Observer-Reporter – May 9, 1991
SHURNUKH. U.S.S.R. (AP) – The women of this Armenian mountain village wailed Wednesday for missing husbands and sons, the latest victims of fighting between Armenia and the neighboring Soviet republic of Azerbaijan. “Where is my son?” cried Shoyika Grigorian as she lifted her arms to the sky, tears streaming down her hollow cheeks. “Please God, help us.” Shurnukh, an agricultural hamlet of 180 people located on the Azerbaijan border, 142 miles southeast of the Armenian capital of Yerevan, was surrounded by Soviet soldiers Tuesday. Villagers said the men came in three armored personnel carriers and took 25 villagers as prisoners.
One man was killed when the troops seized a television transmitting tower on a mountain near the village. Ten were wounded in the fighting, said Robert Alexanian, chairman of the regional governing council in the nearby town of Goris.
More than 50 Armenians have been killed and scores wounded in nine days of violence along the winding 600-mile border between Azerbaijan and Armenia, according to Armenian officials. The clashes have pitted the Soviet army and Azerbaijani riot police against Armenian police and vigilantes.
For centuries, there has been hostility between Armenia, a mainly Christian republic of 3.3 million, and Azerbaijan, a predominantly Muslim republic of 7 million.
Violence flared in 1987 over control of Nagorno-Karabakh, a region of Azerbaijan inhabited by ethnic Armenians.
Riots followed in which more than 160 Armenians were killed in the Azerbaijani cities of Sumgait and Baku. Thousands of refugees have fled from Azerbaijan to Armenia, and vice-versa.
The most recent violence has stemmed from attempts by the combined Soviet and Azerbaijani forces to disarm Armenian vigilantes in border areas. The Red Army has seized six villages, including Shurnukh. Less Limn a dozen men were in the village on Wednesday because most were hiding in the woods and cellars.
Villagers said 36 Armenian police and irregulars had been guarding Shurnukh Tuesday, but fled when the town was surrounded.