In winter 1988, it was believed in Kremlin that they could suppress one more "Armenian fuss" over the transfer of the region by conventional 'treatment' of local party and law-enforcement bodies and, if it wouldn't help, by replacing leaders in the republics. But it turned out that the issue was much more pressing.

Vazirov's Fundamental Unscrupulousness, Rising Grievances
The leadership was changed in both the republics in May 1988; First Secretary of Azerbaijan Communist Party Kamran Baghirov was replaced by Abdurrahman Vazirov, who had previously worked as an ambassador to Pakistan and had not been in the republic in over 10 years. Having a superficial idea about issues the republic was facing, Vazirov addressed the rising interethnic conflict from the outmoded and no more efficient "internationalist" positions, which was undoubtedly a gross mistake.

Azerbaijan's population hoped the republican leader's office would be held by a more energetic and bold politician who was eager to stand up for the national interests, speak with people in a political language they understood, and appropriately express its thoughts and feelings.

What the nation saw was the official who was used to express himself in set phrases instilled by the party policy and propaganda, yet close-tongued in everything that related to national feelings. The time showed that Vazirov was completely unsuitable to lead Azerbaijan in such critical times.
The new leadership of Azerbaijan lacked tactical flexibility and wisdom to address the issue of Karabakh and refugees from Armenia. Instead of tackling priority issues associated with the Karabakh conflict, Vazirov in his speeches attempted to turn audience's attention away from the interethnic conflict and to social, personnel, and economic matters.

Such tactic was inefficient as it would not allow consolidate Azerbaijani society on the basis of solidarity between the nation and the government, political mobilization, and building of the nation. Witch-hunts and baseless criticism of former leadership would inevitably put the republic on the brink of internal crisis.

As early as in autumn 1987, first refugees emerged from Armenian town of Kafan on the border with the Azerbaijan SSR. The leadership, however, chose to ignore this disaster and keep cowardly silence.

In response to ineffective leadership actions, people started rallies in May 1988 and gradually nominated their own leaders. Though not experienced politicians, they could speak emotionally about the difficult situation the republic was facing, so they quickly gained popularity; spearheading the leadership of the new movement were representatives of middle class.
The social and political tension in Azerbaijan was on the brink of explosion by November 1988, so virtually any Armenian provocation would lead to a catastrophe. As people's trust in local authorities declined, the latter were increasingly losing control over events that occurred within the republic.

The many-day "rally marathon", which started on 17 November in Baku, spread across the republic like a wildfire.

The public unrest was heated up by numerous refugees and IDPs, who kept arriving from Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.

Over and over again, people demanded firm guarantees of security for Azerbaijani population of Armenia. Effective 17 November, the rally on Baku's main square (originally named after Lenin, it was subsequently renamed to Azadlyg ("Freedom") was declared to continue indefinitely.
Agitation before the strike in Baku
In this situation, the authorities resorted to the last measure; it was decided to introduce a state of emergency and put the capital and some other localities under curfew. It was quite a serious political step, effectively an admission to the crisis of power; indeed, the government proved unable to lead a public dialog with the nation and control the difficult social and political situation, and therefore had to rely on emergency actions.

The government was apparently running out of political, ideological, and moral resources by the yearend 1988. The crisis in the republic rooted so deeply that neither the state of emergency nor the curfew, which covered a significant part of Azerbaijan, could automatically end strikes and rallies. The authorities had to muster all their capacities to bring the population back to normal life.

Emerged with the purpose of standing up for Azerbaijan's territorial integrity, this informal social and political movement gradually grew into the champion of broad democratic liberties, true sovereignty, constitutional state, and civil society.

In July 1989, the movement acquired a specific shape as the Popular Front of Azerbaijan was set up. The PFA's program maintained that it set a goal to fight for perestroika and democratization in all areas of life, sovereignty of Azerbaijan SSR within the USSR, and building of constitutional state and civil society in the republic. Most people who worked at ground zero of the organization would later split ways with one another. Their goal reached and they at the helm, they became members and leaders of different parties in uncompromising enmity, and eventually went downhill as marginalized. But at the onset, PFA demonstrated total unity in achieving its objectives, which, combined with a completely antinational persuasion of the republic's government, made the party greatly popular within the nation.

