Other publications of Bakur Karapetyan — https://miaban.ru/themes/gen-in-azer/bakur_karapetyan/
Unbelievable news of the tragic events of Sumgayit spread about. Which one to believe? As I got informed by the refugees of Sumgayit that the trial of the slaughterers should start in April I decided to leave for Sumgayit before the process to film the traces of the pogrom. I was sure that it was the duty of every normal journalist. And I knew as well that after some time the authorities of Baku would categorically deny: ‘Nothing has happened like that, there has been no massacre, it has been concocted by the Armenians…’, as likewise they deny the Armenian Genocide of 1915-1923 carried out in Western Armenia and all over the territory of Turkey and the South Caucasus.
We make searches for evidences about Yeghern in different archives of the world. It was described by diplomats, political, public figures of different nations. But the Armenians who had so many writers and journalists almost left nothing. Certainly, the Turkish slaughterers first of all brought together the Armenian intellectuals and exterminated them. The other factor not of a less interest is that the founders of the photographers’ studios and the first practitioners of photography in the Middle East and Turkey were Armenians but not a single Armenian made any shots of Genocide sceneries. As it seems, the Turkish butchers took care of it beforehand, too, first of all having destroyed those photographers’ studios and the photographers.
Considering that none of the Armenian journalists did not even budge and undertook nothing I made up my mind to find a way to leave for Sumgayit. I couldn’t even find a cameraman to accompany me. Surely, it was dangerous to take a film-maker from Yerevan. They could immediately recognize him yet everything should be disguised so that the local nationalists or the agents of secret services would not notice us. As my friends learned about my plan they started heaping reproaches on me: ‘Have you gone mad? Going directly to death? Don’t you know what’s going on in Sumgayit?’ But my wish to see everything with my own eyes, to find out the situation in situ and to tell the civilized world about it was beyond all measure. I knew for sure that still there were other criminals. Why, only ninety people were arrested and even figures of secondary importance who would be set free soon. And still there would be no word about the organizers of the pogrom because the main figures of the country meddled in it as the very Mikhail Gorbachev, some leaders of Kremlin, the authorities of the Azerbaijani SSR. I was convinced of it by the story of my compatriot Major-General Roman Haroutiunov, the deputy commander of the North Caucasus military region. He was involved in the delegation staff which visited Artsakh being led by Brutents, the head of the department of the International Affairs of the CPSU Central Committee. As soon as he got informed about the tragic events he left for Sumgayit by his relative’s car to take his mother and sister away from Sumgayit where they lived. At the outskirts of the town he met the divisional commander, previously under his command General Valery Sokolov with his column. Sokolov informed that still there was no permission from the ruling top to enter the town. They said it was not high time….
Soon after I got a practice of how to function the buttons of the ordinary Japanese video camera M-3 given to me by Dionis Margaryan, a lieutenant colonel of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, first I left for Stepanakert. The director of the regional stadium Razmik Petrosyan, also a member of the presidium of ‘Krunk’ organization, informed me that every day eight trucks drove along to Sumgayit to transport the properties of the refugees so I could leave for Sumgayit with them. However, Maxim Mirzoyan, the director of the train of machines, told me that the departure of the trucks was delayed for two days. Later on he said that a resident of Sumgayit, Suren Danielyan, who was going to transport his property, would help me there.
March 27, 1988
I settled myself in the roomy cab of the truck of Valery Soghomonyan. As the drivers made a final arrangement where to come together, they started the trucks. Karkar River flew into a rage and was hurrying to the plain by clashing against its banks. I glimpsed at the terrace of Shushi as if I saw it for the last time. The castle town which was called Karkar till the 14th century sat solemnly on the terrace. And the river was given the name of the castle town later.
In the midst of the incessant noise of the truck I was doing my best to guess from the occasionally caught words what the talk was about. The buffaloes and sheep grazed on the green field near Aghdam. A thirty-five-year-old thin man having leant against the telegraph pole was telling a lad of fourteen about something. The boy was lying on the green grass and listening to him absorbedly. ‘The lad is either his son or a neighbor,’ I thought. And I wondered what he was telling about. Why, he told of course how the whole population of Aghdam and the neighboring villages, all over fifteen thousand people armed with stones, iron poles and petrol, made a broad frontline and moved along to Stepanakert on February 22, having burnt everything on their way, beating the Armenians, destroying everything with a final aim to reach the square of the provincial center and to slaughter the Armenians who held a demonstration day and night by claiming freedom for Nagorno-Karabakh from Baku’s yoke, to disperse the demonstrators and to organize a meeting instead of them, to silence the voice of the Armenians. Yet the sporting guns’ volley of the Armenian jigits made the throng stop and turn back. Or probably he told about the massacres of Sumgayit. Didn’t they say that the residents of Aghdam also had taken part in the crime as well? What was he inseminating in the soul of the youth?
The roof of the restaurant next to the monument devoted to the victims of the Second World War reminded of an oriental styled turban.
‘Do they act rightly by constructing in such a way?’ the driver addressed to me.
‘Why not?’ I said. ‘Shouldn’t we feel in a way that we are in an Islamic country?’
The spring had long ago penetrated into the valley of Kur and Araxes rivers. Ancient Partav-Barda, concealed among the dense orchards, had turned into a shabby provincial center with its earthen huts. After the division of the Greater Armenia between Byzantium and Persia in 387 AD Partav became the residence of the Marzpan nominated by the Persian Empire. The Persian kings separated the Armenian provinces of Artsakh, Utik and Paytakaran of the Kur-Araxes plateau from the Eastern Armenia which was under their domain and turned these regions into a joined Aghuank Marzpanate with the main territory of Aghuank-Albania situated on the left bank of Kur river. So as to restrain the resentment of the Armenian provinces the lords of Vachakan dynasty of Armenian Kuank were vested with the right to reign as kings in Aghuank parallel to the Marzpanate under the supervision of the Persian Marzpan having right only for the governance of home affairs. The candidate for the king of Vachakan dynasty first introduced himself to Tizbon, the residence of the Persian king of the kings, who coronated him and afterwards gave him one of his brother’s or sister’s daughters as a wife and made him accept Zoroastrism by sending him to Artsakh with magi and the army. The residence of Vachakan kings was not the plain of Partav but Dyutakan township lying opposite the residence of Jraberd of mountainous Artsakhamur. It is known that after the war of Vardanants king Vache of Aghuank rebelled against the Persian king Peroz and drove off the Persian soldiers and the magi who had come to spread fire-worship from the Eastern Provinces of Armenia. When his wife, the niece of Peroz, returned to the Persian court by the demand of the king of the kings Vache gave up the throne and became a monk and in such a way he deserved the laudatory letter of Gyut, the Catholicos of All Armenians.
Partav-Barda was an ordinary Azerbaijani regional center and nothing preserved from its glorious past. Most probably, this name preserved within itself the name of Partatua, the famous Cimmerian-Scythian king of the 1st millennium BC.
After we had passed the ancient city of Partav we stopped our cars at a picturesque lake. We took our seats at the hall of a glassed canteen and ordered fish. Abas, the waiter, knew his permanent clients who were mostly the drivers from Stepanakert, looked around carefully and then addressed to Valery in whisper, ‘Let they try to disturb you, I shall give it them hot!’
After dinner we continued our trip. The Armenian names of the residences of Barkushat, Hovtashen, Ranchpar attracted my attention. They were the only crumbs of the Armenian trace in Kur-Araxes valley. Moses of Khoren, the father of the Armenian historiography, testified that the Armenian king Vagharshak (149-127cc BC) appointed a man with the name of Aran of ‘Japhetic origin’ from the kin of Sisakyan as the governor to the Eastern provinces of Armenia who inherited the land lying between Yeraskh River and Hnarakert castletown. The representatives of Sisakyan noble kin inherited the land by the right of succession. Because of Aran’s pleasant and sweet (is derived from the ancient Armenian root of ‘aghu’) manners the land was called Aghuank which means Sweet Land.
During the Arabic rule (7-9th cc AD) the land was mentioned after the name of the patriarch Aran from the noble kin of Aranshahik. Till now, when describing the fertility of a land, the dialects of Artsakh and Utik still preserve the tradition of calling it as ‘a place of aran’ (‘aran tegh’).
Greek geographer Strabo, who was the first to mention about Artsakh province of Greater Armenia, defines the borders of Armenia and the neighboring countries in his ‘Geography’: ‘Cyrus (Kur River) starts in Armenia and enters the valley of Kur-Araxes rivers, receives Arag River and other sources within it and then flows to Albania via a narrow valley, between that valley and Armenia the river crosses through a valley and mixes with more rivers…’. Thus, Kur River was the borderline between Armenia and Albania-Aghuank.
The indigenous people of Kur-Araxes region had a difficult and tragic fate. The massive migration of the Turkmen and Tatar tribes from the Northern Iran, the Northern Caucasus and the Crimea with their sheep herds to Kur-Araxes valley in 16-18rd centuries gradually pushed away the Armenian element and dissolved the multilanguage tribal unions of the other bank of Kur River in it or pushed them away to the north, up to Dagestan. The Soviet authorities found it convenient to draw the borderline of the historical motherland of Lezgin people with Samur River and leave its southern part, with the regions of Kusari, Vardashen, Kutkashen, Khachmas, within the borders of the Soviet Azerbaijan proclaimed in Baku while the northern part passed to the Autonomic Republic of Dagestan of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. The Avars appeared to be in the same situation. The southern part of the Talish people with its center of Ardabil was left to Iran and the northern part with its Lankaran center to the Republic of Azerbaijan. The Tat people, the posterity of the old Kasps, living/inhabiting the territory extending from the Absheron Peninsula up to the town of Quba, suffered the same fate. Generally, the Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan, founded on the territory lying to the north of Araxes River, was considered by the Bolshevist leaders to be their ‘son’ because it was created at the expense of the indigenous people and their historical homelands where they have been living for millennia. As to the Bolshevist leaders, such a solution to the problem puts an end to the national problem in the Soviet Union once for all. Baku authorities could step by step solve the problem of the Armenians of Nakhijevan during the Soviet years by driving them away from their settlements just in front of the eyes of the modern civilized world. I left for Nakhijevan in the autumn of 1987 on the mission of the Supreme Body of Armenia to write a report about the local Armenians for the journal of ‘Soviet literature’ and the authorities of the regional committee by the order of Baku suggested leaving from the region at once. When they did not accept my claim-telegram at the local post office referred to the Central Committee of Baku Communist Party and the Kremlin leaders I left for Meghri which was in neighborhood with Nakhijevan and having sent the telegrams from Meghri post office I again came back to Nakhijevan. Here all hotels closed before me. I travelled through the Armenian villages of Nakhijevan and having returned to Yerevan I wrote an extensive letter about the unbearable conditions of the local Armenians of the region and sent to Andrey Yakovlev, the Second Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Later, the head of the department of propaganda of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Armenia informed me that because of my letter the Azerbaijani leaders found themselves in a very difficult situation.
Last year I intended travelling through the settlements of Kur-Araxes valley. In this matter as a guide I chose Makar Barkhutaryants’ book of ‘Aghuank and its neighbours’. Unfortunately, the mess around the events of Artsakh and the tense situation created by the provocative actions of Azerbaijan in this or that place prevented me from realizing my old dream come true so as to write about this region by a hundred years dialogue with a Shushi historian bishop Makar Barkhutaryants to depict the modern picture upon historical irrefutable testimonies. I had made a similar trip by the traces of the novelist Raffi in the 1880’s passing from the writer’s home in Tbilisi to Gandzak-Yelizavetpol-Kirovabad, then continued to Artsakh, Syunik, Nakhijevan and the village of Payajuk in Iran, Raffi’s birthplace. In the result I wrote a two-volume book of ‘A dialogue of hundred years’. When it was first published in pieces in the journal of ‘Soviet literature’, Hrachya Hovhannisyan, the president of the Writers’ Union of Armenia, scolded me mainly for raising up the problem of Artsakh in my work to which I replied that Raffi had erected his memorial by his immortal works and it was by the support of Raffi that I had raised up the problem which itself greatly disturbed the great novelist. If Raffi could any way be aware that hundred years after his death he could be useful to his motherland he would be too much satisfied with it.
Before I left for Sumgayit I had already familiarized myself with all the available information on the events of that city. Once again I reread the article of ‘Washington Post’ which said: ‘Shilkov, a member of ‘Glasnost’ who happened to be in Sumgayit for six hours, told the correspondents that he had seen Soviet tanks and soldiers keeping law and order in the streets of the city, as well as he had learned testimonies on the terrible pogrom which had taken place there. The Sumgayit disorders had been unilaterally and realized only by the Azerbaijanians. “There was not a strife between nations but a real pogrom,”-Shilkov emphasized, who himself had met only Russians and Azerbaijanis in Sumgayit. The Armenian residents of the city had already for ten days been resettled in the special shelters prepared hastily by the Soviet military formations. The atmosphere between the Russians and the Azerbaijanis seemed to be tense in such a scale that the representatives of both nations stood in separate and independent queues at the marketplaces and the bus stops. A sick attendant of Russian origin told that the Azerbaijanis had broken into the hospital and committed horrible atrocities towards the pregnant women.
By switching the lights off and on Valery made a sign to the driver of the bus coming from the opposite side. On the notice board of the bus it could be clearly read: ‘Baku-Chartaz’.
‘What kind of settlement is Chartaz?’ I asked.
‘It is the renowned village of Jartar of Martouni region, the village of Adamyan; the Azerbaijanis have a habit of changing the real toponym with the one they contrive and obliging it,’ Valery answered and began talking to the driver from Jartar so as to learn about the safety of the road. Vast fields lied on both sides of the highway. It is Moukhankh. The only things which brought vitality to the savanna were the telegraph-poles. There grew only plants specific for salty soil in the field. From the point of geology not long ago there was a seabed in these territories. This is how the globe breathes. Each thirteen thousand years there happens a global flood and then the waters draw back/withdraw….
Suren, a resident of Sumgayit, recalled fragments of various incidents from time to time.
‘It was the 28th of February,’ he said, ‘the vice-director of our factory met me at the corridor of the administrative staff building and exclaimed surprisingly: “Ah! Are you still alive Suren?…”. I laughed significantly. Later, when the massacres of Sumgayit followed, I understood what his hint had been about. First Suren kept silent, then turned gloomy and having remembered about something as if getting strength he continued: ‘It was the 27th of February. I looked out of the window and saw a car burning in the street. I thought the Azerbaijani went mad. But what can one do? I saw how an armored car squeezed eight men. They mentioned/ only six names were mentioned in the newspapers. In the Chamber of Culture a Russian colonel told us how the Azerbaijani throng burned down three armored cars and he drove straightly to the throng and squeezed eight of them. He told that he was an eyewitness to a similar situation in Alma-Ata, the capital of Kazakhstan, in 1986 when they squeezed several people by an armored car and the mob became silent. But in Sumgayit there were specially enraged beasts who under the influence of drugs attacked the tanks. Suren kept silnet again and then went on with telling: ‘They turned over Shahen from Karaqend in his car ‘GAZ-21’ poured out petrol on him and burned.’
‘Eh! Gorbachev, Gorbachev!…’ the man from Sumgayit gave a deep sigh.
Among my papers I noticed the article of ‘Washington Times’: ‘Though Gorbachev managed to obtain a temporary break of massive demonstrations in Yerevan by giving a promise of reviewing the demands of the demonstrators, nevertheless, the thing how much dangerous it could be for Kremlin leaders to make border changes it became obviously clear by Sumgayit bloody events when the Azerbaijani throng attacked the Armenian minority.’ During the meeting in Moscow Gorbachev managed to make Silva Kaputikyan and Zory Balayan convince the demonstrators gathered at the Theatre/theatrical Square to return home immediately so as to give a chance to Politburo and Gorbachev to examine and solve the problem of Karabakh. The very day, on the 26th of February, Zory Balayan and Silva Kapoutikyan made a speech first from the platform of the demonstration and then by television calling for ceasing the meetings and demonstrations. Gorbachev knew that the massacres of the Armenians in Sumgayit would start on the 27th of February. If the meetings and demonstrations continued simultaneously in Yerevan and Stepanakert then about one million people would gather there and the answer to the latter could only be the reunification of Artsakh to Armenia because the Kremlin had no other ready scenario against the demonstrations which grew stronger and stronger. The tragic events of Sumgayit when each five hundred men infuriated under the influence of drugs attacked an Armenian family, used violence, killed burned on the fire, robbed the house and then burned it down, were already considered to be an ‘Azerbaijani factor’. I was already sure that the latter would make the Armenians give a birth to an adequate ‘factor’ which would be more powerful and stronger. Still the ceasing of the world striking demonstrations in Yerevan and the deceit of the Armenian leaders by Gorbachev was a delusion.
We left for the criminal city and I tried to remember the information about the tragic events taken place there. As it was impossible to get trustworthy information in the Soviet press about the tragic events and their origins I again referred to the help of ‘The Washington Post’: ‘The Soviet authorities have located a big amount of armed policemen and soldiers so as to prevent interethnic violences. The soldiers are on patrol in Baku streets, especially during the nights. During the interviews here two Azerbaijanis have given their version of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. According to the first version of the disorders of Sumgayit, the demonstrations in Azerbaijan started on the 24th of February when several thousands of students from Baku University and other institutions of higher education came together at the central square of Baku to protest against the Armenian claims of the reunification of Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia. Thirty young men who had previously arrived from the town of Kapan of Armenia told the demonstrators of Baku that the Armenians of Kapan bet and raped the Azerbaijani women during the massive demonstrations held in that town. Then the very young men went to Sumgayit and told about the imaginary savagery against the Azerbaijani as if committed by the Armenians. The rumors about the violence in Kapan were not confirmed by the Soviet officials.
The Armenians absolutely denied any violence committed during the demonstrations and the Soviet official press did not report about any violence, too. Gerasimov, the representative of the USSR Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and other Soviet officials considered that the reason of Sumgayit disorders had been the unsubstantiated rumors. Despite the presence of big amount of armed policemen in Soumagit the demonstrations and disturbances unceasingly continued up to the 1st of March when the armed forces and tanks were sent to Sumgayit. On March 1 a meeting was held between the Azerbaijani leaders of the demonstrations in Sumgayit and the representatives of army, Communist Party and the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The Azerbaijani leaders of the demonstrations presented the officials with three claims. The first claim referred to the removing/shifting the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh from Stepanakert mostly inhabited by the Armenians to the city of Aghdam which was in its turn mostly populated by the Azerbaijani. The second claim referred to the deportation of all of the Armenians presently living in Karabakh and their transportation to Armenia and the third one referred to the dismissal of all of the local officials responsible for the continuity of Karabakh conflict.
On the 11th of March Michael Gorbachev accepted the group of USA senators. The USSR’s leader listed all of the republics where there were various ethnic majorities and minorities on this or that side of the borders. ‘In case of redrawing boundaries of Nagorno-Karabakh, by the command of the same logics we shall have to redraw boundaries in various regions as well,’ Gorbachev had said, ‘yet I am not sure if it is still possible to carry out.’
Certainly, if the leader of the country would decide with Politburo to correct step by step the faults in ethnic issues made by the previous leaders in a certain period of time and just starting with Nagorno-Karabakh and Nakhijevan then the country would not face such a desperate situation. I am convinced that an era of national renaissance has launched all over the world when the nations which appeared to be under the pressure of the dominant nation and live on their historical lands as well by gaining self-consciousness and having recognized their history and culture strive to get rid of the pressure of the dominant nation and to become independent in all respects, to establish new economical relations with the neighbours, to feel themselves on an equal footing with the others.
And this is a process which derives from the necessity of the progress of the civilized world. This is a global movement which was preceded by slaveholding, serfdom, feudalism, capitalism and colonialism which in their turn are a necessity from the aspect of the progress of humanity. The next stage is the solution to the problem of sovereignty of nations under pressure. And it is not obligatory to limit the number of the countries to 200. It could be about 300 or more.
At the meeting with Gorbachev the US delegation stated that a historical injustice was committed towards the Armenians. Several days later in the letter of the US senators it was said: ‘We are deeply indignant in respect with the facts of the cruel slaughter of hundreds of Armenian residents of Sumgayit, too. We persuade you to undertake necessary steps to put an end to violence and to establish peace in the very region. For the sake of peace and protection of the basic human rights of all of the nations we are hopeful that the upcoming weeks will open a new and an amended page for the future of the many nations of the USSR.’
The ponds of Gobistan appeared before us. They pump water from here for all the settlements of Apsheron. We had a stop at Gobistan to buy mineral water. They sold it three times more expensive than the existing state price mentioned on the signboard. I paid the state price mentioned on the signboard thus in such a manner showing my discordance which made the 12-year-old seller furious. I had met such a thing in Kirovabad as well before. The shop assistant had explained that he had bought the shop from a state official and he would suffer losses if he would not sell it more expensive for several times. And yet the shop formally had a state status. The method of extra payment is characteristic to the Azerbaijani economy which is a part of black economy.
In the Muslim republics of USSR extra payment is a result of a specific mentality. For example, besides the planned thousand hectares of cotton fields and vineyards they had another unlawful 100 hectares of cotton plantation or vineyard which was shown in no documents and the harvest of the very unlawful territories was added to the harvest of those thousand hectares so as to show overfulfilment of the plan in every respect. Or, as if there were ten cows in the charge of a milkmaid. But in fact there were ten more cows about which there was nothing in the documents. They add the milk of the very cows to the milk got by the milkmaid and mentioned that the milkmaid had fulfilled the plans of the milk received by each cow. So, likewise the cotton grower, milkmaid, collective farm and the republic formally fulfill the plans obliged by Moscow, got honoured with awards, orders, challenge banners. Actually, the country’s economy is the victim of suchlike economic relations. Similarly, such a mentality prevails in everything and everywhere as well as in national issues.
‘Come here again,’ the teenager from Gobstan cast us menacingly, ‘and then you will see what will happen to you. You will never dare to behave like that with my brother.’
‘Then why do you sell more expensive than the state-set price?,’ I reproached him.
‘Because we fulfill the plan and feed the thousand and one governmental dogs,’ he replied.
‘And all this on my expense?’
‘Why, and who else?’
When we returned to our cars Suren said: ‘It is clear who he is and it is doubtful who his successors will be but I think they will not be better than him.’
On the right hand the Caspian sea appeared to us.
By the edict issued on the 10th of November, 1724, Peter the First gave an order to populate the coastal regions of Derbent, Baku and Gilan-Mazandaran of the Caspian Sea with the Armenians migrating from Artsakh and different places of Persia and to restore the Armenian kingdom under the Russian protectorate. Avan the Centurion (Haryurapet) was one of the followers of the ideology of this plan. The Armenians of Artsakh who had created militarized state of the Armenian Sghnakhs and waged a fatal war against the Turkish forces headed by Avan the Centurion rejected the very proposal saying that by no means they would leave the tombs, holy places, monasteries and churches, settlements, castles and dwellings of their ancestors and resettle/themselves at the barren coasts of the Caspian Sea.
Probably, from today’s viewpoint, the rejection of the proposal is a waste of opportunity of creating an oil state, however, it is still difficult to say what the fate of the future Armenian statehood would be like at the Caspian coasts especially when Peter the First died soon and then after the arrival of Nadir Shah the Russian army left those places.
White waves appeared on the sea surface and died out quickly. I remember when for ten years ago within the staff of a zoological expedition group during our journey by ferry from Baku to the Central Asia I had noticed that the whole surface of the sea was covered with an oil blanket.
The car made a stop again waiting for the other lorries.
A woman with a thick kerchief was dragging a huge sack and looking for grass along the coast of the sea. The green seemed to have found little islets and grew magnificently. She knows the technology how to distil pure water from the salty sea water. So the man just needs to learn that technological secret from the plant without paying any taxes for the copyright.
Good Lord! How much we have still got to learn from the nature!
All of the drivers came together. Swinging his heavy body from right to left Ishkhan came up to the group and said: ‘The police of Sumgayit have ordered that it is obligatory for us to introduce ourselves to the police station and be registered and only after that we can load goods on the trucks.’
‘No police!’ Aramais exclaimed who seemed to be thinner in comparison with husky Ishkhan, ‘their police do not deserve it for us to appear there. They supported the slaughterers and at real time still do everything to conceal the traces of the crime. After all they are dangerous, they may think of a new provocation…’
‘Well,’ Hayaser said, ‘we mustn’t introduce ourselves to the police, if they are interested let them register us.’
The drivers arranged where they should meet in the morning after loading the goods on the trucks at night and moved on.
‘I have neglected an important circumstance,’ Suren said who was trying his best within his power to report full information on Sumgayit events. ‘We have got a driver at our factory whose name is Zahid; in the morning of the 25th of February he began spreading news as if the Armenians had burnt down a Turkish village and later on, surrounded by people, he convinced them as if he had seen a car of an Armenian full of grenades. Another time he announced as if the fire-engine filled with petrol rushed from Stepanakert to Aghdam so as to commit the Azeri city to the flames but the state security workers officials sent it back from its way to Aghdam. In such a manner they were unceasingly getting people strained and preparing them.
‘The Azerbaijani authorities,’ the radio station of the “Voice of America” has reported, ‘headed by Hasanov, the secretary of the Central Committee of Communist Party, have established a committee to support the Azerbaijani emigrants to return to their settlements of the Soviet Armenia where they came from last week. On Tuesday the radio of Baku informed as if the Central Committee of Communist Party accepted a group of refugees from Armenia to listen to their ‘wishes and critical remarks’. Apparently, those emigrants from Kapan and the Azeri-populated villages of the Ararat valley were the very bandits who participated in the pogrom of Sumgayit and now demanded the sums of money and apartments previously promised by the organizers of the genocide.’
‘I have already made four suchlike tours in the route of Stepanakert-Sumgayit-Stepanakert. I have transported household stuff of eight families,’ the driver said to Valery, ‘a few days ago I transported Pavel Kutenko, a correspondent of ‘Izvetia’, to Sumgayit who was seated beside me just like you. We talked to each other and he said: “Your job is honest.” The driver handed a piece of newspaper to me, ‘And this is the article of the correspondent of ‘Izvestya’ Dardokin on Sumgayit and Karabakh movement which had been set up but later was removed from the newspaper. Pavel told it was not in favour of some people to report about the truth.
‘Before the tragedy and after it,’ he beagn to read loudly, ‘Sumgayit is the closest neighbour of Baku. It is difficult to believe what has happened in that city. And happened the thing that henceforth in thousands of Armenian and non Armenian families Sumgayit will always remain as the symbol of enmity, horror, anger and disaster. On Saturday the crowd gathered again. The eyewitnesses said that at the beginning there were no local people there. They insisted on that everything was started by those who had arrived by four ‘Ikarus’ buses and thirty ‘Zhiguli’ cars. Afterwards, the local people joined their appeals. So, when Muslimzade, the First Secretary of the Political Committee of the Party, forcedly interrupted his Moscow holidays and appeared in the city, there could be noticed the element in his look which he no longer could subdue…
The eyewitnesses give evidences that there were both drunkards and drug addicts in the throng. They organized all that at the bus station. The black power becomes more apparent which finding no opposition on Sunday evening began the firings, slaughters, mockery and humiliation directed to the Armenian population of the city. The slaughterers had enlisted addresses of the Armenians. And the local police did nothing to support the Armenians. Moreover, when the first military company entered the city and was attacked by the rabble of many thousands, the police kept on watching indifferently how the young boys were being tortured and killed. Are all of these just contingencies? Did only the newcomers bring all of these ‘contingencies’? No! We have got all the grounds to confirm that under the solemn shadow of the museum of the ‘International Friendship’ there nestled bigger omissions among which the interethnic relations in cultural affairs. Lieutenant General Krayev, the commandant of the city, who gained big authority and trust in a short period of time, told what he thought about the events of Karabakh: “I think it was a stabbing in the back of the Perestroika. I think we should save it. They have cast us to Sumgayit not to suppress democracy but to save it. The only way out of the confrontation is the mutual consent.”
The sea had drawn back having left numerous ponds after itself and the road led through the ponds. The remnants of the old oil fields could be seen around. We had a stop for the last time.
As Suren expressed his suspicion if he could find time to solve the problems of looking for a person in Sumgayit to help me and find a place to spend the night I moved to Aramais Avanesyan’s track where a passenger named Alyosha promised to settle the problems.
Driving out of the highway which led from Baku to Derbent and the North Caucasus the caravan of our trucks turned to the right. The unusually unpleasant and pungent smell reminded us of approaching the city of chemical industry workers. With gigantic aluminium casted letters it was written ‘СУМГАИТ’. At the flat area, here and about, the sky-scraped chimneys were exhausting poison gas zealously with their jaws outstretched to the sky. Just from the neighbourhood of these plants the notorious microregions of Sumgayit started where the throng for three days long freely committed a massacre against the Armenian population.
The squares and streets were spacious. Apparently, the authors of the plan of the industrial city suffered from a gigantomania which was special to the mentality of the leaders of Socialist countries who had long ago buried in oblivion the conveniences of people’s living and normal atmosphere for contact. And in neighbourhood with the latter the district of ‘Nakhalstroy’ full of with self-built barracks appeared to be the other extremity of human settlement and was much near to the lifestyle of mice.
What is waiting for me in this city?
Everything was covered with deem. I have just now begun to feel the disastrous situation which had fallen to my lot. To rely on Alyosha from Sumgayit, as it seemed from his uncertain temper and self-content words, would mean to lead all of my plans to complete failure. For a moment I looked around me in despair. But a little later I found a thousand and one ways out. If there were any Armenians families left here then they would undoubtedly help me. The residents of Sumgayit who had sheltered in the rest houses of Arzakan were kind and generous even in despair. After all wasn’t it my aim to discover the truth and introduce it to the civilized world?
When we were walking along the Sumgayit streets at midnight Alyosha showed me a bulky man who was walking with his head bowed and lost in thoughts and was murmuring something to himself.
‘Here is my friend! He has got a contusion from the blow of the metal lever, his brain doesn’t work properly but he is a wonderful man.’
Alyosha took his head out of the car window and exclaimed: ‘Hakob!, Hakob!….look here, he doesn’t hear as he is occupied with thoughts or either he thinks a Turk calls after him,’ and then he turned to me, ‘You will lodge yourself at his apartment, he will help you greatly.’
The car entered one of the yards of the similar five-storeyed apartment houses of the 9th microregion.
The apartment was on the fourth floor where Alyosha’s sons had already bundled up the things and prepared for their father’s arrival. A young man with a dark face came in.
Hakob put a bottle of vodka on the table. The boys got annoyed:
‘Will you get busy with drinking instead of helping?’
‘Hey, guy! Shouldn’t we celebrate our leaving from Sumgayit? How it could be?’ Hakob replied and turned to me trying to tell something but like a defected record disk he continually repeated the same sentence and the dulled stylus could no way bring out that sentence from the special cell of the brain’s depository.
Alyosha’s sons whose faces expressed strain and distress as if they had temporarily appeared at a dangerous place and now seemed to be in a hurry to return back to homeland an hour before. They carried the goods down the narrow stairs silently and loaded the truck. At last Hakob suggested going to his apartment. Seyran Melkumyan, the dark-faced young man, having felt that I wanted to find an excuse to refuse Hakob’s offer, said, ‘Ok, let it be as it will happen, I agree, let’s go to my place, my apartment is free, my family has left for Krasnodar region and I live alone till I have my flat sold or exchanged.’
I made an appointment with Aramais so as to take me to Stepanakert in a few days on his way back from Sumgayit as I had no other chance to quit Sumgayit safe and sound.
Seyran’s apartment was on the first floor. There were shoemaker’s tools, wooden shoe models, lasts, pieces of leather thrown about in the balcony.
‘I am a shoemaker,’ Seyran said thus preventing my question. ‘I deal with shoemaking in my spare time. All of the residents of the town, both the Armenians, Russians and Turks bring their shoes to me for repair. The Committee of Civil Affairs took away my pavilion and sold it to a ungifted person of whom the clients of the whole city complain now.’
‘But according to the new law on cooperatives you have got the right to…’
‘According to law-yes, law permits but for how many times I applied I was refused. When the soldiers brought the Armenians together in the Chamber of Culture so as to save them from the claws of the slaughterers, Seidov, the Chairman of Sumgayit Committee, who was as well the president of AzSSR Council of Ministers asked me why I wanted to leave Azerbaijan and I replied to him: “I have several times applied to restore my shoe-repair shop but the Committee of Civil Affairs refused me.” The Chairman of the Committee of Civil Affairs was present there, too. I also told about my father, a veteran of Patriotic War, who had been wounded in his head and lost his vision. My father had several times made an appeal to receive a car. There was a USSR’s decision on it. But neither Muslimzade, the first secretary of the city committee, nor T. Mamedov, the Chairman of the Committee of Civil Affairs, didn’t answer his appeal. Seidov declared demonstratively before people, “Can you prove your words? If you are lying, you’ll be charged with it.” I immediately showed the bundle of the appeals’ copies. The Armenians had very little rights here though we had built this city.
With the law we could get very little. Later on, when we had been taken to the Chemists’ rest house, Seidov met me once again and asked, “Who did you appeal to restore your shoe-repair shop?” The chief architect of the city replied instead of me that I had four times made an appeal on that issue before I could utter a word. The Chairman of the Council of Republic’s Ministers said, “You can reopen your workshop at any part of the city you like.”
I could not stand any longer: “No, I want nothing now, after this slaughter I forever leave Azerbaijan.” I have already registered myself at the settlement of Tsvetochny of Maykop region. My family lives there now.
‘And what about your apartment, Seyran?’
‘Certainly, it is a pity, I obtained it with great difficulty, it is a convenient apartment, but there is nothing to be done, it is already impossible to live there.’
‘A few years ago I happened to be in settlement of Tsvetochny,’ I said, ‘I was there to conduct a series of television program about the local Hamshen Armenians. They are kind, hospitable and patriotic people. They have recently opened courses of Armenian language at school.’
It was already late. Seyran closed the door firmly. There was an axe hanging on the wall from the nail beside the door. He hammered another nail in the wall and hang a new axe from it.
‘And this one is for you,’ he said.
‘Why?’ I asked perplexedly.
He kept silent and then said, ‘If they force the door and break into the house, I shall just shoot with the diver’s harpoon at their belly and then I shall strike with an axe who would try to enter. You will also help me. And if they come from the balcony…’ he kept silent, looked anxiously and confusedly around himself, then continued, ‘excuse me, just every day, every hour I am waiting for them to come. And now that is most probable. If they learn there is a writer, journalist at my home, no doubt they will come…’
‘They will not come, Seyran,’ I said calmly and confidently deciding not to get into a panic whatever happens.
‘You know the horror of those days have not passed away yet,’ Seyran confessed sadly, ‘the images of those days will follow me till the end of my life.’
The door creaked for a moment. Seyran was petrified. I watched the pupils of his eyes grow larger. I felt what kind of horror he experienced, the resident of Sumgayit who had hosted me.
‘Seyran,’ I said calmly, ‘it’s me, I have leant against the door and it is going back.’
He said nothing.
March 28, 1988
Early in the morning I came down to the yard to get informed if everything was going well with the loading of the goods and furniture in the lorry. The driver once again assured me he would take me back in a week. Henrik Hayryan appeared at the truck; he had also come to move his goods to Stepanakert.
‘They made an attempt of burning our car at night,’ he pronounced in a hardly audible whisper very carefully looking around.
‘How is it?’ I inquired thinking simultaneously about the preventive steps to be taken by Seyran.
‘A stranger came up to the boy who was helping me to load the truck, took him aside and told him something,’ Henrik said, ‘the latter told me as if they warned him: “Leave this place immediately, we shall come in half an hour to burn down the truck with its luggage.” I thought about how to act. There was a Turkish guy named Harun who lived at the same porch and I knew he had some influence in criminal and dark world. I turned to him for help. I don’t know what he spoke to the ear of the stranger the latter left the place and never showed his face again.’
‘So, all this hasn’t ended yet, yes?’ I asked.
‘What kind of end are you talking about? Is it a thing to have an end?’ Henrik said.
I placed the video camera in the bag which had a special hole for the objective and we went out to the street with Seyran. I pushed the video button and directed the bag’s hole to those parts of the city which would be helpful during the montage of the future film to depict the atmosphere of Sumgayit. When we were already on our way back home having made purchases at the grocery store, Seyran said, ‘I watched everybody from aside examining you attentively at the store. And the shopkeeper didn’t take his eyes off your case. Now they are very cautious and too much attentive and nothing escapes their notice now.’
We entered home. I said I would like to meet the residents of Sumgayit, to visit the apartments where the atrocities were committed at. After having talked on the phone to somebody, Seyran said, ‘I have arranged an appointment with Sirvard, she’s waiting us now. Probably she will tell you certain things and even if she has got nothing to tell, maybe she will tell the place of those people who were eyewitnesses to the pogrom.’
From the first sight the city was quiet living by its everyday life. A more attentive look was enough to feel the inner tension which struck the eye.
The willows already prepared to open the accumulated inner beauty, the buds were about to blast and the leaves will appear within a night. But the cold Caspian wind blew and made the trees wait, bide. But why and what to wait for the trees did not know, they know one thing that the loss of that day would be on their account and so they hurried…
We tried to catch a taxi. Nobody stopped. They do not trust casual passer-bys. I raised my hand to stop the ‘Moskvich’.
The driver whose face expressed despair and gross insult though noticed us but showed as if he had taken no notice of my movement and drove by.
‘He’s an Armenian,’ Seyran said, ‘I know him.’
‘And why didn’t he pay any attention to us?’
‘Don’t be offended, the man who has experienced horror can’t be otherwise. Now the Armenians of Sumgayit look like a flock of sheep pushed by the pack of wolves to one of the corners of the pinfold being helpless, miserable…
A type of people stood out against the passer-bys in the street whose members were walking without looking around, they were extremely strained and it seemed to them as if the whole city’s attention was fixed on them and any time now they would be shot from back.
They were Armenians.
Sirvard’s apartment was in the city center next to the Lenin Square where the massacres and atrocities of the Armenians, the plunder of apartments and the burnings had broken out.
The hostess was a smiley and cheerful young woman with full face and big eyes.
‘I would like to help you,’ she said, ‘but I am afraid of…there’s a man who has got important materials. I have made an appointment with him and in an hour he will be at the ophtalmological polyclinics in an hour.’
‘And were there any kind of threats on your address in those days?’ I turned to her.
‘No,’ Sirvard said, ‘Well, everybody knows that this is Ahmad’s apartment.’
‘How? Does any Ahmad live here?’, I asked in despair looking for any ‘аhmadian’ traces in the apartment.
‘He was my husband,’ Sirvard explained, ‘he left for Russia on an outgoing job and did not return any more.’
‘It turns out the slaughterers were residents of Sumgayit,’ I said.
‘Of course,’ Sirvard said, ‘the Azerbaijanis of Sumgayit would not allow foreign people themselves to destroy, kill people in their city.’
The doorbell rang. Seyran fixed his alarmed inquiring look at Sirvard’s face.
‘This is my sister Stella,’ the hostess explained.
In contrast with Sirvard her sister was thin and gloomy with a stiff and strict temper. As she got informed I had arrived from Karabakh she said, ‘What did you achieve in Karabakh? Just nothing! Only our blood was shed. You do not even think about it. Aren’t you concerned if the same massacres break out towards the Armenians of Baku tomorrow?’
‘Thus do you feel as well that you are in a state of a captive?’ I asked.
‘And the Armenians of Baku are captives in their turn, too.’
‘Yes, and you should understand it, keep silent and do not demand anything from Azerbaijan.’
‘And are the Armenians, spread all over Russia, captives, too?…’
‘So what should we do? Can you lodge half a million Armenians in Yerevan?’
‘And why exactly in Yerevan? The border villages of Karabakh and Armenia have been emptied.’
‘Will a resident of Baku move to a village?’
‘The resident of Baku has moved to Baku from the villages of Nagorno-Karabakh, hasn’t he?’
‘No, he is a generation of those who have left Karabakh before. I was born in Baku.’
‘Excuse me,’ I said repressing my anger, ‘I have recently been to Khutor district of Baku where the Armenians live. It is not worthy to the modern man to live in such insanitary conditions. There is not even water for bathing let alone speaking about the drinking water. Yet having Nagorno Karbakh and the Republic of Soviet Armenia at his back one shouldn’t permit himself to live in such humiliating conditions. Any Armenian village is several times better in all perspectives rather than what is called Khutor. I saw crooked streets in your Khutor the width of which was one and a half meter. The 250 thousand residents of Khutor are from Karabakh who came in the fifties to study at technical colleges and as if they settled down in Baku having founded barracks here.’
‘I would even say more,’ Stella said, ‘the men of Khutor leave for seasonal outgoing work leaving their wives to casual men. Ok, in this case let’s say they leave Baku. Where should they go to?’
‘They prefer keeping their families under the threat of loss, in the condition of captives, sometimes even to make a speech against the motherland and demand from it to keep silence, rather to stay in bondage and not to claim anything, because suddenly the Turkish would get angry and commit atrocities against the captives.’
I visited the country of NZS adjacent to the airport. There were Armenians, too. The whole floor of the settlement was covered/ by with gas-supply pipes and the unauthorized self-built constructions rested upon them. How many times the gas-supply pipes have exploded by blowing up the houses with their residents! Can it be really tolerated?’
‘Most people are leaving for the North Caucasus.’
‘They are doing the wrong thing,’ I insisted, ‘they can’t persist as Armenians there.’
