The Supreme Soviet Presidium approved a decree on the declaration of a state of emergency in Baku signed by Mikhail Gorbachev on January 19, 1990. According to the decree (Point 14 of Article 119 of the Constitution of the USSR, dated January 20, 1990), a state of emergency in the city of Baku was declared in order to reduce the social tension in Baku, eliminate attempts to suppress the legitimacy of the state authorities by criminal extremist forces, and to suppress mass unrest that threatens the protection and security of citizens. .
Ethnic and political reasons that led to the “state of emergency” decision started in late 1987. As a result of the tension between their Armenian neighbors, the Azerbaijanis were forced to leave their homes from the villages of Armenia’s Qafan and Magri regions, and since then, ethnic tensions had evidently increased. Although similar views were formulated for both sides on Sumgayit events and the Gouqark massacre by Soviets, the January 9, 1990 decision of the Armenian Presidium of the Armenian SSR to include Nagorno-Karabakh into its own budget was unequivocally welcomed by the Azerbaijani authorities. This action had considerably increased social tension in Baku . Moreover, the border movement in Nakhchivan along with the ethnic Azerbaijanis living in Iran on December 31, 1989 was one of the main reasons that led to military intervention on January 20th.
In this article, I would like to show how the issue has been reflected in the world press, not the causes and consequences of the January 20th incident. Thus, the headlines of Turkish, Russian, Iranian and Western media organizations, various newspapers, magazines, and articles from the same date would show us how different societies living around the World reacted to Black January.
The television broadcast was cut off at 19:30 on January 19 from the main station’s power block, so residents of Baku were not able to read or hear any news about the state of emergency . Famous photographer Rza Degati says that residents of the city could only hear the news on Radio Liberty thanks to Mirza Khazar and his team. Deghati noted that despite the news blockade, hundreds of Azerbaijanis living in Moscow was listening to the “Voice of America” and the BBC with the help of short-lived radio stations to learn about what was actually happening in Baku . Moreover, the main official media partner of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan, the newspaper called “Communist” was published on January 18, 1990 for the last time, and the next issue was published only after 9 days, on January 27, 1990 . No official information was publicly announced about the January 20th incident.
The position and thoughts of the Turkish politicians and the press during that period was unstable. Turgut Ozal, the 8th President of the Turkish Republic, said, “Azerbaijanis are closer to the Azeri people living in Iran rather than in the Anatolia. They are Shias, we are Sunnis” referring to the January 20th events. The “Hürriyet News Agency”, which is closer to the center-left political position, reported in a telex from the Erzurum Bureau on January 21, 1990, saying: “We are a secular nation. We are not religious. Religion and nation are two separate subjects. We are Shias; but at the same time we are Turkish. Our expectation from Turkey is to support our rightful fight against Armenians.”. “Günaydin” newspaper, which had a nationalist-conservative background, published the news under the headline of “Azeri strain in Ankara” on the first page of the January 25th, 1990 issue. “HaberTürk” indicated that there will be no positive change in foreign policy, even if Baku declares its independence. Turkey will remain neutral in recognizing the independence of Azerbaijan, even if the country does not have a positive ties between the Soviet Union.
The statements from non-governmental organizations were also clarifying the situation in terms of reflecting the interest of the Turkish Foreign Ministry. “Cumhuriyet” newspaper reported on January 21, 1990, that Fevzi Akuzum, the head of the Azerbaijan Culture Association in Ankara, said that Association had many difficulties while communicating the news to the Foreign Ministry and they had not been able to find an authorized official since midnight of January 20th to announce the news. On the other hand, the leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (later to be called the Nationalist Movement Party), Alparslan Turkes, said at a party meeting in Kirşehir that, “The Azeri problem is the problem of Turkey. Turkey should make its position crystal clear”. President of the Democratic Left Party (DSP) Bulent Ecevit also expressed his support by making phone call to the Turks Friendship and Solidarity Association in Istanbul. Moreover, around 10,000 people marched from Istanbul’s Taksim Square to Galatasaray, protesting the state of emergency in Baku. The “Milliyet” newspaper of the “Dogan Group”, better known as the main media partner of the Left-Liberal political parties, published the headline of “We are closer to Azeri” on the first page of its January 21, 1990 issue. The report said that Prime Minister Yıldırım Akbulut made the statement saying; “We cannot reject considering the events in Azerbaijan”.
