Ilham Aliyev and First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva attended opening of Vagif Poetry Days in Shusha

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Ilham Aliyev and First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva attended opening of Vagif Poetry Days in Shusha

The Vagif Poetry Days have been organized by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation in the native city of the poet for the first time after the liberation of Shusha from occupation.

President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva attended the official opening ceremony of the Vagif Poetry Days.

The head of state addressed the opening ceremony.

Remarks by the President Ilham Aliyev

– Dear ceremony participants,

First of all, I would request that we pay tribute to the memory of our martyrs who perished heroically for the Motherland with a minute of silence.

May Allah rest the souls of all our martyrs in peace!

Dear friends, it is a formidable day in our country’s life today. We are celebrating the opening of the Vagif Poetry Days in front of the mausoleum of the great Azerbaijani poet, statesman and vizier to the Karabakh’s khan Molla Panah Vagif. I cordially congratulate you and the people of Azerbaijan on this occasion.

Vagif’s mausoleum, like all other historical monuments in the occupied territories, was vandalized by the Armenians. The mausoleum has been fully restored and reopened for the second time yesterday.

As you know, the decision to erect the mausoleum of Molla Panah Vagif in Shusha was made by great leader Heydar Aliyev. On his initiative, the mausoleum was opened here on 14 January, in snowy and frosty weather. This was no ordinary event because Shusha was a part of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region at the time. As you know, the Armenians had claims to Shusha for many years, tried to portray Shusha as an Armenian city. However, there was no historical or cultural basis for that. We must also take into account that Molla Panah Vagif was not only a poet, but also a vizier to the Karabakh’s khan. During the Soviet era, Soviet ideology and the Soviet government’s approach to history was such that khanates were described as a black spot in history. Despite all this, thanks to the resolve and determination of the great leader, this mausoleum was erected and Shusha was reaffirmed as an Azerbaijani city again.

Unfortunately, after the occupation of Shusha, all historical monuments and cultural sites, including the mausoleum of Vagif, were destroyed by the vandals. The occupation of Shusha was a great tragedy of our people because Shusha has been a cradle of Azerbaijani culture. Shusha has a great symbolic meaning in the history of Azerbaijan. Shusha is the crown of Karabakh. After the occupation of Shusha, other districts and cities were occupied as well. Of course, the strategic importance of Shusha was lost for us, and the enemy took advantage of this and occupied Lachin a few days later – in May 1992. A year later, in April 1993, they occupied Kalbadjar, thus establishing a geographical link between the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region and Armenia. Our defeat was inevitable, given that there was a period of chaos in Azerbaijan at that time. There was no regular army and there was civil confrontation.

The fall of Shusha led to the loss of other districts. However, we, the people of Azerbaijan, were never going to come to terms with this occupation. During the occupation, I repeatedly said that we would never come to terms with this situation, that we would liberate all the occupied lands, including Shusha, from the occupiers at any cost.

As you know, the process of negotiations lasted for about 30 years, but to no avail. The unfolding of events, the second Karabakh war and the conduct of foreign powers showed that this issue could never be resolved through negotiations. Due to the fact that they wanted us, the Azerbaijanis, to come to terms with this situation. They tried to portray this situation, i.e. the frozen conflict, as a no-alternative option. We had a completely different opinion, and I never concealed that. I said that if the issue was not resolved peacefully, we would restore our territorial integrity through war. All norms and principles of international law recognize this right. The UN Charter, UN Security Council resolutions and historical justice gave us this right. And we achieved this.

Shusha is an Azerbaijani city. The foundation of Shusha, as we all know, was laid by Panahali khan in 1752, and next year we will celebrate the 270th anniversary of Shusha. Despite the occupation, Shusha managed to preserve the Azerbaijani spirit. Everyone who comes to Shusha can see this. Even in a devastated shape, even during the occupation when it was vandalized, Shusha was able to preserve its spirit, its stature. It did not yield, did not break; it awaited us. We had to arrive, and we did. We have arrived here as a victorious people. We did not achieve that through negotiations, not as a result of any concessions made by Armenia, but by shedding blood, losing martyrs, demonstrating self-sacrifice on the battlefield, restoring our territorial integrity and our national dignity.

The 44-day Patriotic War is part of our glorious history. This history will live forever as this victory is unique in our history. The people of Azerbaijan deserved it, and we won the victory, drove the enemy out of our homeland, liberated our cities, and liberated our native Shusha. Today, Shusha is being revitalized, and tangible steps are taken to revive the city of Shusha. I first came to Shusha on 14 January this year, after the war. This date was not chosen by chance. 39 years ago, the mausoleum of Vagif was opened here with the national leader in attendance, and my arrival here specifically on 14 January had a great symbolic meaning. One of the first instructions during my first visit here was to restore Vagif’s mausoleum, because the vandals had destroyed it. Vagif’s bas-relief and the gravestone inside the mausoleum were dismantled.

In other words, they committed vandalism inherent in them, as we have witnessed across all other liberated lands. The restoration of the mausoleum was undertaken by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, and we are launching the Vagif Poetry Days in front of this mausoleum today. The Vagif Poetry Days have been reestablished, and so has the “Kharibulbul” Music Festival. In May of this year, we held that festival with great enthusiasm and reinstated this history.