‘And what about Baku? Is it possible for an Armenian to survive here?’ Stella made an attack, ‘there is no school, no cultural center and no atmosphere for national development here. Is Armenia so much concerned about the state of the Armenians living in Baku? Why do not the state officials come here, get acquainted with the local situation and put a question before the Azerbaijani authorities? Indeed, in that case I would say that we have a republic to back us. Have the districts of Khutor and Nakhalstroy been ever described in your press? Has ever any journalist been to Khutor? No, there is no such a case!’
‘You also know well that in the conditions of the political regimes of Stalin and Brezhnev nobody would be allowed to write something like that.’
‘And what about now?’
‘And I am here now…’
Seyran was anxiously walking up and down looking at his watch incessantly.
‘Let’s go, we’ll speak later as well,’ he said.
We hurried to the ophthalmological polyclinics. The Caspian cold wind was blowing.
My old illness of colitis again made me feel it and I couldn’t to bear the sharp pain in my stomach. There was no sign of the resident of Sumgayit. We hurried home. After аn hour Seyran returned home.
‘There is no sign of that man,’ he said, ‘it seems to me he is afraid of coming.’
The telephone rang. It was Sirvard. Having talked to her Seyran apologized to me and checked my documents. I showed my membership card of the USSR Writer’s Union and the mission warrant but I made up my mind to refuse any help from Sirvard once for all. Sirvard had suggested of receiving me as a guest. She even invited to spend night at her apartment. I did not know her so I couldn’t feel confident enough I was not going to fall into the hands of the bandits at the very night.
March 29, 1988
I asked Seyran to accompany me to the procuracy of the city which became the seat of the USSR Procuracy Investigating Commission arrived from Moscow. They informed me here that V. S. Galkin, the Chairman of the Investigating Commission, had left for Moscow in the morning. His deputy R. I. Popov and the other officials refused to accept and speak to me in spite of the fact that I presented the warrant issued by the Chairman of the ArmSSR’s State Committee of Television directed to Galkin to help me in conducting my search. When I told them I was a writer they immediately looked at each other significantly then cast a slight glance at me saying they were not liable to report about something or speak to me.
‘But I have important news to report you,’ I didn’t gave in thus thinking that the information on the attempt of burning down the truck, arrived from Artsakh, would interest them.
‘We are not liable,’ the members of the investigating body replied in an invasive tone, ‘we cannot tell anything during this process of investigation.’
‘I myself have something to report you…’
‘We have no right to listen to anybody.’
Disappointed with the first failure I had a desire to leave that criminal city immediately. Surely, it was not the first case in my practice of a journalist. Recalling all of the cases when I had overcome many obstacles due to my virtues of persistence and patience I decided to stay and continue my work especially as the civilized world was ignorant of what had really happened and was still going on in Sumgayit and all over the territory of Azerbaijan.
I stood in despair at the entrance of the Procuracy when a strong man of about 35-45-years-old with major’s shoulder straps left the building of the Procuracy and looked at me steadily.
Having noticed my embarrassment he smiled. I also smiled back at him. He approached me.
‘Don’t you really remember me?’ he addressed to me speaking Russian in a low voice.
‘I don’t remember’, I replied simultaneously trying my best to remember where I had met this man with rounded cheeks and big eyes.
‘We met in Stepanakert. You were tired as you had just returned from Martakert. Let me introduce myself once again; Hovhannisyan Valera Armenak…”
‘Ah, yes, sure’, I cheered up, ‘I just couldn’t compare your uniform with your face in this atmosphere. As far as I remember we made an appointment to meet the next day as you said you had a lot to tell… And what are you busy with here?’
‘During the days of pogrom I was here…And now I have visited this dreadful city by the order of the USSR Procuracy.’
‘But it is dangerous for you in Sumgayit. Have you got a companion or a bodyguard?’
‘No, what kind of bodyguard! They will notice immediately and…’
‘You are right but I think they follow you.’
‘You will never notice it. But the Turkish don’t follow me. They are most likely tо protect me. I think so.’
‘Well, it will turn out at the end…’
Valera gave a wistful smile.
‘You don’t know this stuff and you’d better never had such an occasion to know them. I’d rather tell everything in order. Let’s just seclude ourselves from public view either they will notice us and that will come to a bad end for both of us.’
Having walked around several buildings and making sure that nobody tailed us, we went to the seashore. The Caspian billows touched the wet sand and retreated leisurely.
‘This year on February 10 a mutiny broke out in the jail of Ghzldash,’ the former Baku policeman started his story, ‘the reason for that was the dissatisfaction of the Talish with the chief warder who was born in Nakhijevan. He had appointed his compatriots to all of the important positions and created more favourable conditions for the prisoners from Nakhijevan. It goes without saying that everything had its start from Heydar Aliyev who was also considered to be from Nakhijevan.
‘Yet in reality he was born in the Kurdish-populated village of Jamrtlu of Sisian region of Armenia,’ I said.
‘I don’t know, officially it is accepted that he is from Nakhijevan, then it means he was from a family which had turned Turkish. Tofik Aslanov, the deputy minister of the Azerbaijani Interior Affairs, who was the son of Azi Aslanov, a hero of the Soviet Union, didn’t like the situation in the prison. He also did his best in his turn to protect the Talish, his compatriots. Do you know that this people are of ethnic Iranian origin whose country was divided, the northern part appeared to be a part of Azerbaijan and the southern part is in Iran? Finally, the clashes inside the colony broke out one day.
Besides the prisoners the prison officers and officials were engaged in the fightings, too. They killed the prison officials from Nakhijevan mercilessly, hang a part of them and burnt the other part. The prisoners took the opportunity and burnt the control panel of the jail so as to be able to escape from it. But the soldiers, with the automatic rifles and machine guns ready in their hands, mercilessly destroyed the prisoners approaching the barbed wires. They raised a general alarm, mobilized our regiment of Interior Ministry troops quickly and sent us to suppress the mutiny. We broke down the entrance gates by tractors and put down the mutiny pitilessly. Several weeks later, on February 27, our regiment moved to Baku. But at 12 o’clock in the night they again raised a general alarm and the service buses were again filled with us. In full uniform, including truncheons, shields, bulletproof jackets, but without any firearms, we set out for Sumgayit. They informed us there were demonstrations being held at the city squares and as if Muslimzade, the first secretary of the City Committee, had been killed. After an hour we reached Sumgayit. There were stones and pieces of broken glass scattered about the Square. “What has happened?” I asked the policeman. “How should I know? The crowd has rushed to the direction of the sea,” he answered. We went to the municipal administration of the Interior Affairs. Colonel Chapay Aghayev, the chief of safeguarding of public order, was also with us. The 80 percent of the policemen in my battalion were Azerbaijanis, that’s to say they were Turkish, six of them were Lezgins, two of them were Armenians and three of them were ethnic Russians. They informed us at the municipal administration that the infuriated throng was breaking the shop windows, robbing and beating the Armenians. As if we had been sent to suppress the slaughterers but by the order of Ramiz Mamedov and Tofik Aslanov, the deputy ministers of Internal Affairs, we were forbidden to interfere in the events which were taking place in the city. We turned to simple audience. “Don’t undertake anything!” Ramiz Mamedov, who was also the chief of the special police squad said, “sit down and wait.” Colonel Aghayev, who watched the mob mercilessly smash everything into pieces and make a mockery at people, let forth a stream of oaths directed to the address of his chiefs and ordered me to arrest the villains. I pierced with my boys through the throng and arrested seven of them who stood out for their active behavior and took them to the municipal administration. They had cold weapons in their hands and woman’s golden things in their pockets, the result of the robbery from the apartments and shops of the Armenians. When we started to disperse the mob somebody declared loudly, “Let all of you go home, we shall start our work tomorrow morning!” I approached Colonel Fatullah Huseynov, the chief of the protection of water-pipe conduit, who was previously the chief of the state motor vehicle inspectorate of the republic and told him that the most part of the slaughterers were the male-students of special patrolling and vocational school. “Why are you meddling in?” F. Huseynov cut in roughly, “put your boys into the buses and leave Sumgayit immediately!” “But you are not my chief and I obey not you!” I replied to him. I already felt in my bones that some evil forces were plotting a large-scale event. They were bringing together metal sharp-edged objects/, various weapons and stones. When we delivered the arrested bandits to the watch of the municipal administration the very moment they were set free. “Why do you free the criminals?” I complained. “That’s not your business,” the policeman on duty said and then turned to the bandits who had been set free, “You have been brought here by this Armenian and we haven’t got any guilt in this affair, so excuse us and go, continue your work.” The slaughterers stared at me menacingly and maliciously and left the place. I reported my commander about this. “We’ll find it out,” Chapay Aghaev said who tried to make it out what was really going on. Because of having been engaged in the suppression of the mutiny of the prison they didn’t manage to explain what had really been plotted in Sumgayit. At 3 o’clock in the midnight they informed that new slaughters broke out. A ‘Lugansk’ car, filled with Azerbaijani policemen, left for the districts of Sumgayit. Then we found the car completely crashed and the policemen deadly beaten. And we drove to the tube rolling factory. The Azerbaijanis had closed the city gates and set up a barricade there. I asked an Azerbaijani: “What’s going on here?” “The Armenians are killing, slaughtering us,” he said, “I have fled from Kapan.” “Listen here, boy!”, Aghaev addressed to him, “if they are killing your people in Kapan, then why have you left your wife and children and come to Sumgayit? Please, bring witnesses for us so as we can leave for Kapan and not organize slaughters of innocent people in Sumgayit. I see you have specially come here to entangle people with your provoking news.” “As it seems, you have also sold yourself to the Armenians”, the Turkish, who had arrived from Kapan, said. I was gradually being surrounded by the Turks and gripped in a steel vice. The boys of my battalion began to disperse them so as to free me. We returned to the city committee of the Communist Party.
I noticed a policeman approaching us along the coastline glued to a girl. But we were in the focus of his attention and not the girl. I made a sign to Valery by look. When the couple became equal to us Valery turned to the lieutenant in fluent Azerbaijanian: “Alik Rustamov, what are you doing here?” The lieutenant asked his girlfriend to walk slowly along the coastline till he reached her. When the girl was at enough distance away he spoke, “Comrade Major, I have been ordered from the slaughterers’ staff to follow you and make a signal to them in case I notice something suspicious for that the group will come and square accounts with you. I myself decided to take the opportunity and warn you.” Valera smiled and said, “Tell me ‘Let me die’ and I shall believe you.” This expression was a sacred oath for the Turkish. “I swear by my Armenian mother…you need to leave Sumgayit quickly,” the semi-Armenian, semi-Azerbaijani replied. “Well, Alik, I believe you, and tell them my companion is a Jewish who has arrived from Moscow and he’s also an enemy of the Armenians…” “Well, I understand,” Alik Rustamov answered hastily and hurried to the girl who was waiting for him.
‘Let’s leave this place,’ Valera said, ‘as it seems to me, I shall not be able to go to the hotel any more. Well, I shall in a way snatch my case and I leave this place, too.’
‘Where will you go?’
‘I will leave for Yerevan, I have got a wonderful friend, Dionys Margaryan, he has promised to find a position for me at the police.’
‘He’s also a friend of mine, he and his deputy always support me greatly. They have provided me with a video camera to shoot videos here. By the way, will you agree if I make a video of our conversation?”
‘Well, let’s put this way, as soon as we meet in Yerevan whatever you want I shall speak before your camera but now let’s be satisfied with what I have already told you. Where did I stop?…’
‘Well, you came back to the city committee.’
‘They said the Azerbaijani leadership is coming. It was five o’clock in the morning when the column of the cars of ‘Gaz-24’ entered the Square. They had left their government cars at the city gates, took other machines so as to stay unnoticeable for a stranger’s eye. Kh. Bagirov, V. Konovalov, Seidov, the other members of the Bureau of the Communist Party, the leaders of the Committee of the State Security and Internal Affairs got out of the cars. The leaders of the plants, organizations, educational institutions and housing authorities had come together at the hall of the City Committee beforehand. The session of the political-economical activists was over at 7:30 o’clock in the evening. As my battalion was instructed to secure the safety of the activists’ session sometimes I heard his speeches. Without hiding anything they discussed freely about how many gangs there were to attack, which districts they should attack, what they were armed with and whether the police would guarantee their safety.
When the residents of Sumgayit expressed their concerns about the Russian troops, Khamran Bagirov, the first secretary of the Central Committee, said they wouldn’t enter the city for three days. There was such a command and they had so much time to act freely.
The session was over and the leaders of the republic sat in the cars and left the place noiselessly. We moved to the direction of the bus station. And the ball-shaped tea house of Sumgayit reminded of a beehive. People went in and out frequently. That was the headquarters of the slaughterers. When I asked the major of the police why they didn’t arrest the leaders of the slaughterers he gave a short answer: “There is no command and we do not meddle in.” We were also looking forward for the command. But the command was being late. Here the command was given at last: “To get on the buses and leave Sumgayit”. A mob was again gathering in the square. At the outskirts of Baku, on the highway leading to Shаmakhi they informed by radio contact that another massacre broke out in Sumgayit. The buses turned back and we drove directly to Sumgayit. It was already impossible to enter the city. From every corner they were throwing stones and bottles with burning mixture (Molotov cocktails) at us. We moved onwards as a chain in a line and began to oppress the slaughterers.
“Stop! Do not move!” the Azerbaijani commanders exclaimed. But the Russian civilians approached us and begged in horror: “Please help, they are killing people over there…!” At that moment I felt a burning in the right side of my breast. They shot at me with a sharp electrode from the diver’s harpoon. My soldiers pulled out the arrow and helped me to be seated in the car. “Sit down and keep silent!” the Colonel commanded. With a Lezgin driver loyal to me we paved the way and joined the highway. I was thinking about to reach Baku as soon as possible and inform the state authorities about the events still going on in Sumgayit. At the country of Jeybatan the armoured cars and machines full of soldiers stood in a line. “They are killing the Armenian population in Sumgayit,” I turned to the Russian officer. “And we have been instructed to stop and wait,” he replied to me bitterly. Big military units, the regiments of naval and infantry colleges had been centered here. Only the third day of Sumgayit pogrom, on the 1st of March, they allowed the 3rd Balujarian regiment of the Internal Affairs to enter Sumgayit.
‘Didn’t you go to have your wound cured?’
‘No, they just applied iodine to clear the wound and then bandaged it. It was not high time for that!…Our regiment was sent to Baku and I was appointed as a sergeant-major at the republican mortuary near the country of Musabekov. Gabil Aliyev, the deputy of the Ministry of Interior Affairs, was also with me. During the first two days they brought thirty six dead bodies among which there were Russians, a Lezgin and two Azerbaijanis. The others were Armenians. The Azerbaijanis were killed because their wives were Armenians. They tried everything to protect their wives and children. The young Lezgin, having fallen into the hands of the slaughterers during the pogrom, in every possible way he tried to explain he wasn’t an Armenian but the Azerbaijani gang went on mocking him. At last, by the demand of the throng, the Lezgin showed them his circumcised penis. At that moment a Turkish cut the Lezgin’s penis from its other end with a sharp sword and raising it high in the air declared solemnly under the mob’s roars of laughter: “Look here, the sunna circumcision of the Lezgins must be performed this way.” The young Lezgin died of hemorrhage. Then they brought a corpse of a Jew. The third day it seemed as if there would be no end to the flow of the dead bodies. But they already registered them as casualties of accidents: as victims of fire or skirmish with the bandits. For several days they had kept them at hospitals and local mortuaries and only after that they took their corpses to the republican mortuary. But all of them bore the noticeable traces of torture. A part of them had died just in hospitals. I saw 300 corpses that day.’
‘And couldn’t you take the register with you?’
‘No, they kept watch on my every step. A special commission of the Central Committee of the Communist Party arrived. They brought suits to put on the corpses. For each victim and invalid they paid respectively thousand and five hundred rubles to their family members. I clothed five victims of the Melkumyan family. They were first buried in the international cemetery called ‘Wolf’s Gates’ but after some time the relatives of the family dug, took out the corpses and moved them to their homeland of Nagorno-Karabakh. I remember they brought burned corpses from the mortuary of Mardakian. You can never prove they were burned in Sumgayit. They acted in such a way so as to conceal the traces of the crime. Then they took us to Baku where anti-Armenian demonstrations were continuously being held. The mob wanted to attack the Armenian church and destroy it. We had to apply tear gas and truncheons at the Oilmen’s Avenue. After some time I was called by the USSR Procuracy Commission and asked on what basis I set free the slaughterers arrested on February 28. ‘Let you first examine my reports and then make it clear up who had freed them,’ I told them, ‘and after all why should I have set free the bandits when I had myself arrested them and took to the municipal police department? Besides, I am an Armenian after all, am not I? …” “Ah, yes, pardon me,” the Russian investigator said having understood that nothing came out from their undertaking of falsifying the truth, “just they informed from the police as if you had set them free.”
I could hardly orient myself and found the district and the apartment house where Seyran’s home was. Seyran was smoking cigarette one after another walking nervously back and forth in the yard. He was anxious and he watched the street where I should appear from. But I entered the yard from the opposite side. As soon as he noticed me a slight smile appeared on his face. We went up his flat silently.
‘Seyran, I want to visit the apartments of those who underwent the pogrom and speak to the people. Can you help me?’
‘Look here,’ Seyran said having thought a little, ‘of course, I can but let you know it is a dangerous affair. If they learn…we are lost.’
‘Nothing will happen, nobody will learn anything,’ I gave him heart.
‘Well, for the sake of good work, motherland and truth…what matter?’
March 30, 1988
In the morning having learned about a family Seyran said, ‘Now we shall go to the apartment of the Hayrapetyans.’
In half an hour we were at the 4th district in neighbourhood with Lenin Square. The door was opened by a Ukrainian-looking woman who invited us in quickly as soon as she heard the Artsakh dialect. It seemed as if a tsunami crossed through the apartment. Everything was toppled over in the flat. The inner doors were not in their places. Besides the big oval table and the chairs nothing was left in the apartment. The crystal chandelier was broken and hung helplessly from the ceiling. I don’t know what they looked like before the tragic events of Sumgayit but now it was impossible to catch a notion of smile neither on the faces of Georgy nor Sona and not their 16-year-old daughter Nelly.
I introduced myself and explained my purpose of visit. I was preparing the recording camera and at the same time I went on with the conversation. I should act in a manner so that they wouldn’t feel the objective directed to them and feel easy while speaking. I myself had a kind of problem. While watching after the recording process I should keep to the subject of the conversation.
‘The humankind must learn the truth,’ I concluded.
‘If my husband doesn’t mind…’ Sona said staring at the floor.
‘Well, what matter? For the sake of the truth it can be done,’ Gevorg Hayrapetyan said and began to tell, ‘It was February 26 and we went out to do shopping. I saw a crowd gathered at the city committee. They were shouting and crying loudly: “Karabakh is ours, Armenians clear out!” The following day it was repeated once again. Then the mob gathered at our yard. First they rang the doorbell then broke the door down, started beating and robbing…thus we found ourselves in the hospital.’
‘Did not you have an opportunity to hide yourselves in advance?’
‘We didn’t expect them to break into apartments.’
‘How can it be explained?’
‘Someone said as if the Armenians had committed violence against them in Karabakh and they should act likewise in Sumgayit,’ Sona said, ‘I told him that was impossible and that I didn’t believe that. But it was all the same to them, they broke the wooden stick over my husband’s head.’
I felt behind time that being absorbed in the conversation I had forgotten keep the objective of the camera directly onto the face of my interlocutor and it had slipped down.
‘Where do you work at?’ I asked.
‘I work at the ‘Organic Syntheses’ production unit.’
‘And how do your Azerbaijani colleagues interpret these latest events?’
‘They pretend as if they feel sorrow but it can be felt that they are not particularly inclined to accuse their brothers. I have well felt it. Though they said, “Hell with them, they have stolen goods, it’s most important you survived” but why such a thing had been allowed they kept silent in this respect. If they wished to prevent that wouldn’t be a grave difficulty for them. The policemen watched and enjoyed. It was a real performance for them. The feeling of resentment that has been left in us will never dissolve. Our disappointment knows no border. All of our Azerbaijani neighbours had closed their doors.’
Тhe lack of my experience already made itself felt. When I followed the screen of the camera I forgot and lost the thread of the conversation as well as the watch over the sequences. Yet both of them should be connected to each other automatically.
‘Did it happen in other places that the Azerbaijani neighbours show support to the Armenians?’ I said having guessed what the talk was about.
‘But our neighbours watched indifferently at our place,’ Sona said, ‘there was not even a person to warn about the danger. Maybe our Russian neighbours didn’t know what was going on but the Azerbaijanis were well-aware what was to be expected. My daughter Nelly’s girlfriend, a Lezgin by nationality, wanted to come at our place and warn but her parents didn’t allow her by saying that it was dangerous.’
