31 March – Day of Genocide of Azerbaijanis
The Gulustan and Turkmenchay treaties, signed in 1813 and 1828 respectively, laid the foundation of the split of the Azerbaijani people and division of their historical lands, subsequently leading to expropriation of those lands. In a very short span of time, the mass resettlement of the Armenians in the Azerbaijani lands began.
Although the Armenians, who were resettled in the territories of Iravan, Nakhchivan and Karabakh khanates, were less in number than the Azerbaijanis living there, and managed, sponsored by their patrons, to establish an administrative unit called “Armenian province”. The artificial division of the state territories encouraged the displacement of the indigenous people of Azerbaijan from their lands as well as execution of the genocide policy against the Azerbaijani people. In order to realize the idea of “great Armenia” on the Azerbaijani lands, the Armenians started the process of falsification of their own history and the history of Azerbaijan and the entire Caucasus.
Inspired by the idea of creating “Greate Armenia”, the Armenians carried out a series of bloody massacres against Azerbaijanis in 1905-1907. The massacres committed by the Armenians covered the territories of Azerbaijan as well as the Azerbaijani villages located in the territory of present Armenia. Hundreds of Azerbaijani settlements were destroyed and razed to the ground, and thousands of civilians were brutally killed.
The Armenians, seizing the opportunity of the First World War as well as the February and October revolutions, which took place in 1917 in Russia, attempted to realize their heinous intentions under the banner of the Bolsheviks. From March 1918, the Baku Soviet, under the pretext of combating counter-revolutionary elements, developed a plan to exterminate the Azerbaijanis in Baku Province. During those tragic events, tens of thousands of peaceful civilians in Shamakhi, Guba and other cities, as well as in Baku province were killed on ethnic and religious grounds, settlements were destroyed, cultural monuments, mosques and cemeteries were razed to the ground. In the later stages, the Armenian nationalists continued their barbaric acts, carrying out mass killings, looting and ethnic cleansing in Karabakh, Zangazur, Nakhchivan, Shirvan, Irevan and other regions.
The March 1918 events became the focus of attention following the proclamation of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (ADR) and in order to investigate violence against the Azerbaijani population the Council of Ministers adopted a decision on the establishment of the Extraordinary Investigation Commission (EIC) on 15 July 1918.
At the first stage, the commission was involved in investigation of the March genocide, the Armenian brutalities and grave crimes committed by the Armenians in the provinces of Shamakhi and Iravan.
A special authority was established at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to increase the world community`s awareness of the truth about these tragedies. In 1919 and 1920, Azerbaijan Democratic Republic commemorated 31 March as a national day of mourning. In fact, it was the first attempt to give a political assessment to the genocide perpetrated against the Azerbaijanis and the occupation of our lands, which lasted for more than one century. However, after the collapse of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, the process was halted and the investigation of the incidents and the attempts to give a political and legal assessment to these events failed. Only 80 years later, on March 26, 1998, those horrific events received a proper political assessment when President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev signed the Decree “On the genocide of Azerbaijanis”. March 31 was declared the Day of Genocide of Azerbaijanis. The Decree said: “All tragedies, which occurred in the 19th-20th centuries in Azerbaijan and were accompanied by the invasion of lands, constituted stages of the systematic genocide carried out by the Armenians against Azerbaijanis. Attempts were made to give a political assessment to only one of these tragedies – the March 1918 massacre. As a political successor of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, the Republic of Azerbaijan recognizes its historical duty to achieve a political assessment of the events of genocide, which Azerbaijan Democratic Republic failed to complete.”
On the occasion of March 31-the Day of genocide of Azerbaijanis, national leader Heydar Aliyev said: “We must continue raising the world community`s and influential international organizations` awareness of the truths – based on real facts and evidence – about the genocide committed against our people in order to change the distorted perception created as a result of false information provided by the Armenian propaganda machine as well as to give a proper legal and political assessment to these realities. It is the current generation`s sacred duty for the victims of the genocide.”
Numerous new facts and documents have been collected in the past years thanks to researches in this direction. The mass grave unearthed in Guba region reveals one of the bloody pages of this tragedy. In April-May 1918, in Guba region alone 167 villages were razed to the ground. The mass graveyard in Guba region was unearthed on April 1, 2007, during the landscaping works on the site. In 2009, under the Decree of the Cabinet of Ministers, “Plan of action to perpetuate the memory of mass murder victims in Guba region” was approved and a decision was made to construct a memorial complex and carry out renovation works in the site where mass graves were discovered. In 2007, employees of the Institute of Archeology and Ethnography of Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences launched a large-scale research in the mass grave, which was completed in September 2008. The research revealed that the mass grave was an evidence of the genocide committed by the Armenians against the local citizens in 1918. More than 400 human corpses of different age were found, including 50 children, 100 women, and the elderly. The research also found that along with the Azerbaijanis there were members of the Lezgi, Jewish, Tat, and other ethnic groups living in Guba region among those brutally killed and buried in the graveyard.
The official opening ceremony of the Guba Genocide Memorial Complex in the site of the graveyard was held on September 18, 2013. Addressing the ceremony, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev said: “Of course, due to the fact that history was falsified in Soviet times, this was concealed from us. For many years, the thugs who shed the blood of the Azerbaijani people – their cursed names are indicated there, e.g. Shaumyan and others like him, were portrayed to us as heroes. I think this is a great tragedy. For many years, those who unleashed atrocities against our people were described in Soviet history as heroes and statues of them were erected in many places. Only in the years of independence we restored justice. We cleared our beautiful city, our Baku from these statues, and today there are beautiful parks, including the Sahil Park, in their place. In other words, history and justice prevailed. Today we go back to our history. We know and should know all aspects of our history. The younger generation also needs to know what disasters our nation was faced with in the past.”
On January 18, 2018, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev signed an Order on commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the 1918 genocide of the Azerbaijanis. The Order said: “The historical evidence revealed that the geography of bloody acts committed by the Armenian nationalists in March-April and in the late 1918s is much more widespread and the number of victims of tragedy is much bigger than expected.”
The people and the government of Azerbaijan always pay tribute to the victims of the genocide, and urge the world community to take lesson of these historical events and to expose the true nature of the Armenian fascism.