By Gita Elibekyan
Public Radio of Armenia, Tbilisi
Georgia is worried by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s statements about “ancient Azerbaijan.” Georgians fear the neighboring country will not refuse from claims on the David Gareji monastic complex. They believe Azerbaijan should be brought back to reality, as all historical facts are there and can be found in Georgian, Armenian, Persian, Arabic and Greek sources.
Aliyev made a blatant mistake in Munich by stepping into the platform of “historical facts,” says Georgian political scientist David Akubardia, urging the Georgian public to think about the issue.
The comments follow a public debate between Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference.
“They distort history the way Turkey does. David Gareji is in Georgia, the churches and monuments there are ours. There are many facts proving this,” the political scientist told Public Radio of Armenia in an interview.
Akubardia says the Caucasus is full of real facts that must be used to make Azerbaijan abandon the “fictional myths.” He has recently met with the Secretary of the Azerbaijani Embassy to Georgia, who claims David Gareji is an Albanian monastic complex.
“Now they claim Albanians are their ancestors. The fact is that Albanians are not Azerbaijanis. I think Pashinyan gave academic answers, while Aliyev was not well prepared; he got confused in fictitious facts,” the Georgian political scientist says.
“In the times of Tigran the Great (95-55 BC) there were only two nations in the region – Armenians and Georgians, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said at a panel discussion in Munich.
The remarks came in response to Azerbaijani President Ilhal Aliyev’s claims that Azerbaijanis constituted 70% of Yerevan’s population at the turn of the 19th century.
David Gareji is a rock-hewn Georgian Orthodox monastery complex located in the Kakheti region of Eastern Georgia, on the half-desert slopes of Mount Gareji, some 60–70 km southeast of Georgia’s capital Tbilisi. The complex includes hundreds of cells, churches, chapels, refectories and living quarters hollowed out of the rock face.
It has long been a subject to border dispute between the two countries. Last year more than 15 thousand Georgians formed a “human shield” along the border on Tuesday, calling for soonest solution to the issue of demarcation. The failure to do so has left part of the Monastery Complex on the Azerbaijani territory, allowing the latter to lay claims on the shrine.
“It is clear that Azerbaijan is now trying to build its history at the expense of ours. And that country is considered our strategic partner. Georgia’s strategic partners must be democratic and respect human rights. A strategic partner should be chosen by values, not by economic circumstances,” says Irakli Kakabadze, one of the organizers of the Gareji campaign.
Today, as the Georgian-Azerbaijani intergovernmental commission has resumed the demarcation work following protracted protests, Georgian historians are focusing on Aliyev’s false statements during the debate with Pashinyan. Historian Gubaz Sanikidze says it is difficult to find anyone in Georgia who will believe Aliyev’s views.
“History is like a stone that cannot be destroyed. Pashinyan was right: Armenians and Georgians are ancient nations, we have at least 3 000 years of history. We have been here since ancient times, calling each other Armenia and Georgia,” Sanikidze told Public Radio of Armenia.
He said “the Bolsheviks created Azerbaijan, which now claims to be the oldest nation in the Caucasus.”