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Tagged: heritage watch

Azerbaijan Escalates Attacks on Armenian Heritage Sites

Since Azerbaijani forces invaded the Republic of Artsakh, also known as Nagorno-Karabakh, on September 19, forcing more than 100,000 Armenians from their ancestral homelands in an act that has been described as “ethnic cleansing” and “genocide,” at least three Armenian cemeteries and one 19th-century church in the region have been damaged by new and expanding construction work. In addition, numerous other churches, cemeteries, and other historic structures are increasingly being threatened with damage and destruction by encroaching Azeri activities.

The recent violations add to a slew of attacks on Armenian religious and cultural heritage sites in the region in the wake of the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War, marking a renewed effort by the Azerbaijani government to erase the existence of Indigenous Armenians from the landscape.

Satellite monitoring by the Cornell University-based research program Caucasus Heritage Watch (CHW) detected that between October 5 and November 3, bulldozers paved a road through the Yerevan Gates Cemetery in Shushi, also known as Shusha in Azerbaijani, according to the group’s December report. Home to 78 tombstones with Armenian inscriptions dating from 1802 to 1913, the burial ground is obscured by thick forest, making it unclear for researchers to identify which tombstones were damaged. 

Armenian inscriptions in religious sites have frequently been targeted by the forces of the Azerbaijani dictatorship, which is seeking to erase these markers of Armenian history. Back in 2019, Simon Maghakyan and Sarah Pickman reported on these pages about the eradication of thousands of monuments of Armenian heritage across the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhichevan, a report later verified by Caucasus Heritage Watch. Using a pseudo-scientific theory that these traces of Armenian existence are fictitious, the Azerbaijani government has supported the desecration and cultural reappropriation of churches and tombstones under the guise of so-called restoration.

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