Nakhichevan is the cradle of Armenian civilization. The name of the city and the region comes from the Armenian prefix “nakh” and the word “ijevan”, which means “the place of the first landing.”
For many centuries, Nakhichevan has been the center of the eponymous gavar (district) belonging to the Greater Armenian nahang (province) of Vaspurakan.
According to 5th-century Armenian historians, it was in Nakhichevan, in the village of Gokhtan, that Mesrop Mashtots (inventor of the Armenian alphabet) founded the first school after the invention of Armenian scripts.
The owners of Nakhichevan used to be the famous Armenian princely houses of Artsruni and Syuni. Garegin Nzhdeh was born in Nakhichevan as well.
Azerbaijani vandals destroyed thousands of Armenian cross-stones and churches in the territory of Nakhichevan. Before the collapse of the Soviet Union, there were thousands of historical, cultural, and spiritual Armenian monuments in this region (218 churches, temples, chapels, etc., 41 fortresses, 26 bridges, about 4,500 gravestone khachkars/cross-stones, and 23,000 tombstones).
In 1998-2006, the Azerbaijani vandals in Nakhichevan, implementing a planned and organized program to destroy traces of the Armenian cultural heritage, demolished the world-famous medieval Armenian cemetery in Jugha (Julfa) that used to house about 3,000 cross-stones and 5,000 tombstones with wonderful and unique ornaments from the 5th-17th centuries.
Churches and temples of Agulis (renamed to Aylis) of Aprakunis, Shorot, Krna, Tsgna, and other Armenian ancient and medieval settlements of Nakhichevan were also destroyed with bulldozers and explosives.
Information about state-sponsored Azerbaijani vandalism at the Julfa cemetery became known to the public and caused widespread international condemnation. Back in 1998, UNESCO called for an end to the destruction of monuments in Julfa.
A similar request was sent by Armenia to the International Council on Monuments and Sites. Aside from that, Adam T. Smith, professor of anthropology at the University of Chicago, along with other scholars and several American senators signed a letter to UNESCO and other organizations condemning the Azerbaijani government in January 2006.
Adam T. Smith described the destruction of the khachkars as “… a shameful episode in how humanity treats its past and a deplorable act on the part of the Azerbaijani government which requires both explanation and correction.”
The director of the St. Petersburg Hermitage Piotrovsky described the incident as a crime. The Holy Synod of the Greek Orthodox Church and the Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos protested against the destruction of Armenian monuments and stated that “the destruction of holy places and monuments is a black page in the history of mankind”.
The Vatican also condemned the act of vandalism in Azerbaijan. In May 2006, members of the European Parliament were not allowed to inspect the cemetery, after which they protested to the Azerbaijani government. On February 16, 2006, a resolution of the European Parliament was passed, condemning the destruction of the medieval cemetery of Jugha.
Armenian land cannot remain under the feet of Azerbaijani vandals. We simply have to return Nakhijevan.
Destruction of the Armenian cemetary, Jougha, part I
Destruction of the Armenian cemetary, Jougha, part II
Destruction of the Armenian cemetary, Jougha, part III