Having existed under the yoke of Iran for many centuries, Artsakh has become the place of residence for many Iranian officials and members of their family, as well as for nomads who gradually settled here at the end of XIX century. After becoming part of Russia the capital of Artsakh, Shoushi, appeared on the crossroads of trade routes connecting Iran and Russia. The rapid development of trade brought large numbers of Shiite Muslims to the city, who formed their own communities and settled in Shoushi. Thus, by the end of XIX century in Artsakh, especially in its lower part and Shoushi, many Muslims had been living their own culture and left rich cultural heritage behind. Mausoleums of dervishes, gravestones and severa mosques are scattered around the area. They were constructed in the middle and at the end of XIX century and serve as wonderful examples of the connections between Islamic and Christian cultures, embodied in the stone by the skillful hands of Artsakhian craftsmen. These monuments were designed by Persian architects who took into consideration the local architectural traditions.
The Upper Mosque of Shoushi
The Persian Mosque of Shoushi is one of the most well-known local monuments of Islamic culture. It was built as a project of well-known Iranian architect Kerbalay Sefi-Khan in 1883 in the center of the Muslim part of the city. Two high minarets outline three arched entrances on the main façade of the building. Both minarets are decorated by colored geometrical ornaments. An octagonal pool with a fountain is situated in front of the mosque.
For more than 50 years the mosque was the center of spiritual life for Muslim inhabitants of Shoushi. During the Soviet period the mosque was turned into a local history museum where unique exhibits and works of art were shown. During the operation of Shoushi's liberation in May 1992, in the course of the fighting the mosque building suffered great damages. Today large-scale restoration works are being carried out.
Another building for public worship in Shoushi.
The Lower Mosque, or Gajkhar Agha Mosque, was built in 1875 as a project of the same architect Kerbalay Sefi-Khan. On the whole it has a similar architectural plan and style as the Upper Mosque. The area in front of the mosque is surrounded by the buildings where the religious school of madrasah was.
The mosque is in Sahatly quarter with one minaret that was restorated in 2005. Other houses of worship in different parts of Shoushi still exist.
Fizuli Mosque was built in 1889 as a project of the well-known architect Kerbalay Sefi-Khan. In many respects it resembles the outer forms of the mosque of Aghdam. The consequences of war effected this mosque also.
It was built in 1870 by the same architect Kerbalay Sefi-Khan. According to the planning it is almost identical to the Upper Mosque of Shoushi.
A bit damaged in the course of fighting, this mosque, however, is in quite a tolerable state. Two minarets of the mosque from both sides of the house of worship are built of brick and are decorated with geometrical ornaments.
The Palace and Necropolis of Panah Khan Family
A fine construction of XIX century in the center of Aghdam, not far from the stadium, consists of living spaces and reception hall, built of local limestone. The walls outside are beautifully ornamented with cornices and stone carving. Burial-vaults and mausoleums of Panah Khan Family are situated nearby. The complex has persisted till our days in its invariable view.
Mausoleums in Khachen Dorbatlu, Khodjalu, Biniatly, Aghdam and Jijimli
Built in XIX century, these mausoleums are situated over the burial grounds of dervishes and authoritative Muslims. They are mainly polyhedral tholobates with hipped cupolas. From the outside they are trimmed with worked stone and decorated with beautiful cornices, often with intricate carving. Such a trimming again presents a synthesis of Islamic architecture and Armenian architectural traditions. The local population calls these mausoleums “Gyumbez” – a Turkish word which is translated as “cupola”. And, in fact, these constructions resemble church cupolas so much that many legends about churches covered with earth arose among people. But, of course, these are traditional Muslim mausoleums often with mihrab turned towards Mecca. Situated on the flat grounds these monuments of Islamic architecture are rather picturesque and attract travelers’ attention at once. In the vicinity of mausoleums one may also encounter gravestones with skillful ornamental or geometrical stone carving.