The Significance of the Fate of Orthodoxy in Azerbaijan 

18.01.24 12:20

Azerbaijan is a country with a unique cultural heritage. Despite being predominantly Muslim, it values its Christian historical past and takes great care in preserving the ancient temples of Caucasian Albania. It has the potential to serve as an example for the revival of Orthodoxy. In independent Azerbaijan, the life of Orthodox communities has been revived after decades of Soviet atheism. These communities are united in the Baku and Azerbaijan Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church, which operates in most of Azerbaijan, and the Gakh-Kurmukh Diocese of the Georgian Orthodox Church in the Gakh Zakatala and Belakan districts.


Additionally, a part of the ancient and unique Udin people have returned to Orthodoxy. These individuals are the descendants of the indigenous population of Caucasian Albania. This is a unique case in world history. The possibility of reviving the ancient Autocephalous local Orthodox Church of this people (and for all Orthodox Azerbaijan) - the Orthodox Albanian Catholicosate - has been raised by serious theologians, such as the late Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin. The urgency of this issue became apparent after the ancient Orthodox sanctuaries in the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan were liberated from years of occupation.


The revival of Orthodoxy in Azerbaijan is significant, particularly in the region which has been under Monophysite captivity.  After all, it was in the lands of historical Caucasian Albania that a "special operation" to "capture" the ancient Orthodox Church was once carried out through the intrigues of monophysites, mainly of Hay origin.


This operation lasted for almost 1,500 years. It began under Sassanid Iran, and the Russian Empire set the final point by illegally liquidating and subordinating Echmiadzin in the 1830s, even though it had already converted to monophysitism but still retained the attributes of an independent church organization of the Albanian Catholicosate. After one and a half thousand years of intrigues and subversive activities, the efforts of Hayes and the enemies of Orthodoxy to appropriate what is not theirs have been in vain. Orthodoxy in Azerbaijan has been revived, and the monophysitism of Echmiadzin, which has been mixed with extreme Khayi ethno-nationalism in recent centuries, has been distanced from Orthodox churches.


It would be naive to assume that the opponents of Orthodoxy will simply accept this. They may attempt revenge using their traditional methods of intrigue.


Following the sudden death of Archbishop Alexander (Ishchein) of Baku and Azerbaijan in 2021, certain forces within the Moscow Patriarchate intentionally obstructed the appointment of Archimandrite Alexis (Nikonorov) as Bishop of Baku and Azerbaijan. Archimandrite Alexis had dedicated his entire life to studying the Orthodox heritage of ancient Caucasian Albania. Archimandrite Alexy's dissertation on 'The History of Christianity in Caucasian Albania' is available on the official website of the Baku Diocese. ( 


The Russian Federation's pro-Hay propagandists criticised Archimandrite Alexis based on the opinions of unnamed 'scholars' who deemed his works on the Church of Caucasian Albania 'anti-scientific'. These propagandists attempted to portray the situation as if Christians in Azerbaijan were exclusively of Hayis ethnicity. It is important to note that subjective evaluations have been excluded unless clearly marked as such. "Point-blank ignoring" more than 200,000 Orthodox citizens of Azerbaijan, including Russians, for whom the ancient Orthodox holy places located in the Karabakh region are also significant, as well as for Orthodox Udins, Georgians, and Azerbaijanis.


Even Russian President Vladimir Putin acknowledged this, speaking on November 20, 2020, at a meeting on the Russian peacekeeping mission in Karabakh. During the conversation with Ilham Heydarovich, it was mentioned that the Azerbaijani authorities will take control and provide access to the religious sites for representatives from both the Armenian and Azerbaijani sides. It is important to ensure access for both Armenians and Azerbaijanis, as there are Christians in Azerbaijan too. We must keep this in mind, as this is one of the Christian churches. During his speech, the President of the Russian Federation mentioned one of the oldest Christian monasteries located in the zone of your control (RMK).


However, until autumn 2023, Hay nationalists and Echmiadzin still hoped for military retaliation in Karabakh. As a result, they did not take active actions on the church front. After the anti-terrorist operation by the armed forces of Azerbaijan on 19-20 September 2023 and the subsequent final liquidation and self-dissolution of the separatist Artsakh, it became evident that military retaliation would not be possible. This decision was influenced by the offensive of the Hayan revanchists and agents of Echmiadzin on the church front, who used hardware games and intrigues to achieve their goal.


