Azerbaijan continued efforts to remove traces of Armenian presence in Artsakh, U.S. report says

The U.S. Department of State report on religious freedom conditions in Azerbaijan in 2023 addressed the issue of the preservation of Armenian and Azerbaijani cultural heritage sites in Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh).

“In April, the research group Caucasus Heritage Watch (CHW) released a study entitled Between the Wars: A Satellite Investigation of the Treatment of Azerbaijani Cultural Heritage in the Unrecognized Republic of Nagorno Karabakh, 1994-2020, based on 2020 satellite photography and other visual sources assessing the damage to a sample of 109 Azerbaijani cultural heritage sites in Nagorno-Karabakh during the period of ethnic Armenian control of the area, including mosques, mausoleums, and cemeteries. The report concluded that 42 Azerbaijani cultural sites remained unchanged, 39 suffered major damage, 16 were destroyed, nine suffered minor damage, two were renovated, and one was restored,” the report said.

“CHW said its investigation found to be inaccurate both the claims of Azerbaijani officials about near total destruction of mosques in the region and Armenian counterclaims that all damage took place during Soviet times.”

The Department of State cited the June 22 CHW report documenting what it characterized as “concerning trends” imperiling cultural heritage sites in Nagorno-Karabakh, including areas returned to Azerbaijani control in 2020. Among these, the report cited an Armenian cemetery that was damaged by road construction.

“On September 22, UN special rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, Alexandra Xanthaki, stated Azerbaijan had continued efforts to remove traces of Armenian presence in Nagorno-Karabakh or to reinterpret them as belonging to Caucasian Albanians. The special rapporteur stated the International Court of Justice, European Parliament, and Council of Europe had all expressed concern with the replacement of Armenian heritage with the promotion of a Caucasian-Albanian “narrative,” and the vast majority of experts in the region’s art, architecture, and archaeology had “rejected these revisionist claims as false.” APA reported in May the government announced plans to restore and conserve the Armenian Apostolic church in Hadrut and three adjacent buildings, which the article stated, “belong to the historical and cultural heritage of Caucasian Albania”,” reads the report.

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