Countries of the World
Pogroms against Armenians in Azerbaijan




Pogroms against Armenians in Azerbaijan


Foreword


It is extremely difficult to write a foreword for this book. Yet reading the book is even more difficult, unbearably so. It is not literature: It is living tragedy, an open wound for all the people who lived through those days. The recollections of eyewitnesses are like a conversation with oneself. Not before a camera, nor a microphone, nor printed in the press. They are the kinds of things people tell themselves, and perhaps their mothers, in the darkest of night. And, probably, no one else. But you are reading it. You must read it! Tears well up in your eyes, and pain wrenches your heart. And burning shame, shame that this happened here, in my time and in my country. Each of our citizens, then, was a participant.

Sumgait shook the Armenian people. It stunned with its brutality and with its cynicism. It struck Azerbaijan with its organization and its impunity. And it stunned people in Russia, but only those who knew the truth. This immense country — a sixth of the planet — does not know the truth even to this day. And the West hardly even noticed. Such was our glasnost in action. One is ashamed to recall how, during those days, when the dead were being buried and all of Armenia was on strike, Russian workers reproached the Armenians from the screen of Central Television for their failure to work, because plan targets would not be met as a result of the Armenians' actions. You wanted to turn away from the screen so as not to see the faces of people who, once again, had been misled.

History will undoubtedly pass its verdict on the Sumgait genocide. But judgments of living history always come too late, bringing further misfortune. I think that today's lack of progress in the country that proclaimed the policy of perestroika has its roots in the time when people believed in perestroika's slogans. The time when Karabagh chose to follow the path sought by its people, legally—by decree of its governmental authorities. It was an absolute majority: 75 percent of the people inhabiting the territory.

This was among the first stirrings of perestroika in the USSR, and Armenia became one of the first republics in which perestroika came to life, with many thousands of people turning up for rallies crying "yes" to Gorbachev. Never before and nowhere else in the country had perestroika and its initiator seen such support. But our regime fears unsanctioned popular movements more than anything else. As in the case of all our most important problems today, the government's lack of understanding and its inability to cope provided time for the dark forces to plan what happened in Sumgait. The authorities tried in every way possible to hush up and wallpaper over Sumgait, and to represent it as something other than what it was. General Secretary Gorbachev was often to repeat, "We were three hours late, it was a small group of hooligans." Coming from him, such words were even more shameful than they were from the mouths of ignorant workers.

Beginning with the first mistakes made in Karabagh, the Sumgait events—which remain without official condemnation—brought an avalanche of tragedies down on our country, tragedies that will take long to fully comprehend: Kirovabad and the streams of refugees from both sides, Tbilisi, Abkhazia, Fergana, Uzden, Ossetia, and now, the latest horror, Baku. It is not the Azerbaijani Popular Front—the "extremists"—who are to blame (first it was the Armenian, and now the Azerbaijani extremists who were fingered), but rather the authorities' fear of losing power. In the meanwhile, we have become a country of refugees. We are now hushing up these events just like we hushed up the famine in the Ukraine and the deaths of millions in the 1930s. Now the whole country is in a state of excruciating anticipation: What will come next? And everyone is searching for his own answer to the question of whether and at what point it was necessary to introduce troops into Baku. And why. To save the people or to save the State?

Such are our thoughts on what has taken place. We are all searching for a way out of today's dead end. The conclusion most often is to avoid stirring up the past—yet this is not the distant past, it is the past of the last two years. The most frequent notion is to begin with the tragic January of this year. But in our country in recent years all the months have been tragic. I think that we must begin with the full truth of these two years. Our leadership must tell our country everything. The whole chain of mistakes, instances of idleness, and intolerable actions. It is only with the whole truth that the search for solutions can begin. There is no need to fear—not for Muslims, not for Christians, and not for atheists: We are all people. But without shedding light on the truth, all our efforts will be for nought.

Perhaps I, being half-Armenian and half-Jewish, should not be the one to write this foreword. Perhaps it would be better written by the Azerbaijani woman who saved an Armenian family; this book contains her words: "Look what's happening out there, my child is seeing all of this, tomorrow he'll be doing the same things." This is a warning for all of us on this Earth. If we do not find a way to make each state, be it large or small, a state for the people, and not the other way around, then our children and our grandchildren will become a brutal, unhuman mob.

Yelena Bonner
Moscow
February 1990
Read also

Sumgait Tradegy In Eyewitness Accounts


Incomplete List of Innocent Victims of Sumgait

It is difficult to define the exact number of victims of Sumgait massacre due to refusal of Azeri government to help. Basing on the data provided by the Prosecutor’s office of Azerbaijan, the Prosecutor’s office of the USSR announced that 26 citizens of Armenian nationality perished in Sumgait (“Izvestiya”, 03.03.1988).

