Shoushi Victory

The view of the gorge, which Karabakh soldiers climed to liberate Shoushi (photo by Ara Khachatourian)


From Asbarez Archives, May 6, 2011

Standing on a vast field surrounded—enveloped—by the majestic and lush mountains of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic—Artsakh—I look down a steep and rugged gorge and can’t help but wonder how they did it. It must have required strength, resilience, but more importantly, an unmistakable will to push forward in the name of survival, not just of a people but of a nation.

It was humbling, to say the least, since the awe-inspiring place with its breathtaking surroundings was the very field from which the Karabakh Liberation Army soldiers climbed on May 9, 1992 and fought one of the most strategically important battles of the Karabakh war. In the end came the turning point—the liberation of Shoushi.

As the director of the Shoushi History Museum, Ashot Haroutunian, recounted in vivid detail, the Azeri soldiers were caught off guard, because never in their wildest dreams would they have imagined that soldiers would actually traverse and climb the rugged gorge from Karintak to reach the highest point in Artsakh on foot.

But the Karabakh Liberation Army soldiers did and they neutralized one of the deadliest of Azeri strongholds, from where missiles and rockets rained on the population of Stepanakert and other areas in Karabakh. They not only neutralized the Azeri firepower, but they also drove away the panicking Azeri soldiers and reclaimed the once magnificent capital city and a bustling epicenter of Armenian civilization.

Walking around Shoushi one is compelled to feel the heroism that allows us today to stroll through its streets, to wonder in amazement at its magnificent beauty and to be humbled by its significance.

Yet today, almost two decades since its liberation, there is a lot of work to be done in Shoushi. As buildings have risen and old one refurbished, as roads have been paved and businesses established, Shoushi needs critical elements to strengthen its infrastructure and to return it to its former glory of a cultural hub in the region.

What is not lost, however, on anyone in Karabakh—young and old, visitor or local—is that any attempt to alter the current situation of Karabakh, short of reunification with Armenia, will be met with the same resilience and spirit that guided our soldiers and our people since the Karabakh liberation movement began in 1988.

One constant that seems to be discounted today is that threats to resume the war by Azerbaijan and the cat-and-mouse-game that has become the OSCE Minsk Group-led negotiation merry go round have nothing over a people who overcame incredible odds to emerge victorious.

The field atop the gorge serves as a gathering place every May 9 for people to remember our heroes, celebrate our victories and to reaffirm their commitment.

The poignant serenity of Shoushi, and all of Artsakh for that matter, is an incomprehensible paradox. How can a place where terror reigned and, in order to stifle that horror, so much blood was shed be so tranquil—so peaceful? How can a people who lived through hell be so optimistic and resilient?

This is the legacy of a liberation movement… A struggle to determine one’s own destiny, to protect one’s own homeland and to ensure that a nation will persevere.

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  1. zareh said:

    The Armenian Nation will always remember the heroes of the Shushi liberation on May 9, 1992. It was our Sartarabad and Avarair. It was a moment which drew ALL Armenians together. It was a magical moment of reunification of our splintered historic Armenia. Many more battles will follow until will bring all the missing pieces together. Nakhitchevan, Akhalskha, Akhalkalak, Gars, Ardahan, Ani, Ararat, Van, Erzurum, Sivas, Bitlis. The day will come where the tricolor will fly high on those lands with restoration of our national pride.
    Long live Shushi in our hearts and minds.
    Long live Greater Armenia.

    • Set said:

      Long live all present and future heroes of Armenian Nation. Long live spirit of Zareh in all of our Armenian hearts.

  2. Aram said:

    May we appreciate and maintain what we have been entrusted.

  3. Parsik said:

    well said Ara, all our friends and our enenmies and indifferents alsos should read and comprehend the closing paragraph of this report carefully, because that says it all about Karabakh’s cause and problems in the past and present and the most probably also in the future, so the rest of the solutions and their offbeat variants on the negotiatiating table are just downright destablizing and subject to disposal for good of the this important geopolotical region.

  4. Levon Lokmanian said:

    It’s time for a teleton dedicated to the freedom fighters and especially the family of the fallen ones and their children

  5. hi said:

    Without artsakh there will be no armenia and without armenia will be no artsakh.God bless all the Amenian freedom Fighters.

  6. Pongo said:

    For the liberation of Soushi: Hurrà! Hurrà! Hurrà!
    From Italy, with love to Armenia.

