A nation is known, recognized and distinguished among the world nations by certain characteristic features. The highest and the greatest of these features is culture.


The restoration of the Gazanchy Church in Shusha demonstrates the care of the Azerbaijani state for not only its own cultural heritage, but also for the Christian heritage as a whole

Maryam Gafarzada, Head of the Information and Public Relations department of the Ministry for Culture, gave an extensive interview to AZERTAG.

- Azerbaijan has stated that all religious heritage and monuments in our liberated territories, regardless of their origin, will be protected and restored to a high level. The restoration of the Gazanchy Church in Shusha is also an issue that requires special attention in this regard. What can you say about this?

- We are living in the most vibrant period of the history of independent Azerbaijan. Under the leadership of the Victorious Supreme Commander-in-Chief Ilham Aliyev, the courageous Azerbaijani Army liberated Karabakh, one of the main pillars of our national culture, history and statehood, and returned it to our people. The cultural spirit of our native Shusha is also reverting, and its historical appearance is being restored. Shusha, the crown of Karabakh, has a special place in our history. The liberation of Shusha, the pearl of the Turkic nations, the Islamic world, the whole Caucasus, and the capital of Azerbaijani culture, is a very important event in our glorious history.

Shusha is of historical and cultural significance and has an exceptional moral value for the people of Azerbaijan, which is why it is of immense importance to treat Shusha with special care and sensitivity. Therefore, President Ilham Aliyev signed an order today declaring the city of Shusha the Cultural Capital of Azerbaijan. The Presidential Order will ensure that the historical image of Shusha is restored, its former glory is rehabilitated, and the city is back to its traditional and rich cultural life, while promoting Shusha worldwide as a pearl of Azerbaijan’s centuries-old rich heritage of culture, architecture and urban development.

As you know, Shusha, which was vandalized by the occupying Armenians during the occupation that lasted for almost thirty years, has been under construction and restoration for several months. The city's mosques, madrassas, imarets, caravanserais, hamams, tombs, churches, canals, museums and other important monuments are being revived. The restoration of very important examples of the cultural history of Azerbaijan is undoubtedly an example of our ownership of our own history, culture and monuments.

The huge reconstruction work carried out by the Azerbaijani state in our liberated territories, including the restoration and construction process in Shusha, is carried out in accordance with the original architectural style of Shusha in order to restore the historical image of the city.

As part of the work, the Gazanchy Church is being restored.

Note that the Gazanchy Church is located on the outskirts of Shusha, in its upper part. It is said that they began to build the church on an ancient Zoroastrian temple in 1868, and the construction was completed in the 1880s.

The church is a domed basilica with four apsides. The interior of the church is covered with carved local stones, without any special architectural ornaments. The doors and windows of the church are made in a simple way.

The church, which was registered (inventory No. 358) by Resolution No. 132 dated the 2nd of August 2001of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Azerbaijan, was first included in the list of monuments by Resolution No. 145 dated the 27th of April 1988 of the Council of Ministers of Azerbaijan SSR. In 1987, the passport of the monument was developed.

Like all other historical and cultural monuments of Azerbaijan, the Gazanchy Church will be restored on the basis of historical documents and archival materials, in accordance with its original artistic and aesthetic appearance; it is a scientific-practical-research activity and includes a comprehensive analysis of the monument, and the study of architectural and historical features. The restoration project will allow the monument to be returned to its original appearance, as it was in the 19th century. In addition, the said project will be discussed and approved by a Scientific Council consisting of experienced architects and restorers. Moreover, the opinion of foreign experts with extensive experience in the relevant field, who are aware of the international preservation and restoration standards approved by UNESCO, is being obtained with regard to the restoration project. It is also planned to conduct in-situ inspections with foreign experts and periodically monitor the progress of the restoration work during the restoration process.

This testifies that we remain faithful to and take care of our historical monuments. Azerbaijani monuments damaged by Armenian vandalism and forgery are being revived by reverting them to their historical appearance and mission.

Although the process of the restoration of monuments in Karabakh and Shusha made our friends happy, it deeply shook our enemies. Unable to digest the restoration of the historic Gazanchy Church in Shusha, the aggressive terrorist Armenia, slanders us and tries to make absurd allegations. However, all this is in vain, and as long as our monuments are restored and our historical and cultural heritage is returned to the liberated territories as part of the Great Return, the Azerbaijani state policy, aimed at peace, development and progress, will triumph.

- Despite the abominable policy of the enemy, historical justice has been restored. After thirty years of barbarism in Karabakh, the life, creativity and culture are reverting back to this ancient land of Azerbaijan.

