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Updated:Sunday 12th October 2014

Shusha Definition

Shusha is the capital of Karabagh Khanate and may have taken its name from the ancient city of Shush (Susa).Shusha is a town in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh in the South Caucasus. It has been under the control of the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabagh Republic since its capture in 1992 during the Nagorno-Karabakh War. However, it is a de-jure part of the Republic of Azerbaijan, with the status of an administrative division of the surrounding Shusha Rayon. Situated at an altitude of 1400–1800 meters in the picturesque Karabagh Mountains, Shusha was a popular mountain recreation resort in the Soviet era.After serving as a town and an ancient fortress in the Armenian-ruled Principality of Varanda, Shusha was turned into the capital of the Karabagh khanate. The town became one of the cultural centers of the South Caucasus after the Russian conquest of the region in the first half of the 19th century. Over time, it became a home to many intellectuals, poets, writers and especially, musicians (e.g., the asheghs, mugham singers, kobuz players). Shusha was the only large settlement within the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast that had a predominantly Azerbaijani population. In 1977 Shusha was declared reservation of Azerbaijani architecture and history. The city was often referred to as "musical capital or conservatory of Transcaucasia".The city was also a major center of Armenian cultural and economic life until the closing years of World War I. Along with Tbilisi; it was one of the two main Armenian cities of the Transcaucasia and the center of a self-governing Armenian principality in the 1720s. It also had religious and strategic importance to the Armenians, housing the Ghazanchetsots Cathedral, the church of Kanach Zham and serving (along with Lachin district to the west) as a land link to Armenia. Following the capture of Shusha in 1992 by Armenian forces, its population diminished dramatically and is now almost exclusively Armenian.Shusha was a small castle-town, a base for Sassanid Savaran (cavalries) who were Marzban (in charge of protecting borders) mostly against nomadic Turkic incursions southwards.The first capital of the Karabagh Khanate was castle of Bayat, built in 1748 during the Afsharid Dynasty in the district of Kebirli. Later another fortress was built in the place called Shah-Bulagh. There was a significant effort during the Imperial Russia, and later on by the Soviet Union to alter the true history of Caucasia, in order to separate it from its origins namely Iran, despite historical facts.During the Safavid Empire Karabagh was for almost two centuries ruled by Ziyad-oglu family of the Qajar Tribe, and therefore, Mohammed Hassan khan considered Karabagh his hereditary estate.Towards the end of the Safavid Empire, Iran was occupied by Hotaki invaders. Ottomans and Russians used the occasion to penetrate into Caucasia. During the powerful Persian king Nader Shah's reign howeve (Wikipedia) - Shusha For the Brazilian entertainer, see Xuxa. For the Persian folk singer, see Shusha Guppy. "Shushi" redirects here. For other uses, see Shushi (disambiguation). Shusha (Şuşa) Shushi (Շուշի) Country Raion Province Government  • Mayor; Head of Shusha • Executive Power2 Area  • Land Highest elevation Lowest elevation Population (2010)  • Total
Shusha landmarks, from top left:Ghazanchetsots Cathedral • Yukhari Govhar Agha Mosque Shusha fortress • National Gallery History Museum • Central park Shusha skyline • Natavan house
Coat of arms
Shusha (Şuşa) Shushi (Շուշի)Location of Shusha within Azerbaijan and the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic
Coordinates: 39°45.5′N 46°44.9′E / 39.7583°N 46.7483°E / 39.7583; 46.7483
Azerbaijan (de jure) Nagorno-Karabakh Republic1 (de facto)
Shusha Raion2
Shushi Province3
Karen Avagimyan;Bayram Safarov4
5.5 km2 (2.1 sq mi)
1,800 m (5,900 ft)
1,400 m (4,600 ft)
1Unrecognized country 2According to Azerbaijan administrative division 3According to NKR administrative division 4Azeri administration functions in exile

Shusha (Azerbaijani: Şuşa), or Shushi (Armenian: Շուշի), is a town in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh in the South Caucasus. It has been under the control of the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic since its capture in 1992 during the Nagorno-Karabakh War. However, it is a de jure part of the Republic of Azerbaijan, with the status of an administrative division of the surrounding Shusha Rayon. Situated at an altitude of 1,400–1,800 metres (4,600–5,900 ft) in the picturesque Karabakh mountains, Shusha was a popular mountain recreation resort in the Soviet era.

