Russian Archbishop of Azerbaijan makes anti-Armenian remarks to please Aliyev

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Archbishop Alexander of the Baku-Azerbaijan Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church presented with bread and salt at the opening of the Orthodox Religious-Cultural Center of the Baku and Azerbaijan Diocese. (Photo: November 15, 2013, Office of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan)

Archbishop Vladyka Alexander, the head of the Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church in Azerbaijan, gave an interview last month to Jayson Casper of Christianity Today, shamelessly spewing Azeri propaganda, badmouthing Armenians and praising Azerbaijan. He spoke more like a spokesman for the dictator Ilham Aliyev than a man of God. This is a clergyman who would not hesitate to sell his soul to the devil for the right price! It is not surprising that Azerbaijan’s Embassy in Washington, D.C., immediately posted his interview on its Facebook page.

Abp. Alexander started the interview by stating: “1,500 years of separation between the Eastern Orthodox church and the Armenian Apostolic church has complicated relations. We have holy books and traditions in common, but we are not in fellowship.”

The Russian Archbishop knowingly lied by stating that “Azerbaijan has a high level of multicultural acceptance and preserves its religious monuments. The Armenian churches and libraries in Baku are kept safe. In the case of a peace agreement, these can be used again, as they should.” Abp. Alexander is wrong. There are no functioning Armenian churches in Baku.

Strangely, the Russian Archbishop accused “Armenians of lying to themselves.” He said that Armenians “are very sorry they had to leave” Azerbaijan. The Archbishop must have forgotten about the massacres of innocent Armenians by Azeris in Sumgait, Baku and other parts of Azerbaijan.

When asked if he would be willing to make a phone call to Catholicos Karekin II, the Russian Archbishop sarcastically replied: “I don’t have his phone number [smiling].”

In response to the interviewer’s question about the Armenian Genocide, the Russian Archbishop lied again by stating: “When the word genocide is used, we should be very careful. We have very sad facts about the actions of Armenian forces on the territory of Azerbaijan. We have thousands of Azerbaijanis killed by the Armenian side, so to whom should we address the word genocide?” He then added, “Azerbaijanis do not have hate in their heart,” forgetting the beheadings of Armenians by Azerbaijani soldiers during the recent war, not to mention the earlier massacres in Sumgait and Baku.

Christianity Today mentioned that early in the recent Artsakh war, the Russian Archbishop “signed an Azerbaijani interfaith letter congratulating President Ilham Aliyev on his military victories.”

In response to these anti-Armenian remarks, the Primate of the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America, Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, sent a harshly-worded letter to the Russian Orthodox Archbishop criticizing him for his false allegations:

“Responding to your interview with Christianity Today Magazine would be considered a waste of time and effort, for it would be replying to an individual who lacks humility, knowledge of history, attempts to distort uncontestable historical facts, but above all, distorts the TRUTH. Furthermore, your arrogance is quite astonishing for a shepherd of Christ, the Lord.

“You speak of finding ways to live together. We certainly agree that both parties should find ways to live together. Yet when a country, that committed the Armenian Genocide a century ago by killing 1,500,000 innocent Armenians, rejects to accept the obvious facts, and in addition to that openly supports Azerbaijan, it is hard to find ways to live together. Moreover, when the same country leads the war operations of Azerbaijan, sends its special forces, recruits thousands of radical Islamists to kill Christian Armenians, it becomes difficult to reconcile. When the leader of that country vows to ‘continue to fulfill the mission that our grandfathers carried out for centuries in the Caucasus again’ (Recep Tayyip Erdogan — July 24, 2020), attempts at reconciliation are questioned, don’t you think?

“You state that Armenians have hatred toward Azerbaijan. When an Azerbaijani army officer axes a sleeping Armenian army officer to death and is later pardoned by the President of Azerbaijan, freed from his sentence, and is granted the status of ‘Hero’ of Azerbaijan by the same president, I ask you the definition of hatred. On May 26, 2020, the European Court of Human Rights said it ‘found that there had been no justification for the Azerbaijani authorities’ failure to enforce the punishment of Ramil Safarov and in effect grant him impunity for a serious hate crime.’ Isn’t hate in its purest form the deliberate circulation of videos on social media of Azeri soldiers assassinating, skinning and beheading Armenian prisoners of war amidst celebration?

