Five months after the war with Russia over South Ossetia, Georgian authorities have reportedly arrested two members of its Armenian minority on suspicion of espionage and forming an armed gang. Underrepresented in the local government of a region where they make up the majority, some Armenian demands for autonomy of Georgia’s Samtskhe-Javakheti region (map) are once again being heard.
On January 22, 2009 the special forces of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia detained Grigor Minasyan, the director of the Akhaltskha Armenian Youth Center of Samtskhe-Javakheti Region of Georgia and Sargis Hakobjanyan, the chairman of “Charles Aznavour” charitable organization. They were charged with “preparation of crime”, according to Article 18 of the Criminal Code of Georgia, and “formation or leading of a paramilitary unit” (Part 1 of Article 223) and “espionage” (Part 1 of Article 314).
The announcement also reads:
The «Yerkir» Union considers these arrests as a deliberate provocation by the Georgian authorities, aimed at deterioration of the situation in the Samtskhe-Javakheti region and worsening the Armenian-Georgian relations…Only a democratic Georgia, respecting its ethnic diversity, can avoid further disruption and guarantee the sustainable development of the country.
While XUSSR NEWSreminds of earlier arrests of ethnic Armenians in Georgia, there is little information in the conventional media about the new development and limited discussion in the blogosphere.
[Think-tank] Mitq […] continues to play the nationalist card by warning of a second Armenian Genocide [in Georgia]. The same news site carries a report quoting a former Armenian Ambassador who not only lays claim to the region, but potentially risks encouraging a new armed conflict.
And as Armenian nationalists openly boast that “after Karabakh, Javakhk is next,” more diplomatic initiatives and sensitive handling by both Yerevan and Tbilisi seems more necessary than ever.
The blog, nonetheless, acknowledges problems in the region and especially with Council of Europe demands to repatriate Meskhetian Turks deported from the region by Stalin in 1944. Other bloggers in Armenia staged a mock funeral in 2008 outside the Georgian Embassy in protest at an ongoing dispute over church property in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi.
As an indication of some concerns that Armenians have about the level of cultural rights in Georgia, smbatgogyan [AM] has detailed an Armenian textbook published in Georgia with countless typos and grammatical errors.
Գնացել էի գյուղ, որը գտնվում է Վրաստանում` Ջավախքում: Այնտեղ արդեն մի-քանի տարի է, ինչ դպրոցներում փորձում են վերացնել հայերենը: Սակայն նրանց մոտ ոչինչ չստացվեց` ծնողները հրաժարվեցին իրենց երեխաներին քիմիա, աշխարհագրություն և համաշխարհային պատմություն սովորեցնել վրացերենով: …Վրաստանի կրթության նախարարությունը սկսել է հայերեն լեզվով դասագրքեր տպել Վրաստանի հայկական դպրոցների համար և պարտադրում է ուսանել այդ գրքերով: Ահա այդ գրքերից մեկը…:
…I went to a village in Georgia’s Javakhk [region]. [The Georgian authorities] have been trying to eliminate the Armenian language at schools there. But they were unsuccessful: parents refused to let their children learn chemistry, geography and world history in Georgian…. Georgia’s ministry of education has started to print textbooks in Armenian and requires to use them at school [as opposed to textbooks published in Armenia]. Here is one of those books…
The blog posts the cover of a mathematics textbook for second-grade students with the large title containing two typos in the word “mathematics.”
Interestingly, an earlier post dealt with translating textbooks into minority languages in Georgia. Writing for TOL Chalkboard, Swiss-Armenian journalist and regional analyst Vicken Cheterian detailed the project.
When we […] carried out bilingual education studies in Georgia […] we wondered how the images of minorities were reflected in the pages of Georgian history textbooks[…].
Their report […] found something startling: Armenians and Azeris in Georgia were by and large absent from Georgian history books. When they were noted, it was in a negative sense.
A workshop held in November  […] concluded that the Georgian Education Ministry is moving forward in its efforts to change the way history is taught. At the event […] Georgian educators presented their ongoing project to develop new textbooks with the aim of giving more space to minorities in the official version of history presented to youngsters from majority and minority linguistic communities.
