Speech of Heydar Aliyev, President of Azerbaijan, at the meeting with the families of martyrs in the Martyrs` Avenue on the day of national mourning - Baku, Martyrs` Avenue, January 20, 1998

Today is great day mourning for all of us, for our people. Eight years have passed since that tragedy. However, our people will never forget it. Because it was not an aggression against several persons; it was a military aggression, a genocide against the entire Azerbaijani nation. The people who perished during this aggression are heroes of our people. It is a great loss for us. However, they symbolize the heroism of our people. The blood of our martyrs is the blood of our people. This blood contains the might, heroism, of our people, its dreams for freedom and independence. This blood is sacred. It is the blood of our people shed for freedom and independence along the centuries; the red colour of our national flag symbolizes that blood.

We grieve for our losses. We are always with you. It is the loss of our people, not only yours. Our martyrs have immortalized themselves. They demonstrated the dreams of freedom of our people and readiness to perish for them.

Each person has to pass away one day, no one is eternal. But those who demonstrate their deeds with their deeds, their loyalty to the nation, who die for the national independence are sacred. Though they have passed away, they live in our hearts. The visit of a lot of people to the Martyrs` Avenue today demonstrates it once more. The martyrs will never be forgotten.

Nowadays we are commemorating the anniversary of the tragedy of the 20th January. We accuse and demonstrate the national hatred to the people who committed that genocide against our people. Some say that they have not been punished. Sometimes a person is isolated from the society because of a crime. The people who committed that crime were sentenced both in Moscow and Azerbaijan. The guilty must perceive what a grave crime they have committed. However, the national hatred is the greatest punishment; this hatred will never last.

In 1994 we led discussions for two months. Do you remember that I stated in 1994 that the tragedy of the 20th January had not been evaluated politically yet? We discussed it in the parliament and adopted a decision. Undoubtedly, that decision does not cover everything. However, we think that it is of historical importance. It is said that some people are mentioned there, others - not. But today on the 8th anniversary of the tragedy I declare that all the people in the former administration in the Soviet Azerbaijan are guilty.

Yesterday I was watching TV where some people were being interviewed. One of the persons who was in the then administration said: "We left for home at 11 pm. We didn`t know that the troops would enter Baku. Only Vezirov and Mutallibov knew that". They lie. Those troops didn`t descend from the heaven at an instant. They were brought to the vicinity of Baku within 10-15 days. After midnight they suddenly attacked the centre of Baku from different directions. I wish they were sincere and told the truth now. How could it be that they went home at 11 pm and saw the tragedy only the next morning? A manslaughter was committed in Baku till the morning. Those people all are guilty.

I got too angry yesterday when heard them saying that they had not been well informed, as if only Vezirov, Mutallibov, Elmira Gafarova knew about it. They are guilty. So are the others. How could it be that the officials were sleeping soundly, while the peaceful civilians were horrified to see the troops?

The sound of bullets awoke everybody. How deaf and blind could those people be not to hear and see all those tanks, artillery, machine-guns? They all are guilty. Even though their legal responsibility hasn`t been proved yet, their moral responsibility is obvious. What do I want to say? We all must be proud of the heroes of our people. Those martyrs demonstrated heroism and bravery of our nation. But those who held high positions, slept soundly and were indifferent to the people are traitors. They committed a great crime.

But our purpose is not to revenge. Undoubtedly, every guilty person must be punished. However, the hatred of the nations is the most severe punishment. Our aim is to demonstrate the world t hat it was a crime committed against Azerbaijan by the Soviet administration of which Azerbaijan was a part for 70 years.

Our martyrs demonstrated the moral-spiritual qualities of our nation. Visiting their graves every time, we beg God to bless their souls. I bow my head to all the martyrs. Because they raised our people, they perished for our independence. They proved that our nation couldn`t be deprived of independence, and we gained it. We live in an independent state due to by the blood of our martyrs. They will never be forgotten. Their martyrdom made the Azerbaijani people more brave and help our people develop our independence.

Distinguished sisters and brothers! Distinguished mothers! I express my respect to you. You are dear to me personally and to our people. You brought up such heroes one can be proud of. May God give you and our entire nation enough patience. But know that on our road we had great losses, martyrs, nevertheless, this road is the right road, it will lead the nation to successes. We may have losses in future. However, we`ll go this way which will be illuminated by examples of heroism of our martyrs. May God bless the souls of all the martyrs!