  7. Johnno said:

    Compare this act of bravery in Artsakh with the tactical shyness of certain Armenian American groups, whose name(s) I won’t mention.

  8. Krikor said:

    They sacificed they life so all Armenians can be proud and have independent Artsakh

  9. mike said:

    To win a war you have to get to the mountain top. It took bravery, courage and determination to get the mission acomplished. BRAVO

  10. manooshag said:

    Too, if the Azeris threaten war… directly aim for their pipelines… first step.
    Too, if USA leaders and other nations’ leaders seek/need Azeri oil – these
    nations and OSCE MInsk Group need to educate the Azeris… the Artsakh
    lands have been of the Armenians – long before Azeris were – anywhere.

  11. bigmoustache said:

    how did a handful of fedayis defend a town from the turkish army?
    how did a group of tashnags keep the army from a town for months?
    its in our blood! since the days of haig and the bow and arrow, marksmanship is in our blood.
    the best fighters, craftsman, artists, intellectuals, and we have the potential to do better still

  12. Hrant K. said:

    Newer victories are as vital as that of May, the 9th, 1992 , mainly in Kantzag, Barda, Yevlakh (the whole

    western bank of prehistoric Armenian Gour river), Kedashen, Mardounashen, Aghsdafa, Mingetchaour ,

    Ordoubad, Nakhitchevan City (and the entire region of course), Sadarak and most imprtantly, the last but

    not the least VARTANLY and Kakhi!!!! (7)

  13. Hrair said:

    Thjis is an understatingly powerful piece of writing and oh so poignant on the eve of commemorating the heros of the recent past. This is for all Armenians in the world and I hope and pray that Armenian Diaspora will be a significant part of the efforts with their investment. Shoushi (and Artsakh as a whole) needs investment to keep its youth staying and working, maintaining population.

  14. Patriot said:

    I’am Azerbaijani, I would like to express my ideas and feeling about this whole mess,
    First of all neither Azerbaijan nor Armenia will move away from where they are, lets be realistic.Secondly I’am really, really tired of this nonsense of Minsk group and whatever there is to solve the Karabagh problem. furthermore I will agree that we had problems in the past, however we had good relations in the past too. Why is Russia or USA or someone else should decide our relations? This does not make sense both of the countries have their own interest in the region Russia never wants to loose controle of Caucasus and USA wants to use us as battle ground for war with Iran. So I don’t think that outsider will do any good for us Armenians and Azerbaijanis. I’m looking forward to see young people from both sides trying to reach agreement on this issue, everything is solvable in this world. Germany reunited with Europe after 10 F@#$ years !!! This Problem hurts us not USA, Russia or Turkey for that matter. Both of the countries require URGENT economic reforms otherwise we are on the to be Africa. In 10-20 years wi will become like Africa and will survive on mercy of others. I think this is unacceptable. Politicians from both sides think short term. They do not care about future of the countries. I would like to hear responses and criticism that makes sense and please do use foul language,

    • Harutuyn said:

      Patriot i would like to explain the facts of life to you

      1) Azeris were living good when Armenians were in Baku because we ran things and Azeris were benefiting from that
      2) Azerbejan drew first blood on us Sumgait massacres of the Armenians
      3) Azeris burned killed destroyed our Armenian peoples homes in Baku
      4) Azeris started the war in Arsax
      the list goes on and on
      and now you want us to sit down with you and talk
      let me explain something to you about the Great USA and Russia
      they are there to save your ass because they know very well your bogus and lazy leadership
      wants to go to war with Arsax and Armenia and the world knowsyour country will notwin the war
      so Patriot maybe your country will become like Africa but again its all ready became like Africa
      to begin with, so as you can see patriot we dontneed tosit down with your urod aliev to negotiate anything, if there is any negotiatons you should tell your leadership start buying pempers for their soldiers.

