The achievement of independence by the Azerbaijan Republic has made it possible to reconstruct an objective picture of the historical past of our people. Truths that were kept secret for long years and that were suppressed and banned are coming to light, and the reality behind facts that were once falsified is being revealed. The genocide that was repeatedly carried out against the Azerbaijani people, and which for a long time was not the subject of a proper political or legal assessment, is one of those unrevealed pages of history.
With the signing in 1813 and 1828 of the Gulistan and Turkmenchai Treaties, there began the dismemberment of the Azerbaijani nation and the division of our historical lands. The occupation of its lands marked the continuation of the national tragedy of the divided Azerbaijani people. As a result of this policy, within a very short time there took place a massive resettlement of Armenians on Azerbaijani lands. A policy of genocide was to become an essential element in that occupation of Azerbaijani territory.
Despite the fact that the Armenians who had settled on the territories of the Irevan, Nakhchivan and Karabakh khanates constituted a minority in comparison with the Azerbaijanis living there, they succeeded, under the protection of their patrons, in creating an administrative territorial unit in the form of the so-called "Armenian Region". In essence, as a result of this artificial territorial division the preconditions were created for a policy of expelling Azerbaijanis from their own lands and for destroying the Azerbaijani population. The propagandizing of the notion of a "Greater Armenia" began. In order to "justify" the efforts to establish this fictitious state on Azerbaijan land, large-scale programs were carried out aimed at inventing a false history of the Armenian people. The distortion of the history of Azerbaijan and of the Caucasus as a whole became an important component of those programs.
From 1905 to 1907, inspired by illusions of creating a "Greater Armenia", the Armenian invaders, without taking the trouble to hide their intentions, carried out a number of large-scale and bloody actions against the Azerbaijanis. The atrocities perpetrated by the Armenians, which began in Baku, were ultimately extended to cover all of Azerbaijan and the Azerbaijani villages located on the territory of present-day Armenia. Hundreds of communities were destroyed and wiped from the face of the earth, and thousands of Azerbaijanis were barbarously murdered. The organizers of these events, by preventing the disclosure of the truth of what had taken place and by blocking its proper political and legal examination, cultivated a negative image of the Azerbaijanis as a screen for their adventurist territorial claims.
Capitalizing for their own purposes on the situation that arose after the First World War and following the uprisings in Russia in February and October of 1917, the Armenians began to seek to turn their plans into reality under the banner of Bolshevism. Beginning in March 1918, the Baku commune, under the slogan of combating counter-revolutionary elements, set about putting into practice a criminal plan whose objective was the liquidation of the Azerbaijanis throughout Baku Province. The crimes committed by the Armenians in those days have remained indelibly imprinted on the memory of the Azerbaijani people. Thousands of peaceful Azerbaijanis were killed solely because of their national affiliation. The Armenians set fire to their houses, burning alive the men and women inside them. They destroyed national architectural treasures, schools, hospitals, mosques and other buildings, laying waste to a large part of Baku. The genocide of the Azerbaijanis was pursued with particular ferocity in the districts of Baku, Shamakhy and Guba and in Karabakh, Zangezur, Nakhchivan, Lenkoran and other regions of Azerbaijan. On these lands the peaceful population was annihilated en masse, with villages put to the torch and national monuments of culture ruined and destroyed.
The March events of 1918 became the focus of attention following the proclamation of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. On 15 July 1918 the Council of Ministers, for the purpose of investigating this tragedy, adopted a decree establishing an extraordinary commission of inquiry. The Commission investigated the March tragedy, focusing primarily on the atrocities committed by the Armenians in Shamakhy as well as on their other heinous crimes in Irevan Province. A special service was established within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the purpose of informing the public at large about what had actually happened. In 1919 and 1920 the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic observed 31 March as a national day of mourning. In essence, this was the first attempt at a political assessment of the policy of genocide perpetrated against the Azerbaijanis and of the more than one-century-old occupation of our lands. However, the demise of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic made it impossible to complete this work.
In 1920 the Armenians, taking advantage of the sovietization of the Transcaucasus for their own vile purposes, proclaimed Zangezur and a number of lands within Azerbaijan as territory of the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic. Subsequently, with a view to extending further the policy of deporting Azerbaijanis from those territories, new means began to be used. As one of them, the Armenians pushed through the adoption of a special decree of the Council of Ministers of the USSR of 23 December 1947 "On the resettlement of collective-farm workers and other members of the Azerbaijani population from the Armenian SSR to the Kura-Araks Lowland of the Azerbaijan SSR" and succeeded in bringing about, as a State-endorsed measure, the deportation en masse of Azerbaijanis from their historical lands during the period from 1948 to 1953.
