Kanach Zham

Coordinates: 39°45′45″N 46°44′37″E / 39.76250°N 46.74361°E / 39.76250; 46.74361
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Kanach Zham
Կանաչ Ժամ
The church in 2018, two years before its partial destruction during and after 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war
AffiliationArmenian Apostolic Church
LocationShusha, Azerbaijan
Kanach Zham is located in Azerbaijan
Kanach Zham
Shown within Azerbaijan
Kanach Zham is located in Karabakh Economic Region
Kanach Zham
Kanach Zham (Karabakh Economic Region)
Geographic coordinates39°45′45″N 46°44′37″E / 39.76250°N 46.74361°E / 39.76250; 46.74361

Saint John the Baptist Church (Armenian: Սուրբ Հովհաննես Մկրտիչ եկեղեցի), commonly known as Kanach Zham (Armenian: Կանաչ Ժամ) is an Armenian Apostolic church in Shusha (known to Armenians as Shushi) in Azerbaijan, in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, located just uphill from the Ghazanchetsots Cathedral. Kanach Zham means "Green Chapel" in Armenian, which refers to the previously green domes of the church. The church is sometimes also called Gharabakhtsots, the name of the old wooden church that was previously located in the same place as Kanach Zham, and which was named as such in honor of the farmers of Nagorno-Karabakh who built it.[1]

There have been reports of its destruction or demolition after the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war, based on satellite images,[2][3] though the Azerbaijani government and the Baku Eparchy of the Russian Orthodox Church maintain that the church, which suffered damage during the war, is still standing and undergoing "renovation".[4]


The church was built in 1818 in the same place as the former Gharabakhtsots wooden church.[5] The church is built according to a unique cruciform scheme, with the eastern facade of the church being adjacent to the western part of the chapel, and the tall dome of the church and its chapel can both be seen clearly from a distance across the town. The interior of the church also has some unique architectural features. Above the entrance to the church, is an inscription from 1847 that says "Babayan Stepanos Hovhannes. In the memory of his deceased brother Mkrtych."[1][6]


Around November 2020, both Armenian and foreign sources stated that the towers of the church had been destroyed by Azerbaijan after the capture of the town in the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war, referring to pictures and a video circulating online of the partially destroyed church.[7][8][9] The Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin of the Armenian Apostolic Church condemned the damage in a statement in November.[10]

Satellite images taken on February 15, 2021, showed the church had suffered significant damage in the time since it had come under Azerbaijani rule. This received coverage in Armenian and international press outlets, including in Le Monde.[11][12][13] The destruction of the church can be seen on Google Maps in April 2021.[14] An Azerbaijani news agency denied Kanach Zham's destruction, while also denying the church's Armenian heritage (Azerbaijani sources ascribe a Russian provenance to the church, claiming that it was modified according to an "Armenianized" style in the 1840s.[4]). It stated that the church, which had been severely damaged during the war, was undergoing renovation and its dome was being rebuilt.[15] The Russian Orthodox Church Eparchy of Baku also claims that the church is to be renovated.[4] Video footage from a BBC Russian reporter who visited Shusha in September 2021 showed that the church was undergoing ostensible renovation.[16]

Caucasus Heritage Watch, a watchdog group made up of researchers from Purdue and Cornell, currently lists Kanach Zham's status as "damaged" on its website documenting the fate of architectural monuments in the region.[17]



  1. ^ a b "Kanach Zham Church". 360GreatArmenia.am.
  2. ^ "Azeri Vandalism to Armenian Church Incites Plea for Protection". Persecution. 2021-03-29. Retrieved 2021-05-26.
  3. ^ "Awaiting Biden, Armenians Fear Cultural Genocide in Azerbaijan". News & Reporting. Retrieved 2021-05-26.
  4. ^ a b c "Баку объяснил реставрационными работами демонтаж купола храма в Шуше". Caucasian Knot. 2021-05-05.
  5. ^ "Hovhannes Mkrtich Church of Shushi or Kanach Zham (Green Church)". Monument Watch. Retrieved 2022-03-07.
  6. ^ "6 Christian Sites Armenia Fears It Has Lost to Azerbaijan". Christianity Today. 2021-01-05.
  7. ^ "Azeris destroy domes of Armenian church in Karabakh's Shushi". PanArmenian.Net. 2020-11-20.
  8. ^ Nazaretyan, Hovhannes (2020-11-19). "The Kanach Zham Church in Shushi has been partially destroyed". Fact Investigation Platform (FIP).
  9. ^ "Nagorno-Karabakh: If the truce does not bring peace (in German)".
  10. ^ Siranush Ghazanchyan (2020-11-19). "Armenian St. John the Baptist church in Shushi vandalized". Public Radio of Armenia (Armradio).
  11. ^ "After the war in Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenian cultural heritage threatened (in French)".
  12. ^ "Conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh is far from over". emerging-europe.com. 2021-05-05.
  13. ^ "Azeris destroy Armenian church in Karabakh's Shushi". panorama.am. 2021-03-17.
  14. ^ Կանաչ Ժամ եկեղեցի, Google Maps, accessed on 23 April 2021.
  15. ^ "Православному храму в Шуше возвращается первоначальный облик". Turan Information Agency. 2021-03-19.
  16. ^ "Город-призрак. Как живет Шуша после войны". BBC Russian (in Russian). 2021-09-24. Retrieved 2021-09-25.
  17. ^ "Caucasus Heritage Watch Monitoring Dashboard," Caucasus Heritage Watch. Accessed 3 October 2021.