The way Azerbaijan is trying to erase Armenian history. Stages

On November 10, 2020, the Second Artsakh War ended. Azerbaijan seized two-thirds of the lands that Armenian forces had controlled for almost thirty years.

The conflict in Artsakh cannot be called a religious war in the literal sense. But churches, cemeteries and other sacred monuments are important as global cultural treasures and as evidence of the long-standing presence of the people in the territory. The Armenian side fears that Azerbaijan wants to destroy this evidence. This article looks into the facts and trends that underlie these fears.
"Damage to the cultural property of each nation constitutes damage to the cultural heritage of all mankind, since each nation contributes to the culture of the world."

Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict
Armenophobic sentiments in Azerbaijan grew throughout the nineteenth century, which repeatedly led to massacres and pogroms, which were accompanied by the destruction of monuments. One of the most brutal examples already in the 20th century is the Shushi massacre in 1920. As a result of this massacre, according to different estimates up to 30 thousand Armenians were killed and all remaining Armenians were expelled from the city. Part of the city, where it lived, was almost completely burned.

In this material we will consider three conditional stages:

  • Soviet time;
  • 1990s-2000s;
  • After 2020.

In Soviet times, the destruction of Armenian Christian monuments formally fit the party's general line: religion is the opium for the people. Mosques and Russian Orthodox churches were also destroyed, so when another Armenian church disappeared from the scene, it seemed logical. This policy was actively pursued by the Central Committee of the Party only in the first decades of the Soviet Union, and then the aggression towards religion began to fade away.

And yet in the 1960s the Council of Ministers of Azerbaijan decided to demolish all the dilapidated buildings in the Armenian quarters of Shushi, including the ruins of the churches of Aguletsots, Megretsots and Kusanats.
This is what the Surb Astvatsatsin church in Baku looked like

The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. Already in 1992 the small church of Surb Astvatsatsin (Holy Mother of God) in the center of Baku was demolished. Only the lower tier of the bell tower is preserved.

During the First Artsakh war (1992-1994) cultural monuments were shelled. After the war many of them were restored in independent Artsakh.

Nakhijevan, a former Armenian territory, remained within Azerbaijan. The destruction of hundreds of monuments continued and reached its peak in the 2000s when the cemetery in Julfa and the early medieval town of Agulis were destroyed. According to U.S. scholars, 98 per cent of Armenian cultural heritage was destroyed between 1997 and 2011 in Nakhichevan.
A cemetery of cross-stones and soldiers destroying it

After 2020, the Azerbaijani authorities started "restoring" the Christian churches in Artsakh, which they themselves had destroyed. We will describe how it is done in some detail in the material "The way Azerbaijan is trying to erase Armenian history. Methods".
Ghazanchetsots in Shushi (left photo — the "restoration" process)

Azerbaijan does not yet allow international expert commissions from UNESCO to assess the level of destruction on its territory. However, owing to the development of technology, more and more evidence is appearing: satellite images, photos and videos from social networks, confirming the facts of crimes against culture.