      May god bless Greater Armenia
      may god bless USA

      • Patriot said:

        Dear, Harutuyn I’am not really sure if you live in USA or Armenia. If you live in Armenia then you should know that your economy is not in good shape. In my previous comment I said a lot about mutual benefits. However you keep talking about history and thats not going to change anything my friend. Amenia is depopulating right now, but with my whloe honesty I do not really want to see that. Secondly Armenians did not run anything in Baku, they had good jobs which talks about how we lived together, but again they did not run anything and if they had any government jobs, you should be thankful to the USSR. Again if Azeri’s did killed anyone in Sumgait or Baku you killed 10 folds. I do not want to talk what happend, I want to talk what will happen. Again I’m not sure if you really belive that Armenia can reach its prosperity with closed borders with Azerbaijan and Turkey. If you do, you should reconsider. Armenian lobby will not support Sarkisyan forever! and statistacly I am right. Each year Armenian lobby all around the world sends less and less money to the country and THATS really bad for the people who live in Armenia and have to struggle everyday to feed their kids. So my friend instead of trying to explain things to me, I will suggets you to learn couple things yourself. I do not mean to be disrespectful, no don’t get me wrong. But with this kind of attitude you will not go far.
        Well anyways thx for the respons

        • David said:

          Patriot, although it appears that you commented with good intentions your words are nothing but pure garbage. Azerbaijan and Turkey always criticize Armenia for thinking about the past because they want their crimes to be forgotten. Your are right about the uselessness of OCSE Minsk, but only because they remain impartial even during the most serious Azeri transgressions (like the shelling of the Armenian village several weeks ago). And you are wrong about Armenia’s economy: we will progress because we are diversified and capable, while Azerbaijan relies on its oil. That oil won’t be around for much longer and, God willing, neither will Azerbaijan.

        • Stefan said:

          Dear Patriot
          It is rather a good start to communicate without hate or insulting, and most of appreciate your efforts to bring some sanity back to being good neighbours.

          However, you say you wish to talk about what happens rather than what happend in past. You see human beings we tend to judge on our past actions and based on the past 1000 years of actions by the Turks and other Turkic people, we have suffered terribaly, look at Nackhachivan, not one Church left, and not one SINGLE stone cross..

          So based on the current dempcratic judicial systems and teachings we have no choice but to judge the Turkic people on their past behaviour, you must also know that Armenians have Zero trust towards Turks & Azeri’s .

          We would rather eat bread crumbs and live in poverty than live under occupation again, do not be fooled by the pertol dollar, it will end one day
          And do not concern yourself about our economy or immigartion, but concern youself about the 1% of Azeri leadesr who are strealing Billions from your population and their hateful anti Armenian policies.

          Thank you for your comments

        • Avery said:

          {” Again if Azeri’s did killed anyone in Sumgait or Baku you killed 10 folds. “}

          There is no IF: documented facts. Hundreds of Armenian civilians were murdered (not killed) in Sumgait massacre (1988); Kirovabad massacre (1988); Baku massacre (1990). Note that there was no war until 1991. These defenseless Armenian civilians were massacred by Azeris in a pre-planned manner. The mobs had lists of precise addresses where Armenians lived in Sumgait and other cities. (provided by Azeri government officials)

          And then with war – that Azeris also started – the carnage continued: Operation Koltso massacre; War crime bombardment of Stepanakert. Maragha village massacre. It never ends.

          And what “10 times” are you talking about ? Don’t be coy: spell it out.

          And you want to forget the past and move on ? Good:
          1. Tell your leaders to stop the illegal killing of Armenian troops on the LOC, while the ceasefire requested by your leaders (in 1994) and signed by your leaders (in 1994) is in effect.
          2. Tell your leaders to accepts the Independence of Artsakh. All of Artsakh.

          Then we can forget the past and live together as good neighbors.

          And your concern about Armenia is touching: but don’t worry; we got her covered. (BTW: as of 2011, RoA population has stabilized and is slowly increasing).

    • ashot said:

      the only agreement i will reach with you is when you go back to mongolia and give me back my land you monkey.

    • Fred said:

      I agree there is always room for negotiation. But before this can happen. You need to have a goverment that thinks like you. The future of Caucus depends on this. The question is does Azerbaijan have the will to make a strong nation based on friendship with neighbours. Or are you happy to be at war all the time and be weak.

      • Patriot said:

        I don’t think that anyone is happy with war and especially “ashot” who wants us go back to mongolia :). With that kind of idelogy Americas must cease to exist and all white people must be shot dead because they killed the local population.Moreover Russians must go back to Kiev-Rus, British must be exiled from south Africa and so on. So with that kind of mentality none of us will go far. But Fred I do applaud your conserns and want to say to you that There are always people who are willing to work to solve this issue. This is not only Azerbijans problem. Trust me people in Azerbaijan say the same thing. Do Armenians relly want peace or not ? I think any rational person even in the moon has to say Yes to that question. So my friend I’am glad that there is at least people like you, who has willingness to be adult and talk about the future of the region and about our nations.

