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

This is the real situation that we find ourselves in. We now want to declare of our determination to continue the struggle for freedom on the land of our ancestors. The choice we made on February 1988 is the only right one.

We condemn the irresolute attitude and actions of the Central government, which yields to Azerbaijani blackmail and demand that they take measures to solve the fateful question of Karabakh without delay”.18

The USSR authorities made another attempt to preserve the collapsing state; deciding to hold referendum on March 17, 1991. Those republics which had already declared about their independence officially refused the idea of the referendum.

On August 18, 1991, while Gorbachov was on vocation in Crimea, the hostily assembled State Committee for the Emergency ordered Gorbachov’s arrest. Though he acted resolutely in his private resistence to the coup leaders, he returned to Moscow severely weakened. Yeltsin became the key figure in the reconstruction of political power in the post-coup period. The non-Russian states declared their own independence one after another. The Baltic republics were recognized as fully independent states. On September 21, 1991 Armenians voted overwhelmingly for independence. The Republic of Azerbaijan made a decision to order the Karabakh Committee to hold the USSR referendum in Karabakh. This was a new chance for them to suppress the movement. “We want a reconstructed federation, a right to live on our land, to decide our fate and in this case we’ll give our consent to live within the USSR” told the Karabakh Armenians the Mayor.19 They continued to reject the Azerbaijani claim to Karabakh. The situation in the region was desperate. Many of the deportees were still homeless, living in conditions of great deprivation either in Karabakh, still under siege, or in Armenia.

The leaders of the collapsing USSR continued to consider the region “an integral part of Azerbaijan”.

The visit of the Turkish president Turgut Ozal in Moscow and Baku frightened the Karabakh Armenians still further. They recalled the days of the great genocide in Turkey, the massacres in Transcaucasia, the handing over of Karabakh to Azerbaijan under the pressure of Turkey – the Oriental leader of “universal revolution”. The Armenians considered that Turkey would avoid direct conflict with Armenia or Karabakh, as it had the problem of its 15 million Kurds to cope with. Besides, its relations with Greece, Syria and Iraq were unstable. In addition to this, the USSR would never allow Turkey’s entry to Transcaucasia. However, Turkey didn’t need that entry as its puppet of Azerbaijan was present there. The only thing to do was to wait the collapse of the USSR. The economically blockaded Armenia would be unable to do anything for Karabakh. The conflicts of Abkhasia and Ossetia with Georgia, would block up all the ways to Armenia and Georgia. There would be no serious resistence to Azerbaijan neither in Karabakh, nor in Armenia. As to Georgia, the affairs could be easily settled with it. Thus, for fear of losing their ancient homeland, the Karabakh Armenians felt obliged to resort to measures for self-protection and survival. The only democratic solution the leaders of Karabakh could envisage was to hold a referendum, with a view to the possiblility of declaring independence from Azerbaijan. One month after the August 1991 putch in Moscow the Nagorno Karabakh Regional Soviet and the governing council of the Shahumian District announced the establishment of the Nagorny Karabakh Republic and declared that it was no longer under Azerbaijani jurisdiction.

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