The restructuring of the central government and the independence of the national formations of the USSR could not resolve the fundamental political problem in the USSR – the relationships between Moscow and the peripheries as the problem was daily linked to the underlying problem of economy. The conservative Communist rule was unable to understand that it had better support the republics’ striving for independence at the same time preserving a single economic space.

Unable to handle economic problems, the new independent formations would be for union or federation of sovereign states. But the Kremlin was no longer the initiator of the country’s renewal, the process of rebuilding blocked at the Centre, had moved to the peripheries. The USSR forces of order, the conservative Communist Party and Gorbachov himself had reached the limits of their tolerance for reform by the fall of 1990 and were threatening action. They failed to understand that nothing, no army and not even an atomic explosion could prevent the empire from dissolution. The forces of order – the army, KGB and the MVD were undergoing destruction themselves. Gorbachov was unable to prevent disintegnation and chaos from engulfing the country, his commitment to progress and democracy aroused suspicion and embarrassed Gorbachov internationally. The collapsing once mighty state was gradually leaving the international political and military arena. In the war Iraq-USA the USSR unexpectedly turned to his former enemy against his former partner. It must be mentioned that during the ten-year war between Iran and Iraq the USSR provided both with arms. The same policy was conducted by the US’s shady tradesmen, who too sold arms both to Iran and its rival.

The Popular Front of Azerbaijan was rapidly gaining popularity because of its tough stand on Nagorny Karabakh. The careers of prominent Azerbaijani politicians, including the president Ayaz Mutalibov, depended upon the assertion of control over Karabakh.

In the spring of 1991 Azerbaijan embarked on a new type of offensive against the Armenians of Karabakh and the Shahumian district to the north. Military forces of the 23rd Division of the Soviet 4th Army stationed in Azerbaijan joined in combined operations with Azerbaijani Ministry of Interior to undertake systematic deportations of Armenians, on the pretext of conducting a “passport regime” and arms check. The campaign was carried out with an unprecendented degree of violence, men were assaulted and killed, women were raped, children maltreated, civilians abducted as hostages. The residents from nearby Azerbaijani villages followed the Soviet troops and OMON, looting, pillaging and stealing everything from household goods to livestock.

The campaign resulted in the arrest and detention of hundreds of Armenian men, deportation of thousands of Armenians and the emptying of twenty two Armenian villages.

In his interview to the newspaper “Kommersant” the president of Azerbaijan A. Mutalibov said;

“We must look for new ways to decrease the tension, but on condition that they don’t interfere in our internal affairs. We won’t allow any talks on Karabakh. As to the Armenians of Nagorny Karabakh, their problems should be solved only by Azerbaijan. Armenia must understand that it was he that took the axe to kill his brother – the Armenians of Azerbaijan”.13

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