“There is an Armenian cathedral at Julfa across the river [in Esfahan], which resembles a Mohammadan shrine of the XVIIth century. Inside, the walls are covered with oil paintings in the Italian tradition of that date. Attached to it is a museum, but the treasures are of historic rather than artistic interest.”
- Robert Byron in The Road to Oxiana
More of my photos from Iran. (New) Julfa in Esfahan is a curious place that gives you the feeling of being in a village in the city. Now, of course, the city of Esfahan has swallowed the quarter, but when it was established by Shah Abbas I in 1606, it was deliberately put far from the Islamic shrines around the Naqsh-e Jahan Square.
Like Byron I was struck by the interesting mix of Islamic/Persian art and Christian/European motifs. It’s also interesting to experience the religious and ethnic diversity of Iran that you so rarely read about in mainstream media.
Look at this carpet! (x) It has been sold, however (x)
HANDMADE PERSIAN SILK CARPET (3 years of work) View of Armenian Vank cathedral in Isfahan Manufacturing : knotted by hand Size : 150 x 100 cm Origin : Iran - Qom Knot density : over 1000,000 per square metre Pile : Silk — at Isfahan Gallery.
The image above shows what no longer exists—the pre-destruction site of Old Julfa cemetery.
The largest khachkar cemetary in the world was located in Jugha (or Julfa, located today in Nakhichevan, Azerbaijan). The numbers were vastly reduced from the approximately 20,000 (monasteries, churches, tombstones, khatchkars, other cultural artifacts) that once stood during Soviet times to a mere few thousand, and after independence, Azerbaijan began to systematically destroy them. After an international outcry, the destruction was halted a few years, until 2005 when the entire cemetery was bulldozed completely clear.
Artist Lusik Aguletsi, a Nakhichevan-born Armenian, also last visited the cemetery in 1987, although she was under escort.
“There is nothing like it in Armenia,” she said. “It was a thrilling sight. Two hills completely covered in khachkars. We weren’t allowed to draw or photograph them.”
Armenian experts now accuse Azerbaijan of a deliberate act of cultural vandalism.
“The destruction of the khachkars of Old Jugha means the destruction of an entire phenomenon in the history of humanity, because they are not only proof of the culture of the people who created them, they are also symbols that tell us about a particular cultural epoch,” said Hranush Kharatian, head of the Armenian government’s department for national and religious minorities.
“On the entire territory of Nakhichevan there existed 27,000 monasteries, churches, khachkars, tombstones and other Armenian monuments,” said Aivazian. “Today they have all been destroyed.”
Although the historical provenance of the cemetery is disputed in Azerbaijan, its cultural importance is confirmed by the 1986 Azerbaijani book “The Architecture of Ancient and Early Medieval Azerbaijan” by Davud Akhundov, which contains several photographs of the cross-stones of Jugha.
Between 1998 and 2006 the entire cemetery was destroyed. The various stages of the destruction process have been documented by photographic and video evidence taken from the Iranian side of the border. Government and state officials of Azerbaijan have denied that any destruction has taken place, stating that an Armenian cemetery never existed on the site and that Armenians have never lived in Julfa. Azerbaijan has, to date, refused neutral observers access to the site. (Gee, you think they’re hiding something?) The European Parliament has formally called on Azerbaijan to stop the demolition as a breach of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention. According to its resolution regarding cultural monuments in the South Caucasus, the European Parliament “condemns strongly the destruction of the Julfa cemetery as well as the destruction of all sites of historical importance that has taken place on Armenian or Azerbaijani territory, and condemns any such action that seeks to destroy cultural heritage.” (Yet they did absolutely nothing to stop the destruction). In 2006, Azerbaijan barred the European Parliament from inspecting and examining the ancient site, stating that by passing the previously-mentioned resolution the Parliament had committed a hostile act against Azerbaijan. The Institute for War and Peace Reporting reported on April 19, 2006 that “there is nothing left of the celebrated stone crosses of Jugha.”
