Images captured from a videotape show burnt automobiles and the massive throngs of rioters on the streets of Sumgait.
|Location||Sumgait, Azerbaijan SSR|
|Date||February 26 – March 1, 1988|
|Target||Local Armenian population|
|Murder, rape, riot|
Official statistics: 32|
Unofficial: up to hundreds
The Sumgait pogrom (Armenian language: Սումգայիթի ջարդեր ) was a pogrom that targeted the Armenian population of the seaside town of Sumgait in Soviet Azerbaijan during February 1988. On February 27, 1988, mobs made up largely of ethnic Azeris formed into groups that went on to attack and kill Armenians both on the streets and in their apartments; widespread looting and a general lack of concern from police officers allowed the situation to worsen. The violence in Sumgait was unprecedented in scope in the Soviet Union and received heavy coverage in the Western media. A number of international and Soviet sources described the events as genocide of the Armenian population.
The pogrom took place during the early stages of the Karabakh movement. The official death toll released by the Procurator General of the USSR (tallies were compiled based on lists of named victims) was 32 people (26 Armenians and 6 Azerbaijanis), although some have revised this figure up into the tens and hundreds.
On February 28, a small contingent of MVD troops entered the city and unsuccessfully attempted to quell the rioting. The situation was finally defused when more professional military units entered with tanks and other armored vehicles one day later. The forces sent by the government imposed a state of martial law in Sumgait, established a curfew, and brought the crisis to an end.
The event was greeted with astonishment in both Armenia and the rest of the Soviet Union since ethnic feuds in the country were largely suppressed and officially did not exist. In the seven decades of Soviet rule, policies such as internationalism and Soviet patriotism were promoted in the republics to avert such conflicts. The massacre, together with the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, would present a major challenge to the reforms being implemented by then General Secretary of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev. Gorbachev was criticized for what was perceived as his slow reaction to the crisis and numerous rose after the event.
Also known as the Sumgait massacre or Sumgait massacres (Armenian language: Սումգայիթի ջարդեր ) or the Sumgait events (Sumqayıt hadisələri). The events were also referred to as the Sumgait riots in the Western media at the time.
The situation prior to the pogrom
The city of Sumgait is located near the coast of the Caspian Sea, only thirty kilometers north of the capital Baku. It had been renovated in the 1960s and had become a leading industrial city, second after Baku by its industrial importance, with oil refineries and petrochemical plants built during that era. Its population in 1960s was only 60,000; however, by the late 1980s, with an Armenian population of about 17,000, it had swollen to over 223,000 and overcrowding among other social problems had begun plaguing the city's residents. According to Soviet government officials, at least two thousand former convicts had been relocated to Sumgait during the 1980s. While there was a high rate of unemployment and poverty among the Azerbaijani residents, the Armenians comprised mostly the working and the educated part of the town’s population. In late 1980s the issue of the region of Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave with a predominantly ethnic Armenian population within Azerbaijan, resurfaced: the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh started voicing their demands for the reunification of the enclave with Armenia. This process took place in the light of the new economic and political policies perestroika and glasnost, introduced by the new General Secretary of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev who had come to power in 1985. Glasnost encouraged a general openness in discussing issues that were once considered taboo under the regimes of earlier Soviet leaders. By demanding reunification of Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia the Armenians believed they were correcting the historical wrong, claiming that the region (with 95% of Armenian population at the time) had unjustly been granted to Azerbaijan in 1921. They also justified the reunification as a defensive measure against the Azerbaijani policies of discriminating and ousting of the Armenian population from Karabakh bringing an analogy with the case of Nakhichevan – another Armenian populated enclave within Azerbaijan which had completely been stripped of its Armenian population. The Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh and in Armenian SSR used the democratic means at their disposal to voice their demands. On February 20, 1988 the Armenian Chamber of Deputies of the National Council of Nagorno-Karabakh voted to unify the autonomous oblast with Armenia. Led by popular Armenian figures such as economist Igor Muradyan, poetess Silva Kaputikyan, and Glasnost-era writer Zori Balayan, a formal petition was sent to the Soviet government in order to redress the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenians had begun massive protests in the days before the Council's vote and workers had staged strikes in the Armenian capital of Yerevan and elsewhere, demanding that the region be transferred under Armenian control. Gorbachev would reject the claims, invoking Article 78 of the Soviet Constitution which stated that the Republics' borders could not be altered without its prior consent. The vote by the Council and the subsequent protests were condemned also by the state-run Soviet media; however they resonated more loudly amongst the Azeris who felt that Nagorno-Karabakh was an integral part of their culture and history. As Thomas de Waal mentions in his book, after the appeal of the Council "the slow descent into armed conﬂict began on the ﬁrst day."
