The Transept of Kanach Zham Church in Shushi turned into a cafe

On January 16, 2022, a video was uploaded on Telegram Channel Talysh Vestnik, which shows that the transept of the Armenian Church Kanach Zham has been turned into a cafe and named “Secret”. The transept of the church was built after the liberation of Shushi as an important part used for religious purposes, and created to serve the Armenian Christian community. It was used by the clergy as a meeting place and a library.

As it’s visible from the video, the room, which once was used for religious and cultural purposes, is now filled with Azerbaijani music, there are dining tables, Azerbaijani flags are hanging everywhere, the interior decoration has been completely changed, and the historical trace has been erased. Before the Azerbaijani occupation in 2020, Kanach Zham Church in Shushi was an acting religious building and, of course, the transformation of the auxiliary building of the church into a cafe is just a manifestation of the long-term Azerbaijani policy of denying Armenian identity and illegal cultural appropriation.

Our response

By turning the transept of Kanach Zham church into a cafe, Azerbaijan violates the history and integrity of the cultural heritage, making it impossible to transmit the heritage in its original form to the future generation. That contradicts the principles of international conventions, including the UNESCO Convention on World Cultural and Natural Heritage, the Nara Document of Authenticity adopted in 1994 in Japan, the document signed in 2017 by ICOMOS in New Delhi, as well as various documents of other international structures.

According to the Second Protocol of the Hague Convention of 1954 for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (1999), Article 2, point C  “any alteration to, or change of use of, the cultural property which is intended to conceal or destroy cultural, historical or scientific evidence” is prohibited.

According to it, Azerbaijan also violates the provisions of the 2001 convention "On the protection of cultural diversity" and 2005 "On the protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions", of which it is a member.

The change of the functional purpose of the cultural heritage violates the UNESCO provisions of the "Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage" (2003). According to Article 11, Parties undertake to respect intangible values, regardless of their origin and function.