“Your contention is that ‘Azerbaijan has a high level of multicultural acceptance and preserves its religious monuments. The Armenian churches and libraries in Baku are kept safe.’ How can you state such a thoughtless claim when there is video evidence of purposeful destruction of Armenian cross stones in Nakhichevan, carried out systematically to permanently erase all traces of Armenian heritage from the region?

“You speak about the Catholicos of All Armenians not doing enough to make peace. Let me remind you that in 2010, His Holiness Karekin I traveled to Azerbaijan, met with Allahshukur Pashazade [Grand Mufti of Azerbaijan] and President Ilham Aliyev for peace talks in Baku.

“Replying to your interview responses is futile indeed, for the lack of respect for history and the truth is quite evident.”

These are strong words from one clergyman to another. I suggest that other Armenian clergymen and Catholicos Karekin II write letters to Patriarch Kirill, the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church in All of Russia in Moscow, who has exclusive jurisdiction over Russian Orthodox Christians in Azerbaijan, complaining about Archbishop Alexander’s shameful statements.

Amazingly, on June 25, 2017, Archbishop Alexander was awarded a medal of honor from the Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow for his significant contribution to the promotion and strengthening of interreligious dialogue. Patriarch Kirill, in his congratulatory message, commended Archbishop Alexander for carrying out his task with “special tact and diplomatic skills … in the land [Azerbaijan] where representatives of different religions and nationalities live side by side.”

Obviously, after making such false statements about Armenians, Archbishop Alexander has failed in his ‘interreligious’ duties. Patriarch Kirill should be urged to take away the medal that he was awarded.

It is understandable that Archbishop Alexander is trying to please the dictator of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev. However, a man of God should not tell lies for any reason, under any circumstance. Patriarch Kirill should tell Archbishop Alexander to apologize for his lies, and if not, he should strip him of his religious rank.

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Harut Sassounian

California Courier Editor
Harut Sassounian is the publisher of The California Courier, a weekly newspaper based in Glendale, Calif. He is the president of the Armenia Artsakh Fund, a non-profit organization that has donated to Armenia and Artsakh $917 million of humanitarian aid, mostly medicines, since 1989 (including its predecessor, the United Armenian Fund). He has been decorated by the presidents of Armenia and Artsakh and the heads of the Armenian Apostolic and Catholic churches. He is also the recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.

17 Comments

  1. Just like with any diaspora in Azerbaijan, it is important to not take this personally. Georgians, Russians, Jews, and other ethnicities living in Azerbaijan will feel the need to make over the top comments in order to satisfy their Azerbaijani overlords.

  2. What a foolish embarrassment to himself and those he represents. Only a completely uneducated person or someone bribed could agree with his shamefully ignorant remarks. Corruption runs rampant.
    Thank you for making this visible.Our responses will bring the truth to light.

    • What responses, Stepan? Also, good job, Harut again on writing on something that literally nobody outside of the two affected people care about. Yes, religion are supplicants to politics, always have been. Which is also why your whole Christianity shtick is getting very old. Literally.

  3. The so-called “Russian Orthodox Church” is not a Christian church as it was during imperial times, today it is just another sub-bureau of the KGB, same as it was in the past century, acting as a propaganda and spy operation for the head Apparatchiks in Russia. They did the same thing with Echmiadsin during all that time anyway. Has anything changed?

    According to “Mother Russia” headed by its chief dictator mafia boss Putin, this so-called “head of the Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church in Azerbaijan” didn’t say anything weird or out of the ordinary. His statements are perfectly in-line with Russia’s state policy against Armenia.

