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Bishop Daniel Urges UNESCO to Rescue Armenian Sites in Artsakh

In the aftermath of the Artsakh war, with ancient Armenian monuments and precious Christian sites in danger of desecration and worse, Diocesan Primate Bishop Daniel Findikyan reached out to leaders at UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee, to intervene on behalf of Artsakh’s Armenian Christian heritage.

In his letter to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Bishop Daniel warned that, “The treaty ending the war endangers dozens of Armenian cultural and religious heritage sites throughout the region. Armenians have the heartbreaking example of Nakhichevan (Julfa), where centuries of the Armenian culture and faith were bulldozed and ground into sand. Azerbaijan erased all evidence of the Armenians’ existence and then claimed that there had never been a single trace of Armenian architecture or heritage.”

The list of endangered Armenian sites includes historic monuments in Artsakh, like the ruins of the ancient 1st-century B.C. city of Tigranakert; historic churches like the 7th-centiry Vankasar near Martakert, and 19th-century Ghazanchetsots Holy Savior Cathedral in Shushi; monasteries like Amaras (4th c.), Gandzasar (4th/10th-13th c.), Yeghishe Arakyal (5th c.), Dadivank (9th-13th c.), Yerits Mankants (17th c.), and others.

The letter concludes with an appeal on behalf of the Armenian community to “Please, do not be silent on this matter.”

“I implore you to please take action to preserve the world-historical works of the indigenous Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh/Artsakh,” it concludes.

Read the Primate’s letter to UNESCO below.

* * *

Dear UNESCO World Heritage Committee:

Please accept my warm greetings and blessings. I am writing this urgent communication to raise my concerns about World Heritage sites in Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh).

Artsakh, a land where Armenian culture has thrived for millennia, endured a terrible unprovoked war for 44 days, beginning with a surprise attack on September 27, 2020. A treaty signed this week to end the war places Armenia and Artsakh at significant long-term vulnerability. Artsakh itself is in serious danger of ethnic cleansing and cultural destruction.

As Bishop of the Diocese of the Armenian Church in America (Eastern), and a leader of the Armenian community of the United States, I urge you to take action so that Armenians will not lose the rights which they have held on their centuries-old territory.

The treaty ending the war endangers dozens of Armenian cultural and religious heritage sites throughout the region. Armenians have the heartbreaking example of Nakhichevan (Julfa), where centuries of the Armenian culture and faith were bulldozed and ground into sand. Azerbaijan erased all evidence of the Armenians’ existence and then claimed that there had never been a single trace of Armenian architecture or heritage. Azerbaijan has also converted churches into mosques, violating the Hague Convention of 1954.

This is not the first time either that UNESCO World Heritage Sites have been attacked or altered. In 2014-2015, ISIL/ISIS destroyed dozens of churches, shrines and historical monuments, including, but not limited to Palmyra, Hatra, and Dair Mir Elia. We fear this will happen again since Turkey has recruited and supplied Azerbaijan with ISIS terrorists.

A tragedy would result were history to repeat itself in this way in Artsakh, with Azerbaijan altering the material record of history again, destroying precious monuments of Armenian culture and world history.

Please, do not be silent on this matter. Below I have appended a partial list of endangered churches and cultural sites now under under threat.

I implore you to please take action to preserve the world-historical works of the indigenous Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh/Artsakh. Thank you, and God bless you in your ongoing efforts.

With my prayers,

Bishop DANIEL
Primate

* * *

Armenian historic, cultural and religious monuments in Artsakh
City of Tigranakert – capital city of Greater Armenia built by the Armenian king Tigranes the Great (r. 95–55 B.C.)

Churches
Vankasar Church, near Martakert, 7th century
Holy Resurrection Church, Hadrut, 1621
Saint John the Baptist Church (Kanach Zham), Shusha, 1818
Saint John the Baptist Church, Martakert, 1881
Ghazanchetsots Holy Savior Cathedral, Shushi, built between 1868 and 1887, the cathedral was consecrated in 1888

Monasteries
Amaras Monastery, Sos, 4th century
Tsitsernavank Monastery, Tsitsernavank, 5-6th centuries
Gandzasar monastery, Vank, 4thcentury and 10-13th centuries

Inactive/ruined churches and monasteries
Katarovank Monastery, Hadrut Region, 4th century
Yeghishe Arakyal Monastery, Martakert Region, 5th century
Dadivank Monastery, Shahumyan Region, 9-13th centuries
Gtichavank Monastery, Togh, 1248
Monastery of Tsar, Tsar, 1301
Yerits Mankants Monastery, Martakert Region, 1691

Above: Dadivank Monastic complex, in the Kalbajar region of Artsakh. In 1994 it was re-opened by the Armenian Church’s Artsakh diocese as a place of worship, and over the subsequent two decades underwent an extensive restoration. Sadly, the recent cease-fire agreement, stipulates an Armenian withdrawal from Dadivank and the surrounding area, placing the complex in peril of vandalism and destruction. The Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin recently confirmed that with the withdrawal of Armenian forces from the region, the monastery has been placed under the protection of the Russian peacekeeping forces.

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