M.Gorbachov, who came to the leadership of the USSR in 1985, took an ill-disposed policy towards Azerbaijan. The evidence of this, first of all, was that in the autumn of 1987, M.Gorbachov achieved the removal of H.Aliyev from the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the CPSU and from the post of First Deputy Chairman of the USSR Council of Ministers. Thus, Azerbaijan has lost support in the country's supreme organs of government. Immediately began a wide anti-Aliyev campaign in press. This campaign was even more intensified after the appointment of A. Vezirov as head of the party leadership of the republic.
Gorbachov’s policy became a detonator for the strengthening of Armenian separatism in Daghlig Garabagh (Nagorno-Karabakh), which advocated the annexation of this territory to the Armenian SSR. These events gave a powerful impetus to the national movement in Azerbaijan, which initially went under the slogans of preserving the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the republic. To prevent this movement, Moscow used rigorous measures, sending troops to Baku and committing a bloody massacre here.
On January 19, 1990, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR without the consent of the Supreme Council of Azerbaijan issued a decree “On the introduction of a state emergency in the city of Baku.“ The decree came into force from 00 hours on January 20. However, until January 20, the time of coming of the decree into force was kept secret. Moreover, the representatives of Moscow in Baku - Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU L.Girenko and Chairman of the Council of the Union of the USSR Supreme Soviet Y.Primakov — convinced the official representatives of Azerbaijan that bringing troops into the city was not planned. This deluded the participants of the rallies and picketers. But already on the night of January 19-20, the power-generating unit of Azerbaijan television was blown up. This was followed by a military operation headed by the USSR Minister of Defense, Marshal D.Yazov. The troops redeployed to Azerbaijan, units of the Baku garrison and landing forces from warships took the offensive. Heavy military hardware easily destroyed the barricades. The troops used a teargas, shot to kill. Soldiers fired at passersby in the streets, dwelling houses, cars. People were destroyed under tracks of military equipment.
A large-scale action of the Soviet army led to the death of 131 people in Baku and other settlements in the republic, 400 people were arrested, 744 people were injured and 4 people were missing. Hundreds of houses were burned; material damage was caused to citizens and city economy. The population of the republic expressed its protest to the barbaric aggression of the Soviet army. On January 22, 1990, Baku, all Azerbaijan, was bidding farewell to the victims of aggression. The city was in mourning. Three-day mourning was declared in the republic. About two million people participated in the rally and funeral ceremony. On the streets and walls of the houses appeared writings expressing hatred towards Gorbachov, the CPSU, and the military. In the streets people burned their party membership cards.
In this truly crucial time for the republic, the voice of protest of Heydar Aliyev was heard in Moscow. On January 21, the day after the tragedy in Azerbaijan, H.Aliyev, together with family members came to the office of the Council of Ministers of Azerbaijan SSR, where thousands of Azerbaijanis living and studying in Moscow had already gathered. Here he delivered his famous short speech, in which he called the decision of the Supreme Soviet leadership to send troops into Baku as “inhuman, anti-democratic and anti-constitutional” act and demanded that “all those involved in the tragedy should be punished.“
The speech of Aliyev was of great importance and far-reaching aftereffects. His accusatory speech was a requiem for Gorbachov’s “perestroika”, got bogged down in blood. On that day, Aliyev was quoted by all foreign radio stations, and foreign correspondents gathered at the mission, pestered Aliyev, trying to interview him. In a few days, the video recording of this speech was secretly duplicated by someone, and the video cassettes appeared in Baku, evoking feelings of hope in the hearts of the citizens of the republic and fear among the Kremlin representatives. The speech of H.Aliyev in January 1990 actually meant his return to active politics.
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