Rallies and the fuelling of anti-Armenian sentiments
After the claims of unification of Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia were voiced by the Armenians the Azeris also launched counter-protests in Baku and elsewhere and strenuously objected to any alteration to their territory. Strong anti-Armenian sentiments began to be voiced: in response to the demands of Armenians the Azerbaijanis threatened to employ physical violence. These threats were made not only by ordinary Azerbaijanis but also by state officials. On 14 Feb. 1988 the head of the department of Central Committee of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan Asadov announced publicly, “a hundred thousand Azerbaijanis are ready to storm Artsakh (Karabakh) at any time and organize a slaughter there.”
On February 26 several minor rallies took place on the central Lenin Square of Sumgait. On the streets the issue of Karabakh was discussed incessantly and many Azeris aligned with the government's stance on Karabakh. In these rallies there were explicit calls for violence against Armenians and for their expulsion from Azerbaijan. Another factor that contributed to anti-Armenian sentiments were the Azerbaijani refugees who had fled Armenia (the largely Azeri populated towns of Armenian Kapan and Masis) and were relocated to Baku and Sumgait by that time. At the same time under the guise of ‘refugees from Kapan’ there were also provocateurs which, for the purpose of igniting the crowd, were telling stories of murders and violence supposedly carried out by Armenians against the Azerbaijanis, which however were not verified. According to Kulish and Melikov, one of the provocateurs claimed his family was brutally murdered by Armenians, while the further investigation revealed that he was not even a resident of Kapan as he had claimed but a criminal convicted for multiple times. Zardusht Ali-Zade, who took active participation in the social and political life of Azerbaijan from 1988-1989 and was one of the founders of Azerbaijani Popular Front, visited Sumgait 10 days after the pogrom and met with the workers of the aluminium factory who reported seeing “strange, not local young men who were igniting the crowd.” Baku’s local Party leader Fuad Musayev, who was called back to Baku because of the unrest, stated in the interview given to Thomas de Waal, “Someone was provoking them, propaganda work was going on.” The actual picture of the refugees and provocateurs during these events however remains obscure. The demonstrations in the Lenin Square were concluded with strong anti-Armenian sentiments. During the demonstrations there were apparent threats and accusations against the Armenians for distorting the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. The Armenians were also blamed for being much better-off than most of the Azerbaijanis in Sumgait. Slogans such as “Death to Armenians!” and "Armenians get out of our city" were being voiced. There were also many public figures attending the rallies, among them the head of public school No: 25, an actress of the Arablinski theatre, Azerbaijani poet Khydyr Alovlu (a strong supporter of Heydar Aliyev) and others, who called for the punishment of Armenians, for “killing and expelling them from Sumgait and from Azerbaijan altogether”. Almost each speech was concluded with the slogan “Death to Armenians!”. Since the speakers used microphones these calls were heard not only in the square but also in the nearby streets. According to Victor Krivopuskov (officer of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the USSR and participant in peacekeeping mission in Nagorno-Karabakh),
The atmosphere in the meeting was one of mass psychosis and hysteria in which the people felt they were to take revenge for their compatriots supposedly killed in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. From the platform they would call for the duty of Muslims to come together in a war against the infidels. The passions were at their highest. The situation got out of control... All this “allowed the organizers to easily provoke a certain part of Muslim population of the town for pogroms and murders of Armenians.
A further factor contributing to the ignition of violence was an announcement on the murder of two Azerbaijanis. On 27 February the Soviet Deputy Federal Procurator, Aleksandr Katusev announced on the Baku Radio and Central Television, that two Azeris, Bakhtiyar Guliyev and Ali Hajiyev, ages 16 and 23, were purportedly killed in a clash between the two ethnic groups in Agdam region of Karabakh on February 22 (at least one of them was killed by an Azerbaijani police officer but this was not mentioned in the announcement). Katusev would later receive a stinging rebuke for revealing the nationalities of both the young men and the Armenians. The secretive nature the Soviet Union was still attempting to shake off had many Azeris interpret that Katusev's broadcast was most probably underreported. Azerbajanis insist that this was the reason, for the violence against Armenians.
Efforts to calm the crowd made by Azerbaijani figures such as the secretary of the city's party committee, Bayramova and poet Bakhtiyar Vahabzadeh who addressed the crowd atop a platform, were to no avail. V. Huseinov, an Azeri and the director of the Institute of Political Education in Azerbaijan also attempted to calm them by assuring them that Karabakh would remain within the republic. Huseinov also stated that the refugees' claims were false; however, when attempting to convince the crowds of this, he was heckled with insults and forced to step down. Jehangir Muzlimzade, Sumgait's first secretary also spoke to the crowd, in which he told them to allow Armenians to "leave the city freely." But according to witnesses, this message agitated the crowd even further. The Ministry of Internal Affairs issued a report warning that the meeting in Sumgait ended with strong anti-Armenian sentiments, but this did not raise the concern of authorities on either republican or union level.
