Caucasus Reality 25 february — 19:20

Nezavisimaya Gazeta told world about Sumgayit events: Grigoryan was the murderer


Yesterday, one of the leading Russian media, 'Nezavisimaya Gazeta' has published a journalistic trilogy by the famous Soviet and Azerbaijani journalist Lev Mabudovich Askerov (Maas) entitled 'Sumgait Tragedy: How it started and how it was. Based on archival documents of the KGB of the USSR.' The name of the permanent author and member of the editorial board of the Haqqin.Az Group of Websites ( , , is widely known to the readers since the 1960s. Lev Askerov is a well-known Soviet journalist, member of the Union of Journalists of the USSR, member of the Union of Writers of the USSR and Azerbaijan, former correspondent of the leading Soviet newspaper 'Izvestia' in Azerbaijan, correspondent of the newspaper 'Trud' in Azerbaijan and Dagestan...

Lev Askerov was accompanied by journalistic success: even in Soviet times, the journalist gained access to the archives of the KGB of the Azerbaijan SSR and some documents of the KGB of the USSR. The ambiguous so-called 'Sumgayit pogroms,' expressed in the dirty and insidious insinuation of the Armenian nationalist circles that unleashed an ideological war against Azerbaijan with the aim of further tearing off Karabakh, occupied a special place in Lev Askerov's journalistic work. Though during the first years of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, and then decades, the background of one of the first outbreaks of the ethnic conflict was hidden from world public opinion. Indeed, the main person involved and executor of the 'Sumgayit affair' was a resident of the Azerbaijan SSR, an ethnic Armenian Eduard Grigoryan. And this paramount factor, which was intensely hidden from Soviet public opinion, from the very first days of the conflict led to traces of the planned and organised nature of the Sumgayit massacre in order to discredit the Azerbaijani public ...

Finally, for the first time in 32 years, a study has been published in the Russian press that sheds light on the true nature of this staged bloody crime. On the eve of the anniversary of the Sumgayit events that occurred from 27 to 29 February 1988, we bring to your attention an article published yesterday, on 24 February, in the 'Nezavisimaya Gazeta.' Note that the article was published in the printed version of the newspaper and on the website of the publication.

* * *


How it started and how it was

Based on archival documents of the KGB of the USSR and Azerbaijan

Fragment No.1

From a stack of thick folders with documents that an employee of the USSR KGB archive laid on the table, my attention immediately went to the upper one, on which the following was written calligraphically by a nameless clerk:

'Azerbaijan. Reports. Recommendations. Suggestions. (1950-1970)

I'll make a reservation right away: most of the archival materials that I was then allowed to study consisted of denunciations, slander and 'reporting to the authorities,' which the vigilant Soviet citizens usually did not sign. So even I wanted -- and I didn't -- it was already impossible to find out the names of workers of the epistolary genre, that were getting the heads of their friends, colleagues and even relatives under the KGB punishing sword...

As for the mentioned folder, on which the Roman numeral I stood, I came across an extremely interesting document in it: a memo from the counterintelligence colonel of the KGB of the Azerbaijan SSR Tomaz Georgievich Karichadze addressed to the Chairman of the KGB of the USSR, Colonel-General Vladimir Yefimovich Semichastny. I read the contents of the note, as they say, in one breath and managed not only to make several extracts, but even, in spite of the strictest ban and warning of the archive employee, to take out the notes from the yellow house on Lubyanka square.

In fairness, I note, no one even thought to search me: it was 1990, an oppressive atmosphere of confusion and apathy reigned in the corridors of the Lubyanka, as outside once a great country slowly crawled into the abyss of nothingness

...But let us go back to the Karichadze's memo. The interest that this document aroused in me was, of course, not accidental. Two years passed at that moment since the Sumgayit tragedy. In the Politburo of the Central Committee of the CPSU and, accordingly, in all the newspapers published in millions of copies, the tragedy that claimed the lives of dozens of people was called the 'Sumgayit pogrom on ethnic grounds' and told Soviet people, who blindly believed in the truthfulness and integrity of the printed word, how 'the ruthless Azerbaijanis full of merciless hatred of the Armenians perpetrated a bloody massacre.' And after this frank and intensely circulated lie about the Sumgayit tragedy was publicly supported by President of the USSR Mikhail Gorbachev, this 'truth' about the Sumgayit pogrom turned into the official version of events thirty-two years ago, which is taught today in schools, told by so-called 'eyewitnesses' and presented on Wikipedia.

I would very much like that Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev, who, according to his students, is still in his right mind and good memory, as well as tens of millions of citizens of the former USSR, remembering the tragedy in Sumgayit, carefully read the memorandum of Colonel Karichadze, written by him in September 1963 (!!!), to understand its origins.

Here it is (the writing style is completely preserved):

Lubyanka archives contain evidence of the involvement of Armenian priests in inciting hatred for Azerbaijanis / Photo © RIA Novosti

'Comrade General!

I consider it my duty to bring to your attention facts that my leadership, in spite of my repeated service notes, does not pay due attention to. Whereas the questions raised in them are directly related to the state security of the country. The bottom line is as follows.

I am deeply convinced that among the Armenian population of the republic, the clergy of the [Armenian] Gregorian churches of Baku and Stepanakert are carrying out hidden subversive work organised by all the rules of conspiracy, expressed in the promotion of hatred of the Azerbaijani people.

Under the guise of the religious tenets of Christianity, courses are run in them that train agitators and fighters of the extremely aggressive Dashnak kind. According to our agent, introduced into the new composition of students, lectures here are delivered by emissaries of Etchmiadzin. The content of lectures and practical classes does not correspond to the themes of the official program registered in the Department of Religious Affairs of the Council of Ministers of Azerbaijan. Recording them is strictly prohibited. One of the listeners, a household appliance mechanic Gena Manukyan, who had a poor memory, was found outlining the material and details of techniques for effectively influencing those with whom he would later work. Two days later, at an Armenikend bazaar in broad daylight, an unknown man with a sharpened chisel from the back hit him in the heart. The criminal case brought by the Narimanov District Department of Internal Affairs on the fact of the murder is among the unsolved. It is noteworthy that on the same evening when the crime was committed, in the course of the lecture held at the Baku Armenian Church, the Etchmiadzin lecturer announced the death of the 'fiery patriot,' accusing of his murder the Azerbaijanis, whom (I literally reproduce the emissary's call) 'it is necessary to destroy in the same way everywhere and very place.'

Our agent has good reason to believe that under this training structure, there is a tightly classified combat group, staffed by notorious criminal nationalists. Each group member is well paid. In one of his reports, the agent recalled a fragment of one of these lectures delivered by Father Gaspar, who introduced himself as a minister of the Kirovakan parish. (A priest with that name really exists, but according to the photograph presented to our person, he had nothing to do with that lecturer.)

I quote the above fragment:

"...There are few of us on earth. We live separately. Enemies have divided us. They were able to achieve this. But did they manage to break our belligerent spirit? Did they manage to extinguish the flames of our unique mind? Could they kill the holy goal left in our hearts by our ancestors? No! They will never succeed in doing this while at least one Armenian is alive, loving his people, knowing his own history, abundantly watered with Armenian blood, and honouring his glorious ancestors. We are proud of the heroes of the past. It's not their fault that they were not able to save the Greater Armenia created by them. They fell in bloody battles with superior enemy forces, uncivilised, wild barbarians, not worth the worst of us.

Before us trembled Rome and the world. We are obliged and must, not sparing ourselves, let alone our enemies, do our best to make the new Rome, now called Moscow, and the new world tremble before us. It is this that unites us, wherever we live. Here, in the Soviet Union, and in France, and in America, the success of one Armenian is the success of the whole people, a tangible contribution to our already near victory.

At a recent sermon, His Holiness the Catholicos of All Armenians said: "I do not know a brighter nation, a greater people. What is the earthly distance between us? Nothing! The most significant and irresistible distance is not kilometres, but the lack of soul interaction. We, the only nation created by the Almighty himself, have this ability. Our souls clearly feel each other. They recognise each other... It's a sin, a great sin not to use this gift of the Lord and not to return universal glory to our long-suffering people. His support is the key to our victories..."

And His Holiness drew attention to the fact that from the den of our fierce enemy, from here, from Azerbaijan, the funds are not coming enough. They, the Armenians living in Azerbaijan, should be reminded that such well-known communists as Kamo and Shaumyan did not skimp on generous contributions in the name of the future of the nation. They [contributions] are regularly brought in by the families of the outstanding statesman Anastas Mikoyan, world-famous marshals Baghramyan, Babajanyan and outstanding figures of science and culture...

Echmiadzin considers reluctance to pay to the national treasury a betrayal and treason. And sooner or later you will have to answer for betrayal and treason... You will be bringing such people to answer. His Holiness places great hopes on you, on the students of the courses, who at the end of them will carry out the corresponding and, if necessary, hard work among those who have forgotten the origins of their relationship. They need to be given back their memory. Even if you need to do it with brass knuckles, a knife or a bullet. This is a charitable work that His Holiness entrusts to you. I give you his parting motto: "The end justifies the means!" ...

Comrade General!

I also think that the fact that hundreds of thousands of Armenian families repatriated from the foreign countries in the 1950s, according to instructions from above, were settled on the territory of Armenia in the places of indigenous residence of Azerbaijanis, to be not entirely thought out. The latter, often forcibly, were sent to Azerbaijan. This, in my opinion, is not only contrary to Lenin's national policy, but also fraught with elements of unpredictable consequences... Our analysts obviously didn't consider the problem I named in the light of the fact on whose order and why the invited by us Armenian repatriates were settled in exactly the same way and not otherwise. I made a map of their settlement. I'll inform you, it turned out a curious picture. Here it is: in the Russian Federation - Rostov Region, Krasnodar and Stavropol Territories; in Georgia - Tbilisi, Akhaltsikhe, Colchis, that is, Abkhazia; in Azerbaijan - Nagorno-Karabakh, Kazakh-Kirovabad zone, young Mingachevir and Sumgayit under construction. Thus, having outlined the location of the Armenian repatriates, we will get a relief outline of the Dashnak map of the mythical Greater Armenia - from sea to sea and to Rostov.'

The contents of this report memo shocked me so much that when I returned to Baku, I hastened to meet with the former Deputy Chairman of the KGB of Azerbaijan, Nuri Hasanovich Guliyev.

'Karichadze?' ssked Guliev. 'Of course I remember! Legendary personality! Fortunately, the brooms of Khrushchev's cleansing did not affect us, Chekists of Beria and Bagirov's times: when repressions raged in Azerbaijan, we worked with him abroad. I in Iran, and Tomaz Georgievich in Spain. By the way, I think it was he who recruited there Kim Philby, one of the leaders of the British intelligence MI-6...

