Cultural Genocide

Acts and measures undertaken to destroy the culture of a nation or an ethnic group is called ‘cultural genocide’. The word ‘Genocide’ coined by Raphael Lemkin, does not only refer to the physical extermination of a national or religious group, but also its spiritual and cultural destruction. The concept of ‘national and cultural genocide’ has not yet been included in the 1948 UN Convention on the prevention and punishment of the crime of Genocide.


Many facts prove that simultaneous with the massacres and deportation of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire,  the government of the Young Turks masterminded and implemented systematic destruction of the material testimonies of the Armenian civilization. Realizing the role of the church and Christian faith within the Armenian nation, the Turkish government purposefully massacred Armenian clergymen, destroyed churches, monasteries and other properties of church, including thousands of medieval handwritten manuscripts.


An Arab witness to the Armenian Genocide, Fayez al-Ghussein, writes in his memoirs “… After the massacres of the Armenians, the government established committees that were engaged in selling the abandoned property. Armenian cultural values were sold at the cheapest prices. I once went to the church to see how the sales of these things were organized. The doors of the Armenian schools were closed. The Turks used science books in the bazaar for wrapping cheese, dates, sunflowers”.


In 1912 the Armenian patriarchy of Istanbul presented an account of the churches and monasteries in Western Armenia (Eastern Anatolia) and the Ottoman Empire. More than 2000 monasteries and churches were accounted, including the early unique Christian monuments of IV-V cc. Most part of them were looted, burned and destroyed by the Turks during the genocide.


The policy of dewas continued in Republican Turkey, as these relics were viewed as undesirable witnesses of the presence of the Armenians.

Following slides represent selected

Armenian medieval monuments destroyed during

and after the Armenian genocide. 



St. Hovhan Church, Bagrevand




BEFORE: General view of St. Hovhan Churchof Bagrevand from the south and partial views of the monument


photo by Hovsep Orbeli, 1911 to 1912


AFTER:  The site of St. Hovhan Church after its complete annihilation in the late 1940s. Part of its stones were used in the construction of houses in Tashevler Village that was founded around the monastery, but most of them were removed to the town of Asri, where they were laid in the lower stonework of the principal mosque erected in 1950


photo by Samvel Karapetian, 2000, 2008


Sourb Prkich (Holy Saviour) Church, Yerazgavors(Shirakavan)


9th cent.


BEFORE: Sourb Prkich (Holy Saviour) Church from the south


photo: 1900s


AFTER: The remnants of Sourb Prkich (Holy Saviour) Church after the acts of explosion and destruction carried out between the 1950s and 1960s


photo by Samvel Karapetian, 21.07.2006


Narek Monastery


9th to 19th cents.


BEFORE: Narek Monastery from the south-west


photo by Yervand Lalayan, 1900s


AFTER: The monastery was totally levelled with the ground between the 1940s and 1950s. In the 1970s, a mosque was built in the site of the churches with residential buildings erected around it


photo by Samvel Karapetian, 2004, 2007


Kurupash village: Sourb Astvatzatzin (Holy Virgin) Monastery


BEFORE: Sourb Astvatzatzin (Holy Virgin) Monastery from the south-east


photo by Yervand Lalayan, 1900s 


AFTER: The site of the sanctuary in 2006


photo by Samvel Karapetian


The monastery of Bagnayr 


BEFORE: The monastery of Bagnayr from the north-east in the 1900s


unknown photographer


AFTER:  The remnants of the sanctuary in 2010


photo by Samvel Karapetian


Ani. The church named Hovvi (Shepherd’s)


BEFORE: The church named Hovvi (Shepherd’s) from the east


photo by architect Toros Toramanian, 1900s


AFTER: The church named Hovvi (Shepherd’s) from the south


photo by Samvel Karapetian, 2007




BEFORE:  General view of the monastery from the north-east


photo: 1900s


AFTER: General view of the monastery from the north-east


photo: Samvel Karapetian, 2008



Tekor: Sourb Yerrordutiun (Holy Trinity) Church


5th cent. 


BEFORE: Sourb Yerrordutiun (Holy Trinity) Church (5th cent.) from the north-west


photo: 1900s


AFTER: General view of the remnants of Sourb Yerrordutiun (Holy Trinity) Church


photo by J. Bally, 1976





10th cent.


BEFORE: The church named Katoghike from the south


photo: 1900s


AFTER: The remnants of the church named Katoghike after its explosion between the 1940s and 1950s and the appropriation of its finely-dressed stones


photo by Samvel Karapetian, 2005


The monastery of St. Bartholomew the Apostle, Vankigegh


9th to 17th cents.


BEFORE: The monastery of St. Bartholomew the Apostlefrom the south-west


photo: 1917


AFTER: The monastery of St. Bartholomew the Apostle from the south-west after the acts of explosion and demolition


 photo by architect Armen Hakhnazarian, 1978




General view of the castle of Tignis


BEFORE: General view of the castle of Tignis from the south-east


photo by architect Toros Toramanian, 1900s


AFTER: The remains of the castle


photo by Samvel Karapetian, 2005


Tekor Village: Khetzkonk Monastery 


BEFORE: Khetzkonk Monastery from the east as of the 1900s


unknown photographer


AFTER: Surviving parts in 2000


photo by Samvel Karapetian


Horomos: The triumphal arch


BEFORE: The triumphal arch adjacent to the monastery in the 1900s


unknown photographer


AFTER: The remains of the triumphal arch adjoining the monastery as of 2008


photo by Samvel Karapetian


Arabkir city. The mother church of Sourb Astvatzatzin 


BEFORE: The mother church of Sourb Astvatzatzin from the south-west


unknown photographer, 1900s

 AFTER:  Its site after its demolition


photo by Samvel Karapetian, 2007

Since late 1920s, Turkey began the process of changing the names of certain locations in Western Armenia. Nowadays, 90% of Armenian place names in Eastern Anatolia have been turkified. Names of Armenian geographical sites have also been replaced with Turkish ones. Devising a systematic method of destruction, hundreds of architectural monuments have been destroyed and all Armenian inscriptions erased.


In 1974 UNESCO stated that out of 913 Armenian historical monuments left in Eastern Turkey that were still standing after 1923, 464 have completely disappeared, 252 are in ruins, and 197 are in need for complete repair. Armenian architectural buildings are consistently being demolished using dynaminte and are used as a targets during Turkish military training exercises; the undamaged stones are used as construction materials.

Armenian architectural buildings have consistently been exploded and were used as targets during Turkish military training exercises; the undamaged stones were used as construction materials. In some rural places, Armenian monasteries and churches serve as stables, stores, clubs or even jails. Very often Armenian churches are turned into mosques.


On June 18, 1987 the council of Europe adopted a resolution wherein the 6th point mentions that the Turkish government must pay attention to and take care of the language, culture and educational system of the Armenian Diaspora living in Turkey, at the same time demanding an appropriate regard to the Armenian monuments that are situated on the territory of Turkey.


The destruction and embezzlement of the Armenian cultural heritage is the continuation of the Turkish policy of the Armenian genocide.