CHAPTER 21 DEPORTATION

The deportation of Armenians from Azerbaijan, if not orchestrated by the Centre, was undertaken with their tacit consent. The USSR interior troops and the army took an active part in it. The strategy of the Azerbaijani government was to use its power to intensify pressure on the Republic’s Armenian community, while pressing the Kremlin to apply massive force against what it viewed as Armenian separatists and extremists in Karabakh. Based on the 11 June 1990 resolution of the Azerbaijani Supreme Soviet “On Measures to establish the security of the population inhabiting along the Armenian-Azerbaijani border”, an emergency situation was declared in all the bordering settlements. Henceforth the Azerbaijani authorities in Baku viewed the Soviet Unions conservative organs of repression – i.e. the KGB, the Interior Ministry and the army – as their natural allies against the Armenians, who were striving to overturn Stalin’s settlement of the Karabakh question. The 23rd division of the Soviet army was in charge of the border Kazakh – Kelbajar (to defend it from the Armenian “assaults”), the USSR frontier with Iran was guarded by the USSR interior troops and the one between Nakhichevan and Armenia – by frontier guards of the KGB (State Security Department) who had left their position on the Iranian frontier.1

The violence intensified towards the end of 1990 when the Azerbaijani Special Function Militia Troops, or the OMON entered Karabakh. Raids on Armenian villages and shoot-outs became a frequent occurence. The villages of the Shahumian region and the 2 Armenian villages Getashen and Martunashen of the Khanlar region were being constantly shelled and blockaded aiming at driving out the population. Military checkpoints of the Interior Troops were set up on all roads leading to Stepanakert and travel withing the region generally was reported to be under military control. Clashes took place between the OMON and the Interior troops. As a result of such an incident in the Sevsulan village of Martunashen, the Russian soldier Panshin was killed. A number of deputies to the Supreme Soviet demanded the withdrawal of Azerbaijani Militia Troops (OMON) from Karabakh, but nothing was done in this direction by the Centre, not a single militiamen left Karabakh in autumn of 1990 and in whole 1991.2

Very often the OMON units and the Interior troops undertook joint operations against the Armenian villages. Attacks on the Armenian villages increased in the guise of weapons searches. Parallel to the economical blockade, the commandant of the emergency situation, backed by the Azerbaijani authorities limited the press access to Karabakh and the environs. In his interview to the correspondent of the Armenian TV B. Karapetian the head of the Karabakh information centre Alexander Ishchuk said that General Radionov was to be condemned for the 1989 Tbilisi incident.3 He added that being a deputy to the duma of the Russian Federation he had not once expressed his view against the interference of the army in inter-ethnic clashes, which must be solved only politically and not through the armed forces.

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