In January 1989, Moscow set up the Emergency Rule Committee, led by Arkady Volsky out of Stepanakert (Khankendi), with Azerbaijan's leadership watching in silence.

This administrative body, which operated in parallel to NKAO's existing authorities, effectively disassociated the region from Azerbaijan and enabled Armenia to supply arms to their local Armenian brethren unhindered.

The flow of Azerbaijani refugees from Armenia ever more increased in late 1988 and early 1989. Frontier Azerbaijani villages were fired at from Armenia's territory. That resulted in a new wave of rallies throughout the republic, which since late June 1989 demanded to convene the special session of the Supreme Soviet of Azerbaijan SSR, disband the Emergency Rule Committee in Nagorno-Karabakh, and officially recognize the Popular Front.

These raging rallies made the Central Committee of Azerbaijan Communist Party initiate talks with the Popular Front. The special session of the Supreme Soviet of Azerbaijan SSR was convened on 15 September 1989, also attended by PFA Board members. The session featured a heated discussion between Vazirov and "frontists". The republican government was doing its best to dodge the discussion of PFA's demands. It was not until pressured by PFA Board members, who were backed by protesters who gathered around the Supreme Soviet building, would the session launch the broad discussion of the issues at hand.

The Supreme Soviet session, which wrapped up on 23 September, adopted the fundamental law "Sovereignty of Azerbaijan SSR", marking the success of popular movement in Azerbaijan. Next, on 5 October 1989 the Council of Ministers of Azerbaijan SSR officially registered the Popular Front of Azerbaijan. Pressured by the republic, Moscow officially disbanded the notorious Emergency Rule Committee on 28 November [1].
Kremlin's ambiguous policy would increasingly stir heated debates between the conflicting parties, thus eliminating trust in the central government. It was evident by the yearend 1989 that not only did the policy the CPSU Central Committee was pursuing in respect to the Karabakh issue yield zero positive outcome, but it also turned into some serious political mistakes and losses.

Late in December 1989, increasingly alarming news came to Baku from the Soviet-Iranian border. Neither Baku nor Moscow could (or wanted to) believe what happened there; dozens of kilometers of the USSR state border were destroyed, with thousands of people from the both banks of Araz river meeting one another and still unable to believe their own eyes.
While Moscow branded the fall of the Berlin Wall "new thinking", it still blasted the demolition of barbed wire fences in Nakhchivan and Jalilabad (0.5 km away from the border) for "extremist conspiracy". Moscow believed there was a risk of having one of the union republics withdraw from the USSR, and the situation took a dramatic turn.

Speaking at the CPSU Central Committee Politburo session on 2 January 1990, KGB Chairman V. Kryuchkov said about the events in Azerbaijan: "The events are taking an unpredictable turn. The so-called Popular Front assumed power in Jalilabad. The state border is effectively being dismantled. Our border guards need military assistance. The Interethnic Relations Commission has been set up." [2]

These provocations, presented by Moscow as " activity of radical "frontist" factions" made Moscow consider using lethal force. Discussing the immediate situation in the country during the 3 January session in Novo-Ogaryovo, Gorbachev promised: "I consider it my primary objective to lead the country through perestroika without civil war. Casualties are inevitable. People get killed here and there, but it is natural, inescapable. But suppressing them by force, weapons, is a different thing. They won't get this from me." [3]

Gorbachev failed to keep his promises, as he always had. After just 17 days he organized a military crackdown in Baku, targeting the citizens of his own country, the USSR.

The Path To Independence: Bloody January As a Point Of No Return
Demanding the party leadership to step down, the ongoing rallies heightened tensions in the republic's capital to the extreme; they kept demanding the party leadership resigned, and it heated up the tensions in the capital, which early in 1990 was receiving emissaries from Moscow.

The Popular Front was split in twain: to those who advocated further rallies and those who called to stop them, as they feared the repetition of events that had taken place in Tbilisi in April 1989. The National Defense Council was even set up on 13 January 1990, allegedly raising funds to defend Karabakh. Security services were undoubtedly up to speed on what PFA's leadership was doing, and reported to Moscow emissaries in Baku, who in their turn were working out the action plan.

