Pogroms against Armenians in Soviet Azerbaijan

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Born 1956

Foreman, High-Rise Construction Crew Azerbaijani Stalkonstruktsia Construction and Installation Administration

Resident at Building 12, Apartment 69

Microdistrict No. 5


I was born in Sumgait and lived there until the tragic events, until March 11. My family and I lived honestly, we were good Soviet citizens.

I was on vacation, I was supposed to return to work on March 9. On February 26 I went to my sister's in Block 2 and witnessed the following incident. On the night of the 26th her husband's car was broken into. The car was in the courtyard; they removed the windshield and took out the tape player, the cassettes, and some other things. Investigator Rustamov was at their apartment. Well it was almost five o'clock in the afternoon before he had finished his report. I went to tell my family that I was staying at my sis¬ter's until they had finished up the report. Leaving my sister's place I saw a crowd of 15 to 20 people across from our building. Someone shouted in Azerbaijani: "This is just the book, the movie will be out tomorrow!" I didn't pay any attention to them and didn't realize whom the comment was direct¬ed at.

I got home and said I would be staying longer and then returned. And then somewhere around ten o'clock Rustamov, the investigator, came by again. Well during that time my older brother had gotten an old windshield and we had put it in. And the investigator asked for a ride into town in my brother-in-law's car. We all went together.

What I did notice—this was after ten o'clock—is that little pieces of glass, shards from broken automotive windows, were scattered along the entire road, along our whole route. Well, I thought to myself, a bus probably got into an accident on the way, from the vibration all the glass fell out. That's what I supposed at the time.

In conversing with us the investigator said that a man, an Armenian, was killed on the evening of the 26th in Microdistrict No. 12. This, Rustamov the investigator told us. Well, I asked what the cause of the murder was. He said it was because of a woman. Maybe it really was because of a woman, but it's hard to believe that now.

We drove to two different places and on the way back my brother-in-law and I saw two booths on Narimanov Street: a boot-repair booth and the oth¬er, a tailor's I think, and another, smaller booth where they sold sausages, across from the department store in Block 30. Well all the windows were broken, not a single window was intact. I spent the night at home, and everything was normal: television, the usual-al. And in the morning at 8:30 I went back to Block 2 again. Well my sister started saying things like there had been a demonstration at the City Party Committee the night before and that they were going to kill the Armenians ... I shouted at my sister, saying do you understand what you are saying? You're living in the Soviet Union! How can they kill the Armenians? Just what country are we in? Don't we have any police? Aren't there any authorities?

I yelled at her and we left. We left, but my brother-in-law was extremely upset because his mother and sister were at the dacha. He said we should go get them, there was a lot of tension in town.

And so we were coming to the bus station and witnessed this. There was this mob; there, a wild mob, there were quite a lot of them, now I can't say how many there were, but it was very many.

There was a man, a young man, as it turned out, running, falling in front of the crowd. There, along the Street of the 26 Baku Commissars, for almost two blocks, they kicked him like at a soccer match. His mother ran along next to the crowd pleading and begging, and she was struck too. They beat that woman, but she didn't fall down. She ran in front of the crowd and the son—it was like soccer, I don't know how else to describe it—they drove him to the end of Block 14. Later we found out that he's 28 years old, an Armenian, his name is Vagif, and, it turns out, he's a friend of my brother-in-law. When the crowd went off toward the embankment we drove around the block and my brother-in-law went up to their place. Vagif lived on the first floor in a corner building in Block 14. My brother-in-law came out, there were tears in his eyes, and he says, "I can't believe something like this could happen in the Soviet Union. They beat him badly," he says, "he's barely breathing." My brother-in-law said the family asked him to buy bread. We got the bread and dropped it off and went to the dacha. The dacha is 2 to 3 miles from town. We picked up his mother and sister and brought them back to town. Returning from Block 2 I said I had to go visit my mother. She lives near the bus station, in Block 36. I had already figured it out; I already knew that the city was without leadership and without police. It was already clear that the Armenians had to decide their own fate. There were no ties between us, everybody had only one thought: to find out about the fate of their relatives.

We drove up to the Nariman Narimanov monument on Druzhba Street and . . . stopped. There was a crowd there. There were about, well, some 50 people next to the monument, and surrounding this group of people was . . . a sea of people. Well I don't know, not 5,000, not 7,000, there were more, I don't know how many people were there; they were all standing and listening. There were very many young people there who were holding flags. And on one of the banners, if you can call them that, in black on red, it said "Death to the Armenians!" A man was speaking, he was 40 or 42, who kept repeating that in some district in Armenia an Azerbaijani settlement had been razed and that we should eliminate the Armenians, they should be killed. I also heard this: "A Muslim who doesn't drink the blood of the Armenians is no Muslim! Every Muslim should kill seven Armenians!"

Well his speech went on in that vein. And each time he said the word "death" there were two minutes of, well, not ovation, but of noise, and shouts. The noise and the shouting were being done by those 15-, 16-, and 19-year old guys. Well I just can't describe it: one of them is talking and the others are supporting him, those young guys were supporting what he said. He didn't have a microphone or a megaphone. Everyone listened quietly, and our car was on the side of the road, and I raised myself off the seat slightly and watched.

I noticed two young fellows. This was around twelve-thirty or one. It was windy and almost everyone had on jackets or coats. But these two fellows were wearing suits, they had beards, short little beards. The had moustach¬es, these thin moustaches—really thin. Yes, really thin black moustaches. They wore three-piece suits with dark shirts. Well I didn't notice if they were black or dark blue, but they were dark. And both of them had worry beads in their hands.

I noticed them because a group of people from the crowd went up to them. They said something, but I didn't see that those two fellows said any¬thing. They just showed something with gestures and with their heads, nod¬ding their heads and motioning with their hands. Then that group left and the crowd grew and grew, more and more people came. People kept coming, I don't know if they were gapers or what, but they kept coming and coming and coming. The atmosphere was very tense. I realized that those two were somehow leaders. At one point I looked closely in their direction and saw another group go up to them, almost immediately after the cries of "Kill the Armenians!" They went up to them, while they themselves were off to the side. And there were four cars there. I noticed: one was a dark GAZ-24, the other one was light, I think it was sort of steel-gray, and two Zhigulis. They were standing near those cars. And then two groups of people went up to them—one was respectably dressed, clean-shaven, all of them were well-dressed—they went up to them and one of them brought his hand up and back down sharply, and those two nodded their heads. He raised his arm and they both nodded twice. Both of them identically. Those two were so much alike that I even thought they were brothers. Later the investigator showed me a million photos, but I couldn't find them.

They had the beads in their left hands. They made a sharp motion with their right hands and then assumed their earlier position. They put their hands behind their backs and played with the beads. And at that moment the crowd moved off sharply in the direction of my mother's house.

This was near the bus station, and the first building, Building No. 9, where my mother lives, is between the Narimanov Club and the bus station.

Those young people with the banners and flags ran out ahead. One of the flags was white—it seemed strange to me that it was white—with a crescent on it. The white flag had a black crescent on it. I didn't know what kind of flag it was. And then 50 to 60 of those young people dashed off toward my mother's building. As it turns out they were running not toward the build¬ing, but toward a bus. There was this GAZ-53 bus with a blue light on top, a police bus, a white and blue one. The whole crowd of thousands ran after that group. The bus—I don't know if it was from Baku or from Sumgait—was full of policemen, Soviet police. And when the crowd ran toward the bus the policemen, jumping out the doors, ran toward the com¬muter train station, which is located on the opposite side of the bus station. They started running away. Do you understand? . . . they started running away. One of the policemen crawled out of the window and ran off. So they fled and the people in Building 9 stood there watching out their windows. And just then my ... I can't explain it... my arms and my legs went numb: the police, the Soviet police, were running away from them.

They ran up to the bus and smashed the windows, and with those very same banners and those very same cries they climbed up on the roof of the bus. Then they tried to turn the bus over by rocking it... And those police¬men ran toward the commuter train station and stood there, well, 800 to 900 yards away. They stood there and watched.

And now comes the question that any normal Soviet person seeing this would ask. Well, if our guardians of law and order ran away from that mob, then what were we, simple, unarmed Armenians, supposed to do? And the guardians showed us and gave us to understand that there was nothing we could do.

In short, we couldn't get to my mother's place because it was completely surrounded by that crowd. And we drove off in the other direction, having decided that we could get in from the other way. We drove around down¬town and came in from the train station side, and went into my mother's place. The crowd had already set off toward Microdistrict 3. Mother was crying. I say that our family has always lived completely by Soviet laws, by Communist laws. My father died in 1970. He served in the army for nine years, he fought in the war, he fought for four years, received medals, and was a party member starting in 1942. My mother joined the party in 1946. Well, seeing her tears, I knew that this was it. The end. Mother very strongly and coarsely insisted that I go home to Microdistrict 5 and rescue my wife and children. So with a broken heart I set out for my microdistrict. And there the Azerbaijani neighbors told me that all of downtown was surround¬ed by that gang. Really it was a band of nationalists. And everyone was say¬ing there was no way out of town. My brother-in-law asked an Azerbaijani family to hide him. I didn't do that.

And now I'll tell you how I set up a blockade in my room. And this in our town and in the Soviet Union, because according to what people were say¬ing, the mob was moving toward the third, fourth, and fifth microdistricts. I awaited my fate.

I blockaded the front door with whatever I could. This was on the 28th. I got some pepper ready—good thing we had five packages of pepper—a large axe, and a small one, for chopping meat. I wouldn't let my wife go to sleep. The children slept right near the open balcony—we lived on the fifth floor—and warned my wife that when they started breaking down the door she should take the children and jump down so as not to fall into the hands of those savages, so that I would know before they killed me that my family had died that way and not at the hands of that gang.

So we awaited our deaths the whole night. That night, the 28th, I didn't sleep a wink. I heard shots in town, but didn't know what kind of shots they were. I don't know if the gang was shooting or if it was our soldiers.

On the afternoon of the 29th I decided to go to my mother's. In the court¬yard I had already heard—the Azerbaijanis were saying so—that the great¬est pogrom and killing was taking place in Block 36 and Microdistrict No. 3, and that's where my mother's and brother's families lived. I went in that direction, but once again I couldn't get close. Those blocks were completely blocked off by the mob.

Going to Block 45 I saw snow, or at least I thought it was snow. It turned out to be foam. The fire department, about four vehicles, had poured foam over that wild crowd. Almost the entire lot near Block 45 was covered with that foam.

I saw this, too: a naked woman in the middle of the crowd. They were taking her in the direction of the hospital. She was entirely naked, wounded, and there was blood on her body. They dragged her, carried her, kicked her in the back, in the head, and dragged her toward the hospital, which is between the third and fourth microdistricts. After that I turned around and could barely walk all the way home; and I couldn't walk any farther, my legs had become paralyzed.

Sometime in the evening, at eight or eight thirty, I just sighed, a purely human sigh: past our microdistrict—my house is on the street side—drove two armored personnel carriers with our Soviet soldiers in them, and behind them, two Ikarus buses full of soldiers in helmets with shields. I realized what they were and sighed: our Soviet soldiers should be able and were obligated to stop that crowd.

I went outside. It was somewhere around eleven o'clock. The soldiers were warming themselves. It was cold that day, there was a light drizzle, and they were warming themselves near the exhaust pipe of the Ikarus. They would come up to the exhaust pipe of that Ikarus twenty at a time, and stand there warming their hands against the cold. I approached one of the soldiers and talked with him a bit and then went to see the Lieutenant Colonel. He said, "What's going on?" I said nothing much. He said, "Go home assured, we're taking care of your problem tomorrow. All blocks and microdistricts are surrounded by our troops—the assault landing brigade. You can be sure that now they won't touch a single hair on an Armenian head. You can be 100 percent sure of it, we guarantee it. Go home."

So I went home. And by five in the morning the armored personnel carri¬ers were driving back and forth: the microdistrict was completely cordoned off.

In the morning, somewhere around nine o'clock, I heard someone speak¬ing over a megaphone—this is on March 1 already—over a megaphone I hear: "Citizens of Armenian nationality!" Do you know how painful it was to hear and repeat that? "Citizens of Armenian nationality! For the sake of your safety we ask you to come out. We will transport you to a safe place." And this was in a Soviet city. It was our Soviet soldiers who had come to the aid of the Armenian people.

So I, my wife, who was pregnant, and the children—I have two small boys, five and six—went out. This is hard, painful to remember. And we climbed into the military vehicle and they took us away. We were stopped near the City Party Committee. Right across from the City Party Committee is the Samed Vurgun Cultural Facility of the Synthetic Rubber Production Association (we call it the SK among ourselves). And so when the soldiers took us to the City Party Committee and the SK—they're practically on the same square, they face one another—when we were driving into that square, even when we were driving into that square, soldiers with helmets, shields, and machine guns checked our vehicle, our military vehicle, and after that they let us in.

We got out of the car. One of the officers said, "You have small children; there isn't a single free space in the City Party Committee, all the stairway landings, all the rooms, all the spaces are completely jammed. If you can, settle your children into the Samed Vurgun Club." So we went to the SK. At the entrance there were so many people—and all of them were Armenians. This is the picture I saw upon entering the foyer: every yard, on every inch was covered with our people, our Soviet people, Armenians, on the con¬crete; on the floor ... I can't even describe how many people were crammed in there. Even at the entrances to the men's and women's lavatories, even a yard away from the toilets there wasn't room to put the children down, let alone put them to bed ... I can't describe what it was like there.

Everyone was outraged. They were demanding to be taken out of Azerbaijan. We demanded to see people on the Central Committee and the Secretary of the Central Committee. And then Demichev came, and saw, and heard our demands, and left.

On the 2nd we were still all demanding one thing: to be taken out of Azerbaijan.

Oh yes, there's something else I forgot, something that was very insulting to me. On the 29th all the people were hungry and cold. On the 1st they brought us flat, dry shortbread, rolls, and soft drinks. This was in the evening, around eight or nine o'clock. I myself bought two bottled soft drinks for two rubles. At first they were selling them for 50 kopeks, and lat¬er the salespeople were so insolent as to haggle over the prices. And we had small children, and we had nothing with us—nothing to eat and nothing to drink, and so we were forced to buy things at any price, just so our children would have something in their mouths.

And on the 2nd we told this to the Government Commission, to Seidov. I myself didn't say it, but he was told. And on the evening of the 2nd we demanded to see the Secretary of the Central Committee. We were told that we would see either Seidov, the Chairman of the Azerbaijani Council of Ministers, or Bagirov, the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Azerbaijani Communist Party. We categorically rejected the meeting and said that we would meet only with someone from the Central Committee in Moscow. We stood on the third floor of the City Party Committee, on the left side, for two and a half hours. The City Party Committee was divided into two parts: half was packed with us Armenians, and the other half had the headquarters of [Lieutenant] General Krayev and the Central Committee people.

And so we waited there some two and a half hours until the Central Committee representative met with us. It was Comrade Grigory Petrovich Kharchenko, a Deputy Department Head from the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. He came, I remember, at about nine-thirty. We left our meeting with him after noon. We demanded one thing: the organized evacuation of the Sumgait Armenians out of Azerbaijan. He understood us perfectly, and he stated frankly that any Soviet who had seen such horror should not have to live in that city, but there was no directive, no instructions stating that this could be done.

So that was where they were told how the salespeople treated us. And the next day the soldiers—this was at General Krayevs initiative—the sol¬diers started to provide us with food and drink. All of it was military rations. They did that both in the City Party Committee and the SK.

Deeply outraged that horrors such as these had been permitted in a Soviet city—which we included in our charges to the Central Committee, too—we demanded that we be evacuated from Azerbaijan and further demanded that the exact number of victims be made public.

Kharchenko said—and it had already been officially reported that 31 peo¬ple of various nationalities had died—Kharchenko told me personally, "Add a zero to the 31 and you've got a realistic figure." I'm telling you just what Kharchenko himself told me. That's how it was.

Why 31 people? After meeting with our people and others I supposed that some 60 to 70 Armenians had died, because everyone in town knew everyone else; no matter where you went—six here, five there, three there, two there: killed, raped, burned. I can't describe what all that we heard. We were crying every two minutes. The men cried hearing what had happened in our town. The men cried.

It was on the 2nd that I saw the woman named Karina, she was wearing a long coat. She was being carried, she couldn't walk. In order to get in to see Demichev she opened up her coat in front of all of us: she was entirely naked, all black and blue—just entirely black and blue. So that the soldiers and officers who wouldn't let us into the City Party Committee would see what condition she was in, and so that Demichev would see it. And they didn't let her in. And this was in front of all us Armenians. We all saw it.

We talked at length with the soldiers, and I talked with a Lieutenant Colonel who had almost had his eye put out. I can't even describe how that eye was hanging out. His hand was bandaged, too. We cried and said, 'What is this? And all of it here in our country? Why did this happen?' Such were the accusations we put to the Lieutenant Colonel. And he answered the fol¬lowing—I don't know his last name, he was wearing a police uniform, he was a Russian, tall, a big man; crying, he said: "How am I supposed to tell the parents of my soldiers that their sons died in the Soviet Union?" That's what the Lieutenant Colonel said.

Tremendous, tremendous thanks to our soldiers! Tremendous thanks to General Krayev! He is a real Soviet and a real Communist. There, after all the horrors, we realized that in the Soviet Union there really were Communists who carried out their Communist duty. And General Krayev was one of them. And our rank-and-file soldiers, our little soldiers, as my parents say, are also worthy of the title. They're heroes! Great thanks to them!

On the 3rd they took us to the village of Nasosny, to the military unit. There people were feeling better; they didn't calm down, but they were bet¬ter. Everyone received a soldier's cot with clean sheets and pillowcases. In the warm soldiers' barracks all the children had their own cots. And across from us the soldiers lived in tents and buses. I say it again, great thanks to our soldiers! They fed us—I served in the Army, and I know—they fed us wonderfully, they did everything they could so that everyone would be con¬tent, even if it could only be slightly.

We were under protection in Nasosny a while. The whole place was under guard: armored personnel carriers and soldiers with machine gun. On March 8 they took us to boarding houses, to the Khimik, Metallurg, and Energetik medical and health resorts ...

Before that, on March 1, I was able to go to Block 36, to the bus station, to see my mother, I forgot to mention it. And there, walking along Druzhba Street, I witnessed another horror. Looking at a building in Microdistrict 3, you could tell instantly which homes were Armenian: not a single window was unbroken. Just imagine it, when they were smashing out the window frames they took out pieces of the concrete too, right out of the building. That's how wildly, barbarically they destroyed! I saw those awful burned automobiles between the bus station and Block 34. There were many black spots on the asphalt, and there were the carcasses of burned buses and light vehicles. The whole area was surrounded by soldiers.

I went to my mother's from the commuter rail station side. The neighbors said that they had been taken away. They said that they were alive and well. I found them soon afterward ...

We often went up to the soldiers and officers. Can you imagine, they couldn't even talk. They couldn't do it. As soon as they opened their mouths, they would start crying. They had heard and seen it all, but they couldn't describe what they had seen in our town. An officer stood talking to me and crying . . . The soldiers were so terrified . . . Well I looked at them and they were all pale. Here's this soldier riding with us in the bus, accom¬panying us into town, and he's entirely pale himself. The smallest rustle and he would turn sharply and aim the muzzle of his machine gun in that direction, even though there were only Armenians on the bus. They were com¬pletely overcome with terror. Our officers and soldiers didn't know where they were, they didn't know what people or what type of people they were dealing with. Yes, I'll repeat it once again: Sumgait had been lorded over by a gang of nationalists, that was no group of hooligans . . .

On February 29 there were about 20 to 25 policemen standing near our microdistrict: this was off to the side, a bit better than about half a mile from the place where the foam was, where the excesses had taken place, where they raped the woman, where they demonstratively drove her, naked, around the whole town. They, the policemen, were standing there, about half a mile from that spot: they stood there smoking cigarettes. They were completely and utterly in agreement with what was happening, if not con¬tributing. Nothing was done on their part, that's a fact. And I think that the USSR Procuracy dealt with that honestly, humanely, and like Communists. I have faith in our USSR Procuracy, and I am sure of our country: not one of them will escape severe punishment. And they should be punished! So something like this will never again, anywhere, take place in our country... On March 9, when we were in the boarding house, someone asked the Gambarian boys (Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Gambarian had been brutally murdered with a crowbar, and his sons, our friends Roman and Sasha, were with us), someone asked, "Roman, did you get a death certificate?" He said, "Yes." "May I see it?" And can you imagine our horror when we read that death certificate. It said, "cardio-vascular impairment," and below, under the list of possible causes of death, the word "illness" was underlined. So their father had allegedly died from illness, from cardiovascular impairment. Well of course we were outraged.

Then a Government Commission on Sumgait was established, and we were greatly surprised and insulted that Seidpv, Chairman of the Azerbaijani Council of Ministers, was appointed its head. We were against it, but what could we do? We wrote a letter of appeal about Gambarian and went to the Government Commission. Before that we dropped by to see Lieutenant General Krayev, he read our letter and gave us his approval and sent us downstairs to the second floor, where the Government Commission was located. There were four people there, headed up by the Chair of the Union Council of Azerbaijan, she was the Commission's Deputy Chair, Lidiya Khudatovna Rasulova. The first thing she said was: "You do not have the right to write in Gambarian's name."

Besides that we demanded that we, or at least part of us, be evacuated from Azerbaijan in an organized fashion. This she refused. I asked her to give it to us in writing, so that we would have it on paper. And she said she'd give any Armenian a document that stated it was impossible to pro¬vide us with work and housing outside of Azerbaijan. I took this document with me to Armenia and submitted it to the Republic Council of Ministers.

We asked Lidiya Rasulova questions: Why did this happen? She gave the reason for it as being the alleged lack of instruction in Azerbaijani in any technical college or institute in Armenia. She gave us to understand that she did not fault the Azerbaijani leadership for what had had happened in Azerbaijan, even though we openly declared that the Azerbaijani leadership was responsible for what had happened in Sumgait.

On March 11 my family and I left for Yerevan. I want to say this, too: until the 11th it had been drummed it into us that Armenia would not take us, there was no place for us in Armenia. But I came here as an Armenian. We were received very well. On the way from the airport to the Council of Ministers I couldn't be calm for a moment—I'm a man, I'm 33 years old, and I cried the whole way . ..

Here they set us up in boarding houses, gave us shelter, and did every¬thing like it should be done.

And then on April 13, at the request of the Armenian and Azerbaijani leaderships, ten representatives of the Sumgait refugees went to Baku. Chairman Seidov of the Council of Ministers of Azerbaijan tried in earnest to convince us to return to Sumgait. On April 13 we said categorically, "No! We will not return to Sumgait, not a single Armenian will return to the City of Death." And there in the presence of Seidov, his manager of affairs, the new Chairman of the Sumgait City Executive Committee, and the new Secretary of the City Party Committee, I declared that the government of Azerbaijan was responsible for what had happened on February 27 to 29. It was their fault: from the First Secretary down to the janitors of the City Executive Committee, they are guilty of what happened in our city. The Sumgait authorities are guilty, and so is the Central Committee of the Azerbaijani Communist Party.

After my accusation of the Central Committee, Seidov stood up and said these exact words: "I am ready"—this is Seidov talking—"I am ready to get on my knees before you now and ask forgiveness. And tell the three thou¬sand Sumgait Armenians who are in Armenia that I will get down on my knees before each of them and ask forgiveness, just return to Sumgait."

We stated categorically: "No! We will not return to Sumgait!"

On the 13th they offered to take us to the city of Sumgait. The Chairman of the City Executive Committee rode with us in the van. We reached the City Party Committee, where we had been a month and a half before, and it was very painful to see the deserted square. We asked the Chairman to get off the bus and give us two hours' time to drive around the city and look around, ask questions, and determine what the situation was for ourselves. We were prepared for what we saw: it was no longer the same city. More than a month had passed. There were almost no Russians or Armenians to be seen. We went to see our friends who had stayed in Sumgait. I personally went to see seven Armenian families. In six of the seven households the men Were all away—all were looking for apartments outside of Azerbaijan. Six of the seven had seriously ill, bedridden people, old women, mothers. There Was a grown man in only one of the households. He said, "I've got 25 days left until I apply for my pension, and then I'm leaving here. I spoke with Russian men and women. We knew where they lived and we dropped by to see them. And I'll tell you what they think: they, too, no longer intend to live in that city.

Both the Chairman of the City Executive Committee and the First Secretary of the City Party Committee begged and pleaded for us to return. We cut them off, categorically: "No!"

We even refused to spend the night in Sumgait, even though they offered us rooms in the Sumgait Hotel. We drove to Baku. Incidentally, before we left we met an Armenian we knew near the City Executive Committee. We all went up to him. He was irritated, and completely pale. He says, "I've been harassed on the telephone for three days: 'Are you still alive?' I don't know what to do. I came to the City Executive Committee to complain."

Representatives of Azerbaijan came to the Armenian Council of Ministers on April 27 and 28. They assured us that our apartments were being kept safe, those that had property remaining in them. This turned out not to be the case. There is now information that on April 28, the apartment of our compatriot who is now in Armenia was robbed. Vagif Karoyevich Aslanian, born in 1951, who lived in Microdistrict No. 2, Building 2, Apartment 21. He is now living in the Masis Boarding House. He got a call from either his relatives or close friends saying that the door to his apartment was open, he should come. He went. He returned yesterday and stated that his apartment was robbed again. Two months after the events!

May 8,1988 Yerevan


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Born 1937

Retired (Class 2 Invalid) Previously Laundry Worker Sumgait Local Production


Resident at 28/19 Druzhba Street, Apartment 1

Block 5, Sumgait

If my two sons had died in a war I would not be grieving like I am now. I raised my children myself. One was three and a half and the other was only two when their father died at his plant, at work. It was so difficult to raise them, how miserable I was when I sent them off to the Army—how I wept, how I waited for their return, how I cried over each letter. I cried every day until their return, until they came back. How miserable I was!

My children! What, did I just raise them for the Azerbaijanis? I suffered, I raised them, and now they're gone. They never caused any trouble, no trou¬ble at all, they were such smart children. If you want, go out to our court¬yard and ask around what kind of children they were . . . But the Azerbaijanis came, smashed our windows, broke down our door, and killed my two sons, Albert and Valery . . . how can I bear this? When someone's children are sick, they have a fever, they cry, the mother, the parents—how do they feel? I'm a parent, just like you...

The bastards! They killed my children! I am now all alone, without my children, my Valery, my Albert, with nothing at all ... What did you want from us?! Did you want to take dead people's money? To steal their clothes and wear them? To take their apartments so that your wife and children could live there? I wish you were all dead! That's what I want! . . .

Albert and Valery were both unmarried, they were both engaged. I want¬ed to have their weddings, and those Azerbaijanis broke our windows, and I shouted so ... I called so much on the phone—no police, not one of those bastards came to the aid of my children, my children lay on the street until four o'clock in the morning, in front of our building, one on the left, one on the right.

I have lived in this building since 1954. My husband worked at the facto¬ry ... Albert was three and a half and Valery was two when there was an accident at work and their father died. I was pregnant. My daughter was born when I was on the road, 40 days after the death of my husband. My brother and I were on our way somewhere, we got off at the station, and Alvina was born at the hospital there. From there I returned home. It was so hard, I worked so hard, and my brothers, my sister, and my mother all helped ... I barely raised those children ... I raised them, sent them to school. They finished ten grades and went into the Army, and came back. Albert had entered the Institute, he was going to school in the city of Baku. Later he became an economist. Valery taught at the DOSAAF [The Voluntary Society for Collaboration with the Army, Air Force, and Navy.] Alvina also finished ten grades, then, on to accounting school, I gave her hand in mar¬riage—this had taken all my strength, all my tears ...

There was so much ahead of my sons, and the Azerbaijanis came and killed them.

There had been rumors before that day. Valery had been at the City Party Committee building, he came home and told Albert, "Albert, you know, the Azerbaijanis have started saying, 'Leave our soil, Armenians, leave, we're going to get you!' " Our precinct policeman saw Valery there and said, "Valery, what are you standing here for? Don't stand here and listen, go home." He came home and didn't go outside after that, he sat at home. He told Albert, and Albert said, "Just look at what they're up to, what they want from us!" Anyway they sat there chattering, the two of them, and I listened . . . They were having tea and we look and see smoke outside, a car was burning, they were burning a car across the way. Valery says, "Mother, get ready, if we survive today we're going to flee to Krasnodar tomorrow." There was a moment like that ... I put on my scarf. I didn't put on my coat, it's really heavy, I put on a robe and my slippers and threw on my scarf, we were going to leave, to flee. I told Valery, "There's a little money there, get it," and he said, "Mother, we don't need anything, let's go." And I say, "At least take the gold." And he repeated, "We don't need anything, let's go." We were just about to open the door when they started breaking the windows ... All five windows: our apartment is a corner apartment, on the first floor. They were hitting the windows with rocks . . . They started ringing the doorbell: "Open up, Armenians! We're going to kill you!" And softly, Valery told me: "Mother, go hide in the bathroom." And I'm crying, "What do you mean, that you're going to stay out here while I hide?" And he gestured with his eyes, go, go...

Now they were hacking the door down with an axe. They pushed and pushed, but they couldn't break it down, so they began chopping it with an axe, into pieces, starting at the top . . . The whole door, from top to bottom-There was nothing left of the door. I made a sign to my children: Retreat! ... I didn't shout, I thought, now they're going to kill us ... Valery went pale and shouted, "Hand me the pistol, I'm going to kill them!" He said that on purpose. They ran away, they were just hiding somewhere, as it turned out, and we were on the stairs, there was no longer any door ...

We went out onto the landing, and they were at us with rocks. They threw a stone and hit my husband in the head. He started bleeding. The four of us were standing there: Albert, Valery, my husband, and I. Valery took my husband's and my hand in his and says, "Mother, take Father and go upstairs, we'll be right up." Upstairs we had Russian neighbors, in our entryway on the third floor. The Nosunovs, Vanya and his wife Nadya. The two of us went upstairs, and their door was unlocked. We went inside.

