Erasure: Documenting the Destruction of Nakhichevan’s Armenian Past With Simon Maghakyan 15th April 2021

“It was all gone. It was just desolate grassland as if nothing ever existed there”

Last week April 9th 2021, Simon Maghakyan, a US-based scholar, presented a truly insightful and imperative lecture about the Destruction of Nakhichevan’s Armenian Past. Through well documented satellite decoder information from the Cold War era, pictures from personal social media investigations and material from the archives of various academics, Simon demonstrated how the rich historical, spiritual and cultural heritage of Nakhichevan was systematically destroyed by the Azeri state.

Simon also mentioned Akram Aylisli, an Azerbaijani novelist who now lives under de facto house arrest, who had urged the Azerbaijani government to end this ‘monstrous vandalism’ through a self-published telegram to Heydar Aliyev.

During this well-attended presentation, many participants expressed their dismay at how such valuable Armenian cultural heritage had been destroyed in the eyes of the international community. Further concerns built on the present fears felt throughout the entire Armenian community that the same destiny could await other Armenian monuments in the Azerbaijani occupied territories of Nagorno Karabakh.

Simon is an experienced human rights advocate and researcher whose work and public service tenure includes serving as Amnesty International USA’s primary specialist and campaigner for the ex-USSR. He is also leading the Armenian National Committee of America’s grassroots development in 18 Western Region states and is coordinating civics education at Colorado’s legislature. He has recently joined the Armenian Monuments Preservation Project as the new initiative’s executive consultant – a crucial role that is imperative during these unprecedented times in Artsakh.

Maghakyan’s academic experience includes lecturing in international relations at the University of Colorado Denver and serving as visiting scholar at Tufts University.

December 2005 the Azerbaijani army eradicated the world’s largest medieval Armenian cemetery at Djulfa. Since then Maghakyan has been investigating and building awareness about cultural erasure. Simon’s work has resulted in numerous groundbreaking publications and collaborative projects such as:

  • com, a website dedicated to document, publicise and pursue accountability for the intentional destruction of the largest medieval Armenian cemetery at Djulfa.
  • The American Association for the Advancement of Science’s pioneer satellite investigation into cultural destruction.
  • The Colorado State Capitol replica Djulfa khachkar memorial.
  • The widely-cited 2019 exposéof Azerbaijan’s covert erasure of 28,000 medieval Armenian monuments in Nakhichevan.
  • A forthcoming article geolocating with declassified Cold War spy satellite imagery the now-destroyed churches of Agulis memorialized by Azerbaijani novelist Akram Aylisli’s banned book Stone Dreams.

A huge thank you to Simon Maghakyan for this exceptional presentation and lecture.

You can watch Simon’s lecture and Q&A on YouTube. Please click here.

Armenian Culture and Heritage lecture series:

This lecture is the first in a series of key perceptive lectures with the objective to increase awareness and to provide unbiased, accurate and reliable information on cultural heritage. These lecture events are organised by the Artsakh Cultural and Spiritual Heritage protection Committee of the Diocese of the Armenian Church in The United Kingdom.

Future events:

  • 12th May with Hratch Tchilingarian – Christianity in Karabakh: The rich religious heritage in Artsakh from 4th to 21st century.
  • 26th May with Professor Jasmin dum Tragut – The Language of Karabakh.