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Azerbaijan

Former USSR commemorates the 13 million victims of Stalinist political repression

The Azeri Times

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1937-1938 in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Russia

Every year on 30 October, countries of the former Soviet Union remember the victims of political repression and persecution who fell prey to Stalin’s Great Purge during 1937 and 1938.

Who were the victims

According to documented evidence, a conservatively estimated 13 million people were shot, sent to exile in camps and deprived of their civil rights during the Great Purge in the Soviet Union.

Armenia

The political repression and persecution in Soviet Armenia began in the 1920s.

Religious figures were persecuted with renewed force in the 1930s, and 89 faced execution.

In 1937 alone, 4,951 people were persecuted of which 3,140 were shot

High-ranking Soviet officials were affected. The official approach of the Soviet government was presented by one of the most important and cruelest of Soviet leaders, Lavrentiy Beria, who published an article in the Pravda newspaper [text in Russian] titled Turn the Enemies of Socialism to Dust.

Among others, Beria accused the first secretary of the Armenian Communist (Bolshevik) Party, Agasi Khanjyan, of anti-revolutionary activities.

A month before the article was published in 1936, Aghasi Khanjyan committed suicide – at least, according to the official version of events.

The following year in August 1937, the chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars of the Armenian SSR, Sahak Ter-Gabrielyan, committed suicide. Again, that was the official version.

A mass dispossession began in the 1930s and many rural residents were deprived of their property. In the cities, political and public figures, famous artists, members of the intelligentsia, academics and scholars, as well as their family members, were persecuted.

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The main period of the Great Purge was from 1937 to 1938.

Yeghishe Charents, Aksel Bakunts, Mkrtich Armen, Vagram Alazan, Gurgen Maari, Vagharshak Norents, Vahan Totovents, Movses Silikyan, Levon Karakhan and other representatives of the local intelligentsia fell victim to Stalinist repression and persecution.

The first study of victims of Stalin’s persecution in Armenia was carried out between 1993 and 1996. A list of victims from the 1930 to 1938 period was published in the Hayastani Hanrapetutyun newspaper.

In 1937 alone, 4,951 people were persecuted in Armenia, of whom 3,140 were shot. In 1938, over 3,153 people were persecuted.

Starting in 1930 and continuing for eight years, 14,904 Armenians were persecuted, of whom 4,639 were executed.

This figure is particularly significant if taken into account that in 1939 Armenia only had a population of 1.3 million people.

They were accused of anti-Soviet, Dashnak and anti-revolutionary activities, as well as of banditry, Trotskyism, espionage, terrorism and the propaganda of nationalist ideas.

The verdicts delivered against the accused stated that their goal was to create a separate national Armenian state and that they were trying to shake the foundations of the Soviet Union.

The Armenian intelligentsia was also repressed in other republics of the USSR, in particular Russia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. The most famous in this list was the political and military leader Hayk (Guy) Bzhishkyants.

A lamp from Stalin’s bunker built in 1942 in Samara, Russia.

Georgia

Two and a half million people were living in Georgia between 1937 and 1938. Over 29,051 people were persecuted, of which 14,372 were shot and the rest sent into exile or to camps.

Well-known writers, composers, poets, artists, playwrights and scientific figures became victims of the persecution. The brightest minds of the country were declared “enemies of the people” and “pests”.

Over 29,051 people were persecuted, of which 14,372 were shot

The persecution or Great Purge in Georgia was personally led by Lavrentiy Beria.

Thousands of people were persecuted and convicted on completely false and absurd charges.

One such example can be found in the archives which contain the case of an old shoemaker who was persecuted for piercing a newspaper with a needle while he was working. The newspaper contained an image of Stalin, and the shoemaker had pierced his eye. The denunciation was made by the same person whose shoes the shoemaker was repairing at the time of the incident.

Azerbaijan

In Azerbaijan, the “face” of the Stalinist repressions was Mir Jafar Bagirov, the first secretary of the Communist Party of the Azerbaijani SSR.