Nadya was at work, doing the second shift, and her husband was sick in bed. He has a heart problem and almost never goes anywhere at all. We went into the other room and hid in there. An hour later Nadya comes home from work. She comes home and says, "Your home . . . the rug is burning outside ... your belongings, they are dragging them outdoors, the bastards

" I say, "Did you see Albert and Valery?" She says, "No, I didn't see them." Later she went outside again and when she came back she gave me some medicine. She had seen them down there and found out everything, but only told me: "Emma, they probably ran off." My close friends call me Emma. "Emma, probably it was all over, and your children probably ran away, don't be afraid, don't be afraid, don't be afraid ..." She saw it all, and my children lay there until four o'clock in the morning, on the asphalt, bloody ... Albert was on the left, and Valery was on the right. . . Then the soldiers came and took them to the hospital. But I myself didn't see this, I was told about it. From the window I only saw them carrying our things. The police were taking them ...

I saw Albert and Valery for the last time when they sent my husband and me upstairs. We probably hadn't made it up two or three flights before they had killed them. Those animals dragged my two sons out of the stairwell and killed them! Bastards, bastards, bastards! I want to go and kill them, too.'

I want to fly up to see Gorbachev. We've sent so many letters and tele¬grams, and all we get is "Received," "Received." So what, "Received"? They tell us they've received them, but why aren't they doing anything? When there's one little accident on the main drag in Sumgait a hundred policemen show up to help. But when two sons—not small boys, either—lie on the asphalt all night, no one comes to help. If this had happened in wartime, in 1941, I would have sat there crying and said, "It's not only my sons who were killed." All Soviet people went off to fight during the war, but that night only my children were at war, the ones I raised alone, without a father, not ever even saying the word "Father" because they grew up without even seeing one ... And now, when they'd already started working, earning mon¬ey to bring to their mother, bringing presents to their mother, trying to make her happy—those bastards come and kill my children for nothing. I want to kill their murderers. I will not rest... I don't care if a year passes, two ... as long as I live I will avenge them.

Let everyone who had relatives in Sumgait, let all the women come here and write their petitions about who of theirs was killed: their husbands, sons, and daughters, and we'll put all the petitions together and send them to Comrade Gorbachev. Who has seen or heard that in our times five win¬dows with bars on them are smashed, a door is broken, and two sons are killed? I'm a parent, you're a parent, doesn't your heart bleed for your children? I'm a parent just like you. I want very much to make an appeal to Gorbachev. I want either to send him a telegram to come here or for me to go there. In 1953 I came to this area with nothing at all, and now I have noth¬ing at all once again ... I worked for 35 years raising my children and now they're gone, my apartment is gone, and my things are gone. If a woman doesn't cook one meal for her family, the kids run all around saying, "We're hungry, what she would do? Why isn't there a meal, Mamma?" Well Gorbachev is our mother, our father, our parent. And now when they've killed my children and I see Gorbachev smiling on television I just want to smash the screen. I'm a person too, I want to smile too, I also want to dance and see the weddings of my sons, live with my daughters-in-law and my grandsons and granddaughters. That's why I raised them.

I wouldn't trade my sons for anything. I'll have my daughter, I'll have my son-in-law, I'll have my granddaughters ... I wouldn't trade my Albert and my Valery for anything . . . When my arm was broken at work and I became handicapped it was they who washed me and did the laundry and took care of me, they were such smart children . . . It's as though I lost two families. One was Valery's. He would have wed, had children, and become his own man, he would have had his friends. I lost another family too—Albert's.

I raised my children without their father. Gorbachev didn't pay the costs of their upbringing. Gorbachev didn't give me a single free pound of sugar from the store. When the registration and enlistment office sent Albert off to the Army he was five minutes late and they had already started looking for him . . . but when they killed them no one said "Find them." They don't know where I am and they don't know where my children are buried, who buried them, who cried for them . . .

They don't understand such things. They just gave the order: Go to Block 5, Druzhba Street No. 28, Apartment 1, there's a prosperous family there. They gave them a list at the Housing Office, and now the head of the Housing Office is in jail, the head of the Housing Office for Block 5. I told them there and in the City Executive Committee that if we Armenians weren't wanted they could have come to us or called us and said, "Avanesian, you can't live here, leave our lands, leave our apartments." Why didn't they tell me? If they had told me I would have left the city myself, I would have found another place. For myself and for my children. And now I'm alone . . . Who needs me? Where am I to go? Now I have to buy glasses, blankets, a television—while my television is being watched by some Azerbaijanis somewhere.

It started at ten o'clock in the evening, and my children lay there until four o'clock, and they stole, stole, stole ... I called for an ambulance—none. I called the police—nothing. One wouldn't come, the other wouldn't come . • . why not? And one little accident and a hundred policemen show up. No one came to help my children. When I went to the Procuracy and told them about the police, a Russian from Moscow says, "Why do you keep saying that the police took your things?" Because I'm a witness, I saw the police car come, I saw them take my things. They even took the meat and butter we had bought with our ration coupons ...

And just like before, the response to my telegrams is, "Received," "Received," "Received." Well I know they were received! So what, you received them. Do something! I already know they received them.

At the Procuracy I told them that when the trial of my sons' murderers takes place I will kill them myself. That guy who came from Moscow told me, "If you kill them you'll go to jail." I say, "Fine, I'll be glad to go to jail, jail will be just fine." He raised his hands and said, "Look, if you want you can take your murderers on by yourself." They've been lining their pockets, too. That's why they're not doing anything. When they first came they talked completely differently, and now, four months later, the Azerbaijanis have lined their pockets. And now they're not doing anything.

It was easy for them to come and kill in one minute. I worked my fingers to the bone for 35 years and lost it all in one minute. I don't have the strength anymore. I'm ashamed of myself before my brother and my sister and her sister-in-law. As much as I've been crying . . . The sister-in-law couldn't stand it, she took her children and went to live with her relatives in Kiev. My other brother already got sick: I cried and cried and he got too upset, now he's in the hospital . . . Their family has been completely upset because of me...

I cry all the time, I don't eat anything, and both my sister and my brother have become ill. My other brother got sick too, and they sent me here from Lokbatan, thinking maybe I'd feel better here. There I would go to the ceme¬tery every day, be upset, and cry and cry and cry ... the ambulance, the ambulance . . .

My children's teachers were always happy with them, and now they've found out what happened and they're crying along with me, Russians, Albert's and Valery's teachers.

My children always treated me with respect. When I was in the hospital they would come, they'd talk to the doctors. When I went home they helped me cook meals, I couldn't use my arm at all. They did the meals and combed my hair, went to the market ... I lost very, very, very, very . . . very good children ... I just can't live without them. That day I was at my brother's I almost threw myself off the balcony. I had all but done it and then I started feeling sorry for my brother. I feel sorry for him. It's so bad I told Alvina, "Just give me some vinegar, I'll drink that..." One way or another I'm going to die, I'll throw myself off the balcony, there's no way out...

July 7, 1988 Yerevan


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Born 1962


Sumgait Zelenstroy Construction

Administration Plant Nursery

Resident at Sverdlov Street 13/30, Apartment 11

Stroiteli Village, Sumgait

Three months have passed since I lost my two brothers, Albert and Valery Avanesian. It happened on February 28, at seven-thirty in the evening, when it was already getting dark. Eighty or ninety people attacked our building. They shouted, "Out with the Armenians!", "Death to the Armenians!", and "Armenians, open up!" They surrounded the building—we lived on the first floor—they surrounded the building and started destroying the window bars and breaking down the door with the axes and rods they had in their hands, shouting "Death to the Armenians!"

I'm recounting this from the words of my mother, Rima Avanovna Avanesian. At the time I was at my mother-in-law's, since my husband was at work and I didn't want to be alone with my children. I had been at home that morning, but no one was there: my brother had gone out to find out what was happening and I decided I'd go to the village since it was quieter, calmer there. There were already crowds of people walking around town. But it was only when I was in the village that I learned that something terri¬ble was happening, that everything was being broken everywhere, and that they were breaking into homes, raping women, and slaughtering people to cries of "Down with the Armenians!" and "Death to the Armenians!"

The next day a friend came to my husband, Vagif Baluian, and told him, "I think that Alvina's brother is lying dead and a lot of people are jumping on him." My husband didn't understand what he was saying: What? What? Jumping?" The friend said, "One group jumps, the other group waits, and then the other group start to jump." My husband didn't believe him, and the friend went on: "If you don't believe me get in the car, we'll drive over there." (He's an Azerbaijani himself, this friend.) "I'll take you there. Don't drive your car, because they might turn it over and burn you along with it." My husband didn't tell me anything about this, I still didn't know. He got his father, my father-in-law, and they went to our place, and my mother and stepfather were sitting there outside shouting . . . My husband went inside and saw that it was no longer a home. He put my mother and father in the car and brought them to his mother's house . . . We were all sitting inside, we were all shaking ourselves: suddenly we might be attacked. There, at my mother-in-law's house, Mamma wailed and told us what happened that night. We found out more later.

When they started breaking down the door to get in and when the light from the entryway came through the crack the younger brother shouted, "Albert, give me the pistol!" Well, we didn't have any pistol. He was just say¬ing that so they would get scared and run off. They scattered, but one of them stayed and watched. Then Mamma pushed Albert and Valery out of the way and said, "If something happens, let them kill me." Albert grabbed her by the hand, pushed her away, and said, "Go hide!" But she wouldn't leave. She stood there. She saw that person's face. She said, "I wouldn't rec¬ognize him, but he was big, tall, and dark. He was looking at me," she said, "I had never seen him before. He looked at me with terrified eyes, thinking that I had a pistol and that I was going to shoot him. But he realized that there was no pistol. Two or three minutes passed and there were no shots. He ran out of the entryway. We thought that that was the end of it, that it had ended up OK." That's how my Mamma tells it. But that was only the beginning. He had run out to call back the others. Then my stepfather, Vladimir Mikhailovich, said, "Stay here in the entryway, I'll go look." He had two knives. He said, "If they find you, run, and I'll delay them somehow." He had no sooner gone out than the first stone hit him. It was a huge stone. Two or three more stones hit him. They wounded his head, in the temple. He lost consciousness and fell down. When Mamma and my brothers ran to him he was bleeding profusely. Then my oldest brother, Albert, told Mamma, "Get him up and take him to the third floor." She says, "No, you come upstairs too." There was a Russian woman living up there on the third floor. Albert said, "No. You take Father and go up there." And Valery, too, shouted, "Get a move on! We'll be right up!" She said, "I'm not going without you! Come quickly!" She pulled on their arms, but they wouldn't go. Then she somehow got Father up to the third floor.

My brothers were stalling for time to protect them. They managed to get to Aunt Nadya's place. And the mob fell upon Albert and Valery. Valery cried out. Albert shouted to Valery: "Go back, go back." Valery said, "I'm not afraid of them!" Our neighbors on the first floor heard them. Valery went right at the mob, but 18 or 20 people flew upon him and started beating him, and they knocked him down right away. He got one of them, too, but there were too many of them. They knocked him down and started kicking him and beating him with rods. They beat him on his head. Albert went to his brother's aid. Valery shouted, "Get out of here" at him, but he wouldn't leave. He went at them. They beat him on the head with the rods, and he fell down, too. He fell and they set upon him, too, and began beating him and stomping him with their feet. When Valery was lying there half-dead they stabbed him. There were five knife wounds right in the heart. But Albert held on a long time. When the mob was wrecking our apartment a Russian woman, one of our neighbors from the other entryway, Olya, went to him. She said, "I thought he was already dead. But he recognized me in the dark." He said, "Aunt Olya, help me. Call an ambulance." She said, "Albert, the Phones, all the lines have been cut. I can't drag you away because they'll see us." He said, "Please, call an ambulance, I can't take it, everything in my belly is on fire." He had a knife wound in his left lung. He lay there until morn¬ing.

This happened in the yard in front of our building, right under the win¬dows of our apartment, you could say. We had a corner apartment in the far entryway. One brother lay in front of the building, near the entryway, and the other, under the side window.

Late on the 29th, somewhere around four o'clock, the police came, but instead of picking them up and taking them to the hospital or to the morgue, they started going over the apartment first. Well from upstairs Mamma saw them carrying bags and taking everything. They had a big car, a really big one, like the paddy wagons they use for transporting hooligans. She says, "I saw them carrying bags, full bags, out of our apartment. Well," she says, "I don't know what was in them, but they put them in the truck." Those police¬men went in and out two or three times. That wasn't enough for them. Then they brought the truck up to the entryway, right up to the doors, and started carrying out everything else. Mamma hadn't seen the hooligans carrying the things out, but she did see them breaking them up and burning them.

I already mentioned that my husband knew of all this on the morning of the 29th. His Azerbaijani friend told him. Later I asked him, "If he's such a good friend of yours how come he didn't come to see you that night, why didn't he tell you what they were doing with your relatives, why did he wait till the next day to come?" That fellow said, "I was walking down the street and saw him." According to his words he only saw one of my brothers: "When I saw him I started to go up to him to drag him off to the side, but they pushed me away and said, 'Get out of here or we'll see how you like it.' So they tossed me out of their way and I went home. I went home and told my wife," he said, "and she said, 'stay at home, don't leave the house.'"

My husband left immediately. There were Russians, Armenians, and Lezgins in the courtyard. Everyone stood there crying. He got Mamma and put her in the car and said, "If you were human beings you would have come out when they were beating and stabbing them, not now. Now," he said, "crying's no good."

There was a military unit, a motorized battalion, in the area where we lived with my husband's parents. We all went there. The soldiers hid us. We sat up round the clock the night of the 29th there. The soldiers brought us rations. They saw that we had children, and they helped us. That night they cordoned off the unit to defend us in case it were to be found out that Armenians were hiding there. In the morning a major or a captain, I don't know what his rank was, called the City Executive Committee and said that they had been hiding about 60 people since the day before. He said that he needed to get them out of there because it would be found out that they were there and they would come for them. They told him, "Put them in bus¬es and bring them by convoy to the City Executive Committee." They were gathering all the Armenians there. We rode to the City Executive Committee along streets lined with tanks and armored personnel carriers. This was on the 1st. I saw the street where I had spent my childhood and simply couldn't believe it, I thought I must be dreaming. I looked and wept: there were tanks and soldiers under all of our windows.

We didn't go through downtown: they were afraid to drive through downtown because there was nothing but Azerbaijanis there. They took us in another way, one cordoned off by soldiers. We arrived and got out near the City Executive Committee. There were a great many armored personnel carriers and military people there.

I knew about my brothers, but I couldn't believe it. I thought that it just couldn't be, that they had probably gotten away. And when we were sitting in the military unit, when Mamma cried the whole night through, I told her, "Calm down, it's not possible, they probably fled, they're probably at our Aunt's in Lokbatan. It's not possible that anything happened to them." She said, "What do you mean, not possible? Aunt Olya told me that Alik was lying there, that he asked her for help." "No, all the same," I said, "he's prob¬ably wounded . . . They're probably in the hospital or they probably fled, left town." I didn't believe it myself. I didn't believe it until I saw the coffins. Myself. With my own eyes.

The whole City Executive Committee was jammed with people. They were all ours, all Armenians. There wasn't even room to stand. After the authorities found out that two people were coming to Sumgait from Moscow—I think they said who it was, Demichev and one oth¬er person, I don't remember anymore, I really wasn't up to paying attention at the time—they moved us to the Samed Vurgun Cultural Facility, we call it the SK. It's right next to the City Executive Committee. We went outside. Some people had children, some had their belongings, some were weeping, and others were crying out from horror. We crossed over the square accom¬panied by soldiers. They had formed a cordon of soldiers. They stood every two steps with machine guns, maybe every other step. There were soldiers on the left and on the right. And the whole square was surrounded by armored personnel carriers. We went down the middle, between the left and right rows. Once we were in the SK, the ones who got there first took the chairs and settled there: they occasionally showed movies. The people who came in later sat right on the floor, right down on it, without anything under them. We settled in on the second floor, also right on the floor. But after a half an hour my husband found some cardboard boxes and tore them up to make mats. We put the children on them so they wouldn't be so cold. We have two children, daughters. Iline, the older one, will soon be six; Vika is four and a half. The children had been up for 24 hours already, and had had Nothing to eat or drink. When they wanted to eat we had nothing to give them, then they asked to be taken to the lavatory, but there were too many People and you couldn't get in.

Some people had brought things with them from home: bread, potatoes, or boiled meat, and everyone shared among themselves. But the next day, that was March 2, the soldiers gave us, the Armenians, their rations. The soldiers were Russians, but they handed out their rations. We all got into line—like in the war movies, where people are in line with ration cards for bread or water. Lines. They were long lines, 200 or 300 people. I stood there, waiting for my turn to come, and remembered, and thought. Two or three days, this was nothing. How must it have been for the people who lived through the war and didn't starve for one or two days, but for four years?

The soldiers gave us their rations. There were sausages, too, and pastries, and there was sweet tea, soft drinks, and mineral water. The bare essentials, anyway. There was meat, too. They brought the children hot cereal, for the little ones and the infants. The soldiers helped us. Our thanks go to them. But had they come just a bit earlier, 24 hours earlier, on the 27th, I wouldn't be left alone in the world. I would have my two brothers.

So there we were in the SK, sleeping on the cardboard. My husband put his coat down on the cardboard and put our children on it, and I covered them with my coat. Mamma sat right on the cardboard and waited to see what would happen. We spent three days there. On the 4th, or maybe it was the 5th, I no longer remember, because it was a hard time for me, my neigh¬bors came to me and said, "Alvina, it seems your uncles from Yerevan have arrived." I said, "How could they know that we're here and what has hap¬pened in Sumgait? We didn't send anyone a telegram." Our neighbors had wanted to send a telegram, but Mamma said, "There's no need, they all have cars, they'll come in their cars and they'll be burned, too, all the more so if they find out that they are Armenians from Yerevan. Then I would have lost not only my two sons, but my brothers, too."

I don't know how they found out what had happened. They found out that same day, the 28th, in the evening. They found out and flew in on the fourth or the fifth, as soon as it was possible. My mother's two other broth¬ers live in Baku. Her middle brother, Uncle Nikolai, works at the State Motor Vehicle Inspectorate. He's a police captain. He set out from Baku, but on the way he was stopped by the police. They knew him. They said, "Where are you going, Nikolai?" He says, "To Sumgait." They say, "Have you lost your mind? Blood is flowing in rivers there, Armenian blood. We're telling you because you've worked with us a lot: Don't go." He says, "My two nephews have been murdered there. If that's the way it is, let them kill me, too. I'd have no reason to live!" He asked another policeman, an Azerbaijani, to come with him. They got in a car and came. When they reached the city the other policemen refused to drive him in: "I won't take you in there. Go by yourself. I feel sorry for you: you'll die there too." Our uncle later told us: "I walked down the streets and didn't recognize your Sumgait." The city was littered with stones, windows were broken, and booths were burned and smashed. He walked and walked and finally reached our house, Mother's house. He said, "When I saw the windows, the glass shattered with stones … and the broken bars ..." Our uncle saw the condition our apartment was in and became ill, and sat down on a bench. No one approached him. But after half an hour he saw our neighbor Igor. He asked, "Where are they, the rest of them? What happened? Is it true they were killed?" Igor told him, "Yes, they killed Albert and Valery, but the son-in-law picked up the mother and father and took them to his place. Now they're at the SK, where the Armenians are hiding." Our uncle went to the square, found us, and took us away from there, and sent us to Mother's sister in Lokbatan . ..

My brothers and I spent years of our childhoods without a father. Our father died in 1961, before I was born. Mother went to his home village to hold the karasunk, and on the way she went into labor and I was born. Before he died our father said, "If it's a girl, we'll call her Alvina." And that's what she did. Mamma lived alone in Sumgait. Her brothers came and helped her. Well, we grew up. Six or seven years passed, Mamma's older brother told her, "You should get married. You're still young, you're only 30 years old. You need a husband because the children need a father." And Mamma told him, "No, I don't need anyone. I've raised them alone so far, and I'll go on doing it alone." He said, "That's not right. You should do it for their sake. They'll be grown up tomorrow and you'll need a lot of help and support. No brother can do what a husband can do." Well after a while Mamma got mar¬ried. Vladimir Mikhailovich took the place of our real father. We were raised well, he didn't deny us anything. He never asked my brothers where is your paycheck or your advance like some parents do. He brought it all home himself, he never reproached Mother for anything. We grew up calling him Father, Papa. He was our father. He was always a good person. And now . . . he's in bad shape. Something is wrong in his head. I can tell when I talk to him. Something is wrong with him. He received a heavy blow to the temple. They beat him with rocks.

Mamma is now in Lokbatan, she's in poor condition, too. She has fre¬quent pains in her heart. Our aunt, her sister, says that each week, almost every day, the ambulance comes. She had had heart problems before, she'd been to the hospital. But imagine that you had borne and reared sons, two sons, and raised them to manhood and then one day, in a matter of hours, minutes, you lose them forever.

The older of my brothers, Albert Avanesian, graduated from the Economics Institute in Baku. He was a senior engineer. Albert was, well you could say he was a quiet fellow. He wasn't hotheaded, he loved to read, he had a large library, and he was a respectful boy. He didn't like it when it was noisy or anything at home, he didn't like company, either. He preferred to spend all his free time reading books or watching television. The younger brother, Valery Avanesian, taught driving at the driving school. Now Valery was a big, hot-blooded fellow. He was strong and loved risks. I told him, Why do you take risks? You have clients who come to you and want to be taken somewhere, why do you take risks? You could lose your license. You might get caught. You're breaking the law. Why do you need to do that?" He said, "Alvina, remember this: a man who doesn't take risks isn't truly alive."

He often repeated these words to me and said, "A person must live well, because he lives only once." He was hot-tempered. He became incensed when that gang of people attacked him and Albert. He went right at them. He wasn't afraid of them. There were about 80 of them, and he was alone, not counting my other brother. He defended Mamma and Papa, telling them: "Get out of here!" Those words meant, "I'll protect you." Mamma called them, pulling them by their arms: "Let's go, I'm not leaving you." Then the older brother got angry: "We're telling you to get out of here! We'll come right up." But it didn't happen. They didn't go up. They had been bru¬tally murdered.

My husband went to the morgue. At first he had gone around the hospi¬tals, but they weren't there. Then he went to the Sumgait morgue and asked someone; there was a man standing there, a guard, no doubt, and he had the keys to the morgue. My husband asked him to show him the morgue so he could see if his relatives were there. The guard said, "No, I can't, I'm not allowed to let you in because the doctors aren't here." My husband slipped him a ten-ruble note. He let him in, but said, "Look quickly so we're not seen in here. We're not supposed to be here." When the guard opened the door to the morgue refrigerator, he saw Valery first, and lying next to him was Albert. My husband said that there were maybe 20 people in there, and among them many young ones—burned, stabbed, and beaten, and he saw a child but couldn't tell if it was a boy or a girl. The child was 10 or 12 years old. My husband returned to the SK and told me that they were at the morgue. I said, "But did you see them? Maybe they're in the hospital? In serious condition?" He said, "What do you mean hospital! They're at the morgue!" Until then I hadn't believed it, I had still had some tiny hope, but upon hearing his words I felt everything start to spin and it grew dark before my eyes. I felt ill and started to cry. I started to cry. I didn't cry long because my mamma was sitting next to me. I had told her that they were alive and that they were in Lokbatan, at Aunt Asya's, that they had man¬aged to get away.

My uncles went to the Sumgait morgue to pick them up and bury them, but they were no longer there. The morgue was empty. They were told that they had been transferred to the morgue in Baku. Before that Mamma had gone to see the Deputy Chairman of our City Executive Committee, Tavakiul—I think his last name is Mamedov—and said, "Allow me to bury my children." He had lived off our courtyard for a long time, we were neigh¬bors, so to speak. Well he said, "Sister, ask whatever you want, but don't ask me that, it's beyond my control." But then my mother turned away saying, "I have nothing more to ask." And she left, and came back to where I was and sat near me.

Uncle Benik and Uncle Edik left for Baku and saw them in the morgue there. They were there. There were a great many corpses. According to their words they were just . . . well not corpses, but chopped meat. Albert had a tag on his arm with the number 162 on it, and Valery had 164. That means there was someone between them, so someone ended up between them. For some reason I think that person was our neighbor, Shagen Sargisian.

It's very difficult for me to talk about this. When I recall all this every¬thing goes dark before my eyes. I can't stand it. A fair amount of time has passed already, three months, but it seems like it happened yesterday. That it will happen tonight.

We buried my brothers in the village of Lokbatan near Baku. It's permit¬ted to take photographs at the cemetery. We hired a photographer, and he shot the whole thing. The next day, when we went to pick up the pho¬tographs, he said that the KGB had come to him and exposed his film to the light, saying that he couldn't do that.

There were difficulties during the funeral, too. We wanted to see their faces, to see that it was Albert and Valery in there and not stones and sand. We were not permitted to do this near our home. We walked and cried, and there was a whole crowd there with us. Almost the whole village of Lokbatan, all of them. Russians came out too, and cried, and people of other nationalities came out and everyone cried because these were the caskets of two young people, two brothers. Their photographs were carried in front of the procession. We arrived at the cemetery and it was already time to put them into the ground, but we weren't allowed to open the coffins there, either, and see their faces. A cry went up, there was a stir—it was our family, relatives, and friends, saying we won't put them in the ground until we open the caskets. My aunt opened them, even though we weren't permitted to do that. She opened them and they were covered with white sheets. I stood near the coffins and removed the sheets. I became tremendously dizzy. I saw them: the first was Valery. He was covered with bruises. Well you might be thinking that he had lain in the morgue a long time and had become blue with time. No, half of his face was white, and the part that had been beaten was swollen and covered with bruises. There were wounds all over Albert's face, his whole face was all scratched up. But they lay there peacefully, they looked like they were sleeping. I had often seen them sleep¬ing, and when I saw them at the very end it seemed to me that they were sleeping then, too.

I don't wish upon anyone, upon any sister, that at my age they should bury their two young brothers, who are only 31 and 33. It is very painful for me, too painful. I can't even describe the feeling. That was the last time I saw their faces.

We do know this: an investigation was conducted in Sumgait and one of the bandits who killed the younger of my brothers, Valery, was identified. The neighbors told us. They said that they brought him, that bandit, and he showed the members of the investigation how everything had happened. [He told them that at first they had knocked down Valery and then kicked him, and then, he said, they wanted to burn the corpse. But then they want¬ed to see what was in the apartment, because everyone raced up to the apartment. And he left him there: he was dead anyway, he couldn't hurt him anymore.

Maybe their pride was one of the things that killed my brothers: they did not leave, they didn't go hide at the neighbor's. The neighbor, an Azerbaijani woman, called them and said, "Come to my place." But Valery said, "What, and hide at a woman's?" They died, but they saved their mother. But I think it would have been better . . . Mother said, "It would have been better that I died myself than to see the death of my children, whom I raised alone and with such difficulty, who then grew up and had their lives ahead of them." Suddenly, one day in two hours' time, to lose two sons!

Now the trials in Sumgait have been halted because, of the killers who murdered and burned Shagen Sargisian, only Ismailov has been caught. He got 15 years. But that's not right! We, the citizens who lived in Sumgait and saw all of it, are outraged. The raid on our apartment, for example, was con¬ducted not by one person, but by 80! All of them should be tried.

I think that my brothers' murderers will also stand trial, but it won't be a trial that gives one of them 15 years while the rest go free. I, Alvina Avanesian—Baluian, by my husband—demand a just trial. Let all of my brothers' killers be caught: not one of them, not two, but all 80. I want the murderers who stomped and savagely beat and killed not only my brothers, but others of our Armenian people in Sumgait, to stand trial. And not so they are punished with 15 years' deprivation of freedom, of which they serve at most five years, get out on amnesty and a few years later go and slaughter Armenians again. I want them to stand trial and all to receive severe punishment, nothing but severe and just punishment.

May 28,1988

Shushan Boarding House

Near the Village of Arzakan

Hrazdan District

Armenian SSR


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Born 1955 Previously Passport Office worker

After moving to Sumgait in 1985 left work to care for her child

Resident at Building 13/31, Apartment 45

Microdistrict No. 1


You could tell something was in the offing a week or even ten days before those awful events took place. All around—friends and neighbors—were spreading rumors that the Armenians were killing Azerbaijanis, mocking us, using violence. That this should be avenged, and soon we would be beaten and killed. Things like that. Well of course I didn't take any of it seriously: how could something like that happen under the Soviet government? Around a week before it happened my neighbors said that an Azerbaijani child had supposedly been thrown from the window of a bus in Stepanakert. Particularly zealous in this regard were the neighbors on our landing—Mikhrali Aliyev, his wife Rafiga Aliyev, and their 16-year-old son, Mubaris Aliyev, who was filled with animosity toward Armenians. Constantly—and I lived there about three years—he would curse the Armenians using foul language, and I was nervous even going home: he could spit right in your face, kick the door ... I'd be walking with my child and he would shout to scare the child. Because of him I was forced to get a new apartment, and I was just about to move to the new one. But as a result of the events the woman from Hrazdan who had agreed to trade apartments with me sent me a telegram canceling the exchange.

I had of course gone with this to Mubaris' parents a number of times, and they only laughed and said, he's just a child, it's nothing, forget it... About ten days before the events he came back from Baku where he was in a boxing competition, and says, "In the bus a respectable, older man said that Armenians should be stabbed on sight." He came up to me and grinned, saying, "I'm going to be the first to stab you. If something does happen I'm going to stab you."

And this ... on Saturday or Sunday morning, I can't remember exactly, they were out on the landing again, the father, the mother, and the son, and they were again repeating that we Armenians had burned entire Azerbaijani settlements in Armenia and raped the women, cutting off their breasts. They said things like that and looked at me with great anger, as an enemy. I said that of course none of that was true, and they said you'll see, true or not, the same thing is going to be done to you. The whole family stood out there on the landing, and while they were there two men came up the stairs. One of them I knew. About a year before I had put up an announcement: "Seeking exchange for apartment in Russian or Armenian city." One of them had come to see me at the time and said that he was from Kafan and he wanted to exchange his three-room apartment for a two-room one. And would throw in some money as well. I said I didn't want to move to Kafan, it was too far from Yerevan. He of course parted from me with hostility, tried to force me, pressuring me: you have to exchange, why did you put up the announcement? I said I didn't want to, I didn't want to move to Kafan. He left, and now, a year later, in those terrible days, on that Saturday or Sunday, he was back. He came with another man, he was 36 and had very dark skin, and says, "Well, are you going to exchange now?" I told him, "I said no, I don't want to move there." He smiled: "Well just see what happens to you." This man's name was Faik Geiushev. I think he was 19 or 20, he was regis¬tered as living in Kafan, but his whole family almost, in his words, was in Sumgait all the time, and he wanted to go to school in Sumgait. The man who came with him told me—and not just me, but everyone on the landing, and they agreed with him ("That's what should happen")—that Turkey was already planning to help them; they were going to get rid of all the Armenians, there wouldn't be a single Armenian left; and that Azerbaijan should become part of Turkey. Turkey had already delivered an ultimatum to the Soviet government: if you can't take care of Azerbaijan give it to us, and we all agree that we want to become part of Turkey. I had never seen him before, he came with Geiushev. They left and I went out almost right after them to go to the drugstore, I had to buy some medicine for my child: he has diathesis, and 1 am always buying him medicine. I set out for the drug store and I saw them standing there, and now a third person had joined them. They stood there a long time talking something over: I went to the drug store and came back, and they were still there.

