happened in the past.
Ibrahim also hailed the solidarity of the Azerbaijani people, noting that "regardless of the place of living, regardless of ethnicity, religious affiliation, everybody was a swarm."
"Therefore, I see these three reasons as the major factors which allowed Azerbaijan in this short period of time to achieve what could have seemed for many as unimaginable a couple of years ago," he said, referring to the soldiers, solidarity and determined president.
Region's strongest country
A lot has changed in Azerbaijan in the last 30 years, the ambassador said.
"Economically, Azerbaijan became the strongest country in the region. Militarily, Azerbaijan became one of the strongest in the world, given its size and population," he said, adding the nation developed every sector of the society including culture, education and science during that timeframe.
Despite the illegal military occupation of its territories, the people of Azerbaijan never lost their "sense of pride and unity" and became even stronger and more confident within these years, he added.
"The Azerbaijani side has never hidden that since we have the right, and since we have the power, we are ready to liberate our territories. But I think it was a big mistake by the side of the Armenians not to listen not only to us but also to the international community."
Ibrahim urged the international community not to turn a blind eye to the tragedies of other countries, noting that "if these things happen, it would embolden other massacres."
"So ‘never again embolden the criminals’ is the message which the world should hear and never forget."
Read the original article on Anadolu Agency.