In 2024, the liberated territories of Azerbaijan are set to host three sports tournaments, as announced by the Ministry of Youth and Sports. Shusha and the settlement of Sugovushan in the Karabakh region have been selected as the hosts for chess and rowing tournaments.
Shusha will be the venue for the annual international chess tournament honoring the late Azerbaijani Grandmaster Vugar Hashimov, taking place from August 27-31. Meanwhile, Sugovushan will host the international “President Cup” regatta dedicated to National Leader Heydar Aliyev’s 101st birthday anniversary from May 5-8, and the “Mingachevir” regatta from October 17-20.
Last year, the Azerbaijan Cup football match was held in the city of Khankendi, the Karabakh region, marking the return of sports to the region after a 30-year hiatus. President Ilham Aliyev attended the pre-match ceremony, underscoring the significance of the event.
Sugovushan had previously hosted the 2022 and 2023 editions of the international “President Cup” regatta, where athletes from approximately 20 countries, including Azerbaijan, Türkiye, Georgia, Moldova, and Uzbekistan, competed for the prizes.
For nearly thirty years, a significant portion of Azerbaijan’s sovereign territory, including Shusha and Sugovushan, remained under Armenia’s occupation, stemming from an armed conflict over the Karabakh (Garabagh) region, internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan. Following the USSR dissolution in 1991, Armenia initiated a full-scale military aggression against Azerbaijan, culminating in a bloody war that persisted until a ceasefire in 1994. This conflict resulted in Armenia occupying 20 percent of Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized territories. Over 30,000 Azerbaijanis were killed and one million expelled from those lands in a brutal ethnic cleansing campaign conducted by Armenia.
The situation escalated on September 27, 2020, when Armenia’s forces, illegally stationed in the occupied Azerbaijani lands, unleashed a violent assault on military positions and civilian settlements of Azerbaijan. Over the course of a 44-day counterattack, Azerbaijani forces successfully liberated approximately 300 settlements, including the cities of Jabrayil, Fuzuli, Zangilan, Gubadli, and Shusha. The war concluded with a tripartite statement signed on November 10, 2020, by Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Russia. Under this agreement, Armenia also returned the occupied Aghdam, Kalbajar, and Lachin districts to Azerbaijan.
Despite legal obligations for the withdrawal of Armenian forces from the Karabakh region, since 2020, the Armenian armed formations committed numerous provocations, resulting in loss of life on the Azerbaijani side. Responding to these challenges, the Azerbaijan Armed Forces initiated local anti-terrorist measures on September 19, 2023, to neutralize illegal Armenian armed formations and their military infrastructure in the Karabakh region. On September 20, the illegal separatist regime requested through the Russian peacekeeping command to cease the local anti-terror activities by agreeing to withdrawal and complete disarmament of the Armenian armed formations.
On September 28, 2023, the Armenian separatist regime in the Karabakh region declared self-dissolution. On October 15, President Ilham Aliyev hoisted the state flag of Azerbaijan in Khankendi, marking a significant moment in the restoration of Azerbaijani sovereignty over the entire region.