Baku Minister of Culture Adil Karimli presented Shushi as a candidate city for the title of Islamic Cultural Capital 2024 during the 12th Conference of Ministers of Culture of the Islamic World. It is stated in the statement: “The city of Shushi was one of the important centers of historical, cultural, social and political life of Baku, as well as one of the symbols of Islamic civilization.” In 2024, by unanimous decision of the conference participants, Shushi was declared the cultural capital of the Islamic world in 2024.
Since its founding, Shushi has been a city not only of Muslims, but also of Armenian Christians, one of the most famous centers of Armenian civilization of the 18th and 20th centuries. And the declaration of the city as the cultural capital of the Islamic world clearly violates the fundamental principles of the city’s historicity, authenticity and integrity, which flow from the 1994 law, the Nara Document on the Authenticity of cultural heritage, as well as the document adopted by the International Council for the Preservation of Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) in New Delhi in 2017, and documents from UNESCO and other international organizations.
The Nara Document on Protecting the Principles of Authenticity states that when cultural values are in conflict, recognition of the legitimacy of cultural values is required. And the fact of the authenticity of cultural heritage should in no way be subordinated (Nara Document on Authenticity, paragraph 8). The declaration of the city of Shushi as the cultural capital of the Muslim world considerably compromises the authenticity of the city’s history, its traditions, its external and internal elements and the historical realities of the population with regard to the city. It is also appropriate to refer to the “European Convention for the Protection of the Landscape”, adopted in Florence in 2000, which calls for preserving all urban establishments, including the natural landscape, its essence and its particularities, to enhance the heritage which is the result of natural and/or human activity.
By the same convention, Baku undertakes to recognize the natural landscapes of the city of Shushi as essential components of the habitat of the Armenians of Artsakh, an expression of their cultural and natural heritage and the basis of their identity (European Convention on landscape, article 5) and any action that denies this fact would seriously undermine the cultural heritage of the city of Chouchi and the conservation of tangible and intangible natural heritage. Attributing the city of Shushi to the Muslim world alone obviously denies the cultural rights of the Armenian community of Artsakh, under which they have the right either to life or to the preservation of the heritage created through their creative spirit, which can also include the intangible domain (tradition, ideas, beliefs, cultural memory, etc.) as established in the norms of international humanitarian law.