Warnings by Azerbaijanis sympathetic to their Armenian neighbors instructed them to leave their lights on the night of the 27th; those who shut it off were assumed to be Armenian. According to several Armenian witnesses and, later on, Soviet military personnel, alcohol and anasha, an Azeri term referring to narcotics, were also reported to have been brought in trucks and distributed to the Azeri crowds, although such accounts went unreported in the media.
The anti-Armenian pogrom and violence started on the evening of February 27, one week after the appeal of the Council of People's Deputies to unify Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia and according to many sources was a direct response to the Council's decision. The perpetrators were targeting the victims based solely on the ethnicity factor-being Armenian was the only criterion. The apartments of Armenians (which were marked in advance) were attacked and the residents were indiscriminately murdered, raped, and mutilated by the Azerbaijani rioters. Rodina (Motherland) magazine (# 4, 1994, pp. 82–90) gave the following description of the events:
In peacetime, the Soviet Union had never experienced what happened then. Gangs of about ten to fifty or more people strolled through the city, broke windows, burned cars, but the main thing was that they were looking for Armenians.
A number of sources testify that the pogrom was organized in advance instead of being a spontaneous action. Prior to the start of the violence there were cobbles brought into the city to block its access and exit, the perpetrators had previously obtained the list of addresses of the Armenian residents of the city; many of the perpetrators were armed with metal rods, axes, hammers and other such tools obtained from metal factories in advance, as well as rifles and guns.
Quoting De Waal,
Many of the rioters, however, were carrying improvised weapons—sharpened pieces of metal casing and pipes from the factories, which would have taken time to prepare. This is one of many details that suggest that the violence was planned in at least a rudimentary fashion.
Further investigation also revealed that the roads to and from Sumgait were in advance blocked by groups of armed pogrom-makers who were stopping the transport and looking for Armenians in there. According to several Armenian witnesses and, later on, Soviet military personnel, alcohol and anasha (an Azeri term referring to narcotics) were also reported to have been brought in trucks and distributed to the Azeri crowds, although such accounts went unreported in the media. Viktor Loshak in his article "Sumgait. Epilogue of the Tragedy" published in Moscow News wrote: “It still needs to be identified, how it happened that on February 28 and 29 many phone lines in the city were cut off. Who is to be held responsible for those calming answers: “Stay at home”, whereas the people needed urgent evacuation?”
Most citizens residing in the Soviet Union's cities lived in apartment buildings which were categorized into microrayons or city blocks. The Armenian district of Sumgait was flanked around such microrayons and most Armenians lived among their Azeri and Russian neighbors in apartments. The frenzied mobs would enter the apartment buildings where they would search to find out where they lived. Often, the rioters would know where Armenians lived and those who took shelter amongst their Azeri and Russian neighbors, who also risked being attacked by the mobs, were spared from the violence. Other attempts to exclude themselves from harm included turning on the television to watch Azeri music concerts, raising the volume to give off the effect that Azeris resided in the apartment.
Muslim women in the Caucasus also had a long time tradition of dropping their shawls on the ground as a gesture for men to abstain from participating in violence. Such efforts were made by some Azeri women in the corridors of the apartment but went largely unheeded by the men. The rioters forced their way into the apartments and attacked the residents. The attacking groups were of varying age groups. While the main participants were adult males and even some women, there were also youth students who took part in vandalizing and looting from the Armenians' homes appliances, shoes, and clothing. An account given by an Armenian woman describes the break-in and violence that took place in her family's home:
So we're hiding, and I hear them breaking down the door. It's like they took a log and are beating the door with it all their might....The mob breaks down the door and races into the apartment, immediately filling two rooms....Aunt Maria is saying "What have we done to you? I just came here from Kirovabad...I've worked with Azerbaijanis my whole life." She starts pleading with them in Azerbaijani. They say "No, we have to kill you." They are stabbing her husband, and [Aunt] Maria is covering him with her hands, and gets stabbed in the arm....They start to break down the door to the bedroom....There are 60 to 70 of them....They have knives in their hands, various knives, large and small; I see one with an iron crowbar....There are so many of them, and I am pleading "Please, just don't kill us."—
Numerous acts of gang rape and sexual abuse were also committed, taking place in both the apartments and publicly on the city's streets. An account of one such act that was also corroborated by witnesses to occur in other instances described how a crowd stripped naked an Armenian woman and "dragged her, carried her, kicked her in the back, in the head, and dragged her" through the streets. Other accounts that also circulated were stories of Armenian women in hospital maternity wards having their fetuses disemboweled. In the midst of the attacks, many Armenians sought to defend themselves and improvised by nailing their doors shut and arming themselves with axes; in some instances, a number of intruding rioters were killed. Calls going to ambulances or to the police were late or in many cases, unheeded completely, according to some accounts:
Those Azerbaijanis broke our windows, and I shouted so...I called so much on the phone—no police, not one of those bastards came to the aid of my children, my children lay on the street until four o'clock in the morning, in front of our building, one on the left, one on the right....When there's one little accident on the main drag in Sumgait, a hundred policemen show up to help. But when two sons...lie on the asphalt all night, no one comes to help....It started at ten o'clock in the evening and my children lay there until four o'clock, and they stole, stole, stole...I called for an ambulance—none. I called the police—nothing. One wouldn't come, the other wouldn't come.—
The weekly Moskovskiye Novosti later reported that eight of the city's twenty ambulances had been destroyed by the mobs. Looting was prevalent and many attackers also discussed among themselves on who would take possession of what after they had broken into the apartments. In some cases, televisions were stolen, along with other appliances and house goods; many apartments were vandalized and put to flames.
