April 30 marks the 30th anniversary of Operation “Koltso”. Our conversation is with the honored journalist Nvard SOGHOMONYAN, the author of the collective documentary book ‘1991. Koltso’.
- "Koltso" operation. What was that, I ask, because our generation is almost unaware, cannot imagine what happened in the 90s of last century.
- The way of realization of national dreams and goals has had stages for the Armenian people: heroic moments, looting, Golgotha, defeats and falls. 1991 was a link in that chain, when the question was whether Artsakh would exist or not. In 1990 a state of emergency was declared in Karabakh, according to which the activities of self-defense checkpoints and voluntary people's guards are stopped. Passport regime check is introduced, administrative or criminal liability is imposed in case of possession of a weapon. On July 15 of the same year, by the decree of the President of the USSR Gorbachev, the Minister of Internal Affairs of the USSR was given the right to use internal troops, and in separate operations subdivisions of the USSR Ministry of Defense. The decrees were issued under the pretext of "easing tensions" and "stabilizing the situation" in the region. These decrees became the "legal" field within which the famous "Koltso" military operation was carried out. If during the first two years of the Karabakh movement (1988-1990) the Soviet center pursued a balanced policy in the conflict region, the picture has changed dramatically since 1990. This is the year when the Supreme Council of Armenia adopted the Declaration of Independence. The communists were defeated in Armenia, Azerbaijan was at least formally communist, and enjoyed the patronage of Moscow. The Armenian population of Sumgait, Baku, Gandzak and other areas was looted, robbed and deported, and the conflict was intensifying in Nagorno Karabakh. It should be noted that using the state of emergency, the region was disarmed.
The people of Nagorno-Karabakh tried to defend the right to life of an individual and a nation through demonstrations and rallies, protests and letters, which is internationally recognized by the 1948 UN resolutions of the General Assembly and the provisions of the Convention. The right of man to live in his millennial land was violated. In 1991, an attempt was made to finally resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict through the operation ‘Koltso’. Azerbaijani prisons were filled with thousands of Armenians. They tried to solve the Artsakh problem through terrorism, murder, torture, in Turkish medieval ways. We are the witnesses of the crimes committed. Most of them returned from Azeri prisons and jails, mutilated and disabled, and many were tortured to death in prisons. Getashen (2700 inhabitants), Martunashen (300), 16-17 villages of Hadrut region (1491), four villages of Berdadzor subregion were evacuated of Armenians due to the military operation ‘Koltso’.
Azerbaijan pursued a state-planned deportation policy towards Artsakh, which they did not even cynically hide. Let's remember the USSR President M. Gorbachev's statement that ‘the NKAO is an integral part of Azerbaijan. We need to get life back to normal as soon as possible’. On April 30, 1991, the "Koltso" military operation began with the joint forces of the special forces of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Azerbaijan, as well as the military units of the USSR Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Ministry of Defense. Initially, the military operation spread panic, terror, which lasted until mid-August 1991. Pursuant to the provisions of the Convention on the Prevention of Genocide and the Punishment of Perpetrators of the UN Resolution in 1948, there is every reason to say, that what happened was a genocide, which has not been assessed by the international community so far.
- And perhaps it was difficult to write about those difficult events.
-Of course. Those who had returned from Azeri prisons were telling terrifying things that were difficult to hear or write. Many even refused to tell because it was difficult to relive.
- And what did 30 years teach us?
- Many of us have witnessed what happened 30 years ago. Our memory is still very fresh, not only because not much time has passed, but because the Turkish Azeris keep our memory fresh, the testimony of the April war, the tortured civilians in Talish, the old people, the crimes committed during the 44-day war and after…
We say, but we do not learn lessons not only from the events that took place more than 100 years ago, but also 30 years ago. Naive, faithful, disunited… We did not learn to rely on our own strength…
-How do you think we managed to endure, overcome and then wage a victorious battle?
- The "Koltso" military operation made us understand that it is possible to protect the right to life with weapons. That if they come to kill you, you will kill. In 1991 we realized that they only sympathize with the weak, we realized that freedom is not begged for. Violence had its reaction.