About the Russian Church of Gevorgavan
In 2021, Azerbaijan made a Russian-language film with obvious propaganda overtones, the anti-Armenian nature of which begins already with its title: “The war of Armenian separatists with churches in Karabakh” The author of the film is Anastasia Lavrina, deputy head of the Russian community in Azerbaijan. The film has been translated into French, Greek and Serbian. On June 28, 2022, the film was shown at the Azerbaijan Cultural Center in Paris, France.
The main propaganda concept of the film is that the Armenian side destroyed both the Islamic and Orthodox religious heritage. As a central example of this propaganda concept, they considered a dilapidated Russian Orthodox church located 2 km southwest of Gevorgavan village in the Martuni region of the Republic of Artsakh, which, according to the author of the film, was destroyed by Armenians who failed to Armenize it.
Currently, Gevorgavan is occupied by Azerbaijan. With its concept, as the author of the film notes, the Azerbaijani side wants to show the intolerance of Armenians even towards Christian monuments. In the 19th century, the area of Gevorgavan was called Kuropatkino. Russian military units were housed here, and the church was typical in its architecture, built specifically for the soldiers of the military garrison and their families. Particularly surprising is the idea that the temple is even presented as a center of pilgrimage for Russian Molokans, which generally contradicts the religious views of the Molokans, which differ significantly from the views of the official Russian Orthodox Church.
During the Soviet period, the church was used as an agricultural warehouse, like hundreds of other religious buildings in the Soviet Union. Researcher Shahen Mkrtchyan in his monograph dedicated to the monuments located on the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, does not mention the church, but presents a photo of it, which shows that it was intact then, covered with a tin roof, and it is also clear that some windows were damaged (Mkrtchyan 1985, Fig. 123).
In this film, the Azerbaijani propaganda machine claims that the church was destroyed by the Armenians at the beginning of the 21st century, but does not provide any arguments. It should be noted that in 1988-1992 the entire territory was under the control of the Azerbaijani armed forces, which expelled the local Armenian population from the territory, simultaneously looting and destroying the surroundings. And the monument was damaged just in that period.
After the liberation of this territory, the authorities of Artsakh included the church in the list of historical and cultural monuments of republican significance, its protection zone was drawn up, and it was constantly monitored (Fig. Protection zone). Of course, nothing is said about these facts in the film. Instead, a fabricated version is presented that the church was used as a target by cadets of one of the nearby military schools of the Artsakh Defense Army, which, according to the authors of the film, is evidenced by numerous bullet holes on the walls of the church.
The film did not forget to mention the favorite fiction of Azerbaijani propaganda about the churches of Kanach Zham and Ghazanchetsots in Shushi, that these are Russian Orthodox churches, that the Armenians Armenianized them, and that after the “liberation” of Shushi, the churches will be brought into the “Orthodox look”. Such involvement of the Russian Orthodox Church in the Azerbaijani propaganda machine is surprising and bewildering. This is evidenced by the words of the representative of the Russian Orthodox Church that there have never been inter-ethnic conflicts in Azerbaijan, and even more so, there has never been and there is no national or religious intolerance.
Here it is necessary to quote the 4th article of the 1954 Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and paragraph 3 of the 9th article of the additional Second Protocol of 1999, which prohibits any modification of cultural property, as well as a change in the way it is used, aimed at concealing or the destruction of cultural, historical or scientific evidence. With all this, Azerbaijan clearly violates the fundamental principles of historicity, authenticity and integrity of the heritage, which follow from the Nara Document on the Authenticity of Cultural Heritage adopted in Japan in 1994, as well as from the document adopted by ICOMOS in New Delhi in 2017, as well as from documents of UNESCO and other international organizations. The Nara Document on the Protection of the Principles of Authenticity states that if cultural property becomes involved in an armed conflict, recognition of its legitimacy is required. The fact of the authenticity of cultural heritage should not be called into question under any circumstances (Nara Document on Authenticity, paragraph 8). In addition to all this, The Council of Europe Framework Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for Society, adopted on October 13, 2005 in Faro (Portugal), also emphasizes that the importance of cultural heritage is determined by this community, and any value that is an expression collective thought of a given people, must be preserved on the principles of its naturalness and authenticity.
By modifying the identity of Christian structures, Azerbaijan also violates the provisions of the 2001 “On the Protection of Cultural Diversity” and 2005 “On the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions” Conventions, being a party of which. This kind of policy is a discriminatory attitude that also violates the freedom of thought, conscience, belief and the right to value the heritage created as a result of this freedom on their own. Cultural genocide is not only extermination, but also falsification of real history and traditions, ignoring facts, destruction of memory, and creation of false cultural or religious programs.
Bibliography and video materials
- Mkrtchyan Sh., Historical and architectural monuments of Nagorno Karabakh, "Hayastan" publishing house, Yerevan, 1985
- “The war of Armenian separatists with churches in Karabakh” (originally: «Война армянских сепаратистов с храмами в Карабахе») - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cyacJfkSEiA, in Russian
- The presentation of the film “War of Armenian separatists with temples in Karabakh” in Paris - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6gI8Al-1Hkk (in Russian)