CHAPTER 17 THE GORBACHOV REFORMS AND THE REVOLT OF KARABAKH

On February 8 in the evening the delegation of the Karabakh writers and artists, arriving from Moscow faced a demonstration of 40 thousand people in the Lenin square and told them about their talk with the head of the Nationality Sector of the Central Committee of the USSR Communist Party V. Mikhailov, about the letter’s statement of “a green road awaiting you.”

Politically unexperienced, the Karabakh intellectuals believed the problem settled. The news was greeted with rejoicing in the Lenin square of the Karabakh capital. In a historic move the extraordinary session of the Karabakh Regional Committee, usually nothing more than a transmitter of party policy, was to take an important step on February 20, 1988. The First Secretary of the Azerbaijani Communist Party Central Committee Kemran Bagirov, the official representative of Propaganda department of the USSR Communist Party V. Yashin, a group of Baku Armenian intellectuals arrived in Stepanakert. This historical session was the first example of violating the law of subordination within the Party apparatus. Each delegate was greeted with a storm of applause from the side of the 40 thousand demonstrators. The Azerbaijani militia was instructed to block up all the roads leading to Stepanakert, all the passing vehicles were checked and the arriving delegates were forcibly sent back. Many of the delegates managed to survive the check-outs and arrived in Stepanakert in time.

Bigirov tried hard to order the Chair of the Regional Soviet to forbid the session, but the members of the Chair didn’t submit to him. They were afraid neither of Bagirov, nor of Kevorkov. Bagirov sensed the session to mark his destruction. The Young Secretary of the Sumgait City Sovied was expecting his fall to seize his position and power. At nine o’clock in the evening of February 20, 1988, the 112 delegates from the 149 were already present. Farmers, stepherds, milkmaids formed a majority among the delegates. For years they had been the mute supporters of the party resolutions, charged with putting up hands and applauding. The election of deputies to the Soviets and other organs was generally a formal process in the USSR. The status, age, education of the future deputy was decided from above”, and then corresponding candidates were chosen. The existing system was just dressed in democracy, bearing no signs of it inside. And now the delegates of the system were to oppose the system itself for the first time.

In the session Bagirov suggested replacing the issue of attachment of Karabakh to Armenia with the issue of economical and social reforms to be conducted in the region. The answer to this was negative. Bagirov understood that he was powerless to prevent the adoption of the historic resolution, which was a real bombshell. The resolution was adopted at 10 p.m.;

“The resolution of the Exraordinary Session of the Regional Soviet of Deputies of Karabakh about calling on the soviets of Azerbaijan and Armenia to make every effort to reach a positive decision concerning the transfer of the region from the Azerbaijan SSR to Armenian SSR”.

Hearing, discussing and considering the speeches made by the peoples delegates at the Extroardinary Session of the Regional Sovied of Mountainous Karabakh concerning the appeal to the Azerbaijani and Armenian Supreme Soviets to reach a positive decision concerning the transfer of the region from Azerbaijan SSR to Armenian SSR, the Extraordinary Session of the Regional Soviet decides;

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