Through the talks Moscow emissaries held with frontist leaders, the former realized the latter held uncompromising positions on the government. Therefore, drastic measures had to be taken; Moscow made advances to naïve frontists, alternating between leaders and promising they were not going to send troops to the city.

The Center was trying to dull the vigilance of PFA's radical wing and mislead the protesters, while preparing a sudden strike that was supposed to teach a lesson to both Azerbaijani opposition and those who would ever encroach on the sacred Soviet power.

On the night when the troops entered Baku, Zardusht Alizadeh recalls, some "frontists" were home, listening to the radio; others either sought refuge with their friends or went to barricades, urging people to go home. There were also those who called on people to take to the streets and defend the city [4].

Urged by these leaders from the PFA National Defense Council, people erected barricades across the streets and around Baku garrison detachments. 26 large roadblocks were erected on roads around Baku; people also blocked access ways to military units stationed in the city.

In numerous TV shows and publications on the topic, PFA leaders would subsequently find excuses and accuse one another of throwing thousands of people during the 20 January massacre under the wheels of Soviet military machine.

One way of the other, Soviet special forces entered Baku on the night from 19 to 20 January and committed a heinous crime against civilian population of the republic. This event was branded "Black January" in the modern history of Azerbaijan, marking a turning point on the path to national independence.
A funeral ceremony was held on 22 January, commemorating all who lost their lives in Baku events. Over 1 million people attended the ceremony; people wrote on the roads adjacent to Azadlyg Square and on the walls in front of the Central Committee building: «Tbilisi, Baku. Who's next for the firing squad?", "Gorbachev, you are a liar, a butcher, and an enemy to perestroika", "Yazov the Butcher, get the hell out of Azerbaijan!"

The funeral ceremony was accompanied by a large-scale burning of party membership cards.

The events in Baku were surrounded with a wall of media-induced silence. The republican television was shut down for over a month, and local newspapers were not published. Copies of leading papers such as Pravda, Izvestiya, Krasnaya Zvezda etc, which were sold in Azerbaijan, were different in content from those disseminated in Moscow and other parts of the USSR. Anti-republic articles and broad media campaigns covering Baku's "defense campaign" were excluded from the issues printed in Azerbaijan.
Shuttering the wall of silence around Baku events, former member of CPSU Central Committee Politburo Heydar Aliyev spoke out on 21 January 1990 at the Permanent Representative Office of Azerbaijan in Moscow. Aliyev blasted the persons behind the crackdown and branded the operation "wrongful".

In his speech, Aliyev outlined the mistakes admitted by top brass in both Kremlin and Baku over the Karabakh issue and resulted in the tragedy. He branded the Soviet leadership's decision to bring troops to Baku "inhumane, anti-democratic, and anti-constitutional", and demanded "all those accessorial to this crime be prosecuted."

This speech effectively marked his return to politics after his retirement in 1987. It was an event of enormous significance, and literally tolled a bell for Gorbachev's bloodstained 'perestroika'.

The very same day, Aliyev was quoted by all foreign radio stations; foreign journalists besieged the representative office in an attempt to interview him. Couple weeks after his speech, a defamatory article was published on 4 February 1990 in Pravda as a sort of governmental response to his public appearance.

It was not until after the USSR collapsed and Heydar Aliyev returned to power in Azerbaijan in 1993 that Azerbaijani people got to know the truth.

Mutallibov's Era: Deepening Crisis, New Territorial Losses
In the meantime, Black January gave rise to the next, second over the two-year period, change in the republican leadership. With Vazirov evacuated on a military helicopter to Moscow early in the morning on 20 January, Kremlin appointed the former Council of Ministers Chairman Ayaz Mutallibov new First Secretary of Azerbaijan's Communist Party.

The January 1990 events also resulted in the Popular Front, torn apart by internal discords, arrests of its activists, and the lack of a clear path forwards, left the political arena for the time being.

"Frontists" would reemerge as early as in summer 1990, when the republic was electing members of Azerbaijan SSR Supreme Soviet.

