Armenian community is exasperated with the attitude
of Azerbaijan authorities towards the Armenian
cemeteries and historical monuments on its territory.
At a conference Wednesday at the Armenian National
Academy, Minister of Foreign Affairs Vartan Oskanian
criticized Azerbaijan policy for its continued
and systematic destruction, most recently of Armenian
The conference was organized by the Research
on Armenian Architecture, the Land and Culture
Organization, and the Armenian Academy of Sciences
and focused around the destroying of cross stones
(khachkars) of the old Armenian cemetery of Jugha
in the south of Nakhichevan region of Azerbaijan.
Armenian historians believe that the Jugha cemetery
is a part of world cultural heritage, taking into
account that some gravestones of Jugha dated back
to the ninth century.
In the 17th century there were about 10,000 khachkars
there. By the 20th century about 5,000 of the
crosses had been preserved plus three churches
and a chapel.
Now only a few khachkars remain in Jugha, the
rest having been broken or removed.
The cemetery is now closed to visitors. Photographer
Zaven Khachatryan was the last Armenian visitor
there some years ago and photographed the few
Participants at Wednesday's conference called
upon all the diplomatic representation in Armenia
asking to establish an international committee
under the umbrella of UNESCO to prevent the demolition
of the cemetery.
"The protection of Armenian cultural treasures
is a part of Armenia's foreign policy," Oskanian
Archbishop Mesrob Ashjian said he appreciated
the Armenian Government's efforts to raise international
public awareness towards the Armenian monuments.
"The Minister's presence in this conference,"
the Archibishop said, "is evidence that the
Armenian State is ready to defend Armenia's legacy
outside of its borders."
Armenians from Azerbaijan are also concerned
about the Montinskoe cemetery in Baku. Many refugees
from the Karabakh war have relatives buried there.
Alexander Manasyan, PhD, whose relatives are
buried in Montinskoe is convinced that the destruction
of the cemeteries is not merely vandalism.
"The destruction of Armenian cemeteries
or graves is a part of Azerbaijani state policy
directed to expunge the historical record and
remove all the evidences of Armenian presence
in the region,." Manasyan said.
The Montinskoe cemetery is one of the oldest
cemeteries in Baku.
Lida Harutyunayn, a refugee of Azerbaijan whose
parents are buried there says that it was a huge
cemetery and some Armenian graves were dated to
the 18th century.
"There were graves of Russian and Jewish
as well, and actually that was an international
cemetery," she says. "The Armenian graves
were seen from far because of the big crosses
January the City Council of Baku announced that
a highway would be constructed in the district
of Narimanovsk and that part of the Montinskoe
cemetery would be transported to another cemetery.
The information appeared in the local newspapers
and at the entrance of the cemetery.
The Baku authorities said that the relatives
of people buried in Montinskoe cemetery could
apply to the City Council for the reinterment.
Greta Mirzoyan the head of the public organization
"Soldiers' Mothers" qualified that announcement
"Tens of thousands of Armenians are buried
there and of course it is impossible under the
present circumstances to go to Baku."
Mirzoyan who had a chance to visit the cemetery
last year when she went to Baku within the framework
of the "Women of Southern Caucuses"
conference says that in fact there is no cemetery
"The part where there were Armenians graves
was completely destroyed. There was not one Armenian
gravestone and the old big trees which used to
grow there were cut down. Moreover it was clear
that the bulldozers worked there."
Mirzoyan says that just near the cemetery there
was a camp of Azerbaijani refugees from Armenia.
She said that those people desecrated many graves
too, looking for golden decorations or gold-capped
Mirzoyan says that now there is no need to apply
to UNESCO or other organizations, which are engaged
in cultural values because nothing remained in
the cemetery to prevent.
The Azerbaijani mass media often covers the cemetery
Azerbaijani "Echo" newspaper reporter
Zarema Velikhanova writes:
"The human rights activists in Azerbaijan
believe that the City Council's hasten to take
such decision and destroying Armenian graves could
aggravate the relations with Armenia on Nagorno-Karabagh
"The construction of the highway should
have been postponed till the settlement of the
Nagorno-Karabagh conflict," writes Azerbaijani
human-rights activist Eldar Zeinalov.
"Now when the issue of settlement of Nagorno-Karabagh
entered the peace phase any actions which would
raise tensions could affect the peaceful process
Greta Mirzoyan says that she took flowers with
her when she went to visit the graves of her grandparents.
"I had hoped that maybe their graves were
persevered, but when I approached the cemetery
I realized that I would never find the place because
there were no stones. I was about to leave, when
I saw a new grave. There was no sign on the grave.
I put the flowers there."