Ruins of Ani Reduced to Backdrop in Elle Photo Shoot

© Elle Turkey. Photo from Fashion Going Rogue

Fashion magazine Elle Turkey has used the ruined medieval city of Ani as the backdrop for a photo shoot featured in the magazine’s December editorial spread.

The fashion spread, photographed by Senol Altun and styled by Melis Agazat, depicts models Ana Zalewska and Karolin Machova in several poses inside and along the ruins of the Ani Cathedral.

© Elle Turkey. Photo from Fashion Going Rogue

The photos, posted on Fashion Gone Rogue have been met with condemnation from Armenian commentators angry that Elle would hold a “taste-less” photo-shoot on hallowed ground, in a city rid of its population through massacre and Genocide. Independent Armenian online news magazine, ianyanmag, reported on the reactions to the spread in an article titled, Elle Turkey’s Fashion Faux Paus Stirs Controversy.

Located on the border of present-day Turkey and Armenia, Ani is the site of an ancient fortress dating back to the 5th century. The city, however, is known for its prominence as the once majestic capital of the Armenian Bagratuni Dynasty, established by King Ashot III in 961 AD.

At its height, Ani was renowned for its splendor and magnificence. Considered  “The City of 1001 Churches,” it had a population of 100,000–200,000 and was the rival of Constantinople, Baghdad and Cairo.

But the city was sacked and most of its population slaughtered during the invasion of the Seljuk Turks in the early 11th century. Since then it has been under the occupation of successive Turkish regimes, which have pilfered, looted and destroyed almost all of its buildings and churches.

Today, Ani is a desolate ghost town, left abandoned by a Turkish government eager to let the sands of time erase the evidence of its Genocide of the Armenian people. Last year, the Global Heritage Fund included Ani in a list of twelve historic sites around the world that are “on the verge of vanishing” because of mismanagement and neglect.


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  1. manooshag said:

    Turks… once again, using Armenian historical sites to bring to the fore the evidence of the Turkish Genocide of the Armenian nation… too, their ignorance in resurrecting to its former glory such structures as have earned and are worthy of maintaining value to the generations of humans who follow. But this is not known to the Ottoman Turk mentality… It is the civilized nations who are capable of rebuilding and maintaining such famous ancient sites… For it is the Turkey who is in capable of maintaining these structures for posterity, as all the civilized world does in order that, historically, ALL the world shall know of greatnesses of the generations who came before the Turk. Sadly, it is the Turk need to continue to ‘eliminate’ any and all that show the world that the Armenians have been an ancient and advanced peoples… having left behind for ALL the world to know of the greatness that existed of the Armenians – but destroyed by a Turkey, who has not any such greatness, historically, to share with the civilized world – except to consistently endeavor to ‘erase’ all that ancients had created for posterity. For by so doing the Turkeys believe they are ‘erasing/eliminating’ all traces of ancient Armenians… as if the Armenians never existed, as if all their unburied bones in the deserts never existed… as Christian Armenians. Manooshag

  2. Random Armenian said:

    “The photos, posted on Fashion Gone Rogue have been met with condemnation from Armenian commentators angry that Elle would hold a “taste-less” photo-shoot on hallow ground, in a city rid of its population through massacre and Genocide.”

    Although Ani was raided and had seen its share of tragedy and bloodshed, it was abandoned and in ruins before 1915. There were excavations happening before and after the genocide. With the Turkish army conquering territory, much of the artifects from Ani were whisked away to Armenia.
    Some of the destruction you see in images is from earthquakes, which is in addition to the man-made destruction from invaders.

    I’m not sure a bunch angry comments in the publicly open blog entry constitutes a controversy. I honestly don’t know how to feel about this. How would Native Americans feel if there was a photo shoot in front of their ruins? A lot of those are open to tourism and visitors.

  3. Ruben said:

    As long as we, Armenians, will be divided, this sort of things will happen. It is OUR fault, not of turks. Turks do nothing but what they are dsigned to do, i.e. conquer and destroy. WE are the ones responsible that our heritage is once more raped. Should every Armenian understand this through his/her heart, we will be OK. Since the centuries prove, that we will never be united, then stop whining !!! The only way to get the justice done, is to unite, get BIIIG money and pour it into a national idea. Only that can bring our land back. Knocking on foreigners’ doors and begging to recognize the enocide is pathetic. I can tell you how to achieve these goals, but, I am sure that no one of you will listen, or, you will listen, apploud, and will forget next day when you go to work for someone (foreigner) else. As a first step we need to get rid of all half-blood Armenians, we need to purify ourselves (our genes) first, secondly, we need a long term national program, and third – to have it funded. Only money and national idea will give us the power to get our land back. Also, this won’t be an overnight thing, but will require dedicated work for maybe a century or more.