The lives of many Armenians were protected and saved by their Azerbaijani friends, neighbors or even strangers, who, at the risk of their own lives, let the Armenians hide in their houses or be escorted in their cars out of the city. According to the Armenian witnesses, when the Soviet troops went door-to-door searching for survivors, they managed to collect thousands of Armenians who had been hiding in Azeri households.
The pogroms were characterized by exceptional bestiality. Dmitry Yazov recalled, that ″of two women, breasts had been cut off, of one woman, head was cut off and of one girls, skin was peeled off [...] Some students [of the military school] fainted when they saw this.″
The Soviet government's reaction to the protests was initially slow. The contemplation of sending military units to impose martial law into the town was a nearly unprecedented act in the Soviet Union's history. Most Soviets could at most recount to the days of Second World War where such measures were taken by the government. The spirit of Glasnost had seen the Soviet Union more tolerant in responding to politically charged issues. However, Soviet officials in Azerbaijan, some of whom were witnessing the attacks, appealed to Kremlin leaders to dispatch Soviet troops to Sumgait.
In a Soviet Politburo session on the third day of the rioting (February 29), Gorbachev and his senior cabinet, conferred on several subjects before even discussing the events of Sumgait. When the issue was finally raised, Gorbachev voiced his opposition to the proposal of sending in troops but his cabinet members including the State's Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze and Defense Minister Dmitry Yazov, fearing an escalation between Armenians and Azeris, eventually persuaded him to do so.
Meanwhile, on the previous day, two battalions of MVD troops from the interior, largely equipped with truncheons and riot gear (those troops who were armed with firearms were armed with blanks and not given the permission to open fire), arrived in Sumgait in buses and armored personnel carriers. As they moved in to secure the town, the soldiers themselves became the targets of the mob. In what became a startling sight for people living in the city, the soldiers were attacked and maimed with the improvised steel objects. Their armored vehicles were flipped over and in some cases destroyed with molotov cocktails as the troops found themselves in complete disarray. One eyewitness described how:
At noon they, the soldiers, attacked them, and then the tables were turned. The mob went after the soldiers....The guys [soldiers] were tired, exhausted, some had their clubs taken away, others, their shields, they had been beaten, they were covered in blood....They beat the soldiers with their own clubs and shields. And those guys stood there and couldn't defend themselves, they couldn't open fire. They couldn't defend themselves, let alone us. It's comical....How could something like that happen during our Soviet period? It's painfully embarrassing! And they burned the armored personnel carriers, too....The soldiers lost their senses. And when they drove the personnel carrier and the bus at the mob of rage and fury, they drove right up on the sidewalk....The bus ran over three [people], one of the carriers ran over two, and the second, two more....they ran over seven before our eyes.
By February 29, the situation had worsened to the point where the Soviet government was forced to call in more professional, heavily armed troops, giving them right to use deadly force. A contingent made up of elements of the Felix Dzerzhinsky Division of the Internal Troops; a company of Marines from the Caspian Sea Naval Flotilla; troops from Dagestan; an assault landing brigade; military police; and the 137th Parachute Regiment of the Airborne Forces from Ryazan – a military force of nearly 10,000 men – made its way to Sumgait under the overall command of Lieutenant General Krayev. Tanks were brought in and ordered to cordon off the city. Andrei Shilkov, a Russian journalist for Glasnost, counted at least 47 tanks and also troops wearing bulletproof vests patrolling the town, an implication that firearms were present and used during the rioting.