Beginning in the 1950s, Armenian nationalists, with the help of their patrons, initiated a flagrant campaign of intellectual aggression against the Azerbaijani people. In books, magazines and newspapers periodically circulated in the former Soviet State they argued that the most outstanding works of art of our national culture, our classical heritage and our architectural monuments were all the creation of the Armenian people. This was accompanied by a stepped-up effort to forge worldwide a negative perception of Azerbaijanis. By creating an image of the "unfortunate, hapless Armenian people", those engaged in this effort consciously falsified the events that had taken place in the region at the beginning of the century: the very people who had committed genocide against the Azerbaijanis were portrayed as the victims of genocide.
Our countrymen were subject to persecution and expelled in droves from the city of Irevan, where the majority of the population at the beginning of the century had been Azerbaijani, and from other regions of the Armenian SSR. The Armenians shamelessly flouted the rights of the Azerbaijanis, created obstacles to their receiving education in their native language, and conducted a policy of repression. The historical names of Azerbaijani villages were changed and a process, unprecedented in the history of toponymy, of substituting modern for ancient place names was implemented. With the aim of creating a basis for the education of Armenian youth in a spirit of chauvinism, this imaginary Armenian history was elevated to the level of State policy. Our younger generation, educated in the spirit of the great humanitarian ideals of Azerbaijani literature and culture, found themselves the target of persecution in the form of an extremist Armenian ideology.
As the ideological basis for political and military aggression, a policy of slanderous defamation was directed against the spiritual values, national honor and dignity of the Azerbaijani people. The Armenians used the Soviet press to distort historical facts, thereby misleading public opinion.
The leadership of the Azerbaijan Republic failed to come up with a timely and proper assessment of the anti-Azerbaijani propaganda campaign which was being waged by the Armenians, using the possibilities afforded by the Soviet regime, and which, beginning in the mid-1980s, became more and more intensive.
Officials in the Republic also failed to deliver a correct political assessment of the expulsion, at the initial stage of the so-called Nagorno-Karabakh conflict that arose in 1988, of hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijanis from their ancestral lands. The Armenians' unconstitutional decree on the inclusion of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region of Azerbaijan within the Armenian SSR, and what amounted in effect to the removal of this region from Azerbaijani authority by means of the Moscow-installed Committee for Special Administration, was greeted by our people with indignation, and they found themselves confronted with the need to undertake serious political action. Despite the fact that the policy of seizing our land was resolutely condemned at meetings held at that time throughout the Republic, the Azerbaijani leadership did not abandon its position of passivity. It was in fact as a result of this failed response that troops were brought into Baku in January 1990 for the purpose of putting down a popular movement that was constantly growing in strength. In the events that followed, hundreds of Azerbaijanis were killed, wounded or maimed, and others were subjected to various forms of physical duress.
In February 1992 the Armenians perpetrated an unheard-of punitive crime against the population of the town of Khojaly. This bloody tragedy, which has entered our history as the Khojaly Genocide, ended with the annihilation of thousands of Azerbaijanis, with others taken prisoner and the city erased from the face of the earth.
As a result of the adventurist policy unleashed by the Armenian national-separatists in Nagorno-Karabakh, today more than a million of our citizens have been expelled by the Armenian aggressors from their places of birth and have been forced to live in tent settlements. Thousands of our fellow-citizens died or were made invalids at the time of the occupation by Armenian armed forces of 20 per cent of our territory.
All the tragedies that have befallen Azerbaijan in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, accompanied by the seizure of our land, have been different stages of a conscious policy of genocide systematically applied by the Armenians against the Azerbaijani people. In the case of only one of these events - the March massacre of 1918 - has an attempt been made to assess what took place in political terms. The Azerbaijan Republic regards it as a historical imperative that these events of genocide should be assessed from a political perspective and that the decisions that the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic was unable to fully implement should be brought to their logical conclusion.

In commemoration of these tragedies of genocide perpetrated against the Azerbaijani people, I decree:
  1. That the date 31 March shall be proclaimed Day of Genocide of the Azerbaijanis;
  2. That it shall be recommended to the Milli Majlis (Parliament) of the Azerbaijan Republic that it should consider holding a special session devoted to the events connected with the genocide of the Azerbaijanis.

Heydar Aliyev
President of the Republic of Azerbaijan
Baku, March 26, 1998