NKR Foreign Ministry Corrects Azerbaijani Allegation of Islamic Cultural Destruction
(CivilNet) - The Foreign Affairs Ministry of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic has responded to a statement by the head of the press service of the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry about the alleged military use of monuments of Islamic architecture located on the territory of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic. The NKR Foreign Ministry assures that the Azerbaijani statement “does not correspond to reality and is another allegation in a series of fraud and forgery, constantly used by the Azerbaijani side. Azerbaijan, with its rich experience of using religious monuments for military purposes, which is proved by the conversion of the Kazanchetsots church in Shushi into a military warehouse in 1992, once again is trying to ascribe its own behavior to the Karabakh side.”
The NKR Foreign ministry statement also points out that there are numerous compelling evidences of systematic and deliberate destruction of Armenian cultural heritage sites by the Azerbaijani authorities on the whole territory of Azerbaijan, as well as in the occupied Shahumyan region of the NKR.
“The most blatant act of vandalism is the destruction of the medieval Armenian khachkar/cross-stone cemetery near the town of Jugha (Julfa) in Nakhichevan and turning the site into a military range in 2005. Despite numerous international appeals, the Azerbaijani side, trying to avoid responsibility, does not allow international experts to visit the area, where there was a cemetery of cross-stones.”
Nagorno Karabakh authorities assure that NKR has been and remains open to international cooperation in the protection and preservation of cultural and historical heritage and if the “Azerbaijani authorities are genuinely interested in the implementation of the fact-finding mission to assess the situation with the historical and cultural monuments, and do not pursue merely political or propaganda aims, then it should be expected that the work of the mission should start from visiting the occupied Shahumyan region of the NKR and Nakhichevan.”
“At the same time, we consider it necessary to note that all the monuments located in the territory of the NKR, irrespective of their origin, are included in the State Registry of the NKR Historical and Cultural Immobile Monuments and are under state protection”, concludes the report.
Photo Caption 1:
A mosque in Shushi, Nagono Karabakh Back taken on May 9, 2016.
Photo Caption 2:
Ghazanchetsots Cathedral in Shushi, found to be converted into a depository for ammunition when it was liberated in 1992.
An Iranian Muslim locksmith prays inside his shop, owned by his family
for almost one hundred years, at the heart of the Armenian Julfa
neighbourhood in the historic city of Isfahan some 400 kms south of the
capital Tehran, on April 20, 2015. AFP PHOTO / BEHROUZ MEHRI
This image was attached to an article about Armenian elected officials in Iran, under the biography of Vartan Vartanyan, Armenian-Iranian elected official in Tehran from New Julfa, Isfahan. The article says his mother was from New Julfa, and his father was an Armenian genocide survivor. Beyond that, I’m not confident enough in my very poor translation resources to decipher the article that is in Farsi.
I don’t know what year this picture is from, but I will keep looking into it.
Another archival collection that has not been fully digitized contains some sources on the humanitarian assistance planned by the Armenian community of Isfahan, in Iran, for refugees of the Armenian Genocide, from the provinces of Van, in Turkey, and Azerbaijan, in Iran, who had found their way to Isfahan. Below are examples of some announcements from the Minasian Collection of Armenian Materials, ca. 1600-1968. These articles and announcements can be accessed at UCLA Library Special Collections by request.
“The Armenian Community of Isfahan has created an urgent committee to organize assistance to the refugees from the province of Van in Turkey. The Committee encourages all Armenians to help the refugees without complaint. The announcement mentions the dire situation that these refugees have found themselves in because of the barbarian treatment of the Ottoman Government. The Committee asks that the Isfahan Armenian community without any hesitation extend a helping hand to their brothers and sisters who have gone through so much leaving their homes, graves of their ancestors, their places of worship. The Committee urges the Armenian community to be kind and generous with their compatriots.”
“80,000 refugees, 20,000 of them Armenians have arrived in Hamadan, Iran from Azerbaijan province of Iran. After 32 days of travel and enduring devastating war, they need medical attention, food, and clothing. The Committee on Refugees urges the Armenian community of Tehran to help the refugees. Procrastinating is a crime. Move swiftly to help the refugees.”
Caro Minasian Collection of Armenian Materials, ca. 1600-1968 (Collection 1632) (x)