The Liberation of Shushi: a military operation on May 8-9, 1992 as a result of which Shushi was liberated. This almost flawless, unique military operation in the Armenian Military art was a radical turning point in Karabakh national liberation struggle. The liberation of Shushi was carried out in four directions with simultaneous attacks on May 7-8, at 11 pm after taking up Kirs military positions and Lachin-Shushi road by BM-21 GRAD multiple rocket launcher. Military operations were headed by Commander of NKR Defense Army Arkady Ter-Tadevosyan (Comandos). Major General G. Dalibaltyan, S. Sargsyan, R. Gzoghyan, Zori Balayan, as well as communication, medical care, artillery preparation, engineering service were in command. The works were coordinated by A. Papazyan, V. Marutyan, L. Martirosov, R. Aghajanyan, as well as representatives of NKR authorities, such as O. Yesayan, G. Petrosyan, A. Ghukasyan, R. Kocharyan and others. Primate of the Diocese of Artsakh Archbishop Pargev Martirosyan blessed the liberation plan of Shushi and wished success the members of the Defense Army. 

Immediately after liberating Khojalu, the liberation plan of Shushi was developed by A. Ter-Tadevosyan. The plan was drawn up in March-April after verification of the location of the enemy, its position and numerical data by intelligence groups. The front line of attack was about 25 km and the enemy had advantage in terms of the quantity and weaponry. Operative situation was controlled and V. Sargsyan and S. Sargsyan were immediately notified about the changes. The plan was drawn up in secrecy by A. Ter-Tadevosyan, R. Gzoghyan, S. Sargsyan, L. Martirosov, R. Kocharyan and with the active participation of the commanders of the main directions (S. Babayan, A. Karapetyan, S. Ohanyan, V. Chitchyan and others). 

On April 28 the main directions of attack, commanders, number of weapons and ammunition were already resolved and clarified. By the order of L. Martirosov the terrain model of Shushi was made on which the commanders defined their actions and current directions. Military actions were guided from observation point № located on the hill in the North of Shosh and 4 other points. The attack was supposed to start on May 4, but for various reasons (lack of ammunition, bad weather, etc.) it was canceled. 4 offensive groups consisting of 1200 manpower and one reserve troop of Defense Army attacked at the same time on the night of May 8. 

The Combat order of the Liberation of Shushi was signed on May 4 with the following details: 

1. The enemy holds the surrounding positions on the hills of Shushi with 1200 manpower, nearly 100 in village of Zarslu, 300-350 in Lisagor, 300 in the direction of Kyosalar. 

2. Our task is:

a. To defeat the enemy at Lisagor, Zarslu, Janhasan, Karagyav;

b. To defeat the enemy in surroundings of Shushi, to liberate Shushi and to free the city from the Greens (codename of the enemy)

c. then to advance in the direction of Berdadzor and free the Berdadzor subdistrict from the Greens;

d. The enemy has concentrated the main forces in Kyosalar, Lisagor, Zarslu, in surroundings of Shushi and circled the whole city. 

The ways for defeating the enemy: to gain high point № and take position there. After regrouping of forces to advance to Lisagor and Zarslu and immediately to start the attack in four directions:

a. Direction of Shosh  (eastern), commander – A. Karapetyan

b. Direction of “26”(northern), commander – V. Chitchyan

c. Lachin Direction (southern), commander – S. Babayan

d. Kyosalar direction (north-western), commander – Seyran Ohanyan,

Commander of reserve troops – Y. Hovhannisyan

To defeat the enemy from Stepanakert side on № hills, strengthen the position three Shushi districts, then to destroy the enemy and liberate Shushi.

4. Combat order

a) The 2nd and 3rd companies, the detachments of Berdadzor, Chanakhchi, Sghnakh, Karabulagh, Tumi, Karitak, those who fought in Afghanistan, dashnaks, Kirs, group of field engineers, signalers, field hospital and air defense system were in the Southern direction.

b) The 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th reconnaissance companies, battaries BM-21 and D-30, special reconnaissance group “F”, detachments of Kornidzor, Hrazdan, Sevan, Stepanavan, the group “AB”, the 1st assault detachment, groups of sappers, signalers and doctors were in the northern direction. 

c) The first company, detachments of Shosh, Dashushen, Krasny, Ararat, “Kamurj”, “A”, reconnaissance group, detachment of Dashnaks, pantaloons of V. Stepanyan, Ararat, Small Harut, mortar battalion, groups of sappers, signalers and doctors, command point, Air defense were in the eastern direction. 

d) the detachments of Badara, “Kumayri”, Baluja, Dashbulagh, Mehtishen, Khnatsakh, Dahraz, “G” and “D”, diversionary reconnaissance group, material supply company, groups of sappers, signalers and doctors and Air defense were in Kyosalar direction.

5. I order

a) In the direction of Shosh to develop the attack from baseline, from the village Mkhitarishen with the aim to destroy the greens on the outskirts of the city and to remain there (the prison and the hospital).

b) In the direction of "26" to capture the hills № and strengthen on the borderline intersection, and then to seize the suburb of Shushi by the introduction of reserve troops.

c) To develop the attack on Zarslu and Lisagor in the direction of Lachin at the same time hit the outpost and capture the South-Western suburb of Shushi.

d) to develop the attack in direction of Kyosalar, in two directions, first to distract the enemy in the case of successful attack and to capture Kargyav and Janhasan.

e) To involve the reserve forces in all directions only after solving the basic problem or in the case of deterioration of the situation.

6. Combat vehicles are only operating in the main firing positions, if necessary, they could change the firing positions, mainly after artillery preparation and  in the depths of enemy bases in case of necessity.

7. To create fire shelters on roads: Ghaybalu-Bashkent, Kyosalar-Janhasan, Janhasan-Karagyav, Shushi-Lachin.

The tasks of artillery and other units, as well as the cost of ammunition follow afterwards.

The order was ratified by Commander, Colonel A. Ter-Tadevosyan and deputy commander R. Gzoghyan. Military operations were carried out in the four directions.

Fortress of ShushiDirection of “26”(Northern). Along right and left sides of Stepanakert-Shushi highway 4 pataloons of the 4th company (Commander Y. Poghosyan) under the command G. Sargsyan, S. Karapetyan, K. Martirosyan and V. Gharibyan. The attack “Three Towers” hill lasted 20 minutes and was successful. However, later the warlike equipment of Defense Army was either hit, or for some technical reasons got out of order. At 10 am, suddenly one of the tanks was hit, the military actions stopped for a while and the units of the Defense Army retreated to more comfortable positions. Struggle resumed on the whole day and night of May 8 until the Azerbaijani troops were forced to leave their positions. Led by S. Tovmasyan the soldiers of the 6th company (commander K. Nersisyan) and reconnaissance company from the right side (Commander S. Abrahamyan) moved towards the warehouses of Shushi. They succeeded in taking up favorable positions, the hills on the road, so the enemy forces were pushed back, several enemy vehicles were destroyed, and forced two maneuvering tanks to leave. Then Armenian liberation forces moved in the direction of filling station located on the outskirts of the city. Two anti-tank guns were seized near the factory of musical instruments. Capturing the strategic positions, the 6th and reconnaissance companies contributed to the final victory. 

Direction of Shosh  (Eastern),  The task of destroying enemy resistance in the eastern part of the city as well as the breakthrough of its defense in impregnable places was relatively difficult and required great efforts. The enemy expected attack from that front and concentrated numerous manpower and weaponry there. On the night of May 8, the strike forces advanced. The defense detachment under the command of A. Harutyunyan was on the left side of the village Shosh, the 1st company headed by A. Ghulyan was in the center that was moving directly to prison and the reconnaissance group led by R. Israelyan (acting commander G. Osipov), voluntary detachment of Krasni (Commander-V. Baghryan), Karashen (Commander – V. Safaryan) etc. were on the right side. The fierce battles took place on the left flank, where the Armenian fighters managed to bring the situation under control. Here, particularly stood out A. Ghalyan who encouraged his companion in arms by his personal example. After replenishment and regrouping the forces, on May 9, at 1 pm the Armenian soldiers resumed the attack and succeeded in liberating the territory of prison. A large number of residents of the village of Shosh also took part in the battle and were ready to replace the dead or wounded soldiers immediately. They helped the wounded soldiers and brought bullets.

Breaking down the enemy’s resistance, divisions of the right flank captured the first building of the cattle farms in the area of Finnish houses, but in the second building, where the escaped Azerbaijanis from the hill “Three Towers” gathered, they met a strong resistance. There were killed and wounded Armenian soldiers; nevertheless, they succeeded in destroying the enemy forces. Then, passing through the motor pool, these groups continued to attack, together with the divisions of the 4th company.

Lachin Direction (Southern). With the support of Echmiadzin dashnak platoon (commander H. Arbrahamyan) the fighters of the 2nd and 3rd companies (commanders H. Tsatryan, A. Khachatryan) and defense detachment of the village Avetaranots with the sudden invasion took up enemy’s military base, located at the foot of the mountain Kirs as well as one BM-21 station, one tank, one armored personal carrier weapons and ammunition. Voluntary detachments of Sznek, Kirs, Karitak Artashat, etc attacking in the direction of Nabilar, Karmir-kar and Tiskatskerts positions and came to Shushi-Lachin highway. This breakthrough was possible by the support of strike forces of the warlike equipment of the 2nd company. The combined forces of detachments of Aknaghbyur and Sarushen (Commnader A. Gharamyan), of those who served in Afghanistan (commander N. Chakhoyan), “Mergelyan” (Commander A. Harutyunyan) and Byureghavan (Commander V. Gharsoyan) moved in the direction of Zarslu and came up to the Shushi-Lachin highway. 

The task of the detachments of Dashnaks under the command of Zh. Sefilyan and V. Balayan accompanied by fighters from Berdadzor was to pass Shushi and Zarslu and reach strategic height of Lisagor. Fights were already on the outskirts of Shushi but these groups managed only to reach the heights Zarslu. Despite the fact that they failed to carry out the task, their presence on the Heights next to Shushi-Lachin highway caused panic among the fleeing enemy. Thus, due to the fights in the southern direction (Lachin) the enemy’s attention was diverted from the main front, Shushi, under the threat of blocking the road of retreat the enemy’s panic was intensified and the Azerbaijani command was deprived of the opportunity to regroup their forces and make counterattack in Zarslu. 

Janhasan Kyosalar direction (north-western). In this direction, the Armenian forces pursued two aims: to prevent and create panic, divert the attention of the enemy, to ensure the protection of forces attacking on the north of Shushi. And since the enemy concentrated a large number of manpower and ammunition in this area, and the area was quite inconvenient, thus, it was necessary to deploy a combat-ready and mobile forces there. They were to retreat quickly and support Shushi when necessary. Three platoons of Aygestan company and detachments of “Aramo”, subversive-intelligence group of headquarters, detachment of Mehtishen (commander S. Hakobyan) under the general command of S. Ohanyan managed to enter into the depths of the enemy forces, 1 mortar, IFV-21 and 3 cannon firing positions, to take control of the village Janhasan and roads leading to Kyosalar and Karagyav. 

Having a presentiment the threat of defeat the enemy sent a large number of forces from Shushi to Janhasan front, thereby weakening the defense of Shushi. At the same time replenishing and regrouping the forces began the counter-attack by warlike equipment. Detachment “Kumayri” suffered losses. The 7th, 8th and 9th companies and other divisions located in the “26” position and its area (under the general command of Y. Hovhannisyan) at that time firmly closed the road so as the enemy wouldn’t send assisting forces from Janhasan to Shushi. The order of retreat was given when the divisions of the Defense Army reached Shushi. Through organized retreat and strong resistance, enemy forces remained in the north-western front, which played a decisive role in the liberation of Shushi. The Command of the Defense Army, thus managed to confuse Azerbaijanis forcing them to withdraw a significant amount of manpower and resources from the main direction of attack. The outcome of the military actions was already predetermined on May 8, when the division of Lachin and other directions had taken an advantageous position on the outskirts of Shushi. The given break in the evening allowed the enemy to leave the city through corridor. 

On May 8 the enemy only spontaneously resisted. At noon, the enemy’s 1 military aircraft and helicopters bombard Armenian troops as well as Shushi and Stepanakert. Later it became clear that the purpose of the air attacks was to explode military warehouses of Shushi. Thus, Azerbaijanis hoped to destroy the whole city but they failed. By the evening, the “cleansing” of Shushi had been nearly completed and on May 9 the ancient city-fortress was completely liberated.

The necessity and background of the Liberation of Shushi.

The liberation of Shushi was of historical importance: to restore the inalienable right of Armenians to live in their ancient land, and to strengthen Armenian victorious spirit. By the liberation of Shushi Artsakh movement entered a new stage; it was a turning point in the war and the independence of NKR became more real. The liberation of Shushi was of economic importance too. Because of the land and air blockade, lack of electricity, gas and drinking water, as well as the constant bombardment from Shushi, the economy of Stepanakert, its surrounding areas, and the whole republic was paralyzed. Shushi in those days turned into a weapon emplacement number 1 of bombarding Stepanakert. From November 1991 to the beginning of May 1992, 4740 shells 3 thousand of which from “Grad” station were fired on Stepanakert from Shushi, Janhasan, Kyosalar, Ghaybalu. Because of this bombardments 111 civilians were killed, 332 were wounded, 370 houses and buildings were destroyed. 

