ATP Launches Effort for a Forest Dedicated to Victims of Baku Pogroms

ATP volunteers plant trees in rural Armenia
ATP volunteers plant trees in rural Armenia

ATP volunteers plant trees in rural Armenia

The Armenia Tree Project has initiated a campaign to celebrate the survival of the Armenians from Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan’s ethnic cleansing campaign of its Armenian minority lasted from 1988 to 1990. Survivors fled, scattering around the entire world. ATP is memorializing those victims and survivors on the 30th anniversary with tree plantings in Talin.

Talin has been a strong partner for ATP. The first planting was done in 2004 at the Medical Center and follow up sites have included the Sport’s School, St. Astvatsatsin Church, and the town park. To date, ATP has provided Talin with 2,270 fruit and decorative trees.

ATP is crowdfunding in support of a new community forest in Talin, on 1.5 hectares of land located on the outskirts of town. The site is the location of an old forest that was planted during Soviet times. Most of the trees were cut in the 1990’s during the energy crisis, when people were desperate for cooking and heating fuel.

New forest sites like this have huge benefits, including the support of rural livelihoods. This new community forest dedicated to the Armenians of Azerbaijan will be an enormous asset for future generations.

ATP will also expand its environmental education programs in Talin in 2018-2019. The Ministry of Nature Protection has selected Talin for a pilot project to phase out the use of single-use plastic. ATP’s environmental education team will visit the town for a series of lessons on reducing plastic use and why it is important locally, nationally, and globally.

Community activist and leader Anna Astvatsaturian Turcotte and the Armenian communities worldwide have pledged to raise $15,000 for this project. The forest will be named in honor of the Armenians from Azerbaijan, in recognition of the 30th anniversary of the anti-Armenian pogroms in Baku.

And there’s more! Benefactor Tigran Safaryan, a Baku refugee himself, has generously agreed to donate $5,000 to match contributions raised by Anna and friends!

Please donate today to honor the memory of the martyrs, in honor of your friends or family who fled Azerbaijan, and to remember the history of the talented, successful, and often forgotten Armenians of Azerbaijan.

History of the Armenian Community of Azerbaijan
The history of Armenians living on the territory of current day Azerbaijan goes back hundreds of years. The earliest known instance is around 500 AD when Vachagan III the Pious, the King of Artsakh, ordered to build the first Armenian Church on the territory of what is now Baku.

While always inhabiting that territory to some degree, the largest influx of Armenians to the capital city of Baku was following the city’s incorporation into the Russian Empire in 1806. Many Armenians took up jobs as merchants, industrial managers, and government administrators. The tight knit Armenian population had a strong and vibrant community in the city with its churches and schools.

The favorable economic conditions provided by the Imperial Russian government allowed for many Armenians to establish a burgeoning oil production and drilling business. Armenians along with Russians constituted the financial elite of the city and local capital was concentrated mainly in their hands.

The Armenians were the second most numerous group in the judiciary. By 1900, Armenian-owned businesses formed nearly one third of the oil companies operating in the region. Influenced by the anti-Armenian violence in the Ottoman Empire, the growing tension between Armenians and Azerbaijanis resulted in massacres of Armenians of Baku in 1905 and again in 1918.

Following the Sovietization of Azerbaijan in 1923 and the calming of tensions, Armenians managed to reestablish a large and vibrant community in Baku made up of skilled professionals, artists, craftsmen, and intelligentsia and integrated into the political, economic, and cultural life of Azerbaijan. The community grew steadily in part due to Baku’s economic and industrial opportunities.

At the onset of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in 1988, the Armenian population of Azerbaijan was at its peak, nearing 350,000 citizens.

The democratic movement of Nagorno-Karabakh to rejoin Armenia was a distant concern for Armenians of Azerbaijan until February of 1988, when the Sumgait pogroms took place few miles up the coast from the capital city. The massacre in the city of Sumgait of its Armenian population came as a shock to the Armenians of Azerbaijan because of the disbelief that such a thing could occur under an iron fist of the Soviet government.

The anti-Armenian massacres and the shock that came with it repeated again in November of 1988 in the city of Kirovabad. No one believed that something so heinous could happen in an industrial, educated, and cultured Baku. But it did. Thankfully by this point a majority of the Armenian population fled Baku by the fall of 1989.

The Baku massacres erupted in an organized and deliberate way on January 12, 1990, lasting seven days during which hundreds, and, by some accounts, thousands of Armenians were beaten, tortured, raped, and murdered. Their apartments were raided, robbed, or burned, resulting in the flight of the entire Armenian population from the city, in many cases forcibly by ships across the Caspian.

This event marked the effective end of the Armenian community of Azerbaijan. A majority of those who survived lost everything — their life’s work, their life’s savings, their homes, and all their possessions were left behind in Azerbaijan.

Since then all traces of the Armenian community of Azerbaijan and its contributions to the history and culture of the region have been systematically erased by the current ruling regime of Azerbaijan. All Armenian cemeteries and most churches have been destroyed. The Armenian church of Baku stands tall, however, burned inside, with its crosses and markings chiseled off.

The talented Armenian community of Azerbaijan is thriving, however, spread across all corners of the world, with a majority residing in Russia, Armenia, and the United States.


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