Sumgait pogrom

The Sumgait pogrom (also known as the Sumgait Massacre or February Events) was an Azeri-led pogrom that targeted the Armenian population of the seaside town of Sumgait ( _az. Sumqayıt) in Soviet Azerbaijan during February 1988. On February 27 1988, large mobs made up of ethnic Azeris formed into groups that went on to attack and kill Armenians both on the streets and in their apartments; widespread looting and a general lack of concern from police officers allowed the situation to worsen. The violent acts in Sumgait were unprecedented in scope in the Soviet Union and attracted a great deal of attention from the media in the West. The massacre came in light of the Nagorno-Karabakh movement that was gaining traction in the neighboring Armenia SSR. The official death toll released by the Procurator General (tallies were compiled based on lists of named victims) was 32 people (26 Armenians and 6 Azeris). [de Waal, Thomas. [http://www.c-r.org/our-work/accord/nagorny-karabakh/origins-dynamics-misperceptions.php The Nagorny Karabakh conflict: origins, dynamics and misperceptions] 2005. Retrieved December 15, 2006] Many insist that at least 200, not 30, people were killed. [Hate Runs High in Soviet Union's Most Explosive Ethnic Feud - The Washington Post by David Remnick]

On February 28, a small contingent of relatively unarmed Soviet MVD troops entered the city and unsuccessfully attempted to quell the rioting. The situation was finally defused when more professional military units entered with tanks and other armored vehicles one day later. The forces sent by the government imposed a state of martial law in Sumgait, established a curfew, and brought the crisis to an end.

The event was remarked with astonishment in both Armenia and the rest of the Soviet Union since ethnic feuds in the country were largely suppressed and officially nonexistent. Policies such as internationalism and Soviet patriotism had been constantly promoted in the republics to avert such conflicts. The massacre, together with the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, would present a major challenge to the reforms being implemented by then General Secretary of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev. Gorbachev was criticized to what was perceived as his slow reaction to the crisis and numerous conspiracy theories rose after the event.

According to CPSU Politburo member Alexander Nikolaevich Yakovlev, the Sumgait pogrom has been arranged by KGB agents provocateur to "justify the importance of the Soviet secret services" [ Alexander Nikolaevich Yakovlev "Time of darkness", Moscow, 2003, ISBN 5-85646-097-9, page 551 (Russian: Яковлев А. Сумерки. Москва: Материк 2003 г.)]

Background

The city of Sumgait is located near the coast of the Caspian Sea and was perhaps one of the most polluted in the entire Soviet Union. Sumgait itself is only thirty kilometers north of the capital in Baku, which has many oil refineries in the Caspian Sea. It had been renovated in the 1960s and had become a leading industrial city with oil refineries and petrochemical plants built during that era. Its population at that time was only 60,000; however, by the late 1980s, with an Armenian population of about 17,000, it had swollen to over 223,000 and overcrowding among other social problems had began plaguing the city's residents. According to Soviet government officials, at least two thousand former convicts had been relocated to Sumgait during the 1980s. [de Waal. Thomas. "Black garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan Through Peace and War." New York: New York University Press, 2003 p. 32 ISBN 0-8147-1945-7]

Coincidentally, the issue of the region of Nagorno-Karabakh had resurfaced in the same period. The new General Secretary of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev had introduced his new economic and political policies, Perestroika and Glasnost, when he came into power in 1985. Glasnost that encouraged a general openness in discussing issues that were once considered taboo under the regimes of earlier Soviet leaders. However, it was these new opportunities that were used as the rationale by the Armenian Chamber of Deputies of the National Council of Nagorno-Karabakh, who sought to revive the issue of the enclave's status, to vote to unify the autonomous oblast with Armenia on February 20 1988. An autonomous oblast within the Azerbaijan SSR since 1923 with a large Armenian majority, many Armenians felt they were correcting a historical wrong, claiming that the region had been unjustifiably been granted to Azerbaijan. [Kaufman, Stuart. "Modern Hatreds: The Symbolic Politics of Ethnic War". New York: Cornell University Press, 2001 p. 49 ISBN 0-8014-8736-6]

