CHAPTER 17 THE GORBACHOV REFORMS AND THE REVOLT OF KARABAKH

During the year of 1987 meetings were held in all the enterprises, farms and state farms of Karabakh, where the population and the local authorities supported the leaders of the Karabakh movement. These leaders were sure that 1973 won’t repeat. In 1973, after the appointment of Boris Kovorkov, the sole Armenian member of the Central Committee of the Azerbaijan Communist Party, First Secretary of the Regional Committee for Mountainous Karabakh, 53 prominent Armenians complained to Moscow, Kevorkov, the puppet of Baku accused the whole of Karabakh intelligentsia. Unfortunately his attitudes were shared by the authorities of Karabakh and the plenary session of the Regional Committee rejected the idea of attaching Karabakh to Armenia. Maybe this attitude of the Karabakh authorities was due to 1967 repressions, when the Armenian timid protests resulted in imprisonment, murders official threats, and going into exile on pain of death.

In 1988 H. Aliev (the First Secretary of the Azeri Communist Party) and B. Kevorkov hoped to repeat the experience of 1973, but soon were to be convinced that it was impossible.

On February 11, 1988 the Second Secretary of Azeri Communist Party Vasili Konovalov (all the second secretaries of Union Republics were the representatives of the Kremlin) an Azeri Central Committee member and the First Secretary of the Shamkhor district M. Asadov, and the head of State Security Council (KKB) of Azerbaijan I. Imramov arrived in Stepanakert, where the next day a session of the Regional Party activists was held. The leaders of Karabakh movements understood that Baku intended to put an end to the revolt through the Russian Emissar, forcing the Karabakh authorities to make slanderous declarations, ignoring the 80 thousand signatures. But it was evident that the position of Baku was not echoed by the deputies of the Regional Soviet of Karabakh.

“We won’t allow the extremist groups to crack up to age-old friendship between the Armenian and Azerbaijani nation”, declared Konovalov at the meeting. Probably the term “extremists” originated from the Baku and Moscow authoritarian sources. The participants protested against the use of such an expression. The Karabakh authorities, the heads of the enterprises among them, again concluded by stating that the only solution was to re-unify with Armenia. The director of Karabakh silk factory Robert Atayan proposed to organize a referendum. The three thousand collective of the plant was the life and soul of the movement, led by Robert Atayan and Party Secretary Robert Kocharian. The meeting was the first victory of the Karabakh Armenians over Konovalov’s and Kevorkov’s policy. The emissar of Kremlin Konovalov called the meeting “a rally of political hooligans”, declaring that “such questions can’t be settled from below, and there exists no such question in the above circles”. But the Karabakh communists declared that the region ceased to submit to Azerbaijan and decided to make a proposal to Moscow to send a commision to this effect.10 After the talks with Demichev and Mikhailov they hoped that the problem would be solved in accordance with perestroika and democracy.

In the meeting in Askeran Konovalov declared, “No question is going to be discussed by the Central Committee of the USSR Communist Party” and “Believe me, the perestroika and democracy are temporary processes, which are to decline soon”.

Facing a hostile participants here too, Konovalov and Kevorkov hurried to Martakert, where the demostrators met them near the building of Regional Committee and demanded to answer their questions. Not instructed how to behave in such a situation, Konovalov and Kevorkov returned to Stepanakert.

In the evening the secretaries of Azerbaijan Communist Party Central Committee T. Orujev and R. Mekhtiev arrived in Stepanakert.12

Already from January the Baku authorities were informed by the head of the State Security Committee of Karabakh G. Septa, that the application to Moscow about the attachment of Karabakh to Armenia had obtained several thousand signatures. The leader of the Regional committee had shrugged his shoulders sceptically, and declared ironically that it was the imagination of the KKB officer, as to himself, he was a realist and intended to have a peaceful vocation since mid -February.

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