Azerbaijan Celebrated 1988 Earthquake That Leveled Armenia’s Yerevan — Russian General’s Testimony
Man's descent into bug, 1988-style
Editor’s note: Aleksandr Lebed was a legendary Russian soldier and general who at one point in the 1990s looked like a shoe-in to unseat Yeltsin. Famously Yeltsin set him up by sending him to negotiate with Chechens and putting him in an impossible position, but Lebed turned the tables on him, by cutting the guardian knot and concluding peace.
He first rose to national prominence in 1992 when during the dissolution of the Soviet Union he kept his army together and prevented a wider war in Transnistria (Slavic area given to Romanian-speaking Moldova).
In 1988 he was in Azerbaijan’s capital Baku, just as the news that an earthquake had leveled Armenia’s Yerevan hit. What follows is a passage from his memoirs pertaining to that day.
“On the evening of the 7th, the “Time” program announced a huge earthquake in Armenia… The exact number of victims was unknown, but preliminarily, they were estimated to be huge – tens of thousands of people.
The announcer switched to another topic, but no one would listen to him. Moreover, someone turned the TV off. An oppressive silence hung in the lobby. Suddenly, a strangle sound burst into this silence – or rather, a gamut of sounds merged into a single, general, triumphant joyful howl that would become more and more intense.
In seconds, everything became clear. On the opposite side of the street, in front of the building of the district executive committee, there was a large residential nine-story building. Every window without exception was illuminated, and on every balcony, people were yelling, hooting, and laughing wildly. Empty bottles, lighted paper, and some other objects were being thrown down.
This nine-story building was not alone in displaying its cannibalistic enthusiasm. A similar pattern was observed in all nearby houses.
The area was shining and howling ecstatically. People who considered themselves civilized; to one degree or another brought up and educated; many, presumably, believers professing the commandments of the Koran – all these people in a unanimous impulse were indecently, barbarously celebrating the colossal alien human grief.
I passionately wanted to take a machine gun and cross the damned nine-story building in a long burst and somehow make the people who have fallen to the level of monkeys return to their human form again.
How many kind, cheerful, intelligent, welcoming people I have met among Azerbaijanis! What passionate, convincing speeches many of them gave to me! Where did they go, all reasonable and kind, how was it possible that they all disappeared in this foam and succumbed to the rush whose degree of infamy is difficult to determine?”
Source of translation: Art-A-Tsolum