We, the representatives of the National Congress of Armenians in Georgia, are disturbed by the state of nonfunctional Armenian Churches in Georgia.
Our deep indignation is raised by systematic attempts to seize and destroy Surb Norashen Church, which served Armenian people since the XV century. Many generations of Tbilisi Armenians were baptized in Norashen. Ashes of “Distinguished Citizens of Tbilisi”, such as Princes Tumanovs, Tamamshevs, Vartanovs, Pridonyans, lie by its walls. Ashes of Bazjbeuk-Melokov, the Father Superior of this church were also consigned to the earth here. His great granddaughter, renowned artist Zuleika Bazjbeuk-Melokova, as well as all Tbilisi Armenians is deprived of the possibility to visit Norashen. The church is not only closed for the congregation – the destruction of the unique frescoes painted by Ovnatan Ovnatanyan is in progress. Armenian signs inside the church and on its facade are knocked down and the graves by its walls are defaced.
In May 2008, unauthorized construction of the fence around Norashen started under direct guidance of Father Tariel (Father Superior of the neighboring Church of Djvarismama), the priest of Georgian Orthodox Church. The Church is practically surrounded by a fence, which links it up with the adjacent Djvarismama Church. Armenian Community several times expressed its resentment in regards to the above, but no feedback followed.
It should be mentioned, that the attempts to alter the appearance of Norashen Church, in order to deprive it of the belonging to Armenian Apostolic Church, were made since 1998. In particular, in 1994-1995 above-mentioned father Tariel, with the aim to eliminate the evidence indicating the Armenian origin of the building, demolished Church altar and destroyed wall inscriptions by Petros, which were giving an account of the reconstruction of the Church dome in 1650. Other Armenian inscriptions – two Khachkaras (verbatim “Cross-Stone”) and two magnificent XIX century frescoes, created by the representatives of Ovnatanyan School, were damaged and destroyed. Doors with Armenian Epigraphy were replaced.
After all this it had been agreed to hold up any action until “better days”… Nevertheless, Father Tariel continued to play the master in a “questionable” Church, destroying everything that would point out its Armenian origin. Didn’t those better days come? Tbilisi in general and its old part, where the cultures of our multinational city are interlaced, in particular – is being beautified. Rehabilitation-reconstructive works are in progress, yet this historical monument of Armenian culture is left without due attention.
Up until today unresolved is the problem of the ownership of five Armenian Churches in Tbilisi – Surb Norashen (XV century), Surb-Nshan (XVIII century), Shamkhoretsots Surb Astvatsatsin (Karmir Avetaran XVIII century), Yerevantsots Surb Minas (XVIII century) and Mugnu Surb Gevorg (XIV century). All of these landmarks, which are inseparable part of historical- cultural heritage of Georgia, are in deplorable state. For example, in 1990 Karmir Avetaran and in 2009 Mugni Surb Gevorg Churches collapsed. Hence, the following question arises: which Church will be next?
Surb Norashen (XV century)
Surb-Nshan (XVIII century)
Shamkhoretsots Surb Astvatsatsin (Karmir Avetaran XVIII century)
Yerevantsots Surb Minas (XVIII century)
Mugnu Surb Gevorg (XIV century)