A Tale of Two Cities – Gandzak and Shoushi

What happens when Armenian communities are ruled by Azeris and Turks? Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing. There are centuries of proof of this truth. This short fact sheet shows the stark contrast in the fates of two large Armenian communities, Gandzak and Shoushi, in the same region, the first ethnically cleansed because it was just outside the boundaries of Nagorno-Karabagh and under direct Azeri rule and the other rescued by Artsakh’s self-defense and independence from Azerbaijan in 1991. It is irrational to tempt Azerbaijan (and its sponsor Turkey) with the mirage that Artsakh can be taken by force or under color of law. No international norm supports subjecting people to ethnic cleansing. It is time for a just and lasting peace, and the foundation of that peace is de jure recognition of Artsakh’s de facto independence.

A Tale of Two Cities – Gandzak and Shoushi

Gandzak Shoushi
aka  Elizavetpol, Kirovabad, Ganja aka Kar Glukh, Soshi Bert
Early History Early History
  • 846 – founding, Utik Province of Greater Armenia
  • 9th-12th Seat of the Armenian Church of Aghvank
  • Part of Armenian Bagratuni Kingdom and later Armenian Zakarian Princedom
  • 1236 – Destroyed by Mongol-Tatar invasion
  • 16th rebuilt and became part of Safavid Persia until early 19th cent.
  • 1804 – becomes part of Elizavetpol Province of Tsarist Russia, named Elizavetpol for Tsaritsa Elizaveta
    • Periodic outburst of Tatar animosity and pogroms against the Armenian population took place. The situation deteriorated in 1905-07 and since 1917. In 1918 the Turkish army 5th division entered Gandzak and massacres of Armenians took place. In 1920 the Russian Red Army occupied the province and Gandzak since then is part of Azerbaijan.
  • 1935 – renamed Kirovabad, 2nd largest city in Azerbaijan
  • pre-15th century Armenian presence, scriptoria where Armenian monks copied manuscripts, e.g., the Gospel by Manuel from 1428.
  • 1725 – Armenian forces repel Ottoman invasion
  • 1828 – becomes part of Tsarist Russia. Russians move Armenian population to Derbend, Baku and Gilan
  • 1918-20 – Capital of Karabagh Democratic Republic
  • 1920, Mar. 23 – ethnically cleansed by combined Turkish and Azeri Armies, genocide against the Armenian population, killing 8000 Armenian civilians, and destruction of nearly 7000 Armenian buildings.
Armenian Presence Armenian Presence
Population:  per Census of 1897 the total population was 33 625.  At the beginning of the XX century at least 11 000 of Gandzak population were Armenians. In 1988 45 000 Armenians lived there. Population:  late 19th cent.  Shoushi was a thriving center of Armenian life. According to the Russian Empire’s 1886 census 56.7% of Shashi population was Armenian, with Russian and Tatar minority populations.
Churches, Armenian Properties Churches, Armenian Properties
  • 1633 St. John the Baptist Cathedral
  • 18th c.  All Savior Church, Holy Mother of God Church, St. Sarkis Church, and St. Thaddeus Church, attesting to the large Armenian Apostolic Community in the city.
  • 6 churches, around twenty schools; 2 kindergartens, an orphanage, diversified economy:  silk, shoes, electricity, more than two dozen Armenian newspapers and journals, a hospital.
Post Soviet Era Post Soviet Era
Feb. 1988 – in the wake of the Azeri pogroms against Armenians in the vicinity of Baku/Sumgait, the Armenian population and neighborhoods of Ganja were ethnically cleansed by the Azeris.  Those who were able to defend themselves survived and relocated in Armenia and Artsakh. 1991- Azeris military occupied Shoushi, which is above Stepanakert (the capital of Nagorno-Karabagh), bombarding Stepanakert daily 

1992 May 9 – The Armenians liberated Shoushi and restored it to the NKR.

Current Status Current Status
  • Part of Azerbaijan
  • no Armenian population
  • 4-5 churches remain, some desecrated as stables and warehouses, or in ruins

Two Armenian churches out of six are completely demolished, the rest turned into clubs, a museum and a philharmonic hall. As a result of the so-called “restoration” works, traces of Armenian architecture and inscriptions in the Armenian language are completely destroyed. No Armenian population.

  • Part of Artsakh
  • Largely rebuilt, including Mosques and historic Persian era baths
  • Armenian population:  Armenian population of 4000

Artsakh Diocese Prelacy – St. Gazanchetsots – rebuilt, but bombed in October 2020.


Gandzak, like Shoushi, had thriving Armenian populations for centuries before Azerbaijan existed.   They were both part of the Russian Tsarist Elizavetpol Province.   However, today, due to Azeribaijani ethnic cleansing in the places under its control, there is virtually no Armenian presence in Gandzak.   Whereas, Shoushi, which is part of the Republic of Artsakh escaped this fate, only because it is not under Azerbaijani rule.   The contrast shows what happens when Armenian populations and towns are placed under Azerbaijani rule and underscores why remedial secession and immediate international recognition of Artsakh is necessary lest they suffer Gandzak’s fate.  It would be immoral and illegal at international law to subject the Armenian population of Artsakh to ethnic cleansing.   After centuries of misrule, they have secured their own protection through hard won independence from an oppressive and abusive overlords, wrongfully granted rule over Artsakh as a byproduct of unjust great power rivalries of a bygone era.  There is no defensible grounds for perpetuating the wrongs of the past at the expense of another generation of innocent people.   It is time for a just and lasting peace.