Shusha, always considered a strategically important and unassailable fortress, had only one transit road: Agdam-Askeran-Khojali-Khanbagi-Aga Korpusu-Shusha. The road stretched to the very center of Shusha. Its population is now scattered around 58 districts. Some 10,000 natives of Shusha have been buried in a cemetery in the Pirsagi settlement near Baku in the last 17 years. These people have died away from Shusha, hoping that their remains would one day be reburied at home…
History of occupation
241 historical sites, six caravansaries, two religious schools, two castles with their walls and nine religious shrines are under occupation. The Shusha museum with over 5,000 exponents was looted by the Armenians in 1992. This is treachery against Qarabag’s 250-year history.
It is 410 km from Baku. Shusha is a resort in the Qarabag range established in 1930 on an area of 350 hectares. In 1963, the district was abolished and passed on to Khankandi, while in 1965 it regained the status of a district. Described as the Fortress, Shusha lies in the mountains: Qirxqiz, Kirs, Murov, Bagriqan, Saribaba are all visible from here. The highest summit is Boyuk Kirs – 2725 meters. The Qarqar river flows through the town. Located 1400-1800 meters above sea level, Shusha is surrounded by 400-600-meter valleys. One of Qarabag’s most picturesque places surrounded by steep rocks on three sides, this paradise was declared a reserve in 1977.
Although the history of its establishment is associated with 18th century Qarabag Khan Panahali, it had been a dwelling much earlier. A stone-age Zarisli (Dasalti) cave is located in a river valley 1400 meters above sea level. According to 15th century sources, the Shusha fortress was built by a Turkic tribe in 1428 and subsequently fortified by Khan Panahali. After the killing of Nadir Shah in 1747, Khan Panahali had to build a fortress capable of ensuring his security in the volatile political situation in the South Caucasus. With this aim, he built the Bayat fortress in 1748 and Shahbulag in 1752. None of these, however, could guarantee the security of the khanate in the incessant wars. Seeing that, the khan selected a more reliable location 1300-1800 meters above sea level and surrounded by steep rocks on three sides. Realizing that this was a strategic location, Khan Panahali issued an order in 1754 to build a new fortress there. In 1756, after all security measures had been taken, the capital of the Qarabag khanate was moved there, while the local people named the new town Panahabada after their khan. Surrounded by sharp-edged mountains, Panahabad was first called Shisha and then Shusha.
Attacks on Shusha
The powerful Qarabag khanate has often come under attacks from its neighbors. Iranian ruler Aga Mahammad Shah Qacar attacked Shusha twice in 1795 and 1797, albeit without much success. He did seize it eventually, but his rule lasted only for one day as he was killed by his own servicemen. The same intention was cherished by the Russians who chose a different way of attacking Shusha by settling Armenians there. Shusha fell victim to Armenian aggression three times in the 20th century: it was burned in 1905-07, destroyed in 1920 and occupied on 8 May 1992.
Ministry of Culture and Tourism “Regrets for Shusha” (methodic aid), Baku-2007, p. 9
Shusha, built in line with ancient and medieval town-planning traditions, was divided into neighborhoods. Every neighborhood had a mosque, a spring and a bath-house of its own. Streets had block-stone pavement. With its 129 architectural sites and 17 neighborhoods, Shusha was a busy town until occupied by Armenians.
“Shusha – ancient Azerbaijani land”, Baku-2009, p. 13
Due to the purity and freshness of its air, Shusha held a special place among all resorts. The Turshsu summer pastures, the Sakilli, Isa, Yuxari Dasalti (Samilin) springs, the well-known Cidir Duzu valley were extremely popular with local people and visitors. One of the remotest locations in the former USSR, the famous Cidir Duzu valley was very picturesque. It was a slightly elevated and horizontal valley in the south of Shusha. To the west of it there were three hills called Ucmix, a wonderful place for walking. The Xari Bulbul music festival used to be held here every May.
A beautiful flower growing in these mountains doesn’t grow anywhere else in the world. It is called Xari Bulbul (orchis). The flower looks as if a nightingale is sitting on it. This endemic flower is also extensively used as a healing herb.
This was a resort area located 40 km from the center on the road to Lachin. On its left, there is the Dasalti river. Turshsu was noted for its healing baths. People used to set up tents and spend summer here.
People also call it Samilin. Its specificity was that the resort was above the Dasalti river, underneath the Agziyasti Cave and in the Ucmix mountain around the spring.
“Shusha – ancient Azerbaijani land”, Baku-2009, p. 21
Shusha is the native town of dozens of prominent scientists, writers, musicians, military commanders and journalists. One of the founders of critical realism and satirical genre in Azerbaijani literature, Qasim Bey Zakir (1784-1857), well-known poet and artist Khurshidbanu Natavan (1830-1897), also known as Khan’s Daughter, founder of the tragedy genre Nacaf Bey Vazirov (1854-1926), A. Haqverdiyev (1870-1933), Yusif Vazir Camanzaminli (1887-1943), F. Kocarli (1863-1920), ideologist of the national liberation history Ahmad Bey Agaoglu, the Mehmandarovs, the Badalbaylis, and many other people were born in Shusha.
“Shusha – ancient Azerbaijani land”, Baku-2009, p. 16
Shusha was a 19th century cultural center. A busy town, Shusha was a concentration of poets, writers, musicians, actors and people of culture from the Caucasus, Middle East and Central Asia. It was then that Shusha was often described as the Caucasus conservatory and became known as a school of vocal art. In fact, researchers compared the importance of Shusha for the history of eastern music to that of Italy for European. The first music school was established in Shusha in the 1870s. At the time, Shusha was home to 95 poets, 22 music critics, 38 singers, 12 pharmacists, 19 calligraphers , 16 artists, 18 architects, 5 astronomers, 16 doctors and 42 teachers. Shusha was also known for its literary meetings.
This concert, organized in Shusha by Abdurahim Bey Haqverdiyev for the first time in 1901, was subsequently held in Baku too. In continuation of this tradition, the Song Festivities and the international Xari Bulbul folk festivals were held in the Cidir Duzu in the 1980-90s. Shusha is the native town of hundreds of singers, musicians and music critics.
I am in love with Qarabag,
Its black grapes and orchards,
Even if Tehran turns into a paradise
Qarabag cannot be forgotten
These words verse, written by the daughter of Qarabag Khan Agabayim, who was made to marry the Iranian shah and could not imagine her life without Qarabag, are probably very much alive in the hearts of all natives of Qarabag…
“Qarabag: questions and facts”, Baku, Qismet-2005, p. 80
Ministry of Culture and Tourism “Regrets for Shusha” (methodic aid), Baku-2007, p. 17
There is a saying that one feels sorry if one visits Shusha and if one doesn’t. I wish everyone a visit to Shusha.