On January 21, 1990, Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said in a meeting with the Iranian Cabinet of Ministers that he was not accepting the armed violence used in Soviet Azerbaijan . He also met with the Iranian National Security Council on January 27 to discuss the current situation in Soviet Azerbaijan. The Iranian Foreign Ministry said that they were deeply saddened by the incidents happened on January 21st and asked Soviet authorities to stop the wrong actions against the Azerbaijani people.  “The Tehran Times” reported that many members of the Iranian parliament had blamed Gorbachev’s armed aggression against Azerbaijan.On January 21, 1990, Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said in a meeting with the Iranian Cabinet of Ministers that he was not accepting the armed violence used in Soviet Azerbaijan . He also met with the Iranian National Security Council on January 27 to discuss the current situation in Soviet Azerbaijan. The Iranian Foreign Ministry said that they were deeply saddened by the incidents happened on January 21st and asked Soviet authorities to stop the wrong actions against the Azerbaijani people.  “The Tehran Times” reported that many members of the Iranian parliament had blamed Gorbachev’s armed aggression against Azerbaijan.
The most detailed study from the Western media was published on January 29, 1990, entitled ” UPHEAVAL IN THE EAST: SOVIET UNION; Force as a Last Resort: Armed Power Salvages Moscow’s Facing Authority”, published by Bill Keller of “The New York Times” . Keller indicated that recent overthrow of national governments as a result of popular uprisings in Eastern Europe and the activity of the Soviet Army in Baku on January 20th were both similarly aimed at maintaining the communist regime in both Azerbaijan and Eastern Europe. The article notes that the position of Azerbaijan in the Middle East and recent national conflicts with Armenia had formed the Kremlin’s interests in Azerbaijan with a different manner compared to other countries. The writer also reported that main starting point of the event was the great political license “promise “ made by Gorbachev to Armenians in February 1988 regarding Nagorno Karabakh. This “promise” consequently caused the historical claims made by the Armenian nationalists in the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
“The Washington Post” reported on January 21, 1990, that the events in Azerbaijan were “the toughest crisis” since Gorbachev’s March 1985 coup. On January 23rd, “The Washington Times” reported that while some Soviet experts believed that Azerbaijan would be the next Afghanistan for Moscow, American experts argued that the country could become the Northern Ireland of the Kremlin.
In an article of “The Los Angeles Times” on January 18, 1990, Doyle McManus noted that President Bush government did not support the independence movement in Azerbaijan, but also praises Gorbachev’s “state of emergency” decision to suppress the current situation in Azerbaijan . Furthermore, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher told the UK House of Commons that she had a “great sympathy” on Gorbachev for keeping the nation together.
On January 29, 1990 British central-right wing newspaper “The Times” reported that “10 days after the military operation in Azerbaijan, there was a serious conflict between the Soviet leadership, which meant potential dissolution of the Soviet system.”. At the same time, the newspaper reported that there were serious disagreements between the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defense of the Soviet Union regarding the January 20th incidents. On January 29, 1990, “The Financial Times” reported that after the events in Azerbaijan, Gorbachev was even criticized by Russian nationalists. The newspaper reported that leader of the anti-Semitic organization named “Pamyat”, nationalist Dmitri Vasilyev blamed the communist leadership for inter-ethnic clashes and demanded the withdrawal of troops in Azerbaijan. On February 2, 1990 liberalist “The Independent” newspaper reported that “Afran Dashdemirov, a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan, admitted for the first time that majority of the population in Azerbaijan supports the Azerbaijani Popular Front Party”.
