Cultural Genocide by Turkey & Azerbaijan
This article was written to explain how long Azerbaijan and Turkey have vandalized and committed genocide to Armenian monuments. Let's dive in, according to a report by the art journal Hyperallergic, for the past 30 years, Azerbaijan is engaging in a cultural genocide of Armenian monuments. Argam Ayvazyan, a researcher, took photographs from 1964 to 1987 of Armenian monuments and churches in Julfa: 22,000 tombstones, 89 churches, and 5,840 khachkars. These all have disappeared, according to the art journal’s report.
Armenian art researcher Argam Ayvazyan in 1981, next to a 14th-century khachkar in Nors, near his birthplace.
Let’s look at the vandalism that Azerbaijan did to the Armenian cemetery in Julfa, which is in Nakhichevan. The oldest khachkars from this cemetery date back to the 6th century, and there were approximately 10,000 khachkars. However, after the Soviet Union created the Nagorno Karabakh oblast and the Nakhichevan oblast, these khachkars went from 10,000 to about 3,000. This led the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to try and preserve these khachkars in 2005, but that did not work, as the Azerbaijani soldiers threw waste and sledgehammers throughout the cemetery. In December 2005, the Iranian border control mentioned to the prelate at an Armenian church in Northern Iran that the cemetery was under military attack. Bishop Nshan Topouzian and his photographer went to the cemetery and filmed 100 Azerbaijani soldiers demolishing the khachkars in the cemetery by using cranes and dump trucks, destroying what khachkars the cemetery had left (approximately 2,000). On top of that, 1,000 khachkars were destroyed by these soldiers from 1998 to 2002. In fact, Azerbaijanis claim that Nakhichevan was never Armenian to begin with, and deny their responsibilities of desecrating the cemetery.
There was also evident destruction done by Azerbaijan of Armenian churches in the Julia region. One of these instances was the destruction of Sourp Hagop church, which was the largest church in Shorot (Şurud), a village in the Julfa region. Steven Sim, a Scottish photographer traveled in 2005 to Nakhichevan. He took photos like Argam Ayvazyan of the same monuments. Notice the two photos below. These photos show proof that when Azerbaijan took over the land, they demolished the area of the church.
This photo was taken by Argam Ayvazyan between 1970 and 1981
The photo of the same church taken by Steven Sim, 2005
The second church was Agulis’s Surb Tovma (St. Thomas Cathedral), which historically has been found by the Apostle Bartholomew. It was located in historic Armenia’s Goghtn district in the Vaspurakan province (Nakhchichevan’s Ordubad Rayon). It is noticeable in the two photos below that cultural genocide was done by Azerbaijanis, in which they converted a historical Christian church into a mosque. Turkey did something similar with their recent conversion of the historical Christian Orthodox church, Hagia Sophia, into a mosque in 2020. It was converted into a mosque previously in 1453 then converted to a museum in 1934 (UNESCO world heritage site).
Surp Tovma photographed by Argam Ayvazyan between 1970 and 1981
In 2014, the cathedral was converted to a mosque by Azerbaijanis
Armenians were so traumatized from the destruction by Azerbaijanis of the churches and monuments in Nakhichevan that they tried to preserve Armenian materials out of the Dadivank monastery in Karvachar (Kalbajar). One of the civilians, Vahram, who is 35 and in the front lines of the 2020 war mentioned “They are erasing our history,” and “You know what they did to Julfa.” Father Hovhannes, who has been serving the monastery for the past 25 years, said “We will not allow them to destroy [this church],” however, reports state that the Russian peacekeepers are protecting the monastery. Father Vahram Melikyan, spokesman of Catholicos of All Armenians at Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin released a statement saying, "I inform you that Dadivank is already under the control of Russian peacekeepers, it is not in danger." Armenians in the region are burning their homes and taking their materials that “can be stolen.” Karine Chakhelyan, a citizen in Karvachar, mentioned “Now [the Azerbaijanis] are driving us out from here, too. Like cattle.”
There were several events of vandalism in Turkey that occurred in the past year. In May 2020, a man named M.K. tried to light Istanbul's Dznunt Surp Asdvadzadzni Church’s gate on fire. His reasoning behind lighting the church on fire was: “they created the coronavirus pandemic,” referring to Armenians. The same church has been constantly attacked with hate speech and discriminatory graffiti during the past few years.
Three weeks after the incident of the first church, a man ripped a cross off of Istanbul’s oldest Armenian church, Saint Gregory the Illuminator Church (Surp Krikor Lusaroviç). Garo Paylan mentioned “Attacks continue on our churches. The cross of our Surp Krikor Lusaroviç Armenian Church was removed and thrown away. Hate speech by the ruling power normalizes hate crimes."
An Armenian cemetery was desecrated in Ankara, Turkey in August 2020. According to Diana Yayloyan, a researcher in Ankara, the graves of the Armenian Holy Savior and Surp Karasun Manuk churches’ cemetery in Ankara were destroyed by Turks.
Several vandalizations and other forms of destruction occurred following the ceasefire agreement on November 10th. Destruction occurred on historical churches and monuments. Azerbaijani soldiers destroyed the statue of Garegin Nzhdeh. They damaged the statue’s nose and other face parts. Garegin Njdeh was a captain and strategist from the Nakhichevan province that is best known for stopping Turkish, Bolshevik, and Azerbaijani armies in Zangezur. He also was a key figure in the Battle of Karakilisa, and a military leader of the First Republic of Armenia (lasted from 1918 to 1921).
A number of churches were vandalized by Azerbaijani soldiers after the ceasefire agreement. The first church was Sushi’s Ghazanchetsots Cathedral. The Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin (Armenian Church) released a statement, saying “We strongly condemn the incident, assessing it as an overt act of vandalism and intolerance. Azerbaijan should not be allowed to continue its policy of cultural genocide with Turkish support, which for decades has been carried out in Azerbaijan and Nakhichevan Autoniomous Republic of Azerbaijan.” It was also reported from Armradio.am on November 14th, 2020 that the Armenian Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sport filed an appeal with this information to international organizations such as UNESCO.
St. John the Baptist (Kanach Zham) church in Shushi was another church vandalized by Azerbaijanis (by destroying the dome and bell tower). The bell tower and dome was removed. The Etchmiadzin church has also condemned these acts of vandalism.
Not only are Azerbaijani soldiers vandalizing historical Armenian churches and monuments, they are also damaging Armenian schools, homes, and other forms of infrastructure. Azerbaijani soldiers killed people in the NK region and destroyed their cars, putting messages of hate speech. This vandalism of the following picture is referring to the Sumgait Pogroms that happened 32 years ago. From February 27-29, 1988 in Sumgait, Azerbaijan, hundreds of Armenians were massacred and raped by Azerbaijanis. Azerbaijanis also vandalized Armenian apartments during that time. In addition, they also put a swastika on the car, which is a hate symbol used by Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany.
A number of Armenian apartments/homes and classrooms are being destroyed by Azerbaijani soldiers in Artsakh. The proof is in the following pictures that the soldiers go into an Armenian apartments and classrooms, and completely destroy everything (via pictures/videos from @thearmosphere instagram). From these two instances, you all can see that these soldiers completely disrespect Armenians living in the region by vandalizing their Armenian flag, home decor, and classroom materials.
Azerbaijan is even claiming that they are descendants from the Caucasian Albanians, who were in the region from 500 to 3000 years. However this is false. According to Thomas De Waal, who wrote Black Garden based on the situation of the NK region, wrote this tweet: "Nobody believes the Caucasian Albanian theory outside Azerbaijan. The minimum must be to preserve the Armenian inscriptions and graves at Dadivank."
The second indication that the Albanian claim is false is a quote that Igor Dorfmann-Lazarev, a lecturer at the Aix-Marseille Université, made:”[…] looking how Armenia and Georgia have been competing for their ancient past, Azerbaijan, which is a new polity, also wanted to get one [an ancient history]. […] It is under these conditions that the myth about Caucasian Albania as the direct ancestor of the Turkic-speaking Azerbaijan appeared and was propelled […] one has to prove that the Albanian past of Azerbaijan has no Armenian traces on it…” Before destroying the Armenian monuments at Nakhichevan, Azerbaijan claimed that these monuments are “Caucasian Albanian.” These above claims by Azerbaijan are also not true because ancient authors and historians such as Strabo, Plutarch, Claudius Ptolemy, and Dion Cassius noted that Armenians were residing in Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) and that the land was a part of Armenia. These pieces of evidence prove that Azerbaijan is already attempting the cultural genocide of Armenians by spreading this falsified myth of their ancestry.
It is predicted that Azerbaijan will destroy all the lesser known monuments immediately, and the well-known buildings will be kept because of the Caucasian Albania myth by Azerbaijan. Eventually, the well known ones will also be destroyed (as predicted by the author of the arts journal article) just like what happened in the historical sites of Nakhichevan. This is because the Azerbaijanis want to slowly hide the historical sites to strengthen their false claim that they historically resided in these lands. We hope that this article makes you all well aware of what is going on in Artsakh in terms of the cultural genocide of historical Armenian building, statues, churches and monuments, as well as the destruction of Armenian sites, such as cemeteries, homes, and classrooms.