Response to the lie of the newspaper "Hraparak" about the alleged "Armenian" affiliation of the Georgian Orthodox Khujabi Monastery

08.03.24 17:45

Armenian nationalists have launched an information campaign against the return to Georgia of one of its national shrines, the Khujabi Monastery. This Orthodox monastery, founded in the 12th-13th centuries, was illegally seized by Armenia in the 1990s by unilaterally 'shifting' the Armenian-Georgian border some 400 metres north into Georgia.


Following the recent visit of Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to Tbilisi, during which the Georgian side raised the issue of border demarcation and delimitation, it became clear that Armenia should return the illegally seized Khujabi Monastery to Georgia. But as we know, Armenian nationalists usually do not return anything "amicably".


For almost 30 years, many people, including Russia, which patronises the authorities in Yerevan, have offered Armenia the return of the occupied Azerbaijani lands of Karabakh. They also asked to start with the return of other people's lands, at least partially. In the first stage they proposed to return 7 occupied districts, then 5, and finally they proposed to return at least 2 districts to start the peace process.... But the Armenian nationalists did not even agree to that! In the end, it became clear that no matter how much one negotiated, the Armenian occupiers would not give back a single square kilometre of occupied Azerbaijani territory. On the contrary, they made claims to other Azerbaijani lands (everyone knows that they have territorial claims to both Turkey and Georgia - to Samtskhe-Javakheti).


As a result, Azerbaijan had to initiate a different conversation with the parties involved in the conflict. They were forcefully removed from Azerbaijani land.


It is unrealistic to expect that in relations with Georgia, Armenian occupiers will return illegally seized property upon the first request. Recent publications in Armenian media suggest that Armenia is unlikely to return the Khujabi monastery to Georgia without conditions. According to Lia Sargsyan's article titled 'What is happening on the Armenian-Georgian border', published on 5 March 2024 in the Armenian language in 'Hraparak' newspaper, although Armenian falsifiers and Echmiadzin declared the monastery as 'Armenian', they do not use it and the monastery is gradually being destroyed. ( ). The main arguments of the article are translated below:


Georgia is attempting to resolve the long-standing border dispute with Armenia, taking advantage of what they perceive as a weakness in the Armenian authorities. Recent reports suggest that during his visits to Georgia, Pashinyan may have discussed the issue of border demarcation with Georgian officials. Additionally, there remain unresolved issues in this sector. Residents of the Georgian village of Akhkerpi, which is populated entirely by Armenians, are reportedly being urged to write letters to the Armenian government requesting the transfer of the Lalvar pastures and Khujabi Monastery to the management of the Georgian village that borders them.


The Khujabi Monastery, dating back to the XIII century, is situated near the village of Privolnoye in the Lori region, on the northern slope of Mount Lalvar. Based on historical data, the oldest church in the complex was constructed in the 9th-10th centuries and has a one-nave basilica structure. Initially, it served as an Armenian monastery. However, during the reign of the Zakaryans in the 13th century, it was converted into a Chalcedonian monastery, and subsequently, it caught the attention of the Georgian authorities. The monastery is constructed using hewn felsite tuff.  


Hrant Mikayelyan, a senior researcher at the Caucasus Institute and a political scientist, confirmed the information and provided details. According to him, the Georgians aim to privatise this church. The authorities have decided to delimit all borders and resolve all disputed issues in this context. Mikayelyan finds it unsurprising that the Georgians want to take lands away from Armenia. The individuals involved are attempting to exploit the Armenian authorities' current approach to achieve their desired outcomes quickly.


The borders between Armenia and Georgia today are largely a result of the collapse of the Russian Empire and tensions in the South Caucasus. There is no evidence to suggest that Georgians inhabited the areas in question, yet they are attempting to claim them. According to the political analyst, there is evidence that the Georgian authorities are exerting pressure on Armenians residing in these settlements, including the establishment of security control. The local authorities have also been accused of oppressing Armenians. For instance, the residents of Jiliza village are reportedly under the complete control of the Georgian National Security Service. This information suggests a concerning situation for the Armenian community in Georgia.


