Nagorno-Karabakh: Christian Armenians bid farewell to monastery in area ceded to Azerbaijan

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Hundreds of Christians from all over Armenia visited Dadivank monastery in the Kalbajar District of Nagorno-Karabakh on Sunday, as the area was about to fall under Azerbaijan’s control.

It is one of the districts in the region that were set to be taken over by Azerbaijan in accordance with a Russia-brokered agreement to end hostilities.

"I still do not believe that Dadivank monastery will be surrendered to Azeris. There is nothing impossible for God. I’m in no hurry to save the cultural wealth of this monastery, I will be staying here." said Ovaness, the monastery’s abbot.

"I do not want to believe that we came to say goodbye. We had lost Western Armenia 100 years ago, but we still consider it as ours. Those khachkars [memorial stele bearing a cross] are unique. They must be protected. Every corner bears memory," said a visitor.

Russian President Vladimir Putin stressed that Christian churches and monasteries located in the ceded territories of Nagorno-Karabakh should be preserved, in a telephone conversation with his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev.

In response, Aliyev said that Baku will ensure that the churches are properly protected by the state and accessed by worshippers.

On Friday, residents of the Knaravan village, which is also located in the Kelbajar district, began leaving their homes before the territory came under the control of Azerbaijan.

"It is hard for me to explain, but I know only one thing for sure: I do not wish even for my enemy to be in a situation like this," said one villager.

On Monday, Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan signed a trilateral ceasefire agreement on Nagorno-Karabakh.

According to the document, the Kelbajar, Aghdam and Lachin districts of Nagorno-Karabakh will be taken over by Azerbaijan and nearly two thousand Russian peacekeepers will be sent to the region.

*SOUNDBITES*

SOT, Resident of Knaravan village (Armenian): "I have been living here for 20 years and now I am a refugee. We are breaking our houses down and I do not know what is coming next. We will spend a few days at the guest house, and I have no idea what happens next." *LOOSE TRANSLATION*

SOT, Resident of Knaravan village (Armenian): "What can I say? It is hard for me to explain, but I know only one thing for sure: I do not wish even for my enemy to be in a situation like this." *LOOSE TRANSLATION*

SOT, Woman (Armenian): "I do not want to believe that we came to say goodbye. We had lost Western Armenia 100 years ago, but we still consider it as ours. Those khachkars [memorial stele bearing a cross] are unique. They must be protected. Every corner bears memory. I am telling my daughter Astkhik to remember it well to never forget. I just met a man who said that he will take nothing from his house but had no idea how he would leave the church." *LOOSE TRANSLATION*

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SOT, Ovaness, abbot of Dadivank monastery: "I still do not believe that Dadivank monastery will be surrendered to Azeris. There is nothing impossible for God. I’m in no hurry to save the cultural wealth of this monastery, I will stay here. In April 1993 when this district was liberated, I was the first priest to set foot on these lands. At that time, I was the priest of Ganzasar [another monastery]. Since 2015, I have been appointed here as the holy abbot of Dadivank. I restored this monastery with my own hands and laid stones. I took care of this holy place as my own child. Today I see that we must give these lands to the nation, which does not realise the value and sacredness of these lands. I feel great pain." *LOOSE TRANSLATION*

SOT, Vladimir Galazachev, priest (Armenian): "I am from Yerevan, I serve in the Russian Orthodox Church. I come here twice a year to venerate the holy relics. I was lucky to visit Jerusalem, but Dadivank is different. This is one of my most favourite places. There is divine and human truth. Divine truth will become clear over the years. Now it is difficult for me to say something, what we are doing here. Places like this in the world you count by the fingers. I am excited. It will be very difficult for us, but everything will be fine sooner or later. The monastery will be preserved as it is. We came for millennia, after all." *LOOSE TRANSLATION*

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As a Republican I am a conservative but have a little libertarian leanings. I about 80% a Trump supporter. I agree with him most of the time but as I am a person that thinks for himself I don't go along with him just because he is the President. I am not like liberals that think their candidates are Gods and never wrong.