An interesting article in ArmeniaNow reveals two interesting things on cultural property in the South Caucasus – governments are highly involved in both protection and destruction.

For one, the article says, Armenia has welcomed European observers to monitor Azeri monuments on Armenian territory regardless whether Azerbaijan (which has twice denied such monitoring) agrees monitoring of Armenian monuments on its territory or not. 

The news that the government of Armenia has given its consent to the European observers to carry out a monitoring on the state of cultural monuments on the territory of the republic, regardless of the official Baku’s standpoint on receiving such group of experts, caused an ambiguous reaction in Armenia. It should be noted that the Secretary General of the Council of Europe Terry Davis declared this during his visit to Yerevan on November 5. Commenting on the news, he stressed that such position is in the country’s interests as it can have a positive impact on its international image.

This has invited criticism by those who think Armenia needs to improve civil rights and not “show off” that it is not destroying Azeri monuments as a means of promoting itself as a democratic country.

“Does the Council of Europe have the right to judge Armenia’s image not from the view of adhering civil freedoms, but of the declared interest in preservation of the Armenian nation’s cultural heritage?” wonders a well-known art critic, the Head of Avan’s Museum of History and Archeology Ara Demirkhanyan.

The ArmeniaNow article also shows a possible link between the destruction of world’s largest Armenian cemetery in Azerbaijan (reportedly destroyed in 1998, 2003 and finalized in 2005) and the now-deceased former Azerbaijani president Heydar Aliyev, who was succeeded by his son.  It is not ruled out that the order was central, concludes an interviewee.

It’s noteworthy that it was in that period when a special archeological expedition started operating on the territory of Nakhijevan. “It [the expedition] was called by a direct order of Heidar Aliyev in 2001,” says the Deputy Head (on scientific issues) of Azerbaijan’s National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Archeology and Ethnography Najaf Musiebli. “That expedition continued its work up to 2003. During the three years large-scale field works were held on the territory of Nakhijevan aimed at revealing historical monuments so far unknown to science. As a result of archeological excavations monuments of ancient settlements were discovered.”

“It’s quite possible that the given archeological party, besides other things, was engaged in making an ‘inventory’ of Armenian monuments that were subject to extermination. This is indirectly confirmed by the timing of its activity,” Demirkhanyan says.

Musiebli’s recently published (November 5) statement in this connection is worth mentioning here: “We have to say that the expedition was not organized by chance. Constant disinformation of the world community by the Armenians that the territory of Nakhijevan is also an ancient Armenian land forced the state to call a scientific-research expedition and as a result of numerous archaeological facts the false propaganda of the occupants was proved.”