A curfew was imposed from 8 PM to 7 AM as skirmishes between troops and rioters continued. Krayev ordered troops to rescue Armenians left in their apartments. By the evening of the 29th, martial law was imposed and troops in buses and personnel carriers were patrolling the streets of Sumgait. Under heavily armed guard, civilian buses and APCs transported Armenian residents to the Samed Vurgun Cultural Facility (known as the SK) at the city's main square. The building that was designed to accommodate several hundred people, though as many as several thousand found shelter there.
By March 1, Soviet troops had effectively quelled the rioting. Investigations were slated to begin immediately; however, waste disposal trucks cleaned much of the debris on the streets before they arrived. In the aftermath of the rioting, Soviet authorities arrested over 400 men in connection to the rioting and violence. The Soviet media did not initially report the event and remained largely silent, focusing instead on foreign affairs while the media in Sumgait spoke only on local issues unrelated to the massacre. The Soviet government was hesitant to admit that violence had taken place but eventually did; however, it was quick to reduce the severity of the event by claiming that the rioting had been perpetrated by "hooligans". The official TASS news agency was first to report "rampage and violence" taking place in Sumgait on March 1 that was provoked on the part of a "group of hooligans" who engaged in various criminal acts but stopped short of releasing any more information asides from saying "Measures [had] been adopted to normalize the situation in the city and safeguard discipline and public order." In another report wired on March 5, it more fully elaborated on the pogrom: "Criminal elements committed violent actions and engaged in robberies. They killed 31 people, among them members of various nationalities, old men and women." It laid blame on "wavering, immature people who fell under the impact of false rumors concerning the developments in Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia found themselves drawn into unlawful actions.". Western journalists who sought to travel to the town were denied access by Soviet authorities.
It was not until April 28, 1988 when images of the pogrom were broadcast in a 90-minute documentary by Soviet journalist Genrikh Borovik. Borovik lambasted the media blackout imposed by the Soviet government, claiming that it ran in contrast to Gorbachev's stated goals of greater openness under glasnost. He stated, "The lack of information didn't make the situation better, it made it worse....The silence of the press facilitated rumors and provocations. Probably what was needed was honest and full information about the events." Eduard Shevardnadze would later go on to remark on the failure to report the massacre in Sumgait as a failure of Glasnost itself: "the old mechanisms kicked in, simplifying, distorting or just eliminating the truth about [this event]."
Soviet authorities arrested 400 men in connection to the massacre and prepared criminal charges for 84 (82 Azerbaijanis, one Russian and one Armenian). Taleh Ismailov, a pipe-fitter from one of Sumgait's industrial plants, was charged with premeditated murder and was the first to be tried by the Soviet Supreme Court in Moscow in May 1988. By October 1988, nine men had been sentenced, including Ismailov, who was sent to 15 years in prison with a further 33 on trial. Other sentences were more harsh: Ahmad Ahmadov was found guilty and sentenced to be shot by a firing squad for leading a mob and taking part in the murder of seven people. Soviet historian and dissident Roy Medvedev questioned the trials: "Who knows why, but the court examined the Sumgait events by subdividing them into single episodes and not as a programmatic act of genocide." Most Armenians and Azerbaijanis were also dissatisfied with the trials. Armenians complained that the true instigators of the pogrom were never caught whereas Azerbaijanis stated the sentences were too harsh and were upset with the fact that the trials were not held in Azerbaijan. Some Azerbaijanis even went on to campaign for the "freedom for the heroes of Sumgait."
The pogrom also led way to the formulation of several conspiracy theories. One of the prominent proponent of one of these theories was Azerbaijani historian and head of the Azerbaijan Academy of Sciences Ziya Bunyadov, who claimed that the massacre had been premeditated by the Armenians to cast a negative light against Azerbaijan. By late 1988, most Sumgait Azerbaijanis had come around to the view that the Armenians had provoked the rioting with this objective in hand. In an article that appeared in the Azerbaijani journal Elm, Bunyadov claimed that Armenians had organized the pogroms: "The Sumgait tragedy was carefully prepared by Armenian nationalists...Several hours after it began, Armenian photographers and TV journalists secretly entered the city where they awaited in readiness." Bunyadov's thesis was hinged on the fact that Sumgait Armenians had withdrawn more than one million rubles from their savings before the attacks. To support his thesis, he had also drawn attention to the fact that one of the participants in the riots and killings was Eduard Grigorian, a man of mixed Russian-Armenian lineage who had three previous criminal convictions and pretended to be Azerbaijani. Grigorian was a factory worker who took part in gang rapes and mass attacks and was subsequently sentenced to 12 years for his role in the massacres. Grigorian had been brought up in Sumgait by his Russian mother following the early death of his Armenian father, and his ethnic identity is considered irrelevant since he appropriately fit the profile of a "pogromshchik, a thuggish young man, of indeterminate nationality with a criminal past, seeking violence for its own sake."
