BAKU — U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan Richard Morningstar has issued a statement on the protection of cultural heritage in the region.
“After the appointment, I started learning about the culture and history of the country. I have recently visited Nakhijevan, Lankaran, Shaki, Oghuz, Guba and Lahij. These visits gave me a better opportunity to familiarize myself with the country’s cultural heritage. The region has a complicated history. Nagorno Karabakh conflict claimed thousands of lives, and seriously affected the places having historical, religious and cultural importance in the region. During my visit to Nakhijevan, I held discussions with the local authorities on the destruction of the ancient Armenian cemetery in Jugha. I regret that the authorities did not allow me to visit the place, citing security reasons. The protection of the region’s heritage is essential to future peace,” the statement reads.
The United States supports the efforts of Armenia and Azerbaijan to protect the historical archives of each other’s communities in their countries. For example, next week Armenian and Azerbaijani archivists will be in the U.S. on a joint program to learn more about preservation of cultural artifacts. Efforts of this kind are encouraging and we will do our best to support any such initiatives in the future,” the statement reads.
Nakhichevan’s Azeri authorities have completely destroyed Armenian khachkars (cross-stones) and chapels tracing back to the 9th century. At the beginning of the 17th century, the cemetery, where the ancestors of present-day Nor Jugha Armenians were buried, had some 12,000 khachkars: by 1998, however, their number had dropped to less than 2,000 until complete destruction.
One of the famous settlements in the historical province of Yernjak, ancient Armenia, Jugha existed intermittently until 1848. Having the status of a village in the early Middle Ages, it grew into a town between the 10th and 13th centuries, enjoying the fame of an outstanding trade centre in Armenia between the 15th and 17th centuries.
Jugha was eyewitness to all the historical events that took place in the territory between Nakhichevan and Vaspurakan. In the Middle Ages, the densely-populated prosperous town was often subjected to invasions by foreign forces, being periodically devastated, plundered and set on fire. In 1605 Jugha was finally reduced to ruins, its population being deported.