Flash Points

Themed journeys through our archive.

How Historic Sites Have Become Battlegrounds Around the World

And the stories they tell about the past and the future.

Green cladding surrounds the Ghazanchetsots, an Armenian Apostolic cathedral damaged in the war, during construction on the building in Shusha on Sept. 25.
Green cladding surrounds the Ghazanchetsots, an Armenian Apostolic cathedral damaged in the war, during construction on the building in Shusha on Sept. 25.
Green cladding surrounds the Ghazanchetsots, an Armenian Apostolic cathedral damaged in the war, during construction on the building in Shusha on Sept. 25. Emre Caylak photos for Foreign Policy

“There was a time, long ago, when Kabul sat at an axis of global power, its rulers enthroned in a vast citadel, surrounded by Buddhist monasteries, on the crossroads of trading routes that took wealth and learning to all points of Asia and beyond,” FP’s Lynne O’Donnell writes. “Today, the remains of that citadel tell the story of thousands of years in the history of what is now a very different Afghanistan.”

In this edition of Flash Points, we wanted to share our essays and reporting on historic sites around the world—from Afghanistan’s Bala Hissar to Laos’s Luang Prabang—and the stories they tell about their countries’ past and future as they’re being preserved, disputed, and destroyed.—Chloe Hadavas

From the Ruins of War, a Tourist Resort Emerges

Shusha was the key to the recent war between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Now Baku wants to turn the fabled fortress town into a resort, Liz Cookman writes.

“There was a time, long ago, when Kabul sat at an axis of global power, its rulers enthroned in a vast citadel, surrounded by Buddhist monasteries, on the crossroads of trading routes that took wealth and learning to all points of Asia and beyond,” FP’s Lynne O’Donnell writes. “Today, the remains of that citadel tell the story of thousands of years in the history of what is now a very different Afghanistan.”

In this edition of Flash Points, we wanted to share our essays and reporting on historic sites around the world—from Afghanistan’s Bala Hissar to Laos’s Luang Prabang—and the stories they tell about their countries’ past and future as they’re being preserved, disputed, and destroyed.—Chloe Hadavas


The Azerbaijani army patrols the streets of Shusha on Sept. 25 under a sign that reads: "Dear Shusha, you are free. Dear Shusha, we are back. Dear Shusha, we will resurrect you. Shusha is ours."
The Azerbaijani army patrols the streets of Shusha on Sept. 25 under a sign that reads: "Dear Shusha, you are free. Dear Shusha, we are back. Dear Shusha, we will resurrect you. Shusha is ours."

The Azerbaijani army patrols the streets of Shusha on Sept. 25 under a sign that reads: “Dear Shusha, you are free. Dear Shusha, we are back. Dear Shusha, we will resurrect you. Shusha is ours.”Emre Caylak photos for Foreign Policy

From the Ruins of War, a Tourist Resort Emerges

Shusha was the key to the recent war between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Now Baku wants to turn the fabled fortress town into a resort, Liz Cookman writes.


The Bala Hissar historical compound in Kabul
The Bala Hissar historical compound in Kabul

A laborer walks past the rusting remains of a Russian tank as he works on the Bala Hissar historical compound in Kabul on July 27.Massoud Hossaini for Foreign Policy

A Taliban Challenge: To Learn the Lessons of History

What an ancient citadel can teach us about Afghanistan’s past—and its potential future, according to FP’s Lynne O’Donnell.


Nuns visit the Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba on Oct. 14, 2014.
Nuns visit the Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba on Oct. 14, 2014.

Nuns visit the Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba on Oct. 14, 2014.GERARD JULIEN/AFP/Getty Images

The Reconquista of the Mosque of Córdoba

Spain’s most famous mosque is at the center of a dispute between activists seeking to preserve its Muslim heritage and the Catholic Church, which has claimed it as its own, Eