It is extremely difficult to write a foreword for this book. Yet reading the book is even more difficult, unbearably so. It is not literature: It is living tragedy, an open wound for all the people who lived through those days. The recollections of eyewitnesses are like a conversation with oneself. Not before a camera, nor a microphone, nor printed in the press. They are the kinds of things people tell themselves, and perhaps their mothers, in the darkest of night. And, probably, no one else. But you are reading it. You must read it! Tears well up in your eyes, and pain wrenches your heart. And burning shame, shame that this happened here, in my time and in my country. Each of our citizens, then, was a participant.
Sumgait shook the Armenian people. It stunned with its brutality and with its cynicism. It struck Azerbaijan with its organization and its impunity. And it stunned people in Russia, but only those who knew the truth. This immense country — a sixth of the planet — does not know the truth even to this day. And the West hardly even noticed. Such was our glasnost in action. One is ashamed to recall how, during those days, when the dead were being buried and all of Armenia was on strike, Russian workers reproached the Armenians from the screen of Central Television for their failure to work, because plan targets would not be met as a result of the Armenians' actions. You wanted to turn away from the screen so as not to see the faces of people who, once again, had been misled.
History will undoubtedly pass its verdict on the Sumgait genocide. But judgments of living history always come too late, bringing further misfortune. I think that today's lack of progress in the country that proclaimed the policy of perestroika has its roots in the time when people believed in perestroika's slogans. The time when Karabagh chose to follow the path sought by its people, legally—by decree of its governmental authorities. It was an absolute majority: 75 percent of the people inhabiting the territory.
This was among the first stirrings of perestroika in the USSR, and Armenia became one of the first republics in which perestroika came to life, with many thousands of people turning up for rallies crying "yes" to Gorbachev. Never before and nowhere else in the country had perestroika and its initiator seen such support. But our regime fears unsanctioned popular movements more than anything else. As in the case of all our most important problems today, the government's lack of understanding and its inability to cope provided time for the dark forces to plan what happened in Sumgait. The authorities tried in every way possible to hush up and wallpaper over Sumgait, and to represent it as something other than what it was. General Secretary Gorbachev was often to repeat, "We were three hours late, it was a small group of hooligans." Coming from him, such words were even more shameful than they were from the mouths of ignorant workers.
Beginning with the first mistakes made in Karabagh, the Sumgait events—which remain without official condemnation—brought an avalanche of tragedies down on our country, tragedies that will take long to fully comprehend: Kirovabad and the streams of refugees from both sides, Tbilisi, Abkhazia, Fergana, Uzden, Ossetia, and now, the latest horror, Baku. It is not the Azerbaijani Popular Front—the "extremists"—who are to blame (first it was the Armenian, and now the Azerbaijani extremists who were fingered), but rather the authorities' fear of losing power. In the meanwhile, we have become a country of refugees. We are now hushing up these events just like we hushed up the famine in the Ukraine and the deaths of millions in the 1930s. Now the whole country is in a state of excruciating anticipation: What will come next? And everyone is searching for his own answer to the question of whether and at what point it was necessary to introduce troops into Baku. And why. To save the people or to save the State?
Such are our thoughts on what has taken place. We are all searching for a way out of today's dead end. The conclusion most often is to avoid stirring up the past—yet this is not the distant past, it is the past of the last two years. The most frequent notion is to begin with the tragic January of this year. But in our country in recent years all the months have been tragic. I think that we must begin with the full truth of these two years. Our leadership must tell our country everything. The whole chain of mistakes, instances of idleness, and intolerable actions. It is only with the whole truth that the search for solutions can begin. There is no need to fear—not for Muslims, not for Christians, and not for atheists: We are all people. But without shedding light on the truth, all our efforts will be for nought.
Perhaps I, being half-Armenian and half-Jewish, should not be the one to write this foreword. Perhaps it would be better written by the Azerbaijani woman who saved an Armenian family; this book contains her words: "Look what's happening out there, my child is seeing all of this, tomorrow he'll be doing the same things." This is a warning for all of us on this Earth. If we do not find a way to make each state, be it large or small, a state for the people, and not the other way around, then our children and our grandchildren will become a brutal, unhuman mob.