Martyrs’ Day in Azerbaijan

Martyrs’ Day is a national holiday observed on January 20th in Azerbaijan. Also known as the Day of the Nationwide Sorrow, this holiday commemorates the day in 1990 when the Red Army entered Baku and shot 130 civilians dead. Although this act by the Soviets was meant to intimidate the people of Azerbaijan, it actually had the opposite effect and proved to be a pivotal moment for the independence movement in the country.

This event would be known in history books as Black Saturday, Black January, or simply as January 20th. Nowadays, the anniversary of this event commemorates the sacrifice of those civilians as well as all of those who died during the Nagorno-Karabakh War between Azerbaijan and Armenia from 1988 to 1994.

The History Of Martyrs’ Day In Azerbaijan

In January of 1990, the Armenian SSR voted to include the Nagorno-Karabakh Region in its budget, which allowed the people in the region to vote in Armenian elections. This move enraged the Azeris, who saw it as an attempt by Armenia to encroach on Azerbaijan’s jurisdiction over its own territory. This led to large demonstrations in Baku that demanded separation from the Soviet Union.

During this time, the Soviet Union was dealing with the deterioration of its own government and perceived these protests as a threat to its existence. That is why they decided to use military force to suppress the protests and to intimidate the people so they wouldn’t advocate for separation from the Soviet Union.

On January 19th and 20th, the Soviet Army entered Baku and killed 130 civilians. This action strengthened the Azerbaijani desire for independence. In December 1991, Azerbaijan achieved its goal when it gained independence after the Soviet Union collapsed. This holiday was established to remember the civilians in Baku and also all of those who died during the Nagorno-Karabakh War — a conflict that took place between Azerbaijan and Armenia from 1988 to 1994.

Observing Martyrs’ Day In Azerbaijan

This holiday is observed in Azerbaijan with parades, concerts, and sporting events. There are also memorial services and other events held on this day to honor the victims of Black January.

Where is it celebrated?
Azerbaijan (Public holiday)
When is it?
This year (2024)
January 20 Saturday
Next year (2025)
January 20 Monday
Last year (2023)
January 20 Friday