Remembering Nakhhijevan Centennial Nakhijevan’s Destiny Treacherously Given to Azerbaijan 1923
April 09 , 2020 , 08:33
Remembering  Nakhhijevan  Centennial   Nakhijevan’s Destiny  Treacherously Given to Azerbaijan  1923

     Presently for the last 30 years the eyes of all Armenians are fixed on Nagorno Karabagh one hundred percent, forgetting altogether Nakhijevan, the equally authentic and legitimate part of Armenia. It was 97 years ago in 1923 that the territory was annexed to the neighboring Azerbaijan, leaving behind unmatched and wealthy vestiges authenticating Armenian religious and cultural heritage by those testimonial ruined churches and stone-crosses (Khachkars). Distinguished church leaders and scholars who were born in Nakhijevan before the turn of the 20th century proved “living” witnesses of their homeland, born in Goghtn and Tseghna, in the district of Abrakounis, in both Nerkin and Artakin Akoulis, where centers of religious education flourished. They all went to study at the Kevorkian Seminary in Etchmiadzin, one of them Bishop Garabed Der Mkrtchian of Tseghna, a distinguished scholar who discovered the unique manuscript of “The Seal of Faith” (Knik Havato), an ancient source of Armenian Church theology and published it in 1914.

                Thanks to a specialist scholar Argam Ayvazian who recently revived the ruins of the Armenian churches and khachkars of Nakhijevan through his numerous scientific expeditions on behalf of the Academy of Sciences of Yerevan. He offered us our ancient culture of those stones that speak for themselves as of this day. Ayvazian has written the following most deserving voluminous studies recently published by the Academy: “The Historic-architectural Monuments of Nakhijevan” (1981), ”Index of Collective Monuments of Nakhijevan” (1986), “Monuments and Sculptures of Nakhijevan” (1967), “Julfa and Akoulis” (1984).


Islamic Movement

                On June 4, 1918, one week after the proclamation of the First Republic of Armenia on May 28, a treaty was signed in Batumi between the Ottoman Empire and the Republic of Armenia which facilitated the entrance of the Turks into Nahijevan with an ulterior purpose to occupy the district of Goghtn, a ring that united Turkey with Azerbaijan. Seeing a danger in the unwelcomed intrusion, the Armenian National Council still in Tbilisi just before transferring to Yerevan, consulted with Turkey for the sudden and clandestine development, betraying a united Islamic confederation against the Armenian territory of Nakhijevan.

                The movement soon revealed a unified effort on the part of the Islamic states, supported by the Islam population of Nakhijevan, to attack the newly proclaimed Republic of Armenia with the ulterior motive to occupy all three, Nakhijevan, Zangezour, and Karabagh, forming as it were a highway to eventually eliminate the Republic of Armenia. Of course all calculations came to a naught as soon as the Soviet power wiped all hopes, including the newborn Republic of Armenia, at the cost of giving the territory of Nakhijevan to Azerbaijan. In both cases the Soviet Union should be blamed for handing over to Azerbaijan the historic Armenian territories of Nakhijevan and Karabagh almost simultaneously.      


Akoulis and Ordoubad Attacked

                On July 25, 1918 the Turkish army invaded Akoulis, a major center of learning with a monastery, and two weeks later the Caucasian Islamic Government assigned Khalil Bey as the military attaché in the city of Ordubat, “generals and heavy ammunitions under his command, plus close to 1,000 local Tatar soldiers”. On December 18 they were able to attack Akoulis and invade the city headed by the chief of Islamic prefect and began to destroy Akoulis. The Islamic intrusion lasted two years when on July 28, 1920 the Soviet army intruded from the north and stationed in the area, and in 1923 established the self-governing state of Nakhijevan, soon to be proclaimed on February 9 a land within the borders of Azerbaijan, detached from the Republic of Armenia. By the year 1925 Armenians in Nakhijevan numbered 50% of the population, and later in 1976 they ranked the second larger group between the Azeris and the Russians among the total population of 35,000.


Churches and Monuments

                From the ancient times Armenians in Nakhijevan had built in the late 19th century the St. Kevork church on the site of a ruined church. Much later in 1925, under the watchful eyes of the Soviets, the Azeris destroyed the Armenian monuments during the following decades, causing massive migration of local Armenians from their native lands. Even the newly established Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic was unable or unwilling to defend the immigrants who were deeply disappointed and defenseless, seeing the lack of power in the governmental authorities of the Republic of Armenia. This attitude showed inside coordination between the Turks and the Soviets, giving the signals of treacherous maneuver of offering eventually both Nakhijevan and Karabagh to Azerbaijan, thus helping the clandestine spread of the Turks from the west to the east. The power behind the plan was definitely the Soviet government who did not care where the Armenians lived after departing from their own territories.


Later Events

                Massive destruction of churches and khachkars were committed by the Azeris even in front the “blind” eyes of Gorbachev, the last President of the USSR. Many monuments and cemeteries were destroyed according to the visitor scholar Argam Ayvazian who has documented all the atrocities in his above mentioned studies. In 1975 the Azeris destroyed the most ancient Holy Trinity Church, bearing the style and the signs of a 7th century edifice. Under the guise of “renovation and building memorials in memory of those who died on behalf of the Soviet Union”, and in 1987 under the same excuses they further destroyed completely the cemetery of Akoulis, in addition to 400 khachkars.

                The year before in 1986, according to a visitor Artak Vartanian, the St. Garabed monastery in the district of Abrakounis, and the church of St. Asdvadzadzin (St. Mary) in the village of Medzop, district of Shahapunik, were destroyed. The eyewitness Vartanian has written: “In 1986 they cruelly removed huge stones from under the ancient columns of the church damaging the building permanently.” Likewise, the church of St. Asdvadzadzin of Tseghna and the churches in Akoulis are as of today used as storages and stables.


The Khachkars (Stone-crosses)

                By hundreds as testified by Argam Ayvazian, holy Khachkars are removed and used for modern constructions, reducing the ancient dignity and value of those monuments to naught. In recent years His Holiness Vasken I, Catholicos of All Armenians of blessed memory, raised his voice and complained on behalf of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, but to no avail. Those were the initial days of Nagorno Karabagh conflict and the Catholicos had to switch his concerns toward the salvation of the enclave and towards those thousands of Armenian soldiers who gave their lives for Artsakh-Karabagh. The Catholicos gave his blessings at that time to re-establish the historic Artsakh Diocese in Karabagh. Today, if Nakhijevan is still under Azerbaijan, Karabagh is safely under an independent self-government, completely detached from Azerbaijan and under the protection of the Republic of Armenia since 1991. Peace in the area is still pending and Azerbaijan is adamant to recapture the historic Armenian lands given by Stalin as a gross historic and ethnographic mistake.  


                                                                                                                                REV. DR. ZAVEN ARZOUMANIAN

Scholar Argam Ayvazian