THE CHURCH OF THE HOLY ALL-SAVIOR GHAZANCHETSOTS AS THE CATHEDRAL RESIDENCE OF THE ARTSAKH DIOCESE – 2024-1

Summary

Vahram R. Balayan
Doctor of Sciences in History

Melanya G. Balayan
Candidate of Sciences in History

In the second half of the XVIII century, with the aim to meet the spiritual needs of the population of the Armenian quarter of Ghazanchetsots in Shushi, a wooden and then stone church was built on a stony bottom. From 1868 to 1888, the new majestic Holy Savior Ghazanchetsots Cathedral was built on the site of a dilapidated church at the expense of the Armenian population of Shushi and local benefactors.

It should be noted that before the construction of the mentioned new church, since the end of the 18 century, the Ghazanchetsots Church in Shushi had already played an important role in organizing the spiritual, cultural, and social life of the Armenians of Artsakh. In 1813, after Artsakh came under the rule of the Russian Empire under the famous Gulistan Treaty, radical changes took place in all spheres of public life. The Armenian Catholicos see of Aghvank did not stay away from this either. With the intervention of the Russian court, a special circular was issued by Catholicos of All Armenians Yeprem I Dzorageghtsi in 1815, whereby the Catholicosate in Aghvank was abolished, and the dioceses that had previously been part of the Catholicosate in Aghvank were united into a metropolis subordinate to the Catholicosate of All Armenians. Having awarded the title of metropolitan to Sarkis Hasan–Jalalyants, Yeprem Dzorageghtsi appointed him the primate of the diocese, followed by Baghdasar Hasan Jalalyants on November 13, 1830. Artsakh witnesses an unprecedented rise in spiritual and cultural life.

In accordance with the charter approved by the Russian Empire on March 11, 1836, known as “Polozhenie”, the Armenian Church under the rule of the Empire was divided into 6 dioceses: Novo-Nakhichevan, Astrakhan, Georgian, Shirvan, Yerevan and Karabakh. Thus, according to the mentioned charter, Shushi was recognized as the diocesan center of Karabakh, and the residence of the diocesan leader was Holy All Savior Ghazanchetsots Church.

Holy All Savior Ghazanchetsots Cathedral has played an important role in the social life of Armenians not only in Shushi but also in the Eastern provinces of Armenia, particularly, in the organization of cultural, educational, and enlightening development, in the activities of providing care to orphans, the poor, as well as in the popularization of national ideas and other similar works. To give a new impetus to all this, with the mediation and sponsorship of the diocesan leaders, Armenian benefactors from Shushi made a great contribution to the development of the above-mentioned areas. With the aim to value the role of such public figures, and even more so national ones, a kind of pantheon was founded in the courtyard of the Ghazanchetsots Church. Before the beginning of the liberation struggle in Artsakh, these tombstones were monuments of respect and incense for Armenians. From 1988 to 1991, the Azerbaijanis destroyed these monuments.

Due to its widespread patriotic activities, Holy All Savior Ghazanchetsots Church has always been the target of anti-Armenian forces. From 1905 to 1906, in 1920, the Turks tried to destroy the church. During the years of the Soviet Union, the church was turned into a warehouse and then into a barn. The dome of the church was ruined, the hewn stones were destroyed and the ornaments were scraped.

In 1992, after the liberation of Shushi, the church was renovated, once again becoming an important center for organizing the spiritual life of the Armenians of Artsakh.

In 2020, during the 44-day war, the church was bombed twice by the Turkish-Azerbaijani invaders in order to destroy the Armenian Christian Cathedral; afterward, under the pretext of renovations, the Armenian spiritual and cultural monument was deformed. Currently, Azerbaijanis, entangled in their own falsifications, present the Armenian cathedral one day as Russian, another day as Albanian.

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