Following Azerbaijan’s acquisition of approximately 1,500 antique and medieval Armenian cultural sites and monuments as a result of its late 2020 military offensive on Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh), a group of concerned Armenian American community leaders and specialists have launched Save Armenian Monuments, which will operate under the auspices of the Eastern Prelacy.
“Given Azerbaijan’s record in eradicating the entire Armenian heritage of the region of Nakhichevan in 1997-2006, there are credible fears for the erasure of the medieval Armenian cultural heritage of Artsakh under Azerbaijan’s control,” remarked Dr. Virginia Davies, founding president of Save Armenian Monuments. “In order to safeguard the in-situ indigenous Armenian material heritage of Artsakh, Save Armenian Monuments will liaison with relevant stakeholders to document, raise awareness about and preserve the physical existence of the monuments, to advocate for Armenians’ right to worship at these religious sites, and to teach Armenian communities, particularly our diasporan youth, about these sacred sites through pilgrimages and other educational tools,” continued Davies.
Launched in 2020 in New York as an initiative of The Armenian Apostolic Church of America, Inc. (Eastern Prelacy), Save Armenian Monuments is comprised of officers, consultants, and advisors, including entrepreneur and philanthropist Dr. Davies, Tufenkian Foundation director Dr. Antranig Kasbarian, Denver-based researcher Simon Maghakyan, Boston-based Professor Christina Maranci, Manhattan-based lawyer Chris Parnagian, London-based entrepreneur Raffi Tanielian, as well as liaisons in Armenia.
“I was pleased last year to discuss with Dr. Davies her creative ideas in respect to preserving our sacred Christian landmarks which are in harm’s way,” remarked Archbishop Anoushavan Tanielian, Prelate of the Eastern Prelacy. “Today more than ever — in light of ongoing reports of the confiscation and destruction of Armenian sacred sites in Artsakh — this initiative is critical to preserving the Armenian nation’s legacy for future generations.”
The Eastern Prelacy, Archbishop Anoushavan added, “is pleased to embark on the noble mission of Save Armenian Monuments.”
Currently, Save Armenian Monuments is pursuing four projects: organizing an Artsakh pilgrimage in 2021; producing educational Artsakh church puzzles for children; supporting Research on Armenian Architecture (RAA), a Yerevan-based NGO that has meticulously documented Artsakh’s heritage, to update its technological infrastructure; and exploring mechanisms for the enforcement of Armenians’ religious rights to worship at sacred sites.
“We are excited to learn of the launch of Save Armenian Monuments and appreciate its proactive leadership in supporting documentation efforts of Artsakh’s heritage,” remarked Raffi Kortoshian, Co-Director of RAA. “Given the monumental threat facing Artsakh’s heritage, we need all Armenians to unite in fighting for the preservation of our churches and cross-stones,” continued Kortoshian. “A special thank you to Dr. Virginia Davies for her continuous involvement in preserving Artsakh’s past.”
Save Armenian Monuments is currently supporting the modernization of RAA’s visual archiving practices.
“I am encouraged and excited by the launch of Save Armenian Monuments,” remarked London-based entrepreneur Raffi Tanielian. “Our threatened cultural heritage needs documentation, up to date monitoring, ongoing awareness and protection by a multitude of stakeholders, and Save Armenian Monuments is the answer to filling the void in this critical effort to preserve our millennia-old past. I am thrilled to be a part of this work and I look forward to measurably impactful different projects to save our monuments,” concluded Tanielian.
On November 17, 2020, days before it came under the control of Azerbaijan, a final pilgrimage was made to St. Minas church in Hak village, Northern Kashatagh. The 17th-century church was restored in 2009 by the Tufenkian Foundation through a generous donation from Dr. Davies. She was among the pilgrims who gathered in St. Minas in November, where she shared her thoughts with the pilgrims and local and international journalists, expressing a deep concern about the possible desecration, destruction and erasure of Armenian cultural heritage at the hands of Azerbaijan, as had been done by Turkey in the aftermath of the 1915 Armenian Genocide. Upon her return to New York City, together with Dr. Kasbarian and Mr. Parnagian and with the Eastern Prelacy, Save Armenian Monuments was launched.
“Historic Armenian monuments are not just stones: they are history, faith, identity — the very fabric of our culture, and our past, present, and future,” remarked Prof. Maranci. “Scholars, foremost among them the RAA, dedicate their lives to preserving the life and health of this precious archive,” Prof. Maranci said. “Supporting this endeavor is crucial to the preservation and scholarly interpretation of Armenian monuments.”
Founded in 2020, Save Armenian Monuments LLC, a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization and subsidiary of the Eastern Prelacy, pursues the sustained safeguarding of in situ Armenian Christian heritage at risk, in particular protection and awareness-building of at-risk churches, monasteries, gravesites, stone crosses, and other sacred sites and structures located in Artsakh and Azerbaijan, through activities including monitoring and education. Based in New York, Save Armenian Monuments operates in collaboration with relevant institutional and individual stakeholders. For additional information, visit www.SaveArmenianMonuments.com.