According to the Black January: Baku 1990, Documents and Materials, AzerNeshr, Baku, 1990, p. 287, with a reference to the Ministry of Health of Azerbaijan SSR, "By February 1, 1990, 706 people had applied for medical assistance to medical facilities of Baku. The court medical bureau [sudebno-meditsinskoye byuro] had accepted 84 persons. 73 of them with gunshot wounds (16 in their backs), smashed by APCs 8, bayoneted wounds 2. By February 9, 1990 170 people, including 6 Russians, 7 Jews, Tatars and Lezgis, had died. Among the dead are six women and 9 children and teenagers. 370 people were wounded. 321 people disappeared."

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morgue photo

To learn more on the commemoration of this date in Azerbaijan, read the following three articles from Azerbaijan International magazine and a compilation of two articles by Prof. Dr. Audrey Altstadt, journalist Nurani in AYNA/ZERKALO newspaper in Russian, and a short OMRI digest news brief.

Compilation of articles

Official Black January Commemoration site

Voice from the Sea

The Russian Bear's Voracious Appetite: Azerbaijan 1990 and Chechnya 1995

Black January: Baku (1990). Behind the Scenes - A Photojournalist's Perspective

Human Rights Watch/Helsinki Condemns Armenia's Role

QARA YANVAR: Tragedy of January 20 Remembered

In the first hours of January 20, 1990, Soviet troops stormed Baku, Azerbaijan’s capital, in what became known as the Black January, one of the most tragic events in the country’s recent history. Indiscriminate massacre of civilians and the use of heavy military equipment was the Soviet authorities’ response to popular demands for more sovereignty and end of Communist regime. There were no armed people among more than 130 civilians killed and 700 wounded by the troops. January 20, 1990, became a national tragedy, victims of which represented Azerbaijan’s diverse and multi-cultural society. Among them were a 7-year old boy, a newly married couple, an 80-year old man, a 16-year old girl, a young doctor shot in an ambulance while helping another victim, and many others.

That day, nine years ago, the Alley of Martyrs was established in Baku’s hilltop park, where the victims of the Black January were laid to rest. Since then The Alley has expanded to receive victims of the war with Armenia.

While the events of January 20 in Baku were unprecedented by their scale and brutality, they were preceded by earlier attacks on civilians in Almaty, Kazakhstan, and Tbilisi, Georgia, in 1986 and 1989 respectively, and were followed by use of force in Vilnius, Lithuania, and the unsuccessful Coup d'Etat in Moscow in 1991.

According to “"Black January in Azerbaijan," a report by Human Rights Watch, "Among the most heinous violations of human rights during the Baku incursion were the numerous attacks on medical personnel, ambulances and even hospitals."” The report concluded that: “"Indeed the violence used by the Soviet Army on the night of January 19-20...constitutes an exercise in collective punishment... The punishment inflicted on Baku by Soviet soldiers may have been intended as a warning to nationalists, not only in Azerbaijan, but in other Republics of the Soviet Union."

Despite the curfew and repression which followed January 20, that day became a turning point for Azerbaijan and strengthened determination of the people to build their own independent country. In 1991, Azerbaijan became independent and in April of 1993 the first among the former Soviet republics with no Russian military bases on it soil.

Among many Azerbaijanis united in their effort to tell the truth about January 20 in Baku known, was Azerbaijan's current leader Heydar Aliyev, who lived in retirement in Moscow. His strong condemnation of Soviet leadership for this invasion at an improvised press-- – conference in Moscow on January 21, 1990, was his first public appearance since resignation from the Soviet Politburo in 1987. Soon after the Black January 1990 Heydar Aliyev resigned from the Communist Party.

Every year on January 20 citizens of now independent Azerbaijan pay their tribute to those who gave their lives for the country's independence.