These new texts should begin appearing soon in Armenian and Azeri schools, and be in use in all history classes in Samtskhe-Javakheti and Kvemo-Kartli by 2011.
[…]Georgian history teachers and authors are moving from a position of negation of ethnic minorities to one of recognition. But important obstacles remain in the path toward an integrated narrative of history in which minorities move from being the “other” coexisting with “us” into being part of society.
…[I]n a turbulent political climate following the catastrophic August war [with Russia], Georgian education authorities and many educators continue to press for change.
Will the process of “change” include enough Armenians and Azeris so that relations, let alone words, are not lost in translation?
Three years after a cemetery dating back to the 9th Century was deliberately destroyed in the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhichevan, bloggers recall an ancient culture annihilated and condemn the world for closing its eyes to what many consider to be an official attempt to rewrite history.
Today is the commemoration of the 3rd anniversary of Djulfa’s destruction. …This [is] not only a crime against Armenian culture, but against our collective cultural heritage as humankind. Don’t let it go unnoticed.
Between 10-16 December 2005 over a hundred uniformed men were videotaped destroying the Djulfa cemetery using sledgehammers, cranes, and trucks. The video was taken from across the border in Iran.
Азербайджанские власти на протяжении всего советского периода старались уничтожить этот некрополь, поскольку для них он был всего лишь свидетельством о том, что именно армяне были хозяевами этой территории на протяжении веков, вопреки тому, что говорилось в азербайджанских советских мифах о собственной “древности”… Это кладбище, вполне достойное названия чуда, было даже не внесено в реестр архитектурных памятников Азербайджана… После распада СССР, во время карабахского конфликта, продолжалось разорение кладбища, и, наконец, оно было окончательно уничтожено….
The Azeri authorities throughout all Soviet period tried to destroy this necropolis as for them it was only a testament that Armenians were owners of this territory throughout centuries in spite of Azerbaijan’s Soviet myths about own “antiquity”… This cemetery, quite worthy to be called a wonder, was not even placed on the register of architectural monuments of Azerbaijan… After USSR’s collapse, during the Karabakh conflict, the cemetery’s demolition continued, and, at last, definitively destroyed….
آنان از سنگ قبر ارامنه هم نگذشته اند و با تخریب دوازده هزار قبر با سنگ قبر هایی منحصر به فرد که متعلق به چند قرن پیش بوده و جزئی از میراث فرهنگی ارامنه به حساب می آمد، هیچ اثری از ارمنی نشین بودن آنجا، بجا نگذاشته اند.
[After acquiring Nakhichevan, Azeris] did not even tolerate Armenian gravestones. They destroyed twelve thousand Armenian graves. These unique gravestones with several centuries’ history were part of Armenian cultural heritage. However, through destruction of these gravestones, [Azeris] destroyed all signs indicating the existence of Armenians in that land. [translated by Loosineh M.]
iArarat, remembers Djulfa by discussing Robert Bevan’s The Destruction of Memory: Architecture at War, a book that was “part of a class I teach at a Texas university on nationalism and ethno-political conflicts.”
While reading Bevan’s book I was inevitably reminded of the destruction of the medieval Armenian cemetery in Jugha, presently in Azerbaijan. Azeri soldiers at the command of their superiors without as much as blinking an eye would embark at destroying and erasing the last vestige of the Armenian civilization in that territory as if the Armenians had never as much as existed there, as if Armenians had never as much as created anything, something to celebrate their faith and commemorate their dead…
Adding insult to injury, earlier this month Baku, Azerbaijan hosted a little-noticed two-day conference of Council of Europe culture ministers to discuss “Intercultural dialogue as the basis for peace and sustainable development in Europe and its neighboring regions.” In his opening remarks to the attendees Azeri president Ilham Aliyev, astonishingly claimed:
“Azerbaijan has rich history and the cultural monuments here are duly preserved, and a lot is being done in this direction…”
[T]he Armenian Ministry of Culture failed to deliver a message by boycotting the conference. They either should have properly boycotted the conference by making an appropriate statement explaining the reasons for non-participation, or they should have participated there to raise the all important issues of destruction of Armenian cultural heritage in Azerbaijan, as well as protecting and restoring the multinational cultural heritage in all three South Caucasus countries [Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan].