The forum of republic's democratic forces was held on 28 July, attended by representatives of over 20 organizations. The Democratic Bloc was set up during the forum. The election was held on 30 September 1990, yet they were heavily influenced by the Communist-mobilized administrative resource and the very fact of holding the election amid the state of emergency.

Candidates backed by the party organization secured the majority of seats in the parliament. Dembloc representatives secured just 30 out of 360 MP mandates. From that moment onward, Mutallibov's cohort faced political standoff with the members of so-called Democratic Bloc both within and outside the parliament. The latter, although underrepresented in the nation's highest legislative body, were quite active and exploited government's each and every mistake. Live TV broadcasts of Supreme Soviet sessions, where Dembloc MPs openly criticized the government and sported a good command of the native language, made them enormously popular in the community.

The Karabakh issue the opposition exploited to come to power was the most vulnerable point for the authorities, and gained even more importance after Azerbaijan declared its independence and the USSR collapsed late in 1991.

Having lost direct support from Moscow, the republican government found itself alone against opposition. This standoff coincided with dawning large-scale warfare between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

While the fledgling Azerbaijani army was falling back from its positions around Shusha, opposition, rather than back the government and join the call to stand up to the enemy, worked along the lines of "the worse it is for the government, the better it is for us".

The opposition set up armed units of its own, which did not report to the central command, and effectively sabotaged military building efforts of the government. In turn, it resulted in a disarray in the front and, consequently, in heavy losses.

Authorities of any other country would have unequivocally regarded such opposition activities in the time of war as high treason, with ensuing repercussions. But President Mutallibov's power was weak, and he did not control the situation within his cohort, let alone the broader country. All these factors combined, destructive forces eventually prevailed.

The first large-scale crisis emerged when late in February 1992 Armenian militants committed genocide of peaceful population in Azerbaijani town of Khojaly. 613 civilians were murdered, including 63 children, 106 women, 70 elderly. 8 families were wiped up to the last man, 25 children lost both parents and 130 children one of the parents. 487 people were wounded, including 76 children. 1275 people were taken hostage. 150 people went missing, 68 women and 26 children among them.
Facing large-scales rallies in front of the parliament building in the aftermath of After Khojaly genocide, President Mutallibov resigned on 6 March 1992.

It was only naturally that he was hold accountable for the tragedy, and a parliamentary commission was set up to look into the topic.

Azerbaijani Parliament Speaker Elmira Gafarova submitted her resignation notice. Minister of Defense and Minister of Internal Affairs were later on removed from the office. Presidential and speaker's powers were temporarily (until the new election) vested in Prof. Yagub Mammadov, then rector of Azerbaijan Medical University.

Without hesitation, the opposition put its figures to all key power positions. Rahim Gaziyev, a mathematician, was appointed Minister of Defense, and Tahir Aliyev became Minister of Internal Affairs.

Dembloc thus managed to secure the two key positions in the national government. It seemed it would not be long until the situation on the front changed dramatically, with independently fighting battalions set up by the opposition eventually reporting to the central military command. The opposition, however, had other things than Karabakh to worry about; they launched preparations to complete the seizure of power at the next presidential elections.

"Frontists" and Yagub Mammadov, however, kept in effect the clause that prevented citizens over 65 from running for president in Azerbaijan. Effected by Mutallibov specifically to obstruct Heydar Aliyev, this very clause enabled Yagub Mammadov and "frontists" bar the very reputable rival from the elections. It was not long until Yagub Mammadov realized he was unable to keep a tight rein on the matters. "Frontists" were effectively seizing power across the country, subduing local authorities, forcibly convening district soviets, and replacing executive committee chairs with their puppets.