Although the Soviet authorities did not publicly comment on the issue during the period of incident, they clarified some “unclear points” after many years passed when they did not hold any political responsibility. In his first interview to the Azerbaijani media, Commander of the Soviet Army who had personally led the operation, Dmitry Yazov, said in a statement regarding the 1988 earthquake that occurred in Spitak, Armenia, that when writer Silva Kaputikyan started speaking about Karabakh, Gorbachov had instantly reacted as “Oh. You mean Artsakh?” . Later on Yazov accused Gorbachev of ignorance and expressed that members of the Central Committee’s political council; Nikolai Ryzhkov, D. Yazov, and Slunkov from Belarus, all realized that Gorbachev was not commanding in the right way. Yazov said he knew that 172,000 Azerbaijanis were deported from their homeland during his incumbency as a Minister of Defence. Yazov mentioned that he did what he was commanded to do, but the person who made those orders is now denying the charges.
On April 27, 1995 Turkish “Milliyet” newspaper published the title “GO HOME GORBIE”. According to the report, Gorbachev, who visited the Middle East Technical University (METU) for lecture, was attacked by stones and eggs by a number of students holding the posters of Lenin and Stalin. Gorbachev said during a meeting with students that he apologized for the January incidents in Baku and described the announcement of the state of emergency in Baku as one of the biggest turning key points in his active political life.
The Black January incident has been the most attractive subject in the foreign media, especially with a large response in the Western media. Although, a number of ethnic transitions in Karabakh and surrounding areas happened over the past 3 years, some media organizations were playing three wise monkeys: they did not see, hear or speak. The media, which headlined the involvement of central government in Moscow in bold letters, did not reflect the same reaction to ethnic issues in the Soviet Union. Black January incident was more of an “emergent” issue than a military, political or national issue.
 М. Горбачев (19 января 1990 г) Указ Президиума Верховного Совета СССР от 19 января 1990 г. N 1092-I “О введении чрезвычайного положения в городе Баку [Online].Available: http://base.garant.ru/6323893/
 – Michael P., Croissant (1998). The Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict: causes and implications. United States of America: Praeger Publishers. pp. 36, 37. ISBN 0-275-96241-5.
 Shamkhal Abilov (9 January 2010) 20 January 1990: Black Face of the Red Terror in Azerbaijan [Online].Available: http://www.turkishweekly.net/op-ed/2460/20-january-1990-black-face-of-the-red-terror-in-azerbaijan.html
 Reza Deghati (Spring 1998) Behind the Scenes – A Photojournalist’s Perspective (pages 33-37)[Online].Available:http://azer.com/aiweb/categories/magazine/61_folder/61_articles/61_blackjanuary.html
 АЗЕРНЕШР (1990) ЧЕРНЫЙ ЯНВАРЬ – ДОКУМЕНТЫ И МАТЕРИАЛЫ [Online]. Available: https://erevangala500.com/upload//pdf/1334649999.pdf
 UPI Achieves (22 January 1990) Soviets seal off Iranian-Azerbaijan border [Online]. Available: https://www.upi.com/Archives/1990/01/22/Soviets-seal-off-Iranian-Azerbaijan-border/4046632984400/
 Bill Keller (29 January 1990) UPHEAVAL IN THE EAST: SOVIET UNION [Online]. Available: http://www.nytimes.com/1990/01/29/world/upheaval-east-soviet-union-force-last-resort-armed-power-salvages-moscow-s.html?pagewanted=1
 Doyle McManus (18 January 1990) Washington Says It Does Not Back Azerbaijani Call for Independence [Online]. Available: http://articles.latimes.com/1990-01-18/news/mn-331_1_bush-administration
 Craig R. Whitney (6 April 1989) Thatcher and Gorbachev, Far Apart on Issues, Rekindle Their Cordial Ties [Online]. Available: http://www.nytimes.com/1989/04/06/world/thatcher-and-gorbachev-far-apart-on-issues-rekindle-their-cordial-ties.html
 BBC (20 Yanvar 2010) Qara Yanvar: O vaxt Britaniya qəzetləri nə yazırdılar? [Online]. Available: http://www.bbc.com/azeri/news/story/2010/01/100120_1990_review.shtml
 (19 января 2015 г) Дмитрий Язов: “Я выполнял приказ, но сейчас человек, который отдавал приказы, от всего отказывается” [Online]. Available: http://vestikavkaza.ru/articles/Dmitriy-YAzov-YA-vypolnyal-prikaz-no-seychas-chelovek-kotoryy-otdaval-prikazy-ot-vsego-otkazyvaetsya.html