Many famous writers were targets of persecution and their arrest, as a rule, was preceded by a harassment campaign in the press.

120,000 were persecuted in Azerbaijan from 1937 to 1938

This includes the poet Ahmed Javad, who authored the words of the national anthem of independent Azerbaijan.

The 29-year-old poet Mikayil Mushfig was shot for being “an enemy of the people”, and his remains have not been found.

Huseyn Javid, one of the most famous and talented poets, writers and playwrights in Azerbaijan, was arrested in 1938 and died three years later in a camp.

The accusations ranged from “counter-revolutionary activities” to “anti-Soviet propaganda” and “nationalism”. Denunciations became a frequently-used tool. Sentences were summarily handed down without the participation of the accused.

It is difficult to come by an exact number of those who where killed, deported, forcibly resettled and exiled, but estimates put it that between 70,000 and 120,000 were persecuted from 1937 to 1938.

This is a large number for Azerbaijan, whose population at that time was just over 3 million.

Russia

People standing in line by the Solovetsky Memorial in Moscow to read the names of family members persecuted by the Stalinist KGB.

There were about 13 million victims of political repression in Russia of which about one million were executed.

During the Great Purge 13 million were persecuted in Russia, while about one million were shot

Every year at the end of October, Memorial, a Russian organisation, holds a commemorative ceremony for the victims of political repression. It is held in Moscow near the Solovetsky Stone located close to the headquarters of the Cheka-OGPU-NKVD-KGB where political prisoners were tortured and killed.

The FSB (Federal Security Service of Russia) is currently housed in this building.

In 2018, an unprecedented number of people — more than 15 thousand — took part in the ceremony to commemorate those who had been persecuted in Moscow. The names and dates of the deaths of victims of the Great Terror were read out loud during the ceremony.

The slogan “Russia will be free!”was sounded at the ceremony, as was “Freedom for Oleg Sentsov!” [ed. Ukrainian director, sentenced in Russia to 20 years in prison for allegedly preparing a terrorist act and a laureate of the Sakharov European Parliament Human Rights Prize].

Azerbaijan

Demonstration in support of Azerbaijani blogger on hunger strike in prison: fines and arrests

The Azeri Times

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Four demonstrators have been sentenced to three weeks in prison on charges of organising unauthorised gatherings. The demonstrators recently protested the launch of a new criminal case against well-known Azerbaijani blogger Mehman Huseynov.

Among the arrestees are two journalists and two members of the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan (PFPA).

Another four participants were fined 300 to 400 manats (approximately 177 to 236 dollars).

Huseynov has gone on a hunger strike in protest against new charges of “attacking a prison guard” that are being levied against him.

The demonstration

Several dozen journalists and activists gathered on 3 January near the Neftchiler metro station on the outskirts of Baku, shouting “Freedom for Mehman!” and “Freedom for political prisoners!”.

Five minutes later the police stopped the rally and detained 15 people.

Seven women were released at the police station, and the rest were taken to the Nizami District Court. Three other women were released there, and five men were left in custody until a court decision was made.

On 4 January the court sentenced journalist Afgan Sadigov to 22 days in prison, while journalist Nurlan Qahramanov and PFPA members Elmkhan Agayev and Sakhavat Nabiyev were sentenced to 21 days in prison.

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Hunger strike

Mehman Huseynov is an Azerbaijani video blogger who has actively criticised the wealth and corruption of certain officials.

In early 2017 he was detained by the police. After his release, Huseynov complained that the head of the police station had tortured him. He was again arrested and received two years in prison on charges of defamation.

Local journalists, opposition activists and human rights advocates have spoken out in his defence, considering him a victim of political repression.

On 26 December 2018, with just a few months of his prison term remaining, Huseynov was accused of attacking a prison officer. A new criminal case has now been filed against him. In response, the blogger has gone on hunger strike.