    • Hye-phenated said:

      I agreed with Ruben’s words until I read that his solution to unite is to “get rid of all half-blood Armenians.” This sounds weird – is it a provocation?

      I think we should use the same definition as Turks did during the Genocide – would they ask somebody if they were half-blood or not and would it matter before they killed them?

      If we are going to unite maybe it would make sense to learn from other nations who already achieved such unity? And how they used the Nazi definition for themselves?

      I personally know several Armenians who have ZERO Armenian blood, yet they baptized in our churches, learned the language, lived and worked in Armenia, and continue to be involved in the community having no family connections. There were also many non-Armenians who fought in Artsakh and some even died there. I want to see Ruben looking in their children’s eyes and tell them the trash he has guts to write in an on-line forum.

      • Ruben said:

        Dear Hye-phenated:

        Judging by your nickname you ARE a half-blood, most likely by marriage or thru your parents. However, my comment about “to get rid of half-bloods” doesn’t concern you and your kind (unless you’re married to a turk or arab or persian). What I meant is to get rid of all “fake” Armenians, the ones that have last names as charkhifalaqian, gyulbudaghyan, and/or ending on -oghlu or -ov (the list can go on) but you know who I’m talking about. Also to get rid of those “Armenians” who are disgrace to thier nation by taking advantage of their fellow brothers and sisters in Armenia, who kill their brothers in Armenian army and elsewhere (mostly for no reason), who come to this country (USA) and take advantage of the system for personal gain, who fell into euphoria at the concerts of Armenchik and Tatul, who proudly listen to turkish and arabic music and speak turkish “wisdoms” but know nothing about genuine Armenian culture, who call themselves first Christians but don’t know what the Holy Bible looks like, regardless of their last names, I think you’ve got the idea now WHOM I meant by callng them “half-bloods” (maybe it wasn’t the right word to describe the garbage that I really meant, my apologies if so).

        We need to find our clear Armenian gene and have it multiplied (the Armenian Blood Bank might be a good source of it, but the research needs to be funded). Otherwise we will never get out of this vicious circle we are in now and will be a dead nation most likely in 50 or 100 years as Assurians or Egiptians. The Europe will be all muslim in about 50 years, and, unless we are strong both materially and ideologically, Armenia will be swept from the map.

        As to non-Armenians that fought for Artsakh (personally I don’t know anybody and think that you don’t know any, either, (as it will be hard to find Armenians fighting at a war in Philipinnes or Indonesia, unless there is money in it) however, if there were any, my deepest condolences to their families.

    • namik said:

      How tragic your words sound for your fate, Ruben. If you “need to get rid of all half-blood Armenians” and need to purify yourseklves (your genes)” you are certainly destined to be a racist whose future must be vague.

    • bigmoustache said:

      dont listen to this barab, i know half armenians, one is half italian, another half palestinian, who went to armenian school growing up and are prouder armenians than others. i have to belive that youre not really an armenian because an armenian whos family has suffered, driven out of their lands under murder, rape and pillaging, living in arab countries, would have such racist nazi views..get lost! and for your information ‘purifying’ the gene pool isnt very healthy

  4. Hermine Ghonyan said:

    And again we cry. Really I do not thing that it was a bad idea to show to all the world (at least to Turkey) the beauty that they have owned from Armenia. It is much important that they cleaned the places where they made this photo-shoot and also wrote a note in the article of ELLE that “the photo-shoot was made in an armenian church or capital Ani”. This is the most important point: to recognize and to tell the truth (as very often Turkey present our historical monuments like greek or dead nations’ treasures)! So after this it will be much more difficult to destroy the resting ruins…
    After this I want to remind all you, that Armenia first of all must recostruct the old churches and monasters inside Armenia like Haghartsin, Goshavanq, Haghpat…etc! So let’s begin to make order from our home : ARMENIA , of course, without forgetting our treasures in other countries .

