Shusha - The land above our head

Boyukagha Mikayilli - Interview


The land above our head

 My way to Shusha passes through the schools.  Starting from the beginning of 2000’s I had rubric of ‘Education in Shusha during refugee years’ in the newspaper ‘Tehsil ve zaman’ (‘Education and Time’). In the article I wrote in that rubric I dealt with the history of education, science and culture, including I wrote about the eminent personalities in the field of science and art.


I also wrote about the traditions of education in Shusha, the pedagogical experience of advanced teachers of Shusha, the problems of education during the refugee years. In the rubric ‘Venerable teacher’ I had dedicated my first article to a teacher from Shusha. I studied Shusha from the inhabitants of Shusha, who immortalized the grief, the history, the memory of happy and unhappy days of Shusha in their hearts, and who found a consolation with those memories. They were like a school in themselves. The school that spoke you about its miracles…The history of education of Shusa told me much about the past.

 The first worldly school was established in Shusha, it was like the foundation   for the rich traditions of education.  Shusha made a worthy gift to our cultural values to which the world look at admiringly. The preparation of pedagogical cadres was put on in Shusha about a century ago.   Shusha Teachers’ Seminary was established only after a year Azerbaijan State Pedagogical University was founded. 

 Before writing an article about the 85 yearly anniversary of that seminary I had studied some interesting nuance about its history. Thousands of teachers were trained in that seminary and were sent to different schools of Azerbaijan. In Shusha, alongside with the state schools there were private schools, Govher Agha school, Semed bey Aghayev’s school.

 From the books I read about Shusha, from the memories I listened to, a picture that was created from the mix of the colors that didn’t exist in any part of the world, enlivened in front of my eyes. It was a wistful work.  The eyes which shed tears for Shusha, the holy soil being watered with the martyrs’ blood, the anxious spirits of spiritual monuments filled into my heart like an ache. I remember well, in 2000, in Baku, at Azerbaijan State Academic National Drama Theatre the 250 yearly anniversary of Shusha was celebrated. I also was invited to the anniversary ceremony as a journalist.

There I heard some more interesting information about the history of Shusha, the foundation of which was put by Penaheli khan, I felt the sorrow of Shusha with my spirit. I prepared an article about that ceremony. My article was titled as ‘250 yearly anniversary of Shusha was celebrated without Shusha’. That article was the expression of my sorrow and grief about Shusha.  But today we started on our trip to Shusha after saying good-bye to the sorrow in our hearts.  We were going in order to join to our spirit that was parted from our body for years.  Shusha was liberated from occupation thanks to the iron will of Azerbaijani Army and Victorious Commander-in-Chief.  Shusha welcomed us like a native mother.


Conqueror of hearts

 As if Shusha is the mountain- tree planted on the earth by the great God. In different parts of the world there are cities on the top of mountain; the cities getting over the clouds, the cities kissing the sky. But our Shusha, mountain-tree is different from the other cities situated on the top of the mountains. That is to say, Shusha could be the conqueror of the hearts.  Shusha is the city of the mugham singers who had miraculous voices, where the nature pearls exist naturally.  It is the land of spiritual values, unique air stream filtered from the sky. ‘Qirkh pilleken (‘Forty stairs’) ,  ‘Khan’s cave’, ‘Yeddiqat’ (‘Sevenlayers’) ‘Erimgeldi fortress’, ‘Qirkhchanaq fortress’, Isa bulaghi , ‘Khan qizi bulaghi (‘The spring of Khan’s daughter’), ‘Shekili bulag’, ‘Dashalty  bulaghi’, ‘Soyuqbulagh’, (‘Cold spring’), ‘Sakhsi bulagh’, ‘Sekine bulaghi’, ‘Isti bulagh’, ‘Charikh bulagh’, ‘Qirkh bulag’, ‘Yuzbulagh’, ‘Shorbulagh’, ‘Turshsu’, ‘Yuz bulagh’, ‘Devebatiran bulaghi’,  ‘Findighli bulaghi’, ‘Ejdaha bulaghi’, ‘Turshsu’, ‘Shirlan suyu’, ‘Topxhana forest’- with these Shusha  looks like the heart of the world. 

