Azerbaijan has not hidden away from targeting sites of Armenian culture in Artsakh as it continues its invasion with the support of Turkey and Al-Qaeda elements imported from Syria.
Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan said on Twitter that “Shushi Holy Savior Cathedral has been deliberately bombed by savage aggressor. Azerbaijan with direct involvement of Turkey and international terrorists continue to target civilians, destroy infrastructure and reveal the depth of their barbarity by destroying holy sites. This is an affront to humanity.”
Azerbaijan also shelled the church a second time when journalists arrived to cover the event.
“Russian journalist reportedly injured as Azerbaijani rockets hit a 19th century cathedral in Karabakh for a second time today. Journalists flocked to the scene after the first attack, reporting on the aftermath. Azerbaijan chose that moment to launch another strike,” Murad Gazdiev of RT tweeted.
The church is the seat of the Diocese of Artsakh of the Armenian Apostolic Church.
Built between 1868 and 1887, it was finally consecrated in 1888, but experienced decline during the March 1920 Azerbaijani massacre of Armenians in the city of Shushi.
The church experienced further decline during the the Soviet period and was further damaged during the First Artsakh War (1988-1994).
The church is a landmark of not only Shushi, but the entirety of Artsakh. The city of Shushi is only some 20 minutes away from the capital of Artsakh, Stepanakert.
In a separate attack, the Azerbaijani military targeted the Cultural House in Shushi.
“Last year we were enjoying a concert of Patrick Fiori in one of the centers of Cultural house of Shoushi, in Artsakh. We still have many concerts and performances to attend here, so we will rebuild it very soon,” said Ashot Ghoulyan, the Adviser to the President of the Parliament of Armenia, in a tweet.
Azerbaijan has a tradition of eliminating Armenian cultural sites within its territory, the most famous example being the Djulfa destruction of thousands of medieval tombstones.
According to a lengthy report published in the art journal Hyperallergic in February 2019 and disseminated by The Guardian, the Azerbaijani government has, over the past 30 years, been engaging in a systematic erasure of the country’s historic Armenian heritage.
This official, albeit covert, destruction of cultural and religious artefacts exceeds Islamic State’s self-promotional dynamiting of Palmyra, according to the report’s authors, Simon Maghakyan and Sarah Pickman.
On 15 December 2005, the prelate of northern Iran’s Armenian church, Bishop Nshan Topouzian, filmed – from across the Araxes River that serves as a natural border between Iran and Azerbaijan – the Azerbaijani military methodically laying waste with sledgehammers to all that remained of Djulfa. The soldiers loaded the debris on to truck beds and dumped it into the Araxes River.
As Azerbaijan knowingly accepts it occupies formerly Armenian land, it engages in systematic destruction of ancient and medieval sites in an attempt to legitimize their rule in territories gifted to them by Soviet authorities.