  5. Francis Bulbulian said:

    The only positive outcome of this distastefull and disrespectful photo shoot is that it brings to our attention the Ani cathedral, it’s magnificent history and the powerful architecture that still stands to this days. Long live Ani and shame on the Turkish government for their neglect of this historic site. Shame!

  6. Raffi said:

    The photos are stunning, and it’s awesome to see the photos from an Armenian backdrop. We can celebrate and share our culture and heritage – everything doesn’t have to be about the black periods and moments. This cathedral is a stunning architectural work and I’m glad that so many people will be exposed to it, who otherwise would never have seen it. As long as it is presented as an Armenian cathedral, from a past capital of Armenia, I’m a happy campler.

  7. Arto said:

    I’m grateful to this Elle magazine. At least I got to look inside this beautiful church for the first time.

    • Ed said:

      @Raffi @Arto That is ignorant. There are many respectful photos of Ani online.
      If you needed an Elle commercial photo shoot to show you, you really don’t care.
      A lack of reverence leads to a bottomless pit.
      *Read of the innocent Armenian blood that was spilled on the very ground these Elle has models prancing upon for money!* Think!

  8. Haykakan said:

    Marrying odars is killing the Armenian race. We were in Iran for 500 years and almost all of us remained pure. The Armenian gene is strong enough to live on, successfully, in any country. But, as successful as Armenians in the US are, by marrying odars, the race is diminishing little by little. We have made a name for ourselves here as educated, and prosperous people. Why throw it all away by marrying someone outside our race? That only leads to confused children who are not fully accepted in any culture.

    • Anna said:

      Race… it’s the human race. We are human….. and being a zenophobe is pretty closed minded. Throw what away…. I’m an educated and prosperous half Armenian, half Irish person. So what. Oh your full Armenian… So what.

  9. Tsovinar said:

    That’s why jews are stronger than us. They are united and help eachother all over the world like Ruben said but they don’t discrimate. We tend to lose ourselves and our national identity when we immigrate like the countless lost armenians in Russia and France that don’t know anything about their heritage or even one word of Armenian. But discrimination against half armenians or any armenians is wrong. If someone WANTS TO be Armenian then they should be accepted in the Armenian community regardless of where they’re from or what they are, or how they look. As long as we have our language, religion and culture we will be Armenian.

  10. Sirvart Garabedian said:

    I fully agree with Tsovinar, half odars should’nt be excluded or prevented from our schools or community, we loose more of our people, if they accept themselves half Armenians then we should encourage them to mix with our Armenian community where gradually some of them understand how Armenian culture is then they have a choice where do they belong. In Canada we gladly accept half Armenian eithr side to attend our school, in Homenetmen, or wherever there is Armenian schools or community centres, one is surprized how they sing Armenian, see them on the podium for any events, get into athletic group of our Armenian organizations, sometimes we admire of them to host or make introduction of guest speakers in Armenian events, they proudly say they are Armenian or half Armenians. We are inspired & proud of them. Such they become the best generation of Armenian heritage, curious to learn Armenian history or their Armenian background. It all depends on their parents to get involved in their Armenian side of heritage from their childrens’ childhood.

  11. garabet kerestegian said:

    Los sucesivos gobiernos turcos,han negado y siguen negando lo evidente,lo que el mundo sabe,ya que admitir el genocidio,implicaria devolución de territorios usurpados,resarcimiento economico etc,tal como en justicia, Alemania tuvo que hacer hasta hace poco,respecto a las atrocidades de la 2º guerra mundial.Pero eso al margen,son tan torpes o tal vez no les importe,pero debian haber guardado las apariencias no permitiendo el uso de esos lugares sagrados para los Armenios para colmo,en frivolidades,que le da mas un aire de burla a la situación.Deberian hacer muchos esfuerzos si quieren formar parte de la comunidad Europea.Pero hay algo de barbaro en la sangre de ciertos Turcos que forman los gobiernos,que estas cosas no la ven desde la perspectiva de otros.Para ellos esta bien.No hay nada de malo sacar unas fotos en unas ruinas.Al contrario,esas bellezas, en contraste,le dan un halo de mistico a la imagen.Que podemos agregar? Son Turcos.-

  12. Tina said:

    This is actually great, why can’t you see the “other side” of the issue, now they are showing obviously that Armenians did live in Turkey and their city is ruined.

  13. marina said:

    Armenian monuments of such great significance can’t be used as a backdrop for this kind of project. Stop to spoil our heritage.

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