According to some sources the town of Shusha was founded in 1752 by Panah Ali Khan. Other sources suggest that Shusha served as a town and an ancient fortress in the Armenian principality of Varanda during the Middle Ages and through the 18th century. From the mid-18th century to 1822 Shusha was the capital of the Karabakh Khanate. The town became one of the cultural centers of the South Caucasus after the Russian conquest of the region in the first half of the 19th century. Over time, it became a city and a home to many Azerbaijani intellectuals, poets, writers and especially, musicians (e.g., the ashugs, mugham singers, kobuz players).

The city was also a major center of Armenian cultural and economic life until the closing years of World War I. Along with Tbilisi; it was one of the two main Armenian cities of the Transcaucasus and the center of a self-governing Armenian principality from medieval times through the 1750s. It also had religious and strategic importance to the Armenians, housing the Ghazanchetsots Cathedral, the church of Kanach Zham, two other churches, a monastic convent, and serving (along with Lachin district to the west) as a land link to Armenia.

Throughout modern history the city mainly fostered a mixed Armenian–Azerbaijani population. Following the Shusha massacre in 1920 by Azerbaijani forces and their Turkish supporters, the Armenian half of the population of the city was mostly killed or expelled, and the city reduced to a town with a dominant Azerbaijani population. After the capture of Shusha in 1992 by Armenian forces, its population diminished dramatically again and is now almost exclusively Armenian.

  • 1 History
    • 1.1 Foundation
    • 1.2 Conflict with Persia
    • 1.3 Shusha within the Russian Empire
    • 1.4 Early 20th century
    • 1.5 Soviet era and Karabakh war
  • 2 Cultural life
  • 3 Demographics
  • 4 Economy and tourism
    • 4.1 Museum to the History of Shusha
  • 5 Twin towns – Sister cities
  • 6 See also
  • 7 References
  • 8 External links

History FoundationHoly Mother of God "Kanach Zham" church, established in 1818The palace of Khurshidbanu Natavan, the daughter of the last ruler of Karabakh Khanate, late 19th-early 20th centuries

The earliest mentions of Shusha as a settlement appear as Shushi in the Middle Ages, with the 15th century illuminated Armenian Gospel kept on display at Yerevan''s Matenadaran (archival number 8211) being the earliest known artifact from the town. The Gospel was created in Shusha by the calligrapher Ter-Manuel in 1428.

According to several sources, a settlement called Shushi served as an ancient fortress in the Armenian principality of Varanda, and had traditionally belonged to the Melik-Shahnazarian princely dynasty. The town and fort of Shusha was mentioned as a linchpin of one of East Armenian military districts, called “syghnakhs,” which played a key role in the Armenian commander Avan Yuzbashi’s campaign against Ottoman forces in the 1720s and 1730s, during the Turkish invasion of the Southern Caucasus.

Kehva Chelebi, an Armenian patriot who maintained correspondence between the meliks of Karabakh and the Russian authorities, in this report of 1725 mentions Shusha as a town and a fort:

… The nearest Armenian stronghold … was Shushi. Shushi is four days'' distance from Shemakhi. Armed Armenians under the command of Avan Yuzbashi guard it. After meeting with the Armenian leaders, including the Patriarch, they returned to Derbent via Shemakhi. Rocky mountains surround the town of Shushi. The number of the armed Armenians has not been determined. There are rumors that the Armenians have defeated the Turks in a number of skirmishes in Karabagh …

