|Part of First Nagorno-Karabakh War|
|Location||Gugark District, Armenian SSR, Soviet Union|
|Date||March – December 1988 (9 months)|
|Target||Local Azerbaijani population|
|Murder, arson, pogrom|
|Perpetrators||Local Armenians and Armenian refugees from Azerbaijan|
The Gugark pogrom (Azerbaijani: Quqark poqromu), or the Gugark massacre (Azerbaijani: Quqark qırğını/qətliamı) was a pogrom directed against the ethnic Azerbaijani inhabitants of the Gugark District (now a part of the Lori Province) in the Armenian SSR, which was then part of the Soviet Union. At least 18 and possibly as high as 187 people were killed when, according to official Armenian sources, the local Armenians and the Armenian refugees from Azerbaijan mocked, killed, and robbed Azerbaijanis, also plundering their homes.
The pogrom of Azerbaijanis in Gugark, which started in March 1988, was a follow-up to the Sumgait pogrom. The persecution of the Azerbaijanis continued until virtually all of them had fled the region. The pogrom is one of the acts of ethnic violence in the context of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which would later erupt to a war.
Gugark District, known as the Boyuk Garakilsa (Azerbaijani: Böyük Qarakilsə) by its ethnic Azerbaijani inhabitants, was one of the districts of the Armenian SSR, which was then part of the Soviet Union. The area housed ethnic Azerbaijanis that lived compactly. Following the dissolution of Soviet Union, the district became part of the independent Republic of Armenia, and was disestablished and replaced with the Lori Province.
Following a pogrom, the Armenian refugees from Ganja poured into the district via Georgia. The tensions between the ethnic Armenians and Azerbaijanis in Armenia were high, as both were afraid of an attack from the other side.
The ethnic confrontation between the Armenians and the Azerbaijanis started in March 1988. The Armenians had attacked and plundered the Azerbaijani-inhabited houses, while the local authorities had recorded beating and robbery cases by the Armenians against the Azerbaijanis, including at the work places. The Armenians were also beating the Azerbaijani marketplace traders, and stealing their produce.
Violence against the ethnic Azerbaijanis flared up thorought the Armenian SSR in November 1988. The bulk of those killed in the violence were in the northern territories of the country, including the Gugark District. The local Armenians mocked, attacked, killed the local Azerbaijanis, and burned the houses inhabited by them. Although the Soviet authorities tried to protect the local Azerbaijanis, protecting the roads leading to Azerbaijani-inhabited villages with soldiers and police officers, the local Azerbaijani were gradually expelled from the region, with the authorities escorting them. Nevertheless, the Armenians were also attacking the convoys of fleeing Azerbaijanis.
According to the Azerbaijani historian and publicist Arif Yunus, 21 Azerbaijanis were killed in Gugark. Yunus' list was re-released by the embassy of Azerbaijan in the United Kingdom in 2008. The Armenian journalist Mane Papyan had stated that seven Azerbaijanis were killed in Vanadzor, while the rest were persecuted and exiled. Official Azerbaijani sources claimed that some 100 Azerbaijanis were killed in March 1988. Furthermore, the Azerbaijani sources state that 87 ethnic Azerbaijanis had died in Gugark in November and December overall, including 21 in Aznvadzor village, 14 in Vartana village and 7 in a bus shooting in Gugark.
After the pogrom of Azerbaijanis in Gugark, the Armenian radio reported that the Communist Party leader and head of the parliament in the Gugark area had shown "political short-sightedness", and that the Soviet government had relieved them of their duties. Following this, a group of around 100 experts arrived from Moscow to the region to investigate the killings. The Prosecutor General's Office of the USSR instituted criminal proceedings into the killings, but the criminals were never found, and the criminal case was not solved. The first Prosecutor General of Azerbaijan, Ismat Gayibov, criticized the Soviet authorities for not drawing enough attention to the events, where only four people were arrested for the killings. According to the former prosecutor of Vanadzor, Grigori Shahverdyan, the crimes were organised by small groups of young Armenians. The chairwoman of the Azerbaijani National Committee of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, Arzu Abdulayeva stated that the Azerbaijani public knew nothing about the pogrom of Azerbaijanis in Gugark for a long time beyond rumours because of a cover-up.
After the pogrom, virtually all of the Azerbaijanis fled the region in a heavy snowfall. Many of the fleeing Azerbaijanis then froze to death as they walked into the Azerbaijani SSR, committed suicide, died subsequently in the Azerbaijani hospitals, or went missing. Despite this, in 1989, many Azerbaijanis originally from Gugark returned to sell their apartments or to receive compensation for the loss of apartments after the Spitak earthquake. However, when all the deals were completed, they all left their homes.
According to Arif Yunus, for the Azerbaijanis, the word "Gugark" had became a household name, having the same value as "Sumgait" for the Armenians. Arzu Abdulayeva had stated that the events in Sumgait were very similar to what happened in Gugark. According to Ismat Gayibov, the "destruction of the villages in Gugark region are beyond comparison with Sumgait".
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The resolution said that party and Government leaders would lose their posts for such actions, and late Monday the Armenian radio reported that the Communist Party leader and head of the parliament in the Gugark area had shown political short-sightedness. The two men had been relieved of their duties after ethnic fights there resulted in tragic consequences. Party and Government workers in the Yekhegnadzor district of Armenia were also criticized in the report carried by the Moscow radio tonight.
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