Nagorno-Karabakh: A Vast Christian Desert

Source: FSSPX News

The Church of St. John the Baptist of Gandzasar Monastery in Nagorno-Karabakh

While Russian intervention troops have begun their withdrawal from Nagorno-Karabakh (now a province of Azerbaijan), Armenia is accusing Azerbaijan of having carried out a vast ethnic cleansing operation which resulted in the disappearance of Christians from the enclave. All of this has transpired with the international community focused on the war in Ukraine and the Middle East.

In this mountainous enclave of 4,400 km2 l located in the south of the Caucasus mountains, until April 2024, there has been a Christian presence since ancient history. It coincides with that of Armenia, the first nation to become officially Christian in 301 AD.

On April 22, before the magistrates of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) of the Hague, Yegishe Kirakosyan--the Armenian representative for international for legal issues--accused Azerbaijan of having carried out ethnic cleansing that began several years ago in Nagorno-Karabakh, while assuring that he wants to seek peace with the country.

“After having threatened to do it for years, Azerbaijan completed the ethnic cleansing of the region by systematically erasing all traces of the presence of true Armenians, including the Armenian cultural and religious heritage,” Yegishe Kirakosyan lamented.

At the same time, videos and images of columns of Russian tanks leaving the enclave recaptured from the Armenians at the end of 2021 are circulating on Azerbaijani social networks: Moscow in fact confirmed the withdrawal of 1,960 men deployed in November of that year, in order to “protect” the Armenians still present in the enclave.

As the months went by, the Armenians there all fled, for fear of reprisals from Azerbaijani Muslims, and the Russian presence was less justified in the region. The departure of the Russian contingent no less surprises observers, given that this part of Transcaucasia is of top strategic and economic interest for Moscow.

“Of course, we are all asking ourselves if Russia gained something in return from Aliyev [Editor’s note: strongman of Azerbaijan]. Some allude to a secret agreement,” explains Anahide Pilibossian of the Applied Policy Research Institute of Armenia.

On Vladimir Putin’s side, it is also a way of “punishing” the Armenian head of State, because the Russian bear has had little taste for Nikol Pashinyan’s pro-Western reversal and his support for Ukraine in the war.

Be that as it may, one thing is certain: the Baku regime is striving to erase all traces of Christianity from Nagorno-Karabakh, and in several ways. Either by destroying churches or defacing them: and always by rewriting History, imagining that the Christian temples would be in fact be monuments stolen from the Albanians present before the Armenians.

A real denial of reality which has not moved the European Union, prompt to cry with Armenia, while continuing to forge commercial ties with Azerbaijan. Nagorno-Karabakh is not Ukraine, and the humanist values of “rules of law” are like weather vanes driven wild by the wind.

During the Angelus of October 15, 2023, the Supreme Pontiff expressed his concern for the protection of the spiritual and architectural heritage of the mountainous enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh: “I hope that [...] they [monasteries and places of worship] can be respected and protected as part of the local culture,” Pope Francis stated.

It was a request which would not have had much effect: six months later, the church towers fell in Nagorno-Karabakh, and only the crosses of the tombs still remain standing. But for how much longer?