As for Karichadze's memo, it put an end to his career: he was immediately retired, and soon the colonel died unexpectedly. Among the KGB employees -- after all we are suspicious people -- they said that the death of Tomaz Georgievich was not accidental. There were good reasons for this: his report essentially affected the interests of very high people in Moscow...'

It is clear that I can neither confirm nor deny the rumours about the causes of the death of Colonel Karichadze that were circulating in the Chekist milieu. But one strange circumstance alarms me: it was during precisely this period when the Chairman of the KGB of the USSR, Vladimir Semichastny sent Karichadze's report to his immediate superior, General Semyon Tsvigun with a harsh resolution: 'Comrade Tsvigun! Sort it out and give an evaluation! Colonel allows himself toomuch! Semichastny,' the Politburo was deciding to appoint the Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers, Anastas Ivanovich Mikoyan [ethnic Armenian] to the position of the Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR.

Thus, the official report of a senior Soviet counterintelligence officer, in which Mikoyan was actually accused of supporting the Armenian nationalist underground, could have played a role of a 'locking shoe' on the rails of Mikoyan's career. Which, of course, neither he nor his supporters in the Politburo and the KGB of the USSR could have allowed...

And a quarter of a century later, on 27 February 1988, happened what Colonel Tomaz Karichadze warned of the Kremlin celestials.

It blazed in Sumgayit...

Events in Sumgayit exacerbated the systemic crisis of the Soviet Union / Photo © RIA Novosti

Fragment No.2

...In the folder under the number V, I found another interesting document: 'An Open Letter' to the Politburo and personally to Secretary General Gorbachev, which sharply criticised the short-sighted policy of the party and revealed the truth about the Sumgayit pogrom and Black January, when on 20 January 1990, on the order of Mikhail Gorbachev, invading units of the Soviet army in Baku shot point blank and crushed by tanks several hundred citizens - Azerbaijanis, Russians, Jews, Tatars, Lezghins...

Twenty-six celebrities left their signatures under this document. The names of the Hero of the Soviet Union, Academician Ziya Bunyadov, Academician Azad Mirzajanzadeh, Professor of the Higher Party School, well-known political scientist A. Milman and assistant to the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan V. Kesar were underlined in pencil. Apparently, this was done by Georgy Shakhnazarov [ethnic Armenian] - assistant and closest associate of M. Gorbachev. Because with the same hand and the same pencil in the corner of the first page it says: 'To Vladimir Kryuchkov!'

The chairman of the KGB of the USSR (again the KGB !!!) understood the meaning of the message of the Gorbachev ally, and a few weeks later Kesar and Milman were unexpectedly allowed to emigrate to the United States, rumours began circulating around Academician Mirzajanzadeh about his allegedly non-traditional sexual orientation, Bunyadov was told that it was not worth starting games against the Kremlin... In short, everything was done to disavow the signatories, and the letter itself, written in the form of a pamphlet, should be hidden in the KGB archive with the note 'Keep forever!'

For obvious reasons, I will not cite the entire document, set out on thirty-three pages, and confine myself to the arguments contained in it, which, in my opinion, explain the political subtext that led to the Sumgayit tragedy:

'...Comrade Gorbachev!

Those of the seven million Azerbaijanis who recently made up almost half the population of Armenia turn to you and the party you are leading.

Those of us are turning to you who, with your connivance and lack of will, have been forcibly expelled from Armenia, forced to abandon our homes, vineyards and graves...

If you only knew, comrade Gorbachev, with what rapture our Armenian neighbours, with whom we spoke in their language and respected their rights as the owners of their land, threw us out onto the street, with what savagery they destroyed graves in ancient Azerbaijani cemeteries, and with what delight the persecutors uttered your name, Mikhail Sergeyevich!

If you only saw, comrade Gorbachev, our battered mothers, raped sisters, bleeding brothers and emaciated children, whom the Armenian neighbours, stoning, spitting after and hooting, drove us, like sheep, to the east, to Azerbaijan.

You are addressed by those of the two hundred thousand people squeezed out of Armenia back in the 1950s, and now the native Sumgayit residents, whom the native party and government threw into the waterless semi-desert to build Komsomolsk in the Caspian Sea, the new wonderful city of chemists and metallurgists from the promised bright communist future.

We are those of the two hundred thousand Sumgayit residents whose slums, clearly expressing the care of their native CPSU, have never been shown on either Central or regional television. The multinational Soviet people had no idea what was the Sumgayit yellow air saturated with gas and vapour, why the stunted vegetation didn't cast a shadow, how the Caspian, polluted by waste, looks like, and our women suffering from infertility and the only children's cemetery in the world where we bury boys and girls who have not lived to sixteen, and our flawed maternity hospital, where newborns are born tiny freaks with signs of a gene pool being destroyed...

God sees, Mikhail Sergeyevich, we have endured for a long time and waited. With pleas we fell at your doorstep, sought protection from you, hoped for your wisdom and understanding. But you were silent. Or you tried to calm the passions with your favourite phrase "...problems around Nagorno-Karabakh," which gradually turned the escalating ethnic discord into a bloody ethnic war.

And on that day, when a group of strangers, obviously visitors, poured into the streets of Sumgayit and began to roar in our language: "Beat the Armenians! Beat them how they beat us!' our faith in you, Mikhail Sergeyevich, has completely disappeared. And the exclamations of the provocateurs, the frenzy of knife stabbing and blood on the streets of our city became precisely the spark that ignited in each of us the powder of our national pride and human dignity worn down by you...'

Resident of Sumgayit recognised in Eduard Grigoryan one of the active participants of the pogroms

And now to the facts directly related to the Sumgayit pogrom.

Soon after these sad events -- I was then working as a correspondent for 'Soyuz' weekly, an appendix to the 'Izvestia' newspaper -- one of the oldest journalists in Azerbaijan, the Editor-in-Chief of the city newspaper 'Sumgayit Communist,' Rafail Shik contacted me and asked to publish his material in 'Soyuz,' revealing the ins and outs of the Sumgayit tragedy. As it turned out, the party leadership of the city did not allow Shik to print the article in his newspaper.

However, my Moscow chiefs also refused to publish Shik's material. Say, the Kremlin and Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev personally see and explain everything that happened in Sumgayit in a completely different way, and therefore return the text to the author and do not get involved in this topic.

The refusal of Muscovites to publish Shik's material did not so much upset me as it made me angry. At that time, much was written about the events in Sumgayit and, as a rule, in the same vein: Azerbaijani nationalists recouped for the loss of Nagorno-Karabakh on the Armenian residents of the city and carried out a bloody massacre against them.

Shik gave facts that radically changed the picture of the tragedy prevailing in Soviet society, but no one dared to publish it. The only thing I could do for Rafail Shik then was to record his story of an eyewitness to the Sumgayit events.

Here it is:

'...As an editor of the city party newspaper, I knew that late at night, almost in the morning, a passenger train with refugees from Armenia was arriving at the Sabunchu station in Baku, and fifty-two corpses of Azerbaijanis killed in Armenia were brought in a refrigerator car. I also knew that the relatives of the six victims live in Sumgayit. The Secretary of the Sumgayit city committee of the party, Jangir Muslimzadeh, told us about this at an urgently convened bureau of the city party committee.

"You, Comrade Shik," the first secretary instructed sternly, "do not need to write about this. Limit yourself to the usual funeral announcements from families, the condolences of friends and relatives. Everything should be as usual. This applies to all those present..."

Muslimzadeh paused, and then addressed the head of the city police department, Khanlar Khalilov.

"You, Colonel, will not have to monitor public order especially. The military personnel of the Baku Air Defence District will do this. Such are the instructions from above, from the Central Committee... Just before the start of the bureau, the district commander, General Zaytsev called me and warned that no interference should be made to military patrols in Sumgayit..."

Having returned to the editorial office, I gave the assignment to the correspondent to urgently leave for Baku, meet the train from Yerevan, take some pictures and, if possible, talk with the refugees.

Somewhere after midnight, he called my apartment and said that he could not complete the task, for the Sabunchu station was tightly cordoned off by soldiers, they would not let anyone in to the platform...

In the morning, at breakfast, I heard a strange noise coming from the entrance. Opening the door, I saw an envelope lying on the floor, in which I found several photographs and a folded leaflet with typewritten text in Russian and Azerbaijani: "Be a patriot, see off the innocent people executed by the Armenians!" And only then I carefully examined the pictures. Creepy photos, I will report to you, and made obviously by a professional. One depicts a man with goggled eyes, a cross burned from throat to groin with a burner, on the other a young woman. One breast is cut off, the second hangs, as if suspended on a thread. A bottleneck sticks out of the vagina. The next shot is of the old man's face, cut open with a knife crosswise. Then a photograph of a boy of about seventeen with severed genitals and hands -- as I was told, this guy had an affair with an Armenian girl. Other photographs depicted a forty-year-old man from the village of Sovetashen near Yerevan, flattened by an asphalt paver, an old woman from Leninakan with a torn mouth, a decapitated boy from Kirovakan...

As a professional, I could not help but pay attention to the background and the individual details of the photographs. Apparently, they were not made in the carriage of the Yerevan train and not at the train station in Baku, but ahead of time, at the place of these terrible acts of vandalism. I remember it made me sick then. And then, from the top floor, two orderlies and a doctor pulled my neighbour, Valida Asadova, on a stretcher. I asked: "What happened?" "Signs of a heart attack," the doctor answered, letting the orderlies go forward. "Some bastard put these pictures under the doors of the tenants, but her heart could not stand it... This is our third call, and all because of the dropped envelopes. Almost scattered all over the city, scum!"

What I heard could not but alarm me. I immediately phoned the first secretary and said that the terrible pictures and a text calling for patriots, typed and printed, moreover, clearly not in the only printing house in the whole of Sumgayit, smack of dangerous incitement.

"You are not the only one who reports this to me," Muslimzadeh answered. "By the way, the chairman of the executive committee, like you, believes that this is someone's malicious provocation. But Colonel Yarmolenko, a representative of the air defence district -- he, by the way, is listening to our conversation now -- says that he has everything under control. This is precisely what he reported to the Party Central Committee..."

As it turned out later, Yarmolenko lied in the most shameless way! No one in the city controlled anything. I did not see the promised patrols, which, as instructed from above, should not be interfered with by the police. In any case, in those places where desperate cries for help erupted through the wild roar of the crowd. And then Colonel Yarmolenko mysteriously disappeared. And army helicopters flying at low altitude seemed to add oil to the riot of the crowd: when they saw them, the rioters, as if on command, exploded with a native screech. Later it became known that from the helicopters they were filming the pogroms. Some people filmed right out of the crowd...

It all started with a cemetery, where to I followed along the funeral procession that passed by the editorial office. The spectacle was something! Electrified, aggressive people now and then flowed into the general crowd. Envelopes with the appeal and photographs did their job. Someone stealthily and very professionally was bringing the situation to a critical point...

Four mullahs stood at four freshly dug graves, and, buried in green books, plaintively prayed for the dead. I stood five metres from one of them. And then from the back rows, pushing people away, a man breaks out to the dead lying on the stretchers at mullahs' feet and yells heart-rendingly:

"Faithful! Muslim brothers! Armenian bastards are tearing us, burning us, robbing them, driving us out of our houses... But we are silent!"

"You're right, Ibrahim, right!" in unison picks up another, pushing to the graves from the opposite side. "Are we not men? Can't we fend for ourselves?"

"Armenians are driving us out of our home, and here they are like vipers on our chests," a relative of one of the deceased, standing next to me, squeals through his teeth.

And then, clenching his fists over his head, the one named Ibrahim turns to the crowd and screams in full force of the lungs:

"They drive us out, and kill! And we are like sheep!"

But the man who called himself the Azerbaijani name Ibrahim had a completely different name. I knew this, as they say, first-hand. Two weeks before the pogrom, this guy often visited our editorial office: he was asking for a ID of a non-staff employee of the newspaper. When meeting me, he presented me with his passport in the name of Eduard Grigoryan.

"Call me Edik," he suggested in his own way.

At first I didn't talk to him, this person has never been published with us. But in the evening of the same day, my old friend, the chairman of the 'Chemist' sports club, Armenian Akper Balaev stood up for Edik Grigoryan.

"Yeremeich," said Akper. "I know Edik well. Our roots with him come from Nagorno-Karabakh. We are even a little related. He is a great clever guy. There was a time, he and I studied at the Higher Courses, where they talked about him as a talented organiser and creative person. Take a closer look at him!"

So our second meeting took place, at which I told Grigoryan that I would give him a freelance ID only after he brought, and we approved of the material he wrote. On that we parted.

And here you are, a meeting!

It turns out that he is also Ibrahim in addition. And now he stigmatises with the most obscene words his Armenian compatriots...

Meanwhile, somewhere in the depths of the crowd, near old tombstones with carved lines from the Koran, cries for help began to be heard. They were Armenians, neighbours and friends of those who was burying mutilated relatives.

Interrupting the prayer and trying to shout down the growing howl, the mullah cried out:

"Stop it! This is a terrible sin! Allah sees everything!"

"Your Allah is blind!" Grigoryan shouted, throwing photographs already familiar to me at the mullah. "Look what they did to them! They brought us a full train of mutilated people. Hundreds of faithful corpses... Armenians killed them in front of your Allah!"

Menacingly Grigoryan moved to the mullah. The mullah stumbled and fell into an empty grave.

"You are godless!" shouted the mullah, shaking his hands from the grave. "Neither you nor any mortal has the right to judge! This is the work of Allah! He will punish the guilty! Brutally punish!"

But no one wanted to listen to him. The second mullah, younger and more cowardly, shamefully fled, skirting the tight burials.

"Stupid!" I could not stand it. "What are you doing? Come to your senses! Be human!"

I bent over the grave and extended a hand to the mullah to pull him out.

"Who's the fool, your Armenian muzzle?" someone squealed behind me.

I turned around and saw several people rushing towards me. Just a moment, and I would have made the company to the mullah. But at the last second, a figure in a black raincoat grew between me and them and in a commanding tone said two phrases in Azerbaijani:

"Do not touch! Go to the city!"

And then one of them, jumping on someone's tombstone, yelled, tearing at the larynx:

"Faithful! Go to the city! Drive the Armenians out!"

"Death to the Armenians!" picked up a few dozen voices, and a crowd of people in a rage psychosis rushed into the city...

"And you, Yeremeich, stay away from sin and don't get into something that doesn't concern you," said the man in the black raincoat and turned to me.

It was my old acquaintance Akper Balaev...

Yes, the overwhelming majority of people consisted of Azerbaijanis. There were Russians, Ukrainians, and Jews. In general, Sumgayit residents, mostly young people. But the Armenians led them. I saw it with my own eyes. And how then the Soviet party press lied! In a brazen and most unscrupulous manner. It turned out that Azerbaijanis were not expelled, not killed, from Armenia in the fifties, in the eighties, but escorted out to the sounds of a brass band, covering the way with carpets...

The murders and atrocities perpetrated by the Armenians against Azerbaijanis, trains with mutilated bodies were never written or broadcast about anywhere. In a word, silent support was expressed for everything that was going on there. Here one can only praise teh ingenuity of the Kremlin Armenians...

From the cemetery I rushed to the city party headquarters. Perhaps the entire staff was crowded in the office of the first secretary. And at that moment, when I crossed the threshold of the office of the first secretary, it was in a strange quiet. Everyone who sat or stood frozen looked at Jangir Muslimzadeh, talking on the government phone.

"I ordered the chief of police," his even and firm voice came to me, "to put things in order with all available forces. To seize everyone who was somehow related to this bloody revelry, and to reveal the names of the instigators-provocateurs. That is what he is doing now. But the personnel of the city police is small. What? Who gave me the right to order this?" asked the first secretary, turning pale. "Not who, but what! The situation has gotten out of control! And as for the soldiers you are referring to, in the places where the Armenians were killed, no one saw them!"

Later, Jangir Muslimzadeh, who was removed by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan at the insistence of Moscow from the post of first secretary of the Sumgayit City Party Committee, told me about an episode that almost ended in tragedy for him and the communists accompanying him.

"When we went out to the crowd," Jangir recalled, "gathered at the party city committee, and tried to somehow calm it down, we were immediately taken into the ring, after which there was dead silence. Such a moment when the behaviour of the crowd depends on the slightest impulse. At that moment, some subject in a raincoat yelled: "Beat them! They are to blame for everything!" And the ring around us began to tighten. But then, quite unexpectedly, a military patrol appeared and saved us from the crowd..."

At night I wrote an article entitled "Before Sumgayit whole Armenia was Sumgait" and in the morning I sent the material to the print. Then they told me that the printing workers almost aloud read the article in the workshop and exclaimed: "Here it is, the real truth!"

The material asked questions that worried all Sumgayit residents, all of Azerbaijan. Why was not a single criminal case instituted any of the Armenian cities for the brutal extermination of Azerbaijanis, and Moscow sent an entire investigation team to Sumgayit? Why did not a single party leader or public figure of Armenia go out to his compatriots to stop the violence against Azerbaijanis? Who concocted and distributed among the residents of Sumgayit pictures with the mutilated bodies of Azerbaijanis? Who exactly urged the population of Sumgayit to beat the local Armenian population?

The answer to the last question was found quite soon: the initiators of the pogrom were ethnic Armenians, of whom only three were residents of Sumgayit. These people were able with money and promises to attract the criminal rabble from among the Azerbaijanis, who carried out the massacre. The question, why and, most importantly, who needed it, was then hushed up with all its clarity...

In a word, my article, confirmed not by far-fetched, but by real facts, could become a real bomb. But I did not foresee a counter manoeuvre by the typographic linotypist Zaven Tumasov. During the terrible two days of the pogrom, this man constantly whispered in my ear that his compatriots drove the pogrom participants to the addresses of those Armenians who were greedy and did not pay to the Greater Armenia Fund.

Zaven phoned one of the members of the Moscow investigation team and said that tomorrow a "dirty little article" written by Rafail Shik would be published in the city newspaper. Then, by personal order of General Galkin, who led the landing of the capital's detectives, the edition was removed directly from the printing press. And that same evening I was relieved of my position... For six months now I can't get a job. I will have to leave for Israel...'

By the way, my superiors then not only refused to print Shik's text, but also strictly warned me that in the future I would not dare to hobnob with those who condemn the policies of the party and government. And Shik's article still went around in handwritten form among the Baku and Sumgayit residents.

In 1989, the Elm newspaper of the Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan published an article by Academician Ziya Bunyadov, entitled 'Why Sumgayit?' in which the author blamed the Sumgayit tragedy on the ambitions of the Armenian lobby in Gorbachev's entourage. At about the same time, President of the Academy of Sciences of Armenia, twice Hero of Socialist Labour Victor Hambartsumyan received a telegram from Baku:

'We appeal to your conscience! For the third time in less than a hundred years, Armenians have become the instigators of violent clashes between fraternal peoples. Turn to your intelligentsia, stop the atrocities perpetrated by your fellow citizens!'

The telegram contained over two hundred signatures of the employees of the Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan. But the country, which published the 'Pravda' newspaper with a 50-million circulation, knew nothing about all this...

Fragment No.3

Verily, time is the best judge of human deeds. Its verdicts are unlike ours, they are really final and really not subject to appeal. Only one thing is untrue: time does not heal. Anesthetise with forgetfulness is a possibility! But there is no healing power in it. Being a healer is the destiny of the people themselves. They are ordered to rid themselves of pain and to corrode the evil that they themselves do. But they do not, preferring a state of oblivion. And the evil that brings grief, with fatal periodicity makes itself felt. Useless healers are we...

Evidence of this are a few books lying on my desktop. One of them, written by well-known Azerbaijani lawyer Aslan Ismayilov and published in 2010, is called 'Sumgait - the beginning of the collapse of the USSR.' The other is 'Death of an Empire. The view of the American Ambassador on the collapse of the Soviet Union' was written by Jack Matlock, US Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the USSR from 1987 to 1991.

Jack Matlock, who observed the agony of the global socialist camp directly from Moscow, writes in his book, translated into Russian, that the scenario of the famous 'Perestroika' had been written in Washington.

The conclusion of the American diplomat is confirmed in a book 'Notes by the head of illegal intelligence' by First Deputy Head of the First Department of the KGB of the USSR, Major-General Yuri Drozdov. Among a number of irrefutable facts, he cites the following:

'One day in one of my visits to Moscow,' writes Drozdov, 'former American intelligence officers, in the heat of frankness at dinner in a basement restaurant on Ostozhenka, threw a careless phrase: "You are good fellows, guys! We know that you have had successes that you have the right to be proud of... But time will pass, and if this is declassified, you will gasp to find out what agents the CIA and the US State Department had at your very top..."

Each of these authors -- naturally, from his position and using his sources of information -- shed light on the truth about the Sumgayit tragedy. And this truth deserves to be known about it, even with a colossal delay...

I communicated repeatedly with the author of the book 'Sumgait - the beginning of the collapse of the USSR.' I knew that after graduating from the law faculty of the Kuban University, Aslan Ismayilov worked for about five years in the judicial and prosecutorial bodies of the Stavropol Territory. And it was from there, after a series of high-profile and successfully completed cases, the high-ranking Azerbaijani colleagues of Ismayilov, as they say, persuaded him to move to his homeland. Thus, on one of the offices of the republican prosecutor's office appeared a sign 'Department Prosecutor Ismayilov A.Z.' His responsibilities included controlling and monitoring the legality of criminal cases in the courts of the republic.

And soon, by order of the republic's prosecutor, Aslan Ismayilov was appointed state prosecutor in the process that had already begun on the only Sumgayit case, which became known as the 'Grigoryan case,' in which, in addition to the main accused, six of his accomplices-Azerbaijanis appeared.

The prosecutor explained his decision by saying that Ismayilov, unlike his predecessor, also had experience as a judge, obtained in the Stavropol Territory.

Aslan practically had no time to familiarise himself with the materials: he received several voluminous folders with case materials literally on the eve of the process...

'And until the very morning, without closing my eyes, I grasped every typewritten line,' Ismayilov recalled. 'Believe me, I did not sleep at all! But youth, three cups of strong coffee and, most importantly, the desire to do one's job well, made the trick. And in the transcript of the first court session, at which I was not present, I immediately found a couple of important facts that the court somehow ignored. It turned out that the president of the court, clearly overloaded with work, did not have time to really get acquainted and study the case materials. Moreover, the dossier before him was missing a number of important evidence, explanations and testimonies. For some reason they were "forgotten" to be put in there. And then I demanded that the hearing be postponed for two whole days, which I needed as air. The Grigoryan case did not seem to me at all as unambiguous as the press of our once common country described. The vast majority of publications on the process in this case were more like sweeping and government-sponsored attacks by amateurs than an objective analysis of journalists versed in the intricacies of jurisprudence...'

There were, however, people competent in politics who knew perfectly well where the origins of this story were coming from. But their understanding was under strict control from above, and public speaking quickly disavowed. As, for example, in the case of the publication of a series of incriminating articles by Alexander Prokhanov on Gorbachev's responsibility for the collapse of the USSR on the pages of his newspaper 'Segodnya' (Today), after which the newspaper was immediately closed and Prokhanov himself, in order not to lose his only rostrum, registered the same publication under the name 'Zavtra' (Tomorrow). It was from the pages of this newspaper that it was repeatedly and directly stated that Gorbachev was a historical misunderstanding.

Prokhanov was not the only representative of the Russian public in criticising national politics and the catastrophic miscalculations of Gorbachev's 'Perestroika' team. Such a landmark figure in the political establishment of Russia, as a professor of political science, ethnic Armenian Sergey Kurginyan relatively recently stated literally the following:

'I can say with all responsibility that when in Sumgayit, brutally scoffing and performing some ritual actions, they killed the Armenians, then it was not the Azerbaijanis who did it. This was done by outsiders hired by representatives of foreign private structures. We know these representatives by name, and we also know to which structures they belonged...'

... Aslan Ismayilov saw before him several thick folders, the contents of which with each page of recorded evidence, eyewitness accounts and confrontations helped not only recreate an objective picture of what happened, but also to better understand the situation around the process...

In the meantime, the courtroom, the chairman's dispassionate voice, the defendants fidgeting behind bars... Before answering the questions of the judge or the prosecutor, they look questioningly at Grigoryan. If the main defendant briefly dropped his eyelids, they immediately refused to speak or made adjustments. When Grigoryan arranged for the accomplices' response, he sat back in the dock and defiantly threw his foot over another.

It did not take much insight to understand who exactly in this gang of murderers is the 'master of thoughts' and who are broken by terrible fear 'pawns' who will not say anything against their 'godfather.'

However, during the hearing it turned out that Grigoryan was not only the main accused, but also used someone's secret protection, thanks to which he not only knew -- word for word -- what his accomplices said during interrogations, but also could freely communicate by telephone with his home, sincerely talking with his wife and children. Whether Grigoryan received any signals or information during these 'indulgence sessions,' it is already impossible to establish...

So what kind of person is this Eduard Grigoryan? Why did he so zealously incite the Sumgayit residents. Why did he kill his compatriots with such fanaticism? The answer can be found in the materials of the investigation team, which consisted of representatives of law enforcement agencies seconded to Sumgayit from all over the Soviet Union. By the way, this group of specialists also included ethnic Armenians...

Thus, we read:

Aslan Ismayilov, state prosecutor at trial in the case of Eduard Grigoryan

'Grigoryan Eduard Robertovich. Place of birth, Sumgayit, Azerbaijan SSR, 1969. Non-partisan; ethnic Armenian. Fitter of a pipe mill. Married, two children. Three times convicted on the articles of the Criminal Code of the Azerbaijan SSR. A total of 6 years, 2 months and 13 days of imprisonment...

...Under the leadership of Grigoryan, the defendants broke into the doors of Grigory Mezhlumyan's apartment. He and his wife Roza Ashotovna were beaten by them with pieces of metal pipes, and their children - Lyudmila and Karina - were sexually abused...

...In another house of the same microdistrict, to which Grigoryan brought Najafov, Mammadov, Isayev and others, they broke open the doors with axes and caused the destruction of all the property of Hrant Avanesyan, who did not appear in the apartment...

...Continuing the criminal actions, Grigoryan and his accomplices burst into the apartment of M. Petrosyan, who, together with his Azerbaijani wife Shahbali Kh., received injuries incompatible with life as a result of beating. Everything that was in the house was broken and set on fire...

...On 28 February, Grigoryan and his accomplices subjected Emma Grigoryan (not his relative) to sophisticated bullying. Tearing off her clothes, they brutally raped her, and then they brought her naked to the street and, burning her with cigarettes, forced her to dance. She tried to escape, but Grigoryan caught up with her and hit her spine with a blow to the back, and then pierced her intestines with reinforcement bar through her vagina...

...On the same day, the gang led by Grigoryan broke into the apartment of Manvel Petrosyan, whom Grigoryan himself hit with an ax on the head and, dumping under his feet, frantically stamped the body of his wife Angela...'

I cite these far from complete facts of atrocities from the indictment, which V. Galkin, senior justice adviser of the USSR Prosecutor General's Office, sent to the Supreme Court of the Azerbaijan SSR for consideration.

'Yes, the criminal biography of Grigoryan,' recalls Aslan Ismayilov, 'the natural tendency to sadism and martial arts techniques he received in the karate section of the Sumgayit society 'Chemist,' which was led by Akper Balayan (according to his passport, Balayev), allowed this bastard to keep at bay and submission all who were in his environment. I must note that Eduard Grigoryan was much smarter than the rest of the accused. One got the feeling that this person had undergone special training, which included not only the karate skills acquired at 'Chemist.' The investigation began to work out this version and even went to certain courses held in the Baku Armenian Church under the patronage of Etchmiadzin and the Armenian special services. However, at this stage, Colonel Galkin, senior justice adviser of the USSR Prosecutor General's Office, ordered the investigation to be stopped immediately, because, according to him, it "leads the investigation away from the crime itself."

In the interrogation protocols, I noticed that Grigoryan immediately closed up, as soon as the investigator asked about the courses at the premises of the Armenian church in Baku. But to the question: "Why did you do this?" he suddenly answered:

"For me, chief, all this riot is a gift of God! For me, it's as if luck had fallen from heaven!"

Such an answer did not look like the bravado of an ordinary criminal...

Indicative in this regard was the moment when Angela Petrosyan testified. Poking a finger at her tormentor and the murderer of her husband, she called Grigoryan a beast and said:

"When they broke into our house, I asked him what kind of Armenian are you if you beat and kill your own? And he answered me: "If you were a real Armenian, then you would not be on this list!"

And then Grigoryan betrayed himself, jumping up from his seat and yelling at the entire conference room:

"What list? I haven't told you about any list!"

It is clear that such a protocol could not but interest me. And soon I found out that the mysterious list by which the rioters found their victims still existed. Indirectly, this was confirmed by some testimonies of the accused. So, Grigoryan's closest friend, N. Najafov, with whom they used to be in the same prison, claimed that they had no previously agreed plan, where and whom to "visit".

"It was just that a man in a black raincoat, who was filming everything that was happening, was approaching Edik," said Najafov, "he was saying something in Armenian, and we were already following Edik..."

Having set out to find out by any means whether the list actually existed, I went to the trick: after contacting the investigator of the Moscow brigade, an ethnic Armenian by the name of Sarkisov, I asked him:

"Why don't I find in the materials of the investigation the list removed from the detainees, according to which the rioters went to the addresses of their victims?"

Sarkisov's response sent me to a deep knockdown:

"Ask about something easier! I gave it to Galkin..."

Without talking to each other and almost repeating each other, the wife of Grigoryan, Rita, and V. Huseynov, and G. Mammadov spoke about the mysterious subjects in black raincoats, who, apparently, directed the Sumgayit pogrom on the spot...

"Once, before this horror," Rita recalled, "when Edik and I were going home, two men in dark raincoats stood on the corner and beckoned him to us. I wanted to take a closer look, but Edik sharply yanked me: "Don't look too hard!"

And here is the recorded testimony of V. Huseynov:

"The day before the event, Eduard was talking, a little aside from me, with two strangers dressed in identical black raincoats. I did not know them. Strangers. One tall, the other of medium height. I didn't make out faces. They handed him a plastic bag of pills. Good wheels, great hit on the head... Yes, saying goodbye to them, Edik said loudly: "Don't worry, the fools will go after me, wherever I say!"

Apparently, all these facts were known to the investigation. However, the detained leaders of other gangs participating in the Sumgayit pogrom, who could shed light on these gloomy figures in raincoats, were taken out of Azerbaijan. They were all tried not in Baku and Sumgayit, but in other cities of the USSR. Why did they do it? What had to be hidden from the people?

Actually, on these issues, which remained open, my conversations with Aslan Ismayilov ended.

Many years have passed since then. However, it seems that the gloomy veil of secrecy over the events of thirty-three years ago is beginning to gradually open. For the first time, publications began to appear in reputable media, the authors of which, trying to restore historical justice, took up the reconstruction of the most difficult period of the collapse of the USSR. Indeed, by and large, it was from the Sumgayit events and the preceding pogroms of Azerbaijanis in Armenia that the model of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict began to be realised. After Sumgayit, Azerbaijan de facto lost control of Karabakh. A few months later, a special management committee will be created in Karabakh, headed by the notorious Gorbachev official Arkady Volsky. The committee removed Karabakh from subordination of local Azerbaijani authorities and introduced a special regime of direct rule of the Centre in the autonomous region. In September 1989, under the pressure of the Azerbaijani public, the committee was abolished. However, a few months later, an amorphous mixed government structure was again created in Karabakh: the Organising Committee headed by Viktor Polyanichko, the former second secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Azerbaijan SSR. During the aggravation of the Armenian-Azerbaijani confrontation, the transformation of the conflict into active hostilities, the Organising Committee of Polyanichko was dissolved. Thus, it was precisely the Sumgayit events that paved the way for Azerbaijan to lose control of Karabakh.

In my opinion, albeit a belated, but nevertheless realistically enlightening society, attempts by politicians, public figures, and publicists to finally fill the historical vacuum associated with the mechanisms of the tragedies that have befallen Sumgayit, Baku, Uzbekistan, Georgia, the Baltic States, became possible first of all, thanks to a sober and impartial assessment of those distant events given by the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin and the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev.

I would like to believe that with their light touch everything that was consciously turned upside down will gradually fall into place...

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