Historian and archaeologist Hamlet Petrosyan (Yerevan State University) and Anna Leyloyan-Yekmalyan (State Institute of Oriental Languages and Civilizations, INALCO, Paris) have brought together archaeologists, architects, cultural anthropologists and many other experts to launch Monument Watch – a project dedicated to the preservation of Armenian cultural heritage in the parts of Artsakh which was captured by the Azerbaijani military during the course of the 2020 war, given the Azeri state-sanctioned destruction or distortion of the Armenian monuments documented on several occasions.
Monument Watch: Academics join forces to save Armenian heritage in Artsakh from Azeri destruction
STEPANAKERT, MAY 25, ARTSAKHPRESS-ARMENPRESS: Both during and after the 2020 war, the Azeri authorities have deliberately targeted Armenian cultural and spiritual monuments. For example, the iconic Ghazanchetsots Cathedral in the city of Shushi was bombed twice during the war, and now many months since the fighting ended and the Azeris took control over the city, they started distorting the cathedral in what the Armenian foreign ministry described as “manifestations of vandalism, aimed at depriving the Shushi Mother Cathedral of its Armenian identity.”
The Armenian Church in Mekhakavan was also targeted, with Azeri authorities completely demolishing it – a fact proven by a BBC investigation.
Since the specialists at Monument Watch don’t have the opportunity to inspect the monuments in-person, they will conduct the monitoring online on various platforms. “It is clear that [our monuments] will either be demolished or distorted. The destruction of Armenian monuments is part of Azerbaijan’s government policy. They are trying to appropriate Armenian heritage also,” Anna Leyloyan-Yekmalyan told Armenpress.
The official website of Monument Watch lists the following goals: to map and inventorize (the condition before the war) the immovable cultural heritage, museums, cultural centers of Artsakh-Azerbaijani border zone and of those territories of the Artsakh Republic, which as a result of the 44 day war passed under the control of Azerbaijan; to ratificate the current state (destruction, alteration, reuse, deletion and modification of sculptures, images, inscriptions, use of new symbols, etc.), as well as; to introduce the changes to the international scientific and cultural community.
Leyloyan-Yekmalyan says there are more than 4000 monuments in Artsakh, and more than 1700 are now in danger.