The Feat of Arfenia Khachiyan In the Wake of the 1990 Baku Pogroms

The Feat of Arfenia Khachiyan

There are people who you once meet and then feel the frequent need to communicate with. That was my acquaintance with Adik, one of those Baku Armenians who, having survived the pogroms, ended up in Yerevan in February 1990.

Adik (Adolf Khachiyan) is the only and, alas, prodigal son in a family of hereditary Baku intellectuals. His maternal grandfather had studied philosophy at the Sorbonne, and his father was a famous engineer and inventor, one of those who laid a city in Neft Daşları. His mother was a financier with a Moscow education.

Adik himself played the piano very well (taught by his grandmother and mother), spoke fluent French (his grandfather himself had taught him French), and had a pretty reckless profession for the 80s and 90s – he was a pickpocket who had served a few sentences.

…Adik was looking for his mother whose trace had been lost during the pogroms. Although Arfenia was known to many people on Solntsev Street in Baku, many of the refugees did not manage to get news about her.

Adik was suffering – in addition to natural and understandable feelings, it is well known how much the mother’s cult is honored in the criminal world. Relying on “official channels” did not make sense.

But the criminal world has its own laws and traditions, which in such situations can be more effective than state ones. In short, a proposal was sent through intermediaries to Baku, and from there, consent was obtained with a security guarantee to allow someone to “go there” and find out everything possible about the fate of Arfenia.

Two voyages yielded nothing, although a lot of work was done. The “investigator” was even given access to a number of documents at the prosecutor’s office and the police. However, there still was little hope.

After the third visit, the picture became clear. The visitor found the Azerbaijani policeman who, by chance, had been a witness to the last hours of Arfenia Khachiyan.

…Another batch of Armenian refugees was being transported from Baku to Krasnovodsk by ferry. Refugees were accompanied by Azerbaijani police. Already in the open sea, police dragged an Armenian girl aged 12-13 years into their cabin and raped her.

About 10-12 male refugees rushed to help her. They were met by warning shots. The men, conscious of their powerlessness, flounced in the aisles, and the cries of the girl and the laughter of the rapists continued to be heard.

An elderly Armenian woman opened the door of the cabin. It was Arfenia with a grenade in her hand. She yelled a curse and threw herself into the thick of rapists… Two died on the spot, one a little later, and another is to live on this earth with empty eye sockets.

…Azerbaijanis threw the body of Arfenia into the sea, and a protocol was drawn up in Krasnovodsk that an explosion had occurred on the Soviet Azerbaijan ferry…

Vladimir Harutyunyan, “Voice of Armenia” newspaper, October 11, 1997, No. 114 (18176)

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