From 15 to 19 July 2022, a conference on “The Cultural Heritage of Artsakh” was held at the Yerevan State University and the Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church of Vayots Dzor/Armenia. More than 30 international scholars and experts discussed the origin, historical development and current threats to cultural heritage in the region of Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh). These are part of the Armenian culture and, thus, amongst the oldest heritage of Christianity. 

The motive for the meeting was an appeal by numerous scholars for the Protection of cultural heritage in Karabakh of 04.03.2021. The appeal pointed out the acute endangerment of the Armenian population and its cultural heritage.

Numerous organisations such as the World Council of Churches, the Central Committee of German Catholics and the solidarity initiative with the people in Central and Eastern Europe, Renovabis already published statements on the suffering of the people and the endangerment of the cultural heritage in Nagorno-Karabakh. Furthermore, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in its Resolution of 27.09.2021 and the US State Department in its Report on Religious Freedom in Azerbaijan of 02.06.2022 have also taken a stand.

Meanwhile, the United Nations International Court of Justice, in an order dated 7.12.2021, called on Azerbaijan to take all necessary measures to prevent and punish acts of vandalism and desecration of Armenian cultural heritage objects. Most recently, on 10.03.2022, the European Parliament strongly condemned Azerbaijan’s continued policy of erasing and denying the Armenian cultural heritage in and around Nagorno-Karabakh.

The background to this is that during his visit to the 12th-century Armenian Church of the Holy Mother of God in Tsakuri Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev announced that he would remove the Armenian inscriptions from there. In addition, the Azerbaijani Minister of Culture, Anar Karimov, announced on 03.02.2022 the establishment of a working group which is apparently intended to legitimise the systematic destruction of all Armenian cultural heritage in the region. 

During the 2020 war unleashed by Azerbaijan, Azerbaijani forces attacked and severely damaged the Ghazanchetsots Cathedral of the Holy Savior in Shushi twice with precision weapons. Furthermore, St. John the Baptist Church (Kanach Zham) was partially destroyed after Azerbaijani forces gained control of the city. Other churches, inscriptions and cross-stones were damaged, desecrated or destroyed. Satellite images also show that several (historic) cemeteries were destroyed.

In the recent past, Azerbaijan already erased the cultural heritage of the Armenian population in the Nakhichevan exclave, including the complete destruction of the medieval Armenian cemetery of Djulfa and its thousands of cross-stones and other monuments.

We, the conference participants, consider the Armenian tangible and intangible cultural assets in and around Nagorno-Karabakh to be highly endangered. 

We call on

  1. all political and social actors, as well as international organisations, to commit themselves to the protection of cultural heritage and the endangered population in and around Nagorno-Karabakh;
  1. decision-makers to make the protection of cultural property and human rights a condition of any cooperation with Azerbaijan;
  1. the delegations to negotiations currently being conducted at various levels on a conflict settlement with the goal to reach a peace agreement to take also into account the legitimate interests of the Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh. Only a just peace can guarantee the sustainable safeguarding of cultural heritage and human rights, to which Azerbaijan has committed itself under international law;
  1. the European Union and its Member States to ensure that also the issues of historical revisionism, human rights and the threat of destruction of cultural heritage in Nagorno-Karabakh will be raised in light of current negotiations and agreements with Azerbaijan on energy supplies;
  1. Azerbaijan to allow scientists, UNESCO and other international organisations unrestricted access to cultural heritage in and around Nagorno-Karabakh and to not deny believers access to places of worship.