In his letter of 1769 to the Russian diplomat Count P. Panin, the Georgian king Erekle II documented that "there was an ancient fortress which was conquered, through deceit, by one man from the Muslim Jevanshir tribe." The same information about the ancient fortress is confirmed by the Russian Field Marshal Alexander Suvorov in his letter to Prince Grigory Potemkin. Suvorov writes that the Armenian prince Melik Shahnazar of Varanda surrendered his fortress Shushikala to "certain Panah," whom he calls "chief of an unimportant part of nomadic Muslims living near the Karabakh borders." When discussing Karabakh and Shusha in the 18th century, the Russian diplomat and historian S. M. Bronevskiy (Russian: С. М. Броневский (1763-1830) implied in his Historical Notes that Shusha was a possession of the Melik-Shahnazarian clan. Russian historian P. G. Butkov (Russian: П. Г. Бутков (1775-1857) confirms this.

The Armenian quarters of Shusha - with the Cathedral of the Holy Saviour in the background- in the early 20th century, before their destruction by Azerbaijani military units in 1920

Azerbaijani and some Armenian 19th century sources, including Mirza Jamal Javanshir Qarabaghi, Mirza Adigozal bey, Abbasgulu Bakikhanov, Mirza Yusuf Nersesov and Raffi, attest to the foundation of the town Shusha in 1750-1752 (according to other sources, 1756–1757) by Panah-Ali khan Javanshir (r. 1748-1763), the founder and the first ruler of the independent Karabakh Khanate (1748–1822), which comprised both Lowland and Highland Karabakh. The mid-18th century foundation is supported by Encyclopaedia of Islam, Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary and Great Soviet Encyclopedia.

According to Mirza Jamal Javanshir Qarabaghi (1773–1853), the author of the Persian-language text History of Karabakh, one of the most significant chronicles on the history of Karabakh in 18th-19th centuries, the Karabakh nobility assembled to discuss the danger of invasion from Iran and told Panah Ali Khan, "We must build among the impassable mountains such an inviolable and inaccessible fort, so that no strong enemy could take it." Melik Shahnazar of Varanda, who was the first of the Armenian meliks (dukes) to accept the suzerainty of Panah Ali Khan and who would remain his loyal supporter, suggested a location for the new fortress. Thus, Panahabad-Shusha was founded.

According to Mirza Jamal Javanshir, prior to construction of the fortress by Panah Ali khan there were no buildings at that location and it was used as a cropland and pasture by the people of the nearby village of Shoshi. Panah khan resettled to Shusha the population of Shahbulag and some nearby villages, and built strong fortifications.

Another account is presented by Raffi, an Armenian novelist and historian, in his work The Princedoms of Khamsa, who asserts that the place which Shusha was built on was desolate and uninhabited before Panah-Ali Khan''s arrival. He states, " soon completed the construction (1762) and moved the Armenian population of the nearby village of Shosh (Շոշ), called also Shoshi, or Shushi into the fortress.″

The town was initially named Panahabad, after its founder. During the rule of Ibrahim-Khalil khan (r. 1763-1806), the son of Panah Ali khan, the town received its present name from a nearby Armenian village called Shushi, also known as Shushikent ("village of Shushi") or Shosh.

Conflict with Persia19th-century map

Although Panah Ali khan has been in conflict with Nader Shah, but the new ruler of Persia, Adil Shah, issued a firman (decree) recognizing Panah Ali as the Khan of Karabakh. Less than a year after Shusha was founded, the Karabakh Khanate was attacked by Muhammed Hassan khan Qajar, one of the major claimants to the Iranian throne. During the Safavid Empire Karabakh was for almost two centuries ruled by Ziyad-oglu family of the clan of Qajars (of Turkic origin), and therefore, Muhammed Hassan khan considered Karabakh his hereditary estate.

