Thirty-one years ago this week, the Armenians of Baku were terrorized by mob violence, and victimized by an immoral political system.
As the month of February 1988 drew to a close, a massive peaceful gathering of Armenians assembled in Yerevan, to show of solidarity with similar demonstrations initiated a week earlier by the Armenian inhabitants of Nagorno-Karabagh. The latter, emboldened by Mikhail Gorbachev’s promises of reform, sought reunification with the Soviet Republic of Armenia—and their fellow countrymen across the border were supporting this aspiration in the most public way imaginable.
But there was a price to pay.
In retaliation against the demands coming out of Karabagh, Azerbaijanis in the city of Sumgait went on a rampage against the Armenians living among them. Dozens of Armenians were killed in the pogroms, and the chaos only subsided when Soviet troops were sent in. By the summer of 1989, Azerbaijan had begun its long and torturous blockade of Karabagh and Armenia.
Then, in January of 1990, another pogrom—the worst yet—was launched against the Armenians of Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku. Nearly the entire Armenian population of the city had to be evacuated, to live as refugees.
Hard though it is to believe, January 13, 2021 marks the passage of 31 years since the start of the Baku pogrom. Certainly, this is a day to remember the pain and injustice of those dark days: an occasion to honor the peaceful Armenians who lost their lives in Baku, Sumgait, Kirovabad, and throughout Azerbaijan.
It is a day to reflect on the terrible events we witnessed this past year, which show that the injustice, cruelty, and hatred of the oppressors has not subsided after three decades.
It is also a time to acknowledge the accomplishment of the survivors of that former time, who would use their native intelligence and ethic of hard, honest work to build new lives for their families, and to contribute mightily to the life of our community in America. In our present-day travails, we can find hope in their example for the future of all our people in Artsakh and Armenia.
Today, above all, offer a prayer of remembrance for the Armenian souls lost, and a prayer of gratitude for those God saved, 31 years ago. Pray, too, for the lost and captive of our own day, and for the well being of their loved ones.