On the study of cultural heritage of Shoushi and its surrounding areas, complex program for the town development of “Shoushi” Charity Foundation, its implementation and the study of archive materials.
“Shoushi” Charity Foundation was established in 2000 and registered in Shoushi town, NKR. Its main aim is to assist the development of Shoushi by protecting its 19th century historical and architectural environment. At first, the Foundation wrote and then sent to the Ministry of Education and Science of RA the program on “Study of the cultural heritage of Shoushi and its surrounding areas, and complex program for town development”. The main aim of this program is to have a scientific base for the development of Shoushi as well as to study its historical and cultural heritage. After being approved by the Ministry of Education and Science of RA, it was presented to the government of RA. The Government then confirmed it and decided to devote 35 million drams for the program implementation. But shortly after it, it was said that the envisaged amount was spent on other programs…
For the implementation of the program, very serious specialists are involved, as well as an executive director, a person who has strong foreign bonds and is authorized to provide financial help from outside. The works began with the calculation and cartography of the monuments of the plateau and its surrounding areas. Then, architectural expedition, consisting of the students from Yerevan State Architectural and Construction University (YSACU), did the measurements of 220 monument-buildings. Archeological excavations were done. The accomplished works created a base for the next phase, that is, the implementation of planning works. Incidentally, our program of town development principally differs from the approach of authorities. We offer to create mechanisms of town’s vital activity, self-development conditions for investment and sound business. We think that the base of town development can be its core creation, around which the town will develop according to life bidding and contemporary demands. We envisage the zones of Tourism Complex (including Hounot canyon), Cultural Center, Spiritual Center and Educational Complex serving as a core of the town.
The Foundation undertook the entire restoration of a small street and its surroundings according to its 19th century look. The work is in the process of planning.
Of course, the program of the Foundation is not still over. The following works are to be implemented in the future:
1. Planning of the zones by involving the world’s advanced architectural force from the internationally organized architectural competitions.
2. Continuation of archeological excavations.
3. Multilateral study of caves.
4. Study of lithography and publication of the results.
5. Study and publication of Persian chronicles.
6. Study of the materials about Shoushi in the archives of Yerevan, Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Basel and the creation and publication of book series (5 volumes).
7. Publication of architectural works’ results.
8. Creation of the works on the program “Combined struggle for life in Artsakh” and the publication of book series (7 volumes are already ready and the first volume is in the process of publication). The Foundation opened its “Shoushi” publishing house.
Taking into account a number of circumstances, “Shoushi” Foundation, starting from April 4, declared a pan-Armenian referendum dedicated to Shoushi. Any person who agrees that Shoushi should become educational and cultural capital for all Armenians, in any postal department of NKR and RA, pays 500 dram, thus becoming a participant in its restoration works. Almost 4000 people have already voted for it. The referendum takes its full pace. The Foundation sent letters to the authorities and offered them to participate in this action together with the nation.
Thousands of documentation are kept in “Archives belonging to Catholicos” in Matenadaran of Yerevan city and National Archive of RA, referring to the history of Shoushi. Materials of Matenadaran include the earlier time period, so I started my study from the Archive belonging to Catholicos. It is impossible to consider Karkar-Shoushi separate from Artsakh, so the materials concerning Artsakh have been studied as well. At first, I studied the materials, made a list, and after paying the appropriate amount to Matenadaran, I acquired the right to make photographs with the digital camera. We then input them into the computer and the files were created according to time periods. The Foundation turned to Artsakh Holy See Council for the publishing of the first volume. The latter decided to assist but the promise is still on the paper.
Before writing about the collected materials, some words should be said about several episodes of history of Shoushi.
Arab geographer Yakout Al Hamavi (1178-1229), witnessing the Arab prominent historian Ibn Al Asiri (1160-1230), in his “Geographical Dictionary” (“Kitav Mugdum Al-Buldan”) writes that “Karkar is a town in Aran, near Bailakan, built by Anoushirvan… Hisn Ar-Ran is near it.” Bailakan was one of the ancient towns in Aran situated in Mukhank province of Artsakh. Strabo also mentioned it. Hisn Ar-Ran is the fortress of Khacheni, which was later named Kachaghakaberd.
