May 4, 2021 - 14:18 AMT
Azerbaijan's destruction of Armenian places of worship "deplorable"

Azerbaijan's actions at the Ghazanchetsots Cathedral of the Holy Savior in Shushi are deplorable, as are all the previous cases of destruction of Armenian places of worship, monuments, the Armenian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday, May 4.

The statement came after images posted on social media platforms revealed that Azerbaijan has removed the domes of the iconic cathedral in the city of Shushi, which came under the control of Baku during the war in fall 2020, pictures posted online reveal.

"Among the many war crimes committed by the Azerbaijani armed forces during the aggression against Artsakh is the deliberate targeting of the Shushi Ghazanchetsots Cathedral with precision guided weapons twice within a day, followed by acts of vandalism after the ceasefire was established," the Foreign Ministry said.

"It’s noteworthy that Azerbaijan carries out actions at the Shushi Cathedral without consulting with the Armenian Apostolic Church, which clearly violates the right of the Armenian believers to freedom of religion. It is equally concerning that Azerbaijan has started to change the architectural appearance of the church before the launch of work by the UNESCO expert assessment mission. It is obvious that Azerbaijan is deliberately blocking the entry of UNESCO experts to the endangered Armenian cultural heritage sites, on the one hand to cover the war crimes it has committed, and on the other hand to change the historical-architectural integrity of the monument."

The Foreign Ministry noted that all the concerns of the Armenian side that Azerbaijan's actions are manifestations of vandalism, aimed at depriving the Shushi Mother Cathedral of its Armenian identity, are more than substantiated.

"No work can be carried out at the Ghazanchetsots Cathedral, the numerous Armenian historical and cultural monuments and places of worship in the territories of Artsakh under the Azerbaijani occupation, without documentation of the current situation by international, first of all, UNESCO experts and their active involvement in restoration works. Shushi Cathedral is one of the important centers of the Armenian Apostolic Church in Artsakh, it should serve as a place of worship," the statement concluded.

Concerns about the preservation of cultural sites in Nagorno-Karabakh are made all the more urgent by the Azerbaijani government’s history of systemically destroying indigenous Armenian heritage—acts of both warfare and historical revisionism. The Azerbaijani government has secretly destroyed a striking number of cultural and religious artifacts in the late 20th century. Within Nakhichevan alone, a historically Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan, Azerbaijani forces destroyed at least 89 medieval churches, 5,840 khachkars (Armenian cross stones) and 22,000 historical tombstones between 1997 and 2006.