The Julfa cemetery of the ancient Armenian district of Nakhichevan, which Lenin arbitrarily joined to Azerbaijan, represented, till its destruction, perhaps the largest number of East Christian cultural monuments in any single place on earth. The deliberate and systemartic destruction of that site by the government of Azerbaijan was a barbaric act of cultural vandalism unparalleled since the Nazi era, except perhaps for the vandalism of Jewish sites in Jerusalem during the nineteen-year period of Jordanian military occupation, but even that was not on the same horrific scale. This act alone makes Azerbaijan a criminal and outlaw state, one that does not merit inclusion in the family of nations. One welcomes the liberation of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabagh) by its long oppressed, majority Armenian population, that has saved a large number of other monuments. The virtual memorial, Djulfa.com, is of immense cultural and historical value, to the study of Armenian, Christian, and medieval culture. It deserves every support.

James R. Russell,
Mashtots Professor of Armenian Studies
Harvard University
December 23, 2011

I personally witnessed cultural vandalism in the village of Nic (Nij) in Azerbaijan, where Armenian inscriptions were erased from church walls and tombstones during the restoration of the town church. Authorities attempted to justify this activity by claiming it was not considered necessary to have inscriptions in a foreign language on one of the main Caucasian Albanian shrines. Nevertheless, it remains a a historical fact that Armenian was the liturgical language of the Albanian church, and had been so for centuries.  The early integration of the Albanian church into the Armenian church is explicitly stated on p. 4 of a document presented by Azerbaijan to the Council of Europe on 4 June 2002:

“In connection with the Arab invasion from the beginning of the 8th century Islam becomes the dominant religion in Azerbaijan. As part of this process most of the Albanians were converted to Islam, although some retained their own religion.

Taking into account the influence of the Byzantine Empire on South Caucasus on the eve of the Arab invasion, the Albanian Church, as well as the Georgian one, shared the dogmas of duophizicism. In order to prevent the influence of the Byzantine Empire the Caliphate, with the help of the Armenian Church changes the Albanian Church into monophizite one and subordinates it to the Armenian Gregorian Church. This resulted in that the Albanians living in the mountainous part of Karabakh “Artsakh” were gradually Gregorianized.”

Regarding the destruction of Djulfa cemetery, the official Azerbaijani reaction was to first deny the existence of a graveyard with khachkars at Djulfa. The narrative then changed, with Baku claiming that Armenians had never lived in the region, and that the graveyard was Albanian in origin. However, considering the fact that Azerbaijan preserves and restores Albanian cultural sites that it considers to be part of the country’s historical identity, e.g. Kish and Nic (Nij), the question arises as to why the allegedly Albanian graveyard at Djulfa was defiled and totally demolished by Azerbaijani military personnel.

The willful destruction of historical monuments belonging to any religion, culture or nation must be condemned. Two of the most outrageous examples of such cultural vandalism in recent years are the demolition of the Buddha statues in Afghanistan and the obliteration of the khachkars at Djulfa. However, the images of these lost icons will endure in the collective memory of humankind. Moreover, modern technology, as exemplified by the Djulfa Virtual Memorial and Museum, is capable of giving new life to these demolished monuments.

Steinar Gil

Norway’s Ambassador to Azerbaijan at the time of Djulfa’s destruction

January 21, 2012


During my latest visit to Azerbaijan I stressed the importance of
maintenance of cultural heritage. We condemn the demolition of the
Armenian cemetery in Old Djulfa in Nakhichevan by an order of the
Azeri authorities.

Micheline Calmy-Rey
Swiss Foreign Minister
June, 2006


The European Parliament … demands that Azerbaijan allow missions,
such as experts working with ICOMOS who are dedicated to surveying and
protecting archaeological heritage, in particular Armenian heritage,
onto its territory, and that it also allow a European Parliament
delegation to visit the archaeological site at Djulfa.

European Parliament
C 290 E/421
February 16, 2006


The complete and systematic annihilation of this medieval cemetery is
reprehensible. … The willful destruction of this cultural and
religious site has taken place over six years. UNESCO stood idly by
and has done nothing, despite photographic evidence. UNESCO must take
a firm stand and denounce this deliberate act of ethnocide. … I
challenged the Director-General of UNESCO to do no less than condemn
these terrible acts. This destruction happened under his watch.
UNESCO’s inaction is totally unacceptable.

Jim Karygiannis
Member of Canadian Parliament
October, 2006


Mr. Speaker, Azerbaijan seems bent on destroying every last vestige
of the Armenian presence in Azerbaijan. For example, there is
videotaped evidence of the Azerbaijani government’s December 2005
systematic desecration and destruction of an ancient Armenian
cemetery, including thousands of intricately carved grave-stones in
Djulfa, in a section of Azerbaijan near the Turkish border. I believe
our State Department still has not adequately examined this incident,
and I call on it to do so.

Howard Berman
US Representative
February 27, 2012


There continues to be an organized effort to destroy historically
sacred Armenian sites by the Government of Azerbaijan. Recently, there
has been a documented video, evidencing the systematic destruction of
a more than 1,000-year-old cemetery and historic carved stone crosses
in the southern Nakhichevan region of Djulfa.

Frank Pallone
US Representative
February 28, 2006


The recent destruction of a sacred Armenian cultural monument, the  khachkar forest of carved stone tombstones in Djulfa , Nakijevan, is a crime against humanity. The world took a stand when the giant Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan were destroyed by the Taliban and now there are efforts on a global level for their rebuilding. The Djulfa cemetery, likewise, must be rebuilt.

Ian S. McIntosh, PhD

Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis