First refugees of the dying USSR
The Soviet state dealt itself a crushing blow in November 1987, resigning itself to the expulsion of 200,000 Azerbaijanis from Armenia.
Speaking about the stages of the collapse of the USSR, experts often offer a simplified chronology: the events in Sumgait (February 1988) - the war in Karabakh (1988 - 1994) - the war in South Ossetia (1989 - 1992) - interethnic tensions in Uzbekistan, Moldova, Lithuania, Latvia (1989 - 1991) ...
Experts strongly emphasize that the entire interethnic flywheel of the Soviet collapse began to spin in Nagorno-Karabakh, whose parliament on February 20, 1988 appealed to Moscow, Baku and Yerevan with a request to transfer the NKAO to Armenia.
In fact, the tragedy of the peoples of Azerbaijan, Armenia and the USSR at the end of the 20th century originates elsewhere - in the Kafan and Meghri regions of the Armenian SSR. In November 1987, the forced expulsion of the Azerbaijani population from Kafan began. In total, about 200 thousand Azerbaijanis lived in Armenia at that time. Within three months, almost all of them were expelled from their homes. These were the first refugees in the USSR during the perestroika era. Instead of ringing the alarm, attracting the attention of all healthy forces of society, identifying the instigators and giving them public condemnation, the Soviet leadership actually ignored the crimes against its citizens. The CPSU Central Committee pretended that nothing terrible was happening in the Armenian SSR. The genie, disastrous for the whole country, was released from the bottle in Kafan. And two years later, the whole country was already filled with refugees.
The tragic exodus of Azerbaijanis from Armenia in November 1987 is still either not spoken about at all, or they mention it in passing - they themselves left. But there is no voluntary simultaneous exodus of 200 thousand from their homes to the unknown, especially in the cold season and in heating houses. There is no need to remind that before that, for the last time, in 1944, deported Vainakhs, Karachais and Balkars were taken away from the Caucasus in heating huts.
English journalist Thomas de Waal writes in his book Black Garden: “In November 1987, two freight cars with Azerbaijanis who were forced to flee from Kafan due to interethnic clashes arrived at the Baku railway station. Very little information about this incident has survived, it was not covered in the press at all, but eyewitnesses of those events remained. Sveta Pashayeva, a widowed Armenian woman from Baku, described how she saw the refugees who arrived in Baku and how she wore them clothes and food:
“People came and said that two carriages with naked, undressed children had arrived from Kafan, and we went there to look. They were Azerbaijanis from Kafan. I was at the station. And I saw two boxcars myself. The doors were open, and two long boards, like railings, were nailed to the wall so that people would not fall out of the car on the way. We were asked to bring anything we could to help the refugees. And I - not only me alone, but very many - have collected old children's clothes, some things. I saw them myself. There were men there, so rustic, dirty, with long hair and beards, old people, children. "
On January 25, 1988, the historian Arif Yunusov was going to work at the Academy of Sciences in Baku when he saw new evidence of the flight of Azerbaijanis from Kafan. Four red "Ikarus" stood in front of the building of the Supreme Soviet of Azerbaijan. Yunusov recalls the passengers on those buses: “They were all in a terrible state. Mostly there were women, children and old people. There were few young people. Many were severely beaten. They shouted. "
It so happened that these disadvantaged people were settled in the Sumgait region. Realizing that the path to their homes is closed for them forever, they turned into a tough electrified mass of people, into which skillful provocateurs sent their destructive charges in the last days of February of the same year.
The writer Alexander Prokhanov recalled these events in the newspaper Zavtra: “I witnessed how deep-seated, perhaps since the creation of the world, hatred flared up. From the small town of Kafan, in Armenia, the Azerbaijanis compactly living there were expelled. Under the threat of extermination, they abandoned all their property, at home and, with children in their arms, with old people sitting on carts, left Armenia, overcame the pass, losing people along the way, and escaped persecution in Azerbaijan. Sumgait received them ...
Gorbachev, the destroyer of the Soviet Union, having learned about the outbreak of the crisis, did not take responsibility for this crisis. He threw responsibility from the center onto the warring republics, left the conflict at the mercy of the awakened hatred. This is how the Soviet Union collapsed. This is how the Karabakh war began. "
Still, the destruction of the USSR and the Karabakh war, judging by the stories of an English journalist and a Russian writer, like many other eyewitnesses, took their fatal start not in the NKAO, but in the Armenian town of Kafan, in which Azerbaijanis lived compactly until the fall of 1987. Now they are not there, but instead of the hardworking population, a monument appeared to the accomplice of German Nazism Garegin Nzhdeh. Is it more important now than the poorest post-Soviet republic?
After the agreement on cessation of hostilities reached on November 9, Azerbaijani refugees are returning to Karabakh. Sooner or later, the turn of the refugees from the former Kafan and Meghri regions will come (now this is one region of Syunik and in the near future there will be a railway and a road, which received the unofficial name "Nakhichevan corridor"). People must return to where their fathers and grandfathers lived, where they were buried. In the end, the new generation of the two peoples will still choose peace and development, rather than enmity and decline. The Azerbaijani authorities today have a very serious task - to show the whole world as soon as possible that the returned territories are reviving, becoming suitable for a happy life after decades of devastation.