Our Society 4 february — 12:03

Soldiers were waiting for order 'Forward!' (Our special report)

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BY SPARTAK HASANOV

Not once or twice have we been on a frozen for now front line. Although what frozen? It used to shudder in our presence from shots of large-calibre machine guns, flashing our positions with firing lines. As in the rainy, but glorious days of April 2016. They flew low, over our very heads. We reflexively fell to the ground, and the soldiers, young enough to be our sons, hid mischievous grins from us. They were accustomed and, reassuring us, they said that it was nothing, that the enemy was firing at random, and that this was done by them out of fear that we could suddenly go on the attack and crush them to hell. 'Now they will shut up!' they promised. And then, in confirming their words, from the radio that stood in front of the mortar commander - sounded: 'Sergeant, calm the Armenians! Not in a foolish and reckless manner, as they do, but aiming! Execute!' Thus, these glorious warriors kept the strategic height of Lele-Tepe, gaining an advantage in the southern direction of the front.

The muffling mortars and the earth reared from explosions in the enemy's trenches in a moment 'persuaded' the machine-gunners to stop. The lumps of our black soil raised by mine fell into their trenches. On their heads. This innocent soil should have been sown or inoculated with fruits and berries instead of being blown up. But what to do if it is under the heel of the enemy... 'Now they will shut up for two hours,' the sergeant said, looking at us.

We remembered well him, that sergeant, with his platoon of mortar-gunners. However, it never occurred to us that it would take a year or two and we would meet again. True, not on the front line, but in the very centre of Baku, in the lobby of the Palace of Culture of the Salyan barracks.

They were brought here to the forum dedicated to the national Youth Day. It was difficult to recognise him and his subordinates dressed in full uniform. Behind the camouflage — the warrior's work clothes — we, then did not see them as well as we should have. Tall, stumpy, with the hard bone of athletes, they seemed to be entirely from another world. Not from where they shoot and kill. Not from where the heart is always at the sight of the enemy. And the enemy is always in the slit of their sights. The hall was full with young servicemen like them. 'Not boys, but eagles! Everyone, first-class!' one of us remarked. 'No!' our colleague objected. 'Guards! This is our guard!'

And then the memory issued a historical phrase uttered once by a guards officer, a small detachment of whom, surrounded by an enemy on all sides, was offered to surrender. 'The Guard dies and does not surrender!' he shouted.

And here, in the foyer of the Salyan barracks, there was only a thousandth part of our armed forces, but it was still impressive. And not only for us. In any case, Assistant to the President for Work with Law Enforcement Bodies and Military Issues Fuad Alasgarov, who entered the auditorium accompanied by the highest army authorities, even stopped for a moment.

His face, usually devoid of emotion, clearly lit up. And so it was, because through the abundantly official speech he made, with all evidence, burst forth his overwhelming feelings, which, with his strong character and self-control, he could not suppress. The image was impressive. It may very well be that at that moment, like that legendary officer of the Guardsmen who were ready to die in the name of the Motherland, he saw the National Leader of the country, the unforgettable Heydar Aliyev.

'This Day of the Azerbaijani Youth,' he began in a slightly shaky voice, 'was proclaimed by our Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces of the country, President and General Heydar Aliyev back in 1996. Today is the 23rd anniversary of that momentous Decree. He already saw the power of our army. Even then, he knew that selfless, steadfast and fearless young people would come to the ranks of the warriors, and together with their commanders, they would crush the Armenian thugs, who brazenly occupied the lands of our ancestors...'

Then the Minister of Defence of Azerbaijan, Colonel-General Zakir Hasanov rises to the podium. The deathly silence in the hall, the soldiers and officers fixed their gaze on the podium.

As if waiting for orders 'Forward! Attack!' But Zakir Hasanov talks about the heroic victory of the Azerbaijani Army in the short April war and convinces the soldiers that they have to, they must always be ready to break into the battlefield, and return the land of their ancestors, which is under the enemy's heel. From all the tows, the eyes of the warriors, who are ready to execute the order, glance at the minister.

One by one, these warriors rise after their commander to the podium and swear an oath to the Motherland and make holy promise to Supreme Commander Ilham Aliyev. Warriors crave one thing - the return of our ancestral lands! The curtain rises and the melody of the 'Soldier's march,' well-known since the first Karabakh war, is heard. With this march on their lips, hundreds of fighters died for Karabakh. And today these soldiers were ready to go to the front. And from the trenches of the height of Lele-Tepe, to throw the last victorious challenge to the enemy...

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