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05/20/2021 Artsakh (International Christian Concern) –  Ghazanchetsots Cathedral in Shushi has drawn attention as photos show the defacement of the famous Armenian church. First videos circulated that indicated angels that once sat atop pillars at the main entrance were removed. Then photos, shared by members of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Region government, showed the removal of the domes.

In October 2020, the Cathedral was damaged by shelling from Azerbaijani forces. Azerbaijan claims that Ghazanchetsots Cathedral is undergoing remodeling. The Armenian Foreign Ministry condemned their actions and in a partial statement said, “It should be noted that Azerbaijan carries out actions related to the church without consulting the Armenian Apostolic Church, which clearly violates the right of Armenian believers to freedom of religion.” UNESCO experts have not been allowed to visit Armenian cultural heritage sites, another indication that Azerbaijan is not seeking the betterment of the historic church.

According to Nagorno-Karabakh Ombudsman Gegham Stepanyan, Azerbaijan is seeking to alter the appearance of the cathedral saying, “We have seen many times how Azerbaijan actually treats Armenian cultural values, and it is already clear what is hidden under the ‘restoration work ‘. The goal is to eliminate traces of the Armenian presence.” Through a process of “Albanization” Armenian Christian sites are converted and modified. The head of the NK Foreign Ministry called the actions cultural genocide.

The fate of Ghazanchetsots Cathedral is unknown. Some speculation fears that it will face a similar fate as the Hagia Sophia, mirroring the same type of pan-Turkism that erodes Christianity in Turkey.

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