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Artsakh’s Armenian Christian Monuments Under Threat of Annihilation

In a communiqué this week, the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin lamented the continuing desecration and eradication of Armenian Christian monuments in the regions of Artsakh now held by Azerbaijan, following the autumn 2020 war.

The message made special note of the damage being done to the Sourp Prgich Cathedral (“Holy Savior,” also known by the name Ghazanchetsots) in the city of Shushi. “A few days ago, we learned that the dome had been removed, and the religious symbols abolished from the Ghazanchetsots cathedral,” the communiqué says, “under the guise of reconstruction work.” An appended photo shows the familiar ecclesiastical structure with its steeple entirely removed.

Shushi’s stately Cathedral of the Holy Savior was long heralded as one of tallest Armenian churches in the world, standing 115 feet high. Universally recognized as an Armenian cultural and religious landmark, it was consecrated in 1888, underwent a lavish restoration in the late 1990s, and until this year served as the seat of the Armenian Church’s Artsakh Diocese. On October 8, 2020, the cathedral was made the target of an Azeri missile attack, which caused the collapse of the sanctuary roof and seriously injured several visiting journalists.

The Holy See’s message also states that “in the territories under the control of Azerbaijan, sanctuaries have already been destroyed, monasteries and churches have been desecrated, inscriptions confirming historical origin have been removed, khatchkarsand ancestral tombs have been profaned.”

Condemning these actions as “cultural genocide,” undertaken by the Azeris “with a view to erasing the traces of Armenian identity on our historical land of Artsakh,” the message concludes by expressing the Armenian Church’s determination to “continually raise these issues with the relevant bodies of the international community, to halt these activities that violate the rights of the Armenian people.”

Click the links to read the full statement in Armenian and English.

Above: Shushi’s Ghazanchetsots Cathedral, in its restored glory earlier this decade (photo by Hrair Hawk Khatcherian); and inset, the desecrated structure as it appears today, in a photo released this week by Holy Etchmiadzin’s Information Service.

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