‘How many days did you lie at the hospital?’
‘Twenty days. They had broken Gevorg’s ribs. The concussion of the brain and the contusion of the right eye still remind of the pain. The neighbours said after we had been taken to hospital some dozen people came and stole all of our wealth. They even took the bed-linen with them. Who would have it taken? It was the handiwork of the locals. As if there was nothing found to take away.’
There was a heavy silence. I again lost the thread of our conversation. Gevorg disturbed the silence.
‘They made an attempt of rape. There was a comrade among them…’
‘Do you still call him a ‘comrade’?’ I asked surprisingly.
‘Well, I don’t know, it just sounds like that,’ Gevorg pronounced in confusion, ‘he didn’t allow, he said it was enough, let’s go, we’ve still a lot of work to do.’
‘Who were they?’
‘Young men of 25-45 years old. And the street urchins were running around them! They are looking for excuses, they say the bandits were drug addicts but they broke into only the apartments of the Armenians and not the ones belonging to the Azerbaijanis.’
‘And yet so close to Baku,’ I noticed.
‘Then naval forces arrived from Baku,’ Gevorg answered, ‘I asked a captain why they came so late and he replied: “The fathers of your city didn’t give permission saying that everything was in peace at their place and they did not need any support.”
‘He also said they had stood up in alarm and waited for an instruction,’ the wife added, ‘Muslimzade and the others convinced them not to come, there was no need for that. The guilty were the city committee and the city executive committee of the Communist Party.’
‘The demonstrators passed near your apartment house,’ I reminded her not forgetting to change the plans on the screen so that the editing would be easy to do.
‘I haven’t seen,’ the husband said.
‘I have seen,’ the wife said, ‘I was looking from the balcony. I noticed some of my colleagues among them. Thus they were together as one soul. I am not sure, perhaps they haven’t partaken in the pogrom, but they sympathized the mob and the murderers.’
‘And was it connected with the events developing around Nagorno-Karabakh,’ I asked.
‘I did know nothing about the events of Nagorno-Karabakh,’ Gevorg said.
‘We always learn news very late,’ his wife added.
‘I am from Baku,’ her husband said, ‘my ancestors were from Baku as well. I had no connection with Karabakh. My chief once said as if he had seen a peaceful demonstration in Baku where they declared Karabakh as their land.’
I turned to Nelly who was silent, ‘After having seen all this haven’t you lost your trust in men?’
‘No, well, all people are not like them.’
‘But as for me, I have lost my faith,’ the mother said.
‘Maybe you are a cosmopolitan in a sense,’ I addressed to Gevorg, ‘have you got many Azerbaijani friends?’
‘Yes, my friends are generally Azerbaijanis. They support me in any possible way. After all I have lost everything, all that I have earned for all these thirty years.’
‘And do you blame those people who have left Sumgayit?’
‘Why, we would leave for Odessa with great pleasure,’ Sona said.
‘Why exactly to Odessa?’
‘My sister lives there.’
We went out to the street. Seyran greeted with the old seller of the newsstand.
‘What has happened in your city?’ I asked in Azerbaijanian.
‘It was a flood which appeared suddenly and passed away,’ the seller of the newsstand replied, ‘it was a disaster, a calamity, it will never happen again…”
‘But why did it exactly happen to us? What was the matter?’ Seyran asked him angrily.
‘Well, it was a kind of flood…’ the Azerbaijani repeated confusedly.
Seyran turned to me, ‘Seidov, the Chairman of commission, also expressed in the same way, too, they repeat his words.’
We stopped at the advertisement panel of the city. Seyran howked the papers being interested what kind of opportunities there were to exchange the apartment. Two young Azеrbaijanis in black suits and ties appeared at the advertisement panel. They examined the advertisements carefully and tore them up in turn after a small discussion with each other. I watched them attentively. They mainly tore up the advertisements offering to exchange apartments with the Azerbaijanis of Kapan. If these men were employees of the city committee then they had a special instruction to prevent the Azerbaijanis of Syunik from changing their places of living. The nationalist aspirations of the Azerbaijani propagandists in regard to the Armenian province of Syunik were always well-known. This historical region of Armenia hindered the Turkish from expanding to the East, up to their ancestral homeland of Gorny Altai and to restore once the Turkish Empire.
‘Why are you tearing up?’ I addressed to them with a kind of strict tone in my voice.
They were taken unawares and looked at me from head to heel. Seyran’s face lost colour with excitement. I looked self-confidently straight into their eyes with a calm, slight smile. They looked at each other significantly, turned back and went away.
A young man with a smiling face approached us. Seyran brightened.
‘He is a Georgian and he has got a lot to tell you,’ Seyran said and immediately introduced us to each other.
‘Konstantin Pkhakadze,’ the Georgian said, ‘the fact of my being a Georgian gave me an opportunity to follow the course of the demonstrations for three days.’
‘Seyran,’ I said to him, ‘you can get busy with your affairs and besides you have already lost enough time and as it seems to me I have got a lot to speak to Kote.’
‘Yes, well,’ Seyran agreed, ‘I have to be dismissed from work. They issued an order of discharge. Besides there is the problem of my apartment, I shall see what can be done.’
Kote and I decided to enter the public park together and have a talk to each other in a quiet corner.
‘I work at the factory of superphosphate,’ Kote, a resident of Sumgayit, began to tell his story, ‘on February 21 my Azerbaijani colleagues informed me that a big demonstration would be held on the 28th of February in relation with the events of Karabakh. I didn’t treat it seriously. On February 26 there were 50 people gathered at the square who were unceasingly shouting ‘Karabakh’. I live not far from the square: the 1st district, apartment house N 5a, apartment N 8. I immediately noticed their leader. He declared he had come from Kapan where the Armenians had killed his mother, as well as the relatives of his wife and that an age-old bloody war always existed between the two nations. He succeeded in that the people gathered in the square began shouting, “Let’s drive the Armenians out of the Azerbaijani land!” Having finished my duty I again passed near the square. Up to 21 o’clock in the evening cries and shouting were continuously heard. That day they smashed the doors and the windows of the shops and pavilions where the Armenians worked at. The next day, beginning from 10 o’clock in the morning, the voice of the loudspeakers installed in the Square was heard in all of the edges of the city. There were about 400 people gathered in the square. The mob was full of enthusiasm. The same leader with an oblong face and short beard had already changed his style of speech: “In Kapan there’s a dormitory where only the Azerbaijani girls live,” he said, “the Armenian boys have entered, raped all of them and cut their breasts.” Of course, I didn’t believe as it is a Muslim tradition and has nothing to do with Christian people. He was deliberately inciting and straining people.
It was a pity I couldn’t make a video of our conversation with Kote at that moment so as not to draw somebody’s attention on us.
‘After dinner I came back to the square again,’ Kote continued, ‘I met some Azerbaijani acquaintances who were present there. “Go away, Kostya!” they said, “all this may have a bad ending also for you because your wife is an Armenian, isn’t she?” The first speech belonged to Mulyuk Bayramova, the second secretary of the city committee of the Communist Party of Sumgayit. She turned to the crowd: “Muslim brothers! Do not touch the Armenians, let them leave our city by their own will!” Muslimzade, the first secretary of the city committee of the Communist Party, appeared at five o’clock. The leader cried out: “Death to the Armenians!” The first secretary of the city committee of the Communist Party mounted the rostrum. “Muslim brothers!”, he addressed to the crowd gathered at the square, “the Armenians and Azerbaijanis have been enemies to each other since old times. But now there we live peace times. Comrade Gorbachev has declared that nobody would take Karabakh away from Azerbaijan, we shall never allow it, calm down, you do not need to kill the Armenians, let’s allow them leave Sumgayit freely”. Muslimzade was aware what was in store for the Armenian population. And the crowd was in exultation.’
‘If they say no residents of Sumgayit participated in the demonstration,’ I interrupted, ‘why did the city authorities make a speech before them?’
‘It had been prepared specially,’ Kote said and drew back his lips. By finishing his speech Kote lingered over the moment so as to collect his thoughts before starting the following sentence, ‘the main idea of the first secretary was to drive the Armenians out of Azerbaijan. At half past six the crowd moved forward. I was standing at the Chamber of Chemists and everything was clearly visible. Muslimzade came down from the platform, bypassed the demonstrators in theleft side, dissolved among the crowd and marched with them. The rabble passed Nizami Street where there were the tramway rails and immediately surrounded two people. One of them was a bulky man of about fifty and the other was a tall and thin young boy of eighteen. The Square had a little higher position from where everything could be clearly seen by me.
We walked out of the park talking to each other and we were about to reach the Square on one side of which there stood the building of the city committee of the Communist Party its facade decorated with a green plant and on the other side there was the Chamber of Chemists. In front of the building of the city committee the memorial of Lenin stood. As in many other places the leader has outstretched his hand. I wondered what the leader’s outstretched hand really meant when at the end of February just at the foot of the statue they were shouting: “Slaughter the Armenians!…”
In the first days of March these two buildings were full of the Armenian families who had survived from the pogrom.
‘The young boy broke off and disappeared out of sight in the 4th district,’ Konstantin Pkhakadze went on with his story. In several minutes the mob moved to the direction of Druzhba Street leaving the still body of the fat/ man lying on the asphalt. Certainly, there was no doubt he was an Armenian. In the evening they telephoned me and informed that they were destroying the apartments which belonged to the Armenians, raping women, robbing and burning down in the city. The following day, in the morning of February 28, Yelena Valentinovna, a Ukrainian, told me over the telephone that they had undressed her neighbour and driven along the streets. I came out again onto the street to see what was happening in the city. And again everything had its starting from the demonstrations. I met my colleague Kyamran, a 4-year student of external faculty. He told me proudly that he and Gummetov had thrown an Armenian old man out of his apartment’s window the day before. There were about five thousand people around us. That day the leader was absent. He had already committed his black work. There is no doubt that everything had been prepared in advance. You cannot find even a single stone with a radius of 150 kilometers all around Sumgayit and here the city was filled with fist-sized stones beforehand. There was an undeclared war of stones against the Armenians. Starting from 12 o’clock in the morning of February 28 they had already switched off the telephones of the citizens. That day was a real St. Bartholomew’s Day for the Armenians residents.
We passed through the districts of Sumgayit where one of the vilest crimes of human history had been committed for three days long.
At 7 o’clock in the morning of February 29 I went on duty. I was astonished with surprise. They were plastering over the houses destroyed and burnt by the hands of the slaughterers’ gangs, new window frames were being replaced instead of the old ones, and the interior of the apartments were being decorated. Thus, the authorities had instructed to conceal immediately the fact of the massacre. Two of my friends, the Avanesyan brothers, Albert and Valery, were killed. They came forward to the mob thus giving their mother an opportunity to flee. And the infuriated throng immediately slaughtered them.
We reached the bus station. The huge posters in Azerbaijanian and Russian, announcing in advance about the upcoming community work day in Sumgayit on April 16 arrested everybody’s attention. In the spacious square of the bus station, around the round structure the emblems of the fifteen brother republics were fixed. The Emblem of the Soviet Socialist Republic of Armenia was new and stood out among the others with its brightness. The mount of Ararat was considerably outstretched from the surface of the Emblem. During the February events the infuriated throng had pulled out the ArmSSR’s Emblem and trampled under their foot and broken it.
‘For forty years we have built and raised Sumgayit in deserts yet it has now become a city of violence and barbarism,’ my Georgian interlocutor continued, ‘I shall leave the place and will never be back again. We were walking in this Square with my friend and examined the surroundings with surprise. Here two ‘Ikarus’ buses were overturned and burnt down and a little farther from here there was a burnt microbus, then a huge freezer truck as well as a ‘Zhiguli’ again overturned and burnt. Look here, the traces are still visible on the asphalt. There was a metal heap at the air ticket office. We went up to it. We guessed from the metal staircase of its backside that it was a military vehicle of ‘Ural’ type. A ‘Zhiguli’ stood not far from the armoured car. A sharp smell of something grilled had spread about. Human bones could be noticed in the burned car. They had thrust the people into the cars and burnt them alive. We saw at least eight cars in the same manner. At that moment we watched the soldiers surround the cars so as to protect them and the Azerbaijanis attacked them. The soldiers had no instruction to fire and very often the fights were of an unequal nature. When they had taken us to the Culture Chamber, a Major of the Committee of the State Security collared an Azerbaijani and was taking him to the police station shouting angrily: “Damn it! This is already the third time I have caught this villain and have seen him armed each time!” The soldiers caught the bandits and murderers yet the police set them free. The Soviet press wrote ninety people had been arrested. But let’s turn to the reason. In those days, certainly, with considerable delay special military units of ten thousand, particularly the division after Dzerzhinsky as well as the special detachments of Internal Affairs, landing force and the marines were concentrated in Sumgayit. And ten thousand soldiers against ninety bandits? At the evacuation centre four thousand soldiers protected 18 thousand Armenians from ninety bandits while there were at least 4000 males among the Armenians. Isn’t this insulting? Where is the human mind? And this is in case when no Azerbaijani will ever attack an Armenian or a Russian alone. And yet the press covers everything.’
‘Haven’t you given testimony to the investigating committee?’
‘I offered the investigators to make a photofit picture of the leader from Kapan so as to find the instigator and through him the organizers. Yet they refused. Probably they didn’t need to find the organizers.’
‘And where are you going to leave for? To Georgia?’
‘I don’t know, probably to Armenia, well, even to Chukotka, it’s all the same, just only I’d like to be well away from this city.’
We arranged with Kote to meet in a week in Yerevan and to make a video of the conversation for a film. After having wandered a little in the streets of Sumgayit I returned home.
Seyran was anxious again waiting for me restlessly.
‘I shall never leave you alone in the city again,’ Seyran said.
‘Nothing will happen to me,’ I calmed him down.
‘I understand. But I am saying this for me. I very much fear for you. I am always in a strained condition. One or two more times and my heart won’t resist any longer.’
‘And what was up at your workplace?’ I changed the subject of the conversation.
‘Three Armenians working at the inspecting organization had visited the municipal electric network station to record the figures of the electrical counter and the electricians of the network became panic-stricken and fled immediately having thought that the Armenians had come to avenge them.
‘Do you see what kind of cowards are they in reality? It’s clear that those electricians partook in the pogrom.’
‘A little later the director of the electricity network system broke into the office out of breath with 15 people as if to support and saw there was only a man on duty at the office. He asked: “Where are your colleagues?” The man on duty answered that they had run away. “And who were those people who came here?” “Three Armenians came, rewrote the figures of the electrical counter and left the place to pay the bill.” “And nothing more?” the director asked in surprise. “Nothing more,” the man on duty replied. “And I was informed the Armenians were slaughtering the Azerbaijanis in the electricity network office,” the director said and swore his compatriots for behaving like a coward. So, do you see dear journalist, they also fear of us, of our revenge.’
March 31, 1988
After several meetings and video shootings with the members of the families who had undergone atrocities and had casualties I made up my mind to introduce myself at the city committee of the Communist Party and speak to the first secretary. As the newly-appointed first secretary, who knew me from Nakhijevan, was informed about the purpose of my visit, instructed the second secretary to receive and support me saying that he had recently moved from Nakhijevan and didn’t know what had really happened here.
I had met the newly-appointed first secretary of the city committee of Sumgayit in Nakhijevan in 1987 where I had gone to continue my travelling by the traces of the Armenian novelist Raffi.
Malyak Kuli kyzy Bayramova, the second secretary of the City Committee of the Communist Party, was a short woman of about fifty with round, dark face. She came to meet me and shook hands with me. I decided to attack immediately.
‘What has happened in your city?’ I said, ‘why did you let the Azerbaijani people to be disgraced before the whole world.’
‘We never expected such a situation…But the roots of all this come from far away, from the other side of the ocean.’
‘I don’t think so,’ I cut in, ‘I want to get acquainted with the real situation in the city and describe it in an objective way. How did it happen that for three days long you allowed to kill people just at under Baku’s nose.’
‘You know, there were meetings held on the 27th of February and there were no murders, no damages. In the evening of the 28th of February the disorders started. It was the handiwork of some separate criminal elements and the old offenders.’
‘As far as I know you also made a speech during that meeting.’
‘Well, I had to do that, to make an effort so as to calm down the crowd. The demonstrators have nothing to do with those massacres and murders.’
‘Excuse me but I don’t understand why the convicts, old offenders needed to kill the Armenians.’
‘But there were both Armenians and Jewish and Russians among them…’
‘Did only strangers take part in the demonstration?’
‘No, why? They had passed round the streets for six times and had continuously engaged new people. But why did they want to thrust a wedge between the friendship of the two nations? This is the question. The connections go so far away. Nobody either in Yerevan or in Stepanakert thinks about it.’
‘I think you are in vain looking for the roots of the evil in the far distance,’ I said, ‘you’d better look for them here. Can I meet the families which suffered losses?’
I understood if they learned about my meetings with the families they would just immediately take away the videotape and I would return to Armenia empty-handed.
‘No, they are in Baku now,’ Bayramova replied to me and took her chance to ask me a question in her turn, ‘have you met any residents of Sumgayit in Yerevan? Will they come back?’
‘Well, yes, I have met some and spoken to them. The insult is too deep. They will never come back again.’
‘I can understand concretely those people who have suffered,’ Malyak Kuli Kizin said, ‘and those who haven’t…’
‘As for me there are no people who haven’t suffered. For three days long they expected the slaughterers to break into their apartment each moment and kill them, too.’
‘So, there’s is no wish to return, yes? And what do they say?’
‘Now they are looking forward to their settlement.’
‘How much people are there?’
‘About three thousand.’
‘We have got information from Stepanakert but nothing about Yerevan.’
‘Most of them didn’t manage to take clothes and money. But the local people support them. When I told them I was about to leave for Sumgayit they replied I was coming to the city of death and I would be never back again.’
‘Eh, they are not right, don’t you how the city is peaceful now! It will be never repeated again. And what’s the feeling of the residents of Sumgayit who are in Stepanakert now?’
‘They are natives of Karabakh and have returned to their homeland. And here is their feeling. Well, I mustn’t forget to say,’ I added, ‘I have heard the same forces are about to hold a demonstration at the factory of superphosphate for protection of Muslimzade. There’s already such a movement in the city.’
‘I know nothing about it,’ the second secretary of the city committee said, ‘just think of it! Then I must immediately inform the State Security Committee to stave it off.’
‘It seems to me that the protection of the first ex-secretary of the city committee is also the protection of the pogrom and massacres as well,’ I concluded which was ignored by my interlocutor.
Valery Petrov, the instructor of the Central Committee of Azerbaijani Communist Party followed our conversation with utmost attention probably, the very representative from the Central Committee of State Security. M. Bayramova went out of the room probably with the intention of leaving us alone, face to face. I thought she would follow the course of our conversation from the neighbouring recording room. I already knew that I mustn’t give way to provocation and I mustn’t avoid telling the truth on the other hand. V. Petrov was the first to break the silence.
‘I am interested in your attitude towards the unification of the NKAR to Armenia. If we start to nationalize the republics then what would happen to the Internationalism? If we populate all of the Azerbaijanis in Azerbaijan and all of the Armenians in Armenia, then return your Armenian Karabakh to Armenia, what will it result in? And why act like that?’
‘That would be advantageous both for the country and the republics. That would be favourable for the overall development. If there is a social movement then that’s a need. Lenin also stated that way.’
‘And why acting in such a manner?’ the instructor of the Central Committee persisted in, ‘as a Communist I put this question.’
‘Karabakh is Armenia even if it is within the borders of Azerbaijan. That’s well understood both in Baku and Moscow. And the people of Karabakh are attached to the motherland of Armenia. During the years of stagnation of Brezhnev and even before they were always ill-treated by Azerbaijan. And the only way out of this situation is the reunification with Armenia.’
‘But why? What is the final goal? What shall we gain? What will it give to you?’
This was the case when none of us wanted to understand or yield to each other. It was beyond my comprehension how why he didn’t understand or didn’t accept my point. I decided to approach from another side.
‘Would it be right if we liquidate the republics?’ I asked.
‘No, it wouldn’t,’ Petrov replied.
‘The roots and identity of the nations would persist.’
‘Well, then the roots are essential here, too. You can never destroy them either with the long-breathed talks on Internationalism or about amity.’
‘But what would you achieve by isolating the nations?’ Petrov returned to the same question. ‘What’s the use of it?’
I turned to Bayramova who had just come back to the room, ‘If one nation wants to be united will there be a great harm to the whole country because of it?’
‘I do not know,’ she said easily avoiding of being engaged into a difficult and dangerous conversation for her.
‘You know what?’ I turned to Petrov, ‘your question doesn’t concern the Armenians who are spread all over the territory of the USSR and the world. In medieval ages they used to unite the people of the world by trade.’
‘Well, let’s suppose Karabakh is given to you and the personnel of the party bodies is changed.’
