During the OSCE/ODIHR Human Dimension Conference in Warsaw, the representative of Azerbaijan, Toghrul Mammadli, stated that the Holy All Savior Ghazanchetsots Church in Shushi is being reconstructed based on historical documents.
In response to speaker Izabella Sargsyan’s speech that Azerbaijan hit the Ghazanchetsots church twice during the war in 2020, Mammadli noted that the Ghazanchetsots church is being reconstructed, like all other historical and cultural monuments in the area. “Ghazanchetsots is being restored on the basis of historical documents and archival materials,” he noted.
In reality, the statement of the representative of Azerbaijan is false. Holy Savior Church of Shushi was targeted both during and after the war, and currently Azerbaijan is actually distorting it rather than restoring it.
Targeting of Ghazanchetsots by the Azerbaijani military
Holy All Savior Ghazanchetsots Church in Shushi was damaged during the 44-day war in 2020. On October 8, the Azerbaijani military shelled the church twice. Human Rights Watch considered this a possible war crime.
“Apparently, a civilian object with cultural significance, was an intentional target despite the absence of evidence that it was used for military purposes,” reads the organization’s report published on December 16, 2020.
After the occupation of Shushi, Holy Savior church has been defiled. The Azerbaijani servicemen wrote on the walls of the church.
“Restoration” of Ghazanchetsots Church
Months after the war, it became known that the Azerbaijanis were “restoring” the church, and the dome of the church had been removed.
The Azerbaijani side reports that the restoration will return the church to its “original” appearance, referring to the state of Ghazanchetsot after 1920, when the conical dome was removed. However, this claim is false, because until 1920 the church had exactly a conical dome.
Ghazanchetsots Church was built in 1868-1887. The church was significantly damaged during the Armenian pogroms of 1920, and the dome was destroyed. In Soviet times, it was used as a warehouse. When Armenian forces returned Shushi to NKR control in 1992, Ghazanchetsots Church was renovated and reopened.
Azerbaijan systematically destroys Armenian cultural and religious monuments
It should also be noted that this is not the only instance when Azerbaijan targets the monuments of Armenian cultural heritage that have appeared in its territory.
Moreover, not only the physical destruction of monuments takes place, but also their “Aghvanization,” that is, the Armenian affiliation of churches and other monuments is denied and attributed to Aghvan, and the Armenian inscriptions in churches are presented as later additions and again, destroyed.
On September 27, 2021, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) condemned the intentional damage and Aghvanization of Armenian cultural heritage during and after the war.
French President Emmanuel Macron, Russian President Vladimir Putin and other high-ranking officials made statements about the need to protect the cultural monuments that have remained in the territories of Azerbaijani control.
FIP.am has repeatedly covered the cases of desecration of Armenian monuments in the territories passed under the control of Azerbaijan.
However, this policy of official Baku is not something new. According to the report of the “Caucasian Heritage Monitoring” platform, since the end of the 1990s, Azerbaijan has destroyed 108 Armenian monasteries, churches and graves in Nakhichevan.