Lola Avagyan,
born in 1961
place of residence: Sumgait, block 45, 10/13, apt. 37


On February 29th, 1988 after her apartment was attacked, Avagyan was undressed and taken to the street. They made her dance, stabbed her with knives, cut her breast, stuck her body with lit cigarettes, and raped her. After death the body was mutilated; relatives recognized her by the little finger. Her father, Pavel Manvelyan said he had been in three morgues in Sumgait, Baku and Mardakyans (20 km away from Baku), and found body of his daughter in Mardakyans; she was number 71 among other corpses. Pavel Manvelyan testified in Moscow and signed the testimony. He has seen more than 100 piled dead bodies in three morgues. L. Avagyan’s husband, Alexander Avagyan was beaten within an inch of his life.

Arshak Babayan, born in 1931
Place of residence: Sumgait, 4 block, 27A, apt. 12


He was killed at home. “Cerebral soft membrane and ventricle hemorrhage, fracture of cranial bones and left ribs, blunt trauma of the body”.

Igor Melkumyan
born in 1957
place of residence: Sumgait, block 41A, 26, apt. 21


Was killed with his mother, father, sister and brother. After being beaten was burnt alive. “Burn shock, 2nd and 3rd degree burns of the body. Carbon monoxide gassing. Compound occiput wound.”
Yury Avagyan,
born in 1936
place of residence: Sumgait, 3 micro district, 5/2, apt. 47


“Cerebral and ventricle hemorrhage, calvarium fracture, head wounds, burns all over the body” (After his apartment was attacked, Avagyan was taken to the street, beaten, cut up, burnt in the fire).

Yelena Babayan
born in 1932
place of residence: Sumgait, 12 micro district, 29, apt. 52


According to her husband Artyusha Babayan, she was beaten on February 28th on her way home from work. She lied at home motionlessly until March 16th. The ambulance refused to take her to hospital. Yelena Babayan died on March 16th.

Eduard Melkumyan
born in 1960
place of residence: Sumgait, block 41A , 26, apt. 21


Was killed with his mother, father, sister and brother. Accomplished his military service in the Soviet Army in Afghanistan. “Cerebral membrane and ventricle hemorrhage, cranial bones fracture. (Was burnt and mutilated so much that his body was recognized by the shoes.)
Albert Avanesyan
born in 1955
address: Sumgait, block 5, 19/28, apt. 1


Acute hemorrhage, left lung and intercostal artery injury, penetrating stab and cut wounds on left side of the thorax. Albert was murdered with his brother Valery in the street.
Alexander Gambaryan
born in 1926
place of residence: Sumgait, 3 micro district, 17, apt. 40


Was killed at home by a crowbar blow. Craniocerebral injury.
Phiruza Melkumyan
70 year old
place of residence: Sumgait, 17 micro district, 51, apt. 59


Was killed at home on February 29 at 16:00. She was beaten, then her body was cut by numerous axe blows. Her screams were heard throughout the whole 17 micro district; no one came for help.
Valery Avanesyan
born in 1957
place of residence: Sumgait, block 5, 19/28, apt. 1


Cerebral and ventricle hemorrhage, compound wound of left zygomatic region, rib fracture, penetrating stab and cut wound of abdomen, mesentery injury. Valery was murdered with his brother Albert in the street.

Emma Grigoryan
born in 1930
place of residence: Sumgait, 3 micro district, 5/2, apt. 45


Naked, she was taken to the street from the 4th floor and set on a bench in front of the doorway. They burnt cigarettes on her body, raped her, smashed her head, broke the ribs, stuck a metal pipe into her vagina.
“Shock, hemorrhage, rupture of posterior wall of vagina, rectum wall injury, retroperitoneal haematoma, fracture of II – VI right bones and X thoracic vertebra”.

Yersilya Movsesova
born in 1902
lived in Baku, was killed in Sumgait, 3 micro district, 6/2A, apt 18.


“Cerebral hemorrhage, fracture of cranial bones, multiple rib fracture, blunt head and body trauma”. Among other wounds 31 knife wounds were recorded.

Misha Ambartsumyan
born in 1941
place of residence: Sumgait, 4 micro district, 18/24, apt. 2


Murdered in the street. “Burn shock, third-degree burn of 2/3 of body surface, comminuted fracture of cranial bones, cerebral hemorrhage”

Nikolay Danielyan
born in 1939
place of residence: Sumgait, 3 micro district, 4/2, apt. 25


Was taken to the street together with his wife and son. His wife was also killed; son was badly wounded.
“Cerebral membrane and ventricle hemorrhage, cranial bones fracture, blunt head trauma”.

Shahen Sarkisyan
born in 1927
place of residence: Sumgait, block 5, 14, apt. 16


“Radial fracture of occipital bone, fracture of sternum and 6 ribs…Death was caused a severe craniocerebral injury”, thus 62-year old carpenter Shahen Sarkisyan was dying, being thrown out by the outrageous mob from his car on Mir street (STREET OF PEACE) in Sumgait (Moskovskie Novosti, N 21, 22.05.88)
Artash Arakelyan,
born in 1937
place of residence: Sumgait, block 41A, 5A, apt. 9


“Cerebral hemorrhage, fracture of cranial bones and ribs, lung injury. Blunt trauma. Charred corpse”.