‘In Nakhijevan, before it was annexed to Azerbaijan by the efforts of Turkey, the majority of the population was Armenian. Now it doesn’t exceed two percent. Baku has created such conditions that people leave from Nagorno-Karabakh. Now the people of Karabakh are concerned for losing their ancestor’s homeland.’
‘That’s true,’ my companion confessed.
‘And if there were no suppression from Baku probably all this wouldn’t have happened.’
‘Then all are guilty here,’ Petrov said, ‘and why do they leave from Karabakh? If the shoes press we are not to choose a new pair but to pull out the nail.’
‘And if the shoes are of a small size? Then the nail has nothing to do with. Baku isn’t a nail and you can’t easily get rid of it,’ I said.
‘The decision of the Politburo is an attempt to pull out the hindering nail.’
‘Really? But there is no nail, do you see? They want to pull out a nail yet in reality there is a need of news shoes. The only solution is the reunification with Armenia.’
‘Well, you know that everything has its consequences,’ the Russian instructor said, ‘and nothing happens suddenly. Why did all of you want it at once?’
‘We didn’t want it at once. Its roots lead us too deep, to the depths of the history of centuries, when Armenia was divided into parts.’
‘Well, I know the history of Armenia. You see, I have wondered from a country to another, I was born in China and lived in the Far East. I just want to understand.’
‘When I look at the Russian rivers, such powerful, calm, even and broad, I really think that the people owning such kind of rivers may give birth to Tolstoy, Chekhov, Dostoevsky, Bunin and Bulgakov. And vice versa, we have mountain rivers and more poetry. The worldview of the Armenians is a little bit different from the Russian one. Even in that I find the origin of your question. You can’t understand, you can’t perceive the nation who owns mountain tumultuous, rapid rivers…’
At last the second secretary of the City Committee took her seat. I told her that it was already three days I was in Sumgayit and because of sickness I lay at the apartment of a resident of Sumgayit. Then I told about the problems of Seyran Melkumyan, about the car which his disabled father should receive and which was never received by him, about the shoe repair shop and about the appeals which never received their answers. M. Bayramova, having checked quickly whether my words really corresponded to reality, promised to give quick solutions to those problems. Then she instructed Rahim Hasanov, the instructor of the City Committee, to honour my request and lead me first of all to the factory of synthetic rubber which provided the tyre producing factory of Yerevan with raw material then to visit the editorial office of the newspaper of ‘Komunista Sumgayita’ and afterwards an institution of higher education where I should speak to the workers, employees, students and to conduct appropriate video shooting in the city.
Аccompaniеd by Rahim Hasanov and Vezirkhan Nabioghli, the instructors of the City Committee of the Communist Party, I visited ‘Sintezkauchuk’ industrial plant, one of the major chemical hubs of Sumgayit. M. M. Rashidova, the secretary of the party organization of the plant, led us to the department of the supply of materials where mainly Russian women worked. From the first look I understood that the conversation wouldn’t be sincere. And I saw no point to demand from the instructors of the City Committee and the party secretary of the factory to come out from the office. Tamara Andreeva and Alexandra Puzovskaya praised the Armenian masters but on the other hand they also blamed the ones who had left both the factory and the city. According to them those people who had not suffered physical or material damages had no right to leave the city. And to my question how they would explain why the Russians had left the city as the genocide was only against the Armenians they categorically denied the fact of Russians’ leaving. I asked them to be honest in speech but at the end I blamed them in dishonesty. Surely, in other circumstances they would behave in a different way. They had been already well-instructed in advance. At the control panel they introduced an Armenian girl. She was too much excited and frightened thus she refused to respond to my questions.
‘I was at my workplace and haven’t seen anything,’ she whispered.
As I felt her condition I never again insisted on my inquiries.
All of my companions, among them Mustafa Hasanov, the head production engineer, formally condemned the bandits of Sumgayit describing them in a manner as if the slaughterers had no relation either to their city or the authorities of their city and the country. They represented as if it was an outer phenomenon, a kind of ‘storm’ which came unexpectedly and seized the city.
‘Maybe we’ll visit another factory?’ Rahimov suggested having felt my disappointment.
‘No,’ I refused, ‘it makes no sense to me, they won’t tell the truth, Malyak Bayramova said that we could meet at the newspaper office. Can you accompany me again tomorrow?’
‘Surely, Comrade Bayramova has made an appointment with the newspaper editor of ‘Коммунист Сумгаита’ Rahim said.
April 1, 1988
Mark Grigorich Voroshilovsky, the editor of the newspaper ‘Коммунист Сумгаита’ was waiting for me. Yevgeni Popov, the deputy head editor of Moscow weekly newspaper ‘Неделья’, A. Hadjiev, the editor of the Azerbaijani variant of the Sumgayit newspaper and Anahit Martirosyan, the newspaper correspondent of ‘Коммунист Сумгаита’ had come together at Voroshilovsky’s office, too.
The conversation started with the questions concerning the fate of the refugees from Sumgayit in Yerevan and Stepanakert.
The conversation/talk started/began on/over/about the issues of the future/destiny/fate of the Sumgayit refugees who were in Yerevan and Stepanakert.
‘I know many people,’ M. Voroshilovsky said, ‘who have definitely decided to live in Sumgayit.’
‘And what has happened here, does it have anything to do with the problem of Karabakh in your opinion?’ I addressed him.
‘Well, how shall I put it? Now it’s difficult to give such an appraisal,’ the editor of Jewish origin avoided the answer.
‘Certainly, avoidance of giving an appraisal is also a kind of interesting answer,’ I said with a firm decision to attack incessantly, ‘after all Karabakh is only three hundred kilometers far from here…’
‘The distance doesn’t matter,’ the editor replied, ‘оf course, the issue of Karabakh made heavy waves. ‘Nagorno-Karabakh and around it’, and here around it: the echo of Sumgayit…’
‘But such a response to the demand of the Armenians of Karabakh probably is unacceptable for you, too,’ I said.
‘Well, that was not a response,’ the newspaper editor denied.
‘Well, what was the demonstration held for?’ I restarted from the other end.
‘I was passing through them. They were shouting…’ Voroshilovsky said avoiding the expression of reproach of my face.
‘And what were they shouting about?’
‘I don’t know Azerbaijanian.’
‘But they were shouting about the Armenians, weren’t they?’
‘Yes, it happened so.’
‘And did you see familiar faces?’
‘Well, you know, I have been living here for thirty years but I had never seen them before. They were not residents of Sumgayit.’
‘Did the secretaries of the city committee also make speech?’
‘Yes,’ Voroshilovsky yielded, ‘they called the Armenians to come to reason.’
‘In Azerbaijanian? But did they know in front of whom they were making speeches?’
‘Before the crowd, the people.’
‘But could it be possible that thousands of people come to Sumgayit by chance from various places and hold a demonstration here? And why exactly here and not in the squares of Baku? And as you insist on they were criminal elements…’
‘I cannot say that. I never met an acquaintance among them. I know almost everybody in the city.’
‘So, had the residents of Kapan come to Sumgayit to hold a demonstration here?’
Popov had switched on the dictaphone and now favoured me with a slight smile, now Voroshilovsky.
The City Committee instructors didn’t break into the conversation as well leaving everything under the responsibility of the Jewish editor.
‘Will you publish the results of your conversations and meetings?’ Anahit asked anxiously, ‘I think we are not liable to make assessments and to incite people. I also felt myself as an owner of the city before but now…there is nothing to be done, that horror…I would just like you not put the accent on the dramatic events. You’d better not to shed light on them.’
Certainly, according to the preliminary instruction, Anahit should protect her chief otherwise what was her business here?
‘And I see things differently,’ I said, ‘so as not to be repeated again the civilized world should learn the truth about the tragic events. And this issue concerns the whole humanity as it is an insult and threat to it. It makes no difference, uncountable news spread worldwide. Why isn’t there a true program? It’s a shame that such a thing happened in our country, that there are still such type of people and they are in thousands. The Government of the Republic has never even echoed, has never condemned…No, we need to write down one by one, to restore everything part by part, every phenomenon, every case.
‘Have you read Comrade Chebrikov’s speech?’ Hadjiev asked, ‘it was devoted to the tragic events of Sumgayit. He speaks about many various reasons. So, the fear has no basis.’
‘But it still exists. The fear doesn’t disappear.’
‘Well, those are the psychological remnants of feelings which will pass away,’ the newspaper editor said. ‘Here they have informed by a letter that an Azerbaijani woman had gone out of the Institute and thrown her kerchief in front of the bandits’ feet. In Azerbaijan we have got such an old tradition. And she said: “If you cross it…” Professor Sadykhov, the head of the chair, had come out onto the street and said: “If you need blood beat me but don’t touch the people!…” Here, another woman had come out onto the street cut her leg, it started bleeding and she said: “Will you really cross this blood?…”
‘You are telling legends,’ I said.
‘They thought about how to save the Armenians.’
‘And the bandits listened to them, respected the old legend and drew back?’
‘You, Mark Grigorevich, you justify the murderers, slaughterers and make good knights of them and even endow them with gentleman’s features,’ I turned to him bitterly, ‘well, excuse me, it is not worthy to the newspaper editor.’
‘Well, you know, there were bandits but there were also kind people who saved many people,’ Voroshilovsky went on steadfastly with the party mission by swallowing the accusation from my side.
‘And why did the bandits need killing the Armenians?’
‘Well, there could be instructors among them as well. Now an investigating commission of 120 people tries to find out. Do not hurry. They do not hurry as well, they say as soon as we finish up the case we shall inform about it. The bandits already get their deserving punishment. The trial procedure will be launched in the second half of April. Already a person from the tube rolling factory will face trial. Five bandits have already stood trial. One got one year and the other two…they get deserving punishment.’
‘The heroes of Sumgayit…’ I said. They pretended not to have heard my hint.
Voroshilovsky said, ‘The leaders of the Republic immediately arrived at Sumgayit.’
‘Really?’ I stung with irony.
‘Of course. What concerns the police that is another thing…’
‘They absolutely stood idle,’ I said.
‘Our newspaper has already published about it,’ he turned the newspaper’s page, ‘look here! “Where did the police watch?”. They dismissed a colonel from service.’
‘Generals and marshals should be dismissed/fired for this case.’
‘They said all of the guilty ones would be punished.’
‘I doubt,’ I said.
‘Because most of the bandits have already slipped away, they have been set free. Why did the police stand aside? Why didn’t the army support? Why did the City Committee undertake no measures no steps? Why didn’t the secretaries of the party organizations bring the workers together at the factories and block the way of the murderers? Because all were heart and soul to another. At the very first signal appropriate forces would be brought.’
‘That issue is also being investigated by them,’ Hadjiev said.
‘Here! Another title of our newspaper!’ Voroshilovsky said by showing the pages of the newspaper. “Catch and punish the guilty” or “With utmost strictness”…To publish them in the city’s newspaper was not a small deed. The Armenian writes in the newspaper: “My city of Sumgayit…”
- Hadjiev said, “A group of Azerbaijanis came to my office with a letter. They mainly accused the Armenians and the members of the Young Communists’ League.’
‘There’s a rumour as if they had thrown children out of the windows of our maternity hospital,’ Voroshilovsky said, ‘we sent a photographer and a correspondent who cleared up that it was false information, the bandits hadn’t committed such a crime.’
‘Well, well,’ I responded, ‘long live the bandits who haven’t thrown the Armenian newborn babies from the windows of the maternity hospital, indeed, they deserve an encouragement.’
‘Praise God, it didn’t happen,’ A. Hadjiev said.
‘They wrote in “Pravda” that the “Voice of America” had reported as if they had played football with the heads of the Armenian babies,’ Mark Grigorich said.
‘We visited Armenian families and talked to them. Nothing like that happened. It is necessary normalize the atmosphere so as the people could live in peace. Three cases have been disclosed in our newspaper so far. Recently a fire has broken out in one of the districts. Such cases also happened in the past. But news was immediately spread as if it was the business of the Armenians. We went to the place and checked it out. The Armenians had nothing to do with that.’
‘The tube rolling factory was one of the plants hampering the development,’ A. Hadjiev said, ‘now it has accomplished the state plan first. There is such a rise in the city now. We want the Armenians to come back. There was a man named Artem Djanumov in our printing-house. His wife was a Russian. I was surprised to learn that he had left, too. And yet he didn’t suffer.’
‘Maybe they expected an occasion to return to their homeland, Armenia or Nagorno-Karabakh,’ I said. Swallowing my words my companions answered nothing. ‘But most of them have already left for Krasnodar region or Central Asia. Thus the reason for departure is very serious.’
‘It’s surprising, here, the writers have also fallen under the influence of emotions. Malyan is a member of Party’s City Committee. I am breaking my head over why he has left? Though he is a wonderful locksmith he writes splendid stories, too.
‘I was hovering about the participants of the demonstration but I saw no familiar face,’ I don’t know why Voroshilovsky remembered again.
‘Ah! Have you also taken part in the demonstrations?’ I said jokingly, ‘here is the one to be immediately arrested!’
My words brought cheerfulness into the editor’s room.
‘Well, what a participant am I?…’ the editor tried to protect himself.
‘Woulд the tragic events of Sumgayit happen if Nagorno-Karabakh with its autonomy borders was to Armenia?’ I turned to them seriously all of a sudden.
‘First I ask you not to speak about giving Karabakh back,’ The Azerbaijani editor uttered in a tone as if my words hurt his feelings, ‘if the central press has published then it’s finished! I am a journalist of average class but I know that if we didn’t cede Zangezour in its time probably there would be no cause to raise the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh and there would be no need for this conversation, too.’
‘Well, you’d like to say if there were no Soviet Armenia…well, and I say if Lenin and Stalin didn’t create the Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan…You see? You are a journalist yet what your ‘if’s can lead to!’
‘The guilty are those of the members of the Young Comunists’ League,’ A. Hadjiev changed the subject of the conversation. ‘On February 27 at 2 o’clock pm we gathered at the office of the president of the Executive Committee of the City Council, now he is dismissed from work. We talked about the session. We made an arrangement to gather at the deputy president at 5 o’clock. We lived with the questions of the session. What’s the difference which republic Nagorno-Karabakh will be part of?’
‘In that case why have your leaders so firmly stuck to Nagorno-Karabakh? If you gave it up that then you wouldn’t have to organize the pogrom of Sumgayit thus sparing no effort to conceal its traces later. You see, it has left a brand of disgrace on your people, your repulic and your nation, hasn’t it…? Having arranged with Rahim Hasanov and Anahit Martirosyan to meet at the City Committee the following day for visiting the students I came back home to Seyran.
‘It seemed to me you’d never be back again,’ Seyran said anxiously.
‘Don’t worry, everything is okay,’ I said, ‘I have made no shootings but I have met and talked to people and have everything recorded. Even I told Bayramova about your problems. Soon she will call you and offer something.’
‘It’s useless. I want nothing from them now. They are right by telling that I should praise God my family escaped from the massacre with their lives, so I need to make off solemnly from this cursed city safe and sound.’
‘I have contacted with Yerevan, too. I have talked to Hrachya Hovhannisyan, the President of the Writer’s Union.’
‘A KGB official had told him I was in a hard situation here in Sumgayit and he ordered to leave the city immediately.
‘Should you leave the city?’
‘I told him I had still some piece of work here. There is no need to hurry. Let the authorities think I am kept under their watch and we shall continue with our meetings in the families. Tomorrow I am going go to the Institute of Chemistry with the employee of the City Committee.’
April 2, 1988
At 10 o’clock in the morning I met Anahit, the newspaper correspondent and Rahim, the instructor of the City Committee at the entrance/porch of the City Committee. We drove about the city streets. I made shootings of the city districts, streets and squares from the car window. There could be seen the aluminium bas-reliefs of the commissars of Shahumyan, Azizbekov, Japaridze and Fioletov in small squares. Shahumyan’s sculpture looked more freshly than the others. Nelson Khachatryan, a resident of Sumgayit, who had moved to Stepanakert told that in the evening of February 27 he witnessed by chance to how the demonstrators broke out the high-relief of Stepan Shahumyan, trampled it under foot, hit with stones and shouted, “Armenians, get away from our city!” At the end of the street where the coast already started there stood a cement-made stylized bird leаning onto the ground with its wings.
‘This is a pigeon,’ Rahim said, ‘the symbol of our city.’
‘Well, it really suits you best,’ I said.
The instructor took my hint, ‘Nothing to say!’
The secretary of the party organization of the Chemical-Technological Institute and the president of the trade union stubbornly refused my request of meeting with the students and lecturers in any auditorium.
‘All of them are outside for the community work day,’ the secreatry of party organization said.
‘But the community work day has been declared for April 16,’ I said.
‘We are doing a separate one as well.’
The students surrounded me. Turning the video camera to their direction I asked, ‘Which of you took part in the February events? I ask you let’s be frank.’
‘I saw a group of 14-year-old boys from our window,’ an Azerbaijani student said.
‘Where were they from?’
‘We don’t know, probably they had come from another place.’
‘They shouted, broke the windows of shops and offices by crying out “Karabakh…!”
‘Did fourteen-year-old boys really claim Karabakh?’ I asked, ‘do you believe that?’
The students kept silence. The president of the local trade union said, ‘There was a meetimg at our place on February 26, they reported about the appeal of Gorbachev. Afterwards we took part in the funeral ceremony of Zhora, the father of one of our students, Davit Muradkhanyan. And the next day they reported by TV that the Armenians had killed two residents of Aghdam in Askeran.’
‘Yes, it has been proven that the killer was a policeman from Aghdam,’ I answered, ‘and didn’t any of your students take part in the demonstrations?’
‘We had firmly closen the door of the Institute and didn’t let the demonstrators in,’ the president of the local trade union said, ‘they were breaking the door and demanded from the students to join them. But we answered them in the proper way.’
I turned to one of the students, ‘Where are you from?’
‘From Karyagino. I am an ethnic Kurdish.’
‘’Do you speak Kurdish?’
‘No, nobody speaks Kurdish at my place. Probably only my grandfather knew…’
‘And in Armenia there are newspapers and books published in Kurdish, as well as radio programmes,’ I said.
‘I don’t know anything…’ the Kurdish student replied in embarrassment.
‘And do you know the history of your nation?’
‘No, how should I know it?’
‘At the beginning of the 17th century Shah Abas displaced the Armenians of Karabakh and drove them to the depths of Persia and brought your ancestors instead.’
‘I don’t know…’
‘How all that happened?’ I addressed my question to a student named Armen who laughed at every occasion and was in high spirits.
‘He’s a fool,’ Anahit said.
Rahim went to the City Committee saying that there were no day and night for a party member. Despite my refusals Anahit led me to the cooperative restaurant of ‘Leila’ with the purpose of having supper. It was a cylindrical structure with narrow, banistered windows and heavy metallic door. A white-dressed young man in white clothes met us at the entrance. It was clear he had been instructed. I thought he was either an Armenian or a Georgian.
‘Hussein Samezade,’ he introduced himself.
The hall was not crowdy. Several people were absorbedly watching a video clip. Anahit said that Hussain had sheltered eighteen Armenians inside the cooperative restaurant on February 28 and firmly closed the door.
‘There was a heavy rain of stones falling onto the door and the windows,’ Hussein said. ‘The mob of slaughterers came and demanded the Armenians. You have seen the door, it’s as firm as a castle’s door. But they somehow managed to damage it. I am from Marneuli, Georgia. We dislike the Azerbaijanis of Yerevan, they have a habit of slandering and writing letters of complaints.’
Then he told that the prices at his cooperative were lower than those of restaurant prices and the quality was higher.
‘But anyway, I gain some fifty copeck,’ he added, ‘and I don’t want to fix my eyes upon many things. The owners of the other restaurants of the city complain why I offer such low prices. I usually don’t let come-and-go people in. Look over there, the members of Moscow investigating commission are sitting around that table.’
‘And may I speak to them?’ I asked.
‘I shall ask them,’ Samezade said and approached their table.
Two of the officials of the all-USSR Procuracy gazed intently at my direction and quickly came out of the reastaurant. It looked like an escape. The third colleague of them, a dark-faced young man with thick eyebrows came up to us and took his seat beside me.
‘I am engaged in the investigating commission with twenty other people from the Azerbaijani procuracy.’
‘I am glad to learn that,’ I said in a friendly way, ‘would you, please, tell your name and surname? I am a TV reporter from Armenia.’
‘I can’t say as we prosecutors have no confidence in journalists reprorters.’
It was already clear his gesture of joining us wasn’t a friendly one but he had come to conceal the Moscow investigators who were horrified to meet an Armenia reporter. Thus, as the Russian saying goes: “As you have cooked the porridge in the same manner you should eat it up…” But their avoidance of meeting with me came to prove in its turn that there was an absolute partiality in the investigative procedure. About hundred investigators had arrived by Kremlin’s order not to disclose the case but with the aim of grimacing everything.
Аll that remains for me to do was to speak to and extort some information from this horrified investigator of Azerbaijan.