The military successes at the end of 1991 and at the beginning of 1992 ,in Togh, in Khodjavend suburb of Martuni, in Lesnoy settlement of Askeran, Erkedj settlement of Shahumyan, in Manashid and Bazlukh, in Sarishen, Salaqyatin  and other settlements of Hadrut, then the taking up the weapon emplacement of Djamilu (15.12.91), Krkzhan (20.1.92), Malibeklu and Ghushchular, the liberation of Khojalu (25-26.2.92) and the opening of the airport created all the necessary economic, military and psychological preconditions for the liberation of Shushi. From this perspective, the self-defense of Kapstak on January 25-26 in 1992 was of special importance. Small Armenian army managed to push the attack of numerous enemy forces back and destroy more than 8 dozen enemy soldiers, carrying out a sortie from Shushi.

Because of the chain of subsequent failures the enemy lost his balance and started to attack in an unorganized way making serious tactical mistakes. By artillery and warlike equipment the enemy attacked the south-western positions of Stepanakert that were also known as positions of “26” from Shushi and Janhasan. Armenian soldiers have successfully pushed the attacks back. In fact, they were the last infantry attack of the enemy on Stepanakert. However, anti-aircraft missile bombardment continued in Stepanakert and the surrounding settlements. Around 1000 shells 800 from which were reactive launched and 20 civilians were killed. For maneuvering the enemy moved the military operations in the border zone of Nagorno-Karabakh, brought all civilians out of Shushi but continued to replenish armaments.

By April 27, 1992 11 tanks, 9 IFV, 12 armored personal carriers, 3 100-mm guns, 2 BM-21 and 1500 soldiers. And on May 6 15 additional vehicles of military significance were brought to Shushi from Lachin, 4 IFV, 4 armored personal carrier and 1500 soldiers. Azerbaijani media reported that allegedly the Armenian side had used chemical weapons, and they were going into "forced actions." However, in the preparation process of the liberation of Shushi the Armenian side also diplomatically informed the international community about it. The attention of the UN Secretary-General, OSCE, and leaders of a number of countries was drawn to an ongoing genocide by Azerbaijan especially massacre in Maragha in the appeal made by the General Council of NKR of February 19.   On May 1, they again appealed to the international community declaring that the people of Karabakh were starving, were deprived of water, electricity, and medicines.

Thus, the liberation of Shushi was necessary for the security of the entire population of Stepanakert and NKR. In March and April 1992 in response to the appeal by representatives of a number of countries, public and political figures, including the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General A.Vens authorized representative of the OSCE Ján Kubiš, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iran M.Vaezi, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation A.Kozyrev arrived in the region. The negotiation process began too: on May 6, the President of Armenia Levon Ter-Petrossian, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran H.Rafsanjani and acting President of Azerbaijan Y. Mammadov met in the capital of Iran, Tehran.

The Results and Historical Significance of the Liberation of Shushi. Specialists of the military art admired at the brilliant completion of Shushi liberation, especially the least amount of losses and duration, as well as at the courage of the Armenian soldiers and well-organized attack. In the evening of May 8 V.Sargsyan said: “What is happening in Artsakh is a miracle”. In the decree of the self-defense Committee of the NKR it is stated:  “Due to hard work and careful preparation, skilled leadership, teamwork and creativity of commanders of all ranks of NKR Defense forces as well as  decisive actions of Armenian freedom fighters resistance of the enemy was broken within two days and strategically important city of Shushi was liberated”.

Due to the liberation of Shushi all enemy weapon emplacement, as well as military bases were disarmed in Stepanakert and nearby areas. Manpower and warlike equipment of the enemy suffered heavy losses. The development and implementation of this military operation have proven the viability of the military thought of the Armenian people. The liberation of Shushi was followed by military operation on opening of Lachin corridor through which blockade of NKR was broken and two artificially divided part of the people were again reunited, the road connecting NKR and Armenia was opened. NKR became fully independent. The belief in the victory finally strengthened with the liberation of Shushi. It was the moral- psychological counterblow for the enemy who didn’t succeeded in overcoming the loser complex throughout the war. 

This victory was of  pan-Armenian significance too: it made the Armenians scattered in the whole world think about the integrity and unity of national interests, to return confidence in the inherent right of free expression of will and self-determination. The victory of Shushi revealed the seriousness of the aims and objectives of the Artsakh issue for the international community. In the liberation of Shushi the Armenian side suffered 57 casualties, the enemy - 250-300 casualties, 600-700 wounded, 13 prisoners. Based on the historical significance of the liberation of Shushi , NKR National Assembly established the medal "For the Liberation of Shushi” in 1994. in NKR and RA May 9 is officially declared as a Liberation  victory day of Shushi.

 Harutyunyan M. 

Source- Encyclopedia "Karabakh Liberation War 1988-1994", chief editor H. Ayvazyan, Armenian Encyclopedia edition, Yerevan, 2004. 

Harutyunyan M. A., The start of Artsakh War and the Liberation of Shushi, Yerevan, 2000. 

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