Identity crisis?: Armenian historian blames Georgian authorities for ‘privatizing’ churches
By GAYANE ABRAHAMYAN
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.”