CHAPTER 20 NATIONAL REVIVAL. THE COLLAPSE OF THE USSR THE EMERGENCE OF THE FIFTEEN INDEPENDENT REPUBLICS

The USSR internal troops were in charge of the airport, located on the outskirts of Khojali, about ten miles from Stepanakert but soon they granted the Azerbaijani OMON control over it. This only way for the Armenians to enter and leave the region was in the hands of OMON. They thoroughly searched all the passengers, arrested many of them and sent to Shushi. Some of the guests, be it a Russian or a USSR deputy or a member of European Parliament, were immediately sent back or asked to visit Aghdam.

On October 3 a delegation of European Parliament headed by Henry Sabi, accompanied by French journalists arrived in Karabakh, from where they intended to go to Azerbaijan. On an order from the major the delegation was forced to leave for Yerevan the very first day of its arrival. In the airport the delegation was accepted by Colonel Sheveliov, who informed that the major General Safonov was ill. Bit it turned out that the General was healthy enough to conduct a meeting on the same day in the evening. The newspaper “Soviet Karabakh” wrote;

“Unfortunately this unpleasant incident prevented the international community from learning the truth of the Karabakh issue.”14

Military checkpoints were set up on all roads leading to Stepanakert and travel within Karabakh was under military control. The transport and economic blockade of Armenia and Azerbaijan continued. The flow of gas to Armenia was cut off in the Kazakh gas station. Of course the gas did not belong to Azerbaijan and it was authorized to decide whether Armenia ought or ought not to receive the gas, but the action proved that the Centre could not or didn’t want to control the situation. Instead of restoring the structures of local power in the region the Committee of Karabakh enforced and strengthened the rule of the regional bureaus. The blockaded region continued addressing open letters to the USSR president but without any result. The only master of Karabakh was Viktor Polianichko, “the embodiment” of the coordinated effort of the KGB and Azerbaijan to destroy the Armenian community of the region.

The August 27 letter of the Karabakh Armenians to the president of the USSR read;

“Do you consider iit normal that since January 1989, in contrary to the USSR Constitution, the Autonomous Region of Nagorny Karabakh is deprived of its right of possessing a Soviet government.”17

As a protest against the unlawful abolishment of the legitimate structures of rule in the region the deputies to the USSR Supreme Soviet Z. Balayan, V. Grigorian, S. Sargsian and S. Babayan went on hunger strike in their rooms in one of Moscow hotels. Some time later the well-known scientist, 82-year old V. Hambartsumian joined them. Meantime approximately 15 thousand people took the streets in Stepanakert. Their slogans read; “Shame on Polianichko and Safonov for their political provocations”, “Soldiers, they deceived you”, “We demand to do away with the Committee and restore the Soviet rule”, “Polianichko, Karabakh is not Afghanistan”, “Army, give up the occupation of Karabakh”, “Soldiers, don’t fire on your brothers”. Another rally took place on September 25, on Tuesday. The work in all the enterprises, building companies, educational institutions and industrial works came to a halt.

The new Armenian government was still manocurring. In his interview to the “Interfax” in Moscow, the chairman of the Armenian Supreme Soviet said; “Our position is clear. The strategy of confrontation has exhausted itself. We need a strategy of political dialogues, mutual condescension. I, as the chairman of the Supreme Soviet of Armenia have declared that we are ready to conduct negotiations with Azerbaijan. I have talked to the president of Azerbaijan Aiaz Mutalibov. We again met in Moscow in the presence of M. Gorbachov. I think that there are grounds for condescensions.”

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