Azerbaijan is planning to declare Shushi “cultural center of the Turkic world”

On September 17, 2021, the Minister of Culture of the Republic of Azerbaijan Anar Kerimov tweetted that in 2023 Baku is going to declare Shushi “the cultural capital of the Turkic world”. The minister submitted the proposal during the 38th ministerial meeting of the International Organization of Turkic Culture (TURKSOY) in Khiva, Uzbekistan. He also added that Azerbaijan should strengthen cooperation with the TurkSoy organization, which is engaged in the protection of Turkic culture, the development of the culture of the Turkic peoples, especially regarding the destruction of cultural and historical monuments of Karabakh.

The cultural capital of the Turkic world is annually designated by members of the International Organization of Turkic Studies, TurkSoy, in order to draw attention to the historical and cultural heritage and glorify the cultural values ​​of the city. The capital of Kazakhstan, Astana, was the first city to receive the title of "Cultural Capital of the Turkic World" in 2012. In 2020 and 2021 it was Khiva, Uzbekistan.

Our response

Nominating Shushi as the cultural center of the Muslim Turkic world, which is also one of the most important centers of Armenian culture, clearly violates the historicism of the city, the basic principles of its authenticity and integrity, contained in the Nara document of Authenticity, adopted in 1994 in Japan, the document, signed in 2017 by ICOMOS in New Delhi, as well as various documents of UNESCO and other international structures.

The Nara Document on the Preservation of Authenticity emphasizes that in cases where cultural values appear to be in conflict, respect for cultural diversity demands acknowledgment of the legitimacy of the cultural values of all parties. It is important to underline the fundamental principle of UNESCO, to the effect that the cultural heritage of each is the cultural heritage of all. Responsibility for cultural heritage and the management of it belongs, in the first place, to the cultural community that has generated it, and subsequently to that which cares for it. And the fact of the authenticity of the cultural heritage should not be ignored (the Nara Document on Authenticity, paragraph 8).

In addition, the convention "On the value of cultural heritage for society", developed by the EU Committee of Ministers on October 13, 2005, in Faro (Portugal), also emphasizes that the significance of cultural heritage is determined by the community, and any expression of the collective thought as a value should be protected for the sake of its naturalness and authenticity.

The problem of preserving heritage with all its historical manifestations and chronology belongs to the values ​​of heritage. Our ability to understand cultural values ​​depends on the reliability of information sources or on the degree of trust, which create the necessary basis for determining all aspects of authenticity and which make it possible to understand the type of cultural heritage, its characteristics, meaning, and history (Nara Document on Authenticity, 1994, Japan).

Understanding authenticity plays a decisive role in all processes related to cultural heritage and its preservation. Heritage sites should be researched and assessed based on their cultural context. For this reason, the knowledge of the peculiarities of the cultural heritage in the context of a particular culture (the culture of the Artsakh Armenians), as well as the reliability and accuracy of information sources concerning them, acquires great importance and urgency.

Aspects of authenticity can include form and design, material and components, usage and function, location and technique, spirit and feeling, and external and internal factors. Based on all this, we declare that the proclamation of the city of Shushi as the cultural capital of the Turkic world significantly violates the real fact of the history of the city, its traditions, external and internal components, and the authenticity of the feelings of the population.