Satellite images show extensive cultural heritage destruction in Artsakh – CHW

Caucasus Heritage Watch’s (CHW) latest report on Armenian cultural sites targeted by the Azerbaijani regime found a 75% increase in destroyed sites since fall 2023.

CHW today released Monitoring Report #7 on cultural heritage at risk in Nagorno-Karabakh. The latest monitoring cycle has revealed the greatest number of impacted Armenian cultural sites since CHW began monitoring in 2021: 6 newly destroyed sites and 7 facing critical threats to their survival.

After the ethnic cleansing in Artsakh in September 2023, the Caucasus Heritage watch added over 180 sites into their monitoring routine. Since CHW began, they have assessed 57 sites as destroyed, damaged, or threatened.

Included in the latest report was the demolition of Kanach Zham church (Armenian for “Green Chapel”) as well as the completed destruction of the Ghazanchetsots cemetery in Shushi after CHW data yielded evidence of earlier damages to both cultural sites. At the base of the hill Shushi was built on, a village called Karintak was completely leveled between last fall and April of this year, likely to make way for a new Azerbaijani residential settlement.

CHW’s report specifically highlights the destruction of two Soviet-era schools in Tsar and Chragh whose structures were inlaid with architectural fragments featuring Armenian art and inscriptions from other buildings. The demolition of 9th- and 13th-century khachkars (carved Armenian cross-stones) from a long-ruined church at the Kohak sacred place near Chartar and the destruction of the 19th- to 20th-century Ghuze T’agh Cemetery near Aknaghbyur are also discussed.

Additionally, the group added five churches and two cemeteries to the list of threatened locations, bringing the figure from 24 sites in December 2023 to 31 as of June 2024. CHW attributed the elevated risks to the seven additional sites to recognizable construction or demolition activity around the area, or because they possess unmistakably Armenian features such as inscriptions. 

CHW, a research initiative led by archaeologists at Cornell and Purdue Universities, has added 181 Armenian heritage sites to its watchlist in the last year. That list now includes 489 locations across Artsakh. 

“Preparations for COP29 may have a grave impact on Karabakh’s Armenian cultural heritage. Massive infrastructure and redevelopment projects are threatening, damaging, or destroying cultural sites in the path of omnipresent earth movers,” CHW says.

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