Identity crisis?: Armenian historian blames Georgian authorities for ‘privatizing’ churches

Identity crisis?: Armenian historian blames Georgian authorities for ‘privatizing’ churches

Courtesy of Armat Press Club

“This is a deliberate act of destruction,” says Karapetyan.

By Gayane Abrahamyan
ArmeniaNow reporter

An Armenian historian and researcher has warned that another Armenian
church in Georgia is being Georgianized – St. Gevorg of Mughni Church
in Tbilisi, which collapsed last year, and which is currently being
reconstructed through the efforts of Georgian authorities, now is
proclaimed to be Georgian.

“This is a deliberate act of destruction, which is being implemented
by the Georgian Church, whereas our Church is silent: they [Armenian
Church representatives] are active when a new church is to be
constructed,” Samvel Karapetyan, head of the Yerevan branch of the
Research on Armenian Architecture NGO, told ArmeniaNow.

St. Gevorg of Mughni is already the 50th Armenian church in Georgia
destroyed or Georgianized in recent years.

The Church, built in the 14th century (later it was reconstructed in
1756), collapsed in November 2009. Soon after it, the Diocese of the
Armenian Apostolic Church in Georgia raised clamor accusing state and
religious authorities of Georgia.

In 2010, the Government of Georgia assigned about $27,000 for the
reconstruction of the church, however, as Karapetyan says, later the
process of Georgianization started.

“The cleaning works at the church were done terribly poorly;
bulldozers, designed for asphalt digging, were destroying the crumbled
parts of the church. And later, when several gravestones having
Georgian inscriptions were found, Georgians, basing on these finds,
declared that the church was Georgian from the very beginning,”
Karapetyan says.

Meanwhile, the gravestones dating to the 18th century do not record
any fact or say that the church is Georgian, but are simply
tombstones.

“During that time, Armenians living amongst Georgians wrote on
gravestones in Georgian, because there was an official language
[Georgian], and there was a need for language maintenance. Hence even
many construction records are written in Georgian; for example, there
are thousands of gravestones in Khojivank cemetery, having records
written in Georgian, but it does not mean that Georgians are buried
there,” Karapetyan says.

Karapetyan demands that Armenian authorities should seriously
interfere in the issue and try to save the church.

The Ministry of Culture of Armenia says that they have already sent a
specialist to the church, and “the necessary works are being carried
out there properly.”

Nevertheless, not only Armenian organizations, but also Armenians in
Javakhk, a predominantly Armenian-populated province of Georgia, do
not believe this statement. They have disseminated a statement saying,
“Armenian political and spiritual authorities, as well as the
international community are to blame for their indifference towards
the facts of the destruction and Georgianization of those Armenian
churches in Georgia.”