Medieval Armenian historian Kirakos Gandzaketsi also witnesses the Karkar fortress. He describes in his story that to win back Dgraberd, Akana and Karkar fortresses, Hasan Dgalalian the Great Prince at first goes to Batou khan, then to Kara-korum, to Mangou khan. But, it is a fact that there is no other famous fortress on the rivulet Karkar. And it is not the fortress that got its name from the rivulet, but vice versa, the rivulet got its name from the famous fortress. The fortress Karkar’s name certainly suggests it.
A number of fortresses named Karkar exist in Iran and in the South of Historical Haik whose name is connected with the joint victory of Cimmerians and Urartou versus Assyrians. The hypothesis that the name Karkar shifted from Artsakh to the South is quite possible. That name is still kept on several fortresses, in the form of Kharkhar, Kharberd.
We first meet the name Shoushi in the written Gospels of Father Manuel in Shoushi 1428, which is kept in Matenadaran, Yerevan. “Shoushi” name of the village is written in the records and the Gospel was written under the patronage of St. Virgin Church. There was no Church with such a name in Shoushi. The studies made clear that St. Virgin Church existed in Shoushi. It was reconstructed into Russian-Greek Church in the future and was destroyed in 1954 by the authorities of Shoushi. In the upper part of the plateau (on the territory of modern town-fortress) a village named Shoushi existed from ancient times. Its evidence is the fact of the meeting of vaulted house constructions done in the hollows, possibly done for construction and communication purposes.
In the documentary collection referring Shoushi, Shah’s farms, deeds of purchase, church records from the second half of the 15th century, were included. About 20 documents from the 17th century were included. Sghnakh (*1) period of Armenia is much richer (first quarter of the 18th century). It is known that at that time, for the defense from the attacks of Turkish army, Armenian Sghnakh strategic and political buildings were built which were headed by Yesaji Dgalalian the Catholicos and Avan the military commander. Ivan Karapet, the representative of Peter the First, was in Artsakh. The active correspondence with the Russian Royal Court gives rich information about those times. With the help of this and documents on Khamsa principality period, the family trees of the principality become entirely clear. Starting from Khan’s time period, there are documents concerning the forefather of Saroudgalu, chief of the robbers Panah Ali, who was pursued by Nadir Shah.But later Panah Ali was assigned as Khan of Shoushi. Documents concerning the inter-church struggle are also included in the collection. After studying them, it becomes clear that in the Armenian reality of the second half of the 18th century, the most intellectual and literate person was Israel the Catholicos of the Three Infants Church. His writings and secular verdicts witness it. A separate interest is aroused by not published writings of Simon Yerevantsi the Catholicos. It is known that he pursued Hovsep Emin, the Armenian first publicist Movses Baghramyan of Artsakh origin as well as other people devoted to the Armenian liberation movement of those times with great energy. I don’t convict anybody, especially Simon the Catholicos, who was one of the most intellectual persons of his times. You will read the materials and conclude yourselves. I devote a special place to Eprem the Catholicos in this volume, to the documents concerning the circumstances of his escape to Shoushi. The Persian successor to the throne Abbas-Mirza planned to shift the Residence of Armenian Catholicos and the Catholicos himself to St. Tadei monastery, which was situated in Iran. I present Persian, Yerevan Khan’s, Nerses Ashtaraketsi’s, Synod’s, Russian Royal Court’s, Eprem’s letters and other documents connected with it. If we add Mesrop Taghiadian’s travel records to it, we can say that the novel is already ready. I think that the section about the seals will bring a special charm to this volume of book series. Principality, belonging to Catholicos writings as well as secular verdicts contain hundreds of seals. One part of those seals, especially of 16-18th centuries, contain Persian scriptures.
If we find appropriate financial means, the book will soon be published.
*1 In Armenian dialectical dictionary Sghnakh means fortified area and in the 18th century the name oh Karabakh was Armenian Sghnakh.