Muhammed Hassan khan besieged Shusha (Panahabad at that time) but soon had to retreat, because of the attack on his khanate by his major opponent to the Iranian throne, Kerim khan Zend. His retreat was so hasty that he even left his cannons under the walls of Shusha fortress. Panah Ali khan counterattacked the retreating troops of Muhammad Hassan khan and even briefly took Ardabil across the Aras River in Iranian Azerbaijan.

In 1756 (or 1759) Shusha and the Karabakh Khanate underwent a new attack from Fatali khan Afshar, ruler of Urmia. With his 30,000 strong army Fatali khan also managed to gain support from the meliks (feudal vassals) of Jraberd and Talish (Gulistan), however melik Shahnazar of Varanda continued to support Panah Ali khan. Siege of Shusha lasted for six months and Fatali khan eventually had to retreat.

When Karīm Khan Zand took control of much of Iran, he forced Panāh Khan to come to Shiraz (Capital), where he died as a hostage. Panah-Ali Khan''s son Ibrahim-Khalil Khan was sent back to Karabakh as governor. Under him Karabakh khanate became one of the strongest state formations and Shusha grew. According to travelers who visited Shusha at the end of 18th-early 19th centuries the town had about 2,000 houses and approximately 10,000 population.

Shusha fortress

In summer 1795 Shusha was subjected to a major attack by Aga Muhammad khan Qajar, son of Muhammad Hassan khan who attacked Shusha in 1752. Aga Muhammad khan Qajar''s goal was to end with the feudal fragmentation and to restore the old Safavid State in Iran. For this purpose he also wanted to proclaim himself shah (king) of Iran. However, according to the Safavid tradition, shah had to take control over the whole of South Caucasus before his coronation. Therefore, Karabakh Khanate and its fortified capital Shusha, were the first and major obstacle to achieve these ends.

Aga Muhammad khan Qajar besieged Shusha with his 80,000-strong army. Ibrahim Khalil khan mobilized the population for a long-term defense. The number of militia in Shusha reached 15,000. Women fought together with men. The Armenian population of Karabakh also actively participated in this struggle against the invaders and fought side by side with the Muslim population, jointly organizing ambushes in the mountains and forests.

The siege lasted for 33 days. Not being able to capture Shusha, Aga Muhammad khan ceased the siege and advanced to Tiflis (present-day Tbilisi), which despite desperate resistance was occupied and exposed to unprecedented destruction.

In 1797 Agha Muhammad shah Qajar, who by that time has already managed to declare himself shah (albeit he did not succeed in conquering the Caucasus as the tradition required) decided to carry out a second attack on Karabakh.

Trying to avenge the previous humiliating defeat Qajar devastated the surrounding villages near Shusha. The population could not recover from the previous 1795 attack and also suffered from serious drought which lasted for three years. The artillery of the enemy also caused serious losses amongst the city defenders. Thus, in 1797 Aga Muhammed shah succeeded in seizing Shusha and Ibrahim Khalil khan had to flee to Dagestan.

However, several days after the seizure of Shusha, Aga Muhammed shah was killed in mysterious circumstances by his bodyguards. The Iranian troops left and soon afterwards, Ibrahim Khalil khan returned to Shusha and restored his authority as khan of Karabakh.

Shusha within the Russian EmpireAshaghi Govhar Agha Mosque

From the early 19th century, Russian influence in the Caucasus began to rise. Following Georgia, many khanates accepted Russian protectorate. In 1805, a Kurekchay Treaty was signed between the Karabakh Khanate and the Russian Empire on the transfer of the Karabakh Khanate to Russia.

External images
Silver abbasi or panahabadi in the name of Fat′h-Ali Shah Qajar, Mint of Panahabad (Shusha), Struck in year 1801, OBVERSE: al-Sultan Fathalish, Mint and date below, al-izza lillah at top / REVERSE: Shia kalima with Ali wali allah.

The Russian Empire consolidated its power in the Karabakh khanate following the Treaty of Gulistan in 1813 and Treaty of Turkmenchay of 1828, when following two Russo-Persian wars, Iran recognized belonging of the Karabakh khanate, along with many other khanates, to Russia.

The Karabakh khanate was eliminated in 1822. A survey prepared by the Russian imperial authorities in 1823, a year after and several years before the 1828 Armenian migration from Persia to the newly established Armenian Province, shows that all Armenians of Karabakh compactly resided in its highland portion, i.e., on the territory of the five traditional Armenian principalities, and constituted an absolute demographic majority on those lands. The survey''s more than 260 pages recorded that the district of Khachen had twelve Armenian villages and no Tatar (Muslim) villages; Jalapert (Jraberd) had eight Armenian villages and no Tatar villages; Dizak had fourteen Armenian villages and one Tatar village; Gulistan had twelve Armenian and five Tatar villages; and Varanda had twenty-three Armenian villages and one Tatar village.

Ghazanchetsots Cathedral of 1887

During the Russo-Persian War of 1826–1828, the citadel at Shusha held out for several months and never fell. After this Shusha ceased to be a capital of a khanate and instead became an administrative capital of first the Karabakh province (1822–1840) and then of the Shusha district (uyezd) of the Elisabethpol Governorate (1840–1923). Shusha grew and developed, with successive waves of migrants moving to the city, particularly Armenians.

Beginning from the 1830s the town was divided into two parts: Turkic-speaking Muslims lived in the eastern lower quarters, while Armenian Christians settled in the relatively new western upper quarters of the town. The Muslim part of the town was divided into seventeen quarters. Each quarter had its own mosque, Turkish bath, water-spring and also a quarter representative, who would be elected among the elderlies (aksakals), and who would function as a sort of head of present-day municipality. The Armenian part of the town consisted of 12 quarters, five churches, town and district school and girls'' seminary.

The population of the town primarily dealt with trade, horse-breeding, carpet-weaving and wine and vodka production. Shusha was also the biggest center of silk production in the Caucasus. Most of the Muslim population of the town and of Karabakh in general was engaged in sheep and horse-breeding and therefore, had a semi-nomadic lifestyle, spending wintertime in lowland Karabakh in wintering pastures and spring and summer in summering pastures in Shusha and other mountainous parts.

Early 20th century Main articles: Shusha pogrom and Armenian–Azerbaijani WarA photo taken in 1918 of the Karabakh reconciliation commission, composed of religious leaders and elders of both Armenian and Azerbaijani communitiesArmenian half of Shusha destroyed by Azerbaijani armed forces in 1920, with the defiled cathedral of the Holy Savior and Aguletsots church on the backgroundRuins of the Armenian part of Shusha after the 1920 pogrom with the church of the Holy Mother of God "Kanach Zham" in the background

The beginning of the 20th century marked the first Armenian-Tartar clashes throughout Azerbaijan. This new phenomenon had two reasons. First, it was the result of increased tensions between the local Muslim population and Armenians, whose numbers increased throughout the 19th century as a result of Russian resettlement policies. Second, by the beginning of the 20th century peoples of the Caucasus, similar to other non-Russian peoples in the periphery of the Russian Empire began to seek cultural and territorial autonomy. That is why, in the beginning of the 20th century in Russia itself was a period of bourgeois and Bolshevik revolutions, in the peripheries these movements have acquired a character of the national liberation movement.

The initial clashes between ethnic Armenians and Azerbaijanis took place in Baku in February 1905. Soon, the conflict spilled over to other parts of the Caucasus, and on August 5, 1905 first conflict between the Armenian and Azerbaijani inhabitants of Shusha took place. As a result of the mutual pogroms and killings, hundreds of people died and more than 200 houses were burned.

After World War I and subsequent collapse of the Russian Empire, Karabakh was claimed by Azerbaijan to be part of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (1918–1920), a decision hotly disputed by neighboring Armenia and by Karabakh''s Armenian population. After the defeat of Ottoman empire in the World War I, British troops occupied Karabakh. The British command provisionally affirmed Khosrov bey Sultanov (appointed by the Azerbaijani government) as the governor-general of Karabakh and Zangezur, pending final decision by the Paris Peace Conference.

To make the local Armenians surrender to the Azerbaijani rule Sultanov employed most severe measures against them such as terror, blockade and famine.

In August 1919, the Karabakh National Council was forced to enter into a provisional treaty agreement with the Azerbaijani government, recognizing the authority of the Azerbaijan government until the issue of the mountainous part of Karabakh would be settled at the Paris Peace Conference. Despite signing the Agreement, the Azerbaijani government continuously violated the terms of the treaty, employing even more severe measures against the Armenian population. Ethnic conflict began to erupt in the region. According to Michael P. Croissant on 5 June 1919, 600 Armenian inhabitants of the villages surrounding Shusha were killed by Azerbaijani and Kurdish irregulars. Sultanov claimed that those irregulars were not under his control. The strife culminated with an Armenian uprising, which was suppressed by the Azerbaijani army. In late March 1920 the Armenian half of the police forces was reported by a British journalist to have murdered the Azerbaijani half during the latter''s traditional Novruz Bayram holiday celebtrations. The Armenian surprise attack was organised and coordinated by the forces of the Armenian Republic. Azerbaijani outrage for this surprise attack ultimately led to the pogrom of March 1920, in which between 500 and 20,000 of the Armenian population of Shusha was killed, and many forced to flee.

According to the description of an Azerbaijani communist Ojahkuli Musaev:

... the ruthless destruction of defenceless women, children, old women, old men, etc has begun. Armenians were exposed to a mass slaughter. ... beautiful Armenian girls were raped, then shot. ... By the order of ... Khosrov-bek Sultanov; the pogroms proceeded for more than six days. Houses in the Armenian part have been partially demolished, plundered and reduced all to ashes, everyone led away women to submit to the wishes of executioner musavatists. During these historically artful forms of punishment, Khosrov-bek Sultanov, spoke about holy war (jihad) in his speeches to the Moslems, and called on them to finally finish the Armenians of the city of Shusha, not sparing women, children, etc.

Nadezhda Mandelstam wrote about Shusha in the 1920s, "in this town, which formerly of course was healthy and with every amenity, the picture of catastrophe and massacres was terribly visual. ... They say after the massacres all the wells were full of dead bodies. ... We didn''t see anyone in the streets on the mountain. Only in downtown—in the market-square, there were a lot of people, but there wasn''t any Armenian among them; all were Muslims".

Soviet era and Karabakh warView from the town

In 1920, the Russian Red Army (the 11th Army) invaded Azerbaijan and then Armenia and put an end to the national de facto governments that existed in those two countries. Beginning from this period, conflict over control of Karabakh and its central town of Shusha, moved from the battlefield to the diplomatic sphere.

In order to attract Armenian public support, the Bolsheviks promised to resolve the issue of the disputed territories, including Karabakh, in favor of Armenia. However, on July 5, 1921 the Caucasus Bureau (Kavburo) of the Communist Party adopted the following decision regarding the future status of Karabakh: "Proceeding from the necessity of national peace among Muslims and Armenians and of the economic ties between upper (mountainous) and lower Karabakh, of its permanent ties with Azerbaijan, mountainous Karabakh is to remain within AzSSR, receiving wide regional autonomy with the administrative center in Shusha, which is to be included in the autonomous region." As a result, Mountainous Karabakh Autonomous Region was established within the Azerbaijan SSR in 1923.

A T-72 tank standing as a memorial commemorating the Capture of Shusha by the Armenian forces

The decision favoring Azerbaijan was due to Stalin, who knew that by including the disputed and by then majority Armenian-populated region within the boundaries of Azerbaijan, it would ensure Moscow’s position as power broker.

