This weekend, our Armenian countrymen across the world honored the 28th anniversary of the liberation of Shushi: a strategically critical city in Nagorno-Karabagh (Artsakh), with a long, vital history as an Armenian religious and cultural center.
When the army of Azerbaijan invaded Karabagh in 1988, Azeri armed units occupied the city of Shushi, using its strategic location to bombard nearby Armenian villages.
But on May 8, 1992, the outnumbered Armenian defense forces of Karabagh launched a counteroffensive. They seized control of the Shushi-Lachin road, expelled the Azeri military—and liberated Shushi itself on May 9.
Two weeks later, Armenian army detachments entered Lachin, breaking a three-year blockade; on May 20, hundreds of tons of humanitarian aid supplies entered Stepanakert from Armenia via the Goris-Stepanakert highway.
Armenians throughout the world expressed pride in the skill, courage, and determination of the Armenian soldiers and volunteers who overcame a vastly larger, armed enemy in defense of Armenian soil and culture. In the history of Armenian freedom movements, the heroic liberation of Shushi by the Karabagh Armenian Defense Army in May 1992 stands as one of the most glorious.
Symbol of Defense, Freedom, Peace
In his special message to mark this 28th anniversary, His Holiness Karekin II, the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, called May 9 “a cherished symbol of defense, freedom, and peace for our homeland.”
“With an aspiration and devotion to the idea of a free, secure, peaceful homeland, our people won the war for the liberation of Artsakh,” the Catholicos said. “Our people achieved victory with faith, solidarity, zeal, and a commitment to stand together against all challenges. They were guided by a bright vision of a new life and blossoming prosperity in their native Artsakh.”
In congratulating “the children of our people who took part in the Artsakh liberation war” a generation ago, as well as the “brave officers and soldiers of our army who inviolably guard the borders of our homeland today,” His Holiness compared their spirit to that of the veterans of the “Great Patriotic War”: the regional appellation for World War II. This year marks the 75th anniversary of its conclusion.
“Our small nation made a heroic contribution to the victory achieved in World War II, and the establishment of peace in the world,” he said, by way of tribute to the surviving veterans of that war. “The glorious path of the Armenian divisions, Armenian military commanders, and Armenian officers and soldiers, are significant pages in our history, of which our people will always be proud.”
The spirit of fortitude, sacrifice, and mutual support exemplified by those earlier, heroic generations is an enduring inspiration to our own, Catholicos Karekin II said: “Remembering the cherished victories of May 9 will always give us strength, encouraging us to defy difficulties of our own, especially today, when the world is full of new global warnings and disturbances to life.”