The Armenian –Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict rages on for the last more than two decades and resulted with occupation of 20% of Azerbaijani lands, flood of one million refugees, and killing of around 30 thousands Azerbaijanis.
20 years ago, on 8 May, 1992 the cradle of Azerbaijani culture –the city of Shusha was occupied by Armenian forces. The huge numerical inferiority of the enemy supported by 40 tanks of the Soviet Army did not scare Azerbaijanis. Hundreds of defenders of the town and civilians embraced martyrdom but did not step back.
Shusha is situated 1400-1500 meters above the sea level. There are a lot of mineral springs and deposits of construction materials. The city was founded by Panahali Khan in 1747 and built as a strong castle with the purpose to defend Garabagh from the enemy attacks. Local population called the new city “Panahabad” but later on it was renamed “Shishe” and then “Shusha”. Panahali Khan and later, his successor Ibrahim Khalil Khan reconstructed and beatified Shusha using the expertise of the famous architects of the East.
Throughout its history Shusha was subject to the foreign invasions but nobody (except of Agha Muhammad Shah Gajar whose authority lasted for only one day) could capture that castle.
The Treaties of Kurakchay of May 4, 1805, Gulustan of October 12, 1813 and the Turkmenchay of February 10, 1828 between Russia and Persia divided Azerbaijan between these powers. The Russian Empire has taken the decision to shift thousands of Armenian families from Persia and Turkey to the newly occupied lands populated by Muslims. Only between 1828-1830 more than 40 thousands Armenians from Persia and 84 thousands Armenians from Turkey were moved to the South Caucasus. They were settled in the different parts of Azerbaijan including Karabakh. The main goal of this migration program was to achieve a change in demographic picture of Karabakh.
The process of resettlement continued during the Soviets as well. In 1900-1915 the population of Shusha increased from 25, 6 to 43, 8 thousands and it became the centre of carpet production. Although by the end of 80th of the last century the ratio of Armenian population in Nagorno-Karabakh was not in favour of Azerbaijanis, the city of Shusha remained purely Azerbaijani city with some drop of Armenian community.
In the beginning of 20th century the Armenian nationalists raised territorial claims to Azerbaijan. They joined hands with Russian Bolsheviks and succeeded to grab Zangazur and Iravan provinces of Azerbaijan. This policy of Armenian chauvinists continued in late 80-th with new claims –Karabakh and Nakhchivan regions of Azerbaijan.
In the XX century Shusha was encroached by Armenians thrice. In 1905-1907 and 1920 Shusha was unsuccessfully attacked by Armenians. Ultimately, in 1992, on their third attempt, it was occupied.
The occupation of Shusha began from occupation of the villages and towns around the city -Mesheli, Kerkijahan, Malibeyli, Gushchu and Khojali. The genocide carried out against the civilian population in the Khojali town shocked the world. Around one thousand people were killed with medieval brutality, the dead bodies were mutilated.
Nobody could believe in occupation of Shusha, it was difficult even to imagine that. But it happened and the city was occupied by Armenians and Russia on May 8, 1992 what has shaken and deeply shocked people of Azerbaijan.
The valuable wealth of Shusha museums, paintings and sculpture works, carpets, archeological findings, historical documents and other precious materials had been taken to Armenia. They have been sold in foreign auctions or introduced in different exhibitions and museums as an Armenian legacy.
The palace of Panaheli Khan, The Juma Mosque, Lower Govhar Aga Mosque, the house of Khurshudbanu Natavan, the tomb of Moullana Panah Vagif and many other historic monuments were demolished, museums, libraries were burnt down, statues were shot down as if they were human beings. The ancient cultural center of the Caucasus became the victim of the Armenian vandalism.
As the time passes, Shusha and other occupied lands around, that are under control of the Armenian aggressors, are subject to ruthless exploitation and destruction. Armenians are using these territories for illegal arms and drugs trafficking. As a result, the occupied lands represent a threat not only for the country itself but for a the region in large.
Though Shusha is no under the temporarily occupation, most of the cultural and educational centers which were in Shusha carry on their activity in Baku or other regions.
It is 20 years already that the city of Shusha and entire Nagorno-Karabakh region is under the occupation of the Armenian military. The negotiations aimed at the peaceful resolution of Armenia-Azerbaijan, Nagorno Karabakh conflict under the patronage of the OSCE Minsk Group produced no result so far.
On 01 May, 2012 the Parliament of Azerbaijan appealed to the European Parliament, Parliamentary Assembly of European Council, all Parliaments of the world on the occasion of 20th anniversary of the occupation of Shusha.
“….We expect that the international community will demonstrate a strong will and decisive stand to remove the hotbed of the conflict, which is a threat to peace and stability in South Caucasus and throughout Europe, and urge Armenia to end the occupation policy,” the statement says.
By Zahida Aamir