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In 1990, Mikhail Gorbachev got a Nobel peace prize for massacring 200 people in Azerbaijan.

Updated: Jan 20, 2021

On January 20, 1990, Soviet troops stormed Azerbaijan's capital, Baku, by order of the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in an ultimately failed attempt to save Communist rule and put down Azerbaijan's independence movement. Code named operation "Strike", it's goal was intended to crush the makings of an independence movement in Azerbaijan. For several days 26,000 troops cracked down on protesters, firing into crowds and massacring hundreds of people. Officially, 131 people were killed; unofficially, the figures swell to at least 300 and possibly more. Even to this day, more than 28 years later, the truth is unknown, as apparently most of the documents - around 200 secret boxes, according to some accounts - were confiscated and sent back to Moscow by the Soviet Army when it became clear that the Soviet Union was on the verge of collapse.

The bodies of protesters slain by Soviet troops, January 20, 1990 Following the massacres, Moscow declared emergency rule, which lasted for more than a year. Thousands of Popular Front members and sympathizers were arrested, imprisoned, and tortured. Soviet Defense Minister Dmitry Yazov explained the attack saying, "We came to destroy the political structure of the Popular Front to prevent their victory in the upcoming elections scheduled for March 19, 1990," he said. However, the invasion did not turn out as the Soviet leadership intended, and instead acted as a powerful stimulus for Azerbaijan's independence movement. Instead of terrorizing Azerbaijanis into submission, the Red Army's invasion killed the last shreds of hope among Azerbaijanis that the Soviet Union could somehow be reformed and preserved.

Red Army Paratroops in Baku, 1990.

Only twenty months after the Soviet invasion, Azerbaijan declared its independence and hundreds of thousands of people made the symbolic gesture of burning their Soviet Communist Party cards. Nine months later the Nobel peace prize was awarded to the same Mikhail Gorbachev. The Nobel committee stated that he is deserved the prize "for his leading role in the peace process which today characterizes important parts of the international community".

Mikhail Gorbachev should have faced criminal charges in the international court for war crimes for what he did no just in Azerbaijan, but also in Georgia in 1989 and Lithuania in 1991 where he also conducted massacres of protesters, but instead he got a Nobel peace prize and was even named as Time Magazine's "man of the decade".

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