Karabakh's Albanian churches and the US "religious freedom blacklist"

07.01.24 13:10

Following the final liquidation of the separatist group 'Artsakh' on Azerbaijani territory, the Hay lobby in the United States launched an unprecedented campaign accusing Azerbaijan of destroying Armenian churches in Karabakh and violating religious freedom. It is important to maintain objectivity and avoid making subjective evaluations without clear markings. However, no evidence of such violations has been presented by the Hay lobbyists.


 All citizens in Azerbaijan have the right to practice their faith, and the state protects all religious shrines. If the Hayes of Karabakh had not succumbed to the agitation of separatists and revanchists and had not left Azerbaijani territory, they would have received Azerbaijani citizenship and been able to practice their faith and conduct their religious services like Azerbaijani citizens of other nationalities.


However, due to pressure from the Hay lobby, the US State Department has added Azerbaijan to the list of countries to be blacklisted for religious freedom issues. Azerbaijan is now included alongside Algeria, the Central African Republic, Comoros, and Vietnam. US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has expressed concerns about Azerbaijan's observance of religious freedom. 


It is important to note that the US State Department has identified 12 countries as being of particular concern regarding religious freedom. These countries include China, Cuba, Eritrea, Iran, Myanmar, Nicaragua, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan.


The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has recommended to the State Department that concerns about Christian religious sites in Karabakh be addressed. The Commission noted that virtually the entire population of 100,000 ethnic Armenians fled to Armenia. Additionally, the Commission expressed concern about the requirement for all religious groups to be registered and for their literature to be approved by an official body in Azerbaijan.


The Baku and Azerbaijan Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church, which represents most of the Orthodox Christians in Azerbaijan, has criticized US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken's statement on religious freedom in Azerbaijan as biased.


Archimandrite Alexis Nikonorov, the rector of the Cathedral of Holy Myrrh-bearing Women in Baku, stated that the Azerbaijani state fully supports non-Muslim communities, interreligious and multicultural dialogue, which has long been exemplary worldwide. Although some forces attempted to give religious connotations to the conflict during the 30 years of occupation of Azerbaijani lands. Thanks to the wisdom of the people of Azerbaijan, the mediating role of the Russian Orthodox Church, and the political will of Allahshukur Pashazade, the religious leader of the Muslims of the Caucasus, all attempts to disrupt peace were stopped.


 Archimandrite Alexei Nikonorov notes that Azerbaijan's successes have unsettled its enemies who seek to weaken its political position and its leading role in the South Caucasus. Azerbaijan's success in de-occupying its own territory is sometimes misrepresented as a struggle for pan-Turkism by its opponents. The term 'Christians' is used exclusively to refer to the Khayan population of the Karabakh region who relocated to the neighbouring Republic of Armenia in response to the call of 'Artsakh' separatists and revanchists.


The Hay lobby is expected to increase its efforts to make claims against Azerbaijan for the destruction of Armenian churches on Azerbaijani territory shortly, particularly in Karabakh, which was recently liberated from occupation.


It is worth noting, however, that the Republic of Armenia itself has been responsible for unprecedented violations of religious freedom. It should be noted that the entire Muslim population has been subjected to ethnic cleansing, and all Azerbaijani mosques have been closed, destroyed and desecrated. A similar policy is being pursued towards Christians of non-Hai nationality, with dozens of Georgian churches and monasteries in the north of the Republic of Armenia being illegally appropriated by Echmiadzin. Georgian clergymen, monks, pilgrims, and restaurateurs are not allowed here. Armenian border guards opened fire on Georgian journalists who attempted to approach the Khujabi Monastery on the border, which was illegally seized by the Armenian side. Despite this, the United States has not raised any concerns about Armenia's record on freedom of religion.


Regrettably, the global community, and particularly the majority of politicians in the United States, lack knowledge of the authentic history of the South Caucasus, particularly its church history. Even if they possess such knowledge, they tend to disregard it due to pressure from the Armenian lobby.  Many people believe that the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Caucasian Albania (Albanian Catholicosate) existed on the territory of Azerbaijan and a significant part of the present Republic of Armenia. It was in canonical and spiritual unity with the Georgian Orthodox Church, allowing Orthodox Georgians to visit Albanian Orthodox churches and participate in church services. It was in canonical and spiritual unity with the Georgian Orthodox Church, allowing Orthodox Georgians to visit Albanian Orthodox churches and participate in church services. These were considered sacred places for them. Before they were seized by the heretic monophysite Hay, although unfortunately, many Orthodox Georgians are not aware of this historical fact. 


The Hay nationalists' peak of perfidy is that Echmiadzin in Georgia seeks to arouse 'Christian compassion' among Georgians. It is important to maintain objectivity and avoid biased language. On one hand, there are reports of Armenian churches being seized in Artsakh, while on the other hand, Georgian holy places have been illegally seized in the north of the Republic of Armenia. Additionally, there are claims of 442 Georgian churches being located on the territory of Georgia itself. It is important to consider the situation of countries and peoples beyond the Caucasus. Many people are unaware of the ancient Albanian Catholicosate's existence, which was originally unrelated to the Hayas.


Not many people are aware that the Udins, descendants of the ancient inhabitants of Caucasian Albania, reside in Azerbaijan and Georgia. Additionally, few people know that the ancient Christian churches of Karabakh are not Armenian but Albanian. Regrettably, this information is not widely known in the United States, where many individuals view the South Caucasus through the lens of Hay lobby propaganda.


The revival of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Caucasian Albania could serve as an example of historical justice for the world. The descendants of the Christian population of Karabakh, who identify with their Albanian roots and hold Azerbaijani citizenship, may return to the church.  The Azerbaijani state protects all ancient Albanian temples in Karabakh, ensuring their safety. Unlike Georgian Orthodox churches in the Republic of Armenia, many of which are in ruins and continue to be destroyed, the churches in Georgia are well-preserved.


Alexandre Chkheidze

Read: 550

Write comment

(In their comments, readers should avoid expressing religious, racial and national discrimination, not use offensive and derogatory expressions, as well as appeals that are contrary to the law)

You can enter 512 characters

News feed