Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Baku’s Armenian cemetery being destroyed

First published in the September 15, 2007 Armenian Reporter
by Emil Sanamyan

WASHINGTON – One of the largest cemeteries in Baku, where Armenians, Russians, Jews and others have been buried since the early 20th century, is being officially relocated” to open way for roads and construction.

Since last week, eyewitness accounts have been cited in Russian, Jewish and Azerbaijani media. Known as the Armenian, Molokan or Montino cemetery (and now referred to as Narimanov cemetery) and covering 200 acres of land, it contains thousands of graves. The Armenian portion has been vandalized and ransacked repeatedly since 1990. Part of the cemetery was paved over in 2003. And now the entire territory of the cemetery is reportedly due for redevelopment.

Azerbaijani officials have relocated some of the graves to the city outskirts, but only as long as relatives show up at the cemetery to claim them. Since nearly all Armenians and many others no longer live in Baku, their relatives’ “unclaimed” gravestones are set to be removed by bulldozers and their graves paved over.

On September 13, members of the Russian community in Baku appealed to senior Azeri government officials and the Russian Embassy with pleas to intervene to stop the destruction. Several ethnic Russians and Jews who went to the cemetery, some flying in from abroad, reported and documented numerous cases of vandalism. The Russian-language Jewish News Agency ( reported on September 11 that remains were shoved into plastic bags “like garbage” and then handed to relatives who had to pay for the “service.”

By the end of 2005, the Azerbaijani military completed destroyed the medieval Armenian cemetery at Old Jugha (Julfa) in Nakhichevan. That same year, Moscow News reported that a 19th century Russian military cemetery was destroyed on an island in the Caspian near Azerbaijan’s border with Iran.

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