Environmentalists grew increasingly concerned in the aftermath of the war after the Azerbaijani government began controversial renovations to Gazanchetsots Cathedral in Shushi. Azerbaijanis also began to promote the theory that Armenian churches were in fact Caucasian Albanian monuments appropriated by Armenians in the 19th century: an idea that has been largely refuted by historical sources.
Ancient faith hopes to introduce the region’s heritage to the international public in order to raise awareness of the need for its preservation. “Christianity has a rich and diverse history in the South Caucasus since the early days of the Christian Church,” says Jeff Kloha, the chief curatorial office of the Museum of the Bible. “But there is an unfortunate history in this region of Christian monuments subject to destruction, alteration or cultural appropriation. We hope that this exhibition will highlight the urgent need to preserve these monuments in their integrity.
Most of the monuments presented in the exhibition are UNESCO heritage sites. Azerbaijan and Armenia are both signatories to the 1945 Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, an agreement by which both parties undertake to preserve these sites, regardless of their origin. After the fighting ended in 2020, UNESCO asked Azerbaijan and Armenia to authorize a mission to visit the region and assess the monuments of Nagorno-Karabakh. While Armenia agreed, UNESCO is still awaiting Azerbaijan’s response.