By David Nutt
ITHACA, N.Y. (Cornell Chronicle) — A new report from the Cornell-led Caucasus Heritage Watch (CHW) has compiled decades of high-resolution satellite imagery to document the complete destruction of Armenian cultural heritage in the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic of Azerbaijan beginning in the late 1990s.
Moreover, the latest finding of CHW’s heritage monitoring project suggests that the same policy of cultural erasure now threatens Armenian monuments in the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan. CHW has recently discovered the destruction of an historic church in Karabakh, one of hundreds of Armenian monuments in territories ceded to Azerbaijan under the terms of a 2020 ceasefire to a war between Azerbaijan and Armenia.
The destruction of St. Sargis church in the village of Mokhrenes between March and July 2022 provides evidence of the first major violation of a ruling by the International Court of Justice, which ordered Azerbaijan in December 2021 to prevent such acts.
According to CHW’s report on Nakhichevan, of the 110 medieval and early modern Armenian monasteries, churches and cemeteries that CHW identified from archival sources, 108 were destroyed between 1997 and 2011 in what the authors describe as “a systematic, state-sponsored program of cultural erasure.”
CHW was founded in 2020 by Lori Khatchadourian, associate professor of Near Eastern Studies, and Adam T. Smith, Distinguished Professor of Arts and Sciences in Anthropology, both in the College of Arts and Sciences, along with Ian Lindsay, associate professor of Anthropology at Purdue University.