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Can Islamic Shrines’ Connection to Armenians Transform Azerbaijani Politics of Erasure?

The Khachen-Dorbatli mausoleum near Agdam, Azerbaijan. (photograph courtesy Research on Armenian Architecture) Last fall’s war in the South Caucasus, during which Azerbaijan violently procured most of its Soviet-era territories, has left many wondering whether the continued erasure of the region’s Indigenous Armenian cultural monuments can be prevented. While the haughty Azerbaijani government’s rhetoric and record could hardly be less encouraging, a little-known group of regional monuments — medieval Islamic mausoleums built by local, Christian Armenian craftsmen — may offer a glimpse of hope for cultural preservation in and around the contested region of Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh).

In late November, in accordance with a controversial peace agreement, the defeated Artsakh Republic ceded the Agdam district to Azerbaijan. The region encompasses a vast array of cultural heritage sites, including the archeological site of Tigranakert , a Hellenistic Armenian city. Until the excavations launched in 2006, Vankasar church was the only visible part of the major sacred Armenian site. Nearby, a later Islamic monument sacred to Azerbaijanis memorializes one of the region’s 14th-century Muslim lords. That monument also passed into Azerbaijan’s possession.

Situated in the village of Khachen-Dorbatli (Azerbaijani spelling Xaçındərbətli), the 14th-century mausoleum has long reminded researchers of Armenian architecture. “It represents a polygon […]

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