Late at night on January 19, 1990, 26.000 Soviet troops stormed Baku. They acted pursuant to a state of emergency declared by the USSR Supreme Soviet Presidium, signed by President Gorbachev and disclosed to the Azerbaijani public only after many citizens lay wounded or dead in the streets, hospitals and morgues of Baku.
More than 130 people died from wounds received that night and during subsequent violent confrontations and incidents that lasted in February; the majority of these were civilians killed by Soviet soldiers. More than 700 civilians were wounded. Hundreds of people were detained, only a handful of whom were put on trial for alleged criminal offenses. Civil liberties were severely curtailed.
The behavior of Soviet armed forces in Baku must be judged in the context of their actual mission. Mikhail Gorbachev's use of force in Baku was nothing but the desperate attempt to stop dissolution of Communist ruling in Azerbaijan. The Soviet army was trying to rescue the totalitarian regime, the rule of Communist Party and Soviet empire.