Staunton, January 22 – Two days ago, Azerbaijan marked the 31st anniversary of the introduction of Soviet troops into Baku, Sumgait and other cities of that republic, an action that led to the deaths of hundreds and the wounding of thousands and more than almost anything else triggered the process leading to the demise of the USSR a little more than a year later.
(For details on what Azerbaijanis still refer to as Black January, see windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/01/gorbachev-black-january-in-baku-and-end.html. For its special meaning this year in the wake of Azerbaijan’s victory in the Qarabagh fighting, see jamestown.org/program/karabakh-victory-transforming-meaning-of-black-january-for-many-azerbaijanis/.)
Not surprisingly, Moscow commentators have a different view on what happened and what it meant and means. One, Regnum writer Viktor Krivopuskov, focuses on the statement the Azerbaijani foreign ministry released this year on the anniversary this year and calls it “blasphemous” and full of lies (iarex.ru/articles/79367.html).
The Azerbaijani foreign ministry details what occurred in its republic in January 1990, using a chronology and statistics that have been confirmed by all independent investigators. But according to the Moscow writer, its statement was “intentionally made for the black deception of public opinion with the certainty that no one would devote attention to this blasphemy.”
“But,” Krivopuskov says, “official Russia, the legal successor of the Soviet Union as always simply cannot not react to the far from the first lie of Azerbaijan” about the events of January 1990, especially, as according to him, what Baku is saying turns everything on its head and is intended to confuse and anger people.
Krivopuskov, the author of Rebel Karabakh From the Diary of a USSR MVD Officer (in Russian; Moscow, four editions between 2003 and 2018), says that the Azerbaijani declaration begins by suggesting that what happened in January 1990 was “foreign military interference” when in fact at that time, “Soviet Azerbaijan was a constituent part of a unified USSR.”
The statement then ignores all victims of the violence except Azerbaijanis, thus failing to take note of the numerous Armenians and other Soviet nationalities who died as a result of Azerbaijani actions and “pogroms.” And it fails to note that what Moscow did was to defend Soviet statehood and the rights of the peoples of the USSR.
According to the Russian writer, “power in the majority of cities and villages had been forcibly seized by units of the nationalist Peoples Front headed by Abulfaz Elchibey, with broad financial and military-technical support of Turkish extremist organizations who were spreading the ideas of Pan-Turkism and Pan-Islamism.”
As a result of their joint actions, Krivopushkov says, “the border of the USSR and Turkey was destroyed and no longer under control.”
But perhaps not surprisingly, the Moscow writer devotes most of his attention to subsequent events and lays all of the blame for the conflict over Qarabagh on Azerbaijan, arguing that it was Baku’s actions that have again and again caused violence rather than anything done by anyone else, including Armenians.