On Sunday, out the window I saw about 50 adolescents, aged 15 to 17, running in a group. They had a flag, and they ran near my building shout¬ing, "Down with the Armenians!" and "Karabagh will remain ours!" But that's nothing! Later, from the balcony, 1 saw an endless crowd. They walked and ran like barbarians, shouting, wailing. Then, of course, 1 didn't think that my neighbors' words would come true and they would attack us. 1 thought they had heard that a demonstration was taking place somewhere and they were imitating it, and it sounded like the roar of the wild. Well at the time 1 didn't place any particular importance on it. True, a little later 1 found out that near the bazaar they had overturned and burned an automo¬bile and broken the windows in the Sputnik store and in the Kooptorg sausage store. This my mother saw. Mamma came to my place, she lived downtown, near the City Party Committee. She said that there on the square, it was awful what was going on, so many people, largely young peo¬ple and mostly men—there weren't any women there. Everyone was shout¬ing "Down with the Armenians!", it was terrifying to walk by there, and all kinds of people were getting up on stage, and again they would shout "Down with the Armenians!" and "Kill the Armenians!", and one of them was our neighbor. He was Mamma's neighbor, his address is Building 4A, Block 1, but I don't know his name, but I do know that he is the Director of School No. 25. On the way to my apartment, in Block 14, Mamma saw an Armenian apartment being destroyed, they were smashing the windows. She said, "I have a friend in the next building on the fifth floor, an Armenian, and I went to her apartment terrified, and waited until they left, and then came here." She came and said, "With all this going on, come to our place. It's probably safer there, it's downtown, near the City Party Committee." I say, "Under the Soviet government no one can break into my apartment. At a minimum I won't go out of the apartment, let them rage on out there. Apparently they're also having all kinds of rallies and demonstrations, they're probably behaving like animals there, too, well, let them do it."

It started to get dark and suddenly there is noise, a howl, as though wild animals had burst into the courtyard. This was on the 28th, Sunday. Mamma and 1 went out onto the bal¬cony—I lived on the fifth floor—and looked down. We were gripped with terror. Our courtyard is gigantic, and it was entirely full. I don't know if there were a thousand of them or two thousand, but there were very many, just a terrific blackness, they were all wearing black. And they howled and shouted, "Death to the Armenians!" and "Armenians come out!" You could hear the breaking of glass on the second floor, Lusya lived there, an Armenian. Then there were blows on her door, heavy ones. We heard and saw all this and realized that our turn would come too.

There were three of us, Mamma, my son, Sasha Garakian, he's two, and I. When [ didn't agree to go to Mamma's place she said, "I'm not leaving you here alone. In that case I'm not going either. I'll stay here with you." We ran over to the neighbors' across from us. The neighbors next door, the Aliyevs, had gone downstairs. It all had a sort of recreational appeal for them. They were standing there, watching and laughing—they just found it interesting. But the other neighbors were at home, they opened the door. We didn't even ask if we could come in or not, we just raced into their apartment. But they immediately started chasing us out, pushing us from behind: Leave! A man lives there, his name is Alpasha, I don't know his last name, his wife's name. is Khajar, and his sister is Peri. And all three of them started pushing us from behind, wanting us to leave. "If they find out we're hiding Armenians it'll go badly for us, too. What are you upset about? Your people killed ours, violated them, and now it's your turn." I asked them—they had small chil¬dren, too, two small children—I said, "No one will know, take my child. I'll give you my sister's address, she lives in Abovian, send him to them if they kill us. They pushed the child right out after us.

We returned to my apartment and 1 could barely open the lock, my hand was shaking so. We shut the door behind us, and literally five minutes later they started to kick the door. I grabbed my child and ran into the bathroom. Of course I knew there was no hiding from them, but all the same ... I couldn't think of anything else to do. Mother held the door, they were bat¬tering it,and then—the neighbors' empty gas bottle was out there, and they Pounded the door with it, they rammed our door for about 20 minutes.

There were two strong locks on the door, they pounded on them, and my child got scared from the blows and began flinching. He practically jumped out of my arms with each blow, trembled and flinched, but didn't cry out and didn't cry, he only winced like that. When they broke through the locks, Mother began shouting so horribly that the child became petrified. They broke down the door and her legs gave way, she almost fell down, and she could hardly talk: she could barely get out, "Please, I beg of you" and some disjointed words. I was in the bathroom listening. She tried to say, "Kill me, don't harm the children," but nothing came out, something was holding her tongue. She told me about it later. Mother says that there were almost 40 of them, my two rooms were full. They burst in and turned everything upside down. Now I had been getting ready to move, and everything was already packed, only the television and the refrigerator were left, everything else, every last thing, was packed in boxes and crates. They found everything there: the money and the gold, they took all that, they turned everything inside out, they cleaned out all the suitcases and boxes. One of them stood next to my mother. Later he said he was a Lezgin. He told her, "Don't be afraid, Aunt, don't be afraid." And he told them, "OK, that's it, let's leave." And this is what happened to the rest of our entryway: they threw all the Armenians' things out the windows, smashed everything, stole everything of value, and wrecked and tossed out the rest. One person in the gang want¬ed to do the same thing in my place, he went out into the kitchen to smash the window, but the Lezgin told him, "Don't do it, come on, leave." Anyway, they took what they liked and left. Three people remained. When they had been ramming the door with the gas bottle they got their clothes smeared from the wall, and they went into the kitchen to clean them off. On their way back they opened the door to the bathroom. They saw that the child and I were in there, huddled in a corner. One went up to my child—"An Armenian puppy!"—but the Lezgin carelessly grabbed him by the collar: "OK," he said, "let's go, there's nothing left to do here." And those two left. The child was almost unconscious, he had a fever, he lay there in my arms and would wince every couple of minutes. The child was senseless. When they left, that fellow, he was around 25, said, "I am Lezgin by nationality. Those people told me that the Armenians were killing and raping our peo¬ple, and that they were going to do the same thing back. But everywhere we went," he said, "I tried to help the Armenians. They stole, and I told them take whatever you want, wreck everything, but don't kill. I did what I could to help. But where there were men there was nothing I could do. Where there were men they just tore them to pieces, they didn't spare anyone, espe¬cially where there were young men. It's a good thing," he went on, "that your brother or father weren't here."

It was a miracle that we survived. We quickly went down to the second floor. There were old people living down there, they beat them. I don't know their last name, but their first names were Lusya and Kommunar. They were going to burn their apartment. There was an Azerbaijani woman there the whole time. She seized the bottle of gasoline from them and said, "Spare me and my apartment. If there's a fire in here my place will go up too." She barely got the bottle away from them. They smashed and wrecked every¬thing there, and carried off the money and valuables. Everything was asun¬der in the apartment, and Lusya was in serious condition: she lay there, scarcely breathing, her legs had given way. She asked me to sweep up the shards because there were broken dishes all over the apartment—they had even smashed the chandelier to smithereens. I swept up and tried to put things in order a bit.

They beat the other Armenian neighbors from my entryway as well, Their close neighbor, also a Lezgin, by the way, rushed to their aid. They broke his arm. His wife ran in too, and they struck her, too. They broke down the door, but they continued to defend them. They wouldn't let them harm the children—there were children there. They took the children to their apartment. I think the Lezgin man's name is Abbas, and his wife is Zhenya. It's Zhenya for sure, and I think the man's name is Abbas. They said, "We'll get them out of here, just don't kill them." The mob agreed: "We'll be back to check. They better be out of here in 10 minutes." The neigh¬bor, the one they beat up, is an Armenian from Kirovabad. He had recently moved to Sumgait and worked at the military unit, he was a truck driver. His truck was parked right next to the building. He took his wife and chil¬dren—they have a three-month old infant, and the older child is two—and in that cold he quickly got them into the cab and drove off. So they left, but we don't know where they went or what came of them. He was afraid: everyone said that those hooligan gangs were everywhere, that they were stopping vehicles and slaying the passengers. We don't know if they are alive or dead, just that they left. His name was Edik.

The Aliyevs from my landing went to see all the atrocities, and came back laughing and telling how they were getting the Armenians, how they had burned three Ikarus buses at the station. The most brutal slaughters were at the bus station. The Aliyevs had been there, too. One of their relatives had accidentally gotten hit in the leg with a rock. That was when the soldiers were throwing rocks. He was limping and the Aliyevs were laughing: "Who cares about the soldiers? They came but didn't have orders to shoot, all of them were beaten with stones, they carried them off bloody in stretchers. So don't take heart, all the Armenians, all of them, will be killed all the same."

One of my friends lived near the bus station. I ran into her here, in Armenia. "Do you remember," she said, "the military people asked us to write about what we saw and put it in the boxes." Of course I saw those box¬es, I saw the faith in justice with which the people wrote. I also, by the way, wrote down what I had seen, but I didn't put the letter in the box, I gave it to the man from the Moscow KGB, and then only after he had showed me his identification. So my friend described how the soldiers had been beaten with stones. But the letter didn't go where she wanted it to. When they took her from Nasosny to her apartment to pick up essentials, two Azerbaijanis came by to see her, they were either from the investigative group or from the Procuracy. And she saw that one of them was holding her letter. They said, "You wrote that you saw the soldiers being hit with stones and being carried away bloody on stretchers, did you really see that? Why did you write something like that?" She said, "Here, look, the visibility from my window is very good, you could see everything: how they stopped the buses and took the Armenians off to the side and beat them. With my own eyes I saw them throwing stones at the soldiers from the roof, stones that had been specially brought in trucks. Many of the soldiers were wounded, and they were car¬ried off in stretchers, covered with blood." And those two told her, "What, only dead and injured people are carried on stretchers? Maybe the soldiers were just sick?" That's what they said to her . . .

On February 29 after all the shocks my mother and I wrapped up the child and somehow made it to her apartment downtown. It was evening, and we were walking, trembling with fear. We were afraid to go out in the daytime because that neighbor boy Mubaris Aliyev was outside shouting to the passersby: "Hey, are you an Armenian? You, are you an Armenian? Show me your passport!" When it got dark I saw that he had gone. We quiet¬ly went downstairs. Downtown there were tanks and troops—we were quite glad to see them, naturally—and police, and many military trucks. The cen¬ter of town was cordoned off. There were no longer any large gangs there, but they were carrying on in groups of 10 to 15 . I went onto the square and addressed one of the military men: "Can it really be that you came here and you can't put a stop to all this?!" He said, "We're doing everything possible, we're trying. But what can we do? Your leadership is responsible for all of it, all this was planned." That's just what he said. Well of course we had thought that it had been planned. It would have taken ten minutes to avert it. Apparently they didn't want to. And the First Secretary of the City Party Committee—everyone was talking about it—marched in front of the crowd along the embankment, he marched ahead of that wild mob for a long time. And it wasn't just a group of them, like it says in the papers. A group is 50 people, and on the afternoon of the 28th, I think it was, when they passed our building, I watched for a whole hour, and there was no end to them, they just kept coming and coming. It was an endless mob of howling ani¬mals ...

When we went to Mamma's, the child was still in serious condition, he needed urgent medical attention. We went to an old Russian woman, and she was able to get him over his terror, and wanted to give him shots. The shots were given by a neighbor, an Armenian. She was a midwife at the Maternity Home. She said that there had been an attempt to attack the Maternity Home, but the soldiers prevented it. She saw much with her own eyes: she saw a woman thrown off a balcony, and how they wrecked apart¬ments, she said they flung things out the windows, and whoever was down¬stairs snatched the suitcases and rugs and ran off.

As soon as my child was better I went outside. Despite the fact that there were troops there, things were still happening here and there. The military brought all the Armenians to the City Party Committee and the SK club. They recommended that people not stay in their homes. I went and sough the advice of an officer: "What should we do, we have a seriously ill child, he needs injections, and the needles have to be boiled, and there's no way we can do it in the club, they're on top of one another in there." He said, "No, go to the club." I said it was impossible. "The child will die there. If you can, try to stay near our building." And the military—the officer and a group of soldiers—spent the night on guard near our building. They even lit up all our entryways with searchlights, combed attics, and walked on the roofs all night. Because of the presence of the military, we were able to calm down. All the more so since earlier some minors, around 15 years old, had come up to our building asking where the Armenians lived, and our neighbor on the second floor in the first entryway, a musician, Suleymanov, I think his name is, gave us all away.

In the morning I went out for milk. Everyone in the city was panicked because the bandits had said, "If you don't withdraw the troops we will fin¬ish the Armenians and start on the Russians." All the Russian women were saying, "It's awful, now all those animals will be attacking us." Returning from the store I heard two respectable-looking men in their fifties discussing the events. I paused for a moment, not too far away. They were saying that everything had been done wrong: groups of a thousand had taken to the streets, and then the tanks came and ruined it all, and now they were going to catch everyone. They should have moved in groups of 10 to 15 , like guer¬rillas, and then they could have killed all of them. But this way, they said, they couldn't get rid of them all, there are still some left.

April 22,1988



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Born 1931

Retired Stonemason

Resident at Building 17, Apartment 74

Microdistrict No. 4


From 1948 until those days I lived in the city of Sumgait. I worked almost 40 years there ... I am going to tell what I saw. On the 27th my wife and I came home from our dacha, and we found our daughter and son-in-law waiting for us with their two children. They had come from Baku. We were glad to see them. We sat and talked awhile, and ate. Then my son-in-law went out onto the balcony to smoke and called me: "Pop, there's a crowd out here, I don't know what's happened." I go out to the balcony and look, and there are several hundred people walking in columns: "Down with the Armenians! If there are any brave Armenians, let them come out!" Well I say, "Fine, close the door, come back in, to Hell with them."

They spent the night with us, they were going to stay till Sunday, but then it all started. The neighbors came and said, "They're killing people, in Microdistrict 3 they've started killing people . . . they've stabbed so many, they've burned so many, they've ..." Everyone had their own story. And we . . . where were we to go? There was nowhere for us to go by then. We sat at home quaking.

We waited until it was evening, until eight o'clock, and saw that on the first floor—I live on the third floor—on the first floor at Rafik Bagdasarian's apartment they'd broken all the windows and carried their belongings out¬side. It was a nice apartment, his son was supposed to be married, not that day, the next. And everything that had been bought for the wedding, they took it all, and they threw the rug and their clothing into the courtyard, right under our balcony. We saw them set fire to it. Well at that point it seemed they were leaving. They were leaving and then someone from the other side yells, "Hey, where are you going, come back, they say there are still some more Armenians here, on the third floor!" That was our apartment.

They're pelting our windows, the rocks are flying, really big ones, and they're flying right into the apartment. A couple of minutes later the door¬bell rings and there are knocks at the door, and the children are already screaming and crying, my grandsons are small . . . My daughter, her hus¬band and two children, my wife, and I are at home. I tell my son-in-law: "Garik, don't be afraid, nothing will happen," and I tell my wife, daughter, and the kids, "Go in that room!" I had an axe in my hands. I was in a hope¬less situation. They're pounding on the door, but we didn't open it, so they started breaking it down. They start breaking it down and my son-in-law, my wife, and I are holding the door, and my daughter is begging them, "Please, I have two small children, don't break it down, don't kill us!" She is begging. I say, "Listen, get away from here, those jackals won't listen to you, and you're getting in our way! Go into the other room, maybe we can defend ourselves." She doesn't obey me. She doesn't do what I tell her, and by then one side of the door is broken and they hit her on the bridge of the nose. With a big crowbar. Her face becomes all bloody . . . and I pushed her forcefully into the other room. By now the door is completely broken down. No sooner is the door down than I wind back with the axe and they flew out of there like bullets, they all ran away ...

If I had wanted to I could have hit them. But if I had hit them they would have burned all my children, those creeps. They ran away, and I chased them down two flights of stairs. There were so many of them that they couldn't all get down the stairs, they got in each other's way, and five of them went up to the fifth floor, they ran upstairs. Our neighbor's son made them go back down, led them past our door. And down in the courtyard they were talking about coming back again. They had a leader, he said, "What's the matter, why didn't you get them, why didn't you kill them?!" This our neighbors told us later, I didn't hear it myself. They were going to come back again, and our neighbor told them, "Listen, don't go up there, he's a hunter, he's got a rifle, he'll kill every last one of you if you go back up there." I didn't have any rifle. Our neighbor was just helping us, he saved us. They didn't come back up, they left. Here I'm telling you this and I myself can't believe that my son-in-law and I drove them off. I can't believe it myself, but apparently there is a God, and He helped us. So that's how my son-in-law and I saved our family. We somehow fastened the door and went to our neighbors'. My daughter and her children spent the night on the fifth floor, and my wife, my son-in-law and I stayed on the second.

The next day my son-in-law was going to Baku. He told me, "I've got the key to the workshop." He's a tailor, or was, rather. I say, "There's no need to go, the situation is bad, don't go." He says, "Pop, I promised, I need to make some fillets, I have to go." Anyway, he got to Baku fine, and that same day he made the fillets for the patrolmen, and set back out for Sumgait. He told his father, "Papa, I'm going to Sumgait, to my children." But his father knew everything, Garik had told him. His father says, "No, if the situation's like that, don't go." This was on the 29th. His father wouldn't let him go, he even hid his shoes so he wouldn't go to Sumgait. And he asked his father, "Father, I told you the situation yesterday, if we had been in the same situation, would you really have left us?" He said that, took his brother's shoes, and went out. At five in the evening he was on the road to Sumgait...

Meanwhile, we had been evacuated to the Metallurg Boarding House and thought that Garik was safe.

My daughter's face was beaten, the bruise won't go away. The doctors came and said, "What help do you need? You don't need any help." I got mad, I was a little rude to them, it's true, I said, "For four days you've been saying 'What help do you need?', 'What help do you need?', what's the Point?" We stayed at the City Executive Committee for 24 hours, they asked it there, and on the fourth day at Metallurg they came again and asked the same thing. I lost my temper: "Just what help are you? I'm the father, I'm concerned, maybe there's a fracture; take an x-ray." They started to calm me down, they called an ambulance from Baku to take her to the hospital. I say, "My daughter, my daughter, since you're going, take the children with you, they say it's quiet in Baku. Take the children. If Garik is there, stay there, but if he's not, come back." She took the children with her. They took an x-ray in Baku, the bridge of her nose was fractured, it was a small one, but all the same there was a fracture.

They put a bandage on her and some two hours later we see her coming back to the Metallurg with the children. Garik's not at home! She came in crying, "Papa, Garik's not at home." I went to the authorities and told them what had happened. They sent me off with a police major and I spent two days going to every hospital in Baku, I didn't sleep for two days, and at the end I went to one of the morgues, and all the dead from Sumgait were there. I go in and see Garik's sister coming out of the mortuary. Her name is Karine. I say, "Karine jan, is Garik there?" Crying, she says, "Uncle Suren, he's not there." I say, "What, aren't you glad he's not there, what are you cry¬ing for?" It turned out later that he was there, she hadn't recognized her brother because he was completely burned . . . she didn't even recognize her own brother. Well, if he wasn't there, he wasn't there, and so I didn't go in.

I returned to Sumgait. There's a military unit in Nasosny where all the Armenians were. I checked all the lists, thinking maybe I'd find him, and went to the SK club and looked there, I looked at the Khimik, at the DOSAAF ... I looked everywhere and he just wasn't to be found.

The next, day, in the morning, that was March 7, Fataliyev summoned me—I don't know what his job was, but he was in charge where we were—and he says, "Suren-kishi [form of address], we found your son-in-law, it's true, he's dead." In Sumgait there are railroad tracks going to the BTZ plant, and there, near the overpass of the road to Baku, there are rushes there, it's about five hundred yards from the Sumgait bus station. "In those rushes," he said, "they found your son-in-law, he'll be buried on the 9th, you can go to the burial."

I took my daughter and went. . . On the 9th we got him and buried him in Baku, in Ermenikend, there's a cemetery there. We observed the yotnoriak [seventh day requiem] and came here, to Yerevan, as fast as we could.

I was summoned to the Sumgait Procuracy, and the investigator was a Russian. There I found out what had happened. The bus had come from Baku and was driving into Sumgait. The bus was stopped. They let the Azerbaijanis out of the bus one by one. They got Garik out of the bus and killed him and burned him. My son-in-law's name was Garry Artemovich Martirosov. He was born in 1955.

Two children now have no father. A girl and a boy. The girl is five years old, and the boy is two. Without a father.

April 21,1988



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Born 1939


Sumgait Industrial Production Complex

Resident at 4 Lenin Street, Apartment 39 Sumgait

I'll begin my account on February 27. It was a Saturday. Since we lived downtown, almost right across from the City Party Committee and the cen¬tral square, I heard and saw a vast crowd on the square shouting and chant¬ing. It first appeared to be unorganized groups, but then they all converged on the Square. At first I couldn't figure out what was happening, and, later, my neighbor told me that it was the Azerbaijanis demanding something. On Saturday she hadn't yet told me this. So we were taking things as usual, not guessing or even suspecting. That day my daughter and her husband went to Baku and returned at nine o'clock in the evening; they got onto the bus to come home and a mob of Azerbaijanis stopped the bus and demanded that all the Armenians get out, they were going to kill them. I can't say by what miracle they were saved and survived, but when my daughter came home she announced, "Mamma, they were trying to kill us!" This was on Saturday, the 27th.

She said that they were Azerbaijanis, and it was dark. She couldn't figure it out, well in fact you really can't understand it: suddenly one evening in town, right downtown, near the bus station, a bus is stopped and all the Armenians are forced out to be killed. Somehow my daughter and her hus¬band managed to get into a taxi and get home.

On Sunday morning I was paying more attention. As a matter of fact, 1 didn't leave the balcony. The demonstration, the rally, began at eleven o'clock in the morning. Party and governmental functionaries took the microphone right away, well after all the whole thing had taken place next to the City Party Committee and the City Executive Committee. They talked and argued, I heard them speaking Russian and Azerbaijani—I could only catch snatches: "That's a lie," "That's not true." I couldn't figure out what the crowd wanted, but on Sunday our neighbor told us that they were demand¬ing that all the Armenians move out of Sumgait. I asked her what the leader¬ship's response had been, and she said that they had promised to do it. These were my neighbor's words . ..

I haven't been myself for an entire month, I've been in this trance, it's as though I'm completely numb; I can't talk, and I even forget facts, because the whole affair is so inconceivable. Well on Sunday the demonstration was over at five o'clock. I had noticed that it was very well organized. One part rallied and one part was on the move, that was the young people, who were led by three or four completely grown adults, who pointed with their arms and directed them as to where to go, where to end the procession, I guess to demonstrate their numbers so that the people living in our district would see how huge the crowd was. They had signs in their hands, I didn't see what they said, because it was on the opposite side of the street, one of the signs was red. I heard cries, "Muslims, Muslims!" You could hear that because they passed under our balcony. Then they returned. At five o'clock, when the rallies started, the city leadership took the lead. You probably read in Komsomolskaya pravda where Muslimzade announced that in order to calm the crowd he led them off toward the embankment. The remainder of the crowd went off to kill and loot. I can't pinpoint the age of these people because many of them were covered up, maybe on purpose, so no one could recognize them, but I did see some older folks, and there were those young men, the ones who were carrying the signs, and there were children, per¬haps students from the Vocational and Technical School; all the rest were adults. The crowd was huge, it's hard for me to give you a precise figure, but it appeared in such an organized fashion that I noticed it. At eleven o'clock it was quiet, and suddenly the square was jammed with people. No one tried to restrain them. I also noticed that when Muslimzade was leading the crowd the police made way, went off to the side, and the only thing I knew, I sensed it intuitively, was that they were going to kill, although on that day I didn't yet know that there had been murders on Saturday, but for some rea¬son I concluded that there would be killings, and told my husband, "Go and take down the building directory on the first floor," because our last name was on it: Sargisov, Apartment 39. He said, "What kind of nonsense is that, nothing can happen, there's no reason to panic." This was on Sunday. In the evening my mother-in-law called, because my daughter and her husband and their small child were at her place [the Babaians, residing at Building 2/27A, Apartment 12, Block 4]. She called and said, "Don't worry, the tele¬phone's been cut off, I'm calling from an apartment on the first floor, I just wanted to let you know." And on Monday morning she called from work, she's a kindergarten teacher, and said that after she had called from the apartment on the first floor the day before those neighbors had been attacked: the husband was killed, his wife's clothes were stripped off and she was beaten, she lost consciousness, and that's why she survived, they thought she was dead, and the son threw himself out the window and escaped.

My mother-in-law lives in Block 4, I don't know the building number. She only said that they were on their way to their place too, but a Russian woman from the first floor said that no Armenians lived there, that they should leave, and they did. You know, these words make me think that if the police or our precinct police had been somewhere in the block—that Russian woman chased off a group of criminals with mere words, criminals who had already killed and robbed an apartment on the first floor, and alone the words that there were no Armenians living there turned them away—I think that probably the intervention of the police would have helped, yet basically I didn't see a single policemen entire time the events were taking place.

I'll continue. On Monday I went to work, still unaware of the scope of the tragedy. At the Industrial Production Complex no one knew anything for certain either, everyone had been at home, but they had seen the looted apartments and the cars that had been burned during the night. On the way in I saw the smashed SK myself, right there across from the City Party Committee. All the news kiosks where Armenians worked had been smashed, and the soft-drink booth, the woman who worked there was an Armenian, too. They wrecked her booth and her apartment, too, I passed by it. Mattresses and the television had been thrown from the broken windows, and this was right downtown . . . right in the middle of town! Can it really be that this couldn't have been prevented, can it really be that there was no police patrol, nothing?! In the center of town, on Lenin Street, there was loot¬ing and killing. I also saw an apartment with a terrace. Apparently they had broken the windows, and the people who lived there heaved containers of tomatoes and pickles at them, they had thrown everything possible so as to defend themselves.

Nothing particular happened at work, they just said that there had been a directive to excuse the Armenians from work for at least 3 or 4 days. This was on Monday. But on Sunday evening the troops were already there. I guess I'm not telling things in order, I'm sorry. I was able to see that well because they stopped in front of our balcony. They set up headquarters, apparently, at the City Party Committee. They were new recruits. I'm a woman and really don't know all that much about the various types of troops, but I saw that there were troops from the internal forces and new recruits. They donned bulletproof vests and helmets, and they had shields and clubs. That was the first time I had seen the clubs. They were given their rations and went out on patrol about town, evidently. I think the curfew was imposed beginning March 1. I can't say when the order to use weapons was given, but apparently it was then, when the curfew was imposed. 1 saw a sign on our building announcing the curfew, and the sign had General Krayev's name on it. That was the only thing that saved the people of Sumgait from annihilation. Because if the troops hadn't been introduced, maybe not a single person would have been left alive. 1 mean the Armenian population, of course. They couldn't restore order despite the curfew, and fear prompted them to evacuate all the Armenian families from the microdistricts to the square, to the SK. They were guarding them there, they had tanks and armored personnel carriers, and several flanks of troops cor¬doned off the whole complex, and later I was told that they had been guard-ing the hospitals, kindergartens, and schools, but that was later. There were a tremendous number of people and children at the SK club, and of course the conditions were completely unsanitary ... I saw injured Armenians, people who had been stabbed, women who had been beaten, with black eyes, a fellow covered in blood in a bloody shirt, apparently by some mira¬cle he had escaped and gotten away. Well they helped us as they could, they had apparently called in military doctors and used disinfectants, there was free food, and—of course, of course!—every request by the Armenian fami¬lies was carried out unquestioningly by the troops: to be taken somewhere, to get something for the children, and to track down someone who had been left behind . . . My daughter was there too. She decided to go home to get food and clothing and was accompanied by two soldiers with machine guns; they went to her apartment and waited while she gathered her things together, and then they escorted her right back to the club. At the time there still hadn't been any talk of evacuating the Armenians; apparently the situa¬tion on the 1st was still uncontrollable, it was still quite serious, complicated, and terrifying. From the balcony we heard shooting even during the day and around evening time. That was on March 1. It was machine-gun fire.

I still can't figure out why innocent residents of Sumgait became victims. I found out recently, for example, that Nagorno Karabagh is located 250 miles from Sumgait. We hadn't heard of the problems in Nagorno Karabagh; we didn't know about them. The mass media coverage had been very skimpy, and we didn't see anything out of the ordinary in it. Living was quite difficult for us. We couldn't figure out why Karabagh was being talked of at the rally, after all there was television, the newspapers, the radio . . . Essentially the people of Sumgait were innocent victims. We were murdered in our sleep, so to speak. You just can't imagine what it's like to sit there and wait for them to come for you, to sit by the door holding an axe. We knew that it was hopeless, they weren't going around alone or in twos, they were moving in huge mobs, they would have made quick work of us regardless. I still can't understand why we, the people of Sumgait, became the victims of crimes. In what name and why they were committed. I still don't under¬stand that, even now. I can guess, of course, but I still can't understand it all the same.

