Baku, Azerbaijan, December 7
By Azer Ahmadbayli – Trend:
Today, Armenia marks a tragic date – 30 years since the devastating Spitak earthquake that killed 25,000 people.
By that time, The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict was already gaining momentum. Throughout 1988, thousands of refugees from different regions of Armenia arrived in Baku and other regions of Azerbaijan.
Despite the expulsion of the Azerbaijani population from Armenia, accompanied by mayhem and murders, Azerbaijan did not distance itself from the Spitak tragedy, sending, like many Soviet republics and countries, to the "brotherly" country thousands of tons of fuel, lots of units of special equipment, a 200-people squad of professional builders, as well as financial assistance.
The English-speaking audience read a lot about those events, but there are certain little-known facts that weren't spoken or written about in detail.
For example, some foreign newspapers spread information that fireworks were set up in Baku at that night and people rejoiced over the disaster.
The above turned out to be nothing but fake news. Back then Azerbaijan, as part of the USSR, was not yet aware of the existence of such dirty tactics, and didn't know how to react to it. Besides, a curfew was imposed in Baku and other major cities in connection with the tension in Nagorno-Karabakh and with the refugee situation.
Those who are a little familiar with the Azerbaijanis did not believe it, but many people, unfortunately, took it at face value. Even in the days when their homeland stood in ruins, the Armenian Diaspora, with the help of well-known media outlets, did everything to make Azerbaijanis look like "savages" in the eyes of the world community.
Meanwhile, hundreds of planes with humanitarian cargo and professional rescuers on board landed daily at the airports of Yerevan and Leninakan (today's Gyumri).
Of all the planes that arrived in Armenia at that time, two crashed: a military plane from Baku with 69 servicemen on board and 9 crew members, as well as a Yugoslavian military plane with a cargo of medicines and a crew of seven.
It turned out that the plane, flying from Yugoslavia, flew via Turkey with an intermediate landing at the airport of Ankara, and as a result, for the Armenian air traffic controllers it was identified as a flight Ankara – Yerevan.
The first message about the crash of the aircraft was made in a special news release saying that the aircraft was flying to the disaster zone from Turkey. However, in the evening news release it was changed to the plane flying from Yugoslavia.
Thus, of the hundreds of planes that arrived in Armenia from all over the world in those days, only two crashed — the Baku flight and the Yugoslavian one, but perceived as Turkish.
Given the hatred of everything Turkic in Armenia, Azerbaijan still doubts the integrity of the Armenian flight operators.
Armenia remembers with gratitude the international assistance provided after the earthquake, except for the assistance from Azerbaijan. In those days, Armenian newspapers reported that “on the night of December 12, a Yugoslavian military transport plane with a cargo of medicines for Armenia crashed near Yerevan, and the day before the Soviet military transport plane IL-76 crashed.”
The mentioned "Soviet plane" was actually the one with Azerbaijani rescuers, flying from Baku.
The Armenians failed to admit that Azerbaijan, like the rest of the world, provided them with assistance in hard times, because it could call into question the plans for the seizure of Nagorno-Karabakh in the minds of many Armenians. Azerbaijanis had to remain “savages” in the eyes of Armenian people. Therefore, no word was officially said about the killed rescuers from Azerbaijan.
A monument was erected in Armenia in memory of the Yugoslavian pilots. Azerbaijani rescuers didn't receive such honor.
All these details now, 30 years later, may not seem very significant, but they shed light on how representatives of both peoples acted in extreme circumstances.