As the result of Armenia’s military aggression against Azerbaijan between 1991-1994, the Nagorno Karabakh Autonomous Region of Azerbaijan and seven adjacent regions of Agdam, Jabrayil, Fizuli, Kalbajar, Gubadli, Lachin, and Zangilan came under occupation. This unlawful act lasted over 26 years, and Karabakh’s intangible and tangible culture of historical importance has been brutally destroyed, demolished, and completely ruined. Twelve museums, six art galleries, nine historic palaces, one hundred and fifty-two sacred places, and temples, including sixty-two mosques, books, rare manuscripts, were destroyed, 927 libraries razed to the ground or set on fire. The cities of Agdam, Fizuli, Jabrail were utterly wiped out, Zangilan, Gubadli, Shusha ruined. Thousands of residential settlements, hundreds of historical and architectural monuments, caravanserais, mansions, mausoleums, cemeteries, crypts, tombstones, eradicated. The total estimated damage to Azerbaijan’s economy exceeds USD 300 billion, excluding moral and psychological damage.
Two central mosques in Shusha are The Lower (Ashagi) and the Upper (Yukhari) Govhar Agha, named after their location, in the town’s upper and lower sides. Jewels of the Islamic Architecture, these mosques were funded by famous Shusha philanthropist Govhar Agha, daughter of Ibrahim Khalil Khan of Karabakh Khanate, whose real name was Govharnisa. Designed by architect Safikhan Karabakhi, work on the Upper Mosque was instigated by Ibrahim Khalil Khan in 1768, yet it took years to finish. Not until 1883, the building’s construction was resumed, and its completion only transpired in 1885. The work on the Lower Mosque was concluded in 1874-1875, eight years before the Upper one. The significant difference between these two is in the locations of minarets. In the Lower mosque, they stand in the rear facade’s corners, whereas in the Upper one, minarets were erected in front of the building.
The construction of the Haji-Gulu Alasgarov mansion in Shusha began in 1849 and was completed by 1851. Alasgarov was a wealthy silk merchant and founder of the silk factories in Shusha. The architecturally awe-inspiring building of its time, the Haji-Gulu estate, comprised national elements. This three-story palace consisted of 46 rooms and two large halls. A famous Russian artist, V. Vereschagin, who traveled to South Caucasus in 1865, depicted one of the large halls in his “Susha Series” paintings. Unfortunately, substantial artillery damage left the building in ruins. Only outer walls remain.
The Agdam Bread Museum was established in 1983 and was one of the main attractions of the city. After the Museum Mühlerama in Switzerland, it became the second bread museum devoted to farming, milling, and baking. The Museum was built on the old, ruined mill that faithfully served the Agdam people during WWII and thus considered sacred. Fossilized ancient grains, rare cereals, numerous valuable books on grain farming, manuscripts, labor tools – wooden plows, threshing board, toothed sickle, reaping hook, hand-mill, and thresher were among the exhibits collected in the Museum. On August 12, 1992, the Armenian military fired a missile and put an end to the Agdam Bread Museum’s existence, and about 1,500 exhibits in the Museum were burned down.
Khudavang or Dedeveng Monastery Complex is located in the Vang village of Kalbajar District, on the left bank of Tartar River. It is one of the most extensive and attractive Christian architecture of Azerbaijan. It is believed that the Apostle Thaddeus, the first Christian missionary in the Caucasus, was buried there. Founded in the 4th century, the monastery’s construction was completed in the 13th century, during the reign of Albanian Duke Vakhtang. The main Church was built in 1214 by Arzu Hatun, Vakhtang’s wife. She and her daughters worked on the interior murals of the Church. There are delicate carvings on the western and northern sides of the Church.
As a historical monument of architecture, the Church was built in Kuropatkino of Khojavand region in 1894. It is the only architectural monument and Church in the Nagorno-Karabakh region that belongs to the Russian Orthodox Church and represents the typical architectural style of Russian architectural monuments. The Church was destroyed due to the Khojavand region of Azerbaijan by the Armenian Armed Forces in 1992.
The two-story house belonging to Khurshudbanu Natavan, popularly known as “Khan’s daughter,” is a historical and architectural monument of the 18th century in Shusha city.
Shusha Music School, the first children’s music school established in Azerbaijan on the initiative of Bulbul, the founder of Azerbaijan’s vocal art, began operating in this building in the early 1930s. Since 1984, the School was renamed Shusha Children’s Art School, named after Niyazi. After the restoration of the Natavan’s House in 1987, the Karabakh branch of the National Museum of Azerbaijani Literature named after Nizami Ganjavi began to operate in this building and named after Khurshudbanu Natavan. Hundreds of artworks, including paintings, carpets, miniatures, souvenirs, archeological samples collected and exhibited in the Museum.
The Museums were faced with Armenian vandalism after the occupation of Shusha city by the Armenian Armed Forces on May 8, 1992. As a result, all of the exhibits mentioned above and collections of the Museum were destroyed.
A thousand-year-old bridge in Azerbaijan is on the brink of collapse due to neglect by the occupying Armenian army. The Khudaferin Bridge in Jabrayil province has suffered nearly three decades of neglect. The Azerbaijani military recently liberated the province. According to Iranian historian Hamdallah Mustawfi, the bridge was built in 1027 A.D.
The bridge is considered one of the most important monuments of Azerbaijan with its free architectural style and arches and the use of river stones in the construction. The bridge is located at the border of Azerbaijan and Iran and connects the northern and southern banks of the Aras River. The 27-year neglect of the Armenian army is evident in the region, with Khudaferin looking like a ghost village.
The School was established in 1881. Mirza Salah bey Zohrabbeyov, Yusif bey Malikhaqnazarov, Hashim bey Vazirov, were part of the well-known educators of the time who taught in the School. The two famous Azerbaijani writers Abdurrahim bey Hagverdiyev and Yusif Vazir Chamanzaminli, were amongst the students who enrolled at the Shusha Realni School. Shusha Realni School was considered an exemplary educational institution at that time. Special attention was paid to the learning and teaching of foreign languages and literature.
Abdurrahim bey Hagverdiyev and Yusif Vezir Chamanzaminli, famous Azerbaijani writers, were graduates of the School. Unfortunately, after the 1992 Armenian occupation, it was utterly destroyed.
The construction of the Museum Mausoleum Complex of outstanding Azerbaijani poet Molla Panah Vagif began in 1977. Architects A. V. Salamzade and E. I. Kanukov’s designed the monument. The complex was inaugurated in January of 1982. The memorial was erected on the tomb of the great poet located in the area close to the famous Jidir Duzu (horse race field) – the prominent place of Shusha. About eighty museum artifacts reflecting the period of M. P. Vagif’s life in Shusha were exhibited there. As a result of the occupation of Shusha by the Armenian Armed Forces in May 1992, the complex building and dozens of exhibits were destroyed, and portable displays were carried to Armenia.