THE CONDITION OF THE ARMENIAN
HISTORICAL MONUMENTS IN GEORGIA IMAGES
The territory of Georgia retains thousands of Armenian monuments which have never been in a good state of preservation. A considerable part of them (about 80 churches), including Khojivank's Sourb Astvatzatzin Church and its graveyard, the complex of Harants Monastery, i.e. the residence of the spiritual leader of the Georgian-Armenians, etc., were demolished under Stalin's dictatorship.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the state and spiritual leaders of independent Georgia slightly changed their policy on the Armenian monuments: under the Soviet regime they were simply levelled with the ground, whereas at present they are altered and appropriated. Under the pretense of "restoration," the Georgians have scraped away, or obliterated over 300 inscriptions once decorating numerous khachkars, gravestones, different buildings and the walls of about 30 churches, now Georgianized.
It is interesting to note that the Georgian authorities' intolerance towards the Armenian historical monuments is explained by the fact that the Armenians are natives in the southern regions of Georgia.
Among the historical monuments demolished in Georgia since the late 1930s, the following can be distinguished:
- The cemetery of Khojivank, in whose site the church of the Holy Trinity, i.e. the residence of the Georgian spiritual leader, is being built.
- Koosanats (of the Holy Virgins) St. Stepanos Church was appropriated between 1989 and 1991 under the pretense of "restoration": all the Armenian features (the high altar, christening basin, more than 10 Armenian lapidary inscriptions, etc.) of the sanctuary were obliterated together with its belfry, the vault of one of its Mothers Superior, etc.
- Sourb Astvatzatzin Church of Bethlehem was appropriated under the pretense of "restoration": its high altar, cross-carrier, font as well as the lapidary inscriptions and some medieval cross-stones set in the walls were annihilated.
- After the demolition of St. Gevorg Church of Dzorabash, a new Georgian church was erected in its site.
- Shamkoretsots ('Shamkor Inhabitants') Karmir Avetaran (the Armenian equivalent of 'Red Gospel') Church was blasted on 13 April 1989, its destruction being ascribed to the intensity of an earthquake that had struck Tbilisi a day before.
- Under the pretense of "restoration," Norashen's Sourb Astvatzatzin Church was deprived of its high altar and font, whereas its mediaeval cross-stones (one of them dated 1650), lapidary inscriptions and frescoes by the Hovnatanians were annihilated.
- The construction inscription (dated 1753) of Karap's St. Gevorg Church, set in its southern facade, was obliterated during its "restoration".
- An Armenian cemetery situated in Vera (nowadays Zemo Vacke) Quarter, Tbilisi, is continually being destroyed, Georgian decedents being periodically buried there.
- The "restoration" of the church and belfry of St. Gevorg Monastery, located in Telet Village, in the vicinity of Tbilisi, was accompanied by the demolition of the former's high altar, font, cross-stones and gravestones bearing Armenian epitaphs.
The Armenian churches and inscriptions in Lis, Telav, Suram, Sghnakh, Shahnapat, Nakhshirgora, Velistsikhe as well as other cities and villages of Georgia have shared the fate of the aforementioned architectural monuments.