During my first visit, all the relevant instructions on the restoration of Shusha were given. And a lot has been done in the seven months since January. Those who come to Shusha for the second or third time can see this. Yes, the city is still in ruins. No matter how hard the Armenians tried, they could not present Shusha as an Armenian city. If it were an Armenian city, then why is it in such a state, why was it destroyed, why wasn’t a single building constructed here? Except for the new villas of three or four Armenian bureaucrats, no new buildings have been constructed here. All the old buildings have been demolished, all historic sites razed to the ground.

The restoration of Shusha began on 14 January, and enormous progress was accomplished in a short time. First of all, the road was paved. We saw on 14 January what condition Victory Road was in. It took us about two and a half to three hours to get here from Fuzuli. It was snowing, there was no road; there was just a trail covered with ice and mud. An asphalt road has been built now, and this is Victory Road. A highway is also being built. A highway with tunnels is under construction from Fuzuli, and there will be a shorter road. Shusha’s electricity infrastructure has been restored, high-voltage power lines have been extended from Fuzuli, and a substation has been built. In other words, one of the main priorities was to supply Shusha with electricity. When the enemy was leaving Shusha, they blew up Shusha’s water lines. We have restored water supply to Shusha. Water comes to Shusha from two sources now. The restoration of historical sites in Shusha has started. Vagif’s mausoleum has already been restored. The bust of Vagif, which was destroyed by Armenians, has been restored, and it was unveiled again in a ceremony yesterday. Three mosques are being repaired. The renovation of the Yukhari Govharagha Mosque is nearing completion. Instructions have been given to repair the Saatli and Ashaghi Govharagha mosques. The repair of these mosques has been undertaken by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation too. The Natavan’s spring has been restored and now abounds in water. The Armenians also dried up all the 17 springs here. If it were an Armenian city, why did they dry up those springs? Also Kharibulbul Hotel was opened, received its first visitors in May-June, and other steps were taken.

The busts of our great Natavan, Uzeyir Hajibeyli and Bulbul that Armenians riddled with bullets were delivered here by me, and I had them placed in the central square. Yesterday saw the outset of another phase of Shusha’s rejuvenation. As I mentioned, Vagif’s mausoleum and Vagif’s bust were unveiled again, the statue of Uzeyir Hajibeyli, destroyed by the despised enemy, was erected again. An order has been given to restore Uzeyir Hajibeyli’s demolished house. Yesterday, Polad Bulbuloglu and his son, Bulbul’s grandson, celebrated the opening of Bulbul’s house. Polad has restored his father’s house, with a beautiful museum created there. Karabakh Hotel reopened its doors to visitors after major overhaul yesterday. We saw what Karabakh Hotel looked like during the occupation. Only two floors of it were used. There was no water or electricity. It was in a state of disrepair. That footage is available. It has also been restored, and I think that the most important of these measures is the laying of the foundation stone of a new residential district.

The new hotel will be five-star. There will be 150 rooms in it. At present, there are 150 rooms in Karabakh and Kharibulbul hotels in Shusha – a total of 300 rooms. There will be a large conference hall and event venues. The location of the five-star hotel was also chosen by me. The despised enemy was in the process of building the so-called parliament of the self-styled “Nagorno-Karabakh Republic” there. Their intention was to insult us. There is no concept of a “Nagorno-Karabakh Republic”. The foundation of that building had already been laid and structure had already been completed. By my order, this devil’s lair was razed to the ground.

The five-star hotel will be built in a beautiful location. The most important event was the laying of the foundation stone of the new residential district yesterday. It will be developed based on the master plan of Shusha. The city’s master plan has been approved and is a very detailed and well-thought plan. At the initial stage, we plan to build 25 residential buildings here – three, four and five-story residential buildings, so that citizens can begin to return to Shusha.

These comprehensive measures show that the revival of Shusha is progressing rapidly and the people of Shusha are returning to Shusha. Groups of people are coming to visit their hometown. At the same time, natives of Shusha are provided with jobs at the facilities that have already been opened here. So we will revive Shusha.

Dear friends, about 40 years ago my father was standing here, while I was standing right over there. We were gathered for the opening of Vagif’s mausoleum in frosty and snowy weather. Then, on 29 July 1982, I came to Shusha for the second time with my father. At that time, the Vagif Poetry Days were held. Today we are celebrating the opening of Vagif’s mausoleum for the second time. My father was 59 when the Vagif Poetry Days were held. I am 59 now. Some may think that this is a coincidence. But I think that there is a great symbolic meaning in that. History repeats itself. The black page of Azerbaijan’s history is behind us and we are able to breathe again.

During the occupation, many of us – both former IDPs and the Azerbaijani people, including myself – repeatedly thought that there was no justice in the world. If there was justice, we would not have found in that situation. I was of the same opinion. But life has shown that there was justice, one just has to be patient. You have to be patient, you have to believe in justice and you have to work to achieve justice. You have to move towards the goal. Self-sacrifice is required to restore justice. Today we can all say openly that indeed, there is justice, justice has been restored, we are in Shusha today, and from now on we will live in Shusha forever.

While sharing the good news about Shusha with the people of Azerbaijan on 8 November, I said that Shusha was already free, that was the truth. We are gathered in a free Shusha. I said that we have returned to Shusha. That was also true. Festivals, poetry days, cultural and many other events are already held and they will continue. I said that we would revive Shusha. It is happening, because we are reviving Shusha.

Long live Shusha! Long live Karabakh! Long live Azerbaijan!


President Ilham Aliyev and First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva then viewed the “Karabakh is a pearl of Azerbaijani culture” and “Again in the native land: Pearls of Karabakh art” exhibitions organized by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation as part of the Vagif Poetry Days.