KASHATAGH, Nagorno-Karabakh Republic—In a recent day of celebration, residents of this small, remote village joined political dignitaries and members of the international community to mark the re-opening of Hak’s historic St. Minas Church. The church blessing was combined with the unveiling of a new drinking water supply for the village, making the ceremony a momentous occasion reaffirming Armenians’ commitment to restore and protect their ancient heritage in this war-torn enclave.
The afternoon began with the below-pictured blessing of the church by Archbishop Pargev Martirosian, Primate of the Artsakh Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Arch. Martirosian emphasized the importance of reopening St. Minas and other churches like it, calling them “a symbol of the continuation of the Armenian Christian faith on these lands.”
Hak village sits in a remote corner of Kashatagh (formerly Lachin), the strategically vital area connecting Karabagh with Armenia. With a continuous Armenian presence dating back to the 12th century, Hak was ethnically cleansed of Armenians by Azeri forces in 1918, only to be reclaimed in 1992 during Armenians’ victorious struggle for self-determination. Since then, Azerbaijan has repeatedly claimed the Kashatagh region for itself; however, the presence of Armenian churches, cemeteries, and other monuments—some dating as far as back as the 4th century—refute these claims and reaffirm the case for Armenian sovereignty over these lands.
The Hak village project is the latest initiative of the New York-based Tufenkian Foundation. Through a range of social and economic projects, the Foundation has fostered the development and resettlement of Kashatagh since the war. In parallel, the Foundation is working to restore and preserve the Armenian monuments found throughout this land. Ms. Virginia Davies of New York City tendered the generous support that allowed the Foundation to restore St. Minas Church and establish Hak’s water supply. Having flown in especially for the ceremony, Davies spoke boldly and proudly about the project, which she has dedicated in loving memory of her grandmother, Virgine Mouradian, a survivor of the 1915 Armenian Genocide.
“This is only the beginning,” Davies said. “After Hak, we will start projects in the next two villages – Mirig and Hochants.” Those projects, like the work in Hak, will consist of restoring ancient churches that had been desecrated by Azerbaijan, alongside development and infrastructure projects for the current resettlers there. “After these two villages, there will be another two, and it will go on for the entire area.”
Also addressing the gathering was Tufenkian Foundation Country Director Mary Matosian. “Today, we constantly hear of protocols, speeches, and statements on the status of Karabakh,” she said, referring to Turkey’s recent demands that Karabakh be ceded to Azerbaijan. “It is vital that we bring to world attention that these are not so-called ‘occupied territories,’ but liberated Armenian lands. Today we stand shoulder-to-shoulder—Karabakh government, Diaspora Armenians, and Hak villagers—in support of rebuilding Kashatagh and bringing forth its Armenian heritage, which was unjustly taken away by Azerbaijan and must now be restored.”
Numerous dignitaries attended the ceremony, including Nagorno-Karabakh Republic President Bako Sahakyan, National Assembly Chairman Ashot Ghulyan, Armenia’s former Foreign Minister Raffi Hovannisian, representatives of numerous political parties and NGOs, and other former ministers including Davit Lokyan and Levon Mkrtchyan