Before coming down the canyon, I passed the territory of the ancient cemetery. Gravestones, upturned, torn by the hammer stab, were covered by earth and they merely could show off the fascination of the ornaments and the poetry of the epitaph of 18-19th centuries. I remember that in the beginning of the 80s, I saw this cemetery standing, the evidence of which are my shootings. For a moment, I saw fragments with Armenian letters in the pile of stones. There are fractions of fine ornaments, epitaphs on the stones. Right now I paid attention to the mansions appearing on the territory of the cemetery. According to the instructions of Azerbaijani authorities, the previous residents of the town broke the gravestones of the ancient Armenian cemetery and filled them in the bases of the built houses. To kill two birds with one stone: they were destroying the traces of veritable history of Armenian residents and at the same time used the stones as a construction material for their houses.
I remember that during the Soviet years, Armenian builders of Shoushi told that local authorities made them break Armenian gravestones and lay them in the walls. When I was walking round the freed territories, Armenian residents of Karvatchar region showed the fragments of Khachkars tied in a bundle in the walls of their houses. And in Tsarr fortress, which was the princely of Dopian wealth in the Middle Ages, a school was built with the fragments of Khachkars. On the walls of the classrooms one can see medieval luxury and unique ornamental motives, fragments of Khachkars involving the history torn into fractions. They say that the founders were Armenians who, while putting the frontal sides of Khachkar fragments on the outer side of the buildings, left them for the examination of the future generations. I took pictures of them and opened and exhibition at the hall of the painter’s house of Armenia.
I examined the stone fragments of Ancient Cemetery of Shoushi more attentively. I heard the strokes of the past, the heart-breaking sounds of cut up culture common to all mankind which were transformed into fractions. And in the middle of all these strums, the fragments of the stones remember and tell… tell about 3000 year long history of unassailable town-fortress of Shoushi.
Shortly after it, the director of Shoushi Museum Ashot, joined us and we hurried to the prison of Shoushi, and nearby we had to come down to the canyon. At the beginning of Artsakh movement, twice I “had an opportunity” to go to Shoushi prison. The first one was on November 7, 1988, when I went to Shoushi together with Galina Starovoitova and was talking to huddled Azeri in Dgdrdouz and at the same time I organized shooting for a TV program. The main topic of our conversation was the started construction by Armenians in Khachin plain in front of Dgdrdouz, and the organized opposition around Artsakh. One week before it, the leader of Azerbaijan, Abdurakhman Vezirov, as if by a special instruction, to intensify the situation, announced during his TV speech that a bridge will be built to Topkhana above Dgdrdouz canyon, and a marvelous town will be built in the new place. It created a great turmoil in the Armenian side, to which Azeri responded by the massacre of Armenians in Kirovabad-Gandzak and in other places. Armenians, as a response, took construction materials and technical means to Khachin plain, which is called Topkhana by Azeri. They call it Topkhana, possibly, according to the fact that Shah of Iran, Agha-Mohammed Khan in 1795, bombed Shoushi with cannons, but after 32 days of siege he left with the aim to plunder Tbilisi. I had an idea to show my prepared piece of reporting to the Armenians of Shoushi origin who took shelter in Stepanakert and to shoot their answers. It would become a unique TV bridge for the 2 parts of town-fortress who were deprived of the possibility to meet each other. But during the conversation between me and the head of Executive Committee of the District Soviet of People’s Deputies of Shoushi, Mr. Dgavadov (his mother was Armenian and the chauvinists of Shoushi later killed him), the head of militia of this region Mr. Tadiev appeared. He said that I am already stuck in his throat, “because by making secret shooting for several times in Shoushi, you create new strains in international relations and now you are a target for the sharpshooters from 12 points. If they kill you now, what shall I answer?” While neglecting the opinion of the head of the executive committee, he ordered me to follow him, to whom Galina Starovoitova responded that we will go only to the executive committee. Later, the deputy Minister of Home Affairs of Azerbaijan, Ramiz Mamedov, came to Shoushi, and after keeping us for 5 hours, freed us. The next time I was arrested and sent to Shoushi prison by the superintendent of the airport, captain of the DMSS (Detachment of Militia of Special Significance) Hadgiev, but at the filtration point the Russian officer freed me. I immediately went to the Archive of Stepanakert and there I looked for and found Hadgiev’s file. It became clear that DMSS officer Hadgiev, several years ago, worked at militia of Nagorno Karabakh Autonomous Marz, was convicted for the bribery for 10 years of deprivation of liberty. The authorities of Baku freed him from the prison in January 1990, made him a participant in the organized massacres against Armenians, and so for this “deed” they awarded him rank of captain and sent to Nagorno-Karabakh.
After the liberation of town-fortress, I was in Shoushi prison for several times where my attention was grasped by double platforms built by gravestones brought from Armenian cemeteries. Here 2 Khachkars were put on the right side. Azeri jailers, every morning, made the prisoners stand bare feet on these Khachkars who had to trample them down before they were destroyed and frayed out… One of the Khachkars, which was hardly seen, after the town liberation, at my request, Armenian soldiers separated them with nice chains.
So, at the entrance of the prison, only me was allowed to enter. The warden declared that Khachkars in 1996, on the instruction of one high-rank head of Home Affairs, were moved away. It was an unexpected surprise, as again and again the history was being distorted.
So, where are they now? – I asked.
You didn’t notice, near the gates, - answered the warden.
We came out to find the stones. In fact, not far from the prison entrance, the fragments of Khachkars were thrown about, while proving the existence of medieval Shoushi.
It has been several days that I have been appointed as a warden, and I don’t know who the author of such rudeness is, - the warden justified himself.
If we had transport, I could take these fragments to the museum, - said Ashot, director of the museum.
I will help you in this problem, - said the warden.
I examined the Khachkar. The ornamental motives by their style resembled the monuments of the 13th century.
We went in the direction of Hounot canyon. On the vast plain territory the most ancient cemetery of Shoushi was, where near the gravestones with Armenian lithographs, graves with Latin and Russian characters were. It was the cemetery for officials and their families who served in Shoushi in the 19th century. The tree, which grew between the two Armenian gravestones, pushed and moved heavy stones. But the biggest surprise was Khachkars which didn’t have any protocol or dating, which are around 10 centuries that took shelter in Karkar-Shoushi cemetery. Probably, out of 100 Khachkars only these were saved. The surfaces of gravestone with cross were crude. The first one widens in the upper part, thus locating double portraits with cross near each other. The ideogram of duality is also seen in the second one, but the crosses are located under each other. Double crosses express the idea of twin worship, duration of the family and tribe as well as eternity of life. It is strange that nobody examined these ancient important monuments of Shoushi.
Ashot, while pointing at earth embankment situated near the cemetery, said:
There are cromlech-tombs of megalith. Lately, unknown people dug one of them, in the search for gold. I gathered the fractions of broken ceramics from there and took them to the museum.
The existence of tomb field in fact proves that because of its position and inaccessibility, Karkar-Shoushi served as a defense system for Armenians already for 3000 years.