We are extremely troubled by the latest reports of surging vandalism and destruction of Armenian churches, monasteries, cemeteries and cultural monuments in Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh). Since the start of the war in September 2020 and the occupation of historical Armenian towns and cities, we are witnessing systematic attempts to erase the indigenous Armenian cultural heritage of Artsakh. These recent events are yet another evidence of a legacy of cultural genocide perpetrated by the Azerbaijani and Turkish authorities over decades in historic Armenian lands.
These recent actions of the Azerbaijani authorities in Artsakh represent significant premeditated efforts to forge history through Albanization of the Armenian cultural heritage in Artsakh and to use the pretext of renovation and restoration to erase evidence of the indigenous presence of Armenians on that land. The government of Azerbaijan reported the start of “restoration efforts” of the Holy Savior Cathedral in Shushi by removing the 19th-century conical dome of the cathedral. This same cathedral was targeted by the Azerbaijani army missiles during the latest war on Artsakh and the current “renovation” is intended to change the cultural identity of the cathedral which symbolizes the Armenian identity of Shushi. The international media has documented similar destructive acts in the complete destruction of churches and the use of gravestones from cemeteries in villages of Hadrut for the construction of roads.
Azerbaijan is not honoring its commitment towards the international community as a signatory to the 1954 Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and to the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage where it endorses the responsibility of protecting, preserving and transmitting cultural and natural heritage to future generations. It has also obstructed the proposed UNESCO mission to Artsakh for the assessment of the situation of cultural properties in that region. Since the ceasefire agreement on 10 November 2020, a number of international organizations have called for the conservation and protection of cultural heritage in Artsakh. In its 2021 annual report the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) recommended the placement of Azerbaijan on the US Department of State Special Watch List for severe religious freedom violations.
Considering that Azerbaijan is undermining the above mentioned calls for its responsibility in preserving the Armenian cultural heritage in Artsakh and is continuously breaching the international conventions, and in view of the UN Security Council’s condemnation of the “unlawful destruction of cultural heritage, inter alia destruction of religious sites and artefacts”, we call upon the international community to condemn Azerbaijan’s actions in erasing the indigenous cultural heritage of the Armenian people in Artsakh and to exert all efforts in halting this cultural genocide.
Central Executive Board
Hamazkayin Armenian Educational and Cultural Society
 The joint statement of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), the International Council on Archives (ICA), International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), the International Council of Museums (ICOM) on Nagorno Karabakh on 20 November 2020. https://www.icomos.org/en/documentation-center/83592-icomos-ica-ifla-and-icom-statement-on-the-situation-of-cultural-heritage-in-the-nagorno-karabakh-regio
UNESCO press release on 21 December 2020. https://en.unesco.org/news/nagorno-karabakh-reaffirming-obligation-protect-cultural-goods-unesco-proposes-sending-mission