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Laura Grigoryan

 In February 1988, when peaceful rallies were held in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, in the industrial city of Sumgait, not far from the Azerbaijani capital Baku, a brutal massacre of Armenians took place on February 27-29. Hundreds of Armenians were killed and wounded. In order not to undermine the empty ideology of Soviet friendship over the decades-old "Friendship of Nations", the Moscow Center has avoided publishing the actual number of Armenians killed in the Azerbaijani wild revelry. After the massacres, 18,000 Armenians were forced to flee.

The massacre of Armenians was prepared by the local Azerbaijani authorities. Anti-Armenian propaganda war launched in Azerbaijan from the first days of the Artsakh movement with "exterminate the Armenians, conquer the land with blood" and other fanatical calls, the Azerbaijani state propaganda has provoked the mob, which has resulted in outright violence and massacres of Armenians in Azerbaijan. For three days Sumgait was flooded with the blood of its main builders, the Armenians, whose responsibility rested entirely with the leaders of Azerbaijan and the USSR at that time. Law enforcement agencies have been inactive for several days. Three days later, the central government of the Union deployed troops in Sumgait. The soldiers were able to stop the massacre and drive out the Armenian population with great difficulty.

The country's leadership was trying to portray what happened as actions of a group of hooligans. Of course, the official media of the Union also gave such a qualification.

With the Sumgait massacre, Azerbaijan opened a new chain of genocides of the late 20th century. The immediate continuation of the massacres of Armenians in Sumgait was the massacres in Baku on January 13-20, 1990. The scenario was again the same. If in Sumgait the Soviet troops were late for three days, then in Baku –for a whole week. They entered the city only when there were almost no Armenians there.

What has happened hundreds of kilometers from Nagorno-Karabakh, in the coastal city of Sumgait, is truly beyond human reason. Witnesses and victims have told horrifying details of what happened, the details of which witnessed that the 1988 executioners were no different from their 1915 ancestors. The same was true for both the purpose and the means of achieving it.

Due to Moscow's pro-Azerbaijani policy, Sumgait criminals remained unpunished. In order not to reveal the real organizers of the tragedy and to confirm the official version, the murder trial was in fact failed. Separate trials were held in various cities of the Soviet Union, which resulted in several people being indicted for the pogroms and the real organizers remaining unpunished.

The crime in that sinister city has been repeatedly written and spoken, and we will continue to speak until it is officially condemned. This goal is pursued by gatherings and rallies and events organized by Armenians all over the world during those days in February every year.


As in previous years, this time again on the morning of February 28th, human traffic flowed to the Stepanakert Memorial, which has long become a sanctuary for Artsakh people.

The capital's corporate and educational establishments, NGOs and various parties with banners condemning the brutal crime not only paid tribute but also raised their voices of protest once again for not giving a political assessment to what has been done at the international level.

To commemorate the victims of the Sumgait massacre, the spiritual and secular leadership of Artsakh, headed by President Bako Sahakyan, visited the memorial.

Wreaths were laid at the memorial to the victims of Sumgait by the Artsakh Republic authorities, various departments, the Artsakh Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church, the City Hall of Stepanakert and various organizations operating in the republic.

A minute's silence honored the memory of the innocent victims. Primate of the Artsakh Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church Archbishop Pargev Martirosyan held a requiem service.

“It's hard to remember. To this day, we live in pain and sorrow because the world did not appreciate the Sumgait genocide of the late 20th century, “said Archbishop Pargev Martirosyan. The purpose of this crime against the Armenian nation was to prevent the Artsakh movement, intimidating the Armenians with the prospect of new bloody acts, to prevent the spread of the Artsakh liberation struggle. All this, however, not only displeased the Armenian people, but united them even more around the idea of national goals. Today we have come to bow our heads to the memory of innocent victims and say that we will not be silent, we will be demanding, or fighting for justice. We are against genocides, we are against any crime ".

The Azeri-Turk, the author of many acts of Sumgait, Baku, Gandzak, Maragha and many residences of  Artsakh, not only digested the crime committed by the international community, but continues to justify what has been done in the field of propaganda, falsifying the reality. What does Armenian diplomacy have to do with this? Today, there are still witnesses alive, there are video recordings ... Years later, we think it will be difficult to achieve anything. Moreover, one of the propaganda tricks of Azerbaijan is to create a counterbalance to the genocides against the Armenians in Sumgait and throughout Azerbaijan, The Aliyev regime is trying to serve to this purpose the so-called Khojalu events, which were actually massacres of their own people organized by them.

Artak Beglaryan, Human Rights Defender of the Republic of Artsakh, provided clarifications on these and similar issues. "Artsakh and Armenia should present the reality to the international community in a more systematic way, as the Azerbaijani propaganda has been particularly active in the last decade and gives false information about the Sumgait massacres and the genocide of the Armenians in Azerbaijan in general. Second, we need to be more consistent in reaching legal assessments and holding the perpetrators accountable. Of course, we also have a domestic problem of eliminating the consequences, in particular thousands of refugees in Armenia and Artsakh, who still bear the socio-moral consequences of genocide. Of course, the state has been helping refugees since the 1990s, but because of a lack of finances it was not possible to do more. We still do not have serious, comprehensive research to date. ”

Armen and Ruzan Gasparyan are the survivors of the Sumgait hell. “I remember everything as if it is today," Ruzan says. "My husband and I were going on a bus, and suddenly they announced with a loudspeaker that Armenians were being killed at the bus station. We went silently off the bus to hide somewhere. A familiar Turkish approached us and told us to leave, and also said that some Azeris had come from Aghdam, spreading rumors and calling for the killing of Armenians. Mrs. Ruzan can't imagine that from now on it will be possible to live in peace with the Turks. Her husband, Armen Gasparyan, also recalled the gruesome and cruel incidents with the Melkumyan and Arushanyan families.

Ruzanna Avagyan, a representative of the Artsakh Union of Armenian Refugees from Azerbaijan, is also miraculously rescued.

Ruzanna was 20 years old at the time. Even after 32 years of remembering the hard and cruel days of February, he cannot restrain tears. We lived with my parents in Sumgait, ”she says. My parents also worked. My father was one of the founders of the city. No one could have ever imagined that after living in a city for so many years, there must be an order to exterminate the Armenians. These events were unprecedented in their cruelty and inhumanity. I don't want to tell you about the horrific scenes I saw on February 27 and 28. They killed, tortured Armenian women and girls, men, threw them out of windows, burned them in front of everyone's eyes ... It was as if we were in hell ... We were living on the 5th floor and I had mentally prepared myself if the Turks entered our apartment: I'll throw myself off the balcony ... ՚.

Today, Ruzanna, along with many, is hoping that someday the Sumgait crime will be internationally recognized as genocide.

The monstrous crime committed by Azerbaijan should receive its proper assessment, otherwise the “Sumgaits", the "Bakus", the "Kirovabads" will remain on the official political agenda of Baku.