In 1990, two centuries of harsh domination culminated in Black January, when Soviet Troops opened fire on the civilian population of Baku. The following year, Azebaijan declared its independence and began rebuilding its political and economic system. Former Communists and opposition leaders continue to struggle for dominance.
Audrey L. Alstadt makes use of both Russian-language and Azerbaijani Turkish-language newspapers, journals, and scholarly publications. Much of this material has never been used in any other Western studies. Altstadt's original research adds the Azerbaijani perspective on the two-century relationship between Russia and Azerbaijan. She identifies key issues and actors and documents a pattern of continual struggle against colonial rule from the initial conquest to the political movements of the late twentieth century.
Russian domination has encompassed more than the military, political, and economic spheres. There have also been harsh restrictions on cultural expression, including killing leading intellectuals and falsifying historical facts. However, Azerbaijani Turks continue to thwart Russian control by protecting their rich and ancient heritage through native-language education and the arts. As Alstadt writes, "The Azerbaijani Turks used the antiquity of their history language, and literature as a weapon of self-defense, as proof they need no tutelage in self-government, economic management, education or literature."