Mariam Avagyan (Coordinator, Assembly of refugees from the Azerbaijani SSR) - When I told my story to an American-Armenian armenologist (specialist of Armenian studies), he said, it turns out that the same thing happened over and over again.
Levon Stepanyan (President, ‘Nakhijevan’ patriotic union) - I was born in a village called Leninabad in Nakhijevan, where my 5 brothers were born.
August 4, 1992
Head of the State Department for Refugees
Many of them were half-naked, robbed, beaten and broken, dishonored and wounded. During mass deportations, hundreds of Armenians became victims of genocide, innocent and defenseless old people, women and children were tortured and subjected to terrible physical and moral torture.
Vilen Gabrielyan (Member of Armenia’s Parliament) - We didn't have one house in Baku, we had several houses in the old Armenian district in Baku and on the central avenue of Baku. Our relocation process actually started after the Sumgait pogroms.
Yuri Avagyan, Sumgait
The forensic examination revealed the cause of death: they were dismembered and burned.
These people with different addresses and histories and more than 100,000 Artsakh citizens who arrived in Armenia from Nagorno-Karabakh are united by the fear of being killed, the loss of their homes and the status of forcibly displaced people.
According to official data, more than half a million Armenians were forcibly displaced from Azerbaijan only during 1988-1992. However, expert studies document that more than 800,000 Armenians were forcibly displaced. And this despite the fact that displacement had indirectly started much earlier than 1988.
Mariam Avagyan tells by her family’s example. They ran away from the village of Banants in 1971, when her father, who was a truck driver was saved from being killed once again.
Mariam Avagyan (Coordinator, Assembly of refugees from the Azerbaijani SSR) - Unprepared, my father placed us in the truck on November 16, 1971. Most of our possessions remained in our two-story house. We ended up in front of one of the Nork-Marash huts.
In those years, there were no Turks living in their village, there were active Armenians who wanted to erect a monument dedicated to the Armenians who died in the Great Patriotic War, but 3 days before the opening, at night, the Azerbaijanis broke it. Then it turned out that they had compiled a list of village activists to take revenge. At that time, 300 families left Banants. And if until 1988, an appropriate environment was created for the Armenians to leave, then in 1988 they were already operating openly.
Mariam Avagyan - Already in 1988, when a self-defense committee was created in the Armenian district of Gandzak and they tried to cooperate with the Soviet forces, they told the Armenians ‘you should leave Kirovabad. You must leave Gandzak and go. We cannot protect you, we have no weapons to give you’.
My aunt was there with her family and she was telling an episode... the Turk entered the Armenian's house and literally told ‘don’t you even take the pillow for your head, leave everything and go’.
Levon Stepanyan - I attended the Armenian school in our village. There were two departments under one roof: Armenian and Azerbaijani, both of them had grades 1-10. When I reached the 6th grade, there was already no Armenian class. Armenians had left the village.
The formula of leaving one's home to save one's life was already implemented in Nakhijevan earlier.
Gayane Hovhannisyan (Researcher Department on Research of Repression against Armenians of Artsakh, Nakhichevan, Azerbaijan at Armenian Genocide Museum and Institute ) - For example, if in 1917 more than 54 thousand Armenians lived in Nakhijevan, then according to the data of the first Soviet All-Union census, in 1926 only 11 thousand Armenians lived there, which was 11 percent of the total population.
After the establishment of the Soviet regime, Armenians wanted to return to their homes, but...
Gayane Hovhannisyan - The government of Azerbaijan did not allow the Armenians of Nakhijevan to return to their former places of residence, arguing that land division had already been carried out and there were no free territories. Later, during the whole Soviet period, the remaining Armenians in Nakhijevan were subjected to ethnic, political, economic and cultural oppression, as a result of which the territory was almost completely depopulated.
Levon Stepanyan felt those repressions on himself for the first time at the age of 14, it was the 50th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide in those days.
Levon Stepanyan - A note was posted on the houses of almost all Armenians that they would be slaughtered on April 24. The first time I heard from my mother the cruel history of our people, my eyes opened when I was 14.
Although direct violence was used against people in Nakhijevan in 1988-89, says Levon
Stepanyan, by then most of the Armenians had already left.
Levon Stepanyan - Many already thought that there was no place for a girl. Armenian girls, 15-16 years old, of school age, were being kidnapped.
Vilen Gabrielyan - After Sumgait, the mood in Baku started to change and the Armenians of Baku began to understand that this will not be limited with Sumgait.
Member of the National Assembly Vilen Gabrielyan was 5 when he was deported from Baku.
Vilen Gabrielyan - Any person, who has lived in a place for decades and has to leave urgently, finds himself in panic and does everything to save his life.
At first, in 1988, they moved the small children of the family, they still had hope, they didn't want to be separated from the house.
Vilen Gabrielyan - My mother managed to get out of there with my grandfather on the penultimate or last plane.
None of them ever received any compensation from Azerbaijan. Archive documents also prove this. In 1992, the head of the refugee department presents the situation created as a result of forced displacement.
August 4, 1992
Head of the State Department for Refugees - To date, none of the deportees has received the compensation for the value of the houses and property they left in Azerbaijan, savings bank deposits, state and personal insurance money, in case when the Armenian government paid 70 million rubles in loans to the 107,000 Azerbaijanis who left Armenia.