Led by both the Russian intelligentsia and popular Armenian figures such as economist Igor Muradyan, poetess Silva Kaputikyan, and Glasnost-era writer Zori Balayan, a formal petition was sent to the Soviet government in order to redress the issue of Karabakh. Armenians had began massive protests in the days before the Council's vote and workers had staged strikes in the Armenian capital of Yerevan and elsewhere, demanding that the region be transferred under Armenian control. The vote by the council and the subsequent protests were condemned by state-run Soviet media however, they resonated more loudly amongst the Azeris who felt that Nagorno-Karabakh was an integral part of their culture and history. Thereafter, the Azeris also launched counter-protests in Baku and elsewhere and strenuously objected to any alteration to their territory. Gorbachev would go on to reject the claims invoking Article 78 of the Soviet constitution which stated that the Republics' borders could not be altered without prior consent.

Context

Radio broadcast

Although the exact origins of the attacks are shrouded, like many events of Nagorno-Karabakh, there is evidence that government officials had foreknowledge or took part in the organization of the impending attacks. [Kaufman, "Modern Hatreds", p. 52] On February 27, the Soviet Deputy Federal Procurator, Aleksandr Katusev revealed in a report that evening that was carried by Baku Radio and Central Television, that two Azeris, Bakhtiar Guliyev and Ali Hajiyev, ages 16 and 23, were purportedly killed by Armenians in a skirmish between the two ethnic groups in the Agdam region of Karabakh on February 22. [de Waal. "Black Garden", p. 33] Katusev would later receive a stinging rebuke for revealing the nationalities of both the young men and the Armenians. The secretive nature the Soviet Union was still attempting to shake off despite Gorbachev's policies had many Azeris interpret that Katusev's broadcast was most probably under reported. This apparently was the flare that set off the Azeris to riot in Sumgait.

Rallies in Lenin Square

Several minor rallies had also taken taken place in Lenin Square on February 26, the city's main plaza. On the streets, the issue of Karabakh was discussed incessantly and many Azeris aligned with the government's stance on Karabakh. At the end of January 1988 many Azerbaijani refugees from Armenia reached Baku, and most refugees were relocated to Sumgait's already overcrowded slums. Before the end of February, two more waves of refugees were to reach Baku. [ru icon International NGO for Socioeconomic and Political Studies [http://www.gorby.ru/rubrs.asp?art_id=13941&rubr_id=173&page=1 The Gorbachev Foundation] ] A contributing factor to the growing animosity were reports of mass violence being committed by Armenians in the largely Azeri populated towns of Kapan and Masis, Armenia.

However, this was contested CPSU's official newspaper, "Socialist Industry", noting:

The rallies also were attended by other officials including the principal of a middle school. The rhetoric by the Kapan refugees incited the crowd and efforts to calm them by Azerbaijani figures such as a secretary of the city's party committee, Bayramova and poet Bakhtiar Bagabzade, who addressed the crowd atop a platform, were to no avail. V. Huseinov, an Azeri and the director of the Institute of Political Education in Azerbaijan also attempted to calm them by assuring them that Karabakh would remain within the republic. Huseinov also stated that the refugees' claims were false; however, when attempting to convince the crowds of this, he was heckled with insults and forced to step down. [Rost, Yuri. "The Armenian Tragedy: An Eye-Witness Account of Human Conflict and Natural Disaster in Armenia and Azerbaijan". New York: St. Martin's Press, 1990, p. 27 ISBN 0-312-04611-1] Jehangir Muzlimzade, Sumgait's first secretary also spoke to the crowd, in which he told them to allow Armenians to "leave the city freely", but according to witnesses incited the crowd even further. [Beissinger, Mark R. "Nationalist Mobilization and the Collapse of the Soviet State". Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002 p. 300 ISBN 0-5210-0148-X]

