THE ARMENIAN CEMETERY OF JUGHA HAS BEEN ANNIHILATED
| The Geographical Position of Jugha.
The historical city of Jugha was situated on the northern bank of the river Araks, near the borderline between Iran and Nakhichevan, Yernjak District, Syunik Province, Metz Hayk. At present it is located in Julfa District of Nakhichevan's Autonomous Republic, which forms part of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
A Historical Introduction.
The exact date of the foundation of the city is unknown. The earliest Armenian source to make reference to it is historiographer Khorenatsi's work which mentions it as a settlement _*1 Situated on the ancient road extending along the Araks Valley, Jugha gradually grew into a city, being so famous in the Middle Ages that its name was often used to indicate the whole district of Yernjak: thus, in 1019 Jugha (i.e. the district) was returned to the episcopal diocese of Syunik_*2.
The colophon (1325) of a Jashots copied by scribe Khachatur mentions the city as a centre of manuscript writing:
...the holy book was completed in Jugha..."_*3.
In 1407 a disastrous epidemic befell Jugha "...spreading an untimely death to the city and Shambn..."_*4.
In 1456 a certain Mariam copied and illustrated another manuscript entitled "A Book of Sermons by Gregory of Tatev" in Jugha_*5.
In 1487 reference is made to Minas from Jugha, "...who illustrated a Gospel."_*6.
At the period between the late 14th and early 15th centuries, Jugha is mentioned as a village with regard to friar Karapet Jughayetsi, who was captured in Artzke on his return from Jerusalem to his home town_*7.
English merchant John Newberry, who visited Jugha in December 1581, wrote the following about it, "...The city, situated at the foot of a mountain, retains a three-nave wooden bridge and a stone one, the latter lying in dilapidation. The river flowing in front of it is called Araz."_*8
It was particularly in the early 17th century that Jugha flourished as a centre of manuscript writing, the colophons of many manuscripts mentioning it as a village town_*9. Before the forced deportation of 1604, it was famous for its "...great splendour"_*10, being "...the pride and glory of the Armenian nation..."_*11.
The city was remarkable for its magnificent, fine buildings, some colophons regarding the forced deportation making passing reference to them:
...The local residents were forced into leaving their beautiful, expensive houses..._*12.
The city of Jugha, which is nicely-built and decorated, arouses admiration among visitors_*13.
The history by Davrizhetsi provides some details regarding the reception Jugha Armenians and, particularly, city mayor Khachik, a distinguished merchant (khoja), held for Shah Abbas:
All the people of Jugha gave a grand, hearty welcome to the shah. The local princes, the old and the young, wearing weapons and wonderful gold vestments, were approaching him in turn, while the children served him sweet, pure wine in gold glasses, the singers singing harmoniously and the priests burning incense, with lighted candles in their hands. The king made for khoja Khachik's house, walking on expensive silk that carpeted the entire road from the river bank to the mayor's residence. There the latter's son gave the shah a gold tray full of gold, the other local rich men also giving him lavish gifts. He stayed there for three days and the people of Jugha honoured him with delicious dishes and sweet wine."_*14
The Local Population.
The population of most of the cities of Historical Armenia rarely totaled 50,000 even at periods of bloom and the same is true of Jugha: in 1581 the city had 3,000 houses with about 45,000 inhabitants (a single family consisted of 15 members on average)_*15.
The Local Churches and Monasteries.
Jugha was rich in churches and monasteries: some records mention Katan Church, Sourb Astvatzatzin (Holy Virgin), Sourb Amenaprkich (Holy Saviour), St. Gevorg and St. Hovhan Monastery (also mentioned by the name of St. John the Baptist). English merchant John Newberry, who visited Jugha in December 1581, wrote that the city "...had three thousand houses and seven churches..."_*16.
A scribe who wrote about the destruction of the city in 1610 mentions the same number of monuments:
There were seven ornate churches, with gilded censers and covering cloths sewn with gold threads. They also retained Gospels and holy crosses decorated with precious stones, the tables and sacred relics arousing the joy of those seeing them. The churches were destroyed and the voices of the clergy were no longer heard there."_*17
Jugha on the Eve of Annihilation.
The city enjoyed great cultural bloom till the disastrous deportation of 1604 and its final destruction in 1610. Between 1603 and 1604, manuscripts were still written in Jugha: thus, in 1603 a Gospel was copied "...in St. Gevorg Church..."_*18 another Gospel being repaired "in Sourb Astvatzatzin and Sourb Amenaprkich" in 1604_*19.
The Deportation and Destruction of Jugha.
In 1604 Shah Abbas annihilated "the fine, wonderful" city of Jugha_*20. Contemporary historian Arakel Davrizhetsi writes the following about the deportation of the local population that was the greatest disaster of the time, "...The shah ordered Tahmazghuli Bey not to allow the people of Jugha to remain in their places and drive them away to Tabriz: so, he immediately came and displaced them..."_*21
The Persian army set the city on fire.
Jugha between 1604 and 1988.
