Late at night on January 19, 1990, about 26.000 Soviet troops stormed Baku, the capital of Soviet Azerbaijan. The troops were supported by tanks and other armored vehicles. They blocked all the major roads and then airborne troops were dropped down on the city from airplanes. This was followed by a naval blockade. The Soviet army was acting pursuant to a state of emergency declared by the USSR Supreme Soviet Presidium, signed by President Gorbachev. However it was only disclosed to the public only after many citizens lay wounded or dead in the streets, hospitals and morgues of Baku. More than 130 people were killed and between 700 and 800 civilians were wounded. Hundreds of people were detained. All of this happened exactly 22 years ago on January 20th 1990. This crackdown is better known as Black January.
The massacre was intended as a warning to other independence and freedom movements, not only in Azerbaijan, but in the other Republics of the Soviet Union. The KGB didnt anticipate that the events in Baku would later on inspire similar events in Lithuania, Latvia, Ukraine and Georgia. Black January played a key role in the collapse of the Soviet Union.
In April 27, 1995, Mikhail Gorbachev apologized for Black January in a speech in Istanbul. "Proclaiming the state of emergency in Baku and sending army to the city was the biggest mistake of my political life..."