Pogroms

Forewarnings by Azerbaijanis sympathetic to their Armenian neighbors instructed them to leave their lights on the night of the 27th; those who shut it off were assumed to be Armenian. According to several Armenian witnesses and later on several Soviet military personnel, alcohol and "anasha", an Azeri term referring to narcotics such as opium, were also reported to have been brought in trucks and distributed to the Azeri crowds.See Shahmuratian in "Sumgait Tragedy" for more details.] Such accounts remained unconfirmed by media reports. [During this time, the Soviet Union still maintained and censored events that were considered especially humiliating to the State, in this case the public intoxication which led many of its citizens to misbehave and kill or injure others in an important Soviet manufacturing region. In such cases, the government would release information belatedly, omit it so as to tone down the volatility of the event, or impose a tight clampdown on international media from traveling and investigating the locations. Soviet journalists who visited Sumgait were strictly prohibited to take any photographs as the Soviet government imposed a complete media blackout. For more information on "glasnost", "perestroika" and how the Soviet media was controlled, see Minton F. Goldman's "Global Studies: Russia, The Eurasian Republics, and Central/Eastern Europe", 10th Edition. McGraw-Hill/Dushkin, 2005 ISBN 0-0728-6381-1] Shortly after Muslimzade's speech, he was given the Republic's flag and soon found himself leading the crowd. According to Muslimzade himself, he was attempting to lead the crowd away from the Armenian district and towards the sea but many Armenians saw this act implicating him as being a participant in the riot. Muslimzade, however failed to lead the crowd in that direction and it soon dispersed into various directions of the Armenian district of Sumgait. [It was not until after the rioting was over when Muslimzade admitted that he was unsure of how to have handled the situation that ensued in Sumgait.]

Property damage

As the mobs seeped in, the first acts of violence began near the city's bus depot where they vandalized and destroyed newspaper kiosks and stores owned by Armenians. The mobs would block roads and stop automobiles and Ikarus buses and then demand to know if Armenians were inside. If there were, the mobs would pull them out and beat them (some to death) using improvised weapons such as icepicks, leadpipes, armature shafts, and pieces of sharpened metal; an indication that they were made in Sumgait's industrial plants prior to the attack. [de Waal. "Black garden", p. 35] An account given by an Armenian who was residing in one of the city's hospitals described the chaotic situation from his ward:

Many automobiles were also turned over and, sometimes with the occupants remaining in it, were set ablaze. A common method of seeking out who was Armenian in the vehicles was by asking them to pronounce the Azeri word for hazelnut, "fundukh". Armenians however pronounced the first letter with a "p", giving away their identity. [Shahmuratian. "Sumgait Tragedy", Interview with Vanya Bazyan, p. 159] Seeing the riots happening, many residents attempted to contact the police but reported that the phone lines had been cut. [Kaufman. "Modern Hatreds", p. 64]

Violence

Most citizens living in the Soviet Union's cities lived in apartment buildings which were categorized into microrayons or city blocks. The Armenian district of Sumgait was flanked around such microrayons and most Armenians lived among their Azeri and Russian neighbors in apartments. In the same essence from the rioting outside, the frenzied mobs would enter the apartment buildings where they would search to find out where they lived. Often, the rioters would know where Armenians lived and those who took shelter amongst their Azeri and Russian neighbors, who also risked being attacked by the mobs, were spared from the violence. [Shahmuratian. "Sumgait Tragedy", Interview with Kamo Avakyan, pp. 56-60] Other attempts to exclude themselves from harm included turning on the television to watch Azeri music concerts, raising the volume to give off the effect that Azeris resided in the apartment.

