Shushi ic currently occupied, half-destroyed and looted by Azeris who carry on works to distort and erase its Armenian identity.

An aerial view of Shushi.

Shushi, one of the Armenian towns famous for its military history, architecture and spiritual, cultural and educational life, is only 11 kilometres from the capital city Stepanakert, is the centre of the Shushi region and located at 1238-1533 metres above sea level.

Part of the famous Shushi fortress wall with a round tower. The fortress has had four main gates.Military commander Avan’s smaller residence-castle in the background.
Shushi from below, The village Karintak (literally meaning 'beneath the rock) was named so because of this cliff.
Different parts of Shushi offer different views of Stepanakert. Azerbaijanis used this geographical advantage to constantly bomb the capital city from heavy artillery in an effort to kill or oust the population so that Armenians could not demand sovereignty.

Shushi particularly prospered in the 19th century when the town saw revival and progress. It had a silk mill, four leather tanneries, three dying shops, four printing presses, five inns, a hospital, and one hundred and eighty-five various shops. By the middle of the 19th century it was the fourth city in South Caucasus in terms of population, trade and industrial turnover  and cultural dynamism. Such was its wealth that for example, one well-off Armenian merchant, T. Tamiryants, sponsored the building of a water-supply pipe that brought water to the entire city from eighteen kilometres away. 

This unique photo offers the combined view of two Shushi marvels: the St Hovhannes Mkrtich Church (John the Baptist, left) and St Amenaprkich (Holy Saviour) Ghazanchetsots Church (in the background). Both have been vandalized after the city was occupied.


St. Amenaprkich (Saviour of All) Ghazanchetots Church built in the 19th century. It had to be renovated after the liberation of Shushi, as Azerbaijanis had caused it structural damage and turned it into a warehouse for missiles and rockets used for attacking Stepanakert. Sadly, the Azeris intentionally targeted it during the 2020 war and set out changing its exterior after the city was occupied. 

St. Amenaprkich (Saviour of All) Ghazanchetots Church in winter.
Ghazanchetsots after being hit by high precision missiles during the 2020 war. Several civilians were wounded, including foreigners. Photos of the war damage are by David Ghahramanyan.
St. Amenaprkich (Saviour of All) Ghazanchetots Church and Shushi before the 1920 massacres of Armenians and the destruction of the city. Photo courtesy of Raffi Kortoshian, Director, Research on Armenian Architecture.
After taking hold of the city, Azeris set out distorting the looks of the church. Photo courtesy of Raffi Kortoshian, Director, Research on Armenian Architecture.

Kanach Zham

St. Hovhannes Mkrtich (John the Baptist) Church is popularly known as Kanach Zham (the “Green Church”).

It was built in 1847 and, together with Ghazanchetsots was one of the only two churches in Shushi that have survived the turmoil of the time.

The domes of the John the Baptist (or Kanach Zham) Church before being blown up by Azeris. 
It is evident from photos disseminated by Azeris themselves that the church was intact when the city was taken, and was deliberately destroyed right after it.                      Photos of the row above are courtesy of Raffi Kortoshian, Director, Research on Armenian Architecture.
The church has a mysterious air about it and attracts worshipers and tourists in all seasons.

In the beginning of the 20th century Shushi, with around 30,000 inhabitants, was one of the largest cities in the South Caucasus

1In 1905 clashes between Tatars and Armenians resulted in the destruction of the best part of the city, the Armenian merchant quarter. Turkish troops invaded Shushi in September 1918 but fortunately left in October when Turkey was defeated in WWI. The British, who replaced the Turks, appointed Khosrov bek Sultanov, a known Armenophobe as Governor of Karabakh.  Sultanov did his best to create special Kurdish gangs ready for anything (so called “janbezars”), brought in thousands of Azeri troops, lodged them in the barracks seized from Armenians, and allowed numerous Turkish officers to act freely in the city. Armenian pogroms were first organized in Shushi and surrounding villages on June 5, 1919, however the plan for annihilation of Armenians, designed in advance, was put into full action in the night of March 22 to 23, 1920. The overwhelming majority of the 35,000 Armenians inhabitants of the city were killed by the Azeri Musavats and Turks, and the Armenian part of the town was plundered, burnt and destroyed.

