UNESCO Heritage in the Caucasian states
May 29, 2023

UNESCO Heritage in the Caucasian states

Learning hard skills and soft skills is essential. A perhaps unconventional way of developing one’s skills is to travel: travelling allows one to become familiar with new cultures, new traditions, expand one’s perspective and learn how to communicate in multiple languages – or without the need to learn a new language at all!

Here’s an invitation to discover some new sights and beautiful attractions in the Caucasus!

Armenia – a country of monasteries and churches

In the high mountainous expanse of northern Armenia is the Haghpat Monastery, which has stood proudly since the 10th century. Thanks to its position, the Monastery is often hidden from unwelcome guests, shrouded in fog and low cloud cover. The Sanahin Monastery is located nearby, and together with the Haghpat Monastery, it forms a unique church unit, a place of medieval learning. These monasteries are also significant because of their unique architecture, a combination of Byzantine and vernacular styles. Here, for centuries, priests kept their inner peace and studied a myriad of sciences. These monasteries have been on the UNESCO list since 1996.

Source: Ko Hon Chiu Vincent, https://whc.unesco.org/en/statesparties/am

The Geghard Monastery is partially buried in the rock in the mountainous region of western Armenia. This monastery dates back to the 4th century, and is traditionally known to have been founded by Gregory the Illuminator himself in the area of the then Šilja. The Monastery keeps the spear with which Jesus Christ was pierced, and is the destination of numerous pilgrimages. Together with the monastery, under UNESCO protection, is the canyon of the nearby river Azat, which attracts attention for its almost untouched natural appearance and irregular stone forms, which look as if they were made artificially. Both locations have been under protection since 1996 due to the uniqueness of the architecture, that is, the unique natural formations in the canyon.

Source: Ko Hon Chiu Vincent: https://whc.unesco.org/en/statesparties/am

Echmiatsin is the fourth largest city in Armenia and the main centre of the Armenian Catholic Apostolic Church. It is a place of numerous church buildings and sites, a place that exudes tradition and the spirit of the past, the (unofficial) religious capital of Armenia. Under protection are precisely the church buildings that testify to the development of Armenian church architecture and provide a unique opportunity to see more than two thousand years of Armenian history. The ruins of the Zvartnots Cathedral, which was one of the first circular church buildings, are also specially protected since 2000.

Source: Ko Hon Chiu Vincent, https://whc.unesco.org/en/statesparties/am

Azerbaijan – a country of historic cities and interesting rock formations

The first landmark that Azerbaijan inscribed on the UNESCO list in 2000 was the old centre of Baku, the capital of the country. The Shirvanshahs Palace, which was the main residence of numerous rulers over Baku, has a special position within the old centre. The Palace has been demolished and rebuilt several times, either by invaders or by earthquakes, thus representing the continuous flow of Azerbaijani culture. Beside the Palace is the protected Maiden Tower, which is associated with numerous legends, the most famous of which is about a girl with fiery hair. The tower is so famous that it is also supported by state funds.

Source: Sefer azeri, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Sefer_azeri

Gobustan State Historical and Cultural Reserve is located south of Baku and is one of the best-preserved archaeological sites of Azerbaijan. The petroglyphs, which depict scenes from prehistoric life, are special to this place; people hunting animals, travelling by boat in the nearby waters, etc. In addition to the petroglyphs, there are also “playing” stones, which produce pleasant musical sounds when struck. One of the attractions is the mud volcano, which also has healing properties and attracts many tourists. This place has been under UNESCO protection since 2007.

Source: Farid Memedov, https://whc.unesco.org/en/statesparties/az 
Source: Amos Chapple, https://whc.unesco.org/en/statesparties/az 

The newest monument under UNESCO as of 2019 is the city of Shaki in the northwestern region of the country. The city has been inhabited since antiquity and is a significant staging post on the former Silk Road. The city is also a unique cultural centre with very significant cultural institutions, and numerous establishments from several religious sects. A special part of this site  is the Palace of Shaki Khans, which was the centre of the city’s khans known for its architecture

Source: Safer Azeri https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palace_of_Shaki_Khans#/media/File:%C5%9E%C9%99ki_xan_saray%C4%B1.jpg 

Georgia – a country of magnificent nature and medieval architecture

Mtskheta is one of the oldest cities in Georgia and in the world, with an extremely long history of settlement. It is a city whose monuments have been under protection since 1994 and boasts a very important church and cultural centre of Georgia. Numerous monuments from the Middle Ages in the river valleys and in the mountain hermitages are also part of the protected site and as such are unique in the world. In one of the protected monuments, the original Georgian alphabet was studied, so the monuments represent the cradle of Georgian civilization.

Source: Roberto Cantoni, https://whc.unesco.org/en/statesparties/ge 

Gelati Monastery is a monastic complex in central Georgia that dates back to the 12th century. This monastery has been under UNESCO protection since 1994 and represents an example of the Georgian Golden Age, an aesthetic that is applied to paintings and buildings. In medieval Georgia, the monastery was an important educational and cultural centre and functioned as the prototype of the first Georgian university.

Source: Ko Hon Chiu Vincent, https://whc.unesco.org/en/statesparties/ge 

Svaneti is a historical region in northwestern Georgia inhabited by Svans, a unique ethnic subgroup of Gurzians. It is a region that has been under UNESCO protection since 1996 and represents one of the highest regions of Georgia. The region has a famous site with the Svans towers, which were actually residential buildings that also had a defensive function. The region is distinguished by polyphonic musical singing, which gives uniqueness to the cultural expression. Georgian language and culture are particularly known for polyphony, so there are three forms: complex polyphony, which is common in Svaneti; polyphonic dialogue over a bass background, prevalent in the Kakheti region in Eastern Georgia; and contrasted polyphony with three partially improvised sung parts, characteristic of western Georgia.

Source: M. Gujejiani, https://whc.unesco.org/en/statesparties/ge 

Georgia’s newest UNESCO World Heritage Site, as of 2021, is the Colchic Rainforests and Wetlands, which includes an area along the Black Sea. It is an area of ancient rainforests and the habitat of numerous endangered species and is the only exclusive natural Georgian UNESCO site.








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