Seda Danielyan
born in 1938.
place of residence: Sumgait, 3 micro district, 4/2, apt. 25


Was taken to the street together with her husband and son; was killed after malicious insults. “Cerebral membrane and ventricle hemorrhage, cranial bones fracture, blunt head trauma”.

Rafik Tovmasyan
born in 1956
place of residence: Sumgait, 3 micro district, 6/2, apt. 8


Acute hemorrhage. (Was defending himself during 8 hours with his father-in-law at their neighbours’ place, the Trdatovs. Azeri gangsters tried to get into the apartment through the broken partition of the neighbouring apartment, the balcony of the upper floor and then with the help of the ladder of the fire engine that came to help. Was killed in the unequal fight.)
Armo Aramyan
born in 1928
place of residence: Sumgait, 3 micro district, 6/2, apt. 21


“Cerebral membrane and ventricle hemorrhage, fracture of cranial bones”. Was murdered together with his son Arthur; his wife was saved by a miracle.
Garry Martirosov
born in 1954,
place of residence: Baku, Lenin Ave, 43, apt 16


“Cerebral hemorrhage, cranial bones fracture, 3rd- and 4th-degree burns all over the body. On 29.02.88 in 15:30 – 16:30 was taken out of a ”RAF” or “UAZ” minibus near the railway crossing; was beaten; then burnt.

Gabriel Trdatov
born in 1925
place of residence: Sumgait, 3 micro district, 6/2, apt. 6


Was defending himself with his son, wife and two neighbours (Hrant Adamyan and his son-in-law – Rafik Tovmasyan) during 8 hours from gangster Azeris who tried to get into the apartment through the door, the broken partition of the neighbouring apartment, the balcony of the upper floor and then with the help of the ladder of the fire-engine that came to help. He got 3 knife wounds, two axe blows, his left eardrum burst from a stone blow. He died in the hospital on March 4 night.
Arthur Aramyan
born in 1963
place of residence: Sumgait, 3 micro district, 6/2, apt. 21


“Cerebral membrane and ventricle hemorrhage, fracture of cranial bones”. Was murdered together with his father; his mother was saved by a miracle.

Soghomon Melkumyan
born in 1931
place of residence: Sumgait, block 41A, 26, apt. 21


Was killed with his wife and three children. “Burn of the body, open penetrating craniocerebral injury”.

Tamara Mekhtieva
70-75 year old


Was born in the town of Sisian, Armenian SSR.
Place of residence: Sumgait, 3 micro district, 16, apt. 49
A single woman with no relatives. Was killed and thrown out to the hallway. A neighbour saw her dead body.
Vladimir Arushanyan
born in 1936
place of residence: Sumgait, 3 micro district, 6/2, apt. 16


“Cerebral soft membrane and ventricle hemorrhage”. His wife, R. Arushanyan (officially recorded as missing), was also killed.

Raisa Melkumyan
born in 1934
place of residence: Sumgait, block 41A, 26, apt. 21


Was killed with her husband and three children. Was taken naked to the doorway. After the murder the teenagers scoffed at the body. “Acute hemorrhage, chopped calvarium wound, rectum wound with hemorrhage, fracture of 5th right rib, grazes and bruises over the body”.

Arusyak Sayan
born in 1914 in Fizuli
Place of residence: Sumgait, block 14, Azizbekov Str. 38/5, apt. 8


On February 29 Sayan’s state of health deteriorated abruptly due to events happening in the city. She was refused emergency medical aid; the refusal motivation was: “Armenians should have it more”. She died the same day. Arusyak Sayan’s body was buried on March 1st without her daughter’s and relatives’ participation; they could not leave the city committee building where troops evacuated the Armenian population of Sumgait.
Razmella Arushanyan
born in 1939
place of residence: Sumgait, 3 micro district, 6/2, apt. 16


EXTRACT FROM AN APPEAL: COMRADES! On 28.02.88 about 24:00 citizen Razmella Arushanyan, born in 1939, left the central checkpoint of the tube-rolling mill; she is missing. Last time she was seen naked among an outrageous crowd of people on Mir Street near the railway crossing.
INVESTIGATORS:
PAVLOVSKY S.
KOZLENKO A.
Irina Melkumyan
born in 1961
place of residence: Sumgait, block 41A, 26, apt. 21


Was killed with four other members of her family – mother, father, and two brothers. Was raped, then taken naked to the street. Was burnt after being mocked at and beaten. “Cerebral membrane and ventricle hemorrhage, chopped head wound, fractures of calvarium and skull base, charred corpse”.

A several month old infant

Died in the building of Vurgun club, where troops evacuated part of the Armenian population of Sumgait. The baby died on the hands of Badasyan Zaven. There were no wounds or bruises on his body, but the chaos, insanitariness, and absolutely absence of medical care during the first days allow to consider the baby a victim of Sumgait tragedy. On March 6th, after the baby’s death all the Armenians were forced to leave the club building due to the reason that any moment dysentery and typhus epidemic may burst out in the club.
FEBRUARY 28 - Sumgait Pogrom Victims' Memorial Day
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Caroline Cox and John Eibner
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