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Shusha: Two Decades of Exile, Devastation and Hope

The people of Azerbaijan and Azerbaijanis throughout the world paused to remember the 20th anniversary of the Armenian occupation of Shusha and the devastation of Karabakh's once most picturesque and vibrant towns.

Shusha stands as uniquely important for the history and culture of Azerbaijan. An Israeli author Brenda Shaffer compared Shusha to Jerusalem - an appropriate parallel in the South Caucasus regional context. This mountainous community gave Azerbaijan the overwhelming majority of its poets and composers, including the medieval princess-poet Natavan and the author of the first ever Muslim opera UzeyirHajibayov.

Armenia celebrates the barbaric destruction of this ancient community and the accomplished total ethnic cleansing as a victory. Sadly, a celebration of aggression and intolerance by Armenia coincides with the date when the rest of the world marks the victory in WWII. The stark difference between Azerbaijan's exercise of global leadership by assuming the Presidency of the United Nations Security Council this month and Armenia's deepening self-imposed isolation as a result of its ethno-centric policies reflects the choices made by the two nations, respectively.

The future of Shusha is crucial for any settlement between Armenia and Azerbaijan. It has been the heart of Karabakh for centuries, and for the last two decades this heart has been broken. The soul of Shusha is not in the present-day Armenian-controlled ghost town; it lives among the refugee communities scattered around Azerbaijan. Therefore, restoring Shusha is not an architectural makeover project, it can only be an initiative that includes a peace agreement and brings its Azerbaijani natives back home.

Source: Embassy of Azerbaijan in the United States

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