‘Well, probably you’d talk more freely in this way,’ I said in a conciliatory tone, ‘what was the motive of the pogrom in Sumgayit?’
‘The motive lied in the ill-treatment towards the Azerbaijanis in Kapan. They had fled from there and Sumgayit was a response to that.’
‘Were all of them from Kapan?’ I asked.
‘In general they were bandits who were busy with robbery. It was a pity, Muslimzade, the first secretary of the city committee, fell a victim to those events. He was an official with a great future. The people loved and trusted him.’
‘He made a speech before the mob, didn’t he?’
‘Yes, but that’s not important.’
‘And how do you estimate the role of Katusev, the deputy Prosecutor General of the USSR? Not having still cleared up the details of the attack of 15 thousand residents of Aghdam against Stepanakert, as well as the murder of two people, he had made an announcement on TV and irritated the throng. Now he is doing everything to lay the blame of at least one of the murders on the Armenians.
‘Katusev is our commander and I shan’t tell anything about him.’
‘And hasn’t anyboby shot a video of the events of Sumgayit?’
‘I have investigated a case,’ the investigator said, ‘a case of a boy who had taken shots of the events. But it turned out later the photos just introduced general scenes and we closed the case.’
‘That is to say taking photographs is prohibited. Well, so close to Baku…why didn’t they avert it?’
‘Who would expect that? There was only a demonstration held on February 27 and nothing else.’
‘But they screamed “Death to the Armenians”.
‘Everything had its start on Februray 28. If there were such disturbances in Yerevan would it be possible to stop it? It seems to me it wouldn’t. They failed to do something here, too.’
‘Such disturbances are impossible in our country. Yet everything was known in Sumgayit and Baku beforehand and instead of preventing it the authorities had contributed to it in any possible way.’
‘In Kapan the Armenians threatened the Azerbaijanis and made the latter quit the place and everything started from there.’
‘Sure, that is one of the well-elaborated variants of justifying the horrible events of Sumgayit. I must say there is no evidence related to the events in Kapan and there cannot be because this is a fabrication. Being a member of the investigating committee in spite of seeking justice you conceal it and justify the murderers which is a deplorable fact. I already don’t trust you and doubt all members of the commission. You should search for the roots of all this here in Baku and Moscow. If you don’t want to understand and admit the truth which is apparent you’ll never accept it. After all where did people get such malice from which was expressed in the horrible phenomenon of Sumgayit?’
‘They were repeat offenders…’
‘No, that could not be а mob of habitual offenders,’ I said, ‘so what? Did the whole criminal world of Azerbaijan come together to slaughter the Armenians? Did they claim Karabakh? Do you find the civilized world so much unsophisticated? Or you can’t cling to anything else?’’
‘I am myself engaged in the investigation of robbery and plunder cases,’ the young Azerbaijani said, ‘we also met Armenians among them and some of them are accused of committing rape.’
‘I don’t believe you. You are intentionally falsifying for it not to be qualified as genocide. They say genocide is impossible in a Socialist country. Though you don’t tell your name I see your face.’
‘Everything started from the interview of the academician Aghanbekyan.’
‘But didn’t he just say that Perestroika could and should settle down such an issue? His interview with the French reporter couldn’t irritate the Azerbaijani habitual offenders against the Armenians who have built Sumgayit.’
The Azerbaijani prosecutor had already nothing to reply.
‘Do you still refuse to introduce yourself?’ I addressed to him.
‘Yes, I refuse to.’
I reached my hand for the pocket of my shirt, took out the recording equipment demonstratively and switched it off with a slight click.
The Azerbaijani member of the investigating group shuddered. He fixed his reproachful glance at me. He rose up, turned back without saying good bye, dropped the chair onto the floor in confusion and quickly left the cooperative restaurant.
Hussein Samazade was anxious.
‘What has happened…?’
‘Nothing special,’ Anahit answered, ‘our guest asked him to introduce himself, tell his name and surname, he refused and went out.’
Seyran was troubled again.
‘I can’t bear it any longer. My heart will break from this strain.’
‘Dear Seyran, I have already told you nothing will happen to me here.’
‘This is a city of murderers, do you understand comrade journalist? Every hour I expect the mob to appear here and there will be no salvation.’
‘Let me tell you a secret, Seyran. When I have a premonition that nothing threatens me, it happens. Sometimes I hear the flap of invisible wings over my head. They protect and watch over me.’
‘I don’t even want to know…’
‘Well, then I have arranged two meetings for you. If you want we can go tomorrow morning because they will wait for you.’
April 3, 1988
Zinaida Mudretsova was a more than medium-sized cheerful and energetic woman of fifty. Her face still bore the attraction of former beauty. She was waiting for us in one of the seaside gardens of Sumgayit.
She began to tell without any hesitation, ‘It’s already twenty six years since I have been living in Sumgayit. I am Russian and my husband is Armenian. Why did innocent people find themselves in such a situation and became victims? We had no idea of Nagorno-Karabakh. I have just recently heard that it is located about 400 kilometers from here. What was going on there the mass media kept silent. If we knew the truth probably the Armenians would jointly come out onto the streets and display our solidarity. I live next to the Lenin Square. On Saturday I watched the mob as something dirty and unbridled. However they seemed to be like that from our balcony. My neighbour said they claimed to drive the Armenians away from Sumgayit. I asked, ‘And what was answer of the party authorities, the Soviet administrative officials and the organizations reply?’ He said they had promised to help. And who it concerned I don’t know. My daughter took trolley bus on her way back from Baku a group of Azerbaijanis stopped the trolley and demanded from the Armernians to get off. She got home in such a highly nervous state that she could only utter, ‘Mother, they are killing the Armenians…’ The following day at five o’clock I saw the first secretary of the city committee heading the demonstration. The newspapers wrote that the tail of the demonstration had separated and had gone to plunder the districts and to slaughter the Armenians. And yet the authorities wanted to give a peacful character to all that.’
‘In the future they also tried to explain that way,’ I said.
‘Maybe,’ Mudretsova said, ‘I understood there would be murders and told my husband to take out the tablet hanging on at our entrance where our family name was mentioned: Sarkisov. My daughter’s father-in-law, who lives near the bus station, informed us on Sunday a man had been killed on their ground floor. I saw that apartment later. They had undressed the woman, beaten her and then they had thought she was dead and their son jumped out of their window and fled. I went to work on Monday. I saw the robbed pavilions. The Armenians usually lived either on the ground or the forth floor and all of them had been robbed, fully destroyed. There were mattresses and beddings thrown about the yards and streets. It is no secret for everybody that it had been specially planned and well prepared. They had switched off all the telephones for the Armenians not to have a chance to get in contact with each other and offer them an organized resistance. We had axes in our apartment. I had gathered five of my relatives at my place having thought that if I introduced them as Russians I would have saved their lives. And my daughter who had seen a slaughtered family said by crying, “Let them kill me, only let my daughter be saved…” Untill the troops entered the city no one protected our right to life. Great thanks to General Krayev who has done a lot to save the people from the slaughterers. If the army hadn’t entered the city not an Armenian would be saved. The Armenian civilians of the districts would be left alone against the bandits.
‘Who are they?’
‘General Krayev said thе majority are residents of Sumgayit. I personally know fifteen victims.’
‘Maybe you’d tell me their names and surnames?’
‘I need to remember. I still need to come to my senses. What we have experienced…In the forth district the relatives of the victims asked me to enter the apartment and switch off the refrigerator and the TV set and I should by no means enter the apartment in if there were any people. When I turned to the forth microregion from Lenin Square two Azerbaijanis were walking towards me. When they were passing by me one of them said, “Let’s hit him with stones”. I turned back. I still can’t understand how the stones appeared in their hands. I ran away and the stones of fist’s size were flying over my head. Surely, if they hit me I would be killed immediately. Meyrabashvili, a Georgian woman, who was the principal of our Housing and communal services (housing office) lived in the apartment which is under us. On March 1, when the soldiers came to move us to the Chamber of Culture she cried and told that the bandits had thought she was an Armenian (as she looked like an Armenian woman) and wanted to kill her. But as soon as they were convinced she was a Georgian they gave it up. Such a monstrous act cannot be depicted even by a fantasy writer. It surpasses all imagination.’
‘They say the racists were generally young people.’
‘I don’t blame on the young men. They would never hold a demonstration by on their own initiative.’ The boys of the trade school would utmost throw stones, carry slogans, yet the instigators were adults. Well, let me not forget to tell that shots were also heard from the side of the market. I have recently been to Moscow and spoken to Pavel and Nina Manvelyans, the parents of the killed girl. Their daughter Lola was brutally killed in her sixth month of pregnancy. Her father found his daughter’s corpse marked with the number seventy one among the unrecognizable dead bodies at the mortuary of Mardakyan which is 100 kilometres far from Sumgayit. Before that he had been to the mortuaries of Sumgayit and Baku and had seen three hundred dead bodies. He had recognized the body of Lola from her little finger, as one finger was shorter than the usual size. Her husband was a famous master of judo. They had struck by a metal pole onto his head from his back and he was not able to protect his wife.’
‘Don’t you confirm the published number of thirty two victims?’
‘No resident of Sumgayit will confirm it. The casualties were more. Most people have already scattered about various places and it’s difficult to determine the real number.’
‘Could you believe a human was apt to such atrocities?’
‘To tell the truth I didn’t believe. And for the sake of what? I can understand war, the mass destruction of people. It’s not possible to justify it but we can at least understand it. Yet in this case it’s neither possible to understand nor to justify it.’
‘Now many people in Baku call Sumgayit as a hero city and consider the murderers as national heroes.’
‘That’s a pity. Then there will be another “sumgayit”. People need to be warned. Thus it was not an accidental phenomenon.’
‘Have you heard about the Genocide of 1915?’
‘Yes, sure, I have read amount of books about it. And this is the continuation of the same genocide. Similar crime has been twice committed towards the Armenian nation in this century. Human mind is incapable to comprehend this phenomenon.’
‘And could all this be related to the events in NKAR?’
‘The people of Karabakh are just in their claim. They hurt nobody there. And here…They placed 32 corpses in the central mortuary and then informed General Krayev that there were only the dead bodies of those killed ones. How could Krayev be aware that the mortuaries of Mardakyan and Baku were full of the casualties of Sumgayit. Besides, most of the corpses were burnt by the bandits just on the spot. Krayev had believed them. Then they announced about 32 casualties all over the world. Pavel Manvelyan said that the employees of the Procuracy had taken shots of the heaps of dead bodies. Of course, there had been also casualties with heavy wounds, too, who later died in the hospitals. There were casualties among the Azerbaijanis as well. They threw Molotov cocktails to the direction of the armoured vehicles. The driver of an ambulance informed me that during a night 150 people had been killed in clashes with soldiers. The casualties had been quickly hidden. They usually bury people very soon. I know an Armenian casualty who was buried on the 8th of March. A gang of bandits raped the daughter before her mother’s eyes; the mother could not bear it and went mad, then she passed away. They exterminated the whole family with their grandchild. I spoke to Blinyov in Moscow, a correspondent of “Izvestia”. They have destroyed and robbed 200 apartments. And how could they one by one break into apartments? Blinyov happened to be in Sumgayit. He informed me they hadn’t permitted him to publish the second half of the material. Many people told me in Moscow if there were not Gorbachev the Armenians would be fully destroyed.’
‘Do you believe that?’
‘This is big politics. It seems to me the Armenians are its victims.’
‘I usually make videos of this kind of conversations,’ I said, ‘can we arrange another meeting?’
‘Certainly,’ Z. Mudretsova replied, ‘I have come here to settle down some questions and I am going back to Yerevan again in several days. And now I must quit you, my husband is probably anxious about me.’
We stopped at on of the yards.
‘Wait here,’ Seyran said, ‘I shan’t be away for long.’
In a moment he disappeared in one of the entrances. After half an hour he came out of the entrance with a thin, stumpy man of fifty with deep wrinkles on his cheeks and gave a signal to follow them.
‘Zaven Badasyan,’ he introduced himself and smiled, ‘I work at Baku but I am a resident of Sumgayit. I’ve suddenly dropped a word about Karine while speaking to Seyran and he said there was a man from Yerevan who should meet him then you would leave for Baku together, they offered an apartment there and Seyran wanted to see the conditions. I could hardly convince him to wait for me. Let’s go, I shall tell you everything on our way.’
We walked about unknown districts and yards, crossed streets and lanes.
‘Well, do you see this school?’ Zaven addressed to me. It was dark and the building was not clearly visible, ‘at the night of March 1 we found shelter here. I called the city committee from the school and there was a kind of reply: “Hullo, this is Muslimzade”. I immedately recognized the voice of the first secretary of the city committee. I introduced myself and told him that our three families had taken refuge at School N 33 asking to send army soldiers so as to move us to the evacuation centre. He replied to me: “I shall send them immediately.” In an hour a bandits’ gang came to the school and demanded the Armenians from the school guard. The guard having feared of their revenge for concealing the Armenians told them as if we had a bit earlier left by the secret entrance. The gang hurried to catch up with us. We stopped at a building. It was the apartment house N 17.
‘Which district we are at now?’ I inquired.
‘At the third microregion.’
‘Did the events reach this place as well?’
‘Sure, the most horrible things took place here.’
‘Yes, I have remembered,’ I said, ‘I met a group of people from Sumgayit in Ejmiatsin who told me about the atrocities taken place at the N6 apartment house which won’t be far from here. Armo Ashot Aramyan resisted the mob for seven hours but when he saw the gang was about to win him and there was no point in opposing, turned to his son and cried out: “Run away, Arthur!” The young boy of twenty five flounced down from the balcony of the first floor but having crossed one hundred fifty meters he met another throng which killed him by several blows of metal poles and threw his dead body on the burning things of a another casualty.
‘Yes’, Zaven said bitterly, ‘Gavril Trdatov, a carpenter of the tube rolling factory, Rafik Tovmasyan, Volodya Arushanyan lived in that house, too, and were also killed in a cruel way. And they caught Volodya’s wife Razmela at the factory entrance, undressed and mocked at her, then they drove her up to the shop “Caucasus”, forced her into the car and burnt her alive.’
‘Do workers of the tube rolling factory live in this building?”
‘Yes,’ Zaven said, ‘as it seems, that factory was one of the main dens of the bandits. They had taken the addresses from the personnel department and without hindrance carried out the carnage suitably prepared in advance.’
We stopped at the second entrance. Zaven went in and returned a bit later and we went upstairs together. A nice-looking girl with big, attractive eyes met us at the threshold on the forth floor. One could notice scars on her face and hands.
An old woman came in after us. Zaven turned to her, ‘Mother Vardanush, that’s good you have come. When are you going to leave?’
‘Tomorrow we are going to leave. I have lived here for thirty five years but I shall never come back again, it’s already decided!’
‘Mother Vardanush you’d better tell the reporter from Yerevan what the teenager had told you,’ the nice-looking girl said.
‘Eh, what should I tell, my dear? I worked at a drug-store, I cleaned and swept the area… an Azerbaijani boy of fifteen who was sitting in the yard suddenly approached me and said: “Aunty, your wedding party will take place in a few days.”
There was a heavy silence.
‘Afterwards, when the pogrom broke out,’ the seventy-two-year-old Vardanush went on, ‘I understood what the Turkish boy had meant.’
I looked attentively at the face of Karine. Probably, the wounds were the traces of the pogrom. Therefore she had a lot to speak about.
‘Your fact would help us a lot to unmask the bandits and I need your help for that,’ I said feeling that one needed to be direct and frank otherwise it would be impossible to get in contact with her. ‘I let everything lie on your conscience.’
Karine kept silence.
‘Have you reached the truth and the justice?’ I asked.
‘No, it’ll be never reached.’
‘The only right thing is neither me nor the so-called jurisdiction,’ I said, ‘the only truth is the Japanese video camera.’
‘No, let’s leave the video camera for later, when I come to Yerevan, and for now let’s do without a camera, you are welcome,’ Karine said.
A bitter smile shined over her face and died out. She was telling and had little pauses in the intervals of her speech sometimes restrained her excitement as if pulled herself together and pronounced the words with all her might. And I felt that was a burst, a burst of complaint on behalf of all of the Armenians of Sumgayit.
‘On the 28th of February, ignorant of anything my sister and I went to the Chemists’ Culture Chamber to watch a movie. Twenty minutes hardly ever passed and a group of sixty boys all of a sudden started breaking the windows, doors, then broke into the hall and directing their words to the hall, demanded the Armenian girls. I was afraid for my sister. The demand of the infuriated mob was not taken as serious by the people in the hall. They were howling and looking into our eyes. It seemed to me they were dreadfully drunk, maybe they were under drug influence because I had never met such infuriated faces before. They began to leave the place. A young man was giving orders and the others obeyed him. I recognized a young boy from Sumgayit who used to attend the dancefloor with a relative of mine. I looked down so as he wouldn’t recognize me from my look. Indeed, he didn’t recognize me. I decided to leave the place immediately but my sister convinced me to stay because our early leaving would betray of our being Armenian.
It was already dark. The square was full of young boys who were shouting continuously: “Karabakh!” or “Let’s kill the Armenians!” The bus still worked. We reached the bus station by taxi. “Kill the Armenians!” could be heard here as well. We could hardly get home. My mother said: “It’s the end, well, from tomorrow on they will start killing the Armenians.”
We young men accepted the words of our parents as a kind of false panic though the alarm had already seized all of our essence. The following day we showed with our behaviour as if nothing had happened. At two o’clock my Russian girlfriend Lyuba came. She told about the infuriated mob flowing in the streets and yards by trembling over her body. At that moment the yard was filled noise. I went to the apartment of my Azerbaijani girlfriend whose balcony was on the opposite side of the apartment house. I saw a throng of thousand people which was attacked by a small division of soldiers. The mob was taken unawares, retreated a moment, moved back, and then it was their turn to attacked the soldiers. One of the soldiers didn’t manage to run back, they threw him onto the ground and began trampling down. I was shivering with horror. In twenty minutes they were shouting at our porch: “Come out Armenians, let’s settle our accounts with you!” The yard was filled with mob. They burned the motorcycle of Sergey Sargsyan, a post office worker, then cried out: “Grisha, we are coming to slaughter you.” Grisha…is my father. I told my girlfriend and my younger sister to hide themselves under the bed and I went out onto the threshold with my parents. My father held an axe in his hand. Mother snatched it and threw under the bed. I went up to meet the crowd at the threshold and turned to them in Azerbaijanian thus trying my best to calm them down. Probably, they expected a humiliation from our side and here I addressed to them strictly: “What do you want? What do we owe you? Go back.” They were taken anawares, stepped back and then they said: “Get away to your Armenia!” Somebody cried out in the entrance: “We have come not to set free the Armenians but to kill them.” The throng dashed forward. They squeezed me in the space of the door, then they drove my father to the other room and started beating. I was pushing and beating them, too. I was surrounded by the gang. Mother shouted not to touch me. I noticed at a moment that they were tearing out my sister’s clothes. Then they began pulling me out and tearing my clothes. I was crying, bit their hands, there was no use of that. They started to beat my mother, broke the furniture and hit her with the pieces of wood. She lost her consciousness. Suddenly they started to beat me with their legs. They wanted to throw my elder sister from the balcony but the door-bolt was stuck, they failed to open it and threw my sister aside who had got fainted. What happened to Marina, my younger sister, and Lyuba, my girlfriend, was unknown to me. I didn’t know whom to ask, I couldn’t manage to look at them, the bandits were incessantly going in and out, changed and the circle around me was getting thicker and thicker. They started in parallel to steal our goods, they carried my trousseau in boxes and the carpets. Some young men, who probably led this gang, came in. All of them turned to his side and looked at him expectedly. He said: “That’ll do with this apartment, they are not alive.” I don’t know why but I had the feeling as if when looking at me they always wanted to tear out my eyes. And here he looked at my direction and said: “We can take this one to the street, it’s crowded here, we’ll get through with her there.” It seemed to me he said they would burn me on the motorcycle. At that moment it was already the same for me where they would throw me, the only thing I wanted them was to finish their job quickly, kill me, because the humiliations were unbearabale. Caught by my hands and legs and beating me against the stairs and the metal balusters they dragged me to downstairs, threw me at the entrance and started beating me by foot. I felt nothing. A moment when I came to myself I saw many legs around me. All of them wanted to get something from me, to hit me. I opened my eyes and saw our house. From all the balconies heads were outstretched looking at my direction. “What’s going on?” I asked to myself, “probably there is a civil war.” All of our Azerbaijani neighbours were watching a horror film from their balconies. Nobody wanted to protect me. Well, they could but they didn’t want. Therefore, they enjoyed it. I again lost my consciousness.”
I wanted to ask Karine to stop speaking and keep silent and never ever tell it again.
