/ 19 January 2024

20 January – The National Mourning Day and a turning point in the restoration of the independence of Azerbaijan

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Martyr’s Avenue in the capital Baku is a sacred place for Azerbaijani, who come to lay carnations on the graves of the martyrs on 20 January each year.

This year marks the 34th anniversary of ‘Black January’ — the tragic incident that happened on 20 January 1990 in Azerbaijan

On the night of 19 January, as a result of military aggression of the units of the Soviet Army and special forces as well as contingents of internal troops against Azerbaijan, civilians, including children, women and elderly were massacred in the cities of Azerbaijan, including the capital Baku, by order of the USSR leadership. 

As a result of the occupying forces’ military aggression 150 civilians were killed, 744 were seriously injured and four people went missing. The Soviet army forcefully suppressed the mass protests of the Azerbaijani people and the national independence movement. The protests were in response to the discrimination policy of the USSR leadership against the people of Azerbaijan, which included the deportation of hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijanis from their historical lands in the territory of present-day Armenia, and Armenia’s unfounded territorial claims against Karabakh. The Soviet forces committed an unprecedented massacre against the civilian population, grossly violating international law and the Constitution. 

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On the night of 19 January the Soviet army occupied the cities of Azerbaijan, and an unprecedented massacre took place.

On the morning following the tragic events, National Leader Heydar Aliyev went to the permanent representative office of Azerbaijan in Moscow, where he vehemently condemned this heinous crime committed against the Azerbaijani people and demanded punishment of the guilty.

At the special session of the Milli Majlis (Parliament) held in February 1994 the brutal killing of innocent people on 20 January 1990 was qualified as military aggression and a crime, and in March 1994 a decision “On the tragic events committed in Baku on 20 January 1990” was adopted. 20 January was declared a National Mourning Day. 

The tragedy had a decisive influence on the formation of the national identity of Azerbaijan and became a turning point in the restoration of its independence. Azerbaijani people, who were subjected to military, political and moral aggression of the Soviet regime 34 years ago, showed commitment to their historical traditions of struggle. The date of 20 January 1990 was marked in the history of the country as a day of tragedy, as well as of national pride, whereby the Azerbaijani people conveyed to the world that they deserve to live free, sovereign and independent. 

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Thousands of Azerbaijani took to the streets in mass protests in January 1990.

Today, the souls of heroic martyrs who gave their lives for the independence of Azerbaijan, as well as for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country are at peace. The courageous Azerbaijani army liberated the territories that were under occupation for 30 years, and the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Azerbaijan was restored. Actions against the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan will continue to be adequately countered. 

The Azerbaijani people buried their heroes in Mountain Park, the highest spot in Baku, and since then it has been called Martyrs’ Avenue. This is the most sacred place for every Azerbaijani. Every year on 20 January millions of Azerbaijanis visit Martyrs’ Avenue and lay carnations on the graves.

This ceremony begins in the early morning when the President of the Republic and officials lay wreaths at the eternal flame.

According to official protocol, every guest or delegation paying a visit to Azerbaijan begins their journey by visiting the Avenue and traditionally, the head of state, accompanied by guards of honor, approaches the monument erected to commemorate the martyrs and lay the wreath. 

The people of Azerbaijan will never forget the martyrs who lost their lives for the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country, and they are remembered and honoured with the deepest respect and esteem by all.