In the spring of 1991, the Azeri-Turks embarked on a new type of offensive
against the Armenians living in the Autonomous Region of Nagomo Karabakh
and in the Shaumyan district to the north. It was called 'Operation Ring'.
Military forces of the 23rd Division of the Soviet 4th Army stationed in
Azerbaijan joined in combined operations with Azerbaijani Ministry of
Interior (OMON, or 'black beret' forces) to undertake systematic
deportations of Armenians.
'Operation Ring' started in late April 1991 with the villages of
Getashen and Martunashen. These names will be seared onto the memory of
Armenians alongside Baku and Sumgait for the brutality of the suffering
inflicted on their people. The operations, carried out against vulnerable
villagers, were remarkable for their ferocity. The pattern established in
Getashen and Martunashen was later repeated against other villages in the
Shaumyan district and elsewhere in Nagomo Karabakh.
Typically, the deportation exercise would begin with Soviet 4th Army
troops surrounding the villages with tanks and armoured personnel
carriers; military helicopters would hover low overhead. Once the village
was surrounded by Soviet troops, the Azerbaijani OMON would move in and
start harassing the villagers. They would round up men, women and
children, usually on a pretext such as a 'passport check'. Many acts of
brutality were committed: men were assaulted and killed; women were raped,
children maltreated; civilians abducted as hostages.
from nearby villages would come with pick-up trucks and cars, looting,
pillaging and stealing everything from household goods to livestock. The
Armenian villagers were then driven off their land, being forced to live
as displaced people either elsewhere in Nagono Karabakh or in Armenia.
As a result of these actions in Karabagh and Armenian villigeas near the
border of Armenia have lost more than 500 people, over 100 were
killed and several hundred more were taken hostages.