During a question-and-answer session with the government in the National Assembly on January 20, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan stated that Shushi had more than 90 percent Azerbaijani population before the conflict and liberation of Shushi.
Answering the question of Naira Zohrabyan, MP from the Prosperous Armenia Party, the Prime Minister noted that there was no opportunity to stop the war with less territorial losses.
To Zohrabyan’s claim whether we can conclude from this that Russian President Vladimir Putin lied when he said that he had offered to stop the war on October 18 on much more favorable terms, leaving Shushi under Armenian control, the Prime Minister responded that throughout the process, there was no solution option that would not envisage the return of Azeri refugees to Shushi. “Before the conflict and liberation, Shushi had more than 90% of the Azerbaijani population. Do you mean that Shushi, which has an Azerbaijani population of more than 90%, can be Armenian with that status? ” Pashinyan said.
The Fact Investigation Platform has studied the composition of the population of Shushi since the 19th century to find out whether the Prime Minister is right.
The population of Shushi
In the middle of the 19th century, Shushi had a larger population than Yerevan and Baku. There are reliable data on the population of Shushi and the whole territory of Nagorno Karabakh since 1886. According to the data, before 1920 the number of Armenians in the city exceeded the number of Azeris, and after 1920 it sharply decreased.
According to data collected by Tsarist Russia for the purposes of tax collection in 1886, a total of 26,806 people lived in Shushi, of which 15,188, or more than 56 percent, were Armenians, and 11,595 (43 percent) were Azeris (Tatars).
According to the 1897 Russian census, there were 25,881 people living in Shushi, of which 14,420 were Armenians and 10,778 were Azeris (Tatars).
According to the Caucasian Calendar of the Russian Administration in Transcaucasia, 43,869 people lived in Shushi in 1916, of which 23,396 were Armenians (53%) and 19,121 were Azeris (Tatars) (44%).
According to the first Soviet census of 1926, the population of Shushi had sharply decreased to 5,104, of which 4,900 (96%) were Azeris (Turks) and 93 (1.8%) were Armenians.
In 1959, 6,117 people lived in Shushi, of which 1,428 (23%) were Armenians and 4,453 (72%) were Azeris.
In 1979, 85% of the population of Shushi were Azeris. Out of 10,784 inhabitants, 9,216 were Azerbaijanis and 1,409 were Armenians (13%).
During the Artsakh movement in 1988, the Azeris were forcing the Armenians to leave the city, threatening to burn their houses.
Massacres of the Armenian population of Shushi in 1920
It is noteworthy that the abrupt change of the composition of the population of Shushi in 1904 and 1926 did not take place naturally or peacefully. On March 23-26, 1920, the Azeris carried out massacres of Armenians in the Armenian half of Shushi, during which several hundred Armenians were killed and the rest of the Armenian population was forced to leave the city.
Thus, Nikol Pashinyan’s assertion that before the Artsakh movement 90% of the population of Shushi were Azeris is true, but the Prime Minister’s statement is also misleading and manipulative, because he shapes a wrong opinion by presenting incomplete data. In fact, the city was cleansed of Armenians in the 1920s as a result of massacres.