Please, tell about your mission in Azerbaijan.
I served as a senior investigator in the special department of the Kyiv military district before the USSR decline. An investigating group under the aegis of the Prosecutor General’s Office was formed and dispatched to Sumgait in 1988, along with the groups from the other soviet republics. When we arrived we were warned against going out of the hotel while the local law enforcers refused to provide any assistance in our work. According to our data, several buses with people called yerazes (Azerbaijanis from Armenia) arrived in Sumgait a couple of week before the pogroms. They were telling that they evicted from their houses in Yerevan. Actually, these were just people who did not have a high income in Yerevan and wanted to grab the apartments belonging to Azerbaijani Armenians. At that time, we didn’t receive any information about cases of violence against Azeris in Armenia. This was a propaganda campaign, as a result of which Azerbaijanis united in gangs, burst into the apartments where Armenians lived and killed them.
When we arrived the town was completely destroyed. I was told that all suspects are being detained. I remember one of them, criminal offender Edik Grigoryan, whose gang was searching for the houses where Armenians lived to slaughter them. The situation was extremely grave. For the first time people were murdered because their nationality. There were also some Ukrainians, Russians and Belarusians, who suffered as they were taken for Armenians.
Was Grigoryan an Armenian?
As the head of the investigating group I questioned Grigoryan myself. He had an Armenian surname but was Azerbaijani by nationality. He was born in a problem family. His mother was Azerbaijani. His father left them when Edik was a child, that is why he hated Armenians.
Were there any victims among Azeris?
No. Armenians didn’t kill any Azeri. They were not ready to resist. I recollect what happened with Hovhannesyan brothers, who stood the siege for two hours. Their parents escaped to Belarusian neighbors who lived a floor above. The brothers had a gun belonging to their relatives and were trying to shoot back. But, in the end, the apartment was set on fire and the brothers were murdered in the yard. I was in the mortuary during the autopsy. They were beaten so severely that the flash was falling off the bones.
The most terrible episode for me was the rape of a 16-year Armenian schoolgirl. She was raped in the presence of hundreds of people, then tortured and burnt. The crowd did nothing to help her.
Were these spontaneous or plotted disorders?
This was a well-organized action. Criminals were robbing, killing and raping. There were so called “refugees” from Armenia, who were telling about “horrors” taking place in Armenia but they were lying.
How can you describe the massacre of Armenian population in Azerbaijan? Can this be called a genocide?
Yes, what happened in Sumgait was genocide. Azerbaijanis were shouting that Armenians seized the best apartments and they are a minor nation, which must be exterminated.
Please, tell what happened in other cities…
At that time I was engaged in investigation in Sumgait and I do not know what was happening in other cities. The disorders in Baku burst out under the same motto: to annihilate Armenians. All non-Azerbaijanis were ill treated. I remember how a shop assistant refused to sell me some bread because “we support Armenians.” I heard that Armenians were taken into the sea on ferries under the pretext of evacuation and we never knew what happened to them.
After what had happened, do you think that the people of Nagorno Karabakh could do anything but fight to defend themselves?
The people of Karabakh had to defend themselves, otherwise the story of Sumgait and Baku would be repeated there. Each nation has the right to self-determination, including the people of Karabakh. Maybe it would be more correct to annex Karabakh to Armenia during the soviet era…
What would you wish our readers?
I wish no one witnessed the crimes committed through national hatred. Nationalism is a horrible phenomenon. I am convinced that there aren’t bad nations, there are bad individuals.