Ignoring the calls of international humanitarian and cultural organization, historians, archaeologists and statesmen, the Azerbaijani authorities are continuing their policy of misinformation, presenting the centuries-old Armenian religious and cultural sites of Artsakh as “ancient Udi religious heritage.” In doing so, Azerbaijan is attempting to re-write history by declaring the Armenian sites to be of Udian origin.
Armenians around the world were shocked to learn about the destruction of the St. John the Baptist Church in Shushi, the Green Hour, as well as the destruction of the Mekhakavan (Jebrail) Zoravor Surb Astvatsatsin Church, which was documented by the BBC. Most concerningly, these desecrations took place months after the end of military actions.
Recently, President Ilham Aliyev also declared the Armenian Church of Holy Mother of God in the Hadrut region (occupied by Azerbaijan) to be Albanian with claims that the Armenians had falsified the inscriptions on the church. In fact, the Church of Holy Mother of God is a 17th-century building, the only church building preserved from the Armenian Tsaghkavank monastery complex. By using historical revisionism in this way, President Aliyev is clearing the ground for the usurpation of Armenian religious and cultural legacies.
Contrary to Azerbaijani claims, it is a historical fact that Aghvank has nothing to do with the current Republic of Azerbaijan in terms of its religious and cultural heritage. A significant Armenian intellectural and cultural centre, the Catholicosate of Aghvan, operated in Aghvank. There are plenty of pieces of historical evidence for this, including in the works of Pliny the Younger, Plutarch, Koryun, Pavstos Buzand, Movses Kagankatvatsi, and other early authors.
The Armenian Church still has centuries-old multiple Khatchkars (cross-stones), chapels, churches and monasteries in the territories occupied by Azerbaijan which serve as a silent witness to the displacement and exile of the Armenian population from the region. These sanctuaries need the prayers of the Armenian people.
By strongly condemning the Azerbaijani authorities’ policy we, once again, call on the international community to stop the destruction of the religious and cultural sites of Artsakh, which are part of our global cultural heritage.
Artsakh Committee for the Preservation of Religious and Cultural Heritage
25 March, 2021․