Joined: 25 Oct 2003
| Posted: Sat Nov 15, 2003 4:41 pm Post subject: [E] Armenian Monuments in Nakhichevan
|Armenian Monuments in Nakhichevan, Azerbaijan Intentionally Destroyed
Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian addressed the opening session of a conference on the destruction of ancient Armenian monuments and relics in today’s Azerbaijan.
The conference, jointly sponsored by Research on Armenian Architecture, the Land and Culture Association, and the Armenian Academy of Sciences is intended to raise awareness on contemporary actions which result in the devastation of historical and cultural legacy. The focus of the conference and the attention of these organizations, as well as the Armenian Government, is the destruction of thousands of khachkars in the old Armenian cemetery of Jugha, in southern Nakhichevan, on the bank of the Arax river, where it forms the Azerbaijani border with Iran.
Archbishop Mesrob Ashjian, of the Land and Culture Organization, opened the program by noting that in all wars, cultural monuments as part of the battle against the other side. He noted that the Armenian government has played an active role in the fight to raise international public opinion about this particular act of destruction and to try to save what monuments are left. He said that the Minister’s presence is evidence of the willingness of the Armenian state to defend Armenia’s legacy even outside Armenia’s borders.
Minister Oskanian welcomed the initiative of the organizers and noted that the Armenian government has been working on the situation in Jugha for over five years. He explained that the government had appealed to UNESCO then, and again recently, too. A letter to UNESCO Secretary General Koichiro Matsuura expressing his concern, and inviting UNESCO to send a commission of experts to Nakhichevan to see the destruction first hand had resulted in the slowing of activities by the Azerbaijanis. “These khachkars, or stone-crosses, are unique tombstones in that they are simultaneously sculpture, archive and marker. Their removal is in line with Azerbaijan¹s mission to expunge the historical record and remove all documentation of Armenian presence on those lands,” the letter said.
The Minister explained that protecting our cultural treasures is a part of Armenia’s foreign policy, and that the government continues to fight in international stage against the systematic policy of removing Armenian cultural monuments in this region. He said this was a specific aspect of Azerbaijan’s policy of ethnic cleansing—intentionally removing all Armenian traces from the region, such that today, only a few khachkars remain out of an initial 10,000. The rest are broken, destroyed, cut up and removed.
The Minister called on the conference to take concrete decisions about future steps, and said the Armenian government, having signed the Convention on Protection of Cultural Monuments in Conflict Areas, as well as one on the Preservation of World Cultural and Natural Heritage is prepared to protect its rights under these international agreements as well.