On May 8, 1992, a correspondent of the Moscow bureau of the Reuters agency, David Ljunggren, came to the office of the Turan agency. Like all foreign journalists, he showed interest in the Shusha developments.
In the reviewed period, the Turan office operated like an information gathering for many representatives of foreign media who constantly called, came, asked for help and often transmitted their messages to the editorial office from the Turan office. In those years, reliable communication was carried out either by phone or by telex, even faxes were not very popular yet.
Nearly of two meters tall, David turned out to be a young pusher dissatisfied with the official response of our Ministry of Defense that there were battles in Shusha, so he asked to arrange meetings with officials concerned.
Together with David, we met with the state adviser on foreign policy (then it was so easy!) Vafa Guluzade who described the situation at the front and gave his appraisal of the situation. Asked about - who controls Shusha? - Guluzade called an assistant of Yagub Mammadov, the then head of the state. "There are fights going on," he replied shortly.
However, the persistent reporter was not satisfied with this and asked to go to the front line.
At that time, the country's authorities did their best to send foreign correspondents to the front, giving them an opportunity to testify consequences of the Armenian aggression and the situation around refugees. For this reason, our appeal to the Ministry of Defense was taken positively, and we were offered to go to the airfield in Zabrat to fly by helicopter to Agdam. At the airfield, we were put into a small MI-2 and in less than an hour David and I were already in Agdam.
We talked with the self-defense forces of Agdam but did not learn anything new. From there, they went to the local department of internal affairs and only there the police chief unequivocally said: "Shusha is in the hands of Armenian gangs."
It was a shock for me, because we were all sure that a peace agreement had been concluded in Tehran and the attack on Shusha was someone's amateur activity that would be stopped. However, the police chief was categorical – "the city is lost".
"We tried to attack from the side of Aghdam, but we couldn't get far. There are mercenaries on the Armenian side and we killed one," he said, presenting us with a document with a photo. It was a journalist's ID card, on which the owner's name was written - "Murad Muradyan", a reporter for a Lebanese publication."What was a reporter doing with a machine gun in his hands on the front line?" the police chief asked.
After leaving the police station, we went to the post office, from where the telephone girls connected David with the Reuters Moscow bureau, and it was the first to report about the capture of Shusha by the Armenians. We were returning from Aghdam with a heavy heart, or rather I was, because David was very pleased and surprised that he was taken to Baku within one day, put in a helicopter and sent to Aghdam and returned back on the same day, by the same helicopter.
Trying to repay something for such a "service", already in Baku, David invited me to a restaurant for dinner to "celebrate" a successful trip. He couldn't understand why I was so upset about the capture of Shusha and why I wasn't in the mood to go to a restaurant. To be honest, I didn't even try to explain anything to him.
After working in Baku for a couple more days, David again used our office and communication. Before leaving for Moscow, he came to say goodbye and presented Turan with a bottle of the famous and rare French Remy Martin cognac at that time.
"Have a drink when you're in the mood”" he said, already realizing the reasons for our depression.
This bottle remained on our shelf for some time following which the director of Turan, Mehman Aliyev, said: "Take it to hell, or we will give it to someone, we will not drink it."
"No, we will not give it to anyone," I objected, "we will open this bottle when Shusha is liberated." We assumed that this would happen soon, in a month, well, two at most...
Since then, the Remy Martin box has been gathering dust in the agency's safe for 29 years, and we only remembered it when moving from office to office, when sorting through the contents of the safe.
The last time this happened was in August 2017, when Turan's office was searched. Then, as part of a far-fetched criminal case against Turan, several searches were conducted at the agency and all documents were seized.
The investigators of the Ministry of Taxes, going through the documentation, came across Remy Martin and asked in surprise – What is it? I explained that this is a symbolic gift that we keep until the liberation of Shusha.
"Well, then, you will never drink," the investigator said ironically.
"What do you mean, never ? Are you saying we'll never release the city?", I was indignant. My sharp tone somewhat cooled the taxman, who silently put the box of cognac back in the safe…
I couldn't help but think of cognac and David on November 7, 2020, when the operation to liberate Shusha began. Mentally going back, I tried to comprehend what I had experienced over the years.
The liberation of Shusha was not just a military victory. We have freed ourselves from the stereotype of the defeated, from the syndrome of national humiliation and shame that has lived in us for three decades. Meeting with Armenians at various events, and having visited Armenia twice in 1998 and 2019, I heard the same thesis from opponents – you don't know how to fight, and if you haven't been able to do anything for 25 years, then you won't be able to continue, you have no motivation to fight ...
It must be admitted that all the economic achievements of Azerbaijan during the years of independence did not give us the feeling of fullness that we experienced over the past month.
The liberation of Shusha was, of course, a festive shock, but we experienced the strongest shock earlier – in the first days of the war, when it finally sounded: "The villages of the Fuzuli district have been liberated» and it went and went.
April 2016 seemed to many to be proof that we will not be allowed to fight, that it is not worth thinking about it in the coming years. Therefore, the main concern with the beginning of the current war was not even losses at the front, but fears that the great – power message would be heard again-stop the war!
Remembering Remy Martin, I couldn't help thinking, what does it taste like, this "29-year-old cognac"? While preparing to drink it, I already thought about something else - or maybe I should leave it until Lachin? Or maybe until the end of the war?
Looking at this modest, by today's standards, flat bottle, for some reason you understand that it has acquired a certain sacred symbol, and all our pain, all feelings, all thoughts that we have hidden for so many years have accumulated in it. For some reason, I wanted to save all this. The spiritual power of the contents of this vessel was more significant than its taste.
10 November 2020.