As soon as we started on our journey along ‘Victory road’ as if a huge heart was drawing us towards Shusha. As if you hear the heartbeats of Shusha.  It seems to you that as if a part of your heart is waiting for you there.  Now nothing could prevent the vehicles speeding along that road.  But in both sides of us, surrounding us in the right and left sides, in the gray fields the signs of the obstacles that would make us to join our spirits are seen clearly. Some parts of the iron wires in the lands which had been invaded by force are still there.  As if those wires had been embed between the spirit and body. Now only some signs of those wires are left, and they have lost their importance. Not depending on which part of our motherland you  are, ‘Victory Road’ will lead  you to Shusha.


‘Aorta’ of Victory Road’

 We are going towards Shusha.  It is cloudy.  The newly built ‘Victory Road’ passes through the ruins of the villages, settlements that had been ruined by the Armenians.  This road brings new life, new breath to Qarabagh.  These lands flourish as the breath of real owners- that is to say, the Azerbaijani’s breath touch there, the grief of 30 years as if disappears. As if the liberated lands smile at you, say ‘I love you, you are mine’. All what we see there, in the memory of each tree, each bush, each spring, the birds flying on the sky, the ants rummaging in the soil, the pain of the troublous days during enemy occupation lives. Human being never can become estranged with their dear ones. Despite of being separated for many years, not seeing one another you never forget them, but seeing them your eyes fill the tears of joy. The lands are also like human beings. Lands draw you towards themselves, you feel closeness.  Human beings get the energy from the warmth, coldness of the lands where they came to life, might walk confidently if put their feet on the land firmly. 

One of our fellow-travelers said that we were passing through the center of Fuzuli District. Fuzuli city witnessed to the Armenian vandalism. Not only the buildings were destroyed, but also the stones were broken into pieces, the grasses, trees were burnt. One of the joyful days during forty-four days’ Patriotic war was the day we heard the good news about the liberation of Fuzuli.  The city named after our great poet Fuzuli, was called by the Armenians as ugly Varanda.  The victorious army of Azerbaijan liberated Fuzuli after one attack. We fought, the courageous sons of Azerbaijan became martyrs, but at the end we returned to our historical lands.  At present time, Fuzuli is a part of ‘Victory Road’ leading to Shusha. Fuzuli is like the ‘aorta’ of ‘Victorious Road’.

Shusha is seen in front

Shusha impressed me with its looking like the land above our head. The mighty God created it in such a highness that there is no higher land above it. The God created the brave sons of Azerbaijani so that only they could rise to that height, and teach miracle to the magic mountains.

We ascend to Shusha along ‘Victory Road’. This road is like our brave soldiers, our purposes, so high and magnificent. It is impossible to move forward without feeling excitement. Each inch of this road expresses iron will of Azerbaijani soldier. Mountains of Shusha are in front of our eyes like the most beautiful and magnificent rocks of the world. Moving towards those mountains even you feel that as if you are turning to a part of them. You turn to a rock, you become air, or water, or become a handful of soil of motherland, and mix it. You feel the footsteps of our soldiers, as if the blood of martyrs mixed into the soil is running through your veins. Little time is left to autumn.  Though most of the grasses have turned yellow, some flowers and medicinal herbs are still green. We don’t see Kharibulbul which has become symbol of love, attachment to native land.  In order to see this flower we must wait for the sp ring season.

Our driver stopped the bus for some minutes. We get out of the bus. We breathe the fresh air of Shusha, alongside with its air as if the spirit of Shusha fills into our hearts. Dashalty is seen from a distance. The name of this village passes through our hearts like an ache for thirty years. This village witnessed the martyrdom of more than 100 Azerbaijani soldiers during The First Qarabagh War. Now the spirits of our martyrs are above Dashalty. This village welcomes us and sees us off to the land above our head. I hear the sounds of the forest, and creeks.  The trees swing in the gentle breeze. This is an eternal feature of Shusha. The breeze blowing from the mountains Boyuk Kirs, Kichik Kirs, Saribaba, Shishtepe, Uzunyal and Qizildash join in Shusha and create the nature miracle specific to Shusha-the nature miracle that exists in none of the part of the world except Shusha.


Impassable roads are passed with the strength of spirit

The roads become hard.  Even it isn’t easy to rise up Shusha by modern bus either. I watch Shusha mountains.  Even if when it was difficult to rise up Shusha through straight road, after the order of Supreme Commander – in-Chief the brave soldiers of our army climbed the cliffs with the help of the power of their arms and feet and freed Shusha. Impassible roads are passed with the strength of spirit. Such spirit was gifted to Azerbaijani soldiers the aim of to free the lands of motherland. The Azerbaijani soldiers proved one reality by achieving the liberation of Shusha:  It is possible to gain victory with the strength of the arms, the firmness in the heart and spirit, the love to the history, spiritual values.

