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Azerbaijan has begun to disfigure the Ghazanchetsots Cathedral in Shushi, under the pretext of “renovation” in an ongoing and overt effort to erase all Armenian characteristics from the iconic church. This is consistent with the cultural genocide policy consistently pursued by both Azerbaijan and its patron state, Turkey.

The Azerbaijani occupation forces have now removed the characteristic dome of the Shushi church to replace it with one that suits their false narrative that attributes a Caucasian Albanian origin to Armenian monuments in Artsakh. The goal is to eliminate all traces of Armenian cultural legacy in the ancient capital of Artsakh as well as the other territories occupied by Azerbaijan in the latest war.

“Azerbaijan cannot renovate the cultural heritage belonging to the very people against whom hatred has been sown for years at a state level,” said Artsakh’s Human Rights Defender Gegham Stepanyan in a Facebook post on Monday, raising alarms about this blatant effort to erase Armenian cultural landmarks.

“Under the pretext of the so-called ‘renovations’ the Azerbaijanis are dismantling one of the most important Armenian religious monuments – Church of the Holy Savior Ghazanchetsots of Shushi,” Stepanyan said. “We have witnessed in numerous cases how Azerbaijan treats Armenian cultural values and that’s enough to understand what is going on under the guise of ‘renovations.’ The goal is to eliminate any Armenian trace.’’

Stepanyan said that concrete measures need to be taken in order to end this cultural destruction and misappropriation. He added that nothing is done except for criticizing and making calls, but concrete measures are necessary. The Human Rights Defender of Artsakh noted that the main reason for such a behavior of Azerbaijan is impunity.

In December 2005, the Azerbaijani army destroyed thousands of khachkars in Julfa in what has been labeled as “the worst cultural genocide of the 21st century.” Turkey has a long record of cultural genocide, revived under the regime of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, manifested in the destruction and desecration of Armenian monument and churches, many of which have been converted into mosques.