Regarding the current state of Armenian-Georgian relations, Mikayelyan stated that there are no apparent political disagreements between the two neighbouring countries. However, there are religious differences between the peoples, and the Armenian community is under systematic pressure. Mikayelyan has a negative view of the relations between the nations.“


According to the 'Hraparak' newspaper, Armenian falsifiers have claimed the Khujabi monastery as their own, stating that it was created in the 9th-10th centuries as an allegedly 'Armenian' monastery. However, there is no evidence to support this claim. The Georgian inscription, which indicates the time of foundation and founders of the monastery, was deliberately destroyed by Armenian settlers in the 19th century. Armenian falsifiers may bring artificially 'improved' cross-stones to the area, as entire workshops for their production were recently found in Karabakh after its de-occupation. It is possible that the occupants took some of the 'finished products' with them when they fled.


Additionally, Armenian nationalists continue to distort the truth by claiming that there is no information about Georgians living in the area of Khujabi monastery. Is the Orthodox Georgian monastery alone sufficient information? Additionally, there are several other Georgian monasteries, such as Akhtala, Kobairi, Khnevanki, Svregi, Kirantsi, Terajuiki, and Oskipari, located to the south of Khujabi, already on the territory of the Republic of Armenia. These Orthodox monasteries have preserved Georgian frescoes, inscriptions, and tombstones.


Hujabi operated as a female Orthodox monastery until 1935. No Armenian services were ever held there.  The historical connection of Khujabi and the entire north of the present-day Republic of Armenia to Georgia is disputed.


The historical connection of Khujabi and the entire north of the present-day Republic of Armenia to Georgia is disputed. Georgia claims the territory as its own, but this is not universally recognized. Our country does not officially claim the return of Lori, its ancient Georgian historical land, which includes dozens of Georgian churches and monasteries that were illegally seized with the help of the Bolsheviks in 1921. However, the Armenian settlers went beyond Lori and illegally moved the border to seize the Khujabi monastery, which does not belong to them and is now part of Kvemo Kartli. They falsely claim that Georgia wants to take away land from Armenia. The accusation that Georgia intends to privatise the Khujabi monastery is unfounded. It is not possible to privatise an Orthodox holy site; it can only be liberated from invaders. The behaviour of Armenian border guards as invaders is evidenced by the 2006 incident when they fired shots at Georgian journalists who attempted to approach the Khujabi monastery. Armenia should promptly return what it illegally seized, taking advantage of Georgia's difficult situation in the 90s, and what rightfully belongs to Georgia according to all laws and international norms.


The situation on the Armenian-Georgian border is being misrepresented by Armenian propagandists. They claim that the Georgian authorities are pressuring Georgian citizens of Armenian nationality living in the border village of Akhkerpi to write letters to the Armenian authorities demanding the return of not only the Khujabi monastery but also the nearby pastures of Mount Lavlar. It is important to note that this claim is unverified and lacks evidence. Armenia has unilaterally appropriated hundreds and thousands of hectares of forests and border pastures along the entire length of the Armenian-Georgian border, depriving Georgian citizens living in border villages of access to the forests and other land they have always enjoyed.


The border was moved illegally by the Armenian authorities. For decades, they have regularly conducted illegal raids on Georgian territory, seizing and arresting residents, particularly those of Azerbaijani nationality, as hostages, and accusing them of 'violating the border'. Therefore, all citizens of Georgia, regardless of their nationality, demand that Armenia return not only the Khujabi Monastery but also the forests, pastures, and land areas that were illegally seized in previous years through creeping occupation and unauthorized redistribution and relocation of the border. It is important to maintain objectivity and avoid subjective evaluations, so the phrase 'demand during the demarcation and delimitation of the border' has been removed.


The Georgian Orthodox Church is urged to work diligently towards the return of Georgian Orthodox holy sites and to promote unity in Georgian society regarding the return of Khujabi. The return of the Khujabi Monastery and its surrounding lands, which were illegally seized, is of paramount importance and should be the primary focus of Georgia in establishing relations with Armenia.


If Armenia expresses its intention to be friends with Georgia and use Georgian territory and ports for transit, it must immediately return the illegally seized borderlands and the Khujabi Monastery. This principled position is also important for the return of occupied Abkhazia and Samachablo.


Alexandre Zakariadze.

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