Davud Imanov, an Azerbaijani filmmaker, expanded on this theory in a series of films called the Echo of Sumgait where he accused Armenians, Russians and Americans of conspiring together against Azerbaijan and claiming that Karabakh movement was a plot organized by the CIA. According to CPSU Politburo member Alexander Nikolaevich Yakovlev, the Sumgait pogrom was arranged by KGB agents provocateur to "justify the importance of the Soviet secret services"
- Anti-Armenianism in Azerbaijan
- Kirovabad pogrom (1988)
- Pogrom of Armenians in Baku (1990)
- Maraga Massacre (1992)
- List of massacres in the Soviet Union
- List of massacres in Azerbaijan
- de Waal, Thomas (2010). The Caucasus: an introduction. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 111. ISBN 978-0195399776.
- Glasnost: : Vol. 2,Issue 1, Center for Democracy (New York, N.Y.) - 1990, p. 62, cit. 'The massacre of Armenians in Sumgait, the heinous murders in Tbilisi—these killings are examples of genocide directed by the Soviet regime against its own people.', an announcement by USSR Journalists' Union
- Time of change: an insider's view of Russia's transformation, Roy Medvedev, Giulietto Chiesa - 1991 - p. 209
- Remnick, David (6 September 1989). "Hate Runs High in Soviet Union's Most Explosive Ethnic Feud". http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-1210234.html. Retrieved 15 July 2013.
- Hosking, Geoffrey A. The First Socialist Society: A History of the Soviet Union from Within, 2nd ed. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1993, p. 475.
- Kenez, Peter. A History of the Soviet Union from the Beginning to the End, 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006, p. 272.
- "25th Anniversary of Sumgait Massacres of the Armenian Population". http://mfa.am/en/sumgait25/. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
- "Sherman, Dold And Pallone Offer Statements Marking Sumgait Massacres". 5 March 2012. http://asbarez.com/101405/sherman-dold-and-pallone-offer-statements-marking-sumgait-massacres/. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
- "ANC Australia marks 25th anniv. of Sumgait massacres". 28 February 2013. http://www.panarmenian.net/eng/news/147887/. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
- Great Soviet Encyclopedia in Russian Sumgait
- de Waal 2003, p. 32.
- Krivopuskov V. V. Мятежный Карабах. Из дневника офицера МВД СССР. Издание второе, дополненное. — М.: Голос-Пресс, 2007. — 384 с. Ил. ISBN 5-7117-0163-0
- Kaufman 2001, p. 49.
- Cox and Eibner. "Ethnic Cleansing in Progress: War in Nagorno Karabakh" Zurich: Institute for Religious Minorities in the Islamic World, 1993 .
- Walker J. Christopher (ed.) "Armenia and Karabakh: the struggle for unity". London: Minority Rights Group, 1991
- DECISION OF THE SPECIAL SESSION OF THE NKAO COUNCIL OF PEOPLES DEPUTIES OF XX SESSION
- de Waal 2003, p. 33, 57.
- de Waal 2003, p. 14.
- in Russian Василевский. “Туча в горах” – “Аврора”, 1988, № 10
- De Waal. Black Garden, Ch. 1
- Interview with an Eyewitness to the Sumgait Uprising
- in Russian O Kulish, D. Melikov. “Черным семенам не прорасти”, newspaper “Социалистическая индустрия”, 27.03.1988
- Colonel Valery Kiporenko who served on the USSR Security for State Committee (KGB) investigating group in Sumgait and Baku said the following in his interview: “When an escalation started between Azerbaijan and Armenia because of Karabakh and other contested regions, some people cаme from Yerevan to Sumgait, in an organized manner, by buses; they would tell that they were supposedly subjected to violence in Armenia. We checked this information; we didn’t have facts like that... moreover the Armenian KGB reported that most of those people hadn’t managed to find themselves in Yerevan, didn’t have good jobs or permanent housing and when they saw the situation was getting tense they emigrated from there in an organized manner...” (translation from Russian). Video: "Valery Kiporenko told about the events in Sumgait" (Part -2.16-03.15) 
- О.Кулиш, Д.Меликов. “Черным семенам не прорасти”, newspaper “Социалистическая индустрия”, 27.03.1988 
- An eyewitness gave the following testimony: “One of them said that they had killed his father and mother, and then they saw him laughing, pleased with himself. A person whose father and mother had been killed two days before wouldn't have been so pleased. They simply deceived the crowd.”
- in Russian Zardusht Ali-Zade. Azerbaijani Elit and Masses in the period of collapse of the USSR (article-memoir on turbulent times).
- Thomas De Waal Ch. 2, p. 31
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- The new Russian foreign policy - Page 160 by Michael Mandelbaum
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- Beissinger, Mark R. Nationalist Mobilization and the Collapse of the Soviet State. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002, p. 300. ISBN 0-521-00148-X.
- De Waal "Black Garden"
- See Samvel Shahmuratian (ed.) The Sumgait Tragedy: Pogroms Against Armenians in Soviet Azerbaijan. New York: Zoryan Institute, 1990. Cite error: Invalid
<ref>tag; name "Shahmuratian2" defined multiple times with different content
- During this time, the Soviet Union still maintained and censored events that were considered especially humiliating to the State, in this case the public intoxication which led many of its citizens to misbehave and kill or injure others in an important Soviet manufacturing region. In such cases, the government would release information belatedly, omit it so as to tone down the volatility of the event, or impose a tight clampdown on international media from traveling and investigating the locations. Soviet journalists who visited Sumgait were strictly prohibited to take any photographs as the Soviet government imposed a complete media blackout. For more information on glasnost, perestroika and how the Soviet media were controlled, see Minton F. Goldman's Global Studies: Russia, The Eurasian Republics, and Central/Eastern Europe, 10th Edition. McGraw-Hill/Dushkin, 2005, ISBN 0-07-286381-1.
- Session of Politburo of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, 29 Feb. 1988. 
- "Sumgait: Evidence given by witnesses and relatives of victims of pogroms". Viktoria Grigoryan, sister of murdered Seda Danielyan: "Somebody knocked on the door and asked: “Are you Armenians?” My sister’s husband answered: “No, we are Azeris”, and they left." Danielyan Vitaliy, son of killed Nikolay and Seda Danielyans: "They entered the house and started to raid the flat. Then they took the parents’ passports and read a few words. One of them read out in good Russian “Danielyan”, stressing “yan”turned the page, it said “Armenian”. And he says: “Ok, this is enough”. Then they started to shout that they had come to drink blood..." 
- Financial Times. March 16, 1988
- New York Times. May 22, 1988.
- Zverev Alexandr. Ethnic conflicts in the Caucasus 1988-1994. In Coppieters Bruno (ed.) Contested borders in the Caucasus. Brussels: Vubpress, 1996. pp. 13-71.
- Rieff David Nagorno Karabakh: case study in ethnic strife. Foreign Affairs, vol. 76 (2) Mar.-Apr. 1997, pp. 118-132.
- Fragment from the indictment in the criminal case 18/60233 on charges of Ahmad Imani ogly Ahmаdov, Ilham Azat ogly Ismailov and Yavar Giyas ogly Jafarov. Moscow, Nov. 1988, The Supreme Court of USSR. "I reckon they knew the addresses of the Armenians in advance. I came to this conclusion because the pogrom-makers were entering precisely the buildings were Armenians lived. In reality, they knew all the addresses, they were acting unmistakably. And all that was not out of hooligan intentions, that was an action specifically against the Armenian people, against Armenians. Not against Russians or other nations, but against Armenians. They were looking particularly for Armenians..."
- Ren-TV. The slaughter of the Armenians in Baku and Sumgait. Eyewitness testimony (1.35) 
- From indictment of the Board of Supreme Court of Azerbaijan SSR on felonies of the first instance from 5 June 1988
- Newspaper Communist of Sumgait, 13 May 1988. “In the days of complicated situation, axes, knives and other items that could be used by the bandits were made in the section of a tube-rolling factory”
- Testimony of the soldier of Soviet Army Pantelei Melikov. "У погромщиков было другое оружие, кроме холодного?" "У них было такое же оружие, как у нас – автоматы, ружья, а еще охотничьи ружья, самодельное оружие. Они не были похожи на толпу, в их действиях была организованность." (translation: "Did the pogrom-makers have weapons other than cold ones?" "They had the same type of weaponry as we did - rifles, guns, also shotguns and home-made weapons. They did not look like a mob, their actions had an organized nature." 
- Extract from the testimony of witness Guliev in the Protocol of a session of the Supreme Court of USSR, 3 November 1988, “The pogrom-makers had special rods and mountings, approximately 70 cm long, as if deliberately made for pogroms. There were no police in the city… The telephone lines were cut; cobblestones were brought in with purpose… The bandits had clubs and helmets, which they took away from the soldiers. Those pogroms were not prepared in just one day… It took them long to prepare to them."
- de Waal 2003, p. 35.