All these events caught us completely unaware. Our building wasn't hit. Because of where our building was located, when there weren't any police around, there were troops. Being there, our safety was assured. But this is what struck me. We lived in friendship with our neighbors, we always said, "hello" and "good bye," one of the neighbor women used to come and use our telephone, and when she saw the demonstration headed by the city leaders, you know, she welcomed it, saying, "That's right, they're doing the right thing." Why? Because the Armenians allegedly had the best apart¬ments and the best jobs. I was really struck by that. She herself has a won¬derful apartment, her rights were in no way encroached upon; if anything, the reverse was true. She's a cook. And her husband works at a plant. An average family. They have a dacha. What harm had been done to her? And now this malicious delight. Incidentally, I think that by and large the Armenians had apartments on the lower and top floors, they didn't have the best apartments. That's what I suspect. Earlier I never thought about where the Azerbaijani families were and where the Armenian families were, I'm no nationalist, I don't even know the meaning of the word, but when I was walking down the street and saw the looted Armenian apartments, they were on the lower floors. That was Monday when I was on my way to work. Of course the traces of the looting were carefully covered up, because when I was coming home from work—I realized it wasn't safe to stay there—I saw that everything on the main streets had been cleaned up and that those food containers and mattresses had been removed. They tried to remove the evi¬dence. The traces of the burned automobile remained, however.

Our power was cut off on Saturday, apparently when the killing began, for three or four hours, I remembered it for some reason since my daughter was in Baku. Later the phones were shut off, which was surprising, I mean who were we going to call up and tell that they were beating us or that they were breaking down the doors to our apartments? There's an Azerbaijani family in our entryway, they're quite an upstanding family, to be sure, and their phone was cut off too. Apparently it was thought necessary. The phones were cut off at the exchange. On the street I ran into the major's political officer and asked him how to call for help without telephones, but it wasn't his decision and so everything stayed the way it was.

I was talking with the troops with machine guns who accompanied my daughter home; they came into the apartment and I asked them what we should expect, what was to come. They only spoke Russian because they were young guys, still objective, so to speak, and they said that the authori¬ties were to blame, they had even arrested the criminals but the authorities had then released them. Two soldiers told me that personally, I was also struck by the fact that at first the police were letting people go, and then they started taking them to Baku, to the Bailov Prison. Of course this was all so unexpected, this whole tragedy ... I talked with the major. Apparently they hadn't expected it either. A soldier standing next to the officer inter¬rupted him and said, "They sure did catch us off guard", the military people, that is, he said it just like a soldier would, he had a severe limp and was all cut up. I asked him, "Hey you guys, what happened?" I thought that they were armed . . . He only said, "They sure did catch us off guard." I was told that there were casualties among the military, and a lot of them. People saw them, the neighbors saw them. The military themselves didn't tell me this, evidently they were afraid to, they tried not to talk about what they had seen, but apparently it was quite brutal and terrifying, and they, men, could not stand it ... Many of the military people were limping, they were bruised, others had torn-up cheeks, but all of them were still standing, there was no point in taking them to the hospital. It was terrible to see the soldiers giving sour cream to the Armenian children. Everyone had fled their homes with nothing, they were unclothed and hungry ..

I gathered my family together, and my son-in-law's family, and realized that it wasn't safe to keep them in our apartment. I told the military that an Armenian family was hiding in my home and that I was very worried, and asked them to patrol near our building and check on us, if they could. And 17 of them came. I don't know if it was a platoon or what, headed by an offi¬cer. They stayed right nearby, at night they even came up to our floor and checked on us, and the next day I went downstairs and asked one of the sol¬diers what the situation was. He was quite nervous, shaken. This was on the 1st. He said that he himself didn't know what was going on, he was upset he said that the safest thing would be to take them to the City Party Committee. At that point we still didn't know that the SK club would be housing refugees, and even they suggested that we go to the City Party Committee. He said that maybe we would be evacuated from the city alto¬gether. We went to the SK club and the whole family spent the night there on chairs, in the theater seats, on the floor, every which way, because there was a terrific number of people there. To be honest it was just packed. I can't even say how many people there were there. No one had any of their things, people were wearing whatever they had managed to get on, they had been moved at night by the soldiers. People grabbed their children, just saved themselves ... At the club they arranged for free food and a kitchen was set up—they did what they could for the children, for the Armenians.

There were very many people there who had lost relatives and those dear to them. But it was hard to ask people about, without causing them further trauma. They hadn't yet managed to return to their senses. One woman ran up, her husband had been killed. Of course there was all kinds of talk, but it was all so monstrous that you didn't want to believe it. I listened, thinking that maybe it was exaggerated, maybe they had somehow escaped. But now I think that really is what happened.

On March 2 we saw my daughter's family off on a military vehicle. They had to go to Chelyabinsk, she's in school there. On March 3 we set out for Baku. They managed to evacuate us in seven buses with soldiers and machine guns along with us, accompanied by two tanks. All the people were Armenians. There was a tank in front of the convoy and one behind it. In our bus, for example, there were four soldiers with machine guns. We reached Baku. My husband went to Yerevan, and I flew to Moscow, that was on March 4.

In Moscow I went to the offices of the Armenian SSR and met a family there, Pavel Manvelian and his wife, Greta Andreyevna. Their daughter Lola [Avakian, resident at Building 10/13, Apartment 37, Block 45, Sumgait] had been killed. They were from Sumgait. We met for the first time there in Moscow, and got to talking. They were giving depositions. She was a teach¬er at Secondary School No. 11, and he was an engineer at the Khimavtomat plant. Their daughter had been pregnant. He, the father, personally told me that he had been in three morgues, in Sumgait, in Baku, and in Mardakian, 65 miles away, and there in Mardakian he found his daughter's body, he only recognized her little toe, that's how disfigured the corpse was, and she was number 71 of the unrecognizable corpses. That toe, her little toe, was shorter than the other one, that's the only way he could identify her, so dis¬figured was her corpse. And he said, "I guarantee, I'll answer for my words: I saw stacks of corpses, I can say there were 300 of them there." In three morgues. He found her, they made them sign a paper saying he wouldn't open the coffin, and with tremendous difficulty they buried her. They buried her in Baku and immediately flew to Moscow. I got these numbers from him, and I'm giving his last name, he'll corroborate this himself. In Moscow he gave eyewitness testimony and signed it. That is the absolute truth.

Their daughter's husband was involved in sports, in judo; I don't know his last name [Aleksandr Avakian], he was in Baku in neurosurgery because he had received skull traumas, and now he's in Minvody. They didn't have any children, they were expecting a baby . . .

During those days in Sumgait I wouldn't permit my family to go out on the balcony. Only I went out there, I thought maybe they wouldn't bother a Russian. I went to the store and saw smiles on people's faces. Smiles. They were somehow contented smiles, it was hard to look at them. All in all it seemed that they were contented. I don't know why, but I saw it that way . . .

Now I think that the Russians were treated as always. But when I was taking food to the SK, the Armenian men warned me, don't go out, because we know for sure, the Azerbaijanis were saying that when they finished with the Armenians they were going after the Russians, don't risk it, don't go out. I kept going until the end, until they frightened me, when they start¬ed throwing stones at me. My daughter's mother-in-law didn't even turn off the television or the refrigerator when she left her apartment. At the SK she asked me to go turn off their appliances. She said that if the windows were broken I shouldn't go in. When I turned off Lenin Street into Block 4, that's downtown next to the Post Office, even the soldiers there were Russian . . . when I turned off there were two big Azerbaijanis coming toward me, and I knew intuitively that they would do something to me or say something . . . They were over 40. I thought they would say something insulting, although until then nothing like that had happened to me. I wasn't wrong, they said something rude to me and I turned, they were winding back to hurl rocks. . . I no longer even remember running . . . They threw the stones. I don't recall where I ran, but they didn't come after me, they just threw the rocks and that was it. That was an attack on a Russian, they know exactly who's who. That happened on the morning of March 2. We left the next day. Even though I honestly had never thought of leaving town, after that incident I realized that there was no sense in staying ...

All the same I thought that they had always hated the Armenians. I am not mistaken. Apparently, in the course of my life and work—26 years is no small amount of time—I came to understand their psychology. Why it was like that I can't say, I don't understand it. It was just accepted. An atmo¬sphere of animosity, to put it mildly. But nonetheless I couldn't imagine that the Armenian population would be treated with such brutality. Before the 27th no one could, not even the Armenians, let alone the Russians ...

Of course all of this must be understood, interpreted. What is Nagorno Karabagh? It has its own demands, they affect the Armenian population of Nagorno Karabagh, and in no way should reflect on us, at least. If we had held rallies in support of Nagorno Karabagh I could understand how they would start to hate us and want to seek vengeance, but no one had any idea.

I think it was planned. There was a system to it, a system of looting homes, of burning, killing, smashing, cutting off the telephones, the power, it couldn't all come about in just one evening. You can throw a stone in someone's window if you hate them, but you don't kill them, you don't rob them, you don't violate the women. In the press they say that there were 12 rapes, which is utterly incomprehensible, even assuming that the figure is correct. Even if you accept those figures, that there were 12 rapes and 26 Armenian deaths, even those are awful figures. I consider the murder of even one person unthinkable. At the SK I heard that one woman who had been raped managed to escape; she was right there in the Club. There was terror everywhere, everyone spoke of their neighbors being killed. And one woman told an incredible story: her neighbor gave them 300 rubles and they didn't touch her or her grandchildren. They pointed her out to me. She gave them 300 rubles and said, 'This is all I have, just don't kill my grandchildren.'

They stole everything. I don't know which they did first, kill or rob, which was more important to them, the murder or the theft. It's hard to judge. It seems they killed the people who put up resistance, and that they had perhaps gone into the Armenian apartments above all to rob them. They took money and valuables, and the televisions and crystal they threw out of the apartments. They took everything. When I was talking with the Manvelians, the wife asked her husband this question in my presence: "What's left in the apartment, Pavlik?" He said, "They took everything, even the rugs were torn off the walls." This the husband was telling his wife, apparently before then they hadn't had a chance to discuss it. They were just thunderstruck, those people, you could understand their feelings, and I couldn't even ask them a single question, it was too awful. They told me what they considered important to tell. I think one such testimony is enough to hold those people up to shame for all time.

And here is something else that surprised me: when I was walking down the street and there were those looted apartments, it was obvious that they were Armenian. It was the accuracy with which it was done. If this is going on at night, and the crowd is reckless, there aren't any signs on the doors with the occupants' names on them, not every entryway has a directory of apartments, then how did they manage to hit the Armenian apartments so precisely? When we were at the SK, now I'm talking about what other peo¬ple said, Lieutenant General Krayey announced that they did have some sort of lists of Armenian apartments. This my daughter's father-in-law told me. He spoke with General Krayev, and Krayev told him that the matter would be investigated.

April 6, 1988



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Sumgait Resident

On the night of February 28, there was a pogrom in the apartment block and all over the city. I saw this massacre with my own eyes.

They wanted to attack our house. By some miracle the danger passed us by, and we escaped with our lives. But I thought of my relatives: "What will I hear in the morning? Will they be alive? Will they have been murdered?" It was about quarter to four on the morning of the 29th. It was already quiet in the apartment block. I went out into the courtyard, carrying an axe. An Armenian neighbor caught sight of me from the balcony of a nearby build¬ing and said, "Where are you going?" I said, "It's a little calmer now; I want to find out whether our relatives are alive." These were distant relations, but we were on close terms with them. My relative was living with his family and his elderly mother. I said, "Probably they've perished, but maybe some¬one is alive, maybe I should help in some way. I want to go and find out." He said, "It's dangerous; don't go. Thank God you're alive yourself. Turn back." I said, "No, I can't. If something has happened to them, my conscience will always trouble me." He tried to persuade me but, seeing that he wasn't succeeding, he said, "Listen, we can't sleep easily either. You wait, and I'll send my sons with you." The three of you go together, you'll have less trou¬ble that way. Maybe some of the thugs are still out there, and you may meet one of them." I said, "Well, it seems quiet, there's no one here." He said all of this from the balcony. There was no one in the courtyard, and I answered him calmly. He said, "Forgive me, I could come down too, but I have grand¬children, and as long as I am alive, I have to protect them. But let my sons go. Be careful, go and look around, help however you can, and then come back quickly." I said, "All right." His two sons came down. I had the axe, and they had long, old-fashioned daggers; in many households we keep daggers like these as souvenirs, as a remembrance. The boys were already grown up, they had served in the army and gotten married. I wouldn't say they were very strong, but they were brave boys. I myself am a former sportsman, and I've seen everything in my life; I've been in difficult situations, death has looked me in the eye many times, and I have many scars. But I was never afraid on my own account. I don't know, maybe it's even a strange thing, but I've never felt fear for my own life.

So, the three of us went to the building where our relations lived. It's in the same apartment block as ours. Forty or fifty meters away from their house, we saw a group of 18 or 20 people coming. They were headed for another building, where an Armenian family was living on the fifth floor. The head of the family was named Nikolai, I knew him very well. I thought that, since they were going toward that entrance, they wanted to attack Nikolai's apartment. They were carrying pieces of armatube in their hands, and other things: bags, coats. I realized that these were stolen. I told the boys that there was no need to go up to the entrance of my relatives' house—no one was there. I said, "Let's stop them." We stood in front of the doorway and blocked their way. When they came within 5 or 6 meters of us, I shouted in Azerbaijani, "Don't come near here, we won't let you through." They stopped, and one of them said, "Don't be fools, let us pass." I knew only one thing: An Armenian family lived there, a family with many children, and I couldn't let these men by. The man said, "Don't be a fool, get away from the door and let us pass." They didn't realize that Armenians were standing in front of them; they thought that we were Azerbaijanis, and this is why this conversation went on. The two brothers' didn't chime in; I was the oldest and that was why they were keeping their mouths shut. Before then, I had said to the brothers in Armenian, "Kolya lives here, they could kill him and his family, we mustn't let these men pass." And their father had told them, "If they attack, fight to the death." This was the farewell their father had giv¬en them.

This Azerbaijani said to me, "If you won't help, at least don't interfere." Probably he meant that if I wouldn't help kill them, I could help steal. He said, "What are you doing, you pig? Why are you blocking our way?" Seeing that peaceful means were getting him nowhere, he waved his piece of armatube and shouted, "Beat them!" All of the 18-20 people flew at us, and a fight began.

Well, I let my axe fall. Everyone of the attackers fought furiously, but technically they weren't prepared. I could deal with them easily; there were moments when I could have hit them on the head, neck, or chest, but I did not. I hit them on the arms, and just kept them off. I had just one goal—not to let them in the door. I didn't intend to kill anyone. I only wanted to drive them away. I hit them with the blade of the axe, but only on the arms and on their pieces of armatube. The brothers defended themselves excellently, they fought the way they should with those daggers, and they also wounded many of them. All of the Azerbaijanis were already covered with blood, and one of the brothers completely lost consciousness and fell. He had many wounds; they had struck him on the back and on the face. And when he fell, they started to kick him. I saw that he had fallen; I went wild and started to strike, without knowing where the blows fell. Then they started to flee, to run back. Then there was a moment . . . before then I didn't have any wounds. There was a moment when my axe got stuck in someone's chest. As I was pulling out the axe, I lost a second, and at that time I caught a blow to the head. It left a scar. I brought the bloody axe back with me to Armenia. Someone even said to me, "You should keep that axe in remembrance." I didn't give the axe to anyone, I still have it, I use it in my home-So, anyway, they hit me on the head. And then some Azerbaijanis came out on the balcony and shouted, "That's enough, we're fed up, what do you want, you've been making noise all night!" And about seven or eight people came down. But the other group shouted, "We want to leave, but these peo¬ple won't let us, they've closed the doorway." Only then did we understand that this fight wasn't over Kolya. It turned out that they hadn't thought of attacking Kolya's family, and we were the ones who though they must want to attack Kolya's apartment. But all the same, I don't regret that fight, because they had stolen things. We thought that we were defending Kolya, but they had just wanted to get out onto the street with their stolen goods. That doorway was to a passage way, after all. And then, as we found out lat¬er they had agreed among themselves to withdraw at four o'clock. And so these men wanted to go away with their stolen things to catch the streetcar.

The neighbors who had come down separated us. They held us, and shouted that we had killed a man; one of the brothers was lying on the ground. "Enough," they said, "You've already killed him, you've beaten them all, go away." The others understood now that we were Armenians. They said, "We wanted to leave, but they attacked us, they stood in our way." And they were all swearing. They roared, they shouted, "These bastards blocked our way!" The one that I had struck on the chest was rolling on the ground, they dragged him away with them. Some of them went away grimacing, holding their arms, their shoulders or their heads, covered with blood. Some went away without the things—they couldn't carry them away. The second brother and I were still standing on our feet. They went out onto the street and started to walk away quickly, and then those neighbors also started to threaten them.

A few of these Azerbaijani neighbors knew me, of course. They didn't know me by name, but they knew my face. Even though it was dark and no one spoke to me, I felt that they had recognized me. Later I saw some of these neighbors in our courtyard, they watched us suspiciously, as if they wanted to say with their eyes that they knew everything, but they kept qui¬et. Maybe they were afraid—the devil only knows. They saw how fierce I had been, and they were afraid.

The father of the brothers got very angry with me, he went to the investi¬gator and demanded that nothing be written about his sons. He quarreled with me, and said, "You're a crazy man, they didn't attack anyone, but you got my sons mixed up in a fight, one of them was almost killed." That son Was in a very serious condition, he was unconscious for several days. But they treated him and, thank God, he survived. His father said to me, "You're a murderer, you almost killed my sons. You got them into a fight, you Weren't defending anyone, you were just fighting for no reason. You weren't Protecting your relatives, you weren't protecting anyone. They weren't after Kolya, it was you who imagined that they were attacking Kolya, and I almost lost my son."

During that fight there was such confusion that there was even a moment When a Turk struck another Turk. He wanted to hit me with a piece of armatube, but in the darkness the blow fell on his comrade, he hit him right on the head. Many of the Turks fell in the fight. One of them fell for good, the one that I had struck on the chest.

But I'll say again that I don't regret that fight all the same. How could I regret it, if they were destroying, killing Armenians and making off with stolen goods? What difference does it make whether they were after Kolya or other Armenians? By the way, I couldn't meet up with Kolya after that; he had gone away to Central Asia.

I went to my own microdistrict after a day and a half. The neighbors did not know anything yet. But after a month or a month and a half they told me not to come there. They warned me that someone was looking for a certain healthy man. "Because," they said, "there was a fight, Armenians killed one Azerbaijani and wounded many others. The relatives or the friends of the dead man have come back to look for the person who killed him. I said, "What has that got to do with me?" They said, "The description is like you, it was a healthy man with a moustache, they may think it was you." I said, "I don't know anything." They also said that everyone who came near was amazed at how this man fought. They said it was a good thing he was get¬ting on in years—imagine what would have happened if he'd been young!

It's a shame that I didn't know at the time of the fight that they were killing Armenians in the city. If I had known, I would be with the angels now. I wouldn't have let them go like that, I would have set off after them, I would have beaten them all. Until I died myself, I wouldn't have rested. If I had known that nearby they were killing Armenians, raping them, throwing them off balconies, I wouldn't have returned from that fight.

We sportsmen take an oath never to use our strength against a person. I didn't train for so many years in order to beat people and kill them. I was raised to believe that I mustn't either beat of kill people. If I had meant to, then maybe I would have sent many of them off to the other world. It wouldn't have been hard for me.

It isn't true that the Armenians in Sumgait didn't defend themselves. I know that where it was possible, Armenians fought to the death. If we had known an hour or two hours ahead of time that they were going to start killing us, we would have behaved completely differently. For example, they came into our entrance way, and miraculously, nothing happened. But if I had known, I would have opened the door myself and attacked them first. Before that I would have called all my Armenian neighbors, gathered them in one apartment, and taken the women and children to a separate room. And we would have fought off anyone.

But we didn't know anything. We relied on Soviet power, or the militia. But Soviet power and the militia had already been sold in Sumgait. What Soviet power! The militia was bought, the City Committee was bought. Who was there? We saw that no one was helping us. Besides the militia, there are so many factories in Sumgait, and there's an armed security force at each factory—so many people with weapons! What, couldn't they have defended us? So many patrols! They couldn't have protected us? No one lifted a finger. They created the conditions themselves.

October 12, 1988



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Born 1957

Mathematics Teacher

Sumgait Secondary School No. 15

Resident at Building 25/63, Apartment 47

Microdistrict No. 2, Sumgait

On February 27 I was coming home from work with my child. It was after three o'clock. In the bus people were saying, "The poor Armenians, we'll have to hide them." People were anxious even then. I got off near the Sputnik store and was headed for the bread store and saw that the entire store had been demolished, all the windows were broken. I didn't want to go in, figuring I'd be called as a witness. On the way I saw demonstrators with flags and signs: "Armenians out of Sumgait!" and "Karabagh is ours, we won't give it to Armenia, it was part of Azerbaijan and so it will stay!" When I heard that I realized that it was the nationalities issue and didn't continue down the street, but went through the courtyards instead. The situ¬ation there was even worse. Near the building across from the Znaniye Bookstore, No. 21 or 23, I'm not positive which, I saw a mob of bandits and hooligans, and all the entryways were surrounded. I saw things being thrown off the balconies. On the fifth floor someone was being beaten, and the people nearby shouted, "They've thrown someone off!" and I heard the person slam onto the ground. That happened behind me. I didn't turn my head to look, for they were doing violence to Armenians and I wouldn't have been able to take it and would have started to cry. Also, they would have immediately seen that I was an Armenian.

So they threw someone off the fifth floor. I could be wrong, because I wasn't looking the moment the person fell. But from what I heard it seemed that's what happened. There were many, many people around me, so many you couldn't breathe, and it was loud. The building was surrounded. The hooligans were going up floor by floor, and people stood around laughing: that's what the Armenians deserve.

I went home on the double, not taking in anything because I was so frightened. I was afraid to knock on the neighbor woman's door because she might be attacked, too, and started getting my child's things together thinking I would stop a car and asked to be taken out of town. Five minutes later the neighbor girl and her mother came by telling me to come downstairs Quickly to their place, had I taken leave of my senses staying home at a time like this? I got my son, he's small, and went downstairs. I lived on the third floor, and the neighbor, on the second, in our entryway. And we hid the whole time at their place. The neighbor's brother-in-law was there he had come from Baku, her husband's brother from the Kubatlin District, she had warned him not to bring anyone over because they would see that they were hiding Armenians and it would go badly for them. He asked if my husband or his mother were at home, they should be told to hide, too. Even though we lived in the same apartment, my husband and I were divorced. I say "How can I go up there by myself? Come with me." He stood in the entry-way and I went upstairs and warned them. Mostly military people lived in our building, many Russians ... the Russians hid them, my husband and his mother, in two different apartments. The thing was that even though they were burning only Armenian apartments, other apartments could catch fire, too. They were afraid themselves, that's why they hid us.

The hooligans came up to our building and asked if Armenians lived there. They were told, "Only military people live here, there are no Armenians here." From where I was on the second floor I heard a chorus shouting, "Where are the Armenians here?" Then one shouted that the Arustamian family lived in Apartment 47—that was us. I don't know how they knew. Previously our neighbor had nailed a name plate reading "Shirinov" on our door, and removed the directory from the entryway. He made the name plate himself, put it together himself so our apartment would be left alone.

1 heard more shouts that the Arustamians lived there, but the neighbors told them that we had moved a long time ago, Russian neighbors, Leskova and the Frantskevichs. But they didn't believe them and started knocking on doors. One of the Azerbaijani neighbors opened the door and said, "I live here, my name is Shirinov." They seemed to believe him, and left. But our building remained under suspicion.

Meanwhile I had taken my child into the closet on the balcony. They burst into the apartment and were checking. The neighbors had two con¬nected rooms, and there was nowhere to hide. The neighbor had put up a board and put potato sacks and 1 don't know what else on top of it.

They came into the apartment where we were and were cursing at one another . . . The husband and the husband's brother were there, and they were shouting at them, just what kind of Azerbaijanis are you, you aren't out killing Armenians. They answered, "For shame, that'll be just about enough, how many years we've lived with them like brothers, like one big family." And they told them that Armenia had insulted the Azerbaijanis of Kafan and that they had come to Sumgait seeking revenge. They were spreading rumors like that.

When 1 went to the neighbors' my son was already asleep. But in the clos¬et he started to whine, and I told him, 'Mamma's sleeping, you sleep too, or a mouse will come, the bogeyman will come.' He fell asleep, thank God When it was clear that they had gone off to another building, 1 climbed out of the closet. There was no air in there, 1 was suffocating. We hid the child under a metal bed, made a place for him to sleep down there, the bed-frame? was a tall one. But if anything happened 1 was supposed to go back into the? closet to hide. Then someone apparently gave us away. They came back again and knocked. This was on Sunday, the 28th. My neighbors said, "What do you want, you were already here once, what do you want, go away!" The hus¬band was quite angry. "Who are you, that you can come into my apartment? You're an Azerbaijani and I'm an Azerbaijani. My child and I were again hiding in the closet. By the way, they looked under the mattresses, too. Later I saw that the bedspreads had been thrown off. There were suitcases down there. The family wasn't well to do, they had just moved in and didn't have anything to put their dishes in yet. They had long been tenants, and the mother kept the dishes under the bed so their small children wouldn't break them. The gang came out onto the balcony, too, but we were in the closet behind the bags and they didn't think to look for anyone there. I was so ter¬rified I couldn't breathe.

I forgot to mention that on Saturday evening the husband's brother had brought company, and she had started to shout: her brother was sick and now guests had appeared, she had asked him not to bring anyone. But he, it turned out, had brought policemen with him. The neighbor asked, "What's happened?" Her husband works at a plant, she got scared that something had happened to him. The policeman said, "Don't worry, we have to help two people." On the first floor the Russians hadn't opened their door, they were afraid, and the husband's brother stood outside and guarded the entry-way. The neighbor said, "Giulchokhra, come out, don't be afraid." I came out. The three policemen were from the Kusar District, that's in Azerbaijan; they were brought to Sumgait to restore order until the soldiers arrived from Russia. One of them had blood on his forehead, and the other was uncon¬scious, there was fresh blood on his neck. He couldn't walk by himself, and the two others held him up. One of them was unharmed, and two of them were wounded. They asked for help, even though the regular hospital and the Emergency Hospital were right next door. They couldn't go there, though: everything was out of control on the streets, they were killing peo¬ple.

The policeman asked for some medicine. 1 didn't understand the Azerbaijani, I couldn't get a word out for fear, and started to stammer. The neighbor said, "Giulya, you have medicine at home, go upstairs." The police¬men accompanied me up to my apartment, I got alcohol and iodine and everything they needed. I asked my ex-father-in-law for the heart prepara¬tions, they were still in our apartment, they hid after that. On Saturday the policemen stayed with us. We tended to them, all night the policeman who was unconscious was in our apartment, in the neighbors', that is. 1 wiped off the blood and started applying cold compresses, the wounded man opened his eyes, but wasn't taking anything in. He had been hit with a rock, the hooligans had armature shafts in their hands, and they beat him with those, too. The policemen said that the hooligans had burned a bus, they didn't knew how they would get where they had to go ... They burned the bus right there on the street. The bus was standing there empty, and the police-men had been called in to restore order.

In the morning, when the surgeon came, at first he didn't know that I was an Armenian, the neighbor woman told him, and he said that I shouldn't go anywhere, that they should hide me. On Monday I stayed at their apartment too, the situation had further deteriorated. Soldiers had entered the city. An armored personnel carrier stopped before our building. The soldiers were shooting, and the hooligans were running away. The bullets were blanks. The bandits had bottles of gasoline in their hands. They threw them on the armored personnel carriers and set them aflame. They had pint bottles of gasoline. One armored personnel carrier ran over four hooligans, but they didn't scatter away from it all the same, they jumped on top of it. They start¬ed burning the armored personnel carriers.

So I was watching this out the neighbors' window. School No. 3 is right across the way, the square is a large one. They'd chase the hooligans off and the hooligans would come back from another direction. The soldiers had helmets on and had weapons, but it's a fact that they didn't shoot. Rather, they shot blanks. The hooligans finally caught on and became more auda¬cious.

Those who fell under the wheels of the armored personnel carriers didn't get up. Then the police removed the corpses. Right then, just a moment later.

While all this was going on the neighbor woman was crying and saying, "Look what's happening out there, my child is seeing all of this, tomorrow he'll be doing the same things." She wouldn't let her children go outside . . . Her son was five, and her daughter would soon be going to school, but the third was still quite small. The boy said, 'But Aunt Giulchokhra isn't an Armenian, she's an Azerbaijani, she always comes to see us.' Their mother had forbade them to tell strangers that 1 was an Armenian, and even after saying those words she smacked him on the lips. She locked them in the bathroom and said, "Don't look, you're not allowed to see." She hadn't let her children outside since Saturday so they wouldn't blurt out about us. There were four other Armenian families in the building besides ours.

On Monday after three o'clock I heard shooting. Before this there hadn't been orders to shoot. We asked the policemen from Kusar why they didn't shoot, and they answered because it was peacetime, we were building Communism, how can we kill them, it has to be done peacefully. But on the 29th they started shooting.

On Tuesday I was evacuated from the area of the disturbances. Our neighbor's friend, he works at the plant, took five families out in a bus, two of them were sent to Rostov, where they wanted to go ... I didn't end up in the SK club, I didn't even know that the Armenians were being gathered there. I was taken to Baku, and they were evacuating all the Armenians from the SK club and the City Party Committee under guard. My ex-husband and his father were rescued, too. When Mamma's brothers wound up in the club, they saw them there. My husband was asking about his son . . .

From Baku, where I stayed with my aunt, I had to go to Sumgait to extend my sick leave. The doctors were accommodating with us, they extended our leaves not for three days, as they are supposed to, but for ten, so we didn't have to go often. The pediatrician even asked, "Is your child alive?" I said yes, but that he was sick, I would take care of him in Baku and wouldn't bring him back to Sumgait. I went to see what had happened to our apartment. The door was broken down and some things had been taken, what I can't say exactly, I wasn't up to dealing with it. I was accompanied by soldiers. There was a basement in our building, there were hooligans hiding down there, they were running the hooligans down little by little, and I asked the soldiers to go with me.

I didn't have a sideboard, and my service of Czech crystal and some other things were in three boxes on the balcony. I had thought that at least they wouldn't notice them, they'd be there for hard times and I could sell them to buy something for my child. They took all of it. And our clothes . . . But I was in a hurry. I went in second, after the soldier. The furniture was still intact...

