CHAPTER 17 THE GORBACHOV REFORMS AND THE REVOLT OF KARABAKH

The Armenian national leaders came from professional intelligentsia and were firmly conducting democratic politics. They even voted off Igor Muradian, who had called on people to be ready to defend themselves because the government did not guarantee their safety and had stated that force had to be met with force. The Stepanakert movements were led by the intellectuals too; scientists, university, teachers, writers, engineers….

As before the Soviet mass media remained to be completely biased. The Baku papers published humiliating articles about the unofficial Armenian leaders, the Armenian press kept silent, deprived of the right of commenting on the fateful situation of the nation. Any political report or programme could be released by a special permission of the Central Committee. The changes in the administration of both republics at the end of May took place in the presence of Politburo members Yakovlev in Yerevan and Ligachov in Baku. The new secretary of Communist Party of Armenia S. Harutiunian was greeted by the Karabakh Committee and people as he seemed a completely democratic leader. Y. Ligachev declared in Baku that the Karabakh issue was not going to be discussed by the Centarl Committee and no territorial changes were to be awaited.

This declaration gave rise to a strong protest in Karabakh and a general strike was organized. People all over the city went round the Lenin Square, which was empty, only with Lenin standing in the middle. The demonstrators continued chanting “Lenin-Party…” This call already didn’t mean loyalty to the leader of the revolution or his party, but had turned into a strong demand from that party to settle the national problem of Karabakh. By June the leaders of Karabakh distanced themselves from the Karabakh Committee of Yerevan. The discordance grew among the two parties and Levon Ter-Petrossian and Vazgen Manukian were unable to achieve reconciliation. The “Krunk Committee” refused to agree to the dismissal of Igor Muradian and did not support the change of policy of the Karabakh Committee, which besides the Karabakh conflict had focused attention on the democratization of society, cleansing it of the influence of organized crime and corruption, the anti-Soviet tendences of the party was emerging. If the “Krunk” members were trying to achieve a positive solution of the problem by gaining the favour of Moscow, then the Karabakh Committee leaders were already fighting for power. As to Igor Muradian, he was called to the Procurator’s office to account for his call to arms, which was quoted in the leading article of the newspaper “Communist”. Undertaking that he would refrain that theme in future, Igor was not arrested. But the Karabakh Committee members after the incident forcibly prevented him from getting in touch with people, declaring him a provocateur and a KGB agent who was appointed to lead the masses astray.

Meetings were accompanied by hunger strikes. Tens of people were sitting in the Yerevan Theatre Square around the monuments of Tumanian and Spendiarian on hunger strike for an emergency session of the Supreme Soviet to discuss the Karabakh February 20 application to the Armenian government for the attachment of Karabakh to Armenia.

The Armenian TV made a dicision to release B. Karapetians documental film concerning the latest events of Stepanakert and Shushi. But the Central Committee was trying to prevent the show. The demonstrators moved to the TV station demanding the release of the programme. It was decided to show the film after the June 16 session of the Supreme Soviet.

Half of the 231 industrial works of Armenia were on strike. The Karabakh committee demanded the work of the Armenian atomic power station to be stopped, which was the same as the Chernobil station and was a great threat to the nation, as well as the “Nairit” industrial complex, which presented another ecological threat to the citizens. The enterprise was the only in its kind in the whole USSR and played in important role in the military industrial complex of the country. Probably the Karabakh Committee was striving not only to achieve political success, but also undermine the industrial might of the country. The demand to stop the work of the atomic power station too was a political step of the Committee, trying to prove the Communist power that it was becoming the only master of the situation and the country. But they had decided in Armenia, they were right and the others were not.

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