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January 1990 - Protesters killed by Soviet troops

The old Soviet ways are dying but not dead. Moscow may have let the Warsaw Pact countries break free, but is not ready for Soviet republics to follow. The Baltic states are still most vociferous, and Gorbachev is trying to win their support for a looser but unmistakably Soviet federation.

In mid-January Soviet troops move in to break up demonstrations in Azerbaijan's capital, Baku. At least 100 people die - possibly many more.

But Gorbachev's reforms - and public clamour for faster change - keep moving. In February he responds to mass demonstrations by calling on parliament to allow multi-party politics - stripping the Communist Party of its monopoly on power under the notorious Article 6 of the constitution.

Perestroika also turns Gorbachev into the first - and only - Soviet president. Until now, all six Soviet leaders have been general secretaries of the Communist Party. Now, Gorbachev is voted president by the top echelon of parliament, the Supreme Soviet.

Protester led away in Baku, Azerbaijan
Death throes: Soviet troops killed dozens in Azerbaijan

 From the archive: Martin Sixsmith reports on the Baku funerals (22/1/90)
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