What else can I tell you? In Sumgait they had tried to kill my uncle, Mamma's brother, he's in the hospital now in Baku. When he was coming home from work on the plant bus, there were two Armenians on board, the mob stopped the bus and demanded the Armenians. One of the workers said to my uncle, "Aramais, are you deaf? Aren't you an Armenian or what? They're talking about you ..." Besides my uncle there was an older Armenian man, they attacked him too, and they started stomping my uncle, he hit them once, but they hit him 50 times. They stomped on him with their feet, beat him with their fists, hit him all different ways.

I saw Uncle Aramais after March 5. I was staying at my aunt's. On the first day I couldn't talk at all, I just stuttered. I could only wave my arms. The second day they started giving me injections, and then I was able to tell everything.

My uncle was wearing hospital clothes, they gave us his clothing to wash. His underwear was completely torn and was all bloody. Only tatters remained of his outer clothing, we didn't even take it. They hit him on the head with an armature rod and he lost consciousness; they thought he was dead. That's why they left him. Then an ambulance came for him, apparent¬ly someone had called one. When they first brought him to Baku he was unable to say who his relatives were, but later, somewhere around the 3rd or 4th of March, he said that he had a sister in Baku, he couldn't give them an address, just the last name. We got a phone call and they asked who Aramais was, and I told them that he was my uncle. That's how he turned up. They asked us not to cry when we saw him. He hardly recognized us, he was completely covered in bandages, his whole face . . . His whole face was bandaged, you could only see his eyes. My uncle said he couldn't feel any¬thing.

Before I flew to Yerevan I went to see him again and he said his body hurt all over. People from the Procuracy, the chief engineer from his plant, and People from the personnel department all went to see him and brought pho¬tographs of many workers with them. They asked him questions and wrote things down. They said don't be afraid, tell us honestly who did this, that is, who gave him away, but my uncle told them he would recognize his face but didn't remember his name. They were supposed to bring workers for him to identify. But what came of that I don't know. I couldn't stay there any longer. I took my child and came here ...

April 6, 1988



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Born 1957


Azerbaijani Tube-Rolling Plant


Born 1961


Left the work force to care for the children

Residents at Building 2, Apartment 54

Block 2 Sumgait

-Zhanna: I have often heard and read in the papers that young children did not suffer in the slaughter. I'm not sure, maybe they suffered, maybe they didn't—people say different things. I have heard from relatives and loved ones that they didn't, and I can't speak with certainty. I can only attest that they tried to poison my child of two and a half.

It happened on February 26, somewhere around two o'clock in the after¬noon. My boys—the older one, David, is five, and the younger, Christopher, is two and a half—were outside in the yard. There was unrest in the city that day. We live downtown, right near the City Party Committee. People were starting to go around in groups shouting, "Karabagh is ours!" Who would have thought that soon they would start killing? At the time they only went around shouting. How could I know what they were capable of and that I mustn't allow my children to go outside? Every five minutes I went out on the balcony and looked, and the children were just playing. Then I started doing the wash. I went out onto the balcony and saw my youngest lying on the pavement in the middle of the street. I ran downstairs and took him into my arms, and he was barely breathing. He's sleeping, I think. Well I thought that he had just tired himself out running around. I brought him into the house, undressed him and put him to bed. An hour goes by, then two, then three, and he still didn't wake up. Meanwhile my mother-in-law had come over. I said, "Mamma, there's something suspicious here, the child is sleep-mg and won't wake up. I try to waken him and can't rouse him." She became anxious: "What do you mean?" Together we try waking him, slapping his cheeks and lifting him up; he doesn't move, he's like a noodle, and we open his eyes, and they close again. His pupils were so big you could only see the whites of his eyes.

We called an ambulance and they took the child to the hospital. I stood crying at the admissions desk with him in my arms, and my mother-in-law was crying, too. The doctor, a young Azerbaijani woman, was in Admissions. She showed me a small room and says, "Go in there and wait." She came back ten minutes later. They wouldn't let my mother-in-law in with me, they told her she had to wait in the hall. I had given them my pass¬port, the doctor knew we were Armenians. Every few minutes I would walk out of the room crying, "Doctor, my child is dying, do something!" She answered, "Go in there and sit, it'll just be a minute." I sat there for nearly half an hour and she ignored me completely.

I sat there with my child in my arms crying, not knowing what to do. Finally the doctor asked the orderly, "Where is Movsesian?" There is a good Armenian pediatrician in that hospital by the name of Movsesian, everyone goes to him. He was on the third floor. The doctor tells the orderly to get him. She herself, apparently, doesn't know anything. She started irrigating his stomach, and she didn't even know how to hold the needle. She got a tube and stuck it into his nose. She tried to put in a manganese mixture with the syringe, and she couldn't do it. A doctor! This was passing for a doctor! I can imagine how she managed to graduate from the medical institute. The orderly—an older woman who had obviously worked for a long time in the hospital—took the needle from her and started the infusion herself. They give him five syringes full. He was still unconscious. The doctor said, "He should vomit, but he can't." Then they put a tube into him, and fluid started backing up the tube. Really clear fluid, there was nothing else there. She said, "Take him to Baku. Find a taxi and get him to Baku."

It was already midnight. I say, "Where will we find a taxi at this hour? How will I get him there? Something will happen to him before I can get him there." And she says, "And us? What can we do? Go look for a taxi." My mother-in-law said, "Call an ambulance." "No," she said, "no ambulance will come."

Just then Movsesian arrived. He came and started to examine the child. My mother-in-law pleaded with him [to do everything possible to save the child].

He says, "I understand, let's see the child." He examined him and said, "1 am 90 percent sure what he has been poisoned with, but 1 don't want to risk it. Take him to the main hospital in Baku, let them examine him and do a blood analysis. We don't have the proper medications here."

We have our own car, but my husband was at our dacha. My mother-in-law cried, "Where will we find a car in the middle of the night?" And Movsesian says, "Why do you need a car? I'll call an ambulance." And we said, "The doctor told us that we had to find one ourselves." He said, "Nonsense, sit here and I'll summon one immediately." Movsesian gave us shots to calm us. "Don't worry," he said, "nothing will happen to the child in two hours."

About half an hour later the ambulance arrived. Our way happened to take us right near our dacha. My mother-in-law said, "Please stop there, I'll get out and tell my son." Garnik ran up and we all went to Baku together.

-Garnik: Mother didn't want to tell me that something had happened to the child, she said that my wife had cut her hand and had to be taken to Baku immediately. I came out and looked and my wife was sitting there with something wrapped up in a blanket. "What's going on? How did you cut yourself? What have you got all wrapped up there?" She says, "Our son." "What do you mean, our son? What's wrong with him?" "He's been poi¬soned, they can't treat him. 'Take him to Baku immediately,' they told me." I said, "What do you mean poisoned, with what?" I touched the child and he was cold and pale. I held his head and raised it up slightly, and he was limp, like a rag. "Go quickly," I tell the driver, "pour on the gas!"

I drove in our Moskvich. The trip took about half an hour. We arrived in Baku, at the Semashko Hospital, Toxicology Department. It was late—one o'clock or one-thirty in the morning. It was already February 27. I say, "Here's what happened: the child has been poisoned. Please, I beg of you, help him!" They looked at him and said, "Yes, yes." I spoke with them in Azerbaijani because the situation, you know, was bad. The nurse started signing him in. She wrote down, "City of Sumgait, Block 2," well she wrote down our address. As soon as I said our last name—Nersesian—the young woman suddenly said, "Why did you bring your son here? Why didn't you take him to Yerevan for treatment?"

-Zhanna: She said, "Aren't you afraid that we'll kill him?" Just like that. And my husband said, "What do you mean, kill him?! And are you going to take responsibility for it later?" She says, "The child is in serious condition." And my husband says, "If you harm one hair on his head, just one, I will blow up this place. Nothing will be left of this hospital." And she says, "Now why are you taking all this so seriously?"—she smiles—"I was just kidding." And my husband says, "You're just joking and I'm telling you straight: the life of my child means more to me. If anything happens to him, it's all over!"

-Garnik: I didn't have time to fool around with that nurse. I had her sum¬mon a doctor. The doctor on duty came and said the same thing, "Aren't you afraid to bring an Armenian, all the more so a child, to this hospital?" I said, "What are you saying? How am I supposed to take that?" I just lost it and was ready to hit him or do something to him. But I got myself under control and put up with it. I took him off to one side. I started to threaten him: "If you don't give my child back to me alive, you won't walk out of this hospi¬tal." Then I asked, "When will you return my child to me?" He said, "I'll return your child to you alive in three hours." I say, "If you give me the child back alive I'll know to thank you and do everything that should be done. But make sure that nothing happens to him." He said, "Don't worry, every¬thing will be fine."

Three hours passed and he came and said, "It can't be done that quickly, We need more time." I say, "How much?" He answers, "Till morning."

-Zhanna: When we arrived in Baku the boy's condition was like before: he didn't respond to anything, he was almost dead. He was virtually uncon¬scious for three days. They couldn't bring him around for three days. He was on an IV, they had him on artificial life support. They cleaned his blood for three days. The entire time we asked, "How is the child?" and always got the same answer: "In bad condition" or "In serious condition." Only after three days did they tell us, "Slightly improved."

-Garnik: They wouldn't allow me near the child. That's understandable in cases like that they don't even let the mothers in to see them. The boy was in intensive care on the first floor. They said, "As soon as his condition is bet¬ter we'll move him to the second floor."

-Zhanna: On February 27 we left the child in the hospital and returned to Sumgait, planning to go back to see him the next day. We drove into town and saw a raging crowd and four fire trucks. There's a big artistic composi¬tion there, and the emblems of the 15 republics. And I look and see that insane crowd pull down the Armenian emblem and tread on it with their feet, pick it up, and hurl it to the pavement. They threw rocks at the firemen who were standing there. At this time they apparently hadn't yet thought of the passports, of checking people's documents to see if they were Armenians or not. It was later that they stopped people and checked. Well we just slid through, through that crazed mob, to our house.

-Garnik: When we got home I called the City Party Committee. The per¬son on duty or someone, I didn't ask the name, answered the phone. I called them up and said, "Listen, what's going on? It's peacetime and there are all kinds of atrocities going on. Just where is the Soviet government, what is it doing? All the police are just standing around, they're huddled in groups, and no one is doing anything. Something has to be done so there are no vic¬tims in Sumgait. There's swearing, wrecking, and shouting going on every¬where. I have a suggestion," I tell them. "What's your suggestion?", they ask. "I suggest that those fire trucks that are standing there hose down the mob with water, it's winter time and they'll all run home." And he says, "What age is this that we hose people down with water?!" I say, "What age is this that in the Soviet Union something like this is going on in peacetime in our city?! What are the police doing?"

-Zhanna: He said that they were doing something, that it was none of our business. He hung up. And on the 28th, at five o'clock in the morning, we left for Baku again. It was quiet at five, we were able to leave without any problem. The gangs were probably taking a breather. They had carried on the whole night and probably decided to relax for an hour or two. That was the day our child finally started to get better.

What had happened to him? He was poisoned in our yard. My oldest son, David, was right there with him. He's five, he's still a child. He cant say exactly what happened. First he says that there were people there who came up to them. Then he says it was Christopher who went up to them himself. You can't get it straight—he's a child. Apparently they figured out he was an Armenian child. I already said that there were crowds going about town. Apparently one of those groups of animals came into our yard, found out that he was an Armenian, and gave him some tablets. In the medical report it says clearly that he was given narcotic tablets. Narcotic tablets are not something a child can pick up on the street. Our neighbors said, "Maybe he picked them up off the ground." Who throws narcotics onto the ground? Addicts pay fantastic sums for them. Do they throw them on the ground?


(David's account: There were some men in the yard. They said it was can¬dy Kidato [Christopher] takes them, he took them and ate them. Then I told him, "That's bad medicine." He said, "No, it's candy." Then he ate them. And later, later he lay on the bench and slept.)

(David's later account: Those men had yellow medicine. They said, "Kida, come here." He ran over and said, "What?" The man said, "I'll give you some candy" And he said, "Give it to me!" And he gave him the medicine. Then he took it and brought it and showed it to me, here, the man gave me some candy. And I said, "That's not candy, that's medicine, it's yellow and round." He said, "No, it's candy," and ate it right up.)

-Zhanna: At first I had doubts, how could he take medicine and eat it? He must have known that it was medicine. Maybe it's my fault: we often bought the children vitamins from the pharmacy, yellow ones, white ones, vitamin C, for their appetites, and they got used to taking them. Maybe the boy thought that's what they were, the color was probably the same. If I hadn't taught them to take vitamins, maybe he wouldn't have swallowed them, wouldn't have taken them. I don't know: could they even kill a child? It's just so farfetched. I just can't get it through my head. A small child, two and a half years old. What does he know? What did he do, bad or good? He's just started his life. How can you kill a child? But on the other hand, of course, we want to thank the doctors. No matter what they said at the begin¬ning, that he was an Armenian and we should take him to Yerevan, all the same they saved the child. We didn't have any faith that they would save him. We thought that's it, we're going to lose him. We cried from morning to night. But nonetheless, great thanks go to those doctors. An Azerbaijani poi¬soned him, and Azerbaijanis saved him.

-Garnik: I left my wife in Baku because the situation in Sumgait was bad, and went home. I found out that everyone in our families was alive and well, and spent the night there. The next morning when I was leaving I could only think of getting to where my child was as soon as possible. Driving away from the building I saw that a crowd had already gathered. It was impossible to even drive out onto the road. There was only one way to get out. Then I found a way to make my way out through the courtyards, so as not to land in that crowd. That was on February 29.

I wanted to drive out past the old railway station, where the commuter trains used to go, and saw that they were checking people. That mob of ani¬mals was stopping cars and checking documents. If it was an Armenian they burned the car on the spot, beat the people on the spot. Then I wanted to drive toward the Sputnik, and come out on the lane near the knitwear facto¬ry' but that was blocked too. There was one light left before I was out of there. There were three cars ahead of me: the first one I noticed was a Zhiguli, they had set it on fire, it was already aflame, and they had stopped the other two and were checking documents to see if they were Armenians.

When I noticed that I didn't lose my head, I turned the car around on the side of the road and went back the other way taking turns so as to get away from that crowd. I think, I'll go through Saray. But before I had reached Microdistrict 8 I see that there's another crowd there, they had surrounded a woman and were tormenting her in different ways. She was lying right out in the street near the bus station. I had one thought in my mind: to escape that mob. I thought I would turn around, but it was already too late. I thought I'd go on straight ahead. There were two buses there, they had been stopped. They got onto the buses and started checking for Armenians. There was some space between the buses. I drove up very slowly and then took off sharply, punched the accelerator and roared out ahead. I drove through Microdistrict 9, but before I reached No. 12 I saw another crowd had formed, they were smashing up cars and overturning them. I turned around to go the other way, toward the sea, thinking I would try to get through via Nasosny. I drove fast down Samed Vurgun Boulevard, and there were peo¬ple there too, but not many. I no longer cared: if anyone tried to stop me I wouldn't surrender. I drove at top speed. I reached the taxi lot, there the road turns off toward Kotteja. There were two streetcars there: the first, which goes toward Sumgait, was destroyed, completely smashed, and the second was on the tracks. They had left some space left between them so that drivers approaching the streetcars could be stopped and checked. And what they did when they found Armenians—I had just seen that myself. Now this time, to be honest, I didn't know what to do, and was getting ready to turn around and then I looked and saw that there were already crowds ahead of me and behind me. No, I thought, that's the only way out, between those streetcars. I stayed stopped for a moment and then I saw a fire truck coming. There was a chance: I could drive through on its tail. The fire truck was driving through at top speed, and I drove up right behind it and raced through without stopping. I noticed that one car on the side had already been overturned, and was lying there smashed. Having escaped I set off for Baku, to my child.

June 7,1988

Shushan Boarding House Near the Village of Arzakan Hrazdan District



Name: NERSESIAN, Christopher Garnikovich Age: 3 years

Date of Admission: February 26, 1988 Date of Discharge: March 13, 1988

Clinical Diagnosis: Acute oral poisoning with psychotropic substances

Condition upon admission was serious. Stupor was alleviated, cries in response to noxious stimulus. Pupils equally round and reactive to light and accommodation . . . Child released in satisfactory condition, symptoms of acute poisoning passed. The child was discharged. There were no complica¬tions of infection.

Department Head: A. A. Ibragimov [signature] Attending Physician: A. N. Bagirov [signature] [seal of Semashko Clinical Hospital No. 1]


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Born 1957 Ambulance Driver

Resident at Building 13, Apartment 14

Block 42


On the evening of the 27th, after playing hockey, somewhere around sev¬en o'clock I was leaving town in my car and saw that a number of people had gathered. I thought there had been an accident and was going to take another road, but I looked and saw a mob that was breaking things and beating people. Two people stopped me as though nothing were happening, 1 hadn't yet figured out what was going on, they stopped my car and asked to be taken to the bazaar. They got in and in Azerbaijani I asked them what was happening. They told me they were killing Armenians. There were two of them, and I was silent. I'm driving along and they say that the Armenians were selling potatoes at the bazaar and they chased the Armenians all away. I see one of our ambulances, and they're smashing it, too. I dropped them off and drove home quickly and parked the car in the lot.

My shift started on the morning of the 28th. On the road I saw that all the booths there were broken: a newspaper kiosk, an Armenian had worked there; the boot repair booths; and the beverage and juice place. When I got to work they told me, "The Armenians are supposed to go home, they're not being allowed to work." I say, "What do you mean, go home, just why should I go home? I'm supposed to work today." "I'm telling you go home! That's it!" Well I got my family and went to my father's place. He lives in Block 3, Building 5, Apartment 27. There's a good view of the square from there. We heard shouts and cries: "We won't give up Karabagh!" and "Armenians get out of here!" A woman was speaking and she started shout¬ing, "They're stripping, raping, and killing our people. Aren't you men? They're killing our people and you're here not doing anything!"

We went to bed. Imagine, that night we didn't hear a thing, just dogs barking.

The next morning Father went to work, I was still in bed, it was 8:10. My wife woke me up, crying: "Get up, they've set our building on fire!" Well, kind of jokingly I said, "Well so what, they've set the building on fire. "My father was standing downstairs, crying and calling my name: "Come down¬stairs." He had come back with one of his pals, an Azerbaijani. He had gone to work and they asked him, "Is Vladimir alive?" He says, "Just what do you mean alive? He spent the night at my place." They told him, "His building was set on fire." And so my father came to get me. So we went to my place. see that all the windows are broken, the curtains are lying on the ground the children's things, our things, the couch, the mattresses—everything is on the ground outside, much of it is burned. The building manager was stand¬ing there. We went upstairs to the apartment and the door was broken down, we went inside . . . well you certainly couldn't call it an apartment any longer, everything was smashed. And the tape recorder, my coat, and many other things were gone completely. Well I thought we'd go report it, not touch anything so they could take fingerprints. We went to the City party Committee and it was so crowded you could barely get in. There were so many Armenians, it was packed, there were even people in their slippers, some had fled there right from work. The family of a friend of ours had fled there during the night; her small daughter was wearing nothing but a jump¬suit, and the neighbor was wearing only a robe. She was crying. People started shouting, "Give us an airplane to Yerevan! We don't want to live here! Let us leave!" And the authorities were trying to calm people down: "Everything will be fine, everything will be all right."

There were many beaten and injured people among them. I ran into Valya, she's my third cousin. She was crying: "They killed mother." My mother-in-law, that is[apparently Emma Grigorian.] And the people in charge were walking among us, addressing us as akhper [literally "brother," Armenian equivalent to "buddy"] in Armenian. "I'm not your brother!" one man said, "They raped my wife and my child, you're no brother of mine! How am I supposed to go on living?!" Everyone was in a panic, the feeling of terror had not yet subsided.

My father and I went home and my children were shouting, "Germans! Germans! They're killing us!" I hid them under the bed. I tell my father, "Let's get out of here, let's get out of here," I say, "Let's go to Yerevan."

We went upstairs to see some Armenian neighbors: "Let's all go together." And our neighbor said, "No, everything will calm down." I say, "It's danger¬ous to stay here." He says, "So they set a building on fire, nothing all that bad's happening, and if they killed someone it was probably accidental."

We went to get my aunt's family, she's my father's sister, I knock and no one comes to the door. I shout, "Aunt, Aunt, it's me, Vova!" And only then did they open up. My aunt said that the neighbors, Valerik and Alik Avanesian, had been killed. I had known Alik well. And even though my aunt was trembling with fear, she refused to leave: "They'll kill us on the way ..." A neighbor of mine, Boris Abramian, lived there. Borya and I had been classmates together, and he and I decided to leave town together.

I got the car from the lot. I drove right up to the entryway with Boris behind me in his car; he had gotten his whole family. My family was getting ready to get in the car and my father's neighbor shouted, "Hey, Armenians, where are you running off to? I'm going to kill all of you!" He raced toward us. I had an axe wrapped up in a rag, for self-defense. I pulled out the axe, and my father got a tire iron. The neighbor's daughter—the neighbor's name is Adyl Shafiyev—threw herself between us and cried, "Papa, don't!" And he shouted, "I'm going to kill them!" Other neighbors were standing there as well. I thought, if he attacks us and I kill him, the rest of them will come at

us. But the neighbors seized him. Normally he was scared to death of me but now . . . Anyway, he broke away and fell down and smashed his face bloody, and became completely enraged. My family was already in the car, and I started off. He went at Borya. Borya stepped on the gas and was going to crush him against the wall with the car, but at the last second managed to restrain himself. We left. We filled our tanks in Nasosny and drove to Derbent without stopping. We were stopped twice by the State Motor Vehicle Inspectorate to see who we were, and went on. There were nine peo¬ple in my car—nine people in a Moskvich! Four of them were children There was a nursing infant, only eight months old, he was crying and had to be fed, and we hadn't brought much of anything with us. When we got to Derbent there were no vacancies at the hotel. As it turns out, there were oth¬er Armenians from Sumgait there already. What could we do? We drove on. Anyway, by morning we arrived in Orjonikidze, and were going to take the Georgian Military Highway to Armenia. The road was closed, they weren't letting anyone through because of landslides. We went to Pyatigorsk. We passed Borya there. We left the car with relatives there and went to Armavir. From there we took a train to Yerevan, to our Armenia.

How happy we were on the way—it was over, thank God we were alive and well, we had escaped. But getting out of Sumgait! Right when we were leaving some 150 people tried to cut off the road ahead of us. They guessed that we were Armenians. We were lucky, there were armored personnel car¬riers there, and we just raced between them at an insane speed. There were probably no more than two feet between my car and the armored personnel carrier.

On April 9 the investigative group from the USSR Procuracy summoned me to Sumgait in conjunction with the case of the pogrom of my apartment. In Sumgait people asked, "How are things in Yerevan? Have they revoked the curfew yet? They say no one is even going to work there." They had no idea of what was happening in Armenia, false rumors were making the rounds in Sumgait. Copies of "Emotion and Reason" [a provocative anti-Armenian article printed in Pravda (March 21, 1988) and reprinted in Kommunist Sumgaita] was plastered up on walls and store windows through¬out the city. But the city was dead. I met only two Armenians there, and even that was in the military registration and enlistment office, and they too were completing their paperwork so they could leave. The Azerbaijani were saying that the events were a wind, and that the wind had passed through, some wave had passed through, and was gone, it was over, and now everything would be quiet and fine, nothing more would happen.

April 15,1988 Yerevan


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Born 1950

physics Teacher

Sumgait Secondary School No. 23

Resident at Building 5B, Apartment 27

Block 41A, Sumgait

After the tragic events, I mean the massacre of Armenians in Sumgait, my life was divided into two parts: Before and After. I don't know which is more painful, to see those atrocities or to remember them all later. But for me the pain is doubled. Before, I had my home and a job I loved. I can't say that things weren't going well for me; on the contrary, I had good relationships with my pupils, their parents, the other teachers, and my friends. And what's more, I felt and valued their love for me. The habit of working until the wee hours, struggling with sticky problems, preparing my lesson plans and struggling with an excited mind that won't go to sleep. Now I can't sleep for an entirely different reason: the thoughts, the bitter and dismal thoughts, the doubts and questions, questions which, or rather, not all of which, I can answer. I see the scenes and images constantly, they won't go away.

To get an understanding of the horror of what took place it suffices to recall March 2. On that day we were in the Sumgait City Party Committee where more than a thousand Armenians, citizens of Sumgait, had gathered. The City Party Committee was divided into two sections: on the left half was the military, where they did the job of rescuing the Armenians from their apartments . . . and on the right was a terrible sight. In a building not designed for people to live in, which had offices on its floors where the City Party Committee instructors worked, in all the rooms and on all the floors, stairway landings, and stairs were people, Armenians: young people, old People, children. Many of them were injured and bandaged. Wearing what-ever they had on at the time; many were shy, while others simply forgot that they were wearing only their pajamas, because they had to flee their apart¬ments without a thought as to what they were wearing.

On March 2, in the evening, there were very many people in the foyer— men, largely, for the women were in the rooms on the various floors with the children. The men smoked nervously and each told of the horrors he had seen himself or those that had befallen his relatives and neighbors. Members of the government came to the City Party Committee building. The head of the delegation was Pyotr Nilovich Demichev, a member of the Central Committee Politburo of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union; along with him were the leaders of the Azerbaijani Republic, Bagirov [First Secretary of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan SSR] and his deputies. The went upstairs, and the news of their arrival quickly spread about all four floors, which were packed with Armenians. People demanded that the government officials come to see them. The huge foyer of the Sumgait City Party Committee building was overflowing with these people, their eyes filled with horror and terror. It was announced that the government officials would see us. Demichev came. People started to clap, to applaud, applaud-ing not him personally, but more likely the Russian people, the Russians instead, for it was they who came to our rescue. People were crying. They demanded to be evacuated immediately, right from that building. They demanded that helicopters land right on the square and take them all out of there. And probably not yet having a complete grasp of the entire situation Demichev addressed all the Armenians: "Don't worry, everything will settle down, you'll be able to return ..." He didn't get to say "Home, to your apartments," because a tremendous number of hands shot up and everyone, in one voice, shouted, "No! Never! We want to go to Russia! We want to leave this hell!" It was then that he lowered his head, realizing that some¬thing truly terrible had taken place. People, particularly women, came up to him, pulled on his sleeves, and pleaded and begged: "Look what they've done to us!" He asked everyone to try to calm down, and left.

And one more episode. When the danger of keeping such a huge number of people in a building not designed as a residence became clear, for an epi¬demic of dysentery could spring up in a moment, evacuation began. People refused to go, they didn't want to leave, saying, we'll stay here, because they knew that the City Party Committee building was the only reliably safe place in the city, because that's where the government was, and so they would be safe there too. We tried to convince people all the same. Specifically, I too was responding to the appeal of Lieutenant General Krayev, who was then the City Commandant and who asked for assistance in convincing people to leave. He guaranteed our safety. And so we left the city. We were in a convoy of buses, led by two armored personnel carriers with soldiers, with two more in the middle, and another two bringing up the rear. There were four soldiers with machine guns in every bus, from the landing forces. Two sat up ahead, near the door, and two sat in the back or the bus, and they answered to an officer who was on the bus, a lieutenant, as a rule. That's how they evacuated us from the city. The convoy of some 3 buses leaving the central square, from the City Party Committee building, got under way. They took us to the village of Nasosny, which is a couple miles outside of town, where there are essentially only military units. We were transported safely.

At the military unit we were housed in barracks that the soldiers had given up for us. By the way, there is much to tell about the soldiers—our very great thanks to them! Sincere thanks! From all of us. From all the Armenian refugees whose lives they saved.

We lived in the barracks until March 11. After March 11 we were taken back to town, once again, under guard. After that we left the city of Sumgait forever. The largest number of people went to Stavropol, Krasnodar, and to Armenia ...

Recently I was in Sumgait again in conjunction with the work of the investigative team of the USSR Procuracy. I spent the night with friends. And my friend's daughter showed me a letter, one she had recently received from my daughter Gayane, she's 15. They still write to one another now. In her letter there are lines like this: "If only you know how much I wanted to go home, but I don't have a home anymore."

I'm not a weak person, but now that life has been divided into two parts, the images really won't let me sleep. I ask myself a great number of ques¬tions, but question number one, of course, is how could it happen? How?

I lived in that city 38 years. Thirty-eight years. The city of Sumgait. At the entrance to town there is a huge sign reading: "Sumgait is the living embodi¬ment of the ideas of Vladimir Ilich Lenin." I should say that I noticed here on this last trip that the sign had been taken down, probably out of shame, shame because of what happened there.

Yes, really the town was young, there were many Armenians living there, something on the order of 18,000. Mostly they worked in such places as schools and the service industries, such as stores, appliance repair, hair¬dressers, tailoring, and shoe and watch repair. And of course, a tremendous number of Armenians worked at the plants. These were highly skilled spe¬cialists, all of whom knew their jobs well and loved them. The total popula¬tion of Sumgait was about 260,000.

If we were to speak of what people did besides their work, the spiritual and cultural side of life in the city, even if it wasn't tremendously sophisti¬cated—nothing's ideal in our country anyway—in any case, it was well organized. We had many clubs, and recently—now I can't say exactly, proba¬bly it's been going for a couple of years—we got the big Khimik cultural facility, a huge, beautiful building erected between the ninth and fourteenth microdistricts. My family and I went to all the concerts, there were appear¬ances by performers from out of town, the satirist Ivanov was there, the one from the show "Laughter Everywhere," and actors came too, Karachentsev and Zbruyev were there, and ensembles from Leningrad would come through on tour. The last performance I saw there was a concert by Laima Vaikule. There were decent sporting events there too. Anyone in town could sign up for whatever they wanted, soccer, weight lifting and wrestling, track and field—there were qualified instructors. In particular, on Primorskoy Boulevard, for example, there were groups of weight lifters. Primorskoy Boulevard is a beautiful place, the city itself is on the shore of the Caspian Sea. And recently a wonderful sport, tennis, had become popular, and a group from our town traveled around the Soviet Union. I can say that all in all, if you look at the whole picture, spiritual and everyday living, the town was well run.

And again you have to ask yourself: How could it happen? How? If you think about it there shouldn't have been any prejudices. But now that I'm here, analyzing all the events, I come to the notion that in the end there probably was a pattern [prejudice, discrimination.] When and how did it evolve?

