deportation of the people of the Armenian villages of North Artsakh in 1991-1992
pictured in the evidences and comments of witnesses (State Archive, 01.05.2001,
No 45, M. Grigoryan) is so closely connected with the chain of Karabagh events
that it is extremely difficult to mark the exact time when the operation started.
Of course, it can be admitted that the operation "Circle" itself was embarked
on April 30, 1991 when tanks and armored carriers intruded into Martunashen
and Getashen. One may note that the starting date was April 28, 1991 when the
Armenian troops protecting Martunashen and Getashen finally left these villages
and a field for the seditious actions was opened. However, in reality everything
began much earlier than the said dates.
The deportation of the people of the Armenian villages of North Artsakh in 1991-1992 pictured in the evidences and comments of witnesses (State Archive, 01.05.2001, No 45, M. Grigoryan) is so closely connected with the chain of Karabagh events that it is extremely difficult to mark the exact time when the operation started. Of course, it can be admitted that the operation "Circle" itself was embarked on April 30, 1991 when tanks and armored carriers intruded into Martunashen and Getashen. One may note that the starting date was April 28, 1991 when the Armenian troops protecting Martunashen and Getashen finally left these villages and a field for the seditious actions was opened. However, in reality everything began much earlier than the said dates. Following the massacres in Baku a commandant regime was introduced in Artsakh. Military equipment and divisions were stationed in various regions, including North Artsakh. Already in spring of 1999 in the small Armenian villages of Kamo and Azat some outsider Azerbaijanis would offer the locals to sell or exchange their houses. Soon after that it was announced that the first groups of Azeris were accommodated in the emptied Armenian homes in Kamo and Azat.
On August 29, 1990 the Azeri deputy minister of the interior escorted by an armed detachment arrived in Getashen. He claimed that the populace of the village should leave Getashen, but the people gave him a flat refusal. This was followed by the resolution on including Getashen sub-region in Khanlar Region. Nevertheless, the people of Getashen refused to obey such decision. "
On January 13, 1990 17.000 Azeris attacked the villages of Kamo, Azat and Kushchi Armavir. These three settlements seemed to be their targets. There were 46 of us who defended Azat. We informed Yerevan and Moscow about the situation. Russian troops entered into the village and a neutral zone was instituted.
On January 16 ministers Yazov and Bakatin visited Getashen. "We tried to explain to them that it was the land of our ancestors, and the only thing that we want is to live peacefully on that land. I asked Yazov publicly, "Comrade Marshall, you are a member of the political Bureau of the Central Committee of the USSR. Could you tell us whether we can live here or not?" He answered, "You have been living here and will live here. That is clear." On April 17, 1991 the Russian troops left us...". (From the recollections of Hrant Gyurjyan, the last chairman of the Getashen Village Council). Roughly, by April of 1991 8 people were killed in Getashen and Martunashen, including 12-year-old Aramayis Sahakyan.
On April 16 Moutalibov set forth the proposal on deporting the population of Getashen and Martunashen of Shahumyan Region settled by Armenians in case the latter refused to obey.
Getashen was only the beginning of the armed phase of the Karabagh movement, and at that time people did not realize in full what happened, "I think that the operation "Circle" was the starting point of the war against Artsakh". (From the recollections of Vardan Hovhannisyan, an operator from Yerevan).
On April 23 a special session of the Parliament was convened by the Presidium of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Azerbaijan in connection with the aggravation of the situation in the villages of Getashen, Martunashen, as well as Shahumyan Region. On April 23 Getashen and Martunashen were entirely surrounded by the Russian army. "The detachments of "Arabo" led by Simon Achikgezyan (alias "Ded", died on 30.04.1991, battling alone against a tank) in Martunashen, the Hrazdan detachment commanded by Zarzand Danielyan (alias "Hrach"), the detachment "Malatia-Sebastia" with the commander Vahan Zatikyan and Dashnaks with the legendary commander Tatul Krpeyan defended the village". (From the recollections of home-guard Simon Tatalyan from Getashen).
On April 28 three Russian officers came to Getashen for negotiations and told that the Azeris were ready to pay for the land. They received a flat refusal.
On April 29 the fire continued along the whole Armenian-Azerbaijani border.
On April 30 the session of the Security Council was held chaired by Gorbachov. A division of the Baku regiment of the Interior Armed Forces of the Ministry of the Interior of the USSR under the command of Colonel Mashkov occupied the ridges surrounding Getashen and a fire was opened on the village. The transmission from Getashen sent from an amateur radio station said, "The troops are attacking the village and peaceful people are being massacred. At nine o'clock more than 10 people had been killed. Many of the villagers are heavily wounded or taken hostage… "
"At 4.30 AM" of April 30 the armed units of the internal troops of the USSR Ministry of the Interior intruded into Getashen and Martunashen in tanks and armed carriers. They attacked the villages concurrently from several points. We were trapped in a tight circle. 207 tanks and armed carriers, 6 "Crocodile" and "Cobra" helicopters charged against 14497 households. In the outlying areas of the village 27 houses were burnt immediately and there were the first victims. The people moved towards the center of the village, organizing a circle of self-defense." (From the recollections of G. Gyurdjyan)
The helicopters charges the first, then the tanks bombed, followed by around 28.000 Russian soldiers who screened the Azerbaijani OMON, representatives of the People's Front and marauders. Their number reached around 13.000. The faces of the soldiers were by whatever reasons covered with brilliant ethyl green...".
On April 30 seventeen people were killed as a result of the assault arranged by the OMON, dozens were injured, including children. More than 40 people were taken hostages.
On May 2 a document was disseminated by the Azeri OMON where it was allegedly stated that the people of Getashen and Martunashen ask the OMON and military to provide them with an open egress from the villages. Kryuchkov, the head of KGB already referenced to that document.
On May 3 entire Martunashen was in fire. Twelve people died, twenty of them were missing and 7 were taken hostages.
On May 4 President Gorbachov passed the following message through Kryuchkov, "The issue of deporting the population of Martunashen and Getashen is cancelled. No one has the right to force the people to leave their homes".
"On May 2 the evacuation of the people by helicopters started. By that time we managed to exchange 29 hostages, later other 13 hostages were set free or ransomed. Some people are missing.
On May 8 the marauding of the villages began…".