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Shoushi (essay, part 3), by Bakour Karapetyan


   Our group moved towards Hounot canyon from the Ancient cemetery. Our aim was the shootings of the caverns, included in the defense system of the canyon at the beginning of the 18th century. From those caverns, Shoushi Sghnakh, headed by commander Avan in autumn of 1726, fought for 8 days against 40000 army and won. As the teller, catholicos of Gandzasar, political leader of Artsakh liberation movement, Yesaji Hasan-Dgalalyan, writes: Turkish army “crossed the two-day way in one day”. Karkar rivulet flows in the unfathomable canyon. It was a drought year, and the rivulet withered. The ruins of Hounot village appeared. The row of the houses leaned against the cliffs, one edge of which goes down inclining to the rivulet. I entered one of the arched houses and through the ruins I noticed the mulberry-trees and members of the shooting group appearing among them. I already imagined the restored Hounot village. It will be transformed into camping hotels from the arched houses, while being included in the tourism complex of Shoushi.
A little later the men appeared under the ancient one-arched bridge. The stones of the arch fell down, and it seemed that it would break down now. The mills were not far from the bridge, which during 1000 years provided flour to the town-fortress and the surrounding villages. Osmanians in 1726 didn’t manage to take the mills from Rostomian brothers from Shosh village. After going some way up the river flow, we reached Karkar waterfall, which was a real surprise for us. The sewage created a thick layer of green color on the roof of the caves with an interesting structure. While flowing through them, the waters in the entire width of the opening of the cave created a spurting veil. Water, while falling to the cliff, flew into the river. We crossed the river by a wooden bridge and entered the forest. I imagined how the commander Avan enjoyed this unusual and sole waterfall every time he crossed this place with his soldiers, and he thought that just because of this miracle it was worth fighting and defending the native land. Avan gathered approximately 50 thousand horses and the same quantity of cows in this canyon, getting ready to meet the Russian army with dignity, which didn’t come to help Artsakh people in the end. The canyon had a unique microclimate, and both in summer and in winter, the animals could find abundant food here. Finally, we again crossed the river to the left bank and by the hardly seen path we moved up the cliff. The sharp inclination was a serious examination for our group. The ballasts, while rolling, pushed us down together with them, and one moment we appeared in the role of Sisyphean toil, which had to take the stone which was rolling down from the mount all the time. But we learned to overcome this obstacle by grasping the bushes. Our guide showed in the middle of vertical parts the big black crevice, which was situated 200 m high from us, Avani karan (cavern), where our group had to scramble.
- What do you think, can we reach there? - I asked.
-  Of course, - calmly answered Ashot.
From the bottom of the canyon and till Dgdrdouz (Persian word which means tent robber), the perpendicularly stretching cliff, in reality, had unnoticed, having stairs and on this created path we had to reach the cave. At the time of the creation of the canyon, the nature as if taking into account the problem of security provision for local Armenian population, by moving the cliffs, created a passage, which by a unique zigzag reached Avan cavern. By separating from the group, I went forward enough, aiming at finding connection in my mind with long ago people living here 300 years ago, as well as with commander Avan. But I didn’t manage to do it by any means, as the grass growing on the sloping path, became dry and I was stumbling over very often, so I had to think about somehow escaping this notable hell and staying alive. Finally, the cavern was very close, about 30 meters above me. But to reach it, I had to cross the stairs for some 400 meters, the road full of dangers. Down the cavern stone layings were seen. According to the written sources, Avan rebuilt palaces of princes in the Citadel of the town-fortress. Scientist Sarkissov from Baku says that there were Armenian scriptures at the entrance of the palace in 1711. Traces of stone laying at the beginning of upper stairs leading to the cavern were seen there. And to the right of cavern entrance, there was a tower of round planning with embrasure left since time-period of Avan. We appeared in Avan’s cavern by passing under the waters dropping from the ceilings. In the left side the water was falling from the ceiling into the tub made by the cliff. The height of the cavern is about 15 meter. The earth was filled in on the entire floor of the cavern. We met a young man from Karintak with a rifle and with ammunition belt in the cavern. He was waiting for the dark here to start his night hunting in the canyon with the help of the lantern. He said that from this cliff one can see another cavern of the same kind.

- Are the caverns interconnected? - I asked.
- This cavern has about 200 meter depth, - said the director of the museum, maybe the stones fell down because of the earthquake, thus closing the roads leading to other caverns.

In the opposite vertical cliff of the canyon, cave crevices were opened as well. The stairs leading to the cave were filled with stone laying in numerous places. But for a person observing from Shoushi, no road leading to the cave, was seen. When a rider, as if flying over the precipice, rushed towards the cave, it seemed as if a miracle or imagination to the observer. In fact, while seeing it all, right now I understood that it was impossible to expect a military success over Armenian army, which had such a defense system. It is not in vain that the best Turkish army on its way of attacking Russian army, which conquered the western shore of the Caspian, stood against refractory Artsakh and was destructively defeated under Shoushi.
Now we had to go by another road, by scrambling the cliffs to reach Vranagogh (Dgdrdouz). I have read in ancient written sources that in one cavern 40 steps led to the depth of the grotto, where there was drinking water. So now we are going up the natural huge stairs, which include many 40 steps. Tradition says that the grotto opens to the palace of Prince Shahnazar the Second.
After a one-hour ascent, to my surprise, we appeared on the terrain of Vranagogh, from which the visitors to Shoushi like to observe the remarkable and tremendous Hounot canyon.

To be continued


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