No Azerbaijani left Armenia without exchanging or selling the house, the Ministry of Justice and the National Archives of Armenia conducted a joint study.
Artyom Sujyan (Advisor to the Minister of Justice of Armenia) - In total, we are talking about more than 12,000 apartments. If we take into account the large number of Azerbaijani families, in contrast to Armenian families, then we are talking about about 50,000 people. When they left Armenia, they got an equivalent apartment in Azerbaijan.
However, the equivalence of that exchange was not adequate: in exchange for a 2-room apartment with an area of 33 square meters in Yerevan, they took a 4-room apartment with an area of 60 square meters in Baku. This is one of the best exchange cases.
Mariam Avagyan - There are Azerbaijanis who have exchanged one house with several people. In fact, they went to Baku and became the owner of several houses, and Armenians came to Ararat, for example, and saw that several families came to live in a hut in a village.
Even these days, the rhetoric of the compensation demand circulating in Azerbaijan is one of the false theses of Azerbaijani historiography. The inflated number of Azerbaijanis who left Nagorno-Karabakh is also a historiographical forgery. According to the first Soviet census of 1926, the total population of Nagorno-Karabakh was 125,300, of which 111,694 or 89.1 percent were Armenians.
In the following decades, with special policies, they tried to change that proportion.
Gayane Hovhannisyan - The reduction of the territory of the autonomous oblast, annexation of Armenian settlements to Azerbaijani communities, and the targeted demographic policy of the 70s.
It was especially clearly expressed during the years of Heydar Aliyev's rule, when he allowed a university to be opened in Nagorno-Karabakh, but with an Azerbaijani department to ensure the flow of Azerbaijani students to Stepanakert.
Gayane Hovhannisyan - In the same way, a shoe factory was opened in Nagorno-Karabakh. One goal was to send workers from neighboring Azerbaijani regions to Nagorno-Karabakh and increase the number of Azerbaijanis. In 1970-1979, the number of Azerbaijanis in Nagorno-Karabakh increased by 16 thousand.
Thus, according to the first census of the Soviet Union in Nagorno-Karabakh, which was conducted in 1926, the population was 125,000, of which 111,694 (89.1 percent) were Armenians, and 12,592 thousand (10 percent) were Azerbaijanis. In 1979, the population of Nagorno-Karabakh was 162,181, of whom 123,076 (75.9%) were Armenians, and 37,264 (23%) were Azerbaijanis.
The last census of the Soviet Union of Nagorno-Karabakh was in 1989, when a large number of Armenians had already been forcibly displaced, for example from Shushi. According to that census, the number of Nagorno-Karabakh residents was 189,000, of which 145,000 were Armenians, 77%, and 40,000 were Azerbaijanis, 22%.
And why and how did Azerbaijanis leave Nagorno-Karabakh, Mariam Avagyan responds with a question.
Mariam Avagyan - There are many witnesses, including international journalists, who documented that in 1992 Nagorno-Karabakh was in complete blockade. After cleansing Sumgayit, Gandzak from Armenians, Azerbaijan came to Nagorno-Karabakh. 40,000 Azerbaijanis had to sit and wait to see how their compatriots would bombard them. They quit and left voluntarily. They could stay by the side of the Armenians, and share their hard fate. However, they decided on a voluntary position. What kind of refugee can we talk about?
A maximum of 350,000 Azerbaijanis lived in 7 regions, who were involved in military operations against Nagorno-Karabakh in those years, continues Mariam Avagyan.
However, the number of Azerbaijanis, which does not even reach 400,000, has grown to 1 million not only in the Azerbaijani, but also in the Russian media.
Styopa Safaryan (Political scientist) - The journalist of the Russian state media circulates and spreads Azerbaijani narratives about refugees, false numbers, creates a heartbreaking story. This is, in fact, a manifestation of the policy of the Russian side to intensify the tension in Armenia-Russia relations.
The journalist of the Rossiya 1 TV station shows with archive footage that the Azerbaijanis allegedly left Nagorno-Karabakh in a hurry, without taking anything, and then lists the village names where the Azerbaijanis are now returning. Shushi is also mentioned under the Azerbaijani name as the historical cultural center of the region.
Styopa Safaryan - I guess this is not a coincidence at all. As Meduza and The Insider revealed, there is a certain methodology provided to Russian propaganda companies and journalists to present the Armenian-Azerbaijani issue. From time to time, they explode either through the lips of the Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova or Russian propagandists.
Despite the large number of documented facts, archive materials and bitter memories, Armenia today has nothing on the issue of refugees on international platforms.
Mariam Avagyan - How dare it could happen that Azerbaijan registers 600,000 refugees at the UN, and our 30-year-old unskillful authorities did not register a single Armenian refugee at the UN, neither Sumgayit, nor Maraga, nor Baku, nor Gandzak , neither Nakhijevan, nor Gardmank, nor Mirbashir. We have not recorded anywhere how did it turn out like this?
Levon Stepanyan - We have no refugees registered with the UN. And Azerbaijan has it. We provided compensation during Soviet Armenia, but Azerbaijan did not provide compensation. Azerbaijan demands compensation from us for alleged cultural monuments, it has destroyed 27 thousand cultural monuments in the territory of Nakhijevan. 27 thousand. Today, there is almost no Armenian trace in the territory of Nakhijevan.