CHAPTER 16 THE KARABAKH PROBLEM AS A RESULT OF THE PAN-TURKIC POLICY OF THE BAKU AUTHORITIES

Following the Moscow resolution, there were several years during which little information filtred through, through it was clear from unofficial sources that the situation of the Karabakh Armenians was worsening. The region was governed by a leadership appointed by and working in the interests of Baku. They tried to compel the Karabakh Armenians that any resistence was useless, that sooner or later they would have to leave the region. The phychological pressure was felt in all the spheres of life. The Chief agronomist of Kuropatkino state-farm was murdered, his successor Benik Movsisians nine-year-old son was murdered too. The body of the boy was mutiliated. The organizer of this cruel act was the director of the local school Arshad Mamedov. The Armenian side considered him a villain, while the Azerbaijanis regarded him as a hero. The building which housed the watchman of the Martakert state-farm and his family was set alight. The tractor drivers of the Norashen state-farm were murdered at night, while working in the field. In all cases the criminals were not charged. The Azerbaijani authorities went so far as to order the destruction of the Shushi Armenian graveyard. (The architect K. Meidov made the suggestion on February 2, 1966 in his article “The Dead Ate Those Alive”).32 The destruction of the tombstones, which were unique specimen of Armenian architecture, was set in motion.

In July 1967 the criminal A. Mamedov was sentenced to ten years imprisonment. During the trial his wife declared, addressing to him, that he would be freed in ten days, as all the officials were already bribed. The Armenians of Stepanakert lost their temper. The villain was lynched.33 This act caused a new wave of reprisals. Fifty people were arrested immediately. Most of them died in prison. An atmosphere of terror ruled all over the region.

Meanwhile the Armenian dissidents were setting up new parties in Yerevan and other cities of the USSR. In 1967 the semi-legal “Club of Armenian Culture” was founded in Moscow. V. Manukian, K. Takhtajian, V. Hambartsumian, Y. Stepanaian were among its members. The First Secretary of the Soviet Comsomol Party Committee (later the chairman of the Russian Federation) ordered the three Armenian students to leave Moscow. They returned to Yerevan and set up their “Club” there. Though the organization considered the independence of Armenia their cause, they didn’t believe themselves that the collapse of such superpower as the USSR, was possible. During a talk in Moscow the Chief Marshal H. Babajanian, a native of Karabakh, said jokingly to the members of the “Club”; “If you manage to create an independent Armenia one day, don’t forget to appoint me a Minister of Defence”.34 The leader of the “Union of National Self-Determination”, P. Hairikian and his adherents believed that sooner or later democracy would penetrate to the USSR and people could achieve independence through their right of self-determination. Meanwhile the pro-Soviet Armenian politicians were frightening the nations pointing to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization with Turkey as one of its member states.

By the end of 1960s, the Brezhnev regime, when in general backed the entrenched Party cadres, found it difficult to tolerate the continued frusteration of its economic plans. In order to improve the unhealthy situation in Azerbaijan, Heidar Aliev, a native of Nakhichevan, a career KGB officer was elected as First Secretary of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan. Once again a Baku leader was to become the “realizer of the hopes and dreams” of the revolutionary East. The mandate given to Aliev was to end the economic and political corruption, to stimulate economic growth, to promote a new governing elite able to carry out the policies of the Communist Party. But the underground economy and corrupt political practices in Azerbaijan proved to be resistent to reform. The Republic was essentially ruled by the Communist Party and its leader, whose reach extended throughout society. Despite the critical economical situation of the stagnation period Azerbaijan,33 the Soviet and Azerbaijani mass-media was singing the praises of the Azerbaijani leader H. Aliev and Soviet leader L. Brezhnev, pointing to a “flourishing” Azerbaijan. With the establishment of indirect rule from the Centre and the easing of the extraordinary restrictions on ethnic expression, the national political elite of Azerbaijan, under H. Aliev, promoted a corrupt system of patronage, favouritism and the wide spread practice of bribe-taking and payoffs to the Centre. With the rise of complect networks of patrons and clients and family circles, H. Aliev became enmeshed in the corruption and favouritism that characterised normal Azerbaijani political and economic practices. Among the peoples of the Soviet south and particularly of Azerbaijan, loyalty is given first to the boss, hierarchical favours done or received are the operative currency of both social and political relations. Since the political and police structures were also penetrated by such relations, protection from punishment was a frequent favour. Applying all the “southern methods” and fawning on the First Secretary of the Communist Party of the USSR H. Aliev quickly won the lattlers favour and became a member of Political Bureau and vice chairman to the USSR Council of Ministers.

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