The organisers:

Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. mult. Martin Tamcke, Göttingen

Prof. Dr. Andreas Müller, Kiel

Dr. Dagmar Heller, Bensheim

Dr. Harutyun G. Harutyunyan, Yerevan

The participants:

Archbishop Abraham Mkrtchyan, PhD, Yeghegnadzor

Bishop Prof. Dr. Anushavan Zhamkochyan, Yerevan

Archimandrite Sahak Shakaryan, Gandzasar

Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Alexander Trunk, Kiel

Dr. Roy Knocke, Potsdam

Dr. Wolfram Langpape, Hannover

Dr. Vahan Ter-Ghevondian, Yerevan

Dr. Abel Manoukian, Geneva

Lernik Hovhannisyan, PhD, Stepanakert

Prof. Dr. Ashot Hayruni, Yerevan

Prof. Dr. Hamlet Petrosyan, Yerevan

Prof. Dr. Klaus Koschorke, Munich/Thun

Prof. Dr. Dr. Thomas Sternberg, Münster

Dr. Tessa Hofmann, Berlin

Markus Meckel, Berlin

Dustin Hoffmann, Brussels

Harutyun Grigoryan, Berlin

Prof. Dr. Armenuhi Drost-Abgaryan, Halle

Dr. Anahit Avagyan, Yerevan/Eichstätt

Dr. Raffi Kantian, Hannover

Dr. Armen Kazaryan, Yerevan/Moscow

Dr. Ani Ghazaryan, Geneva

Tamara Minasyan, PhD, Yerevan

Armine Melkonyan, PhD, Yerevan/Florence

Lusine Tumanyan, PhD, Yerevan

Dr. Hayk Martirosyan, Potsdam

Arpine Springborn, Göttingen

Anahit Asatryan, Yerevan

Additional Signatories:

Pfr. Mirko Diepgen, Heidelberg

Kerstin Partzsch, Vilshofen a.d. Donau

Prof. Dr. Hans Reinhard Seeliger, Tübingen

Pfr. Wolfhart Koeppen, Passau

Pfr. Christian Dietrich, Klettbach

Pfr. Dr. Alexandru Nan, München

Georgios Vlantis, MTh., München

Spyridon P. Panagopoulos, Patras/GR

Prof. Dr. Dimitrios Moschos, Athen/GR

Prof. Dr. Wolfram Kinzig, Bonn

Pfr. Andreas Brenneke, Bochum

Prof. Dr. Volker Leppin, Hamden/USA

Prof. Dr. Ioanna Stouphi, Athen/GR

Pfarrerin Katy Christmann, Bad Kreuznach

Priester Konstantin Anikin, Halle

Prof. Dr. Jörg Frey, Zürich/CH

Prof. Dr. Guy Stroumsa, Jerusalem/ISR

Prof. Dr. Johannes Zachhuber, Oxford/GB

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Emmanouela Grypeou, Stockholm/SWE

David Bundy, PhD, Manchester/GB

Dr. Thomas A. Seidel, Eisenach

Prof. Dr. Martin George, Bern/CH

Prof. Dr. Karl Pinggéra, Marburg

Manfred Schürz, Bremen

Prof. Dr. Katharina Kunter, Helsinki/FIN

Dr. Martina Horn, Mainz

Dr. Anahit Babayan, Leipzig

Prof. Dr. Bas ter Haar Romeny, Amsterdam/NL

Prof. Dr. Nils Arne Pedersen, Aarhus/DK

Pfarrerin Marianna Nestoris, Hamburg

Eva Quistorp, Berlin

Pfr. Pascal Schilling, Bochum

Christiane Roesler, Ortenburg

Prof. Dr. Thomas Mark Nemeth, Wien/AUT

Dietmar Nietan, MdB, Düren

Matthias Dörr, Freising

Pfr. Bernhard Speller, Minden

Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. mult Christoph Markschies, Berlin

Prof. Dr. Hans-Ulrich Weidemann, Siegen

Prof. Dr. Annette Merz, Tolbert/NL

PD Dr. Ciprian Burlacioiu, München

Prof. Dr. Lukas Bormann, Marburg

Bischof em. Prof. Dr. Martin Hein, Kassel

Prof. Dr. Heinz Ohme, Berlin

Prof. Dr. Uta Heil, Wien/AUT

Prof. Dr. Markus Wriedt, Frankfurt a.M.

