VIENNA — On May 13-14 the “Culture in Conflict: South Caucasus Today” international conference took place at the Vienna Museum of Historical Arts focusing on the issues and threatening dangers of protection and preservation of Artsakh’s cultural heritage. The conference was organized under the patronage of His Holiness Karekin ÉÉ, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, by the Austrian Committee of Mother See’s Office for Artsakh Spiritual-Cultural Heritage Issues.

During the conference the international and Armenian speakers emphasized that in the course of the war of 2020, and since November 9, numerous cases of destruction and distortion of the Armenian Christian culture by Azerbaijan has been registered in the occupied territories of Artsakh, which demonstrate the Azerbaijani state policy of eliminating the Armenian cultural trace. Evidences of this criminal policy of Azerbaijan were presented in the form of documentary materials: satellite photos, videos, etc., which undeniably affirm the systemic vandalism of Armenian cultural heritage and to demand international condemnation and prevention of these crimes in defense of the Christian heritage of world culture.

Dr. Jasmine Dum-Tragut, the head of the Austrian committee of Mother See’s Office for Artsakh Spiritual-Cultural Heritage Issues delivered the welcoming message at the conference.

The speakers presented various initiatives for the protection of cultural heritage, which can be an exemplary in the case of Artsakh. A detailed reference was made to the UN International Court of Justice in 2021. According to the decision made in December 2010, Azerbaijan undertakes to abandon its policy of destroying the Armenian cultural heritage in Artsakh. The speakers also presented international and Armenian initiatives that serve to preserve that heritage and raise its issues. As a co-organizer of the conference, Blue Shield Austrian Committee chair Karl Habsburg-Lothringen criticized the Azerbaijani actions and considered important the exchange of international experience of cultural heritage preservation skills of the representatives of Armenian culture, as well as representatives of the army. He also noted that work is underway to open a Blue Shield office in Armenia, which will provide an opportunity for this international organization for the protection of cultural heritage endangered in course of military actions to operate in Armenia as well.

His Grace Bishop Tiran Petrosyan, the Pontifical Legate of the Armenian-Apostolic Church for Central Europe and Scandinavia, conveyed the welcoming message of His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians at the conference, as well as messages were delivered by Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, the Primate of the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America, Bishop Vrtanes Abrahamyan, the Primate of Artsakh Diocese, Very Rev. Garegin Hambardzumyan, the Director of  Mother See’s Office for Artsakh Spiritual-Cultural Heritage Issues. The ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Armenia to Austria, Mr. Papikyan addressed the participants with his welcoming speech.
Among the speakers were four participants from Armenia: Raffi Kortoshian, Deputy Director of the Research on Armenian Architecture Foundation, Ani Avagyan, Executive director of Armenian Heritage Foundation.

Matenadaran, the Mesrop Mashtots Institute of Ancient Manuscripts was presented by Sona Baloyan, senior specialist in international relations.
Documentary film director Seda Grigoryan made a presentation of the documentary film “Cultural Conflict”, showing an episode of cultural genocide in Nakhichevan and drawing parallels with the current situation of endangered heritage sites of Artsakh.

Prior to the conference, an exhibition entitled “Culture in Conflict: Artsakh Armenian Cultural Heritage” took place in Salzburg from May 11-14, during which manuscripts, printed books and other interesting materials kept in the library of the Mekhitarist Congregation in Vienna were displayed.

Father Garegin Hambardzumyan
Brotherhood of the Mother See

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