An Evening For Shushi.jpgNEW YORK, NY—The history of Nagorno-Karabagh’s Shushi Museum, a repository of Armenian culture, has mirrored the traumas and victories of Shushi’s Armenian population.   Only days after Shushi’s liberation in 1992, the museum was saved from destruction while the city was still in flames.  Holding rare collections of the city’s rich heritage, it is today in desperate need of renovation and upgrading.

On Thursday evening, July 23, at the Tufenkian Artisan Carpets Showroom in New York, close to 100 people attended a special reception to support two worthy Tufenkian causes in Karabagh—the Shushi Museum renovation efforts and the summer camp project for children from impoverished families.

During the evening, guests enjoyed cocktails, hors d’oevres and live music, and participated in a silent auction of Karabagh artifacts.   One of the auction’s lucky winners walked away with a handmade Tufenkian rug.

An eye-opening slide show presented by Antranig Kasbarian, Executive Director of the Tufenkian Foundation, detailed the rich history of Shushi.   Surrounded by deep gorges on three sides, Sushi is often called the “Fortress City,” and dates back many centuries.

Strategically situated between Persia and Russia, Shushi grew to become the third-largest city in Transcaucasia, and was Karabagh’s capital in the 19th century.  However, it fell prey to ethnic clashes at the turn of the 20th century.  In 1920, Azerbaijani forces entered this once-prosperous city, massacring its Armenian leaders and burning the city to the ground.

During the modern-day Karabagh struggle, it was used by Azerbaijan to bombard Stepanakert and the surrounding lowlands.  However, in 1992, it became the site of a valiant and crucial resistance, which eventually led to the liberation of the entire enclave of Karabagh.

The Shushi Museum is a testament to this unique history; accordingly, the Tufenkian Foundation has dedicated nearly $100,000 to the effort to renovate and modernize it.

During his presentation, Kasbarian described other important Foundation projects, including a collaboration with the Armenian Missionary Association of America, whose Shushi summer camp serves as a source of enrichment for children from nearby Kashatagh (Lachin).  These children come mainly from destitute or single-parent families that have resettled in this area amidst difficult conditions.

These are two of more than 50 projects in Karabagh and Armenia that James Tufenkian has initiated and put into motion since 1986.  Addressing the enthusiastic crowd, Mr. Tufenkian pointed out that the Tufenkian Foundation—which was created in 1999—has a multi-layered program which includes combating poverty, promoting education, rehabilitating the environment, supporting health care, and renewing national, civic, cultural and spiritual values.

He announced that four Tufenkian hotels today are located in different regions of Armenia, and that three more are in the process of being built, always with the utmost consideration given to the needs of the environment and the beauty of the location.

To the delight of the crowd, three dancers from the Shushi Armenian Dance Ensemble, garbed in beautiful Armenian costumes, performed several of their well-known numbers.  Among the guests attending were Irina Lazarian, Executive Director of the Armenia Fund USA (eastern region) and Nareg Haroutunian, who himself has been instrumental in establishing several projects in Armenia and Karabagh, including the Naregatzi Art Institute.

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