The liberation of Shoushi was the most significant turning point in the Karabakh movement, and today, 17 years later, its significance is even more crucial to the Armenian reality as we live in uncertain political times.
The last two weeks have been fraught with developments that have shaken the Armenian reality as we know it. The announcement of a “roadmap” agreement by Armenia, Turkey and Switzerland, speculation on whether the Karabakh conflict resolution will be a precondition to normalizing relations with Turkey, the dual disappointment from President Obama-no to Genocide and slashing of aid to Armenia-and the vague announcement that Armenia and Azerbaijan are “inching closer” to an agreement have made the Karabakh liberation movement, and especially the victory in Shoushi more than just a bright page in modern Armenian history, but a crucial element in our national self-preservation.
It goes without saying that any peace agreement that will alter the current status of Karabakh (save its reunification with Armenia) will critically endanger the population of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and pose a threat to the national security of not just Karabakh but also Armenia.
The victory in Shoushi ensured an imminent end to the war and guaranteed the liberation of all of Artsakh. The sheer resilience of the people of Karabakh and their unwavering commitment for self-determination and freedom were the hallmarks of a movement marred by bloodshed, war and oppression. Their heroism became a lesson for all Armenians regardless of their proximity to Karabakh or Armenia and proved that the decades-long struggle for justice was not in vain.
As we are thrust in a new political reality, where foreign forces are pressuring Armenia to give up its hard-won freedoms, we-as a nation-must come together to ensure that the heroism as a result of which Shoushi was liberated and Karabakh was won also was not in vain.
As the late Nobel laureate Andrei Sakharov declared at the height of the Karabakh movement, for Azerbaijan Karabakh is a matter of prestige, whereas for Armenia it is a matter of survival.
Almost two decades later, the losses incurred by Azerbaijan are still a matter of prestige-emasculation-whereas the preservation of Karabakh remains, now, more than ever, a matter of life and death.
We honor those who fought hard to liberate Shoushi and Karabakh as we mark this momentous anniversary.