Everything was reviving in my look and becoming a reality getting flesh and blood, I was feeling blows and I was convulsed with pain instead of Karine, suppressed wail inside me then I felt my heart aching. We had been playing friendship for seventy years long. And here was the result of it. Having concealed the enmity deep in our heart we obstinately simulated and didn’t want to heal the old wounds, the misunderstandings, and were satisfied with the slogans of ‘Internationalism’ and ‘Amity’. Could they really be placed with human relations? And the words were a make-up in reality through which they masked, concealed the victims, murderers, filled our lives with empty words and symbols.
“When my mother came to herself they demanded the golden things. My mother pointed at the wardrobe in despair where our documents and the jewelry were kept which she had never worn before. They fell onto the golden things and my mother got up from the floor and found my sister fainted. She found my father whose face, eyes and ears were bleeding. He had already gone deaf. My mother started to knock at our neighbours’ doors. Nobody wanted to open the door. On the second floor Kasimov, a Lezgin by origin opened the door. He was an army serviceman and often returned home drunken. At that moment he was drunk as well but as soon as he saw the state of my parents he came to himself.
And before all this when they were busy with carrying out my trousseau they also pulled out my girlfriend Lyuba and my sister Marina under bed. Lyuba said she was a Russian. They reproached her as if what kind of business she had at the apartment of an Armenian and ordered her to be away immediately from here. I can’t still understand how it struck Marina to introduce herself as an Azerbaijani, I couldn’t do the same thing at the moment. And here she found several Azerbaijanian words and convinced the racists and they shouted at her: “Why do you make friends with the Armenians? What kind of Azerbaijani girl are you? Leave the place as we haven’t killed you.” At that moment a familiar boy named Igor from the neighboring house came and took them from our apartment and as it was dangerous to bring them to the yard he pushed them into one of the apartments of the first floor, went down and waited what would happen to me.’
Now I already didn’t want to believe all these things. The people were telling endlessly, all the stories were mixed in my mind by creating a chaos and I had lost the borderline between the reality and the imaginary things. Well, I was in an apartment where the vicious crime had taken place. To listen to people was very hard by itself. So, what kind of strength and courage this girl should have so as to experience and tell me the past accidents again and again.
‘Suddenly they left me. They said that in the third entrance the Armenians defended themselves. All of them run immediately to the third entrance to demontstarte their bravery. Igor who had passed his army service in Afghanistan and was a disabled soldier of the second degree of disability raised me on his thin hands and took me to the second floor where my parents were. For three hours I didn’t come to myself. When I came round I didn’t recognize my parents, I had forgotten my name and didn’t understand what was going on and where I was. Everybody thought I had gone mad. Then they put the neighbour’s short dress on me. Marina came and she couldn’t look at me for a long time. My eyes, half of my face and my forehead swelled and my hands were in bloody. All my body was covered with wounds. I was told when they had been killing the members of an Armenian family living in one of the apartments in the third entrance which tried to protect themselves the villains returned to go on with the cruel and inhuman crime but not having found the victim on the spot they began to run about the place, to look for me everywhere, demanded me from the dwellers of the entrance saying that they hadn’t finished their “work” yet. So as to calm them down someone told them as if I had come to myself and concealed myself in the cellar. And the cellar was full of dirty water with the level of onE meter. I don’t know what other worse things could happen to me. Probably they wanted to cut me into pieces or burn me so as to conceal the traces of the crime as if I had never existed like they had acted in case of others.
Having thought that I was drowned in the cellar they left the place joyfully. When I fully came to myself I called the chief of our factory. A bit later he came with his daughters. As he saw me he lost the power of speech because of excimtement for half an hour. They could hardly put me into the car and take me to the political department of Internal Afffairs where dozens of “Ikarus” buses full of soldiers and military servicemen stood in a line. It was a great surprise to me. If the soldiers had been brought to save us from the jaws of massacre why were they still sitting in the bus when they were killing people over there. The political department was full of ambulances, fire-engines, police cars, servicemen with their dogs. Whom they protected here I couldn’t understand. Probably they waited for corpses so as to put in the coffins and take them away. My mother began to cry and reproach them: “Why are you sitting here? Don’t you know they are killing people over there?” The doctor of the ambulance examined me and decided to send me to the maternity hospital. Pashayeva, the head doctor of the maternity hospital first examined me then began to reproach me why I was crying, nothing had happened, I had survived and if we knew how the Armenians had treated the Azerbaijanis…Thus I should still be thankful to somebody that I was alive. I am sure no Armenian youth would raise his hand against women. One of the hospital attendants who was a Russian looked at me disdainfully and said: “Look at this one! She has found the right man to stand with her legs apart.” I spent three days at the hospital. All the time a panic was spread for any reason, always someone fled from the window in panic.
News spread as if the Armenians had come by tanks to revenge and they were fleeing away in panic incessantly. That was funny and sometimes I even forgot about my wounds. They took Ira Babayeva and my sister Lyuda to our ward. My sister and Ira were married and they were not so much interested in them rather than in me. They discharged them from hospital next morning. The chief of our factory had taken the members of my family to his apartment which was in the 45th district.
Horrible slaughters broke out there. Lola Avagyan was killed brutally there, too. And all this took place before my parents’ eyes. A young woman entered my ward and asked what had happened to me. She was well aware what was going on in th city and what could have happened to me, that I had not beaten by my husband so she asked with a kind of intention to get pleasure from my answer: “Ask your brother, father and husband, whether they have been there or not and you will understand everything,” I said. She felt bad. They called a doctor, the nurses came together, too. She was flinching convulsively and shrilling hysterically. Everybody accused me. The head doctor said if he saw someone talking to me from then on she would dismiss both her and me. Many people at my workplace were anxious what had happened to me. The chief secretly informed the Russian workers what had happened. They said some people want to pay a visit to me. It was hard to walk.
Overcoming with the unbearable pain I could reach from my bed to the window yet I didn’t want to appear to my girlfriends with that appearance. Half of my face had turned black, the wounds and the swellings made my appearance unbearable. But I was glad that they remembered and were interested in me and even visited me. It meant I still existed and was among the humankind…
Now, the scars of my face are passing and probably this trace will remain and the deepest scar will remain here, in my soul…’
I remembered my meeting with an Azerbaijani writer. He asked me not to mention his name because his words wouldn’t please his collagues from the Azerbaijani Writers’ Union. He told about the scar deep in her heart which he had receieved at the inhuman events of Sumgayit. In those days he happened to be in Sumgayit by chance and also witnessed that awful phenomenon which was also the tragedy of his nation. When I expressed my opinion that neither in Karabakh nor in ArmSSR people were ready to such events and that we thought about settling down this problem quietly in the conditions of the democratization of the country surely when the country would overcome the obstacles of democratization he told in his turn about the Azerbaijani mafia which factually penetrated into all the spheres of the republic. And he considered Heydar Aliyev to be one of the godfathers of the mafia. He told about the tentacles of that powerful organization which percolated through the central press and television. So that was the reason the Soviet press carefully avoided the materials disclosing the truth meanwhile they published about the prospering corruption in the neighbouring republics with great pleasure instead. And the problem of Karabakh is in fact a war of a powerful mafia as well, yet they thought some other power wanted to snatch this territory out from the borders of the domain borders of mafia. The Azerbaijani writer was convincing me as if the interests of the Azerbaijani nationalisits and mafioso coincided in the issue of Karabakh. Aiming at straining and mixing up the matters around Karabakh, they obstructed the investigation which was about to enter Azerbaijan and to unravel the tangle of mafia (as well as the collaborators of Aliyev). I had already started to determine rightly the role of Konovalov, the second secretary of the Central Committee of Azerbaijani Communist Party who arrived at NKAR on February 10 and deliberately aggravated the situation, pushed the people of Artsakh to meetings, strikes, thus rendering a big service to the mafia.
I was not inclined to overestimate the role of that mafia but the Azerbaijani writer told he was convinced that “The Soviet Sicily” was in fact Azerbaijan. My Azerbaijani gave such a big place to mafia that I began doubting whether he pursued an aim of terrorizing the Armenians. He talked of a certain Poladzade, one of the chieftains of that organization who had once held a higher post at one of the Soviet ministries. I tried to jest it away considering it as the influence of the books about the Italian mafia but, unfortunately he wasn’t joking. To my question what kind of relation the Armenians of Sumgayit had in this affair he said the Armenians had in fact fallen into an uncertain political game against their own will and it was difficult to guess what kind of ending that would have. “But in this case doesn’t the Azerbaijani side also become one of the main victims of the same concocted game have just told about?” I said. “We are in a more idiotic situation,” he replied. “Because just for Sumgayit we haven’t got any excuse before the whole world. And the worst thing is,” the Azerbaiajni writer continued, “as if the implementors of Sumgayit pogrom had hampered the reunification of Nagorno-Karabakh, is a prevailing idea within our people.
For a moment Karine’s ringing voice pulled me out from the flow of recollections and took me to the real material world where neither the mafia nor its dreadful tentacles were visible.
‘The next day the head doctor was in alarm,’ Karine said, ‘she hurried to inform me that I should go to the osteological hospital. She wanted to get rid of me quickly probably fearing that the evil powers acting in the city districts could appear and continue the unfinished work with me and they would blame on her for concealing me. It was the 1st of March. I was stuck in a car of “Moskvich” and covered with a cerement. If they feared, got nervous that meant there was still something going on in the city. They wanted to leave me and quit the place but the after I had been radiographed and the head doctor had examined me he told that I had a trauma in my lungs which had nothing to do with thе bones. Thus I was not their patient. They had to take me back. Pashayeva was displeased. After an hour they put me into a bus full of policemen and took me from there. The Armenians were so little left in amount that they sent a bus full of guard for each of them. I got terrified from this idea. We stopped at the building of the city committee. The Square was surrounded by the chains of the armed soldiers and armoured vehicles. The soldiers cooked food and handed it to the people. I saw several familiar faces. Somebody told me he had seen my parents here. They accompanied me to the club where my misfortunes had begun three days ago. The hall which was accommodated for seven hundred people was filled with more than five thousand people. People had nowhere to sit or even to stand. Every time somebody lost consciousness. Mourning could be heard around me. As they saw me they began to wail and kiss me. I myself had cried a lot at the maternity hospital and my tears had already finished. I found my parents. We could hardly find a place on the stage. In the morning they informed as if they had surrounded and captured all of the bandits and we could return home. But the people refused categorically. The party cadremen and the trade union employees came and asked to return home. My chief came as well. He didn’t say anything. What to do? Where to go? How to behave? On March 2 they said that comrade P. Demichev had arrived and we should make a delegation of six people to meet him. Two disabled war veterans, two party members and two members of the Young Communists’ League one of which was me, were included in the delegation. They immediately classified me as defective, they wouldn’t allow me to appear before Demichev with such a face. Then they refused the other girl, as well. They led the four people into a room. They made them wait for a long time then send them back. The meeting wasn’t held. The people began to demand that Demichev and Bagirov should come personally and speak to them.’
I remembered the February days in Stepanakert. Fifty thousand people gathered in the Square shouted out: “De-mi-chev! De-mi-chev! Ra-zu-mov-sky!” and then all of them kneeled down silently in such an oriental manner asking the supreme authorities to come out and speak to the people. They appeared on the rostrums with great delay but to the disappointment of the people they had nothing to say.
‘Lieutenant-general Krayev, the commandant of the city appeared and talked to the people saying there would be no murder in Sumgayit thereafter, that the soldiers had come to save the Armenians and would never let anybody offend them,” Karine got more excited. The words were flowing more quickly and the pauses lasted longer. “We demanded to provide us with buses so as to leave for Armenia and Russia because we didn’t want to live in Azerbaijan any longer. Then the Azerbaijani agitators came and we refused to get in contact with them. We demanded the chiefs of the factories and enterprises or their wifev and children to come and see all that and only after that they would continue their agitation. The next some Russian agitators were sent instead. They understood that our lives in Azerbaijan was impossible any longer and refused voluntarily to do the errand. They took the Armenians to the health-centers by buses. Everybody was leaving Azerbaijan. And we didn’t have documents. The representatives of the procuracy all the time visited us and questioned about the robbery, rape, severe beatings and thrashings. The question of our departure was all the time being delayed. All members of my family got passports but I couldn’t be photographed with such a face and probably I would be photographed in svereal days and get my passport. But it didn’t matter anyway the investigators wouldn’t allow me to leave the place. My sister Lyuda has already recognized many bandits. She has been to prison and jail cells. She remembered many of them. But something was wrong with my memory. I recognized nine of the bandits by photos who I had seen in our apartment and the investigator said dissatisfied that I was wrong all the time and condemned me as defective. My mother also recognized some of them. When they demanded from her to tell the place of the golden things she noticed a twelve-year-old teenager who took out the bag from window. She recognized the teenager by the photo. But the representatives of Moscow Procuracy refused to fetch the boy arguing that he was seriously ill and it was impossible to speak to him. Surely, the boy could disclose a lot of things which I don’t know why didn’t reconcile with the interests of “jurisdiction”. After that case my mother forbade us to give testimony to the injustice. But Lyuda still continues her struggle. She still believed. But after the first judicial procedures when I made sure that there was a strange injustice in the investigation of Sumgayit events it was depreciated for me.
Yesterday I met two young men while crossing the Lenin Square.
The hand of one of them was bandaged hanging from his neck the other one was walking with a stick and was limping. I had a wish to approach them and ask: “What kind of wound is that? When did it break? Let’s go to a doctor, has it been registered? Are the investigators aware? Maybe you would tell who has broken your hand before his cruel and heavy death while protecting himself? And what about your friend? Or did he fall down and break his leg while climibing up the long staircase of the fire-engine to the balcony of the apartment an Armenian family living on the forth floor? Now he is loitering about freely, tell each other about your “heroic deeds” when meeting each other, competed with each other whose crime was bigger and whose murder was more cruel and inhuman, how many rapes each took part in, how much plunder each took home with himself.” I remember my old friend Ivan Kornilov, a Russian prosaist telling about his meeting at Saratov with a certain Bakhtiyar Akhmedov from Kirovabad. The Azerbaijani boasted as if his grandfather Heydar Ali-oghli Akhmedov had once personally shot two hundred eighty nine Armenians. Well, nobody caught by the slaughterers’ hands in 1915, they remained unpunished and the soul protected and cherishingly passed from generation to generation and still lived even for example in an Azerbaijani who appeared in Saratov on business thus in his sons and grandchildren. Or probably he remembered the massacre of the Armenians in Baku when after the defeat of the Commune of 26 Commissars the Turkish army and the Muslim population were given a right to slaughter and rob the Armenians mercilessly for three days where my grandfather, Ghukas Karapetyan, a resident of Metsshen, was also killed in a cruel manner. Maybe the granfather of belligerent Bakhtiyar remembered the slaughter of Shushi in 1920 when the Musavatists with the Turkish detachments during a night committed to the flames the “Littele Paris of the Armenians”, the Armenian district of Shushi then put to the sword the unarmed population nad the next day Enver’s brother Nuri pasha stuck his fingers into the nostrils of the Armenian youths at the yard of Melik-Beglaryans, raised and cut their heads with yataghan. If the grandchild was proud of it, that sounded as the soul of a villain lived inside him as well. Here the tragic events of Sumgayit come to prove the soul of genocide perpetrators still lives. Everything was done to set them free. Otherwise this phenomenon, generally the idea of committing a masscare, would absolutely disappear from our planet because in modern civilized world it had been already long ago condemned to oblivion almost in every place. And here where the freed bandits who were backed by Katusevs and Trushins and maybe more influential persons and groups, central press and television, were loitering about the settlements of AzSSR, once in Aghdam, Mingechaur and then appearing in Kazakh, Tovuz, Shushi, Kirovabad, Baku and instigating people and inciting them into new horrible crimes. Well, honourable suffered residents of Sumgayit, where have you broken your hands and legs? Tell me please, the investigators don’t know anything and maybe they are not eager to. And I must know about it.
‘A few days ago I met Lydia Rasoulova, the head of Azerbaijani SSR labor union,’ Karine went on telling, ‘I asked her to support me with the question of our apartment. We wanted to give back this apartment of ours and receive a similar apartment somewhere out of Azerbaijan. She answered she did not deal with that kind of issues and we should refer to Seidov, the president of the state committee of Sumgayit. We have turned into paupers who must beg, ask for something so as to achieve it. Part of the aggrieved people received apartments in Baku. I agreed because I no longer wanted to live in that apartment where I was born and lived for twenty three years. Now I hate this yard, this buildng, our apartment on the fifth floor, these walls, they are unbearable, now I want to stay here not even a second… I do not want to get registered in Baku because it will be impossible to strike my name from the registration afterwards. They say everything will be forgotten. Personally my relatives and I will never forget that terrible crime.
‘Well, then who is guilty?’ Seyran asked.
‘I blame the Central Committee of Azerbaijani Communist Party, the authorities of Sumgayit, all of the directors of factories are residents of Baku and at weekends they are usually in Baku. They knew what was about to happen in Sumgayit and what was going on. At “Nasosny” military airbase which is near Sumgayit there is an enough amount of soldiers. They were stopped and were not allowed to prevent the demonstrators.’
‘Certainly, it could be prevented and where were the police? I am sure they were well-interested in the extermination of the Armenian families. Usually our Azerbaijani neighbours permitted themselves to knock at our door with any kind of requesteven at three o’clock in the midnight they used to turn my father and ask for any kind of help, like to drive them to some place, somebody felt bad, the other one was in need of money, another one was about to give birth, and one was about to organize wedding party. My father was ready to help all of them yet here on Sunday when all of them were at home and knew what was happening in the city, nobody of them came to offer his support or even to ask what had happened, why they were slaughtering and killing us. It surprised me greatly and I shall never forgive them for that. I understand all that had been prepared beforehand and pursued a big aim and it seems to me I am getting closer to it. Here they tell me that in vain I think like that, the whole city suffers, mourns for what has happened and the bandits are those who are devoid of judgement. But I think that the man who lacks reason could kill his sister and mother as well. In those days no Azerbaijani touched his kinsfolk. And when the soldiers started to arrest the criminals the whole city stood behind the latter having sheltered and hidden them in their apartments. Nobody speaks anything about this. Sunday night the slaughterers killed many people in the N5 and N6 apartment houses of our district, broke the ribs of women, young boys of twenty beat Emma Grigoryan and burned her on the garbage can. And at the same time the soldiers were sitting in “Ikarus” buses and waiting for God knows what. On Monday, 1st of March they brutally slaughtered the family of Melkumyans. Generally, it was the most brutal day. They burned, killed and raped people. That was very strange. And here I enter my apartment and find it nice, with wallpapers on the walls, renovated…And usually you should try your best to call ЖЭК for any kind of repair. Even if hundred years pass, even if the building pulls down they will never come, as if it is not their business. Everything had been considered very seriously.
‘Generally, I am convinced that they were mainly local people,’ Seyran said.
‘At the Committee of State Security I was shown a fellow from Sumgayit who I had never seen before and did not know, he works at the tube rolling factory. They said that when he was pulling me to the street another boy passing through our yard who lived together with that criminal in the same room of the dormitory, noticed him and brought to the prosecutor’s office later on. I did not know most of them. A boy with golden teeth had spoken to me. I remember one of those fellows with evil and protruded eyes, and another boy wore a leather jacket … and that boy was from Sumgayit though he was born in Kapan. Mainly they were residents of Sumgayit. After all this both the life of my family and all of the Armenian residents of Sumgayit has no future in Azerbaijan.
‘And what about Nagorno-Karabakh?,’ I asked, ‘after all it is the homeland of your parents and ancestors.’
‘When Nagorno-Karabakh will be ours, when it will rejoin with mother Armenia…I say Armenia not only for the reason that I am an Armenian woman but for the reason that only there you can see people who fully perceive deeply understand what has happened in Azerbaijan, in Sumgayit. They estimate all this righteously.
There was a heavy silence. I referred to seventy-two-year-old mother Vardanush, ‘Mother, how do you estimate all this? Was all that human?’
‘You say human? That was bestial!’ she said, ‘you sit at your home ignorant of anything, yet they break into it and act like that…
‘You should sit at your Hadrut, Martakert, Gioulistan…’
‘Oh, it was hard after war.’
‘And what about now’
‘It is harder now…’
When we went out Zaven said, ‘I know someone else, maybe she will tell nothing but it is worth to meet her.’
‘Who is she?’ Seyran asked.
‘You have been at their place. Her name is Marietta.’
‘Marietta?’ I wondered, ‘Yes, Borik has told me about her.’
‘To be sincere after this story it is already difficult to come to myself especially when I want to leave tomorrow.’
‘Tomorrow?’ Seyran asked, ‘Have you already finished everything?’
‘Certainly,’ I said, ‘I need to take all of this material to the place. Probably, I shall make a film of it.’
‘Will you leave for Yerevan?’ Zaven asked.
