Azerbaijan is aiming to reconstruct Shusha, a cultural and historical capital destroyed by Armenian forces during its three-decadelong illegal occupation.
Buildings in the seven districts of the city, which was liberated on Nov. 8, 2020, after a 28-year occupation, including mosques, schools, residential compounds and historical sites, have been damaged and many were destroyed by Armenian forces before they fled the city.
"Shusha is an important and historical city for us and look at all the buildings, including religious and historical places, destroyed by the Armenians during their occupation," a senior official with the Azerbaijan presidency, who did not want to be named, told reporters during a visit to the city.
At least 17 mosques, springs and historical sites, like the tomb complex of the Molla Panah – also known as Vagif, a prominent Azerbaijani poet – were destroyed but have now been rebuilt by the government, he said.
More than 300 historical monuments were destroyed.
The beautiful hilltop city, a symbol of Azerbaijani history and culture, also has strategic importance. It is located on the road leading to Khankendi, the largest city in Nagorno-Karabakh.
In January, Azerbaijan's president declared Shusha the cultural capital of the country.
Shusha, also known as the pearl of Karabakh, was founded by Karabakh Khan Penahali in 1752 and has numerous historical monuments. Many distinguished scientists, intellectuals and cultural icons were born in the city.
Unfortunately, most monuments, and even the Shusha fortress walls, were damaged and are now being repaired by the government.
The city is also known as the "cradle of Azerbaijani music" because famous composers and musicians such as Jabbar Garyaghdioglu, Gurban Pirimov, Bulbul (Nightingale), Seyid Shushinski, Khan Shushinski and Uzeyir Hajibeyov were born here. Writers and thinkers born in Shusha include Hurshidbanu Natavan, Gasim Bey Zakir, Suleyman Sani Akhundov, Abdurrahim Hagverdiyev and Najaf Bey Vazirov.
Ahmet Ağaoğlu, a politician, jurist, writer and journalist, who left a deep mark in Azerbaijan and Turkey, where he spent a part of his life, is also a native.
After the liberation of Shusha, the government approved a master plan to rebuild it.
The plan aims to restore the old city, build business centers and 25 residential complexes that will consist of 2,000 residential flats.
"The master plan has already been approved by the government and all projects will be completed within 18 months," said a senior official with the Shusha administration.
In the last few months, the government has already constructed new roads of around 100 kilometers (62 miles) from Fuzuli to Shusha that are now open to traffic.
Civilians are not allowed to visit certain areas because Armenian forces planted thousands of landmines in the region that are now being cleared by authorities.
President Ilham Aliyev is expected to visit Shusha on Monday to celebrate the first Victory Day in the liberated region where he will also inaugurate several new projects for the area.
"As you see, all cities, even the city of Shusha, have been destroyed and of course, the Azerbaijani government is doing its best to restore and revive the Karabakh region," Tural Ganjaliyev, a member of the Azerbaijani Parliament who represents the Karabakh region, told Anadolu Agency (AA).
"We hope that in a short period of time that we will be able to return as we are waiting every day, every night to go back," he said about displaced residents.
According to officials, nearly 1 million people were displaced when Armenia occupied the Karabakh region in the 1990s and are living in different parts of the country.
"These days we are celebrating the tremendous victory that we achieved last year, and, of course, it's a historic victory for all of us – especially for those people who have lived as refugees, as internally displaced persons for 30 years," said Ganjaliyev.
He added that all displaced people are very happy and preparing to return home as the government is already working on the restoration of the destroyed region.
Shusha is located at an altitude of 1,300 meters to 1,600 meters (4,265 feet to 5,249 feet) above sea level and is known for its natural beauty and pleasant weather.
The government has already built roads to the city, while work on a highway is underway and is expected to be completed next year.
The city, already famous for its natural beauty and springs, was a famous tourist spot during the Soviet era.
The Jidir Plain in the south, surrounded by forests and promenades, hosted horse races, festivals and sporting events for many years.
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