ArmeniaNow.com - Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
 April 25, 2003 




Cultural Concern: Destruction of Old Jugha cemetery continues to draw attention


Zaven Sargsyan director of Parajanov museum is one of the witnesses of Armenian monuments' destruction.

Director of the Parajanov museum and home Zaven Sargsyan is one of the last Armenians to visit the Armenian cemetery of Old Jugha in the territory of Nakhijevan.

In 1987 the professional photographer took photographs of more than 3,000 khachkars (stone crosses). Now the photos are all that remain, after an outbreak of anti-Armenian desecration that has destroyed cemeteries and riled Armenian officials.

"The pain is that it takes days to photograph so many things, but I had only three hours. Even if you try to run through the whole territory, you won't manage to do it in three hours," says Sargsyan. "I had to put on a wide angle lens so that the shot embraces more things, and running through the rows I shot the whole cemetery as far as it was possible."

Sargsyan was allowed into the cemetery by a high-ranking official in Nakhijevan, who let him in after Sargsyan helped the official get medical treatment in Yerevan.

"The impression was very hard," Sargsyan recalls. "All the ram-shaped statues' (ram symbolized men) heads were barbarously broken. Azeris sought treasure among those monolithic stones." (Sargsyan brought back one of the rams' heads which is now stationed at the museum entrance.)

Zaven Sargsyan took this photo and others during his visit in 1987.

Many of Sargsyan's photos have been published in several books representing Armenian monuments, including "Jugha" by Argam Ayvazyan. Most will be published in the future, the photographer says, as now they are the only evidence of the massive cemetery.

"When years ago I was taking photos of the Old Jugha's cemetery with its khachkars from the Iranian frontier, it reminded me of forests laid on three hills," says Armen Hakhnazaryan, president of the Organization Investigating Armenian Architecture. "In December everything was destroyed, everything that remained. It was an intended policy of the Azerbaijan authorities aimed at annihilating any trace of everything Armenian. Four hundred years ago, when Shah-Abbas exiled the population of Jugha to Iran, he ruined the town, but did not destroy the cemetery."

Destruction of Armenian cemeteries on Azeri soil was stopped by UNESCO in 1998.

"But since October 2002 that issue has again become uncontrollable for Azerbaijan and the whole cemetery was simply destroyed," says Ashot Galoyan, member of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the National Assembly.

"In December, when the alarm of Iraqi war was in the center of attention, Azerbaijan managed to completely ruin the cemetery and move khachkars away from that territory. The khachkars were so heavy that ordinary villagers were not able to carry them out," says Hakhnazaryan.

Ashot Galoyan a member of Armenian National Assembly expresses his anxiety about the cemetery in Jugha.

The Old Jugha khachkars were mostly elongated and a height of about two and a half meters. Several thousand stood in the centuries old cemetery.

During Soviet times some were destroyed, but in the past several months the systematic destruction has been seen as methodical vandalism by concerned Armenians whose efforts now may be too late.

A seminar, "Old Jugha Lost Treasures", was held at the National Academy of Science March 28 from which a statement was issued calling on help from international agencies.

And at the last session of the Council of Europe on April 4 a heated exchange took place between Armenian and Azeri representatives over the issue. The Azeri side accused Armenia of raising the issue of monuments as part of its efforts to take territory that belongs to Azerbaijan.

The result of the discussion was that a committee member has been assigned to go to Nakhijevan and prepare a report for the Council's general meeting, scheduled for later this year.


  "Turkish Flag"
 
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  Photo of the week
 
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Pain in Paint

Yesterday (April 24) members of Mihr youth organization gathered in a park near the State Conservatory where they used black (tragedy) and red (blood) paint to depict Mt. Ararat from its western side. On a white canvas they painted names of villages where Genocide took place.

 

 





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