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Shusha - the Jerusalem of Azerbaijan

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LOS ANGELES, May 8, 2014 /AAC/ - Twenty two years have passed since the Armenian armed forces occupied and destroyed the city of Shusha, once a predominantly Azerbaijani-populated historic center of the Mountainous Karabakh region. Shusha's cultural significance as the cradle of Azerbaijani culture for centuries earns it a title of Jerusalem of Azerbaijan.

Established in the 18th century by Panah-Ali Khan Javanshir Ziyadoglu as a capital of the independent Karabakh khanate, Shusha became a cradle of Azerbaijani Turkic culture, literature and, especially, music. In 1870s, master Sadigjan developed the first Azeri tar (lute) in Shusha. City's rich musical tradition also greatly influenced Uzeyir Hajibeyov, the patriarch of Azerbaijani classical music and opera, first of its kind in the Muslim world. Many other prominent  figures, including Bül-Bül (founder of Azerbaijani opera vocal); Jabbar Garyaghdy oglu (Azerbaijani Mugham Art virtuoso); singer Rashid Behbudov; composers Ashraf Abbasov, Suleyman Alasgarov, Fikret Amirov, Farhad Badalbeyli, Seyid and Khan Shushinski; writers Abdurrehim bey Hagverdiyev, Mirmohsum Navvab, Najaf bey Vezirov; 19-th century poetess Khurshudbanu Natavan; and one of the prominent public figures in the Republic of Turkey, Ahmet Agaoglu, also originated from Shusha.

Like in other occupied regions of Azerbaijan, over 50,000 of Shusha's inhabitants were expelled from their homes in an act of ethnic cleansing by the Armenian military. The occupying forces also engaged in destruction of Azerbaijani historical landmarks of Shusha, such as the famous Govharagha Mosque, the museum-house of Uzeyir Hajibayov, and the memorial of Natavan. Despite the attempts to erase any trace of Azerbaijani identity in the occupied city, today Shusha remains largely a ghost town and a tragic witness to irredentism in the 21st century.

The ongoing military occupation of Karabakh by Armenian forces not only imperils the rich cultural heritage of the Caucasus, but also violates UN Security Council and General Assembly resolutions and jeopardizes prospects of peace in the region.