Muslim women in the Caucasus also had a long time tradition of dropping their shawl on to the ground as a gesture for the men to abstain from participating in violence. Such efforts were made by some of the Azeri women in the corridors of the apartment but went largely unheeded by the men. [Kaufman. "Modern Hatreds", p. 63] Azeris forced their way into the apartments and attacked the residents. The attacking groups were of varying age groups. While the main participants were adult males and even some women, there were also youth students who took part in vandalizing and looting from the Armenians' homes appliances, shoes, and clothing. [de Waal. "Black Garden", pp. 35-36] An account given by an Armenian woman describes the break-in and violence that took place in her family's home:

Numerous acts of gang rape and sexual abuse were also committed, taking place in both the apartments and publicly on the city's streets. An account of one such act that was also corroborated by witnesses to occur in other instances described how a crowd stripped naked an Armenian woman and "dragged her, carried her, kicked her in the back, in the head, and dragged her" through the streets. [Shahmuratian. "Sumgait Tragedy", Interview with Levon Akopyan, p. 227] Other accounts that also circulated were stories of Armenian women in hospital maternity wards having their fetuses disemboweled although such rumors were later said to be false.Lee, Gary. [http://www.washingtonpost.com/ Eerie Silence Hangs Over Soviet City] The "Washington Post". September 4, 1988. pg. A33. Retrieved July 31, 2006] In the midst of the attacks, many Armenians sought to defend themselves and improvised by nailing their doors shut and arming themselves with axes; in some instances, they killed the intruding rioters. Calls going to ambulances or to the police were late or in many cases, unheeded completely:

The weekly Moscow News newspaper later reported that of the city's twenty ambulances, eight had been destroyed by the mobs. [ru icon "Сумгаит, Один месяц поздно" ("Sumgait, One Month Later"). московская Новость (Moscow News). April 13, 1988] Looting was prevalent and many Azeris also discussed among themselves on who would go on to own what after they had broken into the apartments. In some cases, televisions were stolen, along with other appliances and house goods; many apartments were largely vandalized and set aflame.

Government intervention

The Soviet government's reaction to the protests was initially slow. The contemplation of sending military units to impose martial law into the town was a nearly unprecedented act in the Soviet Union's history. Most Soviets could at most recount to the days of Second World War where such measures were taken by the government. [Wired by "Reuters". [http://www.newsday.com/ Soviets Impose Curfew After Riots] . "Newsday". March 2, 1988 p. 13. Retrieved December 30, 2006] The spirit of Glasnost had seen the Soviet Union more tolerant in responding to politically-charged issues. However, Russian officials in Azerbaijan, some of whom were witnessing the attacks, appealed to Kremlin leaders to dispatch Soviet troops to Sumgait.

In a Soviet Politburo session on the third day of the rioting on February 29, Gorbachev and his senior cabinet, conferred on several subjects before even discussing the events of Sumgait. When the issue was finally raised, Gorbachev voiced his opposition to the proposal but his cabinet members including the State's Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze and Defense Minister Dmitry Yazov, fearing an escalation between Armenians and Azeris, persuaded him to send troops to intervene. [de Waal. "Black Garden", pp. 38-39 ]

Meanwhile, on the previous day, two battalions of MVD troops from the interior, largely equipped with truncheons and riot gear (those troops who were armed with firearms were armed with blanks and not given the permission to open fire), arrived in Sumgait in buses and armored personnel carriers. [Kaufman. "Modern Hatreds", p. 64] As they moved in to secure the town, the soldiers themselves became the targets of the mob. In what became a startling sight for people living in the city, the soldiers were being attacked and maimed with the improvised steel objects. [de Waal. "Black Garden", pp. 37-38 ] Their armored vehicles were being flipped over and in some cases destroyed with molotov cocktails as the troops found themselves in complete disarray:

