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.