The Self-Defences Forces of Karabakh did their best not to damage the houses of worship, the two19th century Shushi mosques (the Upper Mosque in the picture on the right and the Lower Mosque in the central photo. The city authorities even found funds in their tight budget to renovate the Upper Mosque. The mosques, among other monuments, were under Government protection.
The Upper or Gohar Agha Mosque in Shushi after its renovation by the IDeA Foundation and the authorities of the Republic of Artsakh in 2019. 

In march 1921, the Bolshevik party decided to annex Karabakh to Azerbaijan, violating not only the human rights of  Karabakh’s population, but also its very own rules of procedure. When the Nagorno Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (NKAO) was created in 1923, the Azerbaijani government moved the capital from Shushi to the historic Armenian Vararakn, called Khankendi by the Azeris but renamed into Stepanakert at that point. Life in Shushi degraded. In the 1960s the Azerbaijani government launched a so called reconstruction program which was basically aimed at building over the former Armenian quarter and covering all trace of Armenians.  

The liberation of Shushi in 1992.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Photos by H. Berberyan.
Azeris destroyed and desecrated the Holy Saviour Church, turning parts of it into a military warehouse, being certain that Armenians would not fire at their church. 

In 1988 Shushi turned into a Azeri stronghold, from where the remaining 2,000 Armenians were violently forced out. Armenian monuments were desecrated, looted, destroyed, the Ghazanchetsots St. Amenaprkich Church, one of the best examples of Armenian faith architecture in the entire region, was turned into an ammunition store and Shushi became the ideal spot from where to bomb Stepanakert.

Shushi is built on a plateau and was surrounded by 6-8 metres tall walls, which were first built in 1720s and then rebuilt in 1850s. A part of the northern wall and a tower have survived. The first general plan for Shushi was developed by Russian military engineers in the 1820s and reviewed in 1837, 1844 and 1855. The Armenian quarter occupied the elevated part of the city and consisted of several districts each having its central part and a church. Two-three-storey stone-build houses typical of Armenian architecture in Artsakh were of special artistic value. Of the five churches built in refined limestone only two have survived, the St. Hovhannes Mkrtich (St. John Baptist,  1847), otherwise also known as the Green Church and the St. Amenaprkich (Saviour of All) Ghazanchetsots Cathedral  (1887) which is the present centre of the Artsakh  Diocese. They were shut down as other churches in Artsakh in 1930s. 

The Technical Secondary School built in 1881 is an impressive building and used to be a significant architectural landmark.


The old Eastern-type bath-house of Shushi was functioning up to the occupation of the city and offered a mixture of old and new relaxation under the centuries-old arched roofs.

Shushi has been an important centre of Armenian cultural life. Armenian Basil Bible Society college and printing press operated in Shushi from 1827 to 1837, M. Hakobyan’s printing press opened in 1880. About twenty periodicals were published at various times: “Haikakan Ashkharh” (Armenian Land) from 1864 to 1871 and from 1874 to 1879, “Knar khosnak” (1881), “Gorts” (Business) from 1882 to 1884, “Azgagrakan Handes”  (Ethnographic Journal) in 1895 (1st volume), “Gharabagh” in 1911-12, “Paiqar” (Struggle) from 1914 to 1917, “Pailak” from 1915 to 1917, “Tsiatsan” (Rainbow) in 1916, “Aparazh” (Rock) from 1917 to 1919, etc. Theatrical life started with the efforts of students in 1848 and troupes gradually started involving professional actors. Guest professionals (such as the renowned Petros Adamyan in 1882) performed there as well. The Khandamiryan Theatre started functioning in 1891. Shushi is home to many famous Armenian writers, sculptors, historians, military leaders and statesmen. 

The building of the Shushi Art Centre shortly after the city was liberated.
The Shushi Art Centre  building during reconstruction.
The Shushi Art Centre  building after reconstruction.
The building of the Ministry of Culture of Artsakh in Shushi. 
A residential building in Shushi.
A music school  in Shushi. 
A statue of Vazgen Sargsyan, a hero of Artsakh and later a Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia. 
V. Sargsyan's monument after Shushi was taken by Azeris. Photo from Karabakh Records Telegram channel.
The Shushi Art and Youth Centre that had opened not long before the 2020 Azeri aggression was also deliberately targeted.                                                                         Photos by David Ghahramanyan. 


The vistas of the awe-inspiring canyon of the Hunot River from Shushi.
A winter scene from the fortress of Shushi.