By February 29, the situation had worsened to the point where the Soviet government was forced to call for more professional, heavily armed troops and given the right to open fire. The contingent included the Felix Dzerzhinsky Division of the Internal Troops, a company of Marines from the Caspian Sea naval flotilla, troops from Dagestan, an assault landing brigade, military police, and the 137th Parachute Regiment of the Airborne Forces from Ryazan; a military force composed of nearly 10,000 men headed by a Lieutenant General Krayev. [de Waal. "Black Garden", p. 39] Additionally, tanks were moved in and ordered to cordon off the city. Russian journalist for the "Glasnost" news publication, Andrei Shilkov, reported seeing at least 47 tanks and also troops wearing bulletproof vests patrolling the town, an implication that firearms were present and used during the rioting. [Bortin, Mary Ellen. [http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/home/index.html Witness Tells of Aftermath of Bloody Armenian Riots] The "Seattle Times". March 11, 1988. p. B1. Retrieved September 15, 2006]

A curfew was imposed from 8 P.M. to 7 A.M as skirmishes between troops and rioters continued. Krayev ordered troops to rescue Armenians left in their apartments. By the evening of the 29th, troops in buses and personnel carriers were patrolling the streets of Sumgait in a full effect of martial law. Under heavily armed guard, civilian buses and APCs transported Armenian residents to the Samed Vurgun Cultural Facility (known as the SK) at the city's main square. A building that was designed to fit several hundred people, the SK was housing several thousand Armenians.

Aftermath

Media coverage

By March 1, Soviet troops had effectively quelled the rioting. Investigations were slated to begin immediately; however, waste disposal trucks had largely cleaned much of the debris on the streets before they arrived. [Lyday, Corbin. "A Commitment to Truth Telling: Behind the Scenes in Soviet Armenia". 1988 (Typewritten) p. 28. Accessed December 16, 2006] In the aftermath of the rioting, Soviet authorities arrested over 400 men in connection to the rioting and violence. [Wired by "Reuters"-"Associated Press". Carried by the "Toronto Star" [http://www.thestar.com/ 400 arrested after riots in Sumgait, Soviets say] . March 22, 1988. Retrieved December 26, 2006] The Soviet media did not initially address the event and remained largely silent, focusing instead on international issues while Sumgait's local press proudly noted that the production of mineral fertilizer at Sumgait's plants had not been halted by the rioting. [de Waal. "Black Garden", p. 40] [Malkasian, Mark. "Gha-Ra-Bagh"! The Emergence of the National Democratic Movement in Armenia". Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1996 p. 54 ISBN 0-8143-2605-6] The Soviet government was hesitant to admit that violence had taken place but eventually did; however, it was quick to reduce the severity of the event by claiming that the rioting had been largely the cause of "hooligans." [The official TASS news agency was first to report "rampage and violence" taking place in Sumgait on March 1 that was provoked on the part of a "group of hooligans" who engaged in various criminal acts but stopped short of releasing any more information asides from saying "Measures [had] been adopted to normalize the situation in the city and safeguard discipline and public order." In another report wired on March 5, it more fully elaborated on the pogrom: "Criminal elements committed violent actions and engaged in robberies. They killed 31 people, among them members of various nationalities, old men and women." It laid blame on "wavering, immature people who fell under the impact of false rumors concerning the developments in Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia found themselves drawn into unlawful actions."] Western journalists who sought to travel to the town were denied access by Soviet authorities.

It was not until April 28, 1988 when images of the pogrom were broadcast in a 90-minute documentary by Soviet journalist Genrikh Borovik and came as a surprise to many Soviet viewers. Borovik lambasted the media blackout imposed by the Soviet government, claiming that it ran in contrast to Gorbachev's stated goals of greater openness under glasnost. He stated "The lack of information didn't make the situation better, it made it worse....The silence of the press facilitated rumors and provocations. Probably what was needed was honest and full information about the events." [ [http://www.suntimes.com/index.html Soviet TV surprise: Ethnic strife shown; Program rips news blackout, defends glasnost] The "Chicago Sun-Times". April 28, 1988. pg. 36. Retrieved December 31, 2006] Eduard Shevardnadze would later go on to remark on the failure to report the massacre in Sumgait as the failure of Glasnost itself, "the old mechanisms kicked in, simplifying, distorting or just eliminating the truth about [this event] ." [Shevardnadze, Eduard. "The Future Belongs to Freedom". New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991 pp. 176-177 ISBN 0-0292-8617-4]

