Witnesses of the Armenian Genocide in Baku – 1990 – Charleston Gazette-Mail

Witnesses of the Armenian Genocide in Baku - 1990After long years of torment and expectations, the spouses Violetta and Ivan Petrosyan received US citizenship. Russia was indicated in the court’s materials as Violetta’s homeland since she had had to leave her actual homeland Azerbaijan 30 years prior as it had become unsafe to live there. This was reported by Anna Patrick on the website of the newspaper “Charleston Gazette-Mail”.

As the author writes, Ivan and Violetta Petrosyan used to live in Baku. In 1988, the couple witnessed the Azerbaijani aggression against the Armenians. They saw with their own eyes how Azerbaijanis beat and murdered Armenians on the streets in broad daylight for their nationality. They saw many Azerbaijanis chanting hate words and carrying posters with the words “Kill all Armenians!” and “Death to Armenians!”

Both Ivan and Violetta along with their children – 4 years old Olga and 8 years old Julia – are Armenians. All of them were born in Azerbaijan, and their Armenian roots distinguished them. By the time the conflict began, Ivan had become a successful space engineer, and Violetta had been the deputy principal in a local school.

Their friends were buying one-way tickets to Moscow, but Ivan and Violetta decided to stay in Baku with the hope that hostilities in the Karabakh conflict zone would soon cease and everything would be as before. However, this wouldn’t happen.

Little Olga was no longer accepted to kindergarten. Its director – a woman of Azerbaijani nationality – told Violetta that she could not guarantee the safety of the little girl in the kindergarten. During this period, it became known that Violetta’s cousin had been severely beaten, and their neighbor, also an Armenian, had been thrown off of a second-floor balcony and killed.

The Petrosyan spouses did everything possible to remain unnoticed. They did not leave their house. And when Ivan was going to work by bus, he turned his face to the window and his back to the passengers so that none of them could see his face. He hoped that in this way, no one would notice the bump on his nose indicating his Armenian identity.

“We lived in fear throughout the year. Every day, we said “goodbye” to each other, not knowing whether we would meet in the evening or not,” Violetta said.

When Violetta and Ivan were at work, Violetta’s mother was looking after the children at home. Suddenly, one day, some strange men knocked on the door. Fortunately, their neighbor intervened, telling the visitors that the owners weren’t home and that they couldn’t be found here generally. Violetta’s mother silently stood outside the door and listened, with her hands covering the mouths of the girls.

The men left. The next night, the Petrosyan family was forced to leave their home, taking with them only two backpacks with the most necessary things. The girls picked up their favorite toys. They had enough money for a night train. They left for a mountain village in Russia where a friend of their family offered his support.

Thus, in one of the cold days of January 1989, they left everything they had, everything that was dear to them because of the threat of being killed on ethnic grounds.

Russia has become a refuge for many Armenians, including the Petrosyan family. They moved to the city of Volgograd where they settled in a small one-room shack. That was all they could afford. The whole family slept in one room where there was neither gas nor water. Several times a day, they went to fetch water.

Within the framework of a large church conference, the Petrosyan family arrived in the US for the first time. They would stay in Indiana. Their host family arranged a tour and even showed them a college in which, thanks to their help, Olga would soon study. In 2006, the couple once again arrived in the United States, deciding to stay there forever.

During the trials, they proved to be victims of racial, religious, and political persecution. The process was long, but they achieved a positive result. Soon, they were granted US citizenship.

On January 13-19, 1990, a large-scale pogrom of the Armenian population has been committed in Baku, culminating the new Armenian genocide in Azerbaijan in 1988-1990. After the pogroms in Sumgait (February 26-29, 1988), prosecutions, beatings, murders with particular cruelty, public mockery, riots of individual apartments, seizure of property, forced evictions, and illegal sacking of Armenians began in Baku.

By January 1990, about 35-40 thousand Armenians had remained out of the former community in Baku that had 250.000 Armenians. Those remaining were mainly people with disabilities, the elderly and sick, and relatives caring for them. Since January 13, 1990, pogroms became organized, purposeful, and widespread.

There are numerous testimonies of atrocities and murders committed with exceptional cruelty, including gang rape, burning alive, throwing from balconies, dismemberment, and beheading.

The exact number of victims of the Armenian genocide in Baku is still unknown – according to various sources, from 150 to 400 people were killed, hundreds were maimed. The pogroms lasted a week with the total inaction of the authorities of Azerbaijan, the USSR, as well as the internal troops and the numerous Baku garrisons of the Soviet army. Those who escaped death were forcibly deported. Only on January 20, 1990, Soviet troops were brought in to establish order.


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