The iconic “Tatik-Papik” monument, representing the deep-rooted bond between the Artsakh people and their land, stands in jeopardy due to potential Azerbaijani demolition efforts.
In recent weeks, over 100,000 Armenian inhabitants have evacuated their homes in the Republic of Artsakh. This mass departure comes in the wake of an announcement by Artsakh leader Samvel Shahramanyan that the nation will dissolve by January 1, 2024. The Azerbaijani forces have seized control of the region, also referred to as Nagorno-Karabakh, following a major military push that began on September 19. This offensive was initiated after a prolonged nine-month blockade on the primary roadway linking the territory to Armenia.
Moreover, Azerbaijani efforts seem intent on erasing Armenian heritage by targeting cultural landmarks and historical relics across various Azerbaijani territories, including the recently acquired Artsakh. A notable monument under threat is the “We Are Our Mountains” sculpture from 1967, commonly known as “Tatik-Papik” (translating to “Grandmother-Grandfather” in Eastern Armenian). This imposing structure is located near Stepanakert, the capital of the Republic of Artsakh.
Constructed during the Soviet era using red volcanic tufa stone, the “We Are Our Mountains” monument was crafted by Armenian sculptor Sargis Baghdasaryan and architect Yuri Hakobyan. It portrays an elderly man and woman rising from the ground, illustrating the deep bond between the Artsakh people and their mountainous homeland. Before the 2020 Second Nagorno-Karabakh War, the site was not just a popular tourist attraction but also a revered location for Artsakhi Armenians, who often celebrated significant life events, including weddings, there.
A recent photo, dated September 29, showcases an Azerbaijani soldier posing before the monument with an Azerbaijani flag, causing considerable distress among Armenians both locally and globally, especially following Samvel Shahramanyan’s declaration about Artsakh’s government dissolution.
Amidst concerns for the iconic monument’s future, the international humanitarian group, All For Armenia, has initiated a petition to rally worldwide support for its conservation. The petition highlights the urgency, stating: “Following the rapid evacuation of Armenians from the region and their limited ability to carry personal belongings, the cherished monument and its representation of Armenian history in the region now stands vulnerable. Our aim is to establish a protective boundary around the site. Swift measures are vital, given the uncertainty surrounding the statue’s safety.”
Given Azerbaijan’s track record of destroying Armenian cultural and religious landmarks, concerns rise over the potential “cultural genocide” of Armenian heritage. Notably, post the 2005 destruction of an Armenian necropolis in Julfa, 98% of Armenian cultural landmarks in Nakhchivan, Azerbaijan’s southwestern enclave, have been wiped out. Nakhchivan once housed a significant Armenian community during the Soviet era, which was later expelled by Azerbaijani forces during the initial Artsakh/Karabakh conflict in the 1990s. Satellite images from the Caucasus Heritage Watch have consistently captured the damage done by Azerbaijan to numerous Armenian sites, including towns, cemeteries, and ancient Armenian Apostolic Church monasteries since the 2020 ceasefire agreement in the aftermath of the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War.
The situation in Artsakh has compelled most of its residents to flee, fearing violent actions from Azerbaijani soldiers. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan described the unfolding events as a clear example of “ethnic cleansing,” a viewpoint shared by the Lemkin Institute and numerous human rights experts. Weighing in on the Artsakh issue, Luis Moreno Ocampo, the inaugural prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), labeled the situation as an evident case of “genocide.” However, Hikmet Hajiyev, a diplomatic advisor to Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev, refuted these “ethnic cleansing” claims in a recent interview with Agence Free-Presse.