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Armenien: Baku is bulldozing Armenian legacy in Karabakh

13. Juni 2024

Lilit Shahverdyan, Eurasianet: The United Nations’ International Court of Justice (ICJ) has mandated that Azerbaijan uphold the right of return for Armenian refugees who fled Nagorno-Karabakh following the Azerbaijani military’s reconquest of the territory. But if any Armenians do eventually return, they may not recognize the areas they fled in late 2023.

Since last autumn, when Karabakh’s reconquest was completed, Azerbaijan has moved swiftly to remake key parts of the region, evidently with an eye toward eliminating vestiges of Armenian influence. The makeover extends beyond name changes of locations – Karabakh’s capital, for example, was called Stepanakert dating back to Soviet times, but is now known as Khankendi. New satellite imagery reveals the extensive destruction of residential buildings, churches and other culturally significant sites associated with former Armenian residents.

One of the most striking changes is the destruction of an entire neighborhood and a bus station in Khankendi. The demolished area is situated near the former ArtsakhState University, now renamed KarabakhUniversity. The urban renewal project is an outgrowth of an Azerbaijani government initiative to lure upwards of 1,200 university students from across Azerbaijan to continue their studies in Khankendi. Authorities are expanding the campus and building new classroom facilities and dormitories, as well as offering other incentives, including free tuition and housing. Officials have pledged the revamped university will be ready for the fall term.

Previously, the area cleared to make room for the university expansion was home to an estimated 1,000 Karabakh Armenian residents. 

In another major instance of destruction, a village called Karin Tak, an Armenian settlement located near the city of Shusha, appears to have been completely bulldozed. The reason for the demolition is not immediately clear. 

Additional satellite imagery indicates that personal property inside some private residences marked for demolition was discarded haphazardly, in some instances treated like garbage and simply tossed into the street.

In March, Azerbaijani state TV showed footage of the dismantling of the parliament building of the de facto, Armenian-dominated Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR), along with the neighboring Armenian war veterans’ center, claiming those structures were “illegal” and “did not meet the architectural requirements.” 

Another focus of the Azerbaijani government’s wrecking ball has been Armenian churches, cemeteries and Orthodox Christian religious symbols. Documented instances of the demolition of Armenian places of worship have been recorded in Susha and Lachin.

Statues and monuments associated with Karabakh’s Soviet and Armenian legacy have similarly been taken down. For example, a statue of Stepan Shahumyan, a Bolshevik revolutionary after whom the Karabakh Armenian capital was named, has been removed, as have other monuments to Armenian political and military figures.

At least some of the Azerbaijani demolition efforts appears to contravene a November order issued by the ICJ. That ruling required Azerbaijan, citing Baku’s obligations under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, to “take all necessary measures to prevent and punish acts of vandalism and desecration affecting Armenian cultural heritage, including but not limited to churches and other places of worship, monuments, landmarks, cemeteries and artifacts.”

Around the same time as the ICJ issued its order, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan declared that promoting the return of Armenian refugees to Karabakh under the existing circumstances was “unrealistic.” If anything, conditions have only worsened since then for those refugees entertaining hopes of returning to their homeland. 

Armenian refugees say they would need to have security guarantees before they would consider returning, as well as some special privileges, such as an ability to live in compact settlements and enjoy some forms of municipal autonomy. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, however, has categorically ruled out the possibility of any special rights for returnees. He has stated that potential Armenian returnees would enjoy the same legal status as all other Azerbaijani citizens. (Quelle:, 30. Mai 2024)