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Azerbaijan trying to build own history at the expense of Georgian legacy
2019-05-29 17:55:23

Gita Elibekyan
Public Radio of Armenia
Tbilisi

Georgians are resolute not to allow Azerbaijan appropriate their history.  Thousands of Georgian activists are ready to reach the shared border with Azerbaijan to prove that Davit Gareja is a Georgian monastery and cannot be exchanged for Azerbaijani oil. .

More than 15 thousand Georgians formed a “human shield” along the border on Tuesday, calling for soonest solution to the issue of demarcation. The failure to do so has left part of the Monastery Complex on the Azerbaijani territory, allowing the latter to lay claims on the shrine.

Georgian civil society representatives and the clergy organized the act of protest after tourists and clergymen were denied entry to the monastery.

David Gareja is a rock-hewn Georgian Orthodox monastery complex located in the Kakheti region of Eastern Georgia, on the half-desert slopes of Mount Gareja, some 60–70 km southeast of Georgia's capital Tbilisi. The complex includes hundreds of cells, churches, chapels, refectories and living quarters hollowed out of the rock face.

Part of the complex is located in Azerbaijan and has become subject to a border dispute between the two countries.

Expert of Caucasian studies Mamuka Areshidze says the issue was brought to the agenda at the end of the 20th century.

“The topic has recently been widely discussed by Azerbaijani politicians. They insist that the monastic complex is an Albanian cultural heritage, i.e. it is Azerbaijani, as they claim to be descendants of Caucasian Albanians,” the expert told Public Radio of Armenia.

To him, it is surprising that the Azerbaijani side claims all Christian shrines on the territory of modern Azerbaijan to be Azerbaijani.

Civil society representatives say Azerbaijani oil is unable to solve issues.

“Understandably, Azerbaijan is now trying to create its own history at the expense of ours. And that country is considered our strategic alley. Georgia’s strategic partners should be democratic and respect human rights,” says Irakli Kakabadze, organizer of the act of protest.

According to him, strategic partners should be chosen based on shared values, not economic circumstances.

Head of the Georgian National Agency for the Protection of Cultural Legacy Nikoloz Antidze says the agency cannot interfere with the issue for now, as it is an inter-state political matter.

According to him, Davit Gareja is a 6th century Georgian monastery and there cannot be any question about this.

A joint Georgian-Azerbaijani commission is now discussing the issue of demarcation. The two countries have agreed on 66% of the border; 34% of land border is yet to be agreed on.

The area next to the Kakheti region, where the monastery complex is situated, is a disputable territory.

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