I think that the events were received impetus from incorrect policies on the part of the Republic's Leaders. All of us Armenians living in Sumgait despite the fact that we went to work, enjoyed the theaters and sporting events, nonetheless inside we always felt that we were Armenians, not just Soviet citizens, but Armenians. And when there was talk of who was to receive awards at work, then of course it would have to be Mamedov or some Alekperov [non-Armenian], for example. When a delegate was to be sent to a meeting, conference, or congress etc., then, of course, again it would be some Mamedov or Alekperov. I can now say with conviction that our rights were always encroached upon, and with the tolerance of the Republic's leaders. Always. We were aware of this, even if perhaps in times like the time of stagnation [the Brezhnev years] it really wasn't said out loud, and who would we have said it to, anyway? Who would have listened to you? We kept our misfortunes to ourselves: we'd talk about them, but what was the use, we'd just let it drop. And so it all went downhill. All the good positions, the good jobs, were usually held only by Azerbaijanis. In Sumgait I can't name—and that's because there weren't any—a single plant director or school principal who was an Armenian, nor were there any in the town leadership. That's probably the pattern, the root of it all.

Having lived in the city for 38 years I had somehow imperceptibly become accustomed to the discrimination, as though it were a natural state of affairs. But here in Armenia, both my family and I sense a new value in ourselves, we feel liberated. To be sure, from childhood on we had grown used to being called Armenians. There isn't a special pejorative word like Yankee, spic, or yid: the word "ermeni"—"Armenians" was often imbued with such hatred and loathing that sometimes we couldn't restrain ourselves and we would defend our dignity. Among young people such insults often led to fistfights. Imagine this situation: two Armenians are on a bus, stand¬ing in line, or meet on the street, and, naturally, are speaking their mother tongue, and suddenly a complete stranger comes up to them and demands that they "speak like human beings." I suspect that something like this hap¬pened to everyone who lived in Sumgait.

I can pursue this idea from another angle: there never was an Armenian school in Sumgait, there was only a small Armenian-language section. It still exists now; roughly put, it's a sort of appendage to the larger picture in the city. This appendage never grew for one reason: everyone tried to continue their education, tried to obtain a higher education so at some future time they could work in a field they loved, but it wasn't possible. Why not? The answer is quite simple: there wasn't a single educational institution, or sec¬tion, or even a small group in the city where advanced studies were conducted in Armenian. That is to say that a person who had graduate from the Armenian-language section could not continue their studies in Sumgait in their native language. The same is true in Baku: there were only the mathematics and physics departments at the Azerbaijani State pedagogical Institute, of which I am a graduate, and those two departments were later eliminated. Incidentally, more than 200,000 Armenians live in Baku, and there hasn't been a single Armenian school in how many years.

Such was the gross discrimination of national rights that, as a rule, fueled the nationalist element in the Azerbaijani people.

In further discussing the origins of the Sumgait tragedy one cannot ignore the nakhaltsroy [shanty towns]: hundreds of cardboard, tin, and ply¬wood shacks—virtually entire settlements, slums, on the edge of town, basi¬cally part of the industrial plants, inhabited by thousands of people who had come to Sumgait from different parts of the Azerbaijani SSR. It's not all that hard to imagine the situation in these slums: dirt, unsanitary conditions, a lack of cultural sophistication, hooliganism, and drug abuse. It's no coinci¬dence that these slums were the main "supplier" of manpower for the Sumgait bands: Why not solve one's material and housing problems at the expense of those "ermeni"?

Now I'll tell of how the tragic events touched me—how I learned of them and how I saved myself and my family.

I hadn't been to work since February 24 because I had a bad cold. I was ill and took sick leave. My sick leave was to run out on March 1. I was going to return to work on March 1. On February 28 I was feeling a little better, and since my family and I don't live with my mother, who lived in a different part of town, in Block 9, on Pushkin Street, I decided to visit her. She had recently had an operation. This was about 4:30, after the noonday meal. As though in spite, the weather was perfect. The sun was shining. Spring in Sumgait passes quickly, unnoticed. I left the house. I stood at the bus stop and when the bus didn't come for a long time, I decided to go on foot. Having walked about 150 yards—the streets, for some reason, were empty, I saw only two people, young ones—I saw a woman coming in my direction. As I later found out, she lived in our block and knew me, since I'm a teacher a lot of people know who I am. She started coming toward me. There were two children with her. She, an Azerbaijani, came up to me and said: "Please turn back, go home." Well I was of course quite surprised: out of the blue a perfect stranger comes up to me and tells me to go home. I ask, "What's going on? What happened?" She says, "Near the Sputnik store I just saw two Armenian men thrown off a balcony." And then: "Downtown, right near the store and the bus station, a huge, wild crowd is smashing shop windows and beating Armenians, they're beating and killing them." Without saying a word I turned around and went the other way. On the way home thoughts were creeping into my head. Automatically I started to recall the stories my grandmother had told me, she lived through the slaughter of 1915. And all of a sudden I saw it all sharply and clearly: a massacre had begun. I remem¬ber exactly that that was my first thought, that a massacre had begun. Before I reached home I realized that we would have to flee, we'd have to hide. I decided to buy bread because we'd need it for the road. I bought the bread and went home and rang the bell, and my wife opened the door. I went in and closed the door behind me. She was surprised: "Back so soon? What's up?" I was silent, I didn't answer her. My son, Grant, he's not yet 17, was in the hall by the door, getting ready to go out. I tell him, "Take your clothes off, stay at home." More questions. I drew my wife off to the side and quick¬ly explained what was happening, and we started to think of what we should do, what steps we should take. I said, "Don't rush, we have to think it all over." Our first thought was to flee. But of course if there was unrest near the bus station, the way was cut off, we couldn't leave by bus.

This was on Sunday the 28th. It had already started getting dark. I began looking off the balcony into the yard, trying to find one of the neighbors so we could find out more. But they were too far away, and I didn't want to shout or go out of the building. Then I saw a neighbor woman approaching, she had an empty bag in her hands, she was holding her head and saying something to the other neighbors. When she came closer—we live in the same entryway - I told my wife, "Go ask her what's going on." My wife went out to talk to her, and the woman told her, "Please, take your name plate off the door." When my wife started asking, "Well what's going on, anyway?," she said, "It's awful, I was going to the bazaar near the bus station, near the Sputnik store, and there was a huge, terrible mob, several thousand people, and there was frightful, frightful fighting, they were burning cars and turn¬ing them over, looking for Armenians, going into apartments and throwing things out..." Then another neighbor, a man who lives in our entryway on the fifth floor, came by. He has a Moskvich, it's an old one. I asked him if he would take us to Baku, to the railway station. We wanted to leave, to get out of Sumgait. He said that his engine was misfiring and he couldn't go very far; moreover, it was dangerous to leave town because there were gangs on the roads everywhere, stopping cars and checking documents.

We realized we couldn't leave that day. Well we couldn't sit at home qui¬etly waiting for them to come and kill us, either. I started getting things together to mount a resistance. I spear fish, and I got my spear gun and loaded it and put it on the balcony, and got an axe and my father's old dag¬ger. Then I thought awhile, assessing the situation. We lived on the first floor and had two balconies. My son and I—my son is of course inexperienced, he's a sophomore in high school—what could we do? And I decided all the same that it would be better if we left the house. There were four of us alto¬gether: my wife and I and our two children. Our son and daughter, our daughter was soon to be 15. We decided to leave, but to where? We had sev¬eral options. The thing is that our block is far from downtown, on the edge of town, and the only way through the rushes and the open spaces was on the Baku Highway. That was my first thought. My second thought was to go out through the factories on foot and hide in Nasosny with the military. Our third option was to hide in the basement of our building. The fourth was to hide on the roof, and the fifth was to try to find a special vehicle, like an ambulance or a fire truck. At that time I still naively supposed that official vehicles would be left alone, that no one would bother them. It was only afterward that we found out that both ambulances and fire trucks had been stopped and burned. It's a good thing that isn't what I chose to do. My wife suggested we do the following: In the neighboring entryway on the second floor was a quite educated and intelligent family of Azerbaijanis. The man of the house, his name is Nusret, he worked with me at school, and so did his wife—by the way, my wife teaches mathematics—and she proposed that we go to their place and ask to spend the night there. I went to their place and knocked. The wife opened the door—her name is Zumrud—and I asked her. I was so embarrassed, it was uncomfortable to have to ask out of fear for the fates of my children and my wife. She immediately said, "Yes yes, come in, come in! Come quickly!" We spent the night in their home. We couldn't eat a thing, even though Zumrud laid out a full table. We drank some tea. We couldn't sleep the whole night, all of us watched out the window and off the balcony to see if they were coming or not. That night no one came.

In the morning they went to work, and we went back to our apartment. We started thinking, how could we go on? What should we do? A neighbor came by, a different neighbor, from the fourth floor. I asked him to go out¬side and try to stop a car on its way to Baku. And I said, "Don't worry how much it costs, a hundred rubles, two hundred, three," even though at other times a few rubles would have been plenty. He went out and stood for a half an hour, an hour, and came back and said, "Sasha, not a single car stopped, they all go right on by, no one wants to stop, and I don't know anyone who is a driver."

I was still counting on a friend who worked with me. I had called him on the 28th and asked him to find a car and come get us, and in the worst case, to give us shelter for the night. So we were waiting for him. At about eleven o'clock his wife came over, she worked at a school too, she's a math teacher. No sooner had I closed the door behind her than she dropped her purse and started to cry. I asked, "What's the matter?" She worked in School No. 13, in Microdistrict 3, not far from us, seven or eight minutes' walk. She says, "It's awful! It's so awful! What I saw! I went to work and there were things strewn on the ground everywhere, around the buildings there were mat¬tresses, blankets, furniture, television sets, refrigerators, all thrown outall of it lying on the ground. In one of the courtyards there were two corpses ..."

She told us everything and cried and cried, she couldn't stop weeping. It was all completely clear now. A full-blown massacre was under way, in all its terror, a massacre of Armenians, and not like what they were saying on Central Television: "People of various nationalities have died." These weren't convicts, and they weren't hooligans, either: it was a gang of nationalists. Who had organized it all, I thought, would become clear soon enough, but for me it was no secret that it was being done first and foremost by the Azerbaijanis and that it was directed against us, the Armenians.

Well I'll go on with my story. She proposed that we go to her place on foot. She said, "I just came over, everything seems quiet, no one stopped me, although there were some people out there. Maybe we can use a roundabout way, through Microdistrict 8?" We put our coats on. Honestly, I had my doubts all the same, I didn't want to leave the apartment yet, I hadn't made up my mind completely yet, but my wife was urging me.

So they all went out into the entryway, with me following after them, and literally in the doorway of our entryway I ran into our building manager. The manager of the buildings in our block. An Azerbaijani. He asks me, "Where are you going?" I say, "To see a friend." He says, "Don't go anywhere, it's very dangerous in town, they're stopping cars and checking passports for Armenians—they might kill you." I said, "Well, we're going to go by the courtyards, we're not taking the streets." "No," he says, "don't do it, please, go home." I only now realize why it was he wanted us to go home: because of all the Armenians who were sincerely told to hide and save their lives, none of them was told to go home and sit, on the contrary, everyone said leave the house, go anywhere, go to your neighbors', just don't sit at home. You couldn't stay in an Armenian apartment! But this scum, this creep was sending me back to our apartment, and would be sure that I would be sit¬ting at home and he would probably bring the hoard with him, which, by the way, is probably what happened.

My friend's wife left alone. Around noon my wife and daughter went upstairs to a neighbor's to call and find out what was happening in town, and to try to somehow arrange our departure. The thought—leave, leave, leave this town—stayed in our minds. My wife and daughter were gone too long, already ten minutes had passed and they hadn't returned; the main thing for me at the moment was that we stay together, because if there were an attack on our apartment I would be separated from my family. I became quite upset and went upstairs to our neighbor's myself, and see my wife—it was quite interesting actually—my wife and daughter standing in the hall next to the telephone, not calling. I ask, "What's going on?" She says, "It's busy, we called a friend, wait a minute, we're getting ready to try again." So my son and I are standing there in the neighbor's entry hall, at any other time he had always said come in, come in, he'd invite' us into his apartment to sit down, have a cup of tea and wait for the phone to be free. But this time he didn't invite us in, and I immediately sensed that he was afraid that we would get caught in his apartment. When I realized this I became angry and told my wife, "Let's go home." She says, "Well let's try once more." I repeated what I had said and emphasized the word "home" so that he would think we were going home, although I was thinking something entirely different, but I didn't want him to know where I was taking my family. If a person doesn't invite me into their home and offer me shelter at their place, it means that they could give away our whereabouts at any time.

We went downstairs to our apartment. I asked my wife when the neigh¬bors where we had hidden the night before were due home from work. She says, "The wife promised to stop by at three o'clock." Now this was at noon, twelve-thirty at the latest. And literally 15 minutes later our neighbor came by, the one I had asked to drive us to Baku, the one with the car. He says, "Sasha, I was just downtown, there are terrible things going on, they checking absolutely everyone, they're checking all the passports, burning cars, and wrecking apartments. The only way I can help you is to keep you informed about what's going on in town."

He went out and then came back and said that the disturbances were con¬tinuing. Then the doorbell rings. I open it and there is the woman in whose home we had hidden. She had her daughter with her, she had already come home from work. She says, "Haven't you left?" I say, "No, we couldn't find a way out of town." And I instantly added, "Can we come to your place again?" She said, "Of course, let's go." I say, "No, you go on, we'll come later." I didn't want anyone to see that we were going to their place, I was in con¬stant fear that someone would give us away. She left and then the other neighbor came back 15 minutes later and said, "Sasha, get out of here, leave, they're coming to our block!" "Who are they?", I ask. He says, "A huge crowd, they turned at the light, they're coming our way." I told him, "Go out and look in the entryway and in front of the building, see if there are any strangers out there." He went to take a look and said, "The coast is clear—run!"

We left. We had gotten suitcases and traveling bags together. I told my wife, "Take the most valuable things, basic clothing, and the newest things, the best ones." In the suitcase she packed jeans, running shoes, shirts, the Panasonic tape recorder that had been my father's, about 25 cassettes, and even a package of tea and those two unfortunate loaves of bread that I had bought. We hadn't eaten them that day or the day before.

When we were leaving the house my wife said, "Let's at least take some¬thing of our things." I say, "No, don't take anything." It was humiliating somehow, you know, I don't know how to explain it ... to run somewhere with our things . . . and before whom should we feel humiliated? Whom?! I became furious. I said, "To hell with all of it, let them choke on it!" I was also thinking that if we were carrying things we could be caught easily because we'd really stand out. So I decided that we wouldn't take anything with us.

We put on our coats and went out. Again we cautiously made our way to the neighbors' entryway: I came last, looking around to see if anyone saw us. It seemed we were unobserved. We went upstairs to the neighbors. The husband wasn't at home, only the wife and daughter, the daughter was the same age as my own, they still stay in touch with one another.

We were sitting in their apartment and I couldn't calm down, I couldn't sit still, or walk around, or stand, or talk, we were just waiting, waiting for something. Death, probably. Fifteen minutes go by, thirty, and suddenly I hear the sound of breaking glass. Our buildings were 5-story buildings, they stood parallel to one another, and it was dangerous for us to go to the win¬dows: we'd be seen from the neighboring balconies. Meanwhile, people who were just curious and were watching what was going on were standing on their balconies. And to this day, when I see those images in my mind, I ask myself, watch what? The killing? The brutal slaughter, the axe murders of adults and children? Once I heard the sound of the glass I instinctively went to the window, and the neighbor woman went out onto her balcony; nothing was threatening her, it was her apartment and she was an Azerbaijani. She said, "There's a gang in the courtyard."

I couldn't stand it and peeped out from behind a curtain. There was a large crowd, between 100 and 150 people. They all had axes and knives in their hands, and they were kitchen knives, big ones, and some sort of metal rods, and there was a car down there, I didn't get the license number, like a Zhiguli with a police siren on it. That siren, by the way, was a bit confusing to us at first. We thought, "At last!" I'll tell you about the police in a minute. The crowd was carrying flags, large silk flags, I saw two of them, they were the flags of Azerbaijan.

Armenians lived on the first floor in the building across the way. There were young men in coats there, aged 17, 18, and 19, having a field day throwing things off the balcony. The mound of belongings under the bal¬cony was growing. There were end tables, chairs, and lamps. Then one of them went up and poured gasoline on them and put a match to them. The fire took hold. Armenians lived on the third floor, too. I looked and saw the windows being broken, they had come in from the entryway, which was on the opposite side of the building, and I could only see the balcony facing the courtyard. Things flew out of there and then there was another fire. Meanwhile you could hear someone talking through a megaphone. I could not see him, he was standing near the building, but you could hear the voice clearly all over the block. A man speaking Azerbaijani, good, educated speech. The things he was talking about—he was a good orator, but maybe it would be more appropriate to call him a Master of Ceremonies, an MC. An MC who inflamed the crowd with his words, because he began—I speak Azerbaijani well—by saying that they had come from Armenia, from Kafan, where the Armenians had beaten them badly, had raped their women, raped their young girls, cut their breasts off, and on and on in that vein. And he raised his pitch higher and higher. At the end he howled out: "Give us the Armenians! Show us where they are! We will take our revenge on them, we'll carve all of them up, too!" And after he said that there was whistling, noise, shouting, and a howl. . . well animals, they were exactly like animals! It made you .. . I'm not a weak person, but when I heard that speech I just... I don't know, my fear, of course, was not for myself, it was for the safety of my family, my daughter. I imagined what would be happening to us had we been in our apartment . . . And the man in the mob was still talking, and some boys separated off from the mob and raced into the neighboring entry-way and started wrecking an apartment.

I moved away from the window. I thought, suddenly they would come through . . . It's such a bourgeois feeling, fear for one's home. I thought, they'll be getting to our place. Then I thought, burn, fire, burn, let them choke on it all, but at the same time I asked the neighbor, "Well, have they left?" She says, "Yes, they left, they went to the next building." And thought, maybe they wouldn't go into our home. But then she went out on the balcony and said, "Oh no, they're coming back to our building! And right then, immediately after she said those words, I felt them going into our apartment.

I can't find the words to express it. I only heard the shout and the howl as they broke in through our veranda and the windows, even though we were on the second floor, and our apartment was on the first floor and one entry-way over, but the walls in our building were thin and you could hear very well, all the new buildings are like that. You could hear the blows of the axe, the sound of glass and dishes breaking in the apartment, the tramping of feet, and the din. Our neighbor couldn't stand it, she said, "Go into the small room and hide." I realized that at that moment she had started to fear for herself, too, because someone might give her away, and maybe they would not be spared, either. We went into the next room, a small bedroom, and sat down on the floor near the beds. Just then there was an awful crash. My wife asked, "What's that?" I had figured it out, and said, "They threw out the television." Then axe blows rained down on the piano . . . The bastards! We had a Byelorus piano, our daughter was taking music lessons, and our son had graduated from a music school. Our daughter started to cry, "They're smashing the piano." Toward the end we clearly heard one of them outside call his pal inside, "Enough, let's go." And his pal answered, "Just a minute, I'm not finished playing yet," and again we heard the axe hit the keyboard.

They spent a long, long time wrecking our apartment, the crashing went on for about 40 minutes. And I was thinking, "Don't let them find us here in someone else's apartment. Don't let them find us here in someone else's apartment." I was afraid one of those scum had seen us and would give us away. I feared for my family and for the family that was hiding us. Not counting our son I was the only man there, I was their only hope.

Probably the last horror we had to endure then was the tramping of feet in the entryway where we were hiding. Suddenly you could hear loud tramping, a terrific number of them had burst into the entryway, and I thought that was it, that we had been given away. But the tramping went past our door, upstairs. My wife nudged me and said, "Upstairs there's . . . the man is an Armenian and the woman is a Georgian, they're probably going for them." But it was quiet. Then more tramping, down the stairs, past our door.

Then our neighbor's wife came in and said, "They've left our building." We went out of the bedroom into the hall and then into the kitchen, a large, bright kitchen. The mob skirted around our building—you could see the whole block very well from the kitchen, all the buildings around the open space. I started watching: the mob and its flag, waving their axes and knives, went into the neighboring building, into the entryway, and 1 saw them carry a man out the door and throw him about ten yards away. There were Armenians living on the third floor in that building. And then out flew the belongings and furniture, and more fire. Then the mob went on to the neighboring building, it was parallel and next to ours. They only wrecked one apartment there. By the way, they also smashed up Valery Oganian's apartment, he was with in the boarding house, his family's here now, too. And in that same building where there was a pogrom of Oganian's apart-ment, there was another Armenian family, the husband was named Valery, too, and his wife was a colleague of mine, we worked in the some school, and now she's on maternity leave, their baby will soon be a year old. So from the kitchen I see Valery just standing there on the balcony. And I could not shout "Hide! It's a pogrom!" But he couldn't see the mob for our build¬ing. And then when the mob rounded the corner of our building he saw them, he saw them and hid. Well, I'm thinking, they also went to hide at the neighbors'. Later I ran into Valery in the Khimik cultural facility, we call it the SK: he didn't trust his neighbors and they hid in the basement of the building: he, his wife, their older daughter of six years, and the grandmoth¬er, who's about 80. They hid in that basement, up to their waists in water, the whole night through until morning. That's how they survived.

Then the mob went on to Building 2B and were there a long time, about an hour and a half. It was only later that I learned how they had slashed up a whole family, the Melkumians.

When they had finished their atrocities in that building the mob left our block shouting, "Long live Azerbaijan! Death to the Armenians! Long live the Azerbaijanis of Sumgait!"

After the mob had gone our neighbor's husband came home from work and we discussed ways to save ourselves. I was afraid that the mob would return. I later found out they had been to Microdistrict 3 three times! They were hunting for people hiding in the basements . . . Judging from what we had seen they hadn't killed anyone in the apartments they had wrecked in the building across from us: probably the Armenians there had hidden, like we did. I knew that they would figure out that the Armenians were hiding here somewhere, and would of course come back. I was sure that they would start checking Azerbaijani apartments. That was what I feared most of all.

All night we discussed what we might do, how we could get out of there. Somewhere in the early morning, around five o'clock—it was winter, and was still dark—we saw large vehicles drive into the yard. When they got close to the streetlights I saw that it was a panel truck, the back was down, like during funeral processions. A flatbed truck. It drove up to the man who had been killed in front of his own home. He had been there all night, all night long. When it was light the mob passed by him, looked at him and passed by, and some people didn't even look, as though it were a dead cat or chicken lying there instead of a person. They were utter animals, do you understand?! He was lying there and two guys came up to him, those two creeps kicked him with their feet, turned him over, and left. A dead person!

Some people got out of the truck, at that distance I didn't see their faces, and picked him up and tossed him in the truck, and the truck drove off-realized they were gathering up the corpses. I had seen one corpse, and there must have been more elsewhere. They were driving around the microdistrict before dawn, when everyone was still asleep, and removing the corpses. I don't know the name of the man who was killed [Artaha Levonovich Arakelian, resident at Building 5A, Apartment 9,Block 41A] Our building is on the inside of the block, and the one he was dragged our of is on the edge of the block, perpendicular to ours.

After the truck had gone, somewhere around five-thirty, two more vehicles appeared. I honestly didn't know what they were at first, but our neigh-bor said, "Those are military vehicles." Then I looked at them more closely: they were armored personnel carriers. There were soldiers sitting on them. They drove into our block and stopped right in front of the building where Valery, as I later found out, had hid in the basement. That was about 200 yards from us. It stopped in front of their entryway. Our neighbor said, "Look, the military! They're probably evacuating the Armenians," he said, "the ones who are hiding." And sure enough: down the stairs—there are lights in the entryways—down the stairs come children, and with them, adults. They get on the armored personnel carriers with the soldiers, and are preparing to leave. Then our neighbor says, "I'll run over to them and tell them that you're here, and you can go with them." I say, "Try, see if you can catch them!"

So he ran out of the apartment and downstairs. He got around the build¬ing and ran up to one of the armored personnel carriers, the other one was already leaving. But he caught the one and came back and said, "Quick, get your clothes on!" As a matter of fact we had never taken them off. The sol¬diers had said that their vehicle was overloaded and that they would come back in five minutes, and that we should come out. Our neighbor went downstairs with us, but we were afraid to go out of the entryway. We stood in the entryway, it was dark, and it was drizzling, this was the morning of March 1, it drizzled on March 1. We stood there, and the atmosphere was tense. We stood there for five minutes and the armored personnel carriers didn't return, and the minutes dragged on, it seemed that we had been there a long time. Our neighbor said, "OK, let's go back to the apartment." We went back up, but I couldn't stand it any more ... I felt that the soldiers were nearby, that help was close to us. "No, let's go." And with tears in his eyes he said, "OK, if you've made up your mind, go." We went out of the entryway and put on our hoods, and I told the children, "Hide your faces, put your scarves over them." And the four of us set out.

Neither my wife nor my children looked back at our apartment. But I did. In front of our balcony was a huge mound of things, all of it wet from the rain. And I turned away.

We walked about 300 yards and came out on the highway, it runs right by our building. It was quiet in town, we only rarely came upon passersby, peo¬ple who were going to work. I was surprised that anyone was still going to work. Suddenly I looked and saw a convoy of vehicles: two armored per¬sonnel carriers out front, military trucks behind, their beds covered with tarpaulins. I ran out into the road and stood in front of the armored person¬nel carriers, my hands crossed on my chest, pleading with them to stop. They stopped. It was raining, drizzling, and the hatch opened up, and an officer looked out of the carrier. "What do you want?", he said. I said, "We're Armenians." And that was it. I said but two words. He said, "Just a moment." He went back down inside, apparently they were discussing us. . . or something. Then he looked out and said, "There's no room left in here, get on the truck behind us." The military truck in the convoy. We went to the driver, he said, "Quick, quick, get on." We got onto the bed, there were mili¬tary officers in there, five people: colonels and lieutenant colonels. My wife started sobbing. We felt saved, at last.

They took us to the City Party Committee. When we drove past the bus station—our building was on the outskirts of town—I looked out the little window in the bed of the truck and saw a LAZ bus, entirely burned, and the square goes on a bit there, and all the fences had been torn down, the fence-posts were bent, and there was another LAZ, a yellow one, apparently also completely burned, its paint was all blackened, and it was facing towards a post, and there was a car, I'm not sure what kind it was because it was charred beyond recognition, overturned on the pavement. There were spots everywhere on the pavement, large black spots from fires. We passed on to the center of town and to the City Party Committee.

The Sumgait City Party Committee is a large, four-story building on Lenin Square. It's in the center of town, it's where are all the festivities and parades are held. There's a Lenin monument there, and a stage. Across from the City Party Committee, as I mentioned, is the Khimik building, we call it the SK. The first thing we saw were soldiers standing around the City Party Committee. In metal helmets, with machine guns, like landing forces. When we got out of the truck I saw others like us, getting out of the trucks and armored personnel carriers, all under guard.

That was on the morning of March 1. They led us into the City Party Committee building, where I had often been for teachers' meetings. I just can't find the words to convey what I saw there: a tremendous number of people, as it turned out they had been bringing people there since the 29th. They were all Armenians, and I knew many of them. There, in that building were my pupils, their parents, and acquaintances, colleagues, and friends. We immediately noticed that many of them had cuts all over their faces, scabs, and bruises, one man had a wound, a bloody welt on his head, and his shirt was completely spotted with blood. It was nightmarish. But all the while I kept thinking that we had been saved, the soldiers were protecting us. I didn't yet have an understanding of the scale of what had happened, and of course I couldn't concentrate entirely. Later, while talking with people and hearing their tales, the contours of the overall tragedy, the whole terrible picture of what had happened began to emerge.

As I said, I met many of my pupils, acquaintances, and friends there in the City Party Committee. There was pain, horror, and terror in the eyes of one and all.

After the government officials came, the next morning two fellows came to me—they were instructors in the City Party Committee—and asked, "Are you Aleksandr Mikhailovich, the teacher?" I said, "Yes." They told me, "You have been summoned to see Demichev." Well to be honest I was surprised... Off we went. Demichev, Bagirov, Lieutenant General Krayev, the First Secretary of the City Party Committee, Muslimzade, and other Party and government functionaries were seated at a table in a large room. They asked me to tell them what I knew, to give them information. From what I gathered they needed information from below, that is, they wanted to hear from us directly.

When I had finished talking Demichev asked me a question. He had met with the refugees the previous evening, and he asked me, "All the same, why don't people want to return to their homes?" That's the way the ques¬tion was put. Well I concluded that the city authorities must not have shown him our wrecked apartments. They had probably shown him areas that weren't hit by the pogroms, and so he didn't have a complete understanding of what had happened. I said, "How can you explain it if, at two o'clock in the afternoon when the sun is shining, you're sitting at home watching tele¬vision, or reading a book, or listening to music, it's Sunday, and suddenly—suddenly!—a gang of wild, frenzied people, whom you can't even call people, a gang of animals rather, pours into the apartment and starts to beat the husband and rape and beat the wife? How are you to take it? That's number one. Number two: All of this happened during the day¬time. Not a single policeman showed his face in our block! Whom should we trust? No one came to our defense. We would perhaps have agreed to return to our homes, but when we saw that no one defended us, no one, not one person! Naturally the terror penetrated into our hearts and literally down to our toenails." Well Bagirov starts to tell me, "Do you see, we just can't have everyone leaving town because then the hooligans who smashed all the apartments will say that they got what they were after." And I say, "You'll excuse me, but I personally will be the first to leave here, I will not stay here. I think that all the rest of the Armenians who survived feel the same way." Lieutenant General Krayev agreed with me. He got up, and addressing Demichev, said, "Pyotr Nilovich, Aleksandr Mikhailovich was correct regarding what he said about the police. When I arrived in Sumgait there were 850 policemen concentrated here. Eight hundred fifty! And no results whatsoever! The entire police force had scattered. It was a miracle," the general went on, "that I and my battalion survived there at the bus sta¬tion! A miracle! We barely got out of that hell, where torrents of stones rained down on my soldiers and me. They hurled rocks at us. The soldiers' shields couldn't withstand it, they broke apart! It was a miracle that I sur¬vived myself!" Demichev lowered his head and said, "Raising their hands against the military, now that's going too far! Get Seidov in here!" Seidov was the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Azerbaijan SSR.

