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

By the end of 1990, all the union republics and most of the autonomous republics responded to the rapidly weakening central state and to the examples set by the former Eastern European satellites, declaring themselves sovereign, in several cases independent states. In Armenia, despite the victory in open, contested elections, the national leadership avoided the declaration of sovereignty as the independence was already knocking at the doors of the fifteen republics. Sensing the collapse of the USSR unitary system, the two republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan were engaged in forming their own military forces. If Azerbaijan considered the strong army a means with which to untie the knot of Karabakh, Armenia needed it for facing an Azerbaijan of 7 million people.

Thus the both sides were actively arming themselves. The increasingly open flow of arms apparently faciliated the formation of paramilitary self-defence of Armenians and official units of Azerbaijan (Special Function Militia Troops).

Still in 1988 M. Gorbachov had officially declared that;

1. Those armed units which are formed not in conformity with the law of the USSR, are considered illegitimate and are to be dispersed within fifteen days since the day of publishing this resolution.

In cases of disobedience the union and the local bodies and the subject structures of the Ministry of Interior, as well as the State Security Committee (KGB) must organize and carry out confiscation of a variety of weapons, including mortars, shotguns, grenades, home-made weapons and military technics.

If the above mentioned armed formations represent a threat to the population and the security of the state, then the Interior Minister has the full right to engage the interior troops and in special cases the USSR defence units in the operations.

2. The USSR Interior Ministry and the USSR Department of Public Prosecutor, in conformity to the law, have the right to bring changes against those members of the illegal armed formation who refuse to hand the arms on their own accord.

Moscow, Kremlin, July 25, 1988

The June 3, 1990 article of the newspaper “Isvestia” told;

“During the morning Session of the Supreme Soviet of Armenia, the head of the political department of the military units deployed in Yerevan General Surkov informed that there had been an attack on the military store the previous night. The General told that an operation with the name of “Koltso” was going to be carried out to seize back the arms. The Armenian parliament decided to form a special commission of the deputies to investigate the circumstances of the emergency event and introduce new suggestions on normalizing the situation and taking the confiscated weapons back”.10

In Armenia, as a result of Yereskhavan clashes, an unofficial military group was formed, which got the name of Armenian National Army. In an interview to Central TV its leaders told that the army consisted of 150 thousand soldiers. The deliberate character of this declaration aimed at forcing Azerbaijan and also the National Armenian Movement to consider the new forces and their viewpoint in solving political problems. In fact it had only 500 units of weapon. Guessing that Gorbachov’s decree of confiscation of weapons was meant for Armenia, the Azerbaijani government immediately agreed to carry out the disarmament within the territory, hoping that the Armenian National Army would refuse to disarm, thus forcing the Centre to conduct a policy of pressure against Armenia. The Armenian parliament applied to the Centre and asked its agreement for carrying out the task within three months.

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