Sumgait Genocide: the genocide and the mass deportation of the Armenian population of Sumgait was carried out by the Azerbaijani ruling circles on February 27-29, 1988. The main purpose of this crime was to prevent the possible solution of Nagorno Kharabakh conflict, to frighten Armenians with further bloody actions and to force them to abandon Artsakh national-liberation struggle.

Just before the massacres party member of Azerbaijan SSR E. Asadov threatened to organize a campaign of thousands of Azerbaijanis to Nagorno Kharabakh against the Armenians.   On February 26, the day before the events, M. Gorbachev, at the meeting with the Armenian intellectuals, expressed concern about the security of 200 thousand Armenians living in Baku directly linking it to demands of Artsakh Armenians to reunite Nagorno Karabakh Autonomous Region with the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic.

 False information was spread for making the situation in Sumgait even worse, such as: Azerbaijanis are killed, their property is plundered in Armenia, etc. Particularly the speech of the chief prosecutor of USSR Katusiev on TV about the killing of two Azerbaijanis in Askeran made an inciting effect.

 The crime was planned in advance. The proof of it was the list of home-addresses belonging to Armenians, preplanned scenario and the division of roles (murderers and pogrom-makers,  property plunderers) preparation of iron bars obtained from metal factories and other tools for carrying out the massacres, distribution of drugs and alcohol. In addition, the phone lines were cut off, police and emergency services stopped working on purpose and conventional and alarm system was used to identify the place of the Armenians, etc. Azerbaijanis attitude towards Armenians during these crimes was different: some provided their Armenian neigbours with shelter and hid them, thus saving their lives, while others, on the contrary, in many cases incited the crowd or betrayed the location of the Armenians.

 The results of 3 days slaughter were horrific and the actions of murderers were more than severe:  several dozens killed, most of them burnt alive after tortures, hundreds injured,  many raped (mainly the under-age), 18 thousand refugees, more than 200 destroyed and plundered houses of Armenians, robbed stalls, shops, workshops and public facilities, dozens burnt and broken cars, etc.

 On February 29, Soviet troops were introduced in Sumgait but the violence and murders continued throughout that day too. Army didn’t receive an order to use weapons and help the Armenians. Only in the evening they acted decisively and prevented further massacres. 94 pogrom-makers were persecuted and only one of them was sentenced to death. The others were charged for murders, rapes, massacres, etc, besides, in all cases, without exception, crime was defined as “hooliganism”. Instead of including all crimes into one common case Soviet authorities deliberately divided them into several parts and the trials were held in the courts of different Soviet cities.

 There were many cases of violations of rights of victims and court proceedings during the trials. After the collapse of the Soviet Union many criminal cases were stopped and most of the criminals were released.  The crime wasn’t condemned officially and condolences to the relatives of the victims were not expressed. Lack of political assessment led to mass riots in different cities of USSR.

 Staff of municipal and law enforcement authorities remained unpunished. The exact number of victims of Sumgait genocide is not determined.  Based on the data provided by Azerbaijani Prosecutor's office USSR Prosecutor's office stated that “27 Armenian civilians were killed in Sumgait”: Arakelyan Artash, Arushanyan Razmela, Arushanyan Vladimir, Avagyan Lola, Avagyan Yuri, Avanesyan Albert, Avanesyan Valeri, Aramyan Artur, Aramyan Armo, Babayan Arshak, Babayan Elena, Grigoryan Emma, Danielyan Nikolay, Danielyan Seda, Tovmasyan Rafik, Hambardzumyan Misha, Ghambaryan Alexander, Martirosov gari, Melkumyan Eduard, Melkumyan Igor, Melkumyan Irina, Melkumyan Rayisa, melkumyan Soghomon, Melkumyan Piruza, Movsesova Hersilya, Sargsyan Shahen, Trdatov Gabriel. 

 There are, however, serious reasons to doubt the reliability of official data on the number of victims of Sumgait genocide.  According to witnesses the number of unidentified victims in city morgues were more than 70. 

 The head of the Council of Ministers of USSR N. Rizhkov also expressed doubts about the official number of victims. Some of the victims were buried in Baku, there were also cases when the causes of death of victims were falsified. Sumgait Armenians who survived settled in RA and other countries of CIS.

 Though crime of Sumgait hasn’t been recognized as genocide by the international community yet, it was condemned by the European Parliament (resolution of 1988), the U.S. Senate (1989) and the Parliament of Argentina. On March 8, 1988 a monument dedicated to the victims of Sumgait genocide was built in Stepanakert memorial complex (architect: A. Hakobyan) and a cross-stone (Armenian: խաչքար, khachkar) was placed near the monument dedicated to the victims of the Armenian Genocide (Tsitsernakaberd, Yerevan).


RA, Yerevan, Alex Manoogian 1, YSU 2nd annex
the 5th floor,
Tel.: + 37460 71 00 92

© Institute for Armenian Studies of YSU
All rights are reserved. In case of full or partial use of the web-site materials or the citation the reference to is compulsory.