Khankendi (renamed Stepanakert after the Armenian communist leader Stepan Shaumyan), a small village that was previously known with its Armenian name of Vararakn, became the new regional capital and soon became the largest town within Mountainous Karabakh Autonomous Region.

The town remained half-ruined until the 1960s, when the town began to gradually revive due to its recreational potential. In 1977 Shusha was declared a reservation of Azerbaijan architecture and history and became one of the major resort-towns in the former USSR.

With the start of Nagorno-Karabakh War in 1988 Shusha became the most important Azeri stronghold in Karabakh, from where Azeri forces constantly shelled the capital Stepanakert. On May 9, 1992 the town was captured by Armenian forces and the Azeri population fled. According to the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, the city was looted and burnt by Armenians. Today a large part of the town remains in ruins.

After the end of the war, the town was repopulated by Armenians, mostly refugees from Azerbaijan and other parts of Karabakh, as well as members of the Armenian diaspora. While the population of the town is barely half of the pre-war number, and the demographic of the town has changed from mostly Azeri to completely Armenian, a slow recovery can be seen. The Goris-Stepanakert Highway passes through the town, and is a transit and tourist destination for many. There are some hotels in the city, and reconstruction work continues, in particular, the Ghazanchetsots Cathedral recently finished going through the restoration process.

The Armenian quarter continued to lie in ruins until the beginning of the 1960s. In 1961, Baku''s communist leadership finally passed a decision to clear away the ruins, even though many old buildings still could have been renovated. Three Armenian and one Russian churches were demolished and the town was built up with plain buildings typical of the Khrushchev era.

Cultural lifeAzerbaijani composer Uzeyir Hajibeyov (top left) with his family in Shusha, 1915

Because of historical specifics Shusha contains both Armenian and Azerbaijani cultural monuments, while the surrounding territories include also many ancient Armenian villages.

Shusha is one of the Armenian religious and cultural centers and predominately Armenian cities of Caucasus. The Eastern Armenian version of four Gospels (Holy Bible) was completed in 1830 in Shusha, and then was published in Moscow for the first time.

The city was also one of the leading centres of Azeri culture. The town of Shusha is extremely popular with the musical traditions of Azerbaijani people. Shusha is home to one of the leading schools of mugham, traditional Azerbaijani genre of vocal and instrumental arts. Shusha is particularly renowned for this art.

Shusha is also well known for sileh rugs, floor coverings from the South Caucasus. Those from the Caucasus may have been woven in the vicinity of Shusha. A similar Eastern Anatolian type usually shows a different range of colours.

DemographicsA Russian postcard showing an Armenian woman from ShushaPhotograph from the 1900s by Constantin Zanis depicting an Azerbaijani girl from Shusha in silk national garments"YearArmenians%Azerbaijanis%Others%TOTAL
1851 15,194
1886 15,188 56.7 11,595 43.3 23 0.1 26,806
1897 14,420 55.7 10,778 41.6 683 2.6 25,881
1904 56.5 43.2 25,656
1916 23,396 53.3 19,121 43.6 1,352 3.1 43,869
1921 289 3.1 8,894 96.4 40 0.4 9,223
1926 93 1.8 4,900 96.4 111 2.2 5,104
1939 1,476 27.2 3,701 68.2 247 4.5 5,424
1959 1,428 23.3 4,453 72.8 236 3.9 6,117
1970 1,540 17.7 6,974 80.2 179 2.1 8,693
1979 1,409 13.1 9,216 85.5 159 1.5 10,784
1989 98 15,039
2005 ~100 3,105
2009 ~100 3,900

The highland portion of Karabakh, where Shusha was built, traditionally had an Armenian majority of the population. When discussing Karabakh and Shusha in the 18th century, the Russian diplomat and historian S. M. Bronevskiy indicated in his “Historical Notes” that Karabakh, which he said "is located in Greater Armenia" had as many as 30-40 thousand armed Armenian men in 1796.