- You are absolutely right. The cultural spirit of our native Karabakh is returning. Every inch of land, the monuments and geniuses of Karabakh are bright pages and an integral part of our ancient, rich culture. Now our culture, like our lands that had been subjected to enemy terror for years, is beginning to revive.

The children of Azerbaijan will grow up victorious and proud. This, of course, will contribute to the future development of Azerbaijani culture and art.

On the basis of the relevant orders and instructions of President Ilham Aliyev, important and interesting projects have been launched in Shusha, our cradle of culture and music. The flower Khary-Bulbul (Ophrys Caucasica), grown only in Shusha, that we have been longing for these many years and that the people of Shusha have dried and preserved as the most valuable memory, has now come to life; this will be proved once again by the Khary-Bulbul Festival to be held in Shusha. Karabakh carpets, which adorn the world's museums and are historically sought after by the richest merchants and collectors, will return to the land of their loops. Magical patterns and ornaments made by talented carpet weavers of Karabakh will once again decorate every corner of the globe.

The exiled Karabakh horses will again make their way to their native Jydyr Plain. The followers of Molla Panah Vagif's work, who created unique pearls of poetry and gave impetus to new directions in our literature, will no longer miss their native land in their poems; instead, they will glorify the beauty of Karabakh, the mountains of Shusha, every stone and rock destroyed by our hated enemy.

- The “Great Return” short feature, documentary and animated film projects competition held by the Ministry of Culture is already over. Can you give more details in this regard?

- As you know, on the 22nd of January this year, the Ministry of Culture announced the “Great Return” short feature, documentary and animated film projects competition. The main purpose of the competition was to support creative people working in the field of national cinematography, to stimulate the activities of state studios and independent production centres working in this area, to promote national-spiritual and universal values through films, to further enhance the experience of film professionals, as well as to contribute to the Great Victory in the Patriotic War through cinema.

The theme of the competition covered the glorious victory of our people in the 2020 Patriotic War, the heroic struggle of Azerbaijani soldiers, our mighty army, for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of our country, the return of our compatriots longing for their native places to their ancestral lands, as well as the activities of our people united like an iron fist in the home front.

Note that the competition aroused great interest. The 49 projects that met the initial admission requirements were evaluated by a jury in the second - Artistic Selection stage. At this stage, 26 projects that differed from the artistic and cinematographic point of view were selected by the jury of the competition and won the right to participate in the last stage - Pitching. 12 of them were feature films, 8 documentaries and 6 animated film projects. The Pitching stage was held on the 27th of April at the Azerbaijan State Film Fund and was broadcast live on the Fund`s YouTube channel. The jury evaluated all the projects taking into account the artistic and cinematic qualities. 11 projects (5 feature, 4 documentary, and 2 animated film projects) were selected as winners in the process, which took place through the open voting of the jury. The names of these projects were announced on the official website of the Ministry of Culture on the 30th of April. The winning projects will be produced by the company that submitted them on the basis of the order and financial support of the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Azerbaijan.

- In accordance with the presidential decree “On the organization of temporary special management in the liberated territories of the Republic of Azerbaijan”, representatives of the Ministry of Culture have launched a monitoring process to ensure an initial inventory taking and protection of historical and cultural sites in the liberated territories. How is the monitoring process going and what are the results?

- So far, 313 state-registered historical and cultural monuments have been monitored as part of the aforementioned process. Moreover, 113 unregistered historical, architectural and archaeological objects located in those areas were discovered (newly discovered monuments). Most of the historical and cultural monuments and objects of historical, architectural and archaeological significance were completely destroyed by the occupiers; it was revealed that these monuments were demolished and vandalized.

In addition, 846 cultural institutions, including 451 libraries, 342 centres of culture and clubs, 20 museums, 25 children's music schools, 1 cinema, 2 theatres, 2 galleries, and 3 movie clubs were monitored. Although 14 of these enterprises were found during the initial monitoring, they are not in the ministry's network. Almost all enterprises are in a state of complete destruction.

The monitoring was conducted in Shusha, Jabrayil, Fuzuli, Zangilan, Khojavend, Gubadly, Aghdam and Kalbajar regions. It turns out that most of the historical and cultural monuments and objects of historical, architectural and archaeological significance were interfered with by the hateful invaders. These objects were defaced in 'senseless' acts of vandalism. Many of these objects were completely destroyed; there are only some remains left.

The monitoring continues, and once this process is completed, we will bring the full picture of the damage done to our culture during the Armenian occupation to the attention of both the public and the international community.


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