When Seidov came in, he ordered him ... At first he said, "I request" but then he said, "No, I order you: put together lists of those policemen who were supposed to be near the bus station on the 28th and 29th, who was there at the time. Put the lists together and have them stand trial." He said this in my presence, while I sat there. And then he turned to Muslimzade: "And you?" he said, "What were you doing? Where were you?" So Muslimzade gets up, he had been seated, too, the First Secretary of the City Party Committee, the former First Secretary. "You see," he began, I ..." So on the 28th he flew in from Moscow, this is what he said, and found out about all the rallies. "I went out ahead of the crowd. I was thinking to lead the crowd to the sea. I appealed to the crowd, and went with them. I wanted to get them out of the center of town, to take them to the edge of towrn," he said. The City Party Committee is not far from Primorskoy Boulevard, and he had led them in that direction. He said, "I led the crowd that way. But the thing was that they followed me as far as Primorskoy Boulevard, but then they stopped following. They ignored me and turned around and went back into town." That is, they started pogroms of apartments. That was on the 28th.

I was advised to go among the refugees and calm them down. But Seidov turned to me and asked that I help him compile a list of the dead. When I left they gave me a special pass, and paper and ballpoint pens. So several of us started making lists. We didn't record only names of the dead. Alt our own initiative we simultaneously wrote down where people wanted to go outside of Sumgait so it could somehow all be arranged. There were the names of about 16 dead in the list we drew up at the City Party Committee. And we tried to write more than just "I heard" or "someone told me;:" we tried to get reliable information: Were you 100 percent certain that your rela¬tive, your brother, or someone specific had died? I was then asked to draw up a similar list among those who were in the SK building. I went over there, but in the SK building, in the cultural facility, the situation was hideous by comparison to the one in the City Party Committee: a fantastic number of people! The SK was packed, people were sitting on the concrete floor because there was just no other place to sit. The entire foyer was com¬pletely jammed with people. And to try to get something organized in there, even something elementary like finding a place to put a little chair or a table to write on was impossible. I returned and said that I couldn't do it. The:n we finished the job and turned in the lists, and started organizing people so as to evacuate them from the City Party Committee.

I could go on and on about the horrors that reached my ears. Among the vast number of people I saw was a former pupil of mine, Karina. Karina M. She lived in Microdistrict No. 3, there were three sisters, Karina, Lyuda, and the smallest, Marina. The girl's face was covered with cuts, she couldn't even stand up, her sisters held her, holding her by the arms. I thought that she had probably been beaten, but afterward, after talking with Lyuda and her other sister, found out that the worst imaginable had happened to them.

A huge gang had attacked their apartment. Karina had been able to hide but decided to stay with her parents, who were trying to calm the gang down. You have to know Karina well to understand her feelings at that moment. Karina—I taught her until the eighth grade—is a very nice girl, tall, she was always the first in the class, all the girls gathered around her, she was brave, and she was brave with her words, she was never afraid to tell the truth, and if necessary, she could put up resistance, even to the boys. If anyone insulted her she was able to take them on in a fight and give them their due. This was a girl with the kindest heart, she loved being with oth-ers, and loved to have a good time. I remember once I was at a friend's wed-ding, she was there too—and how she could dance! And it was this same girl who broke. Well and who wouldn't have?! Defending herself, she fell upon those scoundrels and started scratching their faces, fighting back, and of course they immediately got rid of the parents, striking them and knock¬ing them out of the way, and then attacked the girl. They did terrible vio¬lence to her.

Then they decided there wasn't enough room in the apartment because there were so many of them—about 30, according to Lyuda. They dragged {Carina out onto the landing, completely undressed, naked, and kicked her down the stairs. She still has scars on her face. They took her out, dragged her out into the yard and continued their violence outside. That savage mob went at her again outdoors, and beat her terribly. They kicked her ribs and her head. She lost consciousness. They threw her aside and went off to the next entryway, or started to leave, rather. When they went into the next entryway, Karina came around, she came to and started to get up. And they, seeing her, came back . . . the animals! . . . and began beating her again. She passed out again. It was only then that they left her . ..

Well there are many such stories. I'm not telling all this to evoke tears, but so that the people who hear it will have a real understanding of the night¬mare we lived through.

We were evacuated from the SK and the City Party Committee under guard. I wish to again extend our great thanks to the soldiers who gave us their barracks, themselves sleeping in buses. They cooked food and fed us.

It was arranged for buses to take people daily from Nasosny into town to their apartments so they could get things, because many had fled with noth¬ing more than the clothes they were wearing. We traveled only under the protection of soldiers. That's something you never forget. We went to our apartment, my wife and I, to see if perhaps anything remained, because it was fairly cold in the mornings and in the evenings, and we had to dress more warmly somehow. And it was incredibly difficult, physically and spiri¬tually difficult, to go to our apartment knowing that that mob, that gang of nationalists had been there.

We went to our apartment. There were one or two people from each fami¬ly on the bus. The bus had left Nasosny, there were guards with machine guns on it. When we approached the building, my wife and I, going up to the door . . . I'm just using the word door out of habit, because there was no longer a door as such, it had been torn from its hinges, it really just sort of covered the doorway area some. I pushed it and it fell into the apartment, into the hallway. With us was a soldier with a machine gun. He stopped in the hall and said, "Make it quick, we have to get to all the other apartments."

It was painful to see the place, the piano had been grotesquely hacked up with axes. We had had a wall system, the glass doors in it no longer existed, and you couldn't walk on the floor because there were piles of broken and smashed dishes. Our things and our sofa were overturned and cut up, the easy chairs had been slashed with a knife. It was the same story in all the rooms. There wasn't the smallest corner that had been left untouched, every¬thing had been overturned. Part of our things had disappeared. Of course the gear we had prepared for our escape was all gone, as were all the bags So it was slaughter and pillage in the fullest sense of the words.

We tried to find some things, but to be honest it was quite difficult to find anything in that disorder, in that chaos. We didn't find a single coat or rain-coat, my wife couldn't find anything for her feet, her Finnish boots had dis¬appeared, too . . . Well they had taken absolutely everything they wanted and the rest they threw outside. The refrigerator had been chopped up with axes, and the washing machine had been completely broken as well.

I had picked up my books from school. I had a good library, both litera¬ture and technical volumes. I am a physicist myself, and my wife is a mathe¬matician, and we had a great many books related to our disciplines. In fact we suffered not so much from the loss of our clothes as from the loss of our books. I instinctively started gathering up the books in our apartment. I got a sheet and started tossing books onto it, the ones that were still in good condition. I found one of the volumes of our three-volume set of Pushkin, the dark red one. There were axe marks on it. At first I was going to throw it out, but then I thought, no, I'll hang onto this. I am keeping it because only barbarians can take an axe to books, only those who lack even the most basic sense of culture are capable of something like that. I gathered as many books as I could carry.

After that—our time was limited—we left, we got onto the bus and rode off . . . Oh yes, earlier, when we had been approaching the building, the neighbors came down. They brought us photographs, I'm a big fan of pho¬tographs, and I had two albums and a large box full of them, there was sim¬ply nowhere to put them, and I had kept them in that box. Those photos were strewn about the room, covered with ink, and torn, and a neighbor woman brought me nine or ten of them. "Where did you get these?", I asked. She said, "Your photos are flying all over the block ..."

May 8, 1988 Yerevan


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Born 1963

Laboratory Assistant

Chloro-Organic Synthesis Institute of the

Academy of Sciences of the Azerbaijani SSR

Resident at Building 1, Apartment 20

Block 41A


I shall never forget the February events in Sumgait. To have seen them is the same as having lived through a war. The unrest began on February 27, and neither the government, nor the police, nor the Party agencies could stop it, although it all could have been prevented.

Where should I begin ... It was the weekend, we sat at home and didn't even have an inkling of what was going on in our city. When we heard of the horrors we couldn't believe it, we simply couldn't believe that something like that could happen in our times. But on February 29 I saw much with my own eyes, and much became clear to me. In the morning I had to go to work to apply for the practicum I needed for my degree. I set out from home. Downtown was cordoned off by troops. Soldiers were driving off in vehi¬cles. You could hear gunshots, blanks. They shot off blanks to scare off the crowd, but the crowd didn't disperse, it attacked the military vehicles, the armored personnel carriers, again and again, hurling stones at them. On Mir Street near the bus station a huge crowd of Azerbaijanis had gathered, they covered the whole surrounding area. The crowd was boisterous, I couldn't tell if they were rejoicing or what . . . The soldiers drove them apart with their clubs, defending themselves with their shields. They defended them¬selves, but then the crowd regrouped and mounted a new assault. The sol¬diers themselves didn't attack, they only defended themselves and tried to disperse the crowd. Something incredible was happening in town. But when I saw the troops I felt relieved, I thought that probably the unrest would cease, that it all would not continue much longer.

I took the No. 6 bus to work, and the people around me, Azerbaijanis and Russians, were talking about the events in Karabagh, and you were con¬stantly hearing the Armenians, the Armenians, the Armenians . . . We really didn't know anything about Karabagh, only what Was in the newspapers. The Azerbaijanis on the bus were saying that Karabagh was putting forth demands, and that the Azerbaijani population in Armenia was being oppressed. One woman said that beating the Armenians was the right thing to do, that the Armenians had done worse to our people. These were absurd rumors, as it turned out. I became a little frightened, but I wasn't yet aware of the real danger.

I got to work and turned in my application. Everyone surrounded me and started warning me, saying that I should hurry home, because Armenians would be safer at home. I took a roundabout way home. On the way I saw burned and overturned automobiles. I inadvertently overheard a conversation between two Azerbaijani women. They were saying that they had to pick up their children from school and get them home, because it was going to start again at twelve o'clock. There are four of us in my family, and everyone was already at home: my brothers, Kamo and Karen, and Mamma Kamo had been excused from school, and Karen, from work. I realized the situation might get even more acute.

Around five o'clock I lay down for a minute to rest, and suddenly Mama says to Karen, "Look out the window, there's something going on out there, some sort of racket." We all went to the window and saw that a pogrom was beginning in our block. By that point I had no more illusions. A large, wild mob carrying an Azerbaijani flag and with a megaphone was conducting an organized attack on Armenian apartments. The person with the megaphone was confidently directing the mob to the apartments; apparently he had lists containing the addresses of Armenians. He was shouting into the mega¬phone, "Armenians, come out! Death to the Armenians!" The entire mob did what he said. We saw things being thrown off the balconies: furniture, I remember seeing a green couch, and feathers from pillows flew about the entire block. And below, the things were heaped into piles and lit on fire.

Until the end Mamma believed that soldiers would arrive any minute. Or the police. But we didn't receive any help from anyone. Our neighbor, Aunt Dusya, a Russian, came up to our apartment and knocked, and said, "I can't get through to anywhere, the phones aren't working." But she didn't offer to hide us in her apartment. We knew we had to save ourselves. We knocked on the door of the neighbors on our landing, they weren't at home, they had gone downstairs to watch. Their child let us in the apartment and went to tell his parents. We had been friendly with them all the years that we lived there. They came upstairs and said that they couldn't hide us, they were afraid, it would be better if we went to the technical school, since that's where the soldiers were quartered. That hadn't even occurred to us. Technical Vocational School No. 49 was right next to our building.

The mob didn't touch our building. It moved toward the condominium building and toward Building 2B. We went in the other direction. We got to the School safely. There were many soldiers there. The entire gym was cov¬ered with their cots. The soldiers had clubs and white metal shields, and they had helmets and protective vests. There were already some other Armenian families at the School, they had arrived before us. We appealed to the captain for assistance, we told about what was happening in our block that people were attacking the Armenian apartments. We said to the captain: "Can't your soldiers do anything to help the Armenians?" He answered that the Azerbaijanis were suffering there—he meant in Karabagh—and that we were suffering here. And added that they didn't have orders to get involve in these affairs, these events.

We couldn't understand it. Something like that was going on right next door, literally right next door, and they weren't interceding, weren't stop¬ping the mob. And the mob was wrecking and beating, savagely beating, uninhibited . . . The brutality would be hard to describe in writing, it's hard enough even to imagine it.

Of course, if the soldiers hadn't arrived that day there would have been more casualties. The Armenians would have perished. It was the soldiers who stopped the tragedy. But on that day, February 29, in our block the Melkumian family was killed, it was unbelievably sad . . . Later we learned from the neighbors that six people had been slaughtered. One of them had been visiting the family. It's very painful to recall it. And moreover it's insulting and incomprehensible, was there really no way to prevent it? School No. 49, where the soldiers were, was only 150 to 180 yards away from Building 2B, where the Melkumians lived. And not a thing was done to save them.

The soldiers helped us, they took us to the City Executive Committee at night, to a safer place. We lived under guard, no longer fearing for our lives. Later the soldiers took us, the Armenians, to the barracks, where they fed us and generally went to great lengths on our behalf. But all the same . . . But all the same it's insulting and incomprehensible that they were idle when the mob wrecked our block. Why in the world did it all happen?

October 4,1988 Yerevan


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Born 1960 Hairdresser Beauty Salon No. 7

Resident at Building 2B, Apartment 21 Block 41A


The most frightful tragedy befell our family, the Melkumian family. It's very difficult for me to talk about it. Five members of our family died all at one time: the father of the family, my father-in-law, Sogomon Markarovich Melkumian; my mother-in-law, Raisa Arsenovna Melkumian; my husband, Eduard Sogomonovich Melkumian; my brother-in-law, Igor Sogomonovich Melkumian; and my sister-in-law, Irina Sogomonovna Melkumian. On that day, February 29, the Ambartsumian family was visiting us. Uncle Misha Ambartsumian died along with the members of my family. Altogether six people, in a matter of minutes ... I am one of the daughters-in-law of the Melkumian family, Eduard's wife. I have a daughter of three and a half, her name is Lilia. In a matter of minutes she lost her father, her grandfather, her grandmother, her uncle, and her aunt.

I'll begin my story on February 27. I worked the second shift that day, I had to be at work at three o'clock. I was walking past the store between the fourth and eight microdistricts, not far from our police precinct station. And in the door there I saw a young man who had been beaten, his entire face was bloody. I stopped for a moment and saw policemen running from the direction of the station. When he saw them he got scared and started to run. In Azerbaijani, one of them said, "Look, he's probably an Armenian." And they shouted at him, "What are you afraid of? Stop!" Some young Azerbaijani fellows were walking past and smiling: "Look at that coward, the Armenian, they beat him and he's running away!" Well I paused for a moment . . . and set off on my way to work. Four Armenians work in our salon, only the manager is an Azerbaijani. When I got to work I told the oth¬er women what I had seen, and there were some Azerbaijani customers sit¬ting there, and they said: "What do you want? Look at what you Armenians are doing in Nagorno Karabagh, demanding our land ..." Well that was the first I had seen or heard.

I finished my shift and in the evening my husband, Edik, came by to pick me up. The family would always get together at his parents' home on Saturday and Sunday. We had only recently obtained an apartment, but we hadn't yet moved in, we had just started fixing it up. We were temporarily living at my father's. My mother had died recently, six months before. Papa was alone, and we had moved into his place. Anyway, we went home, to Block 41 A. Right away my mother-in-law told us that my father-in-law had gone to a wedding and hadn't yet returned. She said she was concerned. Well just then Igor arrived, he and Edik left us and went to get their father. Five minutes hadn't passed when their father drove up all pale, saying, "I hadn't even finished parking at the entryway, and someone broke my rear window with a stone. I got out to look, and there was no one there; I looked around the other entryways, and there was nobody there, either. It was someone from our building. He says, "Where are Edik and Igor?" We tell him, "They went to get you." He says, "Why did you let them go? In town they're stopping Armenian cars and buses ..." Soon Igor and Edik returned and said the same thing: "We were driving past the fourth microdistrict and they were stopping buses, they tried to stop our car, too, and we barely got away." And I ask Edik, "Edik, how will we get home to Father's?" He says, "It's impossible, we'll spend the night here."

We almost didn't sleep at all that night. On Sunday morning my sister called, she lives in Microdistrict 6. She says, "A neighbor came to our apart¬ment and told us we should take off the name plate with our Armenian sur¬name on it." We took the one saying Melkumian off of our door, too. And we thought, Where could we go? What would happen? I called work and told them that I wouldn't be leaving the house. And the manager tells me, "Well no one's coming to work today, are you on strike or what? For some reason," he says, "of four Armenians not one is coming in to work." I said, "I'm afraid because of what's happening in town!" And our neighbor had come by, too, saying that we Armenians were beating their people in Kafan. Well we did not believe it. It just wasn't possible.

That day we didn't leave the house at all. At lunchtime some boys, around 12 or 13 years old, came into the yard. There was a red Zhiguli there, it belonged to Armenians. They turned it over. I thought, they're not going to stop at this. I called the police. Speaking Russian, I say, "There's an attack in Block 41 A, they're beating people." They answered, "Wait there, we're on our way." Ten minutes later I called again and this time I spoke Azerbaijani. And they said, "What, you again? You just called." I say, "Well why aren't you coming?" Again they tell me, "We're on our way." Well I called three times altogether, and on the third time they told me, "We're sick of you, don't call us anymore." I called once again, but no one answered. So the police didn't come, they didn't even drive by to scare them . . . Well by this time they had already finished overturning the car, and had left. There were men nearby, sitting there playing dominoes, and no one went up to them and asked them what they were doing. So the car stayed turned over. It was only that night that the owner put it back on its wheels.

That night we couldn't sleep either. We thought, can this really go on tomorrow? Although by that time the military was already in the city. We had seen armored personnel carriers, trucks, and tanks drive by. And the next day, the 29th, at eleven o'clock, there were 15 vehicles with soldiers in our block. They had clubs, and they even got out of the vehicles. We thought, well that's it, it's over . . . There was a tank right in the middle of the road. This was right next to our building. They were there about an hour, and we calmed down. My sister called and I told her, "There's a tank and soldiers right next to our building, right under our balcony, so don't worry." And an hour later they drove off. They left...

By that point nothing had happened to us. Before cars had been driving by honking their horns, they had some sort of signals: the drivers would stick their arms out the windows and honk, meaning leave the car alone, our people. When the soldiers left the horns started again.

My father-in-law said, "Let's go to the dacha. That'll be better." This was somewhere around four-thirty. We were just getting ready to leave when there was a knock at the door. We opened the door and it was the building manager for Block 41A. He came in and said, "Sogomon, where are you going?" And he saw that we were getting ready, that we had our coats on, and that the children were dressed . . . "Where are you going? If you go out you'll be killed, it's safer to stay at home." Well my father-in-law believed him. We didn't leave. We undressed the children. Just after he left, about 15 minutes later, there was pounding and kicking on our door: "Open up in there! We know you're in there!"

I completely forgot to mention that before they came to our place there was a pogrom of an Armenian apartment in another building, not far from ours. We pulled back the curtains slightly and saw a refrigerator and a tele¬vision being thrown off the fourth floor. That was right after the building manager had left. So he knew everything, he saw it. And then those bandits came in a huge mob. They had a flag. There was a car with a loudspeaker on it. And now someone was talking over it, rudely: "Get out of here! This is our land! Long live Azerbaijan!" We were afraid to look, but you could hear everything.

We didn't think that anything would happen to us. We thought they'd throw out our belongings, but we didn't think they would kill us. They'd come in, steal, even beat us, but they wouldn't kill us?! My father-in-law said, "Even if ... Even if they kill me, they probably won't touch you ... cer¬tainly," he said, "they wouldn't go that far? . . . We'll defend ourselves." And Edik says, "You, Karina, and Ira, take the children and go into that room."

There were 13 of us in the apartment. My father- and mother-, and sister-in-law; Edik and I and our Lilia; and Igor and Karina, and their two chil¬dren, they have two: Kristina is five, and Seryozha is four. So there were our three families, plus a fourth, the Ambartsumians: Uncle Misha, Aunt Zhasmen, and their daughter, Marina. The Ambartsumians had come over on the evening of the 28th. A mob had passed by their building, young men and boys 12 to 20 years old. They were asking, "Are there any Armenians here?" A neighbor woman had said, "Yes, on the first floor." Rocks had been unloaded for them all over town. They started hurling them in the windows. Then Uncle Misha took some boards they had in the apartment and boarded up the windows, they got their things together, something to wear, and came over to our place.

And at five o'clock in the afternoon they started pounding on our door. There wore many of them, very many. There was din, and shouting: "We know you're in there, open up!" They raced into the courtyard, and then into the entryway. And they were all wearing something dark. It wasn't coats, it wasn't... I don't know, maybe a uniform or something they all had on? All of them were wearing dark clothing.

When they started breaking down the door Edik said, "Go out on the bal¬cony!" Lilia and I, Karina and her children, and Zhasmen went out onto the balcony. We lived on the second floor. The attack came from the courtyard side, but on the street side there was no mob, there were only passersby. We shouted: "Help! We're being killed!" A Russian woman was walking past, and I was shouting to her. Well the Azerbaijanis looked up, and nothing, and the Russian woman looked up and said, "What can I do?" I said, "Call someone, have them come!" Well she went on by, I don't know if she went to call or not. Meanwhile, apparently, they had broken the door down. My sis¬ter-in-law ran up, she had been with them, with the men. Ira runs up and says, "What, can't you get over to the other balcony?" We wanted to get over to the neighbors' balcony. We lived in the third entryway, and from our bal¬cony we climbed over to a balcony in the second entryway. If it weren't for the grape vines, for the vine supports, we wouldn't have made it over. Even if my sister-in-law had helped us we wouldn't have made it. Zhasmen went first. Meanwhile they broke the door down. When we were climbing over there was shouting in the room ... I was going to go after Zhasmen. I could not make it. I got our child, and supported myself with one hand against the wall so as to climb over, and the child started to fall. Her T-shirt tore. I could feel something tearing. I couldn't hold her tightly. I look, no, she's falling, and I went back. I went back and Karina says, "If you can't get over then there's no way I can do it pregnant." Karina was pregnant. . . And then Ira runs up. I say, "Ira, I can't get over there." She immediately grabbed the child and helped me, I helped her, too, by holding her child. She carried the child over to the neighboring balcony, and then she helped me climb over there. She helped Karina with her two children, and then jumped back over. She went to help the men. Ira had had a knife in her hand. She ran up to us and said, "Well, come on, what, can't you get over?" She threw the knife to the floor of the balcony and started helping us.

There were seven people left in the apartment. When we went out to the balcony my father-in-law had an axe in his hands, and Edik had a metal chair leg, and Igor had one too. My mother-in-law was empty-handed, she was so pale . . . And Edik too, when we went out, was entirely pale, he was just white. And Igor . . . Well we all sensed . . . we already knew that they were going to kill us ... or wound us ... Karina even told Igor, "Let's say good-bye." But Igor said, "What are you saying?! Go . . . cross over, quick, onto the balcony!" And Edik was so pale, just white . . . And my mother-in-law was whiter than white. My father-in-law and Misha were standing next to the door, and we were in the room . . . Our last words were, "Let's say good-bye." Karina said that to Igor and Edik. Igor even cracked a grin, but Edik, pale, looked at me, and at the children, we had a premonition . . . These were our last words and our last moments ...

Father had an axe, Misha had something, I don't remember, I just don't remember . . . But he had something, too. I do remember that Edik had his coat on, and Igor had even put on a helmet. We had a motorcycle helmet. We even asked, "Igor, why are you putting on the helmet?" He said, "Well just in case, I'll have it on my head." And Edik had a hat on, too.

At the last moment, when we were crossing over, Karina and I turned our heads to Ira and said, "Ira, are you coming?" She says, "I'm not coming, I'm staying with my parents, you have children, you go over." We wouldn't have gone over ourselves if it hadn't been for the children. If it hadn't been for the children, we would have stayed too. It was for their sakes. Ira helped us. There were Zhasmen, Karina and her children, Lilia, and I—six of us, the six of us were there on our Azerbaijani neighbor's balcony. The balcony door was locked, we started knocking, and she came to the window and waved with her hand as if to say, "I won't let you in." And we said, "We're going to break the glass!" Anyway, she opened the door and let us in. She let us in, we were in the bedroom, and she started shouting for us to leave. She has two boys around 14 years old, and they started shouting, "We'll kill you our¬selves! Get out of here or we'll kill you!" At this point the neighbor's brother appeared. He had apparently been in the courtyard and seen them attacking us. All the neighbors were either in the yard or on their balconies watching. The neighbor whose apartment we crossed over to was named Sevil. She shouted, "Get out of here!" We started pleading, "Let the children stay, we'll leave." She wouldn't do it. Her brother chased out Zhasmen and Karina and her children, but I held back, in the corner, I was hiding there. He chased them out and came back into the room and saw me: "Oh," he said, "are you still here?!" I started pleading, "Maybe you'll hide us, maybe you were afraid before when there were a lot of us, but now it's just me and the child." He began shouting again, but I had no intention of leaving. He took me by the collar and forced me and the child out into the entryway.

And through the wall you could hear noise and shouting. I heard the voices of my father-in-law, Edik, and Uncle Misha .. . They were talking and shouting, apparently, about how to ... I don't know, how to get away or how to defend themselves . . . You could hear the voices of those animals, "Kill them, don't spare them!

So Sevil's brother threw me and the child out of her apartment. I was on the second floor in the neighboring entryway. I couldn't see Karina or Zhasmen. I figured that they had gone downstairs, but then I thought because of the children Karina wouldn't go downstairs. I went upstairs to the third floor and knocked . . . This whole time I heard noise and shouting-It was in our entryway, in the courtyard ....

There were two apartments on each landing in our building. They opened their doors and said, "No, get away!" We were the only Armenian family in the building. I went up to the fourth floor and knocked, and an Azerbaijani woman opened the door. I say, "Take the child, I'll leave, maybe one of my relatives will come for the child." She took the child, who was ... she was screaming, she screamed until she was just blue. She was crying so hard, Lilia, that I thought she wouldn't survive, because she was all blue. I handed her over. The neighbor took her and slammed the door. And I went back downstairs. I had already gone down two flights and was going to the courtyard, to my family. Then the woman opened her door again and said, "No, take your child, if they come knocking here she'll cry and they'll know it's not my child." Well I was no longer even thinking, I couldn't take any¬thing in, I was just so ... I just started going up to the fifth floor, thinking, well now what will I do? Now they're going to throw me and the child off the fifth floor. I thought, let them kill us in the courtyard ... In those moments, from the noise and shouts of "Kill them!" I realized that it was all over, that we were lost.

I went up to the fifth floor and knocked. I knocked and a man opened the door, I didn't even know where he was taking me. He led me into the bath¬room. And just then the power was shut off in our block; the telephones had been out since lunch.

I went into the bathroom and saw Karina and her children and Zhasmen there. And Lilia was sobbing terribly, she couldn't stop. The man closed the door to the bathroom and wouldn't open it, afraid that we would come out and look down from the balcony. From his accent you could tell that he was Lezgin, not Azerbaijani. Later he told us he was a Lezgin. "Calm the child," he said, "they may come up here and it'll go badly for us, too." Karina's chil¬dren are a little older and calmer, and they fell asleep. I couldn't calm Lilia down. The bathtub was full of water, and I got into the tub, rocking Lilia.

I didn't know if I should rock the child or ... There were shouts from the courtyard, such wild shouting, oh, it was terrifying! At one point we even knocked, saying, "Open up, we'll go out, we can't stand it!. .. We'll go to our family!" We heard Ira shouting. It didn't even sound like her voice, she shouted, "Oh, Mamma!" As we later found out, they had burned her alive. .. they stripped her ... or they had killed Mother first, and she saw it. It didn't even sound like Ira's voice shouting, but I recognized it immediately and said, "That's Ira!" I can't even describe her voice when she shouted, "Oh, Mamma!"

Later we learned how our family had died. A Russian man who lived in the next building gave testimony. He described it and made sketches when he was at the Procuracy. First they stripped my mother-in-law, she was an older woman, 52, they stripped her and dragged her downstairs, they dragged her, and took her to the basement, and in the basement they beat her, they beat her and tossed her aside, she was on the verge of death, and they thought she was already dead. And those 12- and 13-year old boys took sticks and beat her and beat her and beat her to death. That's what the Russian said. They beat her and then threw her into the basement. He said they beat Edik, my husband, with sticks and shovels. They had axes and some sort of special shovels, and some kind of knives, it was all homemade, it had all been specially prepared. He said, "They beat your husband, they hit him in the head with the shovel, and then they burned him." They burned him to the point that he couldn't even be recognized later. Only by scraps of his clothing. There were scraps of his pants and his shoes, and that was all. His second cousin, he lives in Jorat, Grisha, he identified him. 1 said, "Maybe it wasn't him?" He says, "You know, it was hard to recognize him, but it was he." They burned Ira, too. They took her clothes off . . . and burned her alive! He saw all of it, the Russian man, he was in the courtyard. Almost all the neighbors were in the courtyard. He said they stripped her and poured gasoline on her and burned her next to the streetlight. Grisha identified her, too, I don't know how, but he did. They found my father-in-law behind the building. When they were dragging him, he shouted to one of those guys in Azerbaijani, "What, are you too attacking me? You too want to kill me?!" That means it was someone he knew. He was 52. Igor lay in the yard, off to the side from Edik and Ira. He was completely beaten, his legs were half- burned, and there were burned spots on his face, evidently they had put cigarettes out on his face. They found Uncle Misha across the street. While he was defending himself, they killed my family. They had forced Uncle Misha out toward the road, over where the bus lot is. And that whole crowd, all those people, and the neighbors, went to watch him. They threw stones at him, and he sat and covered himself with his arms so they would not hit his head. There were a lot of them, then ran up to him, one had a shovel... they all had those shovels and equipment pieces, one of them had a really odd shovel, not rounded, but squared off, and sharpened. And with this shovel... he hit him in the head. They burned Uncle Misha alive, too.

Seven people had remained in the apartment, and they killed six. Only Zhasmen and Uncle Misha's daughter, Marina, survived.

The whole time we were locked in at our Lezgin neighbor's. We heard the shouts from the courtyard, and asked him through the door, "What's hap¬pening to our family?" He walked by and in Azerbaijani, said, "It's some¬thing horrible. I can't tell you." We said, "Open up, open up," but he wouldn't open the door.

