About the Azerbaijani “restoration” of Surb Amenaprkich Ghazanchetsots Church in Shushi

During the 44-day war of 2020, the cultural heritage of Artsakh became one of the targets of Azerbaijan. The striking examples of this are the two shellings of Ghazanchetsots Surb Amenaprkich, occured in Shushi on October 8, 2020, which severely damaged the southern part of the temple, causing collapses. And after the occupation of the city, the Azerbaijani military left many inscriptions on the walls of the church.

Immediately after the end of the war, the Azerbaijani side announced that it would ensure the protection and restoration of the Christian churches in Karabakh. The official propaganda machine of Azerbaijan chose as its primary target the buildings of Shushi, which it had destroyed and damaged - the churches of Ghazanchetsots Surb Amenaprkich and Surb Hovhannes Mkrtich (Kanach Zham). The latter was blown up after the occupation of the city, as evidenced by the photos and videos taken by the Azerbaijani military.

Official Azerbaijan announced that the historic districts of the city, mosques and churches in Shushi will be restored. In its media it is emphasizing especially the restoration of the churches as an indicator of religious, national solidarity. It is noteworthy that almost all the delegations arriving in Shushi, the representatives of the organizations were shown the "restoration" of Ghazanchetsots, which will gain "its original appearance", and which, according to the Azerbaijanis, was not Armenian. The Azeri media presents Ghazanchetsots Surb Amenaprkich church, sometimes as an Orthodox, sometimes as an Udian church, which "the Armenians Armenianized that by transforming the dome after the occupation of the city".

More than a year after the restoration of the Church of Ghazanchetsots, in many videos and photos we can see that only some "renovation" work was done inside the temple in early January 2021, before the visit of Ilham Aliyev and his wife. This can be seen at Mehriban Aliyeva’s Instagram page.

The Azerbaijani side, after its double shelling, removed the pile of stones inside the temple, collapsed walls, scaffolding was erected around the temple, the church dome was removed, which thereby distorted the appearance of the temple, the inscriptions written with paint were removed. All videos show that no visible changes were made, except for these works. It can be seen that the green construction netting is frayed, and the part of the roof that collapsed after the shelling of the southern wing has not been restored, not even covered, the rest of the ceiling is in disrepair (Fig. 1). It can also be stated that the fence of the temple courtyard was destroyed, the gates, khachkars that were standing in the courtyard were displaced.

In a video shared on Telegram-channel of  the Armenian Military Portal on May 22, 2022, it is seen that a fairly dense grass cover has grown in some parts of the roof, the damage and collapse have not been eliminated (Fig. 2), and the entire area around the temple is in a state of disrepair.