        • ash said:

          i will be very happy with a war i want to repay u turks for 1915…with my strength in my arms n legs i will do all i can..ill rape every azeri and burn ur children…like u did to my people but much much much worse..there can be no peace with mongol invaders..only war

          • Avery said:

            {“…ill rape every azeri and burn ur children…”}

            A sicko AzeriTurk or Turk pretending to be Armenian.
            Did you forget to take your Dr prescribed medications again Turkoglu ?

            {Projection – Psychological projection or projection bias is a psychological defense mechanism where a person subconsciously denies his or her own attributes, thoughts, and emotions, which are then ascribed to the outside world, usually to other people.}

      • christo said:

        I’m curious “Fred” were you one of those”Soft Armenians” davoutoglu met up with in Washington DC last month? Ay Vakhgod!

    • Halo said:

      You lost all privileges of being looked upon as Humans when your manufactured culture decided to follow in the footsteps of the genocidal Turks. You failed in this venture and now you are caught with your pants down. There is nothing left to discuss except the return of more historic Armenian lands from your loser imposter country.

  15. nana said:

    Թող Աստված օրհնի հայ ազատամարտիկներին:

  16. Stepan said:

    For generations as Armenians we have been inspired by the heroic efforts of Vartan in 451 to defend our faith and identity. In the last 90 years the diaspora and our people in Armenia has immortalized the heroic
    and fateful victors at Sardarabad. In both cases ,separated by centuries, the same value system emerged.
    When our identity was threatened, the odds or probability of success was irrlevant. We lost the Battle of Avarayr miltarily but continued the struggle another 34 years and our civilization was saved. Nvarsag became the Magna Charta of our people 700+ years earlier. Our genocide ravaged, poorlly equipped soliders in 1918
    prevented a final solution by the barbaric Turks. How did this happen? Faith and commitment.
    Now we have a third major inspiration to add to the volumes of inspiration…. the Karabagh war in general and the Shoushi liberation specifically. Incredible odds, but greater courage and resolve.
    The Azeris would be wise to study our history. They are about to join the Sassanid Persians in 484 and the Turks of 1918 as aggressors who tried and failed to overcome the will of a determined people faced with the loss of the most basic of God’s gifts…the collective freedom we gather from our free will.
    I pray for our brothers and sisters in Karabagh and thank God for their courage and inspiration

  17. Sassoun said:

    God Bless them all. I pray that our current government will honor their victory and not give an inch of land to the enemy. Let us all come together and help Artsakh to be a great palce to live for all Armenians.

  18. Araxi said:

    God Bless the souls of those who fought selflessly for our land and thanks to those fedayis who are living today and enjoying the fruit of their battles. God Bless Artsakh, God Bless Armenia and all Armenians.
    Աստված պահապան մեր ազգին և Հայրենիքին:

  19. Berge said:

    Agree with Patriot….We need to look beyond the hatred and move on albeit very carefully..we need to solve our problems independently of the big powers …. they have deceived and betrayed us in the past and they will do it again…Wake up Armenians and determine your own future…We can determine our own destiny and future…we do not need the Rusians nor the Americans for this…YES WE CAN DO IT

  20. ArdeVast Atheian said:

    Dear Patriot
    I am humbled by the risk you took to reach us on this subject.
    You are a very fine example of the Turkey and Azerbaijan that that we all can live with. I can see that it won’t be difficult to live like good neighbors if everyone behaved like you.
    We live in a century where war does not make sense especially when such good people as you are likely to reside on either side of our divide, that I would dread any prospect of hurting them.
    Armenians, Turks, Azeris and Muslims in that part of the world, share so much history that regardless of how bitter their hostilities of the past they can and should live in peace and harmony with each other.

  21. David said:

    Withouth a doubt, the liberation of Artsakh was essential to the survival and integrity of the Armenia. But we cannot stop there; Greater Armenia must be rebuilt. That means retaking Baku, Tiflis, Ani, Ararat, etc.., and nobody is going to help us do it. Hopefully, an enlightened statesman will be in control at some point and lead us to our dream.