According to first Russian-held census of 1823 conducted by Russian officials Yermolov and Mogilevsky, the number of Muslim families in Shusha was 1,111 (72.5%) whereas the number of Armenian families reached 421 (27.5%). Seven years later, according to 1830 data, the number of Muslim families in Shusha decreased to 963 and the number of Armenian families increased to 762.

George Keppel, the Earl of Albemarle, who in 1824 on his way back to England from India arrived to Karabakh from Persia, wrote that “Sheesha contains two thousand houses: three parts of the inhabitants are Tartars, and the remainder Armenians”.

A survey prepared by the Russian imperial authorities in 1823 shows that all Armenians of Karabakh compactly resided in its highland portion, i.e. on the territory of the five traditional Armenian principalities, and constituted an absolute demographic majority on those lands. The survey''s more than 260 pages recorded that the five districts had 57 Armenian villages and seven Tatar villages.

The 19th century also brought some alterations to the ethnic demographics of the region. Following the invasions from Iran (Persia), Russo-Persian wars and subjection of Karabakh khanate to Russia, many Muslim families emigrated to Iran while many Armenians moved to Shusha.

In 1851, the population of Shusha was 15,194 people, in 1886 – 30,000, in 1910 – 39,413 and in 1916 – 43,869, of which 23,396 (53%) were Armenians, and 19,121 (44%) were Tatars (Azerbaijanis?).

By the end of the 1880s the percentage of Muslim population living in the Shusha district (part of earlier Karabakh province) decreased even further and constituted only 41.5%, while the percentage of the Armenian population living in the same district increased to 58.2% in 1886.

By the second half of the 19th century Shusha had become the largest town in the Karabakh region and the second largest town in the Caucasus after Tbilisi. However, after the pogrom against the Armenian population in 1920 and the burning of the town, Shusha was reduced to a small provincial town of some 10,000 people. Armenians did not begin to return until after World War II. It was not until the 1960s that the Armenian quarter began to be rebuilt.

According to the last population census in 1989, the town of Shusha had a population of 17,000 and Shusha district had a population of 23,000. 91.7% of population of Shusha district and 98% of Shusha town were Azerbaijani.

Following the Armenian capture of Shusha in 1992, the ethnic Azerbaijani population of the town fled and the present population consists of roughly 3,000 Armenians, mainly refugees from other parts of Azerbaijan and some immigrants from Armenia and the Diaspora. As a result of the war, there are no Azerbaijanis living in the Shusha region today.

Economy and tourismShusha as seen from the road approaching it

There have been efforts to revive the city''s post-war economy by the Shushi Revival Fund, the ArmeniaFund, and by the local government. Investment in tourism has led to the opening of the Shoushi Hotel, the Avan Shushi Plaza Hotel and the Shushi Grand Hotel. A tourist information office has also opened, the first in the Republic of Mountainous Karabakh. The two remaining Armenian churches have been renovated, and schools, museums and the Naregatsi Arts Institute have opened.

Museum to the History of Shusha

Located in the detached house of the mid-19th century, in the centre of the historical quarter,the museum to the history of Shusha is the collection of artifacts illustrating the centuries-old past of the ancient city-fortress, including the rich archaeological material of Hellenistic period that has changed the former ideas that Shusha was founded in the 18th century.

The collection of the museum contains many ethnographic materials, including the goods of local masters. Household articles of the 19th century illustrate the life of Shusha inhabitants. The collection of photos and reproductions, arranged on the stands of the museum halls, make the cultural life of the city of that period very tangible. Other materials illustrate the desolation of Shusha in 1920 by bandits.

A special stand is devoted to the military operation on the takeover of Shusha on 9th of May,1992. Here, the diarama of the battle is located, which creates the history of fights in the smallest details.

Twin towns – Sister cities
  • Gyöngyös, Hungary (between Hungarian and Azerbaijani sides only)
  • Bourg-lès-Valence, France (since October 2014, between French and Armenian sides only)

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