By Vafa Ismayilova
President Ilham Aliyev has said that restoration and revival of Azerbaijan’s historic Shusha city is a common cause for Azerbaijanis following the city’s liberation from 28 years of the Armenian occupation.
Aliyev made the remarks on January 27 in a video format meeting with Aydin Karimov, whom he appointed as the president's special representative in Shusha district.
"I am appointing you Special Representative of the President in Shusha district. Great confidence is being placed in you. Shusha has a special place in the hearts of the Azerbaijani people… We have returned to Shusha, and from now on the people of Azerbaijan will live in Shusha forever – just as Shusha has always been an Azerbaijani city, and despite Armenian attempts to falsify this, the whole world recognizes and accepts Shusha as an Azerbaijani city," President Ilham Aliyev said.
He recalled that the institute of the president's special representative on Azerbaijan's liberated territories was established on his initiative on 19 January and the first appointment is to Shusha district.
Aliyev added that the restoration of Shusha will always be in his spotlight, and Shusha will restore its historical appearance in the near future. He noted that corresponding instructions had been issued on Shusha's protection.
"Azerbaijani servicemen are guarding Shusha, control and will continue to control the adjacent heights. A commandant's office has been set up in Shusha, and an institute of civil administration is being established now. I want to say again that great confidence has been placed in you, because Shusha occupies a special place in the history of Azerbaijan, and the restoration and revival of Shusha is our common cause. Of course, all the work should be carried out in a planned manner. It is necessary to preserve the historical appearance of Shusha, no buildings alien to Shusha should be allowed," he said.
Aliyev added that Shusha's restoration will be based on the analysis conducted by a large group of specialists, who, inspected and analyzed everything in the city for several days. He described the implementation of an infrastructure project in the city as a priority.
"As far as the infrastructure projects are concerned, it is possible to say that Shusha is an absolutely backward city from the point of view of infrastructure. The enemy did not create anything there, did not construct a single building...The roads are in a terrible state, buildings are run down, there is straw, rubbish, dirty kiosks all over the place. They tore everything to shreds and only exploited the city. But then they say that Shusha is an Armenian city and tried to change its name. Therefore, the implementation of infrastructure projects is, of course, a priority issue. In parallel, urban planning work should be carried out correctly," he said.
The president said that a specific program is being developed to restore historical and religious sites in the city.
"Relevant instructions have been given. The Heydar Aliyev Foundation is actively involved in this work, and so are the Culture Ministry and other relevant bodies. The housing stock has been inspected. Most of it is unusable. During the occupation, a maximum of 2,000-3,000 people lived in Shusha. The Armenians, no matter how hard they tried, could not populate Shusha. At the same time, by bringing Armenians there from abroad, they committed a war crime. All these actions were of a propaganda nature. Most of those who lived there were military personnel and their assistants. The inspection of the housing stock must be carried out in more detail – the first inspection has been carried out – of course, after that, restoration work will be carried out," he added.
The president stressed that Shusha was liberated from the Armenian occupation at the expense of the blood of Azerbaijani soldiers.
Life after restoration
Aliyev stressed that he will keep his promise to transform Shusha into the most beautiful cities in the world. Reiterating that he had declared the city to be Azerbaijan's cultural capital, he noted that after the restoration, life in Shusha should liven up.
"After the return of the people, Shusha should have a very rich cultural life. Both domestic and numerous international events – festivals, competitions, tours – should be held there. In other words, Shusha will be worthy of the title of the cultural capital not only of Azerbaijan but also, I am sure, of the region," the head of state added.
Aliyev added that the Fuzuli airport is under construction and should be commissioned by the end of 2021. After that, international flights should be organized. Presentations and exhibitions related to Shusha should already be held in various countries.
"Develop this program jointly with the State Tourism Agency of Azerbaijan and the Culture Ministry. It is necessary to hold presentations in various countries of the world related to the history of Shusha, the period of its occupation and today's restoration work. Both the Azerbaijani and international communities should be informed about the progress of the restoration work," Aliyev said, addressing Karimov.
The president noted that despite all the attempts of the Armenians, they failed to portray Shusha in the world as an Armenian city.
"Although they have been striving for this for 28 years, illegally invited many foreign visitors to Shusha, composed fables about Shusha and changed its name, no-one believed in that because every visitor to Shusha saw with his own eyes and understood that its architectural ensemble represents the Azerbaijani architectural school," he said.
Aliyev added that before the Armenian occupation of the city, 98 per cent of the population accounted for Azerbaijanis in Shusha.
"It is known that before the occupation, Shusha was always inhabited by the Azerbaijanis. One might say that there was no Armenian population there. Even in the 1920s, when the Nagorno-Karabakh autonomous region was established on our land, the majority of the population of Shusha were Azerbaijanis, while at the time of occupation Azerbaijanis accounted for 98 percent of the population," he added.
Aliyev further spoke about Armenia’s occupation of Shusha in 1992 and its destruction. Commenting on Armenian claims on Shusha, Aliyev said: "If this is your city, why did you destroy the sites? If Armenia declared that it had liberated Shusha, then who did it liberate it from? From the civilian population? From Azerbaijanis? Okay, if you thought you had liberated it, then why did you destroy the buildings? If this is an Armenian city, then why did you raze it to the ground? Not only our mosques were destroyed there but also all the buildings. Only the Khrushchev-era apartment blocks built in Soviet times remained, grossly violating the architectural ensemble of Shusha, and this is where they lived. While in Shusha, I saw this destruction with my own eyes. It was as if a wild tribe swept through the city – the vandals brought Shusha to this state.”
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