Reaction

After the pogrom, tensions between all ethnic groups after the massacre had grown so high that even Russians and Azeris stood in different lines at stores or at bus stops.Remnick, David. [http://www.washingtonpost.com/ Soviet Tanks, Troops Said At Site of Ethnic Violence; Witnesses Put Armenian Toll at 350 Dead] . The Washington Post. March 12, 1988. Retrieved December 17, 2006] Within several days after the end of the massacre, an estimated 1,200 Armenian families had left Sumgait, decreasing their overall population by more than half. A general feeling of insensitivity to the Armenian victims was also prevalent throughout the city; while many Azeris in Sumgait regretted the violence that had ensued, they felt compelled to see that the Armenians themselves deserved it as a form of retribution for asking for Karabakh. [Kaufman. "Modern Hatreds", pp. 57, 64] According to Stuart Kaufman, this and less importantly, the material wealth of Armenians is what motivated many Azeris to take part in the rioting:

Soviet authorities laid direct blame on Muslimzade, Mamedov, the city's mayor and police chief Dzhafarov who were all fired from their positions. [Chiesa, Giulietto and Roæ̧ Aleksandrovich Medvedev. "Time of Change: An Insider's View of Russia's Transformation". New York: I. B. Tauris, 1989 p. 187 ISBN 1-8504-3305-4] According to professor of politics at Princeton University, Mark Beissinger, Muslimzade and other government officials "prevaricate [d] " to the Azeris during the protest rallies. They "sent signals that could be easily interpreted as sanctioning violence, and some parts of the state did give active support to anti-Armenian violence." [Beissinger. "Nationalist Mobilization", p. 300]

Armenia's reaction to the killings was largely calm as Karabakh leaders temporarily halted the protests with the exception of a funeral attended by several hundred thousand people in demonstration to the killings. [Kaufman. "Modern Hatreds", pp. 64-65] Many Azeris living in Armenia, fearing retaliatory attacks by Armenians, left for Azerbaijan. Many Armenians believed the death toll was understated and did not believe the number by the Soviet authorities which tallied 26 Armenians and 6 Azeris killed in the three days of rioting. The skepticism to the official Soviet figure is supported by various sources. One is derived from Shilkov who, after visiting Sumgait, ascertained that the number of dead was "at least" 350 since the violence was in nearly all aspects "one-sided." Armenians claimed that his estimation was supported by evidence from the death certificates of the victims. [Fuller, Elizabeth. [http://www.rferl.org/default.aspx Nagorno-Karabakh: The Death and Casualty to Date] . Radio Free Europe 531/88 December 14, 1988. pp. 1-2. Retrieved December 31, 2006] British author and editor David Pryce-Jones also rejects the count, commenting that "these official figures are probably too low." [Pryce-Jones, David. "The Strange Death of the Soviet Union". New York: Metropolitan Books, 1995 p. 130 ISBN 0-8050-4154-0] This view was also shared by Russian historian Geoffrey Hosking who stated that a "hundred or so Armenians were murdered in what seemed to many like a systematic fashion by the Azerbaijani neighbors" in Sumgait. [Hosking, Geoffrey. "The Awakening of the Soviet Union". Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1990 p. 85 ISBN 0-6740-5551-9]

