How soldiers were recruited in Baku in the early 90s

A short story of my life where I almost became a warrior

The beginning of the 90s. Battles were fierce in Karabakh and the surrounding areas. People came to power by walking over the corpses of their compatriots from Khojaly, adored by all Heydar Aliyev “The Bloody”, because he was the president of Azerbaijan. Having estimated the situation in the country and the permanent defeats at the battlefront, the first thing Heydar decides to do was to declare a total mobilization. Only this was not a mobilization like in civilized countries. Aliyev knew perfectly well that the people do not want to fight, so he ordered to forcefully force them to be dragged to the battlefield. The propaganda machine was then in its infancy and had little effect on the fragile minds of the population, but the decision had already been made. A decree was issued to grab all young people right from the streets and to send them to the battlefront!

The methods used at that time were similar to fascist. They would grab everyone indiscriminately as if the police were given not just an instruction, but a direct order to fulfill a definite number of soldiers to be sent to fight. The more rams they send, the bigger bonus they would receive. Therefore, even gray-haired and elderly people were grabbed, who did not fall under the age of conscription at all.

The capture

One evening, I was returning from run-through of our rock band with the vocalist and the second guitarist. After crossing the road, we were intercepted by police with machine guns and brought to the district office. There were already a lot of people like us. Everyone was thrust into the assembly hall. As there was nothing to do, everyone sat down and waited. There was no patriotic attitude at all! And I’m not talking about myself, I never had any kind patriotic though in relation to Azerbaijan, but about those Azerbaijanis who were dragged from the street. It is understandable. Children of ministers and other people close to the government have long been outside of the country, and the regular people have been suffering for the government’s failures.

At some point, someone managed to open a window in the hall and the people hesitantly rushed to the street. It was a second floor, but it did not stop anyone. Life was at stake and it’s better to jump than to perish. My guys managed to get out, I did not.

An hour later the bus was driven to gate of the office. We plunged into it and set out on our journey. All the assembled crowd of future Askeries was taken to the Culture House of the Oil Refinery, to the people called “The Chicken House”. Upon arrival at the site, we were all driven into the concert hall, where the crowd was already languishing.

The Chicken House”

We were held there for a about 3 days. They fed us with bread and sausage and water. All exits were guarded by soldiers with machine guns. We were taken to the toilet escorted like prisoners. Periodically, they brought in new “victims”. If someone resisted during the seizure, they were beaten.

Once a day someone came out on the stage to deliver a speech. I remember well one well-fed provocateur, who, with tears in his eyes, told how his brother was killed and that we all should take revenge on the Armenians. No one actually paid any attention to him. Since few people were so susceptible to cheap propaganda.

Once a day, high ranking military men would come, not to support the people, but to pick up the next batch of “sheep for slaughter.” Those who said they were students were kept until the end. On the third day, there were only a few people left. We were dragged out of the hall one by one and led to an unpleasantly shaped military officer in the foyer. He would write down recruits’ names and the name of the university, and then he would release them.

At the end

I’ve remembered these three days for the rest of my life. Sitting in this “chicken house” I expected the worst. If anyone has found out that I was an Armenian, then would have been dead! I would never get out of the “chicken house”. As far as people from the military commissariat would constantly appeared there during our detention, this could happen to me. The matter is that my nationality was written in the records of the military registration and enlistment office. I was just lucky that nobody noticed it. That is how I managed to survive.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email