Present-Day Ethnocide: The Destruction of Armenian Cultural Heritage in Azerbaijan
Ongoing conflict in the Caucasus over both land claims and ethnic prejudice between Armenia and Azerbaijan has perpetuated the destruction of cultural heritage sites in the region. In particular, the Azerbaijani government has successfully eliminated an Armenian religious landmark, Julfa Cemetery, which had previously been home to the largest number of khachkar tombstones in the world. Following the demolition of Julfa Cemetery, the Azerbaijani government denied that the cemetery had ever existed. This denial is not unique to the instance of Julfa Cemetery and the khachkars, but rather serves as an example of a pattern of behavior that seeks to rewrite the cultural history of Azerbaijan to intentionally exclude ethnic Armenians who had resided within Azeri borders for centuries. These occurrences, in addition to significant anti-Armenian prejudice in Azerbaijan, indicates a substantial desire to erase the cultural heritage of Armenians both inside Azerbaijan and across the diaspora. In order to establish this evidence, I examined reports from various non-governmental organizations operating in and around the Caucasus, works from historians and genocide scholars, as well as journalistic accounts published in both notable news sources and independent journals. However, it is important to note that a large amount of factually ambiguous works are published by Azeris, Armenians, and their governments which makes the study of this issue complex. Nevertheless, with this evidence established, this paper will argue that the actions of the Azerbaijani government at Julfa Cemetery and across Azerbaijan constitute ethnocide in which a dominant power seeks to eradicate the cultural identity of a group.