Regardless of the actual body count, the pogrom exacerbated relations betweens Armenians and Azeris for the worse. Many Armenians viewed the massacre and rapes as a form of systematic genocide resembling that of the Armenian Genocide that had been put into effect against Armenians by the Ottoman Turks in 1915. [Kaufman. "Modern Hatreds", p. 51, 87] In a heated exchange between Armenian writer Vartges Petrosyan and Gorbachev, the former demanded that the pogrom be recognized as a genocide by Soviet authorities. Gorbachev responded, "How can you talk about genocide? You know what kind of word it is and the weight it carries. You are flinging around accusations that you will regret for the rest of your life." [Malkasian. "Gha-Ra-Bagh", p. 115]

Azeris, who shared an ethnic and linguistic link with Turks, became to be viewed as one in the same. As an Armenian woman from Shusha commented on the aftereffects, "We were close physically to the Turks. We had good relations with them. But when the Sumgait incident took place, slowly things started to get bad here as well." [Miller, Donald E. and Lorna Touryan Miller. "Armenia: Portraits of Survival and Hope". Berkley: University of California Press, 2003 p. 73 ISBN 0-5202-3492-8] Growing violence soon escalated between the two ethnic groups as retaliatory attacks took place against one another.

Criminal proceedings

Soviet authorities arrested 400 men in the aftermath of the massacre, and prepared criminal charges for 84, 82 Azerbaijanis, one Russian and an Armenian, of them. [de Waal. "Black Garden", p. 39, 43] Tale Ismailov, a pipe-fitter from one of Sumgait's industrial plants, was charged with premeditated murder and was the first to be tried by the Soviet Supreme Court in Moscow in May 1988. By October 1988, nine men had been sentenced, including Ismailov who was sent to 15 years in prison with a further 33 on trial.Keller, Bill. [http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=FB0713FC355F0C728FDDA10894D0484D81 Riot's Legacy of Distrust Quietly Stalks a Soviet City] . The New York Times. August 31, 1988. Retrieved April 19, 2007] Other sentences were more harsh; Akhmed Akhmedov was found guilty and sentenced to be shot by a firing squad for leading a mob and taking part in the murder of seven people. [The Washington Post Company. [http://www.washingtonpost.com/ Soviet Riot Leader Sentenced to Death] . "The Washington Post". November 20, 1988. Retrieved April 19, 2007] Most Armenians and Azerbaijanis were however dissatisfied with the trials. Armenians complained that the true instigators of the pogrom were never caught whereas Azerbaijanis stated the sentences were too harsh and were upset with the fact that the trials were not held in Azerbaijan. [Kaufman. "Modern Hatreds", p. 65] Some Azerbaijanis even went on to campaign for the "freedom for the heroes of Sumgait." [Kaufman. "Modern Hatreds", p. 67, 205]

Conspiracy theories

The pogrom also lead way to the formulation of several conspiracy theories. The foremost being advanced by the Azerbaijani historian Ziya Bunyadov, the head of the Azerbaijan Academy of Sciences, who claimed that the massacre had been premeditated by the Armenians to cast a negative light against Azerbaijan. [de Waal. "Black Garden", p. 42] By late 1988, most Sumgait Azerbaijanis had accepted the view that the Armenians had provoked the rioting with this objective in hand. In an article that appeared in an Azerbaijani journal, Bunyadov claimed that Armenians had organized the pogroms: "The Sumgait tragedy was carefully prepared by Armenian nationalists...Several hours after it began, Armenian photographers and TV journalists secretly entered the city where they awaited in readiness." [Ibid.]

Davud Imanov, an Azerbaijani filmmaker, expanded on this theory in a series of films called the "Echo of Sumgait" where he accused Armenians, Russians and Americans of conspiring together against Azerbaijan and claiming that Karabakh movement was a plot organized by the CIA. [Ibid.]

ee also

*Anti-Armenianism
*Kirovabad pogrom
*Khojaly Massacre
*Maraghar Massacre
*Nagorno-Karabakh War

References

External links

* [http://sumgait.info/sumgait/sumgait-eng/sumgayit-victims-eng.htm Incomplete list of victims of the massacre]


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