  22. Gary A. said:

    Well said Ardevast,Fred and Patriot. We should always be open for friendship and peace that may benefit Armenia and Azerbaijan. it is encouraging to have people like patriot that has the courage to say how he said it and may ultimately change to result for the future peace. God bless the possiive thinking people. Selamlar……..

  23. arziv said:

    Patriot is right, and what is more we are already talking to each other. The problem is that we do not have people like patriot on the other side to talk to. So the impasse or deadlock continues. The diaspora will never , ever, abandon the motherland. Armenia is being depopulated ? This is a temporary phenomenom, it will redress itself sooner than later. Aliev appears to be and sounds like a war thirsty modern day Atlia the hun, maybe I am wrong, and his baying and braying is just for domestic consumption. As long as one has a barking dog outside the front door, keep the door locked until the barking dog goes away. Aliev will bark until he grows hoarse. Patriot pleae find more people like you and we may continue the talks with a view to concluding a final peace deal.

  24. elnur said:

    They say that if God wants to punish someone he first takes away their ability to reason. Do you really believe that Azerbaijanis will leave Shusha in your hands? Think strategically. All this victory chanting sounds misearable. You will either get real and think about your neighbor’s inalianable rights too, or pay for this attitude. This happiness of yours is really sad. I hope you see it.

    • christo said:

      Yeah you’re right. Your God might punish someone he first takes away their ability to reason, guess that is what the entire nation of turkey is suffering from. azeris left ARTZVAPNI (SHOUSHI) with their tales between their legs. Not only the azeri’s but the elite Bokurt units of the turkish forces, the mujahedeen, al qaida, and all those pakistani, taliban and foreign mercenaries, and guess what they left their arms and ammunition behind.
      Our God warned us beware of false prophets especially illiterate ones.

      • Avery said:

        In addition to those you listed, the tough and battle-hardened all volunteer Chechen battalion of Shamil Basayev, himself a very capable and experienced field commander, was defeated by the Dashnak battalion that participated in the Liberation of Shoushi.

        [De Waal. Black Garden, p. 179. Basayev would later remark that the only defeat he and his battalion had suffered had been against the Armenians in Karabakh against the “Dashnak battalion”.]

    • Avery said:

      yes we do: the fake state of Azerbaijan has no say in what original, indigenous inhabitants of Artsakh do with Shoushi.

      Descendants of nomadic tribes, who invaded South Caucasus from East and Central Asia, have no say in what the legal owners of Shoushi will do with it.

      And God has already punished the fake “Azeri” people, by taking away the ability to reason from their warmongering, megalomaniac leaders (Mutalibov, Elchibey, Aliyev Sr, Aliyev Jr): if your leaders had peacefully agreed to let NKR go when it declared Independence, thousands of your troops would not be KIA.
      Your non-reasoning leaders thought they’d have another one of their traditional, joyful gyavur-slaughtering picnics – and got their a____ handed to them by Artsakh’s Mountain Warriors.

      BTW: why “fake Azeri” people ?
      Glad you asked: before 1918, the Turkic tribes inhabiting the area with the current stolen name of Azerbaijan were simply called ‘Tatars’. After 1918, having successfully stolen the name of the Northern Iranian province ‘Azarbaijan’, Tatars magically became ‘Azeris’.

    • ash said:

      i pray that you turks give me my chance at glory…start the fight..this time we will finish u

    • Stefan said:

      Dear elnur, our inaliable rights will also ensure that we liberate Nackhchivan one day, do not be fooled by the short term glories, plastic & glitzy growth in Azerbajian, petro dollars will end soon, and if you think you can force your fake claims on our ancient Artsakh then so be it.
      This time if your natio n is foolish enough to start another war, then like you good Georgian friends you will simply loose more of your stolen lands.
      Be a good boy and accept the fact that Armenians outnumbered outgunned kicked your butts out of our lands, and let that be lesson, in the modern age the Armenians can will attack & support our Fatherland

  25. christo said:

    Yeah you’re right. Your God might punish someone he first takes away their ability to reason, guess that is what the entire nation of turkey is suffering from. azeris left ARTZVAPNI (SHOUSHI) with their tales between their legs. Not only the azeri’s but the elite Bozkurt units of the turkish forces, the mujahedeen, al qaida, and all those pakistani, taliban and foreign mercenaries, and guess what they left their arms and ammunition behind.
    Our God warned us beware of false prophets especially illiterate ones.