The Republic of Azerbaijan commemorates the 26th anniversary of the defining moment in its history. On January 20th, 1990 the Soviet Empire launched a full-scale military attack in midnight on the Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku. The mass murder of about 150 unarmed civilians in one of the major city is more than enough to measure the brutality of the Soviet Empire against the freedom movements.
The national movement for liberty grew in 1988 against the Soviet Empire and communism in Azerbaijan. There were two main factors; first was the Soviet imperial policy that unconditionally defended Armenians who were committing the crimes of mass killing and ethnic cleansing against Azerbaijanis. In 1988, over 200 thousand Azerbaijanis were expelled from current Armenian lands where they and their fathers had lived for centuries. This policy caused huge amount of wrath in Azerbaijan. Second factor was Azerbaijani Nation’s wish for independence and freedom, deriving from their national and spiritual values, as well as from the fact of having had their own independent state in 1918-20 before Communist Russian occupation.
In order to curtail the freedom movement in Azerbaijan against the Soviet Empire, it was decided to send a big contingent of the USSR Forces to Baku. Hence, on January 20, Soviet forces were sent to crush the voice; the height of brutality was displayed by the Soviets that night. They were heavily armed with bullets to chemical weapons and what not to kill the unarmed civilians. As a result of this violent act, about 150 civilians killed, more than 750 were badly injured and some 400 were imprisoned.
Despite of the cruelty and immense pressure from the Soviet Empire, the people of Azerbaijan were on the streets the very next day of tragedy to show detestation of brutal imperialism wherever they lived. The Azerbaijanis in Moscow gathered in Azerbaijan’s representative in Moscow, as they seemed sorrowful and helpless; Heydar Aliyev, outstanding leader of Azerbainajis, who was under significant political pressure, came there and presented his commiserations to the people. He emphasized that the inhuman act against the civilians of Baku was initiated by the officials of Soviet Empire; and they should accept the responsibility for that and thus should be punished.
The Azerbaijani nation stand united against the Soviet policies and later for an independent state. The military operation was totally calculated, planned and was a political act to preserve communist imperial rule. The journey of independence is not that simple as it looks. Thousands of people sacrifice their lives for independence. The sacrifices and compromises made by Azerbaijani nation on that day of January is not less than a lesson. It’s a lesson for the powerful empires to not invade a territory where the civilians are more enthusiastic for freedom and liberty; and for those who are arrogantly unable to realize the power of unity.
The martyrs of January 20th were buried in the highest spot in Baku, the Mountain Park. Since then this place has been called Martyrs’ Avenue and the people of Azerbaijan mark January 20th as a “National Day of Mourning” in Azerbaijan. This mass massacre from that time on is mentioned as “Black January”. The massacre in Baku did not stop the people from their struggle until the achievement of independence. Regardless of being subjected to political, moral and military aggression, Azerbaijani independence movement succeeded to rise against Soviet Empire, and Soviet forces at last had to withdraw from Baku. Consequently Azerbaijan declared its independence on October 18, 1991.