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Azerbaijan honors dead from 1918 March Massacre

Azerbaijan mourns the death of its citizens 100 years ago in a massacre at the hands of Armenians, in what it remembers as the day of genocide, according to the Azerbaijani Embassy in Seoul.

“Following the October Revolution in Russia in 1917, the Bolsheviks seized power in Baku and viewed the Armenian nationalist party of Dashnaksutyun as an ally to take control of the situation on the ground,” the diplomatic mission said.

“The Baku Soviet and Dashnaksutyun Party, under the pretext of combating counterrevolutionary elements, set out to kill Azerbaijanis throughout the Baku province. Some 6,000 soldiers of the Baku Soviet and 4,000 armed men of Dashnaksutyun killed more than 20,000 Azerbaijani citizens in Baku and destroyed countless homes.”

The Armenians also killed more civilians in Shamakhy, Guba, Irevan, Zengezur, Karabakh, Nakhchivan and Kars, it added.

According to historians Michael Smith and James Minahan, the March Days, or March Events, refers to interethnic strife and massacres of about 12,000 Azerbaijanis and other Muslims from March 30 to April 2, 1918 in Baku and adjacent areas.

Facilitated by a political struggle between the Bolsheviks -- supported by Armenian Revolutionary Federation Dashnaktsutiun -- and the Azerbaijani Musavat Party, the events led to the suppression of Muslim revolt, which led to the establishment of the short-lived Baku Commune in April 1918.

Azerbaijan officially refers to the March Days as genocide, while other sources interpret them in the context of civil war unrest.

After Azerbaijan gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, the country resumed its political assessment to honor the dead and restore justice, said the embassy. March 31 has been designated a national day of mourning since the massacre’s 80th anniversary.

“The commemoration of the Day of Genocide raises awareness of the international community on the massacre and ethnic cleansing of Azerbaijanis in the past and present,” it said.

“While commemorating the 100th anniversary of the March massacre and remembering innocent victims, we strongly condemn Armenia’s deliberate and continued policy of genocide, crimes against humanity, racial discrimination and ethnic cleansing of Azerbaijanis and reiterate the importance of preventing such inhumane crimes from reoccurring.”

On March 27, 2012, the New York State Senate adopted the first-ever legislative resolution proclaiming March 31 as the Azerbaijani Remembrance Day and describing the events as genocide. The resolution was introduced by former New York State Sen. James Alesi at the initiative of the Azerbaijan Society of America and Azerbaijani-American Council.

On Dec. 31, 2010, the US State of Nevada proclaimed March 31 as the remembrance day of the 1918 massacres in what became the first such recognition by an American government institution.

By Joel Lee (
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