The name of Yevgeny Primakov is associated with the deaths of more than a hundred civilians in Baku on January 20, 1990 " />

Azerbaijanis outraged by exhibition dedicated to Soviet party head

The name of Yevgeny Primakov is associated with the deaths of more than a hundred civilians in Baku on January 20, 1990

An exhibition dedicated to the 90th anniversary of the Soviet and Russian politician Yevgeny Primakov has opened in Baku.

This has outraged many in Azerbaijan, since Primakov was considered involved in the tragedy of January 20, 1990. 

That night, an army corps entered Baku in order to suppress the popular movement for independence, on the instructions of the USSR leadership. More than a hundred civilians were killed.  January 20 is a day of nationwide mourning in Azerbaijan.

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In the final years of the USSR, Evgeny Primakov headed the Council of the Union of the Supreme Council and the Central Intelligence Service.  

He was in power when the tragedy of January 20 occurred.  Azerbaijan believes that he was one of the organizers of those events.

After the collapse of the USSR, Primakov remained in politics and was the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia.  He died in 2015.

Scandalous exhibition 

The exhibition in honour of the 90th anniversary of Yevgeny Primakov was organized by Baku Slavic University (BSU) together with the Russian Embassy in Azerbaijan.

The exhibition opened on October 29 at the Russian Information and Cultural Center.  And even earlier, an essay competition was held dedicated to the activities of Primakov and his role in international relations in the XX and XXI centuries.  Students of BSU also took part in this competition.

Many in Azerbaijan did not appreciate this stunt; public associations, experts, and ordinary users of social media spoke out against the exhibition.

Several public associations, including January 20 and the Society of Karabakh Veterans, issued a joint statement, in which they said this exhibition “was insulting to the Azerbaijani people.”  They demanded the cessation of the exhibition and the dismissal of the leadership of Baku Slavic University.

Arif Aliyev, head of the Yeni Nesil Association of Journalists of Azerbaijan, said the exhibition was disrespect for Azerbaijan from Russia.

Arguments on social media

Social media users have reacted in a number of ways. 

As it turned out, not everyone considers Primakov responsible for the tragedy.

Here are some typical comments:

“Who is he that we should be holding exhibitions in his honor? Just a performer of the Kremlin’s vile ideas.  But, as concerns specifically the 20th of January, it is not necessary to overestimate his role in the tragedy.”

“Primakov was a good diplomat.”

“Holding such events in our country is blasphemy.”

“But just a few months ago, the Georgians did not allow the Russian MP to take the place of speaker of parliament and this showed who was the boss in the country.  We would rather have a little Georgian pride instead of be toady and show off.”

“And where are the Azerbaijani ‘hurrah’ patriots…Why didn’t these patriots go to that exhibition and express their position?”

Reaction of the ‘accused’ 

In response to criticism, Slavic University staff indicated that the exhibition was not held at the university itself.

As for the essay contest, they said that it was a project of the Russian Embassy in Azerbaijan, and the students participating in it were Russian citizens.  Although local media have proven that among them were also citizens of Azerbaijan.

The Azerbaijani authorities have not commented on this situation.

 True, several MPs have spoken out, who also sharply criticized the exhibition and the competition.

MP Qudrat Hasanquliyev said:

 “This event is an insult to the memory of the victims of January 20 and the Azerbaijani people as a whole.  I think the organizers should apologize.”

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