We passed near the military post where the Azerbaijani soldiers stood, and entered Shusha.  On the mountains in the right side of the road the banners of Azerbaijan and Turkey are waving. The banners of two brotherly countries are seemed magnificent in the background of the word ‘Shusha’ written on a board in the entrance of the city.  We pass nearby the electric station which was built recently by the Azerbaijan government. That station will provide all the territory with electric and in the city of ‘light’, ‘morality’ and ‘culture’ – in Shusha the lights will never be off, lights will be on forever.


 The irreplaceable treasure of mankind

We are in Shusha. In ghazals of Aghabeyim agha, the daughter of Ibrahim Khalil khan, yearning for motherland, in the  good deeds  and   creative activity of Khan’s daughter  Khurshidbanu Natavan, in the poetry of Molla Penah Vagif , rose from the people’s spirit, Qasim bey Zakir’s  stories told in verse and realist activity,  in the remarkable voices of Jabbar Qaryaghdioghlu, Kechechi oghlu Mohammed, Seyid Shushinski,  Khan Shushinski, Kharrat Qulu, Haji Husu, Sadiqjan, Bulbul, Meshedi Isi, Ebdul Baghi Zulalov, Zulfu Adigozelov,  Reshid Behbudov, in the compositions and  songs of Uzeyir Hajibeyli,  Fikret Emirov,  and Niyazi,  in the literary works  of Yusif Vezir Chemenzeminli, Nejef bey Vezirov,  Ehmed bey Aghaoghlu  and Ebdurrehim bey Haqverdiyev,  in the research works and paintings  of Mir Mohsum Nevvab, in the scientific works of  historian Mirze Jamal Javanshir, Mirze Adigozel bey,  in the enlightenment  deeds of Hamida khanim Javanshir,  in the social-political  activity of  Javad bey Melikyeqanov,  in the  loops of Letif Kerimov  Shusha city gained eternal life,  turned to the qible of our culture and morality.  Shusha was our voice, music, school, poem, story, the book that lives in the hearts eternally.  It absorbed to our memory, has been the symbol of our pride, turned to a monument in our thinking.

 Shusha’s air, water, soil, stone, flower and grass mixed with our blood. This city impressed the hearts with its cultural monuments. Yusif Vezir Chemenzeminli wrote as following: ‘According to the richness of the architectural monuments Shusha can be considered the historical inheritance’.

The musical instruments which were made in Shusha admired the musicians, music experts with their perfect sound. The spirit of Shusha arose from the unity of poetry, music, science and architectural art. Since the first day of its foundation Shusha was the city absorbing the history and contemporaneity to its spirit.  Those who had been formed in its scientific and literary environment turned to treasure not only for Azerbaijan but for the entire world, and spread its fame all over the world.  The Russian poet Sergei Yesenin wrote so: ‘If you can’t sing, that is to say, you aren’t from Shusha’.  People’s poet Samad Vurgun expressed his thoughts about Shusha as following: ‘Shusha became famous not only with its nice nature but also with its harmonious and poetical culture’. Shusha was declared ‘Cultural capital’ of Azerbaijan, one of the reasons of its being declared cultural capital is its rich culture.  We are grateful to honorable Ilham  Aliyev for declaring that  exceptional status to  Shusha.


 To taste Shusha bread in Shusha

 We are in Shusha, in the city destroyed by the Armenian vandals. After the liberation of Shusha our government began to rebuild that old city. I walk in the streets of Shusha sharing my sorrow with it. The Armenians tried to turn Shusha to an Armenian city, but they couldn’t carry out their aim, because Shusha never gave its heart to strangers. It is impossible to change this city.  The blood of Azerbaijan is inside of its soil.  Only the real owners of this city can rebuild it. The honorable Commander-in-Chief said on the day when Shusha was freed from occupation: ‘Dear Shusha, you are free! Dear Shusha, we will revive you!’

