CHAPTER 17 THE GORBACHOV REFORMS AND THE REVOLT OF KARABAKH

At that moment Gorbachov aimed at calming down the Armenians with promises and his effort was crowned with success. But the movement could awake any moment, so new measures were to be undertaken. The “Azerbaijanian factor” was an instrument to be used not only against the Armenians, but also prevent other movements to emerge.

The “Washington Times” wrote; “Though Gorbachov managed to keep under control the Armenian movements temporarily, the Sumgait bloodshed, when the Armenian minority was attacked by an Azerbaijani mob, made it clear that the border changes could be a threat to his new regime”.

The Sumgait drama received world-wide publicity and was a terrible shock to all Armenian communities, reviving memories of 1915 genocide. With Sumgait, the possibility of a peaceful transfer of Karabakh to Armenia became remote. It was evident that the massacre of Sumgait had been carefully planned beforehand. After the World War II, Azerbaijan undertook to build a hidroelectrical station in Mingechaur and to turn Sumgait to a centre of chemical industry. It may seem that the economical development of the Azerbaijan Republic had nothing to do with the Karabakh problem, but in fact there is a direct link between the two. All the young people of Karabakh were persuaded to move to the developing centre of chemical industry, and Azeris were settled in Karabakh instead, intending to achieve a solution of the problem through demographic changes. Due to such a migration 18 thousand Karabakh Armenians appeared in Sumgait.

The outbursts of mass nationalist movements, first in Tarnscaucasia and soon after in Baltic Republics, occured at the same time. Then the events of Kazakhstan, Moldavia, and later Ukraine and Belorussia followed. After trying to crush brutally the national movements, Kremlin understood the impossibility of using armed force against the burgeoning national movements. The nationalists identified the Soviet experiment as the enemy of essential, authentic, natural national aspirations. The Soviet experience of making nations entered the new discourse of separatism. The image of the USSR as a state having no ethnic problems dashed to the ground. The empire was dying. Gorbachov’s commitment to democratic reform restrained the kind of physical force that had forged the empire and preserved it for seven decades.

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