old-dilettante [RU], says that Djulfa’s destruction was the last stage of Azerbaijan’s attempt to eradicate Nakhichevan’s Armenian heritage. Commenting on a post about churches in Georgia, she writes:
Теперь там не найдется ни одной армянской церкви, несмотря на фотографии и книги, изданные всего ничего – лет 20 тому назад. Все церкви уничтожены. Все могилы. Все хачкары.
И кто через 20 лет скажет, что там вообще жили армяне? … А ведь мой дед был “местным жителем”.
…Now, not a single Armenian church will be found [in Nakhichevan] despite of photographs, some as recent as 20-years-old. All churches are annihilated. All cemeteries. All khatchkars.
And who will say in 20 years that Armenians ever lived there? … It wasn’t that long ago that my own grandfather was a “local” there.
In Baku Armenian cemeteries with less historical but more immediate sentimental value to many (including my family whose three generations made their home in Baku for nearly a century) were paved over for roads or new construction. That does not justify the disrespect they were afforded but makes some remote sense.
In the case of Jugha khachkars stood in the middle of nowhere and were simply crushed, dismembered, thrown into the river. They were targeted and wiped out as the last remaining Armenian outpost.
Sarcastically, the journalist-blogger considers how other Armenian monuments on Azerbaijani territory could be protected.
Now I am thinking, perhaps Armenians should disassemble the remaining Azeri mosques and gravestones on their territory and exchange them for the khachkars and other Armenian heritage items of value?
Certainly some of the Azeri items have cultural value for Armenia and I would rather not see them go. But what other options are there?
Reacting to a comment on his above-mentioned post, Ivan Kondratiev [RU] also says that if Azerbaijanis wanted to cleanse their territory of Armenian heritage, they could have at least given the monuments to Armenia even if such a transfer would amount to acknowledging Djulfa’s Armenian history.
[T]here is reason to be optimistic that [Barack Obama’s] foreign policy team will… have a very different response to the ongoing stonewalling by the Azeris than [current US Secretary of State] Rice’s utter disinterest [about Djulfa’s destruction], which is rooted in the Bush administration’s pro-Azerbaijani, pro-Turkey foreign policy.
In addition to secretary of state nominee Hillary Clinton […] prospective U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice has a particular interest in genocide and is an advocate of military action to stop mass killings, rather than ineffective “dialogue” as slaughters continue apace. And Harvard professor Samantha Power, author of “A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide” (2002), has been quietly advising Obama behind the scenes […].
Given that past is prologue, with these women’s combined emphasis on championing human rights and genocide prevention, it will not be easy for the Obama administration to ignore or overlook the genocide that preceeded – and encouraged – all others in the 20th and 21st centuries, or the ongoing “cultural genocides” in Azerbaijan and Turkey against the archeological remains of a once-thriving, centuries-old Armenian population that is no more.
More photographs of the cemetery, before and after its destruction, are available at www.djulfa.com.
Too short for Armenians and too long for the Turkish government, a two-hour CNN documentary by Christiane Amanpour on genocide includes a 45-second mention of the WWI extermination of Ottoman Empire’s indigenous Armenian population. Premiered on December 4, 2008, Scream Bloody Murder has made many Armenian bloggers angry, leading them to recall Hitler’s rhetoric for impunity, “Who, after all, remembers the Armenians?”
Armenia-based blogger, photographer and designer Arsineh had concerns even before watching the documentary. Writing on Ars Eye View, she says:
I’m preparing to watch the program for myself, but given this much prior information, I have to ask. If you are going to cover the epidemic of genocide, starting with the campaign to criminalize genocide, continue to show the struggle so many have endured to (as you titled your program) “SCREAM BLOODY MURDER” while the world turned a deaf ear only to allow genocide to continue around the world, shouldn’t you be talking about the biggest cover up of genocide, the very one which inspired Lemkin to coin the word, the very one which also inspired Adolf Hitler to follow through with the Holocaust? Afterall, it’s this denial that scares CNN from ever using the word “Genocide” in their reporting on related matters.
