On 20 January 1990 Azerbaijan was in shock. Overnight, Soviet troops had been sent onto the streets of Baku where they remained for three days. They killed more than 130 civilians and wounded 744 in an attempt to subdue the burgeoning independence movement. Men, women and children were mown down by tanks or shot in cold blood – hanging washing on the balcony, riding a bus, walking in the park.

Rather than quelling the independence movement, the slaughter only strengthened it, stoking opposition to the Moscow government.

In a tremendous outpouring of grief, tens of thousands followed the funeral cortege from the central Lenin, now Freedom, Square three kilometres to the hilltop park chosen as the victims’ final resting place. Known as Martyrs’ Avenue, the cemetery is the focal point for commemorations held every year on 20 January, a National Day of Mourning.

(For witness recollections, see The Black and the Red of 20 January.)