Town Shushi and the region of Shushi are normally mentioned in the Azerbaijani mass media among the occupied territories (regions), and a special emphasis is attached to Shushi. It is a demonstration of a thoroughly elaborated policy, a step towards a far-reaching objective which is used by the Azerbaijani mass media for urging the international community which is unaware of the details that Shushi is an Azerbaijani territory and, therefore, “rationalize” the Azerbaijani origin of the whole Mountainous Karabagh.
Shushi (in the early medieval ages known as “Shikakar”, later “Karadlukh” and finally “Shosh, Shushi”) is one of the original territories of Artsakh Province of Great Hayk, known for the inaccessibility of its landscape.
In the 17th century Shushi was the second center of Varanda Melikdom in one of the Armenian principalities established in the territory of Artsakh. In the 18th century a major Armenian military and defensive base was founded in the same territory which was called Shoshi.
Demographic changes took place in the middle of the 18th century in Artsakh which was the subject of Persia together with East Armenia. Several Turkish-speaking nomadic tribes settled in the territory of Artsakh, including Shushi which had become the center of Karabagh Khanate and continued to be the administrative center of Karabagh till the 1920s’.
In the course of the 19th and 20th centuries, after Shushi was connected with Russia in 1805, the town became one of the important centers of Transcaucasus. Numerous schools functioned (Eparchic, Real, St. Mary’s Maidens’ School and many rural schools). Dozens of magazines and newspapers were published (Haykakan Ashkhar (Armenian World), Gorts (Business), Krunik (Crane),
Azgagrakan Handes (Ethnographic Magazine), Karabagh, Tsiatsan (Rainbow), Paylak (Summer Lightening), Neghuk, Aparaj (Cliff Stone), Karabaghi Surhandak (Courier of Karabagh), Nor Kyank (New Life), etc.). There was a theater and a library. Many churches and cathedrals were built in the traditional Armenian style (Meghretsots, Aguletsots, Kanach Jam, the Russian Church, Kanants Jam) which were sanctified by St. Saviors’ Kazanchetsots Church.
The tragic events of the early 20th century did not sidestep Shushi. As the result of the violent encounters which took place from August 7 to 16, 1905, thousands of Armenians died, and hundreds of Armenian houses (around 400 houses) were burnt in the center of the town.
The terrifying events recurred several years later. The ambitious intentions of the Mousafat Azerbaijan with respect to Mountainous Karabagh were demonstrated in the bloody massacre of 20,000 Armenians on March 23, 1920 when the picturesque Armenian town was changed into a flaming site. Not a single Armenian was left in the town after these events. The ruins of the burnt town remained till the 1960s’ when they were utterly destroyed together with the material, cultural and other values and the tombs of the Armenians. After the massacre in Shushi, Stepanakert became the administrative center in 1923.
According to the reliable statistics disclosed in the press at those times (Caucasus Calendar), the number of the inhabitants of Shushi in 1920 was 60,000 of which 47,000 (over 78%) were Armenians. Shushi was a multi-national town: the remaining 13,000 (less than 22%) constituted residents of Azerbaijani, Russian, Greek, Georgian, Polish and German nationalities. Accordingly, the participation and contribution of the Azerbaijani in the cultural, educational and public activities of the town was minor. As opposed to the wide-range activities of the Armenians in the spheres of education and culture, there were no Azerbaijani newspapers, famous schools or cultural institutions in Shushi.
As previously, during the Soviet power the policy of national discrimination towards the Armenians was applied. Due to this, the Azerbaijani constituted the majority of the population of Shushi. According to the census of 1989, 21,6 thousand people lived in Shushi region, and the number of inhabitants in Shushi town was 16,000.
It follows from the aforementioned that:
a) As a geographical and administrative unit, Shushi constituted an integral part of Artsakh.
b) Shushi was an Armenian town. As evidence, one can refer to the activities of the Armenian military-defensive unions and melikdoms in the medieval ages, the unprecedented enlightening movement in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and, finally, the statistics of the census at the beginning of the 20th century.
Ultimately, the question arises why this particular region of Mountainous Karabagh has become the focus of the Azerbaijani propaganda where it is presented as a so-called occupied territory which Azerbaijan strives to repossess at any cost.
Logically, Shushi was chosen as a target intentionally. The reasons for such selection base on the following speculations.
Firstly, as a territory of Mountainous Karabagh Shushi is notable for its special geographical position and landscape. From here one can hold control over a number of territories and roads of strategic significance (Yevlakh-Goris-Nakhichevan). The geographical position of Shushi is valueless also in terms of establishing communications between the Republic of Armenia and MKR.
Secondly, the demographic picture of the town which in the 20th century had experienced the tragic events was continuously and consistently distorted during the period of the Soviet power. After the appropriation of everything that could be seized the Azerbaijani destroyed all the remaining monuments of the Armenian culture. During those years the legend about the Azerbaijani origin of Shushi was created. By displaying the alleged values to the international community, the Azerbaijani try to prove that Shushi is an authentic Azerbaijani town.
Finally, the rationale of the Azerbaijani propaganda is that if Shushi, the center of Mountainous Karabagh, is presented as an authentic Azerbaijani territory, it would mean that the whole of Mountainous Karabagh is of Azerbaijani origin, too.