After 1604 some Armenians took up residence in the devastated city, soon a small village of the same name being founded in the site of the once thriving settlement of the early 17th century. In 1812 Jugha had a leader:
...since 15 December 1812 the district of Goghtan has been governed by Mirza Ahmat, Archimandrite Poghos Dallakian from Jugha performing the duties of vekildar._*22
Between the 19th and 20th centuries, the population of the village of Jugha continued growing, the following table substantiating this:
Between 1918 and 1921, when the Turkish army destroyed the village, the majority of its population was deported and the others killed. After the Sovietization of the territory, a small number of Armenians still lived in Jugha, but the anti-Armenian policy implemented by the Azerbaijani authorities finally banished them from their homes. According to art historian Zaven Sargissian who visited the place in 1987, only a single Armenian, a lonely woman, lived in Jugha, then already populated by Turks.
The Cemetery of Jugha.
Alexandre de Rhodes, who visited Jugha in 1648, provides a description of the cemetery, mentioning 10,000 ornate standing cross-stones_*29. By the early 20th century, however, only about 6,000 khachkars, ram-shaped tombstones as well as three churches and a chapel had survived there.
English diplomat William Ousely, who travelled in Jugha in 1812, wrote, "...We saw the ruins of Julfa, a completely devastated city lying on the bank of the Araks, amidst some rocks and mountains. We also came across the remnants of a castle and a small tower adjoining it... I conducted some studies in the main ruins of Julfa whose entire population comprised 45 Armenian families, apparently from the lower classes. However, the local large cemetery, situated on a hillside down the river and abounding in tombstones resembling densely-arrayed soldiers from afar, speaks of the large number of population it once enjoyed. They perpetuate the memory of many generations, constituting the overall result of many centuries of creative work. Near an old church retaining the tombstone of a beautiful grave bearing some reliefs and an Armenian epitaph, I photographed the ruins of a bridge which used to be situated below the city, on the Araks."_*30.
In 1912 Ashkharbek Kalantar left for Jugha, accompanied by a student named Art. Grigorian for the purpose of carrying out archaeological explorations on the territory of the ancient cemetery_*31. In September 1915 famous photographer Artashes Vruyr visited Jugha with his son Ara, aiming at studying and photographing the remnants of the city. Grigor Aghamalian, a student from Jugha, was of great help to him in his work_*32.
Investigators are not unanimous in mentioning the number of the cross-stones the necropolis retained: thus, in 1915 G. Aghamalian registered 2,100 standing, or lying khachkars_*33, while historian Argam Ayvazian claims the existence of only 2,707 cross-stones in the large cemetery extending on three hills between 1971 and 1973_*34.
Cross-Stones Removed from the Settlement.
Those interested in art have focused their attention on the huge number of Jugha's cross-stones for many decades. Now and then different researchers moved some khachkars to various places: thus, in 1874 Gustav Radde, the founder and first curator of the Caucasian Museum (Tiflis, 1867), initiated and sponsored the conveyance of 10 cross-stones (16th-17th centuries) and several ram-shaped tombstones from the cemetery to the museum. In the Soviet years, several khachkars were taken to Echmiatzin and Yerevan. In fact, such removals of cross-stones cannot be welcomed since a historical monument is fully appreciated only if it is situated in its original historical site. Against the background of the events of the autumn of 2002, however, those removed cross-stones have actually become saved relics since otherwise they would have shared the fate of those obliterated by the Azerbaijani authorities.
The Cross-Stones of Jugha in Akhundov's Interpretation.
Historian Davud Agha-oghli Akhundov's work entitled "The Ancient and Early Medieval Architecture of Azerbaijan" (Baku, 1986) contains some references to the cross-stones of Jugha Cemetery: the author tries to attribute their creation to the Albanians, the alleged ancestors of the Azerbaijani people, that viewpoint being shared by other Azerbaijani scholars who issued some materials concerning the matter in the 1980s. Their publications, however, have nothing to do with science: an Armenian monument cannot turn into an "Albanian-Azerbaijani" one by being declared "Albanian" so that the Azerbaijani Turks disguised their true nature and started "working" with bulldozers.
The Annihilation of the Armenian Cemetery.
Nakhichevan's authorities started the destruction of the cemetery in 1998, but the news reaching the civilized world in time, that unprecedented vadalism was prevented through the mediation of the UNESCO. At the end of the summer of 2002, some people from the Iranian bank of the Araks noticed that the annihilation of the necropolis had been resumed. The photographs taken in November from the same bank of the river exposed the complete annihilation of the Armenian cemetery. With no Armenians left in Jugha to be slaughtered, the Turkish barbarians obliterated thousands of Armenian cross-stones. At present Armenian culture has suffered irreversible damage: however, it is not only the Armenians' loss but that of the whole civilized world. This formidable cultural "genocide" should arouse the vigilance of the international community and attract widespread condemnation.
We call upon all cultural organizations and proper institutions to raise their voices of protest against what has been perpetrated.
by Samvel Karapetian
Research on Armenian Architecture (RAA) NGO