Prof. Dr. Dorothea Wendebourg, Berlin

Prof. Dr. Peter Gemeinhardt, Göttingen

PD Dr. Detlef Metz, Schotten/Tübingen

Prof. Dr. Ernst Koch, Leipzig

Apl. Prof. Dr. Tilman Schröder, Tübingen

Prof. Dr. Hans Schneider, Marburg

Prof. Dr. Berndt Hamm, Erlangen

Dr. Georg Röwekamp, Tabgha/ISR

Prof. Dr, h.c. Dr. Karl W. Schwarz, Wien/AUT

Prof. Dr. Holger Strutwolf, Münster

Dr. Bassam Sabour, Hamburg

Regionalbischof Dr. Dr. h.c. Johann Schneider, Oldenburg

Dr. Regina Elsner, Berlin

Dr. Ellen Überschär, Berlin

Prof. Dr. Petros Vasiliadis, Thessaloniki

Pfr. Sören Asmus, Duisburg

Dr. Anna Briskina Müller, Halle

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Sommer, Neuendettelsau

Stefan Kube, Zürich/CH

Dr. Annette Weidhas, Leipzig

Rüdiger Noll, Berlin

Pfarrerin Dr. Ariane B. Schneider, Halle

Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. mult. Hartmut Lehmann, Kiel

Dr. Silke Lehmann, Kiel

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Wischmeyer, Wien

Adrian Schad, Veltheim/CH

Gayane Balmanukyan, Mainz

Sarah Stamboltsyan, Reichenbach

Dr. Andreas Baumann, Bad Homburg

Muriel Mirak, Weißbach

Stepan Schischmanjan, Stuttgart

Archi Galentz, Berlin

Gunter Wahl, Schweitenkirchen

Pfr. Dr. Diradur Sardaryan, Göppingen

Marion Manuel, Malsch

Vartkes Alyanak, Berlin

Prof. Dr. Erich Kettenhofen, Merzig

Pfr. i.R. Michael Damm, Amt Wachsenburg

Gabriele Damm, Amt Wachsenburg

Takouhi Kelechian-Balian, Karlsruhe

Bedros Balian, Karlsruhe

Dr. Rüdiger Burchardt, Berlin

Heinrich Geuther, Rheinbreitbach

Dr. Hervé Georgelin, Athen/GR

Prälat Dr. Martin Dutzmann, Berlin

Dr. Christa Grengel, Berlin

Prof. Dr. Thomas Bremer, Münster

Prof. Dr. Dr. Alfons Fürst, Münster

Dr. Gevorg Kazaryan, Athen/GR

Prof. Dr. Hayk Avetisyan, Yerevan

Dr. Pavel Avetisyan, Yerevan

Narine Dilbaryan, PhD, Yerevan

Dozent Pargev Barseghyan, PhD, Yerevan

Lehrbeauftr. Alvard Barkhudaryan, Etchmiadzin/ARM

Dr. Aleqsan Hakobyan, Yerevan

Prof. Dr. Vano Yeghiazaryan, Vanadzor/ARM

Armenuhi Demirjyan, PhD, Yerevan

Melanya Balayan, PhD, Stepanakert

Siranuysh Margaryan, PhD, Yerevan

Dr. Eva Mnatsakanyan, Yerevan

Nune Mkrtchyan, PhD, Yerevan

Nara Sargsyan, PhD, Yerevan

Hovik Avanesov, Stepanakert

Dr. h.c. Nikolaus Schneider, Essen

Pfrn. Renate Ellmenreich, Nürnberg

Gayane Eliazyan, PhD, Yerevan

Lilit Cilbukhchyan, Yerevan

Siranush Aspaturyan, Yerevan

Lusine Eroyan, Yerevan

Maria Duynamalyan, Yerevan

Mushegh Zhoroyan, Wien/AUT

Artak Sahakyan, Wien/AUT

Yerevan, 19.07.2022