Academics call on global institutions to save Armenian heritage before it’s too late
NEW YORK (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) – The end to active combat in the 2020 Nagorno Karabakh war is far from the end of the war on a key victim: the rich and irreplaceable cultural heritage of Artsakh, as the republic is known to Armenians.
Only two years ago, Armenian art, history, and culture were celebrated by some of the world’s most acclaimed cultural institutions. Armenia! at the Metropolitan Museum of Art was a major international exhibition of Armenian medieval art. The wonders on display broke attendance records, earned critical praise, and demonstrated the major contributions of Armenians to world civilization. The Smithsonian Folklife Festival celebrated Armenian artistic and cultural traditions during its annual interactive exposition on the National Mall in Washington DC, drawing record numbers. That same year, the global consortium of French-speaking nations gathered in Armenia’s capital of Yerevan for the Summit of the Francophonie, hosting hundreds of world leaders, visitors and the international media.
Now, just two short years later, the world looks away as Armenian art, architecture, and history are being destroyed. On September 27, 2020, Azerbaijan launched a large-scale military attack on the Republic of Artsakh. Turkey, which continues to deny its genocidal project of the annihilation of the Armenian people perpetrated in 1915-1922 in their historical homeland, has lent its full political and military support to Azerbaijan in this latest act of aggression.
While the war was just brought to a sudden end by Russia, for over a month, the Republic of Artsakh suffered dire civilian and military casualties. The continuous shelling with cluster bombs and other artillery layed waste to homes, hospitals, and schools. The aggression has also been targeted at heritage sites, with the aim to erase the unique cultural contributions of the Armenian people and their history in the region.
On October 8, 2020, Azerbaijani forces launched two intentional assaults on the Holy Savior Ghazanchetsots Cathedral, causing significant damage. Located in Shushi, the cultural capital of Artsakh, the cathedral is a masterpiece of nineteenth-century Armenian architecture and a landmark of Armenian cultural and religious identity. Online photos show a gaping hole in the masonry vaults, with the floor and pews covered in debris.