|"The Armenian Weekly," March 15, 2003, page 9|
|The Destruction of the Armenian Cemetery of Jugha|
|Note: The article contained certain mistakes and omissions which have been corrected.|
| The National Council of Nakhichevan Armenians has called on the international community to intervene in the ongoing vandalism against the Armenian cemetery in the historical settlement of Jugha (presently Julfa). As that body reports referring to France-based Land and Culture Organization, a cemetery-church has been recently destroyed there. The historical necropolis, located on the northern bank of the river Araks, within 10 kms of present-day Julfa, used to extend on three hills, each dating back to the period between the l2th and l7th centuries.
Nakhichevan's Azeri authorities have recently resumed efforts to complete the destruction of the local Armenian khachkars (cross-stones) and chapels tracing back to the 9th century. The demolition was first reported by a watchman of the monastery of St. Stephen the Protodeacon, situated right across from Jugha, being later confirmed by other visitors, particularly the representatives of Land and Culture Organization, which works to restore Armenian monuments.
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 due to their premeditated destruction by the Azeri Government. Apparently, the Azeris who stopped that vandalism under the pressure of the international community more than five years ago have decided to complete their initial plan to thoroughly cleanse the site.
The National Council of Nakhichevan Armenians has urged Armenian President Robert Kocharian, the National Assembly of the RA, the Executive Government of the RA, Catholicos of All Armenians Garegin II, Catholicos of the Holy See of Cilicia Aram I and the proper Diasporan organizations to voice their protest against the cultural "genocide" committed by Azerbaijan.
Both the Council and the Armenian Government have applied to UNESCO asking that an international commission be formed to study the damaged historical monuments on the spot. It should also work to turn Jugha Cemetery into an international historical-cultural neutral zone (a similar appeal helped to temporarily stop the destruction in 1998).
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 1Oth 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. What is being perpetrated in Nakhichevan is part of a general effort by the Azeri Government to obliterate all the traces of Armenian history in the territories once populated by the Armenians. The main crossroad between Nakhichevan and Iran, Julfa is an important geographical area both for rail and road traffic.
|Photos by Zaven Sargsian, Nshan Topuzian, Armen Hakhnazarian|