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Azerbaijan: Cultural Destruction

Categories: Central Asia & Caucasus, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Citizen Media, Ethnicity & Race, History, International Relations, War & Conflict

This post is part of our special coverage Caucasus Conflict Voices [1].

Another year has passed since the 1994 ceasefire put the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno Karabakh on hold, but a lasting peace remains elusive. However, both countries continue to accuse the other of destroying cultural and historical monuments.

But, while the issue of the destruction of an ancient Armenian cemetery in the exclave of Nakhichevan is frequently raised [2], less is known about the cultural loss suffered by Azerbaijan. Gələcək Gün [AZ] details some of the destruction [3].

In Shusha alone, 8 museums, 31 libraries, and 8 cultural houses were destroyed. More than 300 items at the Hajibayov museum, 400 at the Bulbul Museum, 100 from Navvab, 2,000 from the Agdam museum, 3,000 from the Gubadli history museum, 6,000 from the Zengilan museum as well as 1,000 exhibits from the Karabakh History and Carpet museums were destroyed or sent to Armenia.

ƏN SON XƏBƏRLƏR, MƏQALƏLƏR [AZ] provides its readers with a list [4] of Azerbaijani soldiers captured by Armenians during the war who were forced to participate in the destruction of monuments and graveyards in Shusha.

Mammadov Vugar […]: We were forced to destroy the Muslim graveyards, carrying [stone] by car to sell. All Muslim graveyards were destroyed. They wanted to destroy Shusha.

Kazimov Karim […]: Along with other captured soldiers, I was forced to destroy Ibrahim Khan's grave, Molla Vagifs graves […] and the Bulbuls and Hajibayov monuments and graveyards.

Gafarov Rauf: All the graveyards are destroyed. Probably they intended to take the gold teeth from the dead. They also put a church sign on the mosque.

Bagirov Sahib […]: The materials from the destruction were used to build a house for Samvel Babayan [formely imprisoned Karabakh Armenian military leader].

Mehdiyev Nazim: The materials were used to make a monument for [Armenian] General Andranik. In her interview to the Azartamartik newspaper, Nagorno Karabakh's Cultural Ministry Department Director, Janna Aleksanyan, said “we will destroy all the monuments belonging to Azerbaijanis during their occupation of Shusha.”

Salam, Xoş Gəlmisiniz [AZ} also comments on archeological digs conducted in the Azix cave [5], one of the earliest proto-human habitations in the region. The blog notes that the site is situated on Azerbaijan's territory [6].

“In 2003, on the Arminfo news site it was written that “archeological diggings continue in the Azix Cave.” It is one of the most ancient findings in Azerbaijan that dates back 1.5 million years. Armenians digging with other country scientists from Britain, Ireland and Spain violate national and international law with their unauthorized excavation.”

A Facebook page has been set up [7] to protest the work while the Council of Europe's Secretary General, Terry Davis, visited the capitals of both countries in December 2008. However, an international mission to investigate the state of historical and cultural monuments in the region has been delayed.

I am very disappointed by the losses,” Davis is reported as saying. “Both Azerbaijan and Armenia suffered, and it is not only yours, [but also European] cultural heritage. […] They are our common values and we should protect them.

This post is part of our special coverage Caucasus Conflict Voices [1].