  4. This is why we can not rely on Russia, where 20% of the RF population are Tatar-Turks origin. This has nothing to do with Christianity, it is pure politics. Armenia must get closer to Iran, and Europe, as much as possible, otherwise, Armenia will go on sale by Russia’s Putin. Tatar-Turk’s hatred toward Armenians and Persians have historical roots.

    • At one time I may have agreed with you about Iran. Now, not sure after the mullahs of Iran showed their colors and ‘congratulated’ Azerbaijan (aka Turkey) for “liberating” ancient Armenian land and murdering all those innocent Armenians using drones and terrorists.

      My new opinion on Iran: I wish lots of luck to the USA and Israel when that day comes when Iran will require a good scrubbing… “may the best man win”.

    • By that logic, we cannot rely on Germany or Iran either, because both have millions of Turkic peoples in their countries. Volga Tatars and Bashkirs in Russia don’t care or respect Erdogan or Turkey at all. They are loyal to Russia and that is it.

    • No, K – you can’t rely on Germany or Iran for that exact reason. How is that a surprise or revelation or question to you if literally a few months ago you saw Iran take Azerbaijan’s side and Germany, which could have with the lightest sanctions crippled the Turkish economy but instead lets Erdogan call them fascists while wiring the Turks billions, be veeert silent. Compared to those two, which some here consider potential partners, Russia is indeed less pro-Turkish from the population’s perspective (more like neutral). Too bad their leadership however has understandable major interests and hopes of partnership which probably are as futile as those of Lenin and Stalin. Guess some people never learn.

  5. Oddly enough, the Archbishop is mostly correct in his assessments. Is it not odd that there are Catholic Armenians, Evangelical Armenians, Mormon Armenians, Jehovah Witness Armenians and even Muslim Armenians yet there are no Eastern Orthodox Armenians?!

    Think about that. Had our church been in communion with the Greek and/or Russian churchs instead of the Ethiopian and Assyrian churchs, we would not be where we are today. We Armenians are Armenia’s worst enemy, and have always been.

    We had 26 to secure Artsakh’s future, and we could not even get ourselves to call it by its Armenian name. We had 26 years to build a modern military to secure Artsakh’s future, we instead made stupid Kill Dim cartoons. We had 26 years to work more closely with Russia to secure Artsakh’s future, we instead put into power a George Soros and NED (i.e. CIA) financed lunatic with “democratic” aspirations. The historic defeat we suffered in Artsakh was a by product of our love of all things Western, our arrogance, our shortsightedness, our tribalism and our burning desire to be more Catholic than the Pope. We politically illiterate and self destructive Armenians deserve no better.

    The fault lies with us. We are the main reason for all the black pages in our history. Don’t go searching for others to blame. We alone lost Artsakh. At least the Russians now have it. Artsakh Armenians will be better off under Moscow’s control. Hopefully Artsakh will be absorbed into the Russian Federation as an autonomous oblast sometime in the future. Russia is also the ONLY reason why Armenia exists today. Had Russia not had a military presence inside Armenia, we would have lost Armenia a very long time ago, and all that you diasporan types would be able to do is pathetically cry at the feet of Washingtonian and European reptiles.

    PS: Yes, at the end of the day, the Archbishop could have been a bit nicer towards us. But let’s understand that his first duty and obligation is to the relatively large Russian community of Azerbaijan and not to Armenians. Also, before you go around mindlessly criticizing what this or that Orthodox priest has said about Armenians, I suggest you instead take a close look at what Armenian clergy in Istanbul have been saying about Armenia and the diaspora.

    • So much ignorance in one post, I don’t even feel like repeating myself but I will have fun with one question, which of course you will not answer as always, because your ‘concern’ is for Russia not Armenia. However, I will give you credit for taking your apparatchik propaganda campaign on behalf of “Mother Russia” to a whole new level, now spitting on our ancient church. It’s very interesting indeed.

      But…

      ” before you go around mindlessly criticizing what this or that Orthodox priest has said about Armenians, I suggest you instead take a close look at what Armenian clergy in Istanbul have been saying about Armenia”

      So you are suggesting Azerbaijan is more powerful than your precious “Mother Russia” and “Mother Russia” needs to fear the consequences of the backlash from mighty and powerful Azerbaijan – correct????

    • You know Zartir, as an Armenian American, you are not one to talk about worshipping a foreign power. Armenian Americans are primarily responsible for putting Pashinyan in power. Second of all, he’s right, if there are no Eastern Orthodox Armenians, then why should we have Protestant or Catholic Armenians?

  6. “as an Armenian American, you are not one to talk about worshipping a foreign power”

    Why not? I am humbled and thank God that I am an American, and not some subjugated and oppressed citizen of a pseudo nation dominated by some arrogant, ungrateful, condescending and totalitarian regime called “Mother Russia”, headed by a knuckle-headed mafia boss called Putin who has shown no limit to how voraciously he kisses Turkish ass.

    And remember: the so-called “authentic Armenians” of that Russian Oblast called “Armenia” have proven to us diaspora Armenians that “their” pseudo-state is not and cannot be our inclusive and collective country by every action they have taken for the past three decades. How many diaspora representatives are there in the Armenian “government”? Zero. Contrast this to even the USA, where we can all be proud that one of the best governors in California’s history, a very high-profile and important position, has been an Armenian, and diaspora Armenians continue to hold positions in American politics.

    The USA is the greatest nation on Earth. Our country allows anyone who is willing to work hard and smart to have a fulfilling and prosperous life, and any good deeds for the nation are appreciated with more rewards. Compare this to the Poverty Club headed by “Mother Russia”, where people and the nations it has subjugated like “Armenia” must chew on bones to survive, and the most juiciest cuts of steak are reserved for Turks.

    Sure, Turkey is an ally of the USA, but that is for specific reasons, not because past American leaders got themselves drunk kissing Turkish rears like Putin. The US-Turkish alliance is actually infinitely smarter than what Russia thinks it is doing, the USA brilliantly keeps Russia over a barrel USING Turkey. And the reverse CANNOT be said. And neither does Russia use its opportunity to uphold Armenia for the same, actually Russia continues to put Armenia on the sacrificial alter for the benefit of the Turks. Mafia boss Putin is not as smart as he thinks he is.

    As for the argument about Armenians becoming “Eastern Orthodox”, that is just silly. Armenians are already ‘Orthodox’. Catholic and Protestant Armenians exist as a result of historic events. The Armenian church is essentially the oldest state church, we need to ditch that to join those who had been heathens for a thousand years when we were Christians all that time? Be realistic. Go ask the Russians why they don’t become Armenian Orthodox instead, that is more realistic. Oh wait, maybe Armenians need to become Muslim and move to Russia, maybe then Russia will help us out and be on our side.

    • Ok, that does explain your pathology though. Buddy, not even americans believe that rubbish any more and that “we had a californian governor” thing is just as sad as your continued monotone russophobia. You do have a point though, please consider yourself american, stop bothering with armenia and just go about your business, how about that for a solution?

    • You pretty much proved my point. Turkey is an ally of the USA, and there is nothing that will change that. You come from a country that has avoided recognizing the genocide for fear of offending Turkey. A country that has covered for Turkey continuously, and that refuses to hold it accountable.

      You come from a country with mass shootings, sky high levels of poverty, racism, and a terrible foreign policy. Western Armenians who think they are the true Armenians are usually just Americanized and have no clue about Armenia’s culture of history.

      Wow, you are what I expected, a flag waving USA chanting patriot. Explains your deranged views of Russia.

      One more thing, Western Armenians who act like they are the true Armenians are deluding themselves. Eastern Armenians are the reason we even have an Armenia today.

    • K and Zaven have very accurately psychoanalyzed Zartir. Zartir had a very rudimentary knowledge of Armenian history and absolutely no understanding of politics. Eastern Armenians and Russians are the two main reasons why we have an Armenia today. God bless Russia. Anyone that can picture an Armenia without Russia is delusional.

    • “Turkey is an ally of the USA, and there is nothing that will change that.”

      Right. And Putin just helped Turkey and Azerbaijan take Armenian lands, and while your claim that Russia is Armenia’s “ally”. Now take a step back and analyze what I just said, and observe how silly the “Mother Russia is the best” crowd sound.

      And the USA is allied to Turkey because after WWII “Mother Russia” wanted to spread its ideology of Bolshevik Poverty everywhere not by economic success, but economic poverty and oppression. And all you need to do is compare Eastern and Western Europe 1945-1990 for all the ‘proof’ you need. For the USA, Turkey is there to stop Russian inspired misery from spreading everywhere. Yeah, unfortunately Armenia was never exempt from Russia’s Poverty Club.

      The difference here is, the USA is clear and honest in its foreign policies, while Russia has been stepping all over Armenia for a century. The USA supports Turkey to the detriment of Armenia. Too bad for your narrative that Russia does the same, all while claiming to be an “ally”!

      And don’t worry about what the USA does, worry about what Russia always does against Armenia, because Armenia is in Russia’s orbit, remember? Also, I can be a proud American and also disapprove of my government, after all I am not LIVING IN RUSSIA WHERE I HAVE TO FEAR FOR MY LIFE THAT I AM NOT SUPPORTING MAFIA BOSS PUTIN!!!!

  7. Clearly you don’t know enough about what America is. America may not be perfect, and I don’t agree with everything in it, but no nation on this planet even comes close to what the USA is and what it is capable of. Most people don’t get it even the ones that live here and that’s why they get caught up with media stories and believe everything they see, hear and read. Look at you, even you’ve been fooled half a world away being a non-American apparently.

    I’ll let you in on a little secret as to why America is the most successful nation on Earth: America is what you make it out to be. Nothing on this planet’s history has ever matched that power. If you are a hard worker and a hard thinker, America can become your paradise. If you are gullible and easily manipulated, America can become your nightmare. The beauty and the secret of it all is: the choice is up to you.

    And as a famous Armenian-American poet who can be found on official US government stamps once said, two Armenians can meet anywhere in the world and make their own Armenia. It’s just that nowhere is that more true than in the USA.

    Russian Armenia managed to shun 5 million diaspora Armenians based on the wretched existence they learned from “Mother Russia” for a century and how one must be a thief in order to exist. That mindset has now caused Armenians such a blow, they may never recover.

    And yes I am definitely a proud American who also happens to be of Armenian descent, and who also is free from the curse of having to go through life pretending and lying to myself that “Russia is our friend and protector” instead of admitting that Russia owns Armenia and will dispose of it, or any parts of it, any way it pleases. Since Armenians showed no desire to change any of this in the past century, at least if they were honest with themselves they might save their hard-earned money and lives. My problem with all of this is, not Russia per se, but the “Armenian” puppets they have installed in their Oblast calling it “Armenia” and lying and looting their way for their personal profits and ultimately destroying what the poor people and the diaspora worked hard for and invested in for three decades, and most importantly the future of the nation.

    And don’t worry, I have already stopped bothering with “Armenia” – that is, the CROOKS that run it, as have 75% of us in the diaspora right after we found out how we have been lied to for three decades now by a bunch of incompetent thieves and crooks running a racketeering scheme. I wish I could get all my time and money back though, but I know people who gave a lot in this last round and now regret it, and some were planning to move there permanently and also have abandoned those plans.

    I post about Armenia, or the lack of it, because I want to warn others not to fall for the scam they are running there and taking advantage of diaspora’s patriotic sentiments. My message is simple: if Russia is Armenia’s “ally” they are welcomed to prove it. And in this last “war” they proved the opposite of it. How any Armenians continue to worship “Mother Russia” with the same enthusiasm is beyond me, but have at it. And unless you have facts to change my mind about Russia, make your case and I am listening, as I have been listening since 2016, and all I heard thus far about “Mother Russia” is a bunch of bulls*it. Sorry, I have higher standards of what a “friend” and “ally” is.

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