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Armenian priest dreads losing Karabakh’s Christian heritage

33 year-old Father David moved to Kornidzor - a village bordering the primarily Muslim Azerbaijan - to offer spiritual aid to tens of thousands of his countrymen who have been forced to run away from their ancestral home in Karabakh.

According to Father David, Nagorno-Karabakh had been the dwelling place of 400 Armenian holy sites, many of which were desecrated or destroyed after Azerbaijani forces regained territory during a 44-day war in 2020.

“This is one of the darkest pages of Armenian history. The whole of Armenian history is full of hardships… The blow we are receiving now is one of the heaviest. The monasteries are under threat of destruction. We had cases of this in the 44-day war.”

Father David expected Azerbaijan to affirm that many monasteries in Karabakh are not Armenian but belong to an earlier Christian civilisation known as Caucasian Albania. There are churches in Azerbaijan which the authorities insist are Caucasian Albanian rather than Armenians. Ethnic Armenians strongly dispute this claim.

Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but is inhabited mainly by ethnic Armenians. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, they have run their own state: the self-styled Republic of Artsakh.

Azerbaijan initiated a lightning offensive last week to reclaim the whole region, resulting in a mass Armenian escape. More than 50,000 people had crossed the border into Armenia by Wednesday afternoon, nearly half of Karabakh’s estimated 120,000 ethnic Armenians. Azerbaijan has promised to protect their rights, but refugees crossing the border would rather live in exile than abide Baku’s rules.

The Karabakh Armenians were living under a 10-month Azerbaijani blockade which resulted in appalling shortages of food, fuel and medicines. According to Karabakh authorities, more than 200 people were killed in the offensive; while Baku said 192 of its soldiers died.

Armenia is the world’s oldest officially Christian country, dating its reformation back to 301 AD. Armenia’s Apostolic Church is well-defined from both Orthodoxy and Catholicism, and is closely related to the Ethiopian and Egyptian Coptic churches.


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