The Growing Refugee Crisis in the Soviet Union- The Plight of Armenians
The process of democratization in the Soviet Union provoked the eruption of regional and ethnic conflicts wNch had hitherto remained dormant. In several Soviet republics nationalist movements emerged demanding regional autonomy. These struggles intendfkd existing ethnic knsjons. The conflict between Azeris and Armenians in Azerbaijan is one such caae. .. And Them There Was None "We lived in constant fear hiding our &Wen in the bmement", testified Zhanna Tsahwova, a mother of six
... six chUdrenfromBdcu. "IhenonDecmber 5,1988 a bunch of people (real urimals) stutedbrealdngwindowsintheho~ inhabited by Armenia-" "No one bothered me until June 1989", stated a 59-year-old Arkadii -yanfromBalru,"butinFnethey making threats by p -, t ' '~ dropped -tenin8 in my mrilb0Xtellingmetoleave;otherwise they threatened to kill or mutilate me."' Thesesta~tsanlldhaveanne f n w n~o t h e r~f o n # d t o l e P v e Azerbai* Tho6#whocantestlQdid notsuffertheworsSfa(e. who cannot, did. They wexe decapitated, hung;l toastedin fire or othemisebrutally z m d e d . Those whomanapitoescape beer t h e b u r d e n o f~o f t h e M o o d y daya Butmemoriesarpnottheonly thing whMtornmts them; the& present situationispasdisconcerting. The Rrst Wave There have been three waves of Armenian &gees. The first wave was caused by the genodde in Sumgait In December 1987, Nagomo-Karabakh demanded autonomy from Azerbaijan, clrSming that its amexation in 1921 was illegal, based on falsifications, deceit and threats. It was further argued that Anr\enians, who made up 30% of the 175,000 population of Nagorno-Kadmkh,wer~deprived of thelrculhval roots and political rights. The 7 0 f * l a n f l a t l y r e j e c t e d the!daim. Tedonsmountedandon February28Azerisstarted AtmenfPn pogroms in Sumgait. According to some estimates more than a h u n d d brutally massacred. c O~W e ! r e 0 f t e n The~~~:ondzcnaet# Armenian r@gm consisted of victims #&h human oidence and natural disaste~. But the earthquake d O u l e d pogroms in A z e r b n i ' b y w bunred. Gorkhev sent the troop to pacifytheqhgmbba Astakdslegc was declared. S o m e~f l e d t o o t h e r d t k s then but they were not nuwnws. h\ fact,nooneevenhOtjCQdfhem T k y demandedno-andam their own. Hostilitia between Azerb and Armeniansculminatedonceagainin Novemberl98S cutturrrlandemw ties between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia were growing. Demands for the right to self-determination were 8 -8 and presented a red threat to Moscow. Aaxding to I p r Babanov, an active member of the Armenian community in Leningrad and a writer, ethnic violence against Armenians was condoned by Gorbachev's Central Committee. New msmaes provoked another wave of =%== Shortly afterwards yet another misfortune beset the Armenian people. On Decedwr 7, 1988 an earthquake devastated Armenia taking between 35poo and 5 0 , m lives. Their houses destroyed, empty-handed people ran to h h a~w end Lmningrad hoping that the Kremlin was not going to ignore their ='ff=Nk The Second Wave The second wave of Armenian refugees ccnraisted of victims of both humu\~andnaturaldisas&s. But t h e~o v e r s h a d o w e d p o g r o m s in-@by far* me sight ofl~~htly dresdpeoplefnthemiddledthewinter touchedpeopWsheerta ntepublic =Po=-*----" m = ' @~~ thechurch,c~~pecatedwithmembersd, othermhmmygmupinaeetinganad hocownmittec. Peopledonated money, blankets, clothes; they offered their alremiy~ven~~wdedapiutments~ Many ~~a n d L e t \ . i r l g r a d i a n s t O o k t h e AnnenirurtlagdyveTydose1Dtheir heda ~w r s T~~v a , a ~w l d o w w i t h t w o d r i l d r e a . Her phmemrmber~$ventoaIlArmenian refugees as a contact number in Laningnd* yo--='Played woman suddenly found h e r d busy. Her only reward was the satisfaction from having helped some peophinneed. RefugeesfmmBatcu* beneRtedfr0mt)reaidextendedto~ © Tanya Basok and Marina Makarova, 1990. This open-access work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, which permits use, reproduction and distribution in any medium for non-commercial purposes, provided the original author(s) are credited and the original publication in Refuge: Canada's Journal on Refugees is cited.