Representatives of the “Albanian-Udi” community of Azerbaijan desecrated and destroyed the unique pit inside the Armenian church of the Tsitsernavank monastery in the Kashatagh region of Artsakh
On April 22, 2023, the chairman of the self-titled “Albanian-Udi” community and the Bible Society of Azerbaijan, Roberto Mobili, published photos of Tsitsernavank monastery in Kashatagh on his Facebook page with an accompanying text, which, in particular, spoke about “visiting the old Albanian church Agoghlan and performing religious mass" (https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=pfbid02BmPMDamSEgUfjRcxW3k562pocJQsNjAQY2s8nSeGLh3URjB9q3rP5rfD72CDxsRml&id=100003208417334&eav=AfaSzThTny3zO6PPc7700WGXFQdXSmO2y747S6yzsyMB1u6FujvSsFw8KJGfTmbSF1Q&m_entstream_source=timeline&paipv=0). The purpose of this visit these days, on April 22-23, was timed to coincide with the Eid al-Fitr holiday, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan in Azerbaijan, which is proved by the fact that the visit was organized at the state level and had an explicit plan for appropriating the Armenian cultural heritage, or its Azerbaijanization.
From the photographs published by Robert Mobili, it becomes clear that Tsitsernavank was defiled by the fictitious worship of the community calling itself “Albanian-Udi”, the altar was damaged, and the pit, carefully left in the floor, was disrupted. According to Alexan Hakobyan, the pit was one of the unique phenomena of Tsitsernavank, where a jug of wine was dug into the clay floor (Hakobyan A., Historical-geographical and epigraphic studies: Artsakh and Utik, Mkhitaryan publishing house, Vienna-Yerevan, 2009, pp. 129-212).
The visits of the representatives of the community, which calls itself "Albanian-Udi", the Armenian historical churches are proclaimed Albanian-Udi, and the visits themselves are part of a program to destroy the authenticity and history of Armenian churches. It should be recalled that earlier they visited and declared Udi the monastery complex of Dadivank, the monastery of Spitak Khach in Hadrut, Surb Yeghishe church in Mataghis, Surb Astvatsatsin church in Tsakuri village in Hadrut region and Surb Hovhannes in Togh village, Surb Astvatsatsin church in Jrahatsner village of Askeran region and others.
Let us recall that by the decision of the Hague International Court of December 7, 2021, a ban was imposed on the desecration of Armenian churches: “Azerbaijan is obliged to take all necessary measures to prevent and punish acts of vandalism and desecration committed against the Armenian cultural heritage...” (International Court of Justice, Application of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Armenia v. Azerbaijan), 7 December 2021, No. 2021 / 34).
And according to PACE Resolution 2583, the denial of the fact of Armenian cultural values and their belonging to Caucasian Albanians was recognized as an "Azerbaijani fiction" (Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Humanitarian consequences of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan / Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Resolution 2391 (2021), article 18.4).
The change in the function of churches violates the fundamental cultural right of the Armenian community to preserve religious beliefs, worship and perform religious and rituals, as defined by Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The act of changing the function of cultural heritage also violates the provisions of the 2003 UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, Article 11 of which requires states to respect the values of intangible heritage, regardless of their origin and function.
Regarding the cases of appropriation of the Armenian cultural heritage by Azerbaijan, it should be noted that when the Armenian heritage is appropriated, declared Albanian or Udi, the heritage loses its main value, loses signs of authenticity and integrity, which is prohibited by the UNESCO Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, and by the Nara Document of 1994 "On the Authenticity of Cultural Heritage", adopted in Japan (https://www.icomos.org/charters/nara-e.pdf), and by the document adopted by ICOMOS in New Delhi in 2017 (http://www.icomos-isc20c.org/pdf/madrid-new-delhi-document-2017.pdf) . Article 4 of the 1954 Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and paragraph "C" of Article 9 of the Second Protocol of 1999 also prohibit any change in cultural property, the way they are used, with the aim of hiding or destroying cultural, historical or scientific evidence.