- From the testimony of witness Guliev in the Protocol of a session of the Supreme Court of USSR, 3 November 1988
- “Сумгаит. Эпилог трагедии” Виктор ЛОШАК. «МОСКОВСКИЕ НОВОСТИ» №21, 22 мая 1988 г.. 
- Shahmuratian. Sumgait Tragedy, Interview with Kamo Avakyan, pp. 56–60.
- Kaufman 2001, p. 63.
- de Waal 2003, pp. 35-36.
- Shahmuratian. Sumgait Tragedy, Interview with Valentina Shagayants, pp. 65–66.
- Shahmuratian. Sumgait Tragedy, Interview with Levon Akopyan, p. 227.
- Lee, Gary. "Eerie Silence Hangs Over Soviet City." Washington Post. September 4, 1988. p. A33. Retrieved July 31, 2006.
- Shahmuratian. Sumgait Tragedy, Interview with Rima Avanesyan, pp. 233–237.
- (Russian) "Сумгаит, Один месяц поздно" ("Sumgait, One Month Later"). Moskovskiye Novosti. April 13, 1988.
- Miller, Donald E. and Lorna Touryan Miller. Armenia: Portraits of Survival and Hope. Berkeley: University of California Press; pp. 46–47.
- Заседание Политбюро ЦК КПСС 29 февраля 1988 года
- "Soviets Impose Curfew After Riots." Newsday. March 2, 1988 p. 13. Retrieved December 30, 2006.
- de Waal 2003, p. 38-39.
- Kaufman 2001, p. 64.
- de Waal 2003, p. 37-38.
- Shahmuratian. Sumgait Tragedy, Interviews with Zinayda Akopyan and Gayane Akopyan, p. 199.
- de Waal 2003, p. 39.
- Bortin, Mary Ellen. "Witness Tells of Aftermath of Bloody Armenian Riots." Seattle Times. March 11, 1988. p. B1. Retrieved September 15, 2006.
- Lyday, Corbin. A Commitment to Truth Telling: Behind the Scenes in Soviet Armenia. 1988 (Typewritten) p. 28. Accessed December 16, 2006.
- "400 arrested after riots in Sumgait, Soviets say." Toronto Star. March 22, 1988. Retrieved December 26, 2006.
- de Waal 2003, p. 40.
- Malkasian, Mark. "Gha-Ra-Bagh"! The Emergence of the National Democratic Movement in Armenia. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1996, p. 54, ISBN 0-8143-2605-6.
- "Soviet TV surprise: Ethnic strife shown; Program rips news blackout, defends glasnost." Chicago Sun-Times. April 28, 1988. p. 36. Retrieved December 31, 2006.
- Shevardnadze, Eduard. The Future Belongs to Freedom. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991, pp. 176–177. ISBN 0-02-928617-4.
- de Waal 2003, p. 39, 43.
- Keller, Bill. "Riot's Legacy of Distrust Quietly Stalks a Soviet City." The New York Times. August 31, 1988. Retrieved April 19, 2007
- "Soviet Riot Leader Sentenced to Death." The Washington Post. November 20, 1988. Retrieved April 19, 2007.
- Medvedev, Roy. Time of Change: An Insider's View of Russia's Transformation. New York: Pantheon Books, 1989, p. 209.
- Kaufman 2001, p. 65.
- Kaufman 2001, pp. 67, 205.
- de Waal 2003, p. 42.
- (Russian) Buniyatov, Ziya. "Concerning the events in Karabakh and Sumgait." Elm. No. 19, May 13, 1989, p. 175. Excerpts of this text can be found in Levon Chorbajian; Patrick Donabedian; Claude Mutafian. The Caucasian Knot: The History and Geopolitics of Nagorno-Karabagh. London: Zed Books, 1994, pp. 188–189. ISBN 1-85649-288-5.
- de Waal 2003, pp. 42-43.
- de Waal 2003, p. 43.
- (Russian) Yakovlev, Alexander N. Time of darkness, Moscow: Materik, 2003, p. 551.
- de Waal, Thomas (2003). Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan Through Peace and War. New York: New York University Press. ISBN 9780814719459.
- Kaufman, Stuart J. (2001). Modern Hatreds: The Symbolic Politics of Ethnic War. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. ISBN 0-8014-8736-6.
- Nationalism at Its Nastiest - The New York Times
- Vladimir Kryuchkov. Hardline Soviet Communist who became head of the KGB and led a failed plot to overthrow Mikhail Gorbachev, Times Online
- Sumgait Pogroms. Hon. Howard L. Berman, United States House of Representatives, Congressional Record, Feb. 2012
- sumgait.info Armenian site
- sumqait.com Azeri point of view
- Sumgait massacres - Budapest case
- Pogroms of Armenians in Sumgait, Office of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic
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