‘No, he should first go to Stepanakert,’ Seyran replied instead of me, ‘anyway, let us visit Marietta and her family. Perhaps, that will be good material.’
‘Well, Seyran, let us go,’ I yielded to him.
A woman of fifty opened the door and stared at us startled.
The door and the windows were new.
In one of the corners of the apartment the piano stood shattered into pieces. From the ceiling the broken chandelier was hanging.
‘He is from Yerevan, Raya, he is interested in those events,’ Zaven said, ‘are your sons and daughters at home?’
‘Yes, all of them are at home.’
‘Are you from Karabakh, mother?,’ I asked as I heard a native dialect.
‘Yes, from the region of Martakert. Ah! How many apartments were destroyed by them! Their neighbours informed on them. We used to be good neighbours, who would suspect…? Probably that Azerbaijani Yaghasap is a drunkard, his wife Nina is a Russian. The other day they came and apologized saying that they just answered to the questions they were asked but didn’t know the reason. At first they burned down my son’s car then they broke the windows with huge stones, pulled the door out from its place, first beat me, than began beating my sons and surrounded my daughter…we had hidden the child under the table so they did not notice him. One of them was specially destroying everything with a crow in his hand. When I came to my senses I wondered where my sons were. They had broken everything and taken everything useful with themselves and the other ones had thrown away. They had taken my sons outside as they thought they were dead and heaped the refrigerator and household stuff over them. Suddenly I noticed a leg lying under the refrigerator. I guessed it was the leg of my Yuri. We pulled him out under the fridge. He was breathing. We took both of them home. A little bit later the Turks appeared again with the aim of killing the boys if they were still alive. I begged them saying that they were lying breathless and what they wanted after all. They left us and quitted the apartment. Marietta refused to speak. Yuri and Anatoli came and set opposite me. They seemed to be a kind of indifferent towards everything. When you look at them you feel that it is impossible neither to cause joy to them nor to make them sad.
After the horrors they had experienced they maintained a specific appearance which only time was able to change. It was very difficult to find any ways of contact at that moment. It seemed as if they were creatures descended from another planet, whose language was unknown, you do not know what they thought about, how they meditated. How should the people escpaed from the jaws of death look like?
‘They assure that it will never be repeated,’ I said.
‘Let’s live and see,’ Yuri, the younger brother said, ‘perhaps it will be even worse. After all this we believe nobody.
‘After having seen all this has your attitude changed towards people?’
‘There are both bad and good ones,’ Yuri said.
‘We do not even want to ask the time in the street,’ Anatoly said, ‘they will say we are Armenians. You meet your friend and do not even ask how the things are. We do not even want to greet the Azerbaijani.’
‘The Russians also leave the city,’ Yuri said.
‘It seemed to be a kind of evil for the neighbours,’ the moter said, ‘my Anatoly served in the army in Germany for five years and had brought some goods from there. The neighbours put the evil eye on him, they could not bear it and said why the Armenians should live better than we. Let God help me to find a lodge for my children, they are bare and disabled now…’
I felt my senses had blunted and I was not able to perceive, understand anything.
‘We did not know where to go,’ his mother said.
‘Exchange your apartment with another one in Kapan,’ I said, ‘the Armenians are good people.’
‘They say there are amount of Azerbaijani there.’
‘This is an Armenian town, after all it is in Armenia.’
‘I do not know, we have no acquaintances there…’
‘Then go to Karabakh.’
‘If they give Karabakh to Armenia we shall go.’
‘Will they give?’ Seyran asked, ‘what do you think of it?’
Being an eyewitness to the special goodwill of the authorities towards the slaughterers of Sumgayit I was already inclined to be convinced that the scales of justice wouldn’t turn in our favour from the very beginning. I just replied to Seyran that the simple question of Karabakh would be solved by a hard struggle of long years and with a price of numerous victims.
April 4, 1988
Because there was no bus directly leaving for Stepanakert I took a place at the back seat of the bus leaving going to Aghdam. It seemed I leave from a place for the first time in my life for which I had no feeling of missing or loss. I dreamed of quitting that awful place as quick as possible. “Quickly, very quickly I must leave this pleace,” I desired. I looked back. No, I felt as I had lost something. I missed those people who I had met and talked to, who are in Sumgayit now, I missed all those looks full of horror. I would like to fill them with a feeling of tranquility and peace. I would like the gigantic pigeon created with cement which was chosen as the symbol of the city to serve as a symbol of peace indeed and make that there would not be another wave of carnage in Sumgayit and spread over the other settlements of Azerbaijan.
Sumgayit was left behind me. In my imagination it was a big cauldron which was filled with poison. I was in a hurry to reach the place as early as I can and warn the people not to taste that soup, it’s something coming from old centuries…but did they treat like that in old tmes as well? No, let us leave the old centuries aside, let’s do not hoist the crooked image of the time and our present sins on our past. The pogrom of Sumgayit is a modern fascism in its full manifestations. The Armenian population, as to a great surprise to many residents of Sumgayit including those as well who had not suffered any material losses in the days of the genocide and only had experienced the horrors and received a moral damage having no guarantee that it would not be repeated one day, left their own workplaces, the apartment they had gained with difficulty and left the place without looking back…
In the evening I was at the outskirts of Aghdam. And I would like to see the fourteen-year-old youngster from Аghdam and the thirty-five-year-old man in the field who were pasturing their sheep and talking to each other. Instead, at the same place the boys were playing football shrieking, having forgotten all the troubles of the world and disasters.
The bus stopped at the north-eastern bus station of Aghdam. I could not ask about the bus leaving for Stepanakert because they would immediately guess that I am an Armenian and nothing could save me then. I went up to the conductor.
‘How can I leave for Shushi?’
‘The buses leaving for Shushi depart from the other bus station. The bus station is at the other end of the city.’
I stuck my hand into the case and adjusted the objective of the video camera to the specially made hole then I pushed the video button. It was possible that the hole could have a little bit been moved aside from the objective but it would also produce an effect of secret video shooting to the frames. I had to get from the north-eastern side of the city to its south-western side. I was calmly and slowly waliking along the streets of Aghdam and I was whistling a tune to more show off my serenity. The residents of Aghdam followed me suspiciously. But not a resident of Aghdam could ever imagine that after such violences against the Armenians, with a mob of fifty thousand people marching to Stepanakert, stonings after ‘Sumgayit’ any Armenian could calmly and negligently walk along the streets of the Armenian-eater city. Among other cities Aghdam was famous for its utmost enmity against the Armenians. I reached the bus station and the conductor told me that a “ПАЗ” bus was about to leave for Shushi. I took my seat at the second row. The buss was filled with passangers. The women messed in the passageway. The young woman standing by me was pregnant. It seemed probably she was going to Shushi to give birth. I stood up and giving up my seat to her said, ‘Oturun!’
The Turkish woman took the seat. The passengers turned back and stared at me. Surely, they caught a kind of nuance of Armenian or Karabakh dialect in my pronunciation. The pregnant woman turned to her girlfriend and said, ‘Bu ermani dir, buna na eliyir?’.
A kind of tension seized the passengers. The bus should pass through the regional center of Askeran and then through Stepanakert.
At the edges of the road there still reamined on February 22 the day of the assizes of the regional council of Nagorno-Karabakh when they should adopt a resolution on NKAR breaking from Azerbaijani SSR, the traces of the march of fifty thousand Aghdam resindents to Stepanakert. They had burnt down the flour mill, destroyed it and then burnt the weir made of thornbush.
If they try to attack me I shall throw myself to the driver’s side and will throw out myself from his door.
A bit later we reached the fuel station of Askeran. I approached the door and ordered, ‘Sakhla!’
The driver stopped the bus obediently. I paid handed the money and got off the bus.
I thought that here I was born again.
4th of April, 1988
As soon as the refugees sheltered themselves at the University dormitory of Stepanakert got informed about my visit to Sumgayit, they surrounded me and the question rush started from different sides. But I was mostly interested in their answers to my questions. Spontanously there broke an interesting talk which attracted everybody’s attention.
‘Everything roused in Sumgayit after the TV speech of Katusev at Azerbaijani Television, the deputy of USSR General Prosecutor,’ Lensel Grigoryan, a refugee from Sumgayit said, ‘after half an hour everything was being commited to the flames all along the Street of Peace while the police watched and triumphed. Five workers of fire brigade had entered our apartment and put the knife on the throat of nine-month baby and demanded money and gold from my wife. When we came back home they had taken everything with themselves.’
‘Did not you turn to the investigation?’
‘They showed no interest in that affair. They said there was no murder.’
‘Still on the 20th of February 20, they brought stones by a truck and emptied at the bus station. The stones were of fist size. They could not be used in any place. They were useless stuff. While in those days of the massacres they came here and having the special bags hung from their hands filled them with stones and hurried to the flats/apartments of the Armenians. On the 9th of March, when I went again to Sumgayit to take my documents from my apartment I saw a naked girl in the street her body covered with blue spots, she was running here and there and did not know where to go to. There was a an Armenian man named Gurgen, I told him: “Gurgen this is an Armenian girl, most surely she has been disgraced by the slaughterers and set free then, she is a pitiful sight, take her home. He covered the girl’s nudity with his mantle and took her with himself. The tragic events of Sumgayit followed each other in front of our eyes one after another, revived the cruel February days.
The bitter breath/ing of Sumgayit came in a moment filled the inner world of the people mixed with their feelings then poured out onto the streets with its full dramatic nature, filled the air and spread about, became an appeal for help all over Artsakh and Armenia before the eyes of the civilized world. There evil still exists and lives, the source of carnage.
The meeting with fifteen-year old Vitaly Danielyan was not of a less excitement. The former smart and brisk youth had turned into a taciturn, sad person who could hardly utter words, His black eyes were filled with sadness there was a complaint in them a hopeless claim against everything. Maybe just against the destiny. He was still waiting for his parents, Nikolay and Seda Danielyans who were left lying in the street at the night of February 28….
Jeykhun Mamedov, a member of his father’s brigade, called at midnight and ordered not to leave for anywhere and as if they were going to save their family. In fifteen minutes the throng came and said: “Kolya we have come to kill you.”
It was similarly difficult and hard for me to give cause the youngster to remember and experience the tragedy once again.
The leader of the criminals turned over the pages of the passport: “Danielyan?…yan? This is already enough to kill you.” They took Kolya, Seda and me out to the yard and having solved their problem with the blows of metal clubs left the place.
‘I came to my senses and I tried to help my parents rise but I could not. My arm was broken. I addressed to my neighbours asking to call ambulance but all of them closed their doors slammed the door on me. In a way I could hardly go up to our apartment which was on the 4th floor. The following day at 12 o’clock they came from the police and took my parents and sent me to Baku, to the hospital after Simashko.
‘How could such a thing happen? How do you explain it?’
‘I do not know, they were young boys of twenty five years old,’ Vitaly said, ‘I remember when they were beatinmg an Armenian woman in the street, her Azerbaijani neighbor cried out why they were beating the innocent woman, her daughter interrupted her shrilling that they are doing the right thing because all of the Armenians lived on the second floor while they lived in barracks. They should exterminate all of them and take their places.
‘Vitaly do you trust people now,’ I referred to him.
‘I do not believe the Azerbaijani. I hate them now…’
‘We went to Sumgayit to give testimony to the investigation authorities,’ the husband of Vitaly’s sister, Nelson said, ‘we met Rasulova Lydia Khudatovna, the president of the Azerbaijani Labour Union who had promised before to settle the problem of Vitaly’s apartment but as soon as she got informed that the son of the victims had an intention to move to Stepanakert, she said: “Do you really think it will be better in Stepanakert? Worse things are expected to happen there. Your folk have killed two Azerbaijanis and our people are have been killing the Armenians in Sumgayit. Do you feel the difference?’
In these last days they told us from the regional labour union that V. G. Lomonosov, the deputy chairman of the Central Council of All Soviet Trade Union and L. Rasulova had respectively arrived from Moscow and Baku and invited the suferers of Sumgayit events to a meeting. I went together with my wife, too. At the beginning they were speaking about the issue of Karabakh. Then some/body asked from the hall: “Why did not you find a Khuraman in Baku and Sumgayit who would cast her kerchief on the ground and stop the throng?”
He meant the concocted legend as if when the mob, composed of the residents of Aghdam, marched to Stepanakert making a front with several kilometers width where there were incessantly held demonstrations as if a woman named Khuraman spread out her kerchief onto the ground and nobody dared to pass the border of the kerchief, because suchlike were the Azerbaijani bandits and murderers. When it was already the time for my wife’s speech, Lyudmila Aliyeva, the deputy of the republican labour union approached us and asked on behalf of L. Rasulova not to make a speech and leave the hall.
My wife did not agree and mounted the rostrum. Indeed, Rasulova had something to fear about. My wife addressed her words to the president of labour union from the rostrum: “You have you had specially gone to Aghdam and taken part in the funerals of the two criminals who had taken participated in the attack of Stepanakert while here you did not deign to attend the funeral of the foreman of the complex brigade in Sumgayit, the thrice winner of socialist emunition of five-year plan, the knight of numerous orders Nikolay Danielyan and his wife.”
Rasulova jumped up from her seat shook the party membership card in the air and swore that she hadn’t said such a thing, she had not been in Aghdam that the daughter of the victims had got a high temperature and was raving.
My wife got excited, weeped and went down from the rostrum. It’s difficult to lose parents and bear such insults.
The next day L. Rasulova sent her driver to our apartment saying that I can go and make a report in another way and reject my words what I had said because my words should reach Moscow and they would do a great harm to my carrer. We didn’t go. But our friend Vitaly needed an apartment. The investgators from Moscow told us that the door had been open till the 11th of March and everybody who liked entered the apartment and robbed it. Now the Azerbaijani witnesses gave up their first testimonies, as if they had not seen anythingor had not said anything like that. The neighbours who had been present said that the investigators would leave the following day and the criminals who were still free would take revenge on them. The divisional police inspector had arrived and shouted loudly: “Who has seen the murder?” One of the neighbours called out: “Haven’t you seen it with your own eyes? Weren’t you watching and admiring the scenery standing in front of me…?” The divisional police inspector attacked by threatening the latter and said: “Shut up and let you think about tomorrow”. A captain of internal affairs who had been also called by the prosecutor told us that some of the main felons had been already arrested but had been instantly freed by the command of the ruling top.
Having returned to Yerevan I started to make a documentary film on Sumgayit tragic events on the basis of my video shootings. It was delayed till summer. The head of the State Committee of Television changed. A Central Committee worker was nominated instead of Stepan Poghosyan who prohibited my TV programs to be broadcast. The film of “Sumgayit waves” was blocked by the new “director”. The knacky boys started to multiplicate it and sell against my own will. The film was spread all over the world quickly for a short period of time. I remember that they turned the cabin of an old plane into a cinema in Pyatigorsk. On my way to Dagestan I lodged at my friend Isakhanyan’s place in Pyatigorsk. I was told that films about Sumagit were shown there. People told legends about the movie. I decided to watch it. I bought a ticket and entered the plane cabin. I was astonished to see that it was my own film, the very film shot by me. And yet the Armenian television as well as the authorities of the Republic should have shown the Russian version of the film to the civilsed world instead of prohibiting it.
In future I had a lot of reasons to get surprised especially when I saw the various sceneries of Barum village in Azerbaijanian documentary films. In the most exciting frames the Armenians are represented as Azerbaijanians. Of course they had cut the shots of the general sceneries of the helicopter and me working with a microphone. The Azerbaijani propaganda was looking for a way out from the current situation. The Azerbaijanis already were not able to deny the massacres and murders of the Armenian residents of. Number one historian and academician of Azerbaijan Ziya Bunyadov stated in one of his articles as if the Armenian TV reporter had arrived before the tragic events of Sumgayit as if he had been aware beforehand what was about to happen because all that had been organized by the Armenians to film and to disgrace the Azerbaijanis. I do not think that scenario was taken seriously. The academician himself did not believe in such a hypothesis as it could be guessed from the article. Moreover, later on the same academician stated in one of his articles that the Turkish element living in Azerbaijan was an invader for those lands while the Talish, Tat, Lezgin, Avar, Udi, Tsakhur and Armenian peoples are indigenous nations and had been living on their historical lands for centuries. The very act made the fighters of the national front of Azerbaijan become furious with the old historian and beat him first in a cruel manner and having seen that he went on insisting on his viewpoint they stabbed him in his workroom. Yet, during all his life long he devoted himself to continuously falsifying history in his numerous studies, books, articles and concocted an imaginary history of Azerbaijan, obliged it to the civilized world.
The Azerbaijani secret services pursued the former activists of Sumgayit in the territory of Russia and tried to take revenge from them. Soon I got informed that Mudretsova was abducted and taken to Baku where she was subjected to torture and killed in a cruel manner. A lot of people had a kind of fateamong them Lezgins, Talishs, Avars, Tats, Udis, Tsakhurs and Tabasaranians….
The leaders of the USSR never understood that by not catching by the throat of the criminalactually they encouraged the act of genocide. After Sumgayit massacres and deportation of the Armenians Kirovabad and Gyanja were followed as well as in other Azerbaijani settlements. On 24th of November of 1988 I could manage to get an allowance from the command of the 7th USSR Army to fly to Kirovabad by helicopter. That day we shot the tragic events of Kirovabad. The Armenian district of Kirovabad with its 40 thousand Armenian residents was under a strict siege. The school at the church reminded of a military hospital. There were more than 200 wounded and raped people. The Azerbaijanis sent four helicopters after us. Our pilots managed to get out of it safe and sound and land at Barum village under the siege of Azerbaijani fighters and organize transportation of 52 children with their mothers to Yerevan.
I remember the joyous fireworks displayed at Shushi on the occasion of the earthquake of Spitak. On the 8th of December of 1988 all night long there was a demonstrative celebration at the platform of Shushi. People from Stepanakert would see the Azerbaijanis jubilating on the occasion of the disaster happened to the Armenians, lose heart and again surrender themselves to the rule of Baku authority.
The hot spot of the massacres of 1990 was Baku. Hundreds of Armenians were martyred here. The whole Azerbaijan was jubilating. They thought to have already defeated the Armenians. But so furious the Azeri nationlaists became in their aspect as more the people of Artsakh persistent became. The conflict of Artsakh-Azerbaijan was getting bigger and bigger as a snowball rolling down from the pick of a mountain and took formidable dimensions. The authorities of Baku authorities made up their minds to take the chance and besiege NKR by taking it in their circle and launched military campaign which led to the defeat of Azerbaijan. But it was felt in the air that something was going on with the Soviet country. The national liberation movements as a chain reaction spread about all of the country. The countries of the Socialist Camp believed in freeing getting freedom from the claws of the Krmelin. USSR, the second world power of the globe, started to collapse.
Сумгаитские волны, часть 1 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-omp7aqF8Tw
 An Armenian word used to describe the tragic events of 1915-1923 in Western Armenia, Eastern Armenia, all over the territory of Turkey and the South Caucasus before the term of “Genocide” (“Tseghaspanoutiuon” in Armenian) became of international use.
 Caucasian and Transcaucasian brave skillful horseman.
 A mullah is a Muslim who is a religious teacher or leader.
 Tall astrakhan hat.
In old Persia and several oriental countries a vicar who ruled the province.
 The province ruled by a vicar.
 Another variant of the same Ctesiphon testified by Armenian medieval historians, an ancient city on the Tigris near Baghdad, capital of the Parthian kingdom from c. 224 and then of Persia under the Sassanian dynasty. It was taken by the Arabs in 636 and destroyed in the 8th century.
 The war of Armenians against Persians in 449-451 led by Vardan Mamikonyan, one of the Christian prominent Christian nobleman, a saint of the Armenian Aposolic Church of the 5th century A.D.
 The same river of Araxes.
 Fertile land.
 The same as the Armenian historical village of Jartar of Artsakh.
 The executive and policy-making committee of a Communist Party.
 Hereafter the term of ‘Turk’ or ‘Turkish’ in the book is referred to the Azerbaijani Turkish-speaking population which is the dominant and main population of so-called Azerbaijan.
 Restructuring; (in the former Soviet Union) the policy or practice of restructuring or reforming the economic and political system. First proposed by Leonid Brezhnev in 1979 and actively promoted by Mikhail Gorbachev, perestroika originally referred to increased automation and labour efficiency, but came to entail greater awareness of economic markets and the ending of central planning.
 Nasosno-Zavodskaya Stantsia-pump factory station, at the Sumgayit airport base.
 The action or traditional practice of cutting off the end of penis skin which is considered as a traditional circumcision of Muslim people.
 The Communist of Sumgayit, local newspaper of Sumgayit.
 In Russian: “Week”.
The Committee for State Security; the state security police (1954–91) of the former Soviet Union with responsibility for external espionage, internal counter-intelligence, and internal ‘crimes against the state.
 Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region. Now Republic of Nagorno Karabakh-NKR.
 Sit down.
 He is an Armenian, what’s he doing here?