The Caucasian Knot writes that on 30 December his condition worsened, and at the insistence of his brother, agreed to drink water.

The head of the public relations department of the Prison Service, Mehman Sadiqov, stated that Huseynov was not on a hunger strike and that he had no health problems.

Huseynov’s father tried to meet with him in the detention facility, but was refused access. His lawyers are also unaware of his current condition.

Mehman Huseynov has received outspoken support from Reporters Without Borders.

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Azerbaijan

Imprisoned Azerbaijani political blogger on hunger strike

The Azeri Times

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A prominent Azerbaijani political blogger and activist is on a hunger strike after the authorities brought new charges against him shortly before he was to be released from a two-year prison term.

Mehman Huseynov, once Azerbaijan’s most popular political blogger, was sentenced to two years in prison in March 2017 on charges that he defamed police officers who allegedly tortured him. He had been scheduled to be released in March 2019 but on December 26, prison authorities brought new charges against him.    

Huseynov allegedly did not cooperate with an inspection in prison and attacked a guard, Lieutenant Ali Abdalov, according to a statement from the state prison service. “He physically resisted and injured Abdalov,” as well as “scattered and broke” items in an office in the prison, the statement said. The prison service also claimed that Huseynov had 461 manats (about $270) in his possession, which is against prison regulations. The new charges carry a potential prison term of up to seven years.   

The day after the new charges were brought, Huseynov, 26, stopped eating and drinking, his family reported.

This is the third time in the last year that the Azerbaijani authorities have imposed new charges on a detained political activist, thus prolonging their terms. Similar punishments were meted out to a religious activist, Telman Shiraliyev, and a senior member of the opposition Popular Front Party, Mammad Ibrahim.

“The government’s repunishments are the result of their understanding that they will never control [Huseynov] by imprisonment,” said Jamil Hasanli, an Azerbaijani historian and political activist, in a Facebook post. “The government does not want to forgive this young blogger for exposing their corruption.”

“We were expecting this kind of provocation against Mehman. He was warned that he would not be released in March,” his brother, Emin Huseynov – also a political activist, living in exile in Switzerland – told the news agency Turan. “The charges are nonsense. Who believes someone can beat prison officer while being under arrest?”

Emin Huseynov said that his brother was being punished for statements he made at his mother’s funeral in August: “Breaking me down is possible only with death. Today I have lost my mother. If they release me alive from jail, I will double my activities.”

Emin Huseynov said that Mehman started drinking water again after four days at the insistence of his family, though he continues to refuse food. His family and fellow activists say his health has dramatically deteriorated.

“Mehman Huseynov is in danger of dying and we hold the Azerbaijani authorities responsible for his fate,” press freedom organization Reporters Without Borders said in a December 31 statement.

Prison authorities have claimed that Huseynov is not in fact on a hunger strike. “Mehman Huseynov is having food and water. He keeps contact with his family by telephone. He is not conducting a hunger strike. His health is also normal, and he enjoys all the rights he is allowed under the law,” said Mehman Sadigov, a prison service spokesman.  

On January 3, a group of activists held a rally in Baku demanding the Huseynov’s release, with posters depicting Huseynov and chanting “Freedom to Mehman.” Ten of the activists were detained by police.


Lamiya Adilgiz
i is a freelance Azerbaijani journalist.

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Politics

Senator Marco Rubio Calls for Immediate Release of Mehman Huseynov

The Azeri Times

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US Senator Marco Rubio called on official Baku to immediately release blogger Mehman Huseynov.

“Azerbaijani blogger Mehman Huseynov remains imprisoned on a trumped-up charge. Now he is in a critical situation due to a hunger strike. The government of Azerbaijan should release him immediately,” the senator wrote in his blog on Twitter.

Recall that Huseynov continues his hunger strike for the 10th day in connection with a new case brought against him about alleged resistance to the warden in the prison, where he is serving a two-year term on defamation charges against the police

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