Writing in detail, West of Igdir says a previous CNN press release suggested the coverage of the Armenian Genocide was going to be more intense.
The release specifically mentioned Armenia as one of the cases of genocide it would be examining. This naturally created some excitement that finally a major news organization would be dedicating a program partly to the so often overlooked Armenian Genocide of 1915 and inform a nationwide audience about it.
I had been feeling hopeful about the documentary and might have given it more of a pass on this omition until I saw this interactive map on the section of Scream Bloody Murder section of CNN’s website about the world’s killing fields. It appears that despite the fact when it had first been announced Armenia was prominently mentioned as one of the examples of genocide that would be covered, it was overlooked as being pinpointed on the interactive map as an example of genocide.
Clearly the documentary did not go unnoticed in Turkey, despite the fact it says almost nothing about the Armenian Genocide, as the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet yesterday declared “Genocide feature worrisome.”
Carrying a black casket labeled “The Newborn Georgian Democracy,” a group of bloggers in Yerevan have marched toward the Georgian Embassy protesting what they call the destruction and desecration of Armenian cultural monuments in neighboring Georgia. Bloggers tell the story.
Posting a YouTube video of the march, ahousekeepersays the bloggers’ November 27, 2008 action was “[i]n response to regular desecrations, vandalism and attempts (often successful) to appropriate Armenian churches by Georgian clerics.”
Հայերի համար Վրաստանը միշտ էլ մոտիկ երկիր է եղել։ Բայց վերջին 5 տարիների փորձը ցույց տվեց մի բան, որ այդ երկիրը շարժվում է դեպի ֆաշիզմ։ … Մեզ հետաքրքրում է մի բան՝ կատարվում է հանցագործություն, բացահայտ խուլիագնություն. գերեզմաններ են քանդում,
փոշիացնում են պատմական հուշարձաններ:
For Armenians, Georgia has always been a close country. But the experience of the last five years shows that [Georgia] is moving toward fascism… All that interests us is one thing – a crime, blatant hooliganism is going on: [Georgians] are destroying Armenian cemeteries, reducing historic monuments to dust.
The recent controversy surrounds the removal of Armenian gravestones from Norashen, a church that Georgian priests are accused of taking over.
At a difficult time when thousands of people are evacuating Georgia for Armenia, one person is doing the exact opposite. Yerevan-based British photojournalist and fellow blogger Onnik Krikorian is in Georgia covering the conflict with Russia.
But, I also have to say, I was not impressed and wondered what the U.S. Secretary of State thought of sharing center stage with a man who likened the Russian invasion of Georgia with a girl being raped because she wore a short skirt. Such statements during the press conference did not appear sufficiently presidential, in my opinion, and were seemingly not reported by the mainstream media.
Hetq.am, a popular investigative news source in Armenia, has published an article covering the role of blogs in delivering information during the state of emergency in Armenia in March 2008. This blog is also mentioned.
The latter theory, although with apparent roots in early Kemalist fabrications that the entire world civilization (with the exemption of unimportant Armenians, Jews and black Africans) was created and influenced by the Turks, is hoped to convince politicians of Native American descent to lobby for Turkish interests – that is to deny the Armenian Genocide.
British archaeologist Sam Hardy, according to a post at Human Rights Archaeology, has visited the possible Armenian Genocide mass grave in Eastern Turkey that was first covered up by the Turkish military and later manipulated by the Turkish Historical Society and proclaimed a “Roman site.”
Photo: Yusuf Halacoglu, mastermind of Mardin mass grave manipulation
Linking to our April 25, 2007 update, Human Rights Archaeology reminds that the Kurdish newspaper that reported in Fall 2006 the finding of the mass grave was closed down, and Swedish researcher David Gaunt wasted an entire week in Turkey just to find out (and soon refuse further cooperation) that the possible Armenian skeletons had been cleaned up by official Turkish historians.
Hardy’s post confirms that the mass grave has been destroyed. Here are some excerpts from the post.
This post followed a visit to the formerly Roman family tomb, latterly Armenian mass grave, recently destroyed and covered up by the Turkish military with the help of the Turkish Historical Society.
At 10.10pm on the 17th of May 2007, I recorded that,
I visited my first mass grave today, my first nationalist-archaeologist-allied-with-the-military-destroyed mass grave, too; now that‘s negative heritage tourism.
It was the allegedly – to me, fairly definitely – Armenian (or other Other) mass grave in Kuru/Xirabebaba, for the reporting of which Ülkede Özgür Gündem was shut down and on the excavation of which David Gaunt refused to work.
All of the Roman resting places seemed empty and all of the diagnostic bones from the top of the stack in the centre had gone; only a few long bones and one jaw fragment appeared to have remained.
If it were natural factors that had reburied or degraded “all” of the remains after the reopening of the tomb, it [they] would have to have been exceptional conditions, to have covered the material on top without covering the material beneath that, or to have been such caustic rain, etc., to have decomposed the material on top entirely without leaving any identifiable wear or residue on the material beneath.
After this site visit, I made my way to a long-ruined, possibly earthquake-“broken” ancient site, which villagers called a church…
When I had discussed the burial site with locals, they had been divided on whether they thought it was a mass grave or not. A few of the men who thought it was a mass grave said that it was destroyed to hide the evidence and commented that, ‘that’s what they’re doing to us’.
They agreed that the Turkish military was working on the assumption that, ‘if there isn’t a body, there isn’t a crime’. (There are, however, hopes that the, ‘no body, no crime’ principle could be outmanoeuvred by developments in forensic archaeology, either through DNA testing of remianing bone fragments or even by identifying traces in the soil, although these would still be dependent upon the potential victims’ descendant community being able to be identified and being willing to cooperate in the process.)
The logic of the “impartial joint excavation” of the mass grave falan falan falan is similar to that of the “impartial joint commission” on the history of the Armenian Genocide.
It is different though; beyond the futility of a joint commission with deniers who aren’t scientists anyway, the erasure of the evidence puts scientists in the position of helping their opponents “prove” their case by their inability to prove their own.
One veteran filmmaker, Ted Bogosian, was approached by Hollywood bigwig Danny DeVito to be part of a new movie portal called Clickstar (cstar.com). Run by actor Morgan Freeman’s company and sponsored by Intel, Clickstar was launched last December. It allows users to have a more flexible movie experience by offering the ability to download movies either to rent or own, 24 hours a day.
YouTube is quoted as saying the video giant will “remain committed to working with authorities in Turkey to address any concerns that they may have,” given a recent ban of YouTube by Turkey after a Greek video “insulted” Turkey’s founder Ataturk by calling the latter homosexual (the video was removed by YouTube).
If the chance for abuse on YouTube is possible, others are utilizing the service for cultural or social activism. One Armenian blogger, Simon Maghakyan, posted a short documentary about the 2005 destruction of the medieval Armenian cemetery of Djulfa in the Azeri-controlled region of Nakhijevan, The New Tears of Araxes-a story he was the first to spotlight on his website, Blogian.net.
“It took two months to create, and I had no idea how to make a video,” Maghakyan says. “I received financial help from a non-Armenian foundation to purchase the satellite image used in the video. A scriptwriter helped, and I had someone lend a hand with the soundtrack.” Since its posting it last December, the five-minute video has received 8,000 views on YouTube and an additional 1,000 views on Google video-a competing site.
“There has been lots of feedback,” he explains. “The strangest response I received was from someone in Turkey who wrote in broken English that he or she accepted the Genocide and was sorry. I was surprised because the film didn’t deal with that at all.”“[Online video] is a powerful tool delivering messages and even conventional media is referencing YouTube,” Maghakyan says. “But there is still a prevalent idea that online videos aren’t as credible as videos in the library.”