Notes From Hairenik
May 9, 2007

On May 9, 1992, the legendary town of Shushi was captured by Armenian forces during the Nagorno Karabagh war with Azerbaijan. It was a pivotal moment in the war as the Armenians appeared unbeatable in their quest for maintaining an already declared free and independent Nagorno Karabagh state. The capture of Shushi was largely made possible by armed battalions provided by the ARF-Dashnaktsutiun, and the victory was amongst the greatest achievements of the organization, perhaps second to the foundation of the first Armenian republic of 1919-1921. Read more about the Battle of Shushi here.

A couple of years ago the roads and sidewalks in the town itself were completely repaired, but as of last summer the thoroughfares actually leading into Shushi from the north and south were still partially destroyed, in other words practically not drivable. Although I believe the town has great potential and is fairly attractive, little investment has been made to boost it economically and as a result, less than 5,000 people are left, down from 17,000 in 1989, of which approximately 98 percent were Azeri, according to Wikipedia. In other words, Armenians barely bothered to populate the city after the war's ceasefire, and bombed-out apartment buildings where Azeris once lived remain.

There is an excellent photo story about May 9 on Hetq Online. The photo above is taken from there, © Hakob Poghosyan.


Anonymous Anonymous said...
I'm a little confused.

I understand that the "liberation of Shushi" is a big deal. But I don't understand why.

17,000 Azeris got driven out of their homes. Okay, I suppose that was inevitable under the circumstances. But nothing's been done with Shushi since then -- it hasn't been repopulated, there's no industry, the economy is pretty much non-existent. You have to be reminded of the old Roman saying about making a desolation and calling it peace.

So, what's the point about Shushi? (Not a troll -- I'm a foreigner who is really confused.)


Doug M.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Okay, I did some reading online. I see the importance of the battle of Shushi now -- it was key to the relief of Stepanekert and to the whole war.

But that just makes the current attitude more confusing. It seems like Shushi was absolutely crucial 15 years ago, but now that the war is won, nobody cares much about it. Am I understanding this right?

Doug M.

Blogger Christian Garbis said...
I can't say that it is not a big deal for Armenians. They clearly have a history not only in that town/city but in all of Karabagh, which some believe was the actual birthplace of the Armenian people several thousand years ago.

The excuse I have heard regarding Shushi's suspended socio-economic development is that investors are waiting for an official end to the war, in other words for a peace deal to be signed, before they spend money there. I think the NKR government also has a huge commitment to building up destroyed or unsettled parts of the country and has not lived up to its responsibilities, so Shushi is not an exception.

A peace deal is imminent, it will happen eventually, perhaps this year, so I don't go along with the attitude potential investors may have regarding a lack of faith in order to invest. The town should have been rebuild and resettled in large numbers at least 10 years ago in my opinion. Let's wait and see what will be happening 10 years from now.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Dear Sir,

Where did you get the false information about the ARF being cruciial to the liberation of Shushi?? Please do not falsely use your blog to overexaggerate the role of this largely defunct political organization - especially in Karabakh.

And yes, the city's liberation has been no cause for jubilation as the victory, 15 years later, has not been translated into anything approaching a constructive change. Everything else are just excuses for a lack of dedication and vision. Arapo

Blogger Christian Garbis said...
Well I don't want to provoke debates on the subject but the parties responsible for the capture/liberation of Shushi are well known and documented. So I don't really understand where your comment is coming from. I try to be as objective as possible in my posts, and this one should not be regarded as being otherwise. So my words really should not be construed as being over exaggerated.

Blogger Ara said...
I guess I too have to ask where it is documented that the ARF had been a major factor in providing such a large force to the liberation of Shushi? I really have to question how much of this effort was due to the ARF, since I have a good idea and real information as to what really happened that day. I know that in Artsakh during the war, the ARF had been a part of the defense efforts, but know that it could not be considered as being the major force then or now.

Blogger Doug M. said...
[Doug M. again, four months later]

I just travelled to Karabakh over the weekend, and spent a couple of hours walking around Shushi.


On one hand, I now understand why that battle was so important, and is still so famous. It's really hard to believe that anyone could have stormed that hill!

On the other hand, half the buildings in Shushi are empty and abandoned. People are growing corn in the yards of what used to be schools and offices. Even the cathedral has a rather abandoned look to it... it's clean and well-kept, but it sits in a rather weedy lot, and the Sunday service didn't fill a tenth of the space.

Across the street is the Hotel Shushi, where we were the only guests. Next to the cathedral is a playground where no child plays -- the equipment is slowly crumbling to rust.

Shushi had a centuries long history as a cultural center for Karabakh. Now it's... well, nothing. I had the impression that tourism was the only real enterprise there. Otherwise, it's a small agricultural village that just happens to have a cathedral and a lot of recent ruins.

Doug M.