He let us out when everything was quiet. It was dark. We asked, "What time is it?" He says, "I'm afraid even to light a candle, because no one has any lights on." Then he lit a match and looked. I had a watch, too: it was nine o'clock. He let us out an hour after it was all over, when they had all left and it had grown quiet; the pogrom and the killing had gone on for three hours. He said, "Come out, have a seat." Well we told him right away, "Let's look off the balcony." He said, "No, I won't let you out onto the balcony." He pushed us right from the bathroom into the room. We sat down on the couch. He had a wife and three children, two boys and a girl. He even told one of the boys, "Don't tell anyone that there were Armenians here in the bathroom ..." We were silent a while and then we said, "Tell us." He said, can't tell you, it was awful." He couldn't tell us! Well, we asked, "What should we do?" He answered, "I can't keep you until tomorrow morning, afraid, if you can, leave now, if the neighbors see you in the morning they'll give me away." And what if one of those animals, one of those sadists, was from our building?! "I'm afraid," he said, "I'm a Lezgin, and I'm very fright-ened. If you can, leave now." We were crying, "Where will we go?" We didn't have any real clothes on, we had run out in robes, and the children ... we were wearing indoor clothes, we ran out wearing what we had on. Karina said, "I'll stay with the children, and you and Zhasmen go to my brother's, have him drive us away from here." Her brother lived in the fourth microdistrict. Karina's children fell asleep on the couch, but not Lilia. Lilia simply couldn't calm down. Karina took her in her arms, but she wouldn't stay there. Then Karina said, "I'll go with Zhasmen. You stay with the chil¬dren, we'll go." That man gave Karina some shoes, his old raincoat, and his wife's old scarf. I said, "Karina, if you can't reach your brother's, go to our place in Microdistrict 4." My Papa lived in Microdistrict No. 4, too. I said, "Maybe he won't' be home. We have Russian neighbors, they're friends, you can go to their place, tell them to have someone come for us."

They put clothes on and left. I stayed with the three children. The man watched from the balcony, and said that they had already made it out to the street. Fifteen minutes passed and he said, "If they don't come back in an hour, you and the children have to leave, I can't keep you until morning." I said, "What are you saying?! I can't even walk, I can't even go down the stairs. How will I make it with three children? We don't have outdoor clothes on, they'll recognize us ... and the children are sleeping!" Lilia had fallen asleep by this time, too. He said, "I don't know, but if they're not back in an hour you'll have to leave."

About an hour and a half later a truck drove up. He looked out the bal¬cony and said, "A truck! They've come for you!" I say, "No, I'm afraid, it's probably those bandits again." He said, "I don't know, but that truck is prob¬ably coming for you." I told him, "I'm not leaving until I see for myself." I went out onto the balcony and looked: Zhasmen was getting out. With sol¬diers. I woke the children. But I couldn't walk. I said, "Help me!" He said, "No, you have to go down by yourself, go down before the soldiers get up to the fifth floor." "I can't." He asked again, saying, "No, you have to go by yourself, and hurry, before the soldiers get here." I took Lilia into my arms, and Seryozha too, and told Kristina, "Kristina, you're a big girl, let's go." She was frightened, and grabbed at my hem. I went out. . . and my legs gave way. When I remembered how I had come up the stairs, I... I imagined that I would now go out and see our family, our balcony ... I went down to the fourth floor. I sat down. I sat down, I could go no further. I see the soldiers coming up, about ten of them. Armed. They took the children, and helped me up with their arms. I couldn't stand up by myself. And I was thinking if so many people came for me, it meant something happened to my family, The soldiers said, "You've held out for so long, just hang on." Then they said, "When you go out, get right into the vehicle, don't look around! You might shot." So we went down to the first floor, and they stopped. Several sol-diers went out to look. Then I and the children, we were in the middle, they were surrounding us, got into the vehicle. I looked at our balcony anyway: the windows were all broken, tatters of clothes were hanging there. Something was still burning next to the condominium building, and there was smoke coming from near the streetlight, too. It was Ira and Edik. But at the time I thought it was burning furniture ... It was cold, it was drizzling They pushed me into the vehicle and said, "We told you not to look." Zhasmen was already inside. There were other Armenians, too, from Microdistrict 4. The Armenians were being evacuated. They took us to the City Party Committee. We stood on the square in the rain, without clothes on. There were many guard dogs near the City Party Committee. We stood in line for 20 minutes until it was our turn to go in. We went in to the first floor, and there was no room at all, you couldn't even get your foot in there! We ran into a neighbor from Papa's microdistrict, he took the children into his arms and said, let's go upstairs, we're in a room upstairs. We walked upstairs to the fourth floor. What am I saying, walked upstairs? It probably took us half an hour to make our way up there, because there were people on the stairs, sitting, lying, standing, any way they could. There were about 30 people in the room, if not more, children and adults. A woman gave us her spot on the floor. We put the children to bed. Someone gave Karina their place on the floor, too. There were infants sleeping on the table, about five of them, really small ones, 2 or 3 months.

Despite everything we still hoped, we still had the fainiest hope that our family was still alive, only wounded. Although when we were on the fifth floor, besides Ira's cries we also heard the bandits shouting, "We've killed the five of them! Look—blood! We have Armenian blood on our hands!"

That same night the soldiers went around the floors of the City Party Committee asking people where their relatives were. We wrote about ours, too: Karina's brother, my father and my sister. The soldiers returned and said, "They weren't there, but the neighbors told us they're in a safe place."

On the morning of the 1st the children woke up and were hungry, they asked for water and tea, but no one had anything. We went around asking who had what, who had brought things from home. Then the soldiers began feeding us. On March 2 around evening time my Papa found us. He and my sister's family had hidden in Jorat. I could see it all in his eyes, he started crying, he already knew what had happened to our family. Papa's apartment was completely burned, too.

On March 3 we were taken to the village of Nasosny under armed guard. Things were better there, of course, and safer: no one would attack us, noth-ing could harm us there.

Already during those days I was often thinking about why specifically our family was treated so brutally and savagely. Perhaps because we fought for ourselves, defended ourselves as best we could? Indeed there had been four healthy men in there. But perhaps it was merely hatred, malice. We weren't poor, after all. But maybe someone gave us away—that Russian said that my father-in-law recognized someone in the gang ...

No other Armenians lived in the building besides us. They didn't go into any other entryway, they came right to our place, right up to the second floor, and didn't even knock on the neighbors' door. They knew that we were living on the second floor and in apartment 21. We had even removed the name plate. Someone sent them. And there was the building manager. He had come to our apartment. What were his intentions? "Don't leave, it's safer to stay at home." But when he was walking over he must have seen them stealing and throwing things down. That means he knew; he told us to stay home on purpose. He had never come to our place before. I told the investigator about the building manager. He says, "We asked him, too, what proof do you have?" I said, "The proof is that he came at four-thirty, and fifteen minutes later the attack began." He said, "Maybe he had good intentions, and genuinely thought that you'd be safer at home." He doesn't deny that he came to our apartment, and he gave the same time, too: four-thirty. I argued with the investigator, I was overwrought, and said, "Torture him like they show on television." He said, "What do you think I should do, smash his fingers in the door? Is that what you think I should do? Did you see him in the gang? You don't have any proof. Maybe the man had good intentions."

So that was how our lives were turned upside down. We had a family—but no more.

We had lived in friendship. Not long before that we had gotten an apart¬ment. My father-in-law said, "Now Igor's got a place and moved in, and you, Edik, have a place too. Now we'll fix it up. You'll sleep at your place, but eat your lunches and spend your birthdays and holidays at our place. Only sleep at your place, because I have to have you and my grandchildren around. I'd like to come home and have you already here." He was very kind to us, his daughters-in-law. He would call us over, smiling: "Irina, Karina, come over here. If your mother-in-law says anything wrong to you, you let me know." Well Karina and I would always laugh. He often told his wife, "Your words are heavy." Well he'd say it in Armenian, meaning that if she said anything to us our feelings would be hurt, but if he said something, they wouldn't be. He told her to keep quiet, that he would say anything that needed to be said. We, the two daughters-in-law, called him Papa, and our children called him dedulia [Gramps.] And my mother-in-law had taken the place of my mother. He'd come home from work and say, "Why are you all hanging around here? Air pollution get to you? Let's go to the dacha!" He couldn't get along an hour without his grandchildren, without us. He posi¬tively wanted all of us there in the evenings. That was on weekdays, and on Saturdays and Sundays he wanted us to come first thing in the morning, or after work, and stay till evening, till midnight.

At home we spoke Armenian, sometimes we spoke Russian. But my father- and mother-in-law would always speak Armenian among them¬selves and with us. We always had guests over, relatives or friends. At the able my father-in-law would always say, "Stay for the week!" That was his favorite thing to say, and he'd also say, "Eat, drink, and be merry!" Mother—mother was heavy-set, a short, red-cheeked woman, she loved to knit things for her grandchildren, she could knit very well. She knew how to sew, too. She was, you know, a calm woman. She preferred to be silent, lis-tening. But how she loved to laugh! Someone would be telling something and you'd hear her voice, her laughter.

Ira was 27, she worked at a pharmacy. She was single. She resembled her mother, she was short, but she was thin. How she would help us! She was the housewife. Her mother worked, she'd get home at six in the evening, but Ira got home at four, and all the housework fell on her. She loved to prepare meals, and she'd do the wash, and everything else so that things would be in order around the house. How she loved to straighten up!

Igor resembled his mother too: stocky and calm. True, he was tall and strong. He loved to relax. He'd come home after work and sit, but not Edik, Edik couldn't do that! He'd come home and always be doing something, be involved with something or other. He used to work at a tailor's, he'd come home and immediately be doing whatever people needed, something would have come unstitched or someone would need a button. He was a tailor before he went into the Army, and after that he did furniture covers. Edik served in Afghanistan. In 1978 he served for about two months off in the Baltic Republics, and then he was sent to Afghanistan. He was there almost two years. He told how hard he found it to be in the Army, but all the same he felt he had to do his duty. He told of being attacked by the Afghans. But he wasn't wounded in Afghanistan, he came back all in one piece, as the phrase goes, without a scratch, but here, on Soviet territory, he was killed, and so brutally! Even .. . even the fascists probably wouldn't have done that, kill and then burn beyond recognition. If it had happened in Afghanistan it wouldn't be quite so painful, but here, on Soviet territory, in our country, for something like that to happen. They had to be sadists, animals, to do some¬thing like that.

Edik also loved Lilia because she resembled him. He always said, "She's my daughter." My father-in-law named her. We didn't want to hurt his feel¬ings, so we named her as he wished; he liked that very much. When Edik would come home from work he would always bring her something, a toy or something else. He would open the door and say, "Lilia, come see what Papa brought you!" And she got used to it: "Papa's home, Papa, what did you bring me?" If he went anywhere he would always take her with him. And in the car she always had to sit up front, next to her father. She would get in and immediately turn on the tape player. Edik always said, "There's my daughter for you, she loves music." He played the accordion very well. At Detskiy Mir, the toy store, he would usually buy her a toy piano, or accordion, or a drum. Our Lilia had a birth defect, she was born with a dislo¬cated hip, and the doctors recommended either a cast or a brace. They said if she didn't wear a brace she'd have a limp. Of course we took this to heart: our first child, a girl, and she'd have a limp. We immediately got a referral and took her to the Traumatology Institute. The child was around five months old, and when she was 14 months the brace was removed. We wait ed so long, it was so hard. My mamma was still alive, she helped us. They took off the brace and told us she should be walking in a month. And when they took the brace off and then held her by her hand, she took her first steps. Edik said, "Watch her, watch her, in case she starts to limp ..." She started walking at 15 months. We were so happy! She started walking,and she didn't limp. She was completely healed. How we celebrated! How many guests were there!

Several days before February 29 Edik had bought her Finnish coveralls, and the marauders took even those. She had had a simple pin in her hat, it had cost four rubles, and they took that, too. So they took her coveralls, and her hat-pin, apparently they must have thought it was gold, but they left her hat.

On March 10 Karina and I were taken home. The investigator was there, and there were armed soldiers, one stood guard in the entryway, a second stood at the door, and a third was on the balcony the whole time we were in the apartment. It was awful and eerie to go inside, everything was over¬turned, and all the dishes had been smashed. And how they had destroyed the furniture! You had to have time to chop it up like that. They even broke the mirror in the bathroom. The lighting fixtures had been torn down. There had been meat in the freezer, they broke the freezer and took the meat, they even took the meat!

We buried our five people—I don't remember what date it was—in Baku, at Volchi Vorota Cemetery. Before that Karina and I had been summoned to the City Party Committee. We had hoped that someone from our family was still alive, for Edik's friend, Gamlet, a photographer, said that Edik was in serious condition, he was in the hospital. He was only trying to calm me down, but I went on hoping all the same. Someone from Moscow spoke with us, I don't recall his name. He started reading off a list: Sogomon Melkumian, Raisa Melkumian, Igor Melkumian, Irina Melkumian, and when he got to Eduard Melkumian, I thought he was going to say that they were all alive, or in serious condition. But he said, "Died." Then he said, "The funeral is today, your relatives are expecting you."

We didn't see their faces, the caskets were closed. About 20 of our rela¬tives were with us. There was Armenian music playing. They buried the parents, and at their heads, the three children. We weren't even allowed to finish mourning: "Hurry up, hurry up." There were people from the Council of Ministers there, from Moscow. And there was a police car. Karina and I were saying, "It was they who did this!" Our relatives told us, "Be quiet, stop saying that." They feared for us.

It was raining. There was a very strong wind. They put up five metal crosses. There were no names on them. The weather was so bad, they said they'd put them on later ...

June 3,1988 Ararat Boarding House Near the Village of Arzakan Hrazdan District Armenian SSR


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Born 1963


Boarding School No. 1

Resident at Building 2B, Apartment 21

Block 41A


This is my fate: I had everything, we were a happy family, and now, at 25, I've become a widow, I'm left to raise my three children alone; the third, not yet two months old, was born in Yerevan. Igor and I had thought that if it was a girl we would call her Raisa, after my mother-in-law, and if it was a boy, we'd call him Arsen, after Igor's grandfather. I had a girl, and I, without Igor, named her Raisa, in honor of her dead grandmother.

Our family and the Melkumians had been neighbors since 1965. Igor and I grew up together, we were friends from childhood on. We got engaged when I was 16. In 1981, when I was 18, we were married. Two children were born to us in Sumgait. My daughter is now 6 years old, her name is Kristina, and my son, Seryozha, is four and a half.

First I shall tell what happened on February 27. That day on my way home from work I passed Lenin Square, where about 1,500 people had gath¬ered. There were Komsomol members there, and Pioneers [Children's orga¬nization], and there were both Party members and non-Party people there as well. All of them were shouting, "There's no room for Christians here!" and "When we finish with the Armenians, we'll go after the Russians!" And some even cried out, "Death to the Armenians!" Absurd rumors had been circulating about town. I became frightened. I came home, breathless, and told about everything I had seen downtown. My family couldn't believe it. My father-in-law, Sogomon Markovich Melkumian, wasn't home, he was at an Azerbaijani wedding. By eight o'clock he returned and had barely fin-ished parking the car when his rear window was smashed with a rock. He got out of the car but there was no one there. Well I was telling him every thing, too, and he said, "What, is there no longer any government? That same day Igor said, "Papa, something terrible is happening in the city." And he said, "We'll stay at home, no one will drive us from our own home.

The day passed. On February 28, that was Sunday, we didn't go out. We called our relatives and asked them all kinds of questions, and they all said the same thing. Sometime around evening they started smashing the car of an Armenian from the neighboring building. Ira, my brother-in-law's wife, and I called the police: they're wrecking a car, help. We called and called and nonetheless they didn't come and they didn't do anything.

On February 29, on Monday, even though there were troops in the city, we were afraid to go to work. I called the school: I had the keys to the class¬room. I told the senior teacher that he should send someone for the keys, I wouldn't be coming in. He agreed, and even said, "Fine, don't come in, we understand what's going on in town, don't come in."

Before that, on the 28th, the Ambartsumian family came over. They came to my father-in-law and said, "Uncle Sergey, they broke our windows, bad things are happening in town." Uncle Misha Ambartsumian even said, "With my own eyes I saw them chasing naked girls through the streets. I don't know," he said, "we should leave town." Well on the 29th we were already trying to decide where we should go, thinking we'd go to our dacha. We got a couple of bags together, clothes, food, the bare essentials. And then somewhere around 4:45 the building manager came by and said, "Uncle Sergey, the situation in town is bad, don't go out." My father even opened up to him and said, "Maybe we'll drive to the dacha, it'll be safer there." "No," he said, "it'll be worse there, you'll be safer at home." He said don't be afraid, if something happens I'll send people to save you.

After he left about 15 minutes passed and about 200 people burst into our courtyard. All of us were at home at the time: Igor and I and our two chil¬dren, Ira and Edik and their daughter, my sister-in-law Ira, and my mother-and father-in-law. And the Ambartsumian family, there were three of them, Uncle Misha, Zhasmen, and their daughter Marina. Now when they started breaking down the door I remember Edik and Igor told us, "Go in that room and close the door. Close the door and calm the children so they won't hear that there's anyone home." The children started crying. Suddenly Ira, my brother-in-law's wife, suggested, "Let's run out onto the balcony." We—the two daughters-in-law and the children, and Zhasmen and Marina-raced out onto the balcony. My sister-in-law and my mother-in-law ran in and said, "Quick, over to the other balcony, or they'll kill you all." We lived on the sec¬ond floor. We needed to cross over from our balcony to our neighbor's. At first we couldn't manage it. The balcony looked onto the street. At that time people were coming home from work, and many just stood there, watching. I pleaded and begged: "Please, call someone, have someone come!". I even started shouting. "I'll throw down the children, I'll throw them down, you catch them and take them somewhere, so at least the children will survive." Either they were afraid or ... I don't know what. They looked as though they were watching a movie. Some of them started throwing stones at us. I'll say it again, these weren't the bandits, these were people from the other part of the building and from our entryway, they were just regular people, passersby. A bus even stopped. I remember a man's voice saying the Armenians were climbing over to the other balcony. Ira, my sister-in-law, helped us get the children over there. I was pregnant, about seven months pregnant. No, it wasn't yet seven, it was six and a half. I climbed over too. I think Zhasmen went first; you know, I just don't remember it all that well. Zhasmen went first, I think, and Edik's wife Ira and I had the children, and they were all screaming and crying. My Kristina said, "Mamma, don't throw us over the balcony, we're afraid!" Lilia was crying, and Kristina and Seryozha were crying too. Kristina didn't even want to climb over. She shouted, "I'm staying with Grandmother, I'm staying with Grandma!" She loved her grandma, more than she loved me. And my mother-in-law shout¬ed, "Oh no, Kristina's still there, she's still there, save Kristina, too!" Ira helped us climb over, with Kristina coming last. Ira helped us and went back inside.

We started pounding on the neighbor's balcony door. I pounded with my fist, "Sevil, open the door, open it, please!" She didn't open it. "No, go away, go anywhere, go, I'm not opening the door." She was our neighbor, we were friends, we never refused her anything, ever! And apparently she thought we were going to break the windows, and she opened the door. She opened it and said, "Karina, Karina, go away, go anywhere, just don't stay here, they'll kill us, too, because of you." I begged, "Please, at least take the chil¬dren, we'll leave, we'll go back." "No," she said, "you have to leave." Her sons ran in, one had a knife. Sevil's brother, he's around 18, shouted at us: "Get out of here, leave, I'll kill you with this knife!" I became terrified, I took the children and went out in the entryway and went down a few stairs. I went down and heard a loudspeaker. It was in the courtyard: "The Armenians must be killed, they've taken all the best places, all the best apartments!" One of them said, "Let the Armenian blood flow, none of them should survive!" When I heard that I went upstairs and started knocking on doors. No one opened their door for me! Not on the third floor, or the fourth. 1 couldn't see Zhasmen any longer. Ira came upstairs later. I even thought that they had let her stay, that they would save her.

My head was spinning. They were killing my family, and here I was in the next entryway with two children. Seryozha was four, and Kristina was five and a half. They were crying, "Mamma, we're scared!" They were so frightened that I didn't even know how to calm them, should I try to calm them or myself? It was awful. But on the third floor a man did open his door. I asked, "Open up, let me inside!" He opened the door slightly and said, "No!" "No" and that was it! He said it so sternly: "No!" I went up to the fifth floor. I pounded my fists on the door with all my might. He opened up, the man of the house, and stood there, looking at me. I was ready to get down on my knees. I almost did get down on my knees. "Please, I beg of you, at least take the children." He wasn't an Azerbaijani, he was a Lezgin. I don't even know how, but he let me inside. And when I went in, Zhasmen was already there. Two minutes hadn't passed when Ira and Lilia came up the stairs. Lilia was crying. He didn't want to open the door. And again I started pleading, "Please, open the door, it's our Ira and Lilia! Open the door!" And he said, "No, I'm afraid." I said again and again, "Please, open the door, please!" He looked at me. He looked at me for a long time and then opened the door after all. Ira came in with Lilia. We threw ourselves into each other's arms, crying. Then the man locked us into the bathroom. We sat there for a long time. Through the door he told us, "Calm the children, and calm yourselves down, too."

Calm down? This man was hiding us, but what of our family? When I was still in our apartment I had sensed that none of us would come out of this alive. I said, "Igor, Edik, let's say farewell." And Edik turned around and looked at me as if to say, is that some kind of joke? All the same I thought they would kill all of us. Igor looked at me, too . . . But it was already too late! They started pounding on the door, Igor was standing next to the door. Before that he had told us, "Go lock yourselves in that room and sit tight." He thought we were in the room. But before we went out onto the balcony we went to them: "Edik, Igor, let's say farewell." Igor didn't think we could climb over to the other balcony. And we did get over there, and I myself can't believe we were able to save ourselves.

Igor put on a helmet, and Edik had his coat on, and he put on a fur hat. All the men—Igor, Edik, their father, and Misha Ambartsumian—they all stood next to the door. They thought they would pound on it a while and leave. But from the other side of the door they ordered in Azerbaijani: "Open the door!" We were all silent, waiting. Someone outside the door said, "They're home, they're in there, break down the door!" And I remember my father-in-law whispering, "They're going to break it down now, it's coming down now..."

He had something in his hands, I think it was a knife: if they got in, we were going to defend ourselves. In the hall near the door there were two metal chair legs. From outside the door they said, "We're counting to five, open up!" But we were all quiet, we didn't answer them. We made like no one was home. We figured they'd leave, they'd get tired and leave. My father-in-law had said, "It's not possible they'd come into my home. How can that be? Everyone knows us, all of Sumgait knows our family, we are on good terms with everyone." And indeed a day did not pass that there wasn't an Azerbaijani guest at our table. We had a nice dacha, everyone would get together there often, Azerbaijanis liked being with us there too. But now we had to save ourselves, we had to flee from our own home. Ira, I remember, said, "I'm not leaving here, my brothers and my parents are here, I'm going to fight alongside them." That's just what she said. She picked up a knife and said, "If they open the door and come into the apartment then I'm going to fight alongside my family, I'm not going anywhere."

We were at Sevil's when they broke into our apartment. We heard fight¬ing and shouting. The noise was terrible. And when we hid upstairs on the fifth floor at the Lezgin's apartment, you could hear everything up there, too. Even Ira's voice. I remember her calling her mother several times. She called her for a long time ... I started pounding on the door in the bath¬room: "Open the door, what are they doing to Ira, who's shouting, that's Ira shouting, that's her voice!" But the Lezgin said, "It's nothing, calm down, no, it's not in your apartment." He was lying to me so I'd calm down. Two hours went by and the Lezgin opened the door and said, "Karina, Igor got away, calm down. He ran away." He saw Igor break away and run off with his own eyes. They killed him outside, next to the building.

While we were in the bathroom I experienced every possible human ter¬ror. The way Ira shouted! She shouted, "Save me, Mamma, save me! . . . Mamma, Mamma!" She repeated it several times. There was a wild din There were very many people there, all of them shouting, all of them bellow¬ing, howling, whistling—you just can't imagine what was going on, what the roar was like.

Apparently, after they had killed Ira those murderers came into the entry-way where we were hiding and came upstairs, all the way up to the fifth floor. I don't know if they were just looking for any Armenians or for us in particular, but I think they were looking for us because when we had climbed over the balconies someone on the street was saying that the daugh¬ters-in-law were climbing over the balconies. And after we heard Ira we heard them coming up the stairs in the entryway and hammering on the doors. I thought those were our last moments, and started saying good-bye to my children, kissing them. They were sleeping. I woke them up: "Kristina! Seryozha, wake up!" And I tell Ira: "Ira, if something happens, we'll throw ourselves off the balcony." We were on the fifth floor. Apparently our Lezgin neighbor had opened the door too, because later he said, "I opened the door and told them there were no Armenians inside." And after they all left our neighbor went out on the balcony himself to see: they were gone.

We weren't friends with those Lezgin neighbors, we only knew each oth¬er from the building. But the people we were friends with wouldn't even consider hiding us.

The Lezgin let us out of the bathroom. They had a candle burning. He said, "Karina, there're no lights on in our block." The whole block was dark, the whole block! It's a huge block, too. The Lezgin said, "I'm afraid to keep you until morning, I'm afraid of the neighbors, they might kill me for saving you." I said, "What are you saying, we'll leave now. But we can't just leave with the children in the middle of the night. Give us time to find somewhere else to hide." He said, "Well OK, go look." I asked Ira, "Ira, do you want to go?" Ira said, "No, I'll stay with the children, Karina." I said, "Fine, then I'll go." Zhasmen and I went downstairs together. It was very dark. No one was in the courtyard. It was dark, pitch black. I was afraid to go out at after sev¬en, Igor always met me after work and accompanied me home, I never went out alone. And now here I was out in the middle of the night and after a slaughter like that, too. It was probably after eleven. Later I called the board¬ing school and my director answered. He said, "Karina, where are you?" I didn't know, I was calling from a public phone outside and didn't know where I was. I got confused and hung up the receiver. From him I only found out what time it was, I asked him, "What time is it?" He said 11:20, I think, but I don't really remember. So anyway Zhasmen and I went out into the courtyard. I look and see what appears to be a person not far from our apartment. And there was the smell of something burnt. I became horrified. I looked at the corpse for a long time. It was either Ira or Edik. I only saw one of them, Zhasmen grabbed my hand and squeezed it: "Hurry up, let's go . . . Hurry up, come on, what are you turning around for?" I turned around and saw a large truck, it must have belonged to the bandits, because they came to kill us in a truck like that. We lived in the third entryway, and that truck was next to the fourth. We walked quickly, holding hands. I thought, if I go to the police then they'll put me away. I couldn't count on them. Before I reached the police station I saw a military vehicle. We went over and I said, "Soldier, in Block 41, I don't know if they've killed people or injured them—we need to save them!" And he said, "Go to the police station and tell them everything." I said, "I'm afraid to go there, I'm afraid of them." He said, "Don't be afraid."

We went to the police and they wrote down the address, and the military vehicle went to our building. I didn't go with them, they left me at the police station. I gave the addresses of my mother and my brothers so that they'd rescue them, too. I didn't know where they were or what had happened to them.

After a while they brought my children and Ira and Lilia. First they took us to the KGB, that was at two or three in the morning. Then around five they took us to the City Party Committee, and there were very many people there, very many. I was pregnant and was wearing nothing but a dress. Seryozha was only wearing a shirt, and Kristina had a little dress on. No coat, no boots, nothing! And we sat there for three whole days in the City Party Committee.

The Lezgin had told me that Igor escaped. And I thought that he was probably alive. But then after two and a half days, they took us, the Armenians of Sumgait, to Nasosny. On March 6 some people from the Central Committee came and told us, "Karina, Ira, we need you, come with us to the City Party Committee." My Mamma had come to Nasosny, and she had been looking for me for six days. Mama, my brothers, and my uncle. We went to the City Party Committee and waited there in the courtyard. I was wearing nothing but a dress, and Ira had only a dress on as well. There was a strong wind on March 6. An hour went by. And then one of the func¬tionaries told us, "Karina, Ira, gather your courage. Would you like to go to the burial?" I said, "What, did they really kill all of them?!" He said, "Let's look." He had a long list, and he started reading them off: Igor Melkumian, my husband, Eduard Melkumian, my brother-in-law, Irina Melkumian, my sister-in-law, Sogomon Melkumian, my father-in-law, and Raisa Melkumian, my mother-in-law. He read off all their names and said, "Get in the car, let's go to the burial."

We buried our family. I couldn't believe it at the time, I couldn't conceive of it or imagine it... And even now I think how shall I explain it to my chil¬dren when they're older?

My children were very attached to their father and their grandfather and grandmother. Kristina didn't love me the way she loved her grandfather and grandmother, they spoiled her. Kristina would always announce, "My grandma is better than anyone!" Now, even though she is getting used to my Mother, it's difficult for her, and once she told her: "You're a bad grandmoth¬er."

I don't know why, I asked her, "Kristina, where's Papa?" and she said, "They killed him." She knows, she understands it all. And recently I scolded Seryozha severely for something, and he started shouting at me, "When Papa comes I'm going to tell him everything!"

July 26,1988

Nairi Boarding House

Near the Village of Arzakan

Hrazdan District

Armenian SSR


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Примером геноцида (который квалифицируется как "Действия совершаемые с намерением уничтожить полностью или частично какую-либо национальную, этническую, расовую или религиозную группу как таковую") является армянская резня в Сумгаите.

Журнал "Век XX и Мир",М, 1988, № 12, с. 8.

“Виновники, подстрекавшие людей к погромам в Сумгаите, в данный момент носят в карманах депутатские мандаты и сидят в Милли меджлисе''.

Ильяс Исмайлов, председатель партии "Адалят'', в период сумгаитских погромов 1988г. занимавший должность генпрокурора Азербайджанской ССР (газета ''Зеркало'', 21 февраля 2003г.).

"Тогда, в феврале-марте 1988 года, начала писаться непредсказуемая, неожиданная, дикая, кровавая, местами предельно подлая страница Отечества и моей личной биографии. Самое печальное заключается в том, что подлость, нечистоплотность, неразборчивость в выборе средств проистекали от людей, занимавших высшие посты в государстве... В Сумгаите пахнуло средневековым садизмом, звериной, нечеловеческой жестокостью, часто перемешанной с глупостью..."

Александр Лебедь, " За державу обидно".


От себя хочу поблагодарить всех, кто помог с коррекцией и публикацией английского перевода книги Самвела Шахмурадяна.


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Английский вариант книги в присоединенном файле (1,2 Мб)


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