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Albanian churches being restored after Armenian erasure

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The Albanian Udi community supports efforts to “preserve and restore the historical and religious monuments, including the sanctuaries of the heritage of Albanian Christians, in the territories liberated from occupation over the past year.”  (Photo: report.az)

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Azerbaijan is a country that is proud of its multi-cultural heritage.   Azerbaijan’s late president Heydar Aliyev once stated, “A country becomes more powerful when it unites more nations because every single one of them contributes to universal culture and civilization.” 

With a population of around 10 million people, Azerbaijan is home to 20 different ethnic minorities, among them the Udi people. Udis, the Orthodox Christian community in Nij, Azerbaijan, are descended from ancient Albanians.

Although Azerbaijan was originally a Zoroastrian country before the arrival of Islam, in 313 AD, Albania’s King Urnair was one of the first monarchs to adopt Christianity and Albanian was the most prominent language in the Eastern Caucuses during the 5th century.  

They had their own written script, which fell out of use in the 8th century during the Arab invasion, when most of the population converted to Islam. By the 15th century, their script was lost, till it was rediscovered by archeologists in the early 20th century.

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Udis, the Orthodox community in Nij, were one of the 26 Albanian tribes that established the ancient Albanian state in the region between the Kura and Adas rivers, where they speak the same endangered language of the ancient Albanian state that was rediscovered. 

And within this village, the Heydar Aliyev Foundation recently restored one of their churches, the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  There are many ancient Albanian churches in Karabakh who remain ruined, as the Armenians did nothing to protect the historic legacy of this great people.   

President Ilham Aliyev proclaimed: “The Udi people have a great historical heritage. You are performing divine services both in the territory of Gabala district and, at the same time, on liberated lands – both in Khudavang and Aghoghlan. There are also other temples belonging to the Udi people there. Most of them are either in a ruined or dilapidated condition. Therefore, we will restore them too. You will be able to visit those churches too. You have been to Khudavang several times.”

In response, the Albanian Udi community proclaimed: “We, the Albanian-Udi Christian community in Azerbaijan, which is the successor of the Albanian Apostolic Church, highly appreciate and support the consecutive actions to preserve and restore the historical and religious monuments, including the sanctuaries of the heritage of Albanian Christians, in the territories liberated from occupation over the past year and express our confidence that this process will be finalized as soon as possible thanks to the will and perseverance of the government of Azerbaijan.”

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“We would like to note that the history of structuration of Christianity as an official religion in the Caucasus starts with the Albanian Church” the statement continued.

“Ancient sources prove that the Albanian Church, which has left ineffable traces in the religious and cultural life of not only Azerbaijan, but also the entire Caucasus, is one of the most ancient churches in the world and has apostolic origin. The ancientness of the Albanian Church is proved not just by historic facts, but also by the ancient Albanian sanctuaries which have survived to the present day.”

The Albanian Apostolic Church was abolished in 1836, “following different pressure and influence, while the Armenian Gregorian Church attempted to own some of its material and moral heritage.”

“As a result, a great deal of the historic Albanian sanctuaries in Azerbaijan, especially in Karabakh, have been made Gregorian and the archives and documents have also been falsified together with our historical monuments. Making the Albanian heritage, including the Albanian sanctuaries, which are hundreds and even thousands years old, belong to the Gregorian Church has been a government policy of Armenia over the past hundred years.”

They also noted, “not a single Albanian shrine has been preserved in the contemporary territory of Armenia and the occupied lands of Azerbaijan. Armenia either has changed the architecture of the Albanian sanctuaries to make them Gregorian or has devastated those shrines in which architecture could not be changed.” 

However, the Udi people have great hope that with the liberation of Karabakh, this will change.

Rachel Avraham is a political analyst working at the Safadi Center for International Diplomacy, Research, Public Relations and Human Rights.  She is the author of “Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings at the American, Israeli and Arab Media.”  

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We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

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