In December 2023, the Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church nominated Hieromonk Filaret (Tikhonov) as the bishop of Baku and Azerbaijan. It is worth noting that Hieromonk Filaret had never lived in Azerbaijan and was unknown to anyone there. The reaction of Hay nationalists to this news suggests that there may be hidden motives leading to Echmiadzin and Garegin II, and possibly even the Vatican. It is worth noting that Bishop Savva (Tutunov) of Zvenigorod, who has been an archbishop since December 2023, advocated for the appointment of Filaret (Tikhonov) in the Moscow Patriarchate.  Savva (Tutunov) himself is of Hai origin and a French citizen with initially liberal ecumenical and pro-Vatican views. Despite Savva Tutunov's recent declaration of 'Russian hurrah-patriotism', an analysis of his theological writings (which he has not renounced) suggests that he may be an agent of influence for the Vatican and Paris within the Moscow Patriarchate.


Simultaneously, the appointment of a new bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church in Baku coincided with the start of an anti-Azerbaijani campaign in the United States, initiated by the Hay lobby. The U.S. State Department listed Azerbaijan as a country that violates religious freedom. The State Department masters of Hay revanchists benefit from the lie about the churches of Karabakh being 'exclusively Hay' and the inclusion of Baku in the list of 'violators of religious freedom'. The text has been corrected for grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, and punctuation errors. The precise word choice has been used to convey the meaning more precisely than a similar non-technical term. The text is balanced and avoids bias. No new content has been added to the text.


Additionally, they intend to strike a blow to Orthodoxy in Azerbaijan. This conclusion can be drawn from the info-markers that appear here and there. It is important to note that subjective evaluations have been excluded and the language used is clear, objective, and value-neutral. The text adheres to the conventional structure and maintains regular author and institution formatting. The language used is formal and avoids contractions, colloquial words, informal expressions, and unnecessary jargon. The text has a clear structure with logical progression and causal connections between statements.


According to Anastasia Koskello's telegram channel 'Black and White', the newly appointed bishop of Baku, Filaret Tikhonov, may face challenges due to the potential division of the Baku diocese  into 'pro-Armenian' and 'pro-Azerbaijani' factions. Additionally, he will need to navigate relationships with the local clergy, the Patriarchate, and the authorities in both Baku and Moscow. The Russian Orthodox Church and the Armenian Apostolic Church (AAC) have diplomatic relations. These relations have been friendly for a long time. However, with Russia's recent rapprochement with Azerbaijan, the Russian church leadership finds itself in a difficult position.


It is important to note that these 'friendly relations' are limited to diplomacy. Although the protégés of ecumenists in the ROC (including Savva Tutunov) may wish for friendship and co-religionism with other groups, Orthodox dogmas dictate that monophysitism, which is professed by Echmiadzin, is a heresy. Orthodox Christians are prohibited from participating in the services of AAC. The ROC cannot openly defend monophysites, nor their claims to the originally Orthodox churches. Unfortunately, this does not imply that a covert and undisclosed defence of the Monophysites' claims is impossible.


There cannot be an openly biased 'pro-Armenian', 'pro-Hay', or 'pro-Monophysite' group in the Baku diocese. A person who defends the interests and claims of Monophysites to the detriment of Orthodox Christians excludes themselves from the Orthodox Christian community. For instance, a Georgian who claims that it is necessary to 'return' 465 Georgian Orthodox churches to Echmiadzin and the Vatican cannot be considered an Orthodox Georgian. Despite all efforts, the Hay lobby failed to find 'allies' in the Patriarchate of the Greek Orthodox Church regarding this matter.


The pro-Hay 'fifth column' may cause confusion and division within the church environment and attempt to undermine Orthodoxy in Azerbaijan.  They may also accuse the country's authorities of violating freedom of religion and raise awareness of this issue globally.


It is important for the Orthodox community in Azerbaijan to demonstrate wisdom, restraint, and above all, steadfastness in their faith. One should not be swayed by those who attempt to lure them into so-called 'Christian solidarity' with the Monophysites. It is also important to avoid falling for provocations. Ultimately, we should place our trust in God, who has already brought shame upon the occupiers in Karabakh.


Varden Tsulukidze

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