Christianity in Karabakh and Reinvention of History

LONDON (14.05.2021) — The rich history of Christian heritage in Karabakh and Azerbaijani efforts at rewriting history was the subject of a much anticipated lecture by Dr. Hratch Tchilingirian, which was organised virtually by the Diocese of the Armenian Church on 12th May.

This most informative lecture was part of a series of talks about Armenian religious and cultural heritage in Artsakh sponsored by the Diocese in the United Kingdom, under the auspices of the Primate, His Grace Bishop Hovakim Manukyan.

Dr. Tchilingirian, a sociologist and a scholar of modern and contemporary Middle East and Armenian studies at Oxford, first provided a general introduction and presented the Christian heritage in Karabakh from the 4th to the 21st century. In the second part of his talk, he discussed the decades-long and current Azerbaijani efforts of reinvention, denial and erasure of the Armenian Christian heritage in this region.

In his introduction, Dr. Tchilingirian said: “I shall speak about a historical subject that has far more relevance to current events and the future,” pointing out that “in this age of post-truth and manufacturing of ‘alternative facts’, it seems that anything and everything could be instrumentalised or highly politicised.”

During the hour-long presentation, Dr. Tchilingirian underlined that since the Karabakh war last year, the Azerbaijani government and institutions have intensified the process of rewriting the history of Armenian monuments in the 11-17th centuries.  He showed through illustrations as to how Armenian religious or cultural heritage before the 19th century is being presented as Caucasian Albanian as part of this state campaign of disinformation. Indeed, as part of the efforts to reinvent the history of this region, Armenian religious or cultural heritage between the 19th and 20th centuries are presented in the Azerbaijani narrative as “proof” that Armenians are not natives in these lands, but are rather recent immigrants from neighbouring countries.

A lengthy discussion of questions by the audience followed the main presentation. At the conclusion, Bishop Hovakim thanked Dr. Tchilingirian for his most informative, densely researched and insightful talk.

The recording of the talk is available at this link.