Zardusht Alizadeh assessed "frontists"' actions over that period: "Since Azerbaijan gained independence, PFA has led a clearly Leninist policy, outlined in resolutions of the Zimmerwald Conference: from the defeat in an imperialist war through to socialist victory in a civil war. That could be the only reason that frontist leaders thwart government's army-building efforts; plant their people and lead subversive propaganda in the army; genuinely rejoice and inflate Azerbaijan's defeats; and, ultimately, employ "low-intensity civil war" methods in the country." [5]

The theater of war, meanwhile, expanded considerably, with Armenian forces launching offense on Kalbajar and Zangilan. The air corridor to Shusha was disrupted when Khojaly fell. The enemy was squeezing its grasp on Shusha. Opposition leaders, trying to score additional points, kept making populist statements; one of them was Rahim Gaziyev, who is known to have said that he would "shoot himself in the head if Armenians take over Shusha".

Shusha, however, fell on 8 May 1992; most defenders left it without a fight, while a bunch of bravehearts who fought fearlessly to defend the town was wiped out. Unable to believe their luck, Armenian militants cautiously entered the abandoned town. Their success was inevitable as Azerbaijan they assaulted was being torn apart by internal forces in their hunger for power.

Mutallibov's supporters used the fall of Shusha as a pretext to return him to power. They were effectively going to replay the power change scenario that "frontists" had employed after Khojaly. Add to that the parliamentary commission, which had just completed its investigation into Mutallibov's fault in Khojaly events; it concluded President's actions had been a neglect of official duty, without any grounds for grave criminal charges. Mutallibov's supporters also spread the word, allegedly from the mouth of ex-President, that, were he to return to power, Russian military would have provided support and liberated Shusha.

Yagub Mammadov convened the special session of Azerbaijan's Supreme Soviet on 14 May 1992, apparently to restore Mutallibov to his office. That session saw the party machine majority enthusiastically voting for Mutallibov's restoration.

The latter, in his turn, spoke out, severely warning his opponents that he was prepared to take any actions necessary. These threats, however, were in vain. The time was lost.

Outraged with Mutallibov's return to power, the opposition assembled its supporters and rallied towards the parliament building. Armored personnel cars with armed soldiers were moving at the vanguard.

Z. Alizadeh recalls: "…bystanders joined the crowd as it moved along. There were soon over 10 thousand participants in the rally, and what approached the Supreme Soviet building was a throng of people. When the head of the rally with armored cars reached the square in front of the building, someone opened… blank fire from the top floor of Moscow Hotel. They probably needed to imitate a fight and massacre of civilians. The crowd rushed towards the Supreme Soviet building, smashed through glass windows and doors, and mercilessly fired from assault rifles at the walls and the ceiling of the building." [6]

By that time the building had already been abandoned by its occupants, including President, who soon fled the country and remained in exile over two decades. PFA de facto seized power in Azerbaijan, and the only thing left was to secure a legal endorsement. The square in front of the Supreme Soviet building was packed with people as the rally continued for two days without interruption.

At the same time, Armenian troops took over Lachin District; Azerbaijani troops and civilians fled in panic. In his book Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan Through Peace and War, Thomas de Waal describes the capture of Lachin: «On 18 May 1992, the Armenians captured and burned Lachin with minimal losses on either side. They had now linked Nagorny Karabakh with Armenia. A road that had been closed for more than two years was reopened and available to carry supplies and reinforcements from Armenia through to Karabakh. All the Azerbaijanis had been expelled from Karabakh. » [7].

PFA initiated the session of the Supreme Soviet of Azerbaijan on 18 May; it saw Yagub Mammadov stepping down and Isa Gambarov nominated to replace him. Several MPs suggested to hold alternative elections, and reminded of Heydar Aliyev. His consent had to be obtained, but connection to Nakhchivan "went down". Elected Chairman of the Supreme Soviet, Isa Gamиarov also became the acting President of Azerbaijan. It was his task in the new capacity to make sure Abulfaz Elchibey is elected President.

The latter was elected President of the Republic of Azerbaijan on 7 June 1992; the Central Election Committee announced that 74% of the country had participated in the voting, of which 59.4% allegedly voted for Elchibey [8]. The elections showed that victory was a hard gain for the opposition.

Therefore, the political tandem PFA-Musavat came to power in Azerbaijan in June 1992.

Elchibey's Presidency: Chaos, Treachery, Civil War
Once Elchibey was elected president, a new administrative team was set up. A research fellow of the Academy of Science was appointed Secretary of State, a former Serious Fraud Office employee became Minister of Internal Affairs, a physician - Minister of Foreign Affairs, a mathematician - Minister of Defense, a pathologist - Minister of State Security, lecturer in Azerbaijan State University (now Baku State University) became Chairman of the State Customs Committee, a silk plant director - Army Corps Commander, etc.

Appointed to executive power positions both within and outside the capital were people with little or no public administration experience. That soon resulted, among other things, in a staff turmoil as appointees were complete misfits and bloated corruption proved a commonplace at different levels of the government machine.

Army-building was carried out in such difficult conditions; there were many people in volunteer militia who, apart from lacking skills and experience, would often defy orders and violate discipline.

It was in the first days in power that the new government mounted an offensive in Karabakh. The stronghold of Gulustan and several villages in Goranboy District were retaken from Armenian control without significant losses. Not long after, Azerbaijani army marched through Agdere District, liberated from Armenian militants.

Early in August 1992, Azerbaijani detachments were already in Vank village, 12 km north of Khankendi. Both Karabakh and Armenia were disheartened, with rallies starting in Yerevan (Irevan) to oust President Levon Ter-Petrosyan.

These military successes, however, were not backed by any action on the diplomatic arena; Azerbaijani parliament declined to ratify the CIS Accession Agreement, signed back in December 1991 by President Mutallibov in Almaty. Azerbaijan thereby was stripped of full-fledged participation and right to vote in the interstate entity that addressed issues of critical importance for the fledgling republic.

Once the parliament issued the ruling, no representatives from Azerbaijan could attend the meetings of heads of CIS member countries. Each time such meeting took place in Moscow, Hikmet Hajizadeh, Azerbaijan's Ambassador to Russia, attended as an observer and watched helplessly as the Republic of Armenia was taking CIS-wide actions against Azerbaijan.

Armenian side eventually managed to procure military assistance and prepare for counter-offensive. The next political blow came from the United States, with US Congress adopting the absurd Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act (photo insert), which read as follows: "United States assistance under this or any other Act... may not be provided to the Government of Azerbaijan until the President determines, and so reports to the Congress, that the Government of Azerbaijan is taking demonstrable steps to cease all blockades and other offensive uses of force against Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh."

It was not long until the government faced a new opposition in the person of the Azerbaijan National Independence Party (ANIP). Once brothers-in-arms who had jointly worked to oust Mutallibov, they became sworn enemies.

This confrontation transpired in parliamentary session that were still broadcasted on TV. MP Etibar Mammadov and his faction, unhappy with governmental policy, used each opportunity to criticize even the tiniest mistakes made by president or the government in internal or foreign policy.

Once the government raised prices for bread and other food, they were flooded with negative criticism by leaders and pet media of the new opposition. The latter did not concern themselves with such details as supply and demand, budget, self-financing, wartime hardship, etc. The government therefore learned the hard way what it was to get pressured by opposition and subjected to its presumptuous criticism; in their time, "frontists" had employed the same approach against Mutallibov's government.

Meanwhile, Armenian army launched an offensive in November 1992; it drove Azerbaijani troops out of Agdere District by early 1993 and started preparations to capture Kalbajar.

It became obvious that neither the army nor the minister were capable of leading the war effort. Rahim Gaziyev's bold statements could no longer move anyone, and he resigned in February 1993.

Elchibey then summoned to Baku his representative in Karabakh, Surat Huseynov. After a personal meeting with President, Huseynov was discharged from all positions of authority and restored to the office of Manager in Yevlakh Textile Factory.

Huseynov reacted by recalling his 709th brigade from the front back to Ganja base, refusing to disband it.

Elchibey thereafter dismissed Prime Minister Rahim Huseynov and replaced him with Panah Huseynov, who was assisted in his duties by Vice-Premier Rasul Guliyev, former manager of a refinery.

Taking place against the backdrop of aggravated battle situation, these power changes, as the subsequent events clearly showed, were unable to change anything at all.

On 27 March 1993, Armenian forces launched an offensive on Kalbajar District. Azerbaijani troops were unable to repel this assault, as they lacked good coordination, robust communication, and mutual support, whereas the opponent was successful in suppressing localized islands of defense.

Armenian artillery was shelling Azerbaijani positions from both mountain part of Karabakh and Armenia. Civilians were fleeing in panic; they could only escape through the Murov Pass or by helicopters.

Armenians announced the successful completion of Kalbajar District capture operation on 2 April 1993, followed by the resignation of scandalous Azerbaijan's Minister of Internal Affairs Isgandar Hamidov.

The occupation of Kalbajar dealt a heavy blow to the Popular Front's regime.

President Elchibey introduced a two-month state of emergency in the country in order to overcome the consequences of the heaviest military defeat. Although unable to change anything anymore, staff transfers rolled through the government again.

The occupation of a district outside Nagorno-Karabakh still caused a backlash from the international community.

The UN Security Council adopted on 30 April 1993 the first resolution (No. 822) on the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Apart from the call on the both sides to put an end to hostilities, it contained a special appeal to Armenia, demanding it "immediately withdraw occupation forces" from Kalbajar.

The loss of Kalbajar was a harbinger of bloodshed in Ganja, where Elchibey's ex-representative on Karabakh affairs Surat Huseynov, who had returned to the 709th brigade he controlled, fomented a mutiny to depose the PFA-Musavat government.

The government led on 4 June Operation Typhoon to suppress the mutiny, during which Huseynov's brigade was attacked by the governmental forces. Its barracks were shelled by artillery, and armored vehicles were deployed. Internal security troops and presidential guard units assembled in vicinity of Ganja.

But they never saw it coming; not only did Surat Huseynov repel the attack, but he also seized Prosecutor-General, who went to Ganja with an arrest warrant, as well as Minister of National Security and some other high officials. All but complacent, he made preparations and planned to move out towards Baku.

Journalist Thomas Golz, who was at that time in Ganja, found out why Huseynov acted so boldly; he was a successful heir to the entire bulk of weaponry left by the Russian 104th airborne division that had left Ganja ten days back. Authorities fallen into disarray, Huseynov launched an unobstructed "march" on the capital of Azerbaijan [9].

The Return of Heydar Aliyev: Salvation of Azerbaijan
The country was on the brink of civil war.

Elchibey and his cohort were pressured by the nation to appeal to Heydar Aliyev, then Chairman of Nakhchivan's Milli Majlis, and request him to arrive in Baku and prevent the fratricidal war.

Arriving in Baku on 9 June 1993, Aliyev after several days headed to Ganja to assess the situation on the spot. He held talks with the rebellious Colonel Huseynov and effectively saved "frontists" from reprisals and the country from the bloody civil standoff.
With Aliyev elected Chairman of Azerbaijan's Milli Majlis on 15 June and later on assuming presidential powers after ex-President Elchibey retreated to Kalaki village, it effectively marked the end of PFA-Musavat tandem's rule and the onset of a new age in the history of independent Republic of Azerbaijan.

Over some time after the change of power, "frontists" still headed local executive authorities within and outside the capital; too, they retained control over many military detachments.

Some of Elchibey's supporters even took a path of separatism and dismemberment of the country. Late in July 1993, PFA Lankaran Division's leader Alikram Hummatov assembled in Lankaran the meeting of district council members of Astara, Lankaran, Masally, Bilasuvar, and Jalilabad and proclaimed the so-called Talysh-Mughan Autonomous Republic. A speech from the mouth of Heydar Aliyev to the population of southern districts, however, was sufficient to take Hummatov's "republic" apart, with Hummatov put under arrest.

All effort and time-consuming for Aliyev, those events took place against the backdrop of heavy losses on the front; Armenian forces occupied in July through August 1993 Agdam, Jabrayil, Fuzuli, and Qubadli.

"Frontist"-appointed heads of district authorities, who rather than mount defense in cooperation with the army, protested Elchibey's resignation by announcing suspension of activities, thereby effectively dooming the districts they had been appointed to lead. The occupation of these districts factored into a new wave of IDPs, whose count gradually rose above half a million.

After the summer 1993 occupation of Agdam, Jabrayil, Fuzuli, and Qubadli districts, the UN Security Council adopted two more resolutions (Nos. 853 and 874), denouncing the actions of Armenian forces and demanding their withdrawal from the occupied territories.

Upon his return to Baku, Heydar Aliyev gave frequent news conferences and held intensive talks to ambassadors of the world's leading countries and the OSCE Minsk Group member-countries, trying to negotiate the ceasefire and de-occupation of invaded territories. He went on 24 September 1993 to Moscow and signed the CIS Accession Agreement on behalf of Azerbaijan.
Return of National leader Heydar Aliyev to Baku
On 3 October 1993, Heydar Aliyev won 98% of the vote in the national election and became President of the Republic of Azerbaijan.

Emboldened by military success, Armenian forces stepped up their aggression. They launched the last large-scale offensive in the south, invading Horadiz railway station and Zangilan District Dozens of thousands of civilians were driven out from their lands and had to flee across Araz to Iran. They were accommodated in temporary camps and later on repatriated to Azerbaijan. The fourth resolution the UN Security Council adopted on 14 November (No.884), right after the capture of Zangilan, effectively reiterated what was written in the three previous documents, and so it was ignored by Armenia as well.

UN Security Council's obvious reluctance to pressure Armenia into compliance with the adopted resolutions would turn them even more aggressive.

Against this backdrop, the head of Azerbaijani state issues on 1 November 1993 the decree to set up the State Defense Council, chaired by President himself.

President Heydar Aliyev spoke to the nation on 2 November 1993; he called on people to stand up and fight for the country. In response to Supreme Commander's call, thousands of people who had a Soviet military experience enlisted in the National army. Aliyev personally visited military units on the frontline, checking their equipment support and military training.

In December 1993, the war entered a new phase, now with especially bloody fighting. Armenians attempted an advance east of Fuzuli, but faced unprecedented resistance and had to fall back. Azerbaijani army then mounted an onslaught in three directions. In the northwestern part of Karabakh, Armenian troops left some of settlements in Agdere District; in the southeast, Azerbaijan regained control over Horadiz railway station and advanced up north towards Fuzuli, liberating town of Horadiz and 22 villages of Fuzuli District as a result.

Azerbaijani forces mounted in 1994 the largest onslaught in the northwestern direction. It was launched in harsh winter conditions and on desolated lands abandoned by civil population; large detachments crossed the high Murov range and Omar Pass, and advanced onto Kalbajar District.

On the first week of January, Azerbaijani troops got close to the town of Kalbajar. But they outran their supplies, which remained on the other side of the range, while Armenians moved up their most battle-weathered troops from Karabakh and managed to reinforced their positions.

By 18 February, Azerbaijani detachments fell back through the Omar Pass; it resulted in the frontline displaying a less pronounced shift compared to previous offensive operations.

Sustaining heavy losses during last skirmishes, Armenians had to come to the negotiating table.

The ceasefire agreement was signed in Bishkek on 8 May 1994 between parliament speakers of Azerbaijan and Armenia, brokered by the OSCE Minsk Group and Russia.

It came into effect on 12 May 1994 and reflected the substance of the conflict. Both the countries were exhausted by the war. With the Bishkek Protocols signed, a unique situation occurred where the ceasefire between the sides effectively became "self-supporting", with no third neutral parties in between to maintain peace.

Recommended reading:
[1] E. Ismayilov. History of Azerbaijan: Essays. Moscow, 2010. pp.397-398.
[2] In CPSU Central Committee Politburo. As Recorded by Anatoly Chernyayev, Vadim Medvedev, Georgy Shahnazarov (1985–1991). Compiled by А. Chernyayev (team lead), А. Veber, V. Medvedev. Moscow, 2008, p.571.
[3] In CPSU Central Committee Politburo. As Recorded by Anatoly Chernyayev, Vadim Medvedev, Georgy Shahnazarov (1985–1991), p.571.
[4] Z. Alizadeh. The End of Second Republic.
[5] Z. Alizadeh. The End of Second Republic.
[6] Z. Alizadeh. The End of Second Republic.
[7] Thomas de Waal. p.223.
[8] Z. Alizadeh. The End of Second Republic.
[9] Thomas de Waal. p.258.