Irada Akhoundova remembers when the Soviet military rumbled outside her house. It was late 1991, post-perestroika, pre-independence, and Akhoundova, a principal of one of the schools of the Azerbaijan Republic, heard the four-wheelers and hard-tops tossing gravel outside her house. It was an early morning, and she had to get to the school in Baku, Azerbaijan's capital. She still had to teach in the midst of Moscow's attempts to tamp out the secessionist movement that was rippling across the Soviet Union.
Pushing for independence, decades before it came
After cajoling a young soldier to give her a ride to the school, Akhoundova promptly corralled the students in the middle of the gymnasium. It was for their safety, she told them. Only a few hours before, the Soviets had raked down a handful of peaceful demonstrators. The military was still patrolling the corners, was still commandeering local armories, was still arresting and cordoning those they found calling for an independent Azerbaijan. And Akhoundova's students, these high school boys who'd taken to the nationalist movements, were eager to contribute.More »