Is Echmiadzin opposed to peace in the South Caucasus? Once again...

01.05.24 18:57

A remarkable phenomenon has emerged in the Republic of Armenia, where revanchist and extremist forces have been protesting against the demarcation of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border and the return of the occupied villages of the Gazakh region to Azerbaijan. Demonstrations are held on a regular basis in the vicinity of the border, with roads being obstructed. The instigators of these disruptive actions, characterised by a pervasive atmosphere of animosity, are bishops and priests belonging to the Armenian Apostolic Church (AAC). In fact, Echmiadzin has not only openly aligned itself with the extremists and revanchists but is also fomenting a new conflict in every conceivable manner.


During the "Tavush" actions, a clear connection and "symbiosis" between Echmiadzin and the most violent Khai terrorists can be observed. While the latter are known for their extremist views and actions, the former is distinguished by its religious affiliation and the wearing of cassocks. However, in its rhetoric of hatred and calls to violence and intransigence, which are at odds with the tenets of Christianity, the church has been known to occasionally surpass the actions of these extremists.


Indeed, Archbishop Bagrat Galstanyan of Tavush is currently spearheading protests against the demarcation of the border and road blockades. He employs his status as a clergyman to incite resistance among extremists towards the police and law enforcement agencies, while simultaneously evading accountability. Priests and even bishops from other regions of the Republic of Armenia have been known to participate in the "Tavush" extremist actions at the behest of the same Bagrat Galstanyan, and in fact with the blessing of Echmiadzin. They proceed to the border and bring their followers to the area, with the intention of instigating large-scale demonstrations and preventing the process of border demarcation and the establishment of a peaceful settlement.


It is noteworthy that Ambik Sasunyan, the perpetrator of the 1982 assassination of Turkish Consul General Kemal Arıkan in Los Angeles, has recently participated in these extremist events, which were in fact organised by Echmiadzin. The assassination of Kemal Arıkan was the first instance of a Turkish diplomat being killed by a terrorist in the United States.


Ambik Sasunyan was apprehended and subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment. In accordance with California law, individuals sentenced to life imprisonment are permitted to apply for parole after 25 years have elapsed. However, Sasunyan was not afforded this opportunity, having been sentenced without the right to apply. Nevertheless, since 2004, members of the Armenian diaspora, including representatives of Echmiadzin in the United States, have been engaged in efforts to secure the release of the terrorist.  In 2021, Ambik Sassounian was released and relocated to Armenia.


The release of the terrorist occurred after the defeat of the Khai occupants in the second Karabakh war and was perceived by many revanchists as the "first victory" after the Karabakh defeat. Ambik Sassounian was met with honours in Armenia and became one of the most radical activists of all kinds of revanchist actions.


The organisers of the action, including priests and bishops of the AAC, have presented the false narrative that Ambik Sassounian killed "one of the organisers of the Armenian genocide." It is important to note that the Turkish Consul General Kemal Arıkan, who was killed by a terrorist, was born in 1927, which is 12 years after the mythical "genocide of 1915." It is implausible that he could have organised the "genocide" (which did not actually occur) if he had wanted to.


The AAC's glorification of terrorists makes this so-called "church" itself a terrorist organisation. This is, in no way, compatible with Christianity.


Incidentally, there is an ancient Georgian Orthodox monastery near the same Khai border village of Kirants, where Archbishop Bagrat Galstanyan organises extremist actions and blocks the highway to Georgia, where the terrorist murderer Ambik Sasunyan becomes a "role model,"  a "star" and a "hero" with his "blessing". We are talking about the Kirantsi monastery seized by Echmiadzin, about which Caucasus Plus has written many times. The masterpiece of Georgian ecclesiastical architecture is in ruins. Echmiadzin and the authorities of the Republic of Armenia are deliberately preventing Georgian priests, pilgrims and restorers from visiting it. It is obvious that even after appropriating someone else's Christian shrine, the AAC is doing everything to make it collapse as soon as possible.


What kind of "ancient Christianity" will be preached in Georgia if other Georgian holy places on Georgian soil are also seized? Will terrorists and murderers like Ambik Sasunyan be glorified here too?


Today, individuals such as Ambik Sasunyan and their "spiritual leaders" like Bagrat Galstanyan oppose the return of Azerbaijanis to their homes in the villages of the Gazakh district, which have been occupied for over three decades. They are prepared to instigate a new conflict in order to retain the previously seized property of others. However, they fail to consider the possibility that another war may result in the loss of their current possessions.



Alexandre Zakariadze 

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