The consequences of the explosion in the Moscow metro in 1977 year. Photo: FSB archive
The first terrorist attack in the Moscow metro occurred in 1977. According to the official version, it was organized by Armenian separatists.
The Soviet Union was not a state whose citizens could not worry about the terrorist threat. Explosions and hijackings occurred regularly, especially often in the last years of the USSR. As a rule, separatists or people who tried to escape abroad resorted to violence.
8 January 1977 in Moscow thundered three explosions: in a subway car on the stretch between the Izmailovskaya and Pervomayskaya stations, then at the grocery store on Lubyanka, not far from the KGB buildings. The last device was laid in the urn near the grocery store number 5 on the street 25 October (now Nikolskaya). The explosions killed seven people, 37 were injured. Responsibility for the attacks no one took.
The KGB almost immediately assumed that the explosions were the work of separatists, Ukrainian or Armenian. In an interview with Nezavisimaya Gazeta, a member of the operational investigation team, KGB lieutenant colonel Arkady Yarovoy, told that they had been ordered to “remove and melt all the snow from the roof of the Historical and Archival Institute, which was located on the 25 anniversary of October near the explosion site”. The first evidence was found there - a small arrow from the “Glory” alarm clock produced by the Yerevan Watch Factory.
The bombs were packed in utyatnitsy - cast-iron thick-walled roomy pans with a heavy lid. (The executors of the terrorist attack in Boston resorted to the same reception in 2013, the FBI determined that the Tsarnaev brothers had placed explosive devices in a pressure cooker.)
Having collected fragments of utyatnits, the investigators found out that they were made at a factory in Kharkov. “I was lucky: it turned out on the spot that this batch - all 50 utyatnits - was experimental, had a special color and composition of enamel, which didn’t go to the trading network. The authorities used them as gifts, and I managed to make a list of those who became the owner of such a rare product, ”Yarovaya said.
But all these painstaking investigations could have failed, if not for the case at the Kursk railway station in Moscow: in October 1977 of the year, that is, 8 months after the first explosion, the patrol discovered a bag with an inoperative explosive device. In the bag, investigators found a blue sports jacket with an Olympic patch from Yerevan and a hat with earflaps, and in it - some black curly hair.
Police began searching for passengers who are suitable for signs on all trains of the southern direction, as well as at airports: special services assumed that the perpetrators of the failed attack immediately left Moscow.
On the train on the border of Georgia and Armenia, the police turned their attention to Hakob Stepanyan - he was wearing blue sweatpants from the same set as the jacket he had found earlier - and his friend Zaven Baghdasaryan. They could not explain the purpose of the trip to Moscow. They were transferred to Yerevan.
During searches in the apartments of Stepanyan and Bagdasaryan, investigators found additional evidence, including new bombs. After some time, the detainees testified at the third - the organizer and mastermind of the terrorist attacks, the former activist of the separatist "National United Party" Stepan Zatikyan.
The heyday of nationalism in Armenia
In 1964, the USSR once again adjusted its ideological course. The first secretary of the CPSU, Nikita Khrushchev, "dismissed", Leonid Brezhnev came to power. The thaw of the 60s was over. But Yerevan continued to live according to the old rules for some time, that is, in a regime of relative freedom. The most important issue that the intelligentsia discussed in those years was historical events of 50 years ago.
The massacres of Armenians living in the territory of the Ottoman Empire began in the late 19th century. Then the Turks killed tens of thousands of people. But truly large-scale deportations, expulsions and extermination of the non-Muslim population — including Assyrians and Greeks — began in the 1915 year, after the Young Turks came to power.
In the period before 1923, according to various estimates, from 800 thousand to 1,5 million people died. Even more Armenians fled to other countries, establishing numerous diasporas there.
Armenian woman next to a dead child not far from Aleppo, 1915 year. Photo: US Library of Congress
Armenian family near Aleppo, 1915 year. Photo: US Library of Congress
After the defeat in the First World War, the Sevres Peace Treaty was signed, according to which the territories of Eastern Turkey, where Armenians lived before the genocide, were withdrawn to Armenia. However, in the 1920 year, the Majlis of Turkey did not ratify this document. Three years later, a new peace treaty was signed in Lausanne on more favorable terms to Turkey.
The fiftieth anniversary of the genocide came on April 24 1965. Local authorities understood that it was impossible to ignore this date. Moscow allowed modest in scope and restrained in tone "official" events.
But unexpectedly for the authorities in Yerevan began a mass demonstration, in which up to one hundred thousand people took part. The implication was that this was a mourning procession, but the slogans of the audience - and these were mostly young people - rather called for revenge.
The participants chanted “Earth!”, “Earth!”, Demanding the return of the territories of Armenia, which are under the control of Turkey, as well as Nagorno-Karabakh and Nakhichevan - by the decision of the Soviet government they went to Azerbaijan.
