By Rashid Shirinov
Karabakh, the ancient inseparable region of Azerbaijan, is one of the richest parts of the country in terms of historical monuments.
The region has a very ancient history, as many tribes and nations lived there since the dawn of time. This is proved by the discovery made by Azerbaijani archaeologists in 1968, when they found the lower jaw of Azykhantrop, the ancient man, as well as various tools and other items of ancient people in the Azykh cave in Karabakh. That jaw is assumed to be over 300,000 years old.
Ancient stone monuments, including dolmens, cromlechs, graves in form of stone boxes, tools found in different areas of Karabakh are the material and cultural samples of the life of people of those times.
One of the most significant states existing in the lands of Azerbaijan in the past was the Caucasian Albania. The country existed between 4th century BC - AD 8th century, and surely left many monuments after its fall. They can be found in many Karabakh regions of Azerbaijan – Barda, Agjabadi, Aghdam, Fuzuli, Agdere, Lachin, Kalbajar. Most famous of them are the Gandzasar and Amaras monasteries, Elysee and Khotaveng temples. There are also many Christian monuments of Albania in other parts of Azerbaijan – Gabala, Nakhchivan, Mingachevir, Gazakh, Tovuz, Shamakhi and others.
The adoption of Islam set the beginning of a new phase in ancient Azerbaijan. With the coming of Islam, a large number of mosques, minarets and other magnificent constructions were built in the Karabakh region. Along with this, Christian churches and other religious temples also remained in Karabakh.
Juma and Shahbulag mosques in Aghdam region, Sheikh Yagub’s mausoleum in Fuzuli region, fortress of Panah Khan, Askeran fortress, Sheikh Ibrahim’s mausoleum, twelve-arch bridge over Tartar river in Barda, Palace of Karabakh khans and the house of Khurshidbanu Natavan in Shusha, Julfalar mosque, Sultan Ahmed’s mausoleum, Hamza Soltan’s Palace and many other astonishing historical monuments are valuable examples of the Azerbaijani culture.
As for today’s state of Karabakh monuments, most of them were looted, burnt and razed to the ground due to the Armenian aggression. During the Nagorno-Karabakh war in early 1990s, the Armenians seized 20 percent of Azerbaijani territory, and all the monuments in those lands are now under Armenian occupation.
Many cemeteries, mausoleums, monuments, mosques, temples, burial mounds and other samples of Azerbaijan’s cultural heritage in the occupied Nagorno-Karabakh, Lachin, Kalbajar, Aghdam, Fuzuli, Jabrayil, Gubadli and Zangilan regions are now destroyed.
Overall, since the beginning of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and occupation of Azerbaijani territories, Armenian aggressors ruined 1,200 historical and architectural monuments, looted 27 museums and exported to Armenia over 100,000 items. Moreover, the Armenian occupiers destroyed 152 religious monuments and 62 mosques, as well as 4.6 million books in 927 libraries.
The destruction and damaging of historical and cultural monuments of Azerbaijan by the Armenian invaders contradict the 1954 Hague convention on preservation of cultural values during armed conflicts, the 1992 European convention on preservation of archeological heritage, and the 1972 UNESCO convention on preservation of world cultural and natural heritage. In 2005 and 2010, the OSCE fact-finding missions confirmed Armenia’s vandalism against Azerbaijan’s Islamic heritage in the occupied Azerbaijani territories.
Currently, that small part of Azerbaijani monuments that weren’t fully destroyed by Armenians in the occupied regions need protection and restoration, but Azerbaijan still can’t do it due to the unfinished war. The mission that the international community should undertake today is to exert pressure to Armenia, to make it stop destroying the monuments in Karabakh and withdraw from those lands.
Rashid Shirinov is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow him on Twitter: @RashidShirinov
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