First results and prospective of the study of Shoushi’s historical and cultural heritage
Results of the study of Shoushi’s architectural heritage
The only Armenian standing town-fortress Shoushi, in the end of the 20th century, reinterpreting its once important role for the Armenian nation and territorial region, became the cornerstone for the liberation of Artsakh. Town-fortress Shoushi, while having an important meaning for us, is still studied a little. Today there are some works on the history and cultural heritage of the town. Only some of the works studied the different episodes of the development of Shoushi town on qualified level.
Starting from 2003, on the initiative of “Shoushi” Foundation and the financial assistance of “Zhan Poghossian and the sons” Foundation, the study works on historical heritage of Shoushi town were initiated and accomplished. During the last 3 years, on the territory of Shoushi town, around 220 valuable historical, architectural and art-belonging buildings were calculated and the measurement and study works were done.
Approximately 50 students from Yerevan State Architectural and Construction University (YSACU) as well as lecturers and individual architects participated in the works during different years.
These works are summarized in the 450 pages catalogue of draughts. It is foreseen to finish the works in 2007.
The time of Shoushi town foundation, according to scientists from Baku, is considered to be the mid of the 18th century. We can speak about the present structure of Shoushi town according to the buildings erected by Melik Shahnazar and Panah, who settled in Shoushi in the second half of the 18th century. It is known that the building of the castles started as soon as they settled down in the fortress. Khan Panah built his castle in the relatively low part of the territory belonging to the fortress, in the neighborhood of sotnik Avan's castle. Melik Shahnazar built his castle in the middle of the plateau. During this period, new migrants from the surrounding villages shifted to the castle, in order to participate in the construction works. Inhabitants of Ghaghanchi village in the province of Nakhichevan migrated near the castle of Melik Shahnazar and later, migrants from Agoulis town later joined them. The same happened in the surrounding areas of Panah's castle. This fact is important, because the town started to develop around 2, in this case, “town founding factors”.
In 1853, the main plan of Shoushi town was worked out by Russian military engineers, which was the most entire and inclusive document. Districts were mostly formed here, with their street networks and squares. Near the Elizavetopol gates was Divankhana square, where Shoushi’s only Orthodox Church and Divankhana were situated. The latter was the castle of Mahti Ghul at first, which later became the Russian military administrative headquarters. 2 two-storey caravanserais were situated in this square.
Topkhana square was situated in the direction of the road coming from Yerevan gates, in the central part of upper, Armenian side. It was the basic public and trade center of the Armenian part of the town. 5 roads entered the square, which were the shortest roads coming from 5 Armenian churches. It was a wide-spread principle in several cities of late medieval Europe. The lower part of the town had a principle difference from the areas populated by Armenians. It is often called Muslim district among people studying this region. And it is right. Muslim population was centralized there, which was made up of the descendants of nomadic Tatar tribes and people of Iranian origin as well as families of Russian military soldiers. There was a district populated by the Jews as well, which was called Dghoudlar. Armenians also lived in that part of the town and the house of Armenian prominent intellectual and historian Leo was also situated there.
One of the main squares of the town, Meidan, was situated in the South of Divankhana square. The big or Upper Mosque was situated at the axis of Rasta market on Meidan square. It was the main Muslim religious building of Shoushi. The architectural solutions of that and other Muslim religious buildings of Shoushi “belong more to residential court than to the type of religious building”. Two huge caravanserais of Tarkhanian family and Safarov family were situated in the corner of the square.
The streets were mostly paved. The pavements were covered with large-piece stones. Several similar streets remained up to our times (*1). The local milky limestone was mainly used here. The Fall of Czarist Russia and the Musavatic state policy resulted in the total destruction of Shoushi town. On March night 22-23, 1920, a group of robbers led by Khosrov Bek Sultanov, sets on fire the entire upper, Armenian part of the town.
The Connection of Mountainous Karabakh to the Soviet Socialistic Republic of Azerbaijan brought to the loss of the status of the town. 9223 people lived in the town in 1921 instead of the previous 40 thousand. This number decreased up to 3000 in the late 1920s. The upper part of Shoushi town was in ruins while being a part of Soviet Azerbaijan. Aguletsots and Meghretsots Churches were in the dilapidated state. The Convent was entirely in ruins. Ghazanchetsots and Kanach Churches remained in relatively good condition, the first one, probably, thanks to its size and the second one because of being far from lively parts. Only after the World War II, the authorities of Azerbaijan got down to large-scale “restoration” works. In 1960s, all historical districts of the upper part of the town became clean. New standard buildings were built on random order. Scattered parts of historical buildings were left near Modern School, in the less populated parts of Aguletsots and Dgraberdtsots districts. One can’t say the same about the other parts of the town. There, the newly built 5-storey standard dwelling houses almost recalled the previous building outlines. All the mosques remained. The Big Mosque was reconstructed into museum. Previous Chapels became Madrasas keeping the importance of spiritual building. All the important buildings were left unchanged. Caravanserais were repaired and used. The only Orthodox Church was destroyed in this part and on its place the Cultural Palace of the town rose again. The war had its unfavorable influence on the town as well, not to mention its partly remaining historical environment. A number of buildings were set on fire and destroyed. But, contrary to the past, this time Muslim spiritual buildings remained standing. Some of them are being repaired now. Religious buildings of Shoushi town were studied both by Armenian and Azeri specialists.
The St. All-the-Savior Church of Ghazanchetsots was built in 1858-1888, was destroyed in 1920, and didn’t function during Soviet years. In 1992 it was consecrated as Armenian Apostolic Church. St. Hovhannes Mkrtich (Kanach) Church was built in 1847, was destroyed in 1920 and in 1960s it served as a beverage hall of mineral waters. In 1992 it was consecrated as Armenian Apostolic Church.
Meghretsots St. Virgin Church was built in 1838, was ruined in 1920, and was partly destroyed in 1960s, but the altar and side apses remained. Later it was transformed into open-air scaffolding for the nearest special school during Soviet years.
St. Virgin Church of the Convent was built in 1816, was ruined in 1920, was entirely destroyed in 1960s, nothing was built on its place.
St. Virgin Church of Agouletsots was built in 1822, was ruined in 1920, and was entirely destroyed in 1970s. Later the standard secondary school was built on its place.
St. Gevorg Church is the only Orthodox religious Church of the town. It was built in 1840, was ruined in 1920 and was destroyed in 1954.
The Upper Mosque was built in 1883 and is standing till today. During Soviet years it served as a museum of the history of town. The Mosque remains even after the liberation.
The Lower Mosque was built in the first half of the 19th century and is standing till today.
The Mosque with one minaret (Saatli Chapel) was built in the 19th century, the minaret – in the beginning of the 20th century. The Mosque is standing, the minaret was damaged, was restored in 2004-2005. Similar 8 Chapels were studied and retained by us.
During the measurement works of historical and architectural buildings of Shoushi town, public buildings of trade, administrative, educational, cultural, health and of other significance were measured as well. The following can be quoted:
Caravanserai of Tarkhanian family,
Caravanserai of Safarov brothers,
The building of headquarters,
Hospital of Zhamharian family.
The Modern School and Mariamian Maiden School still need to be measured.
Dwelling architectural patterns are the bright examples of the architectural image of Shoushi town. The peculiarities of architectural composition of Shoushi were expressed in them. It is based on the architectural traditions of the dwelling castles, principality houses as well as local dwelling house. They later had the influence on the architectural principles of dwelling house of the town and it was formed as a separate “architectural school”.
The best examples of it are:
Palace of Zhamharyan family,
Palace of Khan’s daughter,
House of Tarkhanian family,
House of Mehmandarov family.
The buildings of different significance, e.g. religious buildings, production and warehousing buildings, springs, bath houses and others, belong to the number of historical buildings of Shoushi town.
The religious buildings of Shoushi town (Churches and Mosques) are mostly studied. The expeditions of the foundation paid special attention to Muslim Chapels, which were used as Madrasas (spiritual schools) both in pre-Soviet and Soviet years. 7 similar buildings were measured and studied.
The remaining part of Meghretsots St. Virgin Church was also measured, which was used as scaffolding for the nearest school during Soviet time.
Springs represent a special and huge value from historical, architectural and engineering point of view. The springs were part of historical water supply system of Shoushi town. 8 similar springs were measured. The following works were done on the mentioned measurements:
The elaboration of restoration projects of historical and architectural valued buildings,
Reports at different scientific meetings,
Publication of scientific articles,
Preparation of a dissertation to apply for the scientific degree of the candidate of Architecture,
Diploma projects at the faculty of architecture at YSACU,
Course-paper projects at the faculty of architecture at YSACU.
It is foreseen to finish the mentioned works in the nearest future as well as to publish them. During 2006-2007, it is foreseen to:
Publish an album referring to architecture of Shoushi town,
Organize a competition for the architectural draft project for the establishment of tourist center in the center of Shoushi town,
Make a list of historical and cultural monuments of Shoushi town together with their remaining areas and represent it to NKR Government.
*1. In 1906, as a result of asphalting, the pavements covered by huge stones ceased to exist, which gave ancient spirit to Ghazanchetsots street of the town-fortress.