At present at any step we feel the revival of Shusha. As if the city breathes slowly and returns to its former seething life. I walk along the old quarters and streets of Shusha.  Fine breeze grabs the time from my hand, I stop and watch the time moving off me. Suddenly I feel smell of bread. I approach to the bakery, there is a long queue. I want to taste Shusha bread.  For the first time in my life I am not bored of waiting in a queue. On the contrary, I wish the queue be longer than today’s. Let the tandir and bread of Shusha be always hot…


That love was the road leading to Shusha

 We visit the shot statues. The statue of great poetess Khan’s daughter Khurshidbanu Natavan, the world-famed composer Uzeyir Hajibeyli’s and genius Bulbul’s shot statues.  For us, the Azerbaijani people these statues are dignified page of our history and culture, but the shot statues are the example of shame and vandalism for the Armenians. The world already know that   the Armenian barbarity displays itself not only in the alive persons but also in the statues too.  It is possible to shoot the statues   but it is impossible to kill them, because those personalities live in the memory, in the spirit, in the blood of the people. I remember the events which I took part in Shusha schools. I remembered the poems which the pupils recited by heart, the handicrafts they demonstrated, including the paintings they drew themselves.  During those years love to Shusha lived in the hearts.  That love was the road leading to Shusha. In fact, in the hearts of all of us there was the monument of our lands invaded and trampled by the enemies. In the monument we erected in our hearts, the Azerbaijani soldier were marching in Qarabagh proudly.

We climb up Jidir Plain slowly. It seems to you that the entire Azerbaijan is seen from there and Azerbaijan sees you.  You are terrified seeing the cliffs. The Dashalty creek looks like a path stretching along the valleys.   At times it is either seen among the greenness, or unseen because of thick grasses and trees.  Sometimes the trees in the valley and the running creek there aren’t seen because of the clouds.  You want to acquire wings and to fly above the clouds. The precipice cliffs couldn’t be obstacle for the Azerbaijani soldiers while conquering the city. On the contrary, those cliffs played the role of bridge in the roads leading to achieve their wishes. The spirit of our martyrs revived those rocks.  To conquer Shusha by getting over those cliffs is an example to the perpetuity of the human power.


The native inhabitants bring the warmth to the old city

One of the examples of Armenian vandalism in Shusha is the ‘Jidir Plain’ grave-yard near ‘Jidir Plain’.  I take a step among the graves surrounded by the thorns and shrubs.  All the graves were destroyed. The graves of the martyrs of the First Qarabagh War were also knocked down. As if Martyrs’ Avenue never existed in that place. During the First Qarabagh War the martyrs were buried in the highest place of the city. No doubt, soon that graveyard will also be renovated.  From the graveyard the Shusha mountains and Khankendi are seen clearly. In the place a bit below there is the Vagif ‘s museum-mausoleum. The road leading to the mausoleum passes through the rose bushes. As if the mausoleum returned to its former form after the breath of the Azerbaijani touched to it. The Vagif Poetry Days brought the romantic spirit of Shusha to it again.  Shusha was covered with poetry garland.  That is to say Shusha is revived not only superficially but also its spirit is revived. The warmth is brought here by the native people. Seeing the renovation process our hearts are full of joy. The house–museum of great Bulbul has opened its doors to us.  It is happiness to see the   crowd in front of the hotels ‘Kharibulbul’ and ‘Qarabagh’, the electric lines, new buildings in the city. In one word, the restore of the infrastructure are restored. About 200 historical monuments existing in Shusha will be restored.  Soon the schools will open their doors in order to continue the education of Shusha. All the renovation process will be carried out by taking into consideration the   historical architecture style of Shusha, its relief, and keeping the greenness.

We go out from the Vagif mausoleum and walk toward Yukhari Govher Agha mosque-Shusha Friday mosque. Govher Agha mosque is one of the morality monuments that immortalizes the spirit of Shusha, which witnessed to the history of the city, guided to its future. That mosque has a strange atmosphere.  In that mosque you feel the voice of Penaheli khan, Ibrahimkhalil khan, Govher agha, architect Kerbalayi Sefikhan Qarabaghi. This mosque is a stony inscription speaking silently. While watching that mosque you think that you know everything related with Shusha. Some of our fellow travelers perform namaz. As if I am listening to the Muslim call to the prayer sounded by our soldiers after Shusha was freed from the invaders.  Since that time wherever I hear Azan, it seems to me that the call is coming from Shusha.  The new mosque in Shusha will be one of the spiritual monuments of Azerbaijan. That mosque will be one of symbols of our Victory history.

It is late afternoon.  It is time to part with Shusha.  We climb down from ‘The Seven layer of the sky ‘through Yeddiqat.  The land above our head waves good–bye to us, splashes water wishing luck to us, to return here again.  It is drizzling. It is a sign to something.  As if light was falling on Shusha from the sky. I whisper: ‘Good-bye, Shusha! See you soon!’


Baku- Shusha- Baku



Translated from Azerbaijani into English by Yasamen Gadirova