From Perestroika to independence

Independent political organizations emerged in Azerbaijan in 1988. One of them, the National Democratic Party, regarded itself as the successor to the Musavat Party. Although groups had different general political orientations, they all sought to restore an independent Azerbaijan that would include Karabakh. Some hoped for eventual reunification with Southern(Iranian) Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijani Popular Front (APF) provided a broad umbrella organization for all nationalist groups.

“Black January”

Gorbachev sent troops to Baku in January 1990 (“Black January”) out of concern that Azerbaijan was about to fall into the hands of APF nationalists and to put an end to the 9-day pogrom against Armenians living in the city, in which 90 were killed. The APF barricaded the main arteries into Baku. Soviet troops crushed the barricades and retook the city after 3 days of street skirmashes that killed 93 Azerbaijanis and 29 Soviet soldiers.

Azerbaijan declares independence

After the collapse of the hard-line coup in Moscow in August 1991, Azerbaijan’s Supreme Soviet declared independence. The declaration was confirmed by referendum the following month.

Communist Party First Secretary Mutalibov won the presidency in elections of doubtful validity. and was forced to resign in March 1992. When he tried to reclaim his position in May, the APF pulled off a bloodless coup. In June1992, historian and APF chairman Abulfaz Elchibei was elected president.