Abkhazia row over removal of ancient wall in Novy Afon
The removal of the stone altar in the Novy Afon (New Athos) monastery is a wrongful act, and those who committed it shall be brought to account, said the Abkhaz culture ministry.
The altar – a stone structure with ancient Christian symbols imprinted on it – was actually taken down last October, however the ministry has only responded now, after the story has caused an uproar in Abkhazia. Workers of the history-and-culture reserve ‘Anakopia’ are said to have handled the removal.
The culture ministry now says the director of the reserve Alkhas Argun approached it in April 2016, asking for the permission to remove some of the ancient molding from the altar area of the Feodor Temple as part of a project to expand the exhibition area of the ‘Abkhaz Kingdom Museum’.
However, the ministry’s response was that an issue of this level of importance could only be solved after an elaborate discussion.
The ministry suggested that Argun’s reserve carry out a feasibility study, develop a detailed restoration plan and present it for consideration by the ministry. However, it never did.
It now turns out the archeological commission of the Academy of Sciences of Abkhazia gave its go-ahead for the removal. However, its decision does not qualify as an official permission to carry out the work.
The law ‘On the protection of historic and cultural heritage’ requires that any project related to conservation, restoration and repairs should be reconciled with the culture ministry’s council for scientific methods.