The protesters carried posters "To solve the Armenian question fairly!" They gathered outside the opera house, where at that time there was an official event. Negotiators from among those invited to the opera intelligentsia asked the protesters to disperse, stones responded in response. Firefighters standing at the ready sent firearms to the crowd. The demonstration was broken up, and later in the evening and at night, warriors beat passersby with mourning badges on their chests.
The next year, 1966, the demonstrations and marches were repeated, the authorities stopped them more and more harshly. The police and the KGB arrested hundreds of people. The intelligentsia was less and less involved in the actions, and the young people were increasingly interested in nationalist ideas.
Shortly before these events in the republic, an unprecedented level of growth of domestic nationalism was noted. The registry offices refused to register children with non-Armenian names, couples began to marry in church, musical groups began to perform the forgotten Armenian medieval music, mainly church music.
Against the background of growing nationalism and a series of mass protests in 1966, an underground separatist organization, the National United Party (NOP), emerged, which later managed to resist the Soviet authorities for several decades - until the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Its founders were artist Haykaz Khachatryan and students Stepan Zatikyan and Shahen Harutyunyan. It was not possible to establish the exact number of activists of the National Socialist Party of Ukraine - even the leaders of the organization find it difficult to name the figure. It is known that they talked about hundreds of supporters.
At that stage, the gradual growth of the ranks was almost the sole purpose of the organization. Ideologists thought that with the help of mass protests they would be able to obtain from the authorities the fulfillment of the Constitution of the Soviet Union, more precisely, article 17 of the basic law: “Every Soviet republic retains the right to freely withdraw from the USSR”.
The first generation of leaders turned out to be behind bars already two years later: in 1968, the first series of arrests and trials on the NOP case took place in Yerevan. Haykaz Khachatryan, Stepan Zatikyan and Shahen Harutyunyan were accused under the article "anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda" and for participation in the "anti-Soviet organization." The court sentenced them to five years.
Paruyr Hayrikyan became a new leader of the Armenian separatists - this man still actively participates in the political life of Armenia, several times put forward his candidacy for the presidential elections in the republic. In those years, Hayrikyan studied at the second year of Yerevan Polytechnic. At the time of the arrest of the leaders, he headed the youth wing of the NOP.
In an interview in the “How It Was” program, Hayrikyan said that, as the head of the youth wing, he commanded at least a hundred activists. The underground organization had a complex structure, its activists often were not familiar with each other - they communicated either through cohesive or through direct leaders.
The conspiracy did not save the next series of arrests: in March 1969, Paruyr Hayrikyan and other activists were sentenced to 4 years in prison for distributing anti-Soviet literature and anti-Soviet propaganda.
NOP was not a terrorist organization, its members did not prepare explosions or sabotage. If the KGB had the slightest suspicion that the activists were preparing terrorist acts, there would have been completely different charges in court, and those arrested would have received much longer terms.
But the former leaders admit that in the first version of the party’s program there were indeed phrases that, if desired, can be interpreted as calls for violence. For example, the 1967 text of the year stated that the NOP would achieve its goals “at any cost”.
Recruits on a mandatory basis took an oath. In the presentation of Paruyr Hayrikyan, it sounds like this:
“On earth, a piece of heaven, earthly paradise, our homeland. Many of your sons sought to ensure that we lived in human conditions, had freedom, that our country was equal among the states of the world, but they became victims. Now it's our turn to fight. If we want to live respecting human dignity, we must be ready for every sacrifice. Motherland, take our oath as a pledge that we become devoted fighters. ”
After some time, the separatists refused this ritual - for religious reasons. "We are a Christian people, and the Bible says," do not swear. " We decided - if you say yes, you say yes, no - no, and the oath is harmful, because everything that you say without it can be a lie, ”explains Hayrikyan.
Paruyr Hayrikyan. Photo: Tigran Mehrabian / RIA News
Arrests and courts did not destroy the organization. At the beginning of 70, all the leaders were again free, including Stepan Zatikyan. Tactics began to change: ideologues abandoned anti-communist statements, and now the separatists have relied on the referendum: the main thing is to get a vote so that the people themselves decide whether to remain a republic within the USSR or become an independent state. The same method is now used by supporters of the branch of Scotland.
While the rest of the activists reanimated the movement, Zatikyan actually left the NOP. “In the 73 year, Zatykian and I had differences. He called me to go to see my relatives abroad, ”Hayrikyan recalls. - He said that it makes no sense to continue the fight, you need to leave. We pulled back. He is my sister's husband, it also became a ground for disagreement: he used to say that we should not have a personal life, since we devoted ourselves to the struggle. ”
In 1974, the KGB re-arrested NOP activists, this time 11 people. Retired Zatikyan remained free. In 1975, he made a desperate attempt to break out of the USSR — he refused Soviet citizenship and applied for departure from the Soviet Union. He was refused.
The KGB officers claimed that among the other evidence found in Zatikyan’s house during the search, a photograph of “the head of the foreign terrorist organization Dashnaktsutyun” was found. Other leaders argued that “unfortunately” did not have any connections with foreign Armenians, although many counted on the help of communities around the world. But in the post-war period, this organization adhered to a "realistic approach to the issue of attitude towards Soviet Armenia."
The Dashnaktsutyun Party appeared in the 1890s. In exile, the activists of the organization actually repeatedly resorted to terrorist methods.
In October, 1919 of the year, the Dashnaktsutyun congress announced Operation Nemezis, the purpose of which was to liquidate the main organizers of the Armenian Genocide. In the "list of destruction" was listed 41 people
most of them were sentenced in absentia to death by the decision of the Court of Constantinople.
Almost all the killings occurred between 1920 and 1922, killing at least 10 of former high-ranking officials in Turkey and Azerbaijan.
At the beginning of 1970, numerous terrorist groups, both radical leftist sects and nationalist organizations, began to operate actively in different parts of the world. Middle Eastern Armenians are inspired by the activities of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
At various times, there were about a dozen organizations that claimed responsibility for violent acts. The main goal of the terrorists is the same: the leading countries of the world should recognize the fact of the Armenian Genocide by the Turks and the restoration of historical Armenia, which would include the territories of eastern Turkey and the Armenian SSR.
The media began to appear the name "Just commandos of the Armenian genocide", "Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia" (ASALA), "Armenian Liberation Front". Strengthening of military organizations took place against the backdrop of the civil war in Lebanon, where Armenians had to independently defend the neighborhoods of their community.
The first loud action was the seizure of the Turkish embassy in Paris in 1981: the terrorists took 56 hostages and demanded the release of several political prisoners from the Turkish authorities, including the Turkish and Kurdish nationalities. In 1982, this group attacked the airport in Ankara, a year later, it blew up a line to the ticket booths at Orly airport in Paris.
The last attack led to a split in the organization: some of the militants were unhappy that random people of non-Turkish nationality were killed, and spoke out against the methods of "blind terror".
It is noteworthy that at the same time with the Armenian underground organizations the same methods and in the same historical period were used by other nationalist forces: the Basque ETA, the Irish IRA, the Québec Liberation Front and other separatists around the world.
In total, over the 30 years of activity, various armed groups of Armenians committed at least 200 terrorist attacks and 70 political assassinations, more than 40 attempts, more than half a thousand people were injured. The fact of the Armenian Genocide was recognized by more than 20 countries, including the United States and France.
Court and execution
The lawyer who defended Zatikyan recalls that during the investigation he never admitted his guilt. His accomplices gave confused, contradictory testimony: first they claimed one thing, and then the exact opposite.
The trial lasted 8 days. According to human rights activists, it was held in a super-closed mode. Witnesses of the terrorist attack and officials of the authorities say the opposite - that everyone who wanted, including representatives of the Armenian intelligentsia, was present in the conference room.
The archives of the FSB kept records with the last word of the accused: the perpetrators of the terrorist attack admit that they had indeed laid bombs. Zatikyan behaves differently - from the first days of the process he behaved with hostility, did not recognize the court and refused to participate in the meetings; he was removed several times from the hall.
“I have repeatedly said that I renounce your trial, and I don’t need any defenders! - shouted Zatikyan during the last word. “I am the accuser myself, and not the defendant, you are not subject to me to judge, since the Judeo-Russian empire is not a legal state, it must be firmly remembered.”
Then he switched to Armenian: “Tell others - revenge remains and only revenge”.
All defendants were sentenced to death, and after 5 days - in record time, without the usual delay in such cases - they carried out the sentence.
The public response to the verdict was controversial. Soviet human rights activists came to the conclusion that the attacks were a provocation by the KGB, and the executed separatists were guilty only of hating the Soviet Union. Andrei Sakharov demanded a review of the case - perhaps the only case where a human rights activist stood up for people accused of terrorism.
Do not believe the official version and fellow NOP. Previously convicted (at that time, 1974 people arrested in 11 continued to sit in jails) were called in for questioning in the case of terrorist acts, but the KGB did not achieve any evidence confirming the investigation.
“I became a victim, my only fault is that I leave two children,” said Zatikyan immediately after the verdict to his wife.
In the Soviet newspapers about the sentence almost did not write. In Izvestia, a tiny note about the sentence to the “three terrorists” was published, but only the last name Zatikyan was mentioned. Armenian media have been banned from writing about this case.
But the matter was still discussed in the republic. NOP's reputation suffered greatly. Despite the fact that the sympathizers did not believe in the official version, people still admitted the thought: “what if they are still involved in the terror?”
Paruyr Hayrikyan sets out his version: “If they had blown up the KGB, I would understand. But then there was the triumph of our party, 11 political prisoners. People of other nationalities sitting in the camps joined our party en masse. Initially, rumors were being launched in this matter that the Zionists did it, but they were well protected and did not touch them, they decided to blame the Armenians. ”