The Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute strongly condemns another attempt made by Ilham Aliyev, President of Azerbaijan, to distort the ownership of Armenian cultural monuments.
Ilham Aliyev, visiting the occupied territories of the Artsakh Republic including the 12th-century Surb Astvatsatsin (Holy Mother of God) Armenian Church in the village of Tsakuri in the Hadrut region in the last few days, made the following statement:
“This is an Albanian church. The Armenians tried to make this church Armenian, they added inscriptions in Armenian here, but were not successful. This is our ancient temple, the temple of our Udi brothers, who will also be coming here. Just as they desecrated our mosques, so the Armenians desecrated this ancient Albanian temple. But we will rebuild everything and all these inscriptions are false….”
It should be noted that the 12th century Surb Astvatsatsin Church (Holy Mother of God) in Tsakuri village is the only surviving church in the former Tsaghkavank monastery complex.
Aliyev's statement is the continuation of Azerbaijan’s decades-long state policy, which aims to assimilate the ancient and medieval Armenian cultural values by distorting or changing history.
By the middle of 1960s and the beginning of 1970s, the Academy of Sciences of Soviet Azerbaijan established an anti-scientific approach, according to which Christian monuments in the Nagorno-Karabakh region are not material values of Armenian culture but of Azerbaijan, whose ancestors were inhabitants of Caucasian Albania (Aghvank), who were of Christian faith and disappeared by the 9th century. The cornerstone of this theory was laid by the well-known forger Zia Buniatov in his study “Azerbaijan in the 7th-9th centuries,” the title of which already proves the latter's anti-scientific approach. The so-called “Albanian theory” later became widespread among Azeri scholars, many of whom often became confused by their own falsifications. Thus about 200 monuments located in the territory of Artsakh were declared Albanian-Azerbaijani, including Khatravank, Dadivank, Gandzasar, etc., and were included in the official lists of monuments approved by the Soviet government of Azerbaijan.
Together with the policy of appropriation, the Azerbaijani government continues to pursue the policy of destroying Armenian cultural values. The destruction of Surb Hovhannes Mkrtich Church (the St. John the Baptist Church) under Azerbaijani occupation in Shushi (popularly known as “Kanach Zham” ["Green Church"]) was recently confirmed. Moreover, the church was destroyed not during the war, but after it ended.
This is a clear manifestation of cultural genocide, which, according to the lawyer Raphael Lemkin, the founder of genocide theory, is extremely destructive and often reveals the intent of physically destroying a particular group. Lemkin was convinced that the cultural component of genocide had the potential to prevent it.
"Burning books and bodies are not the same thing, but when anyone intervenes in the destruction of churches and books at the right time, they can prevent the burning of bodies," said a Venezuelan delegate during the discussion of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
Taking into consideration the abovementioned things, we would like to draw the attention of the relevant bodies and international communities to the fact that, despite the ongoing mass destruction of cultural values, there is still no international legal instrument or document that would make “cultural genocide” punishable. The existing impunity, unfortunately, suggests that the adoption of a new international convention, which would also criminalize the deliberate and steady destruction of cultural values, is more than urgent. At the same time, Azerbaijan’s policy contains the intentional physical extermination of Armenians, which makes it extremely necessary to protect the Armenians of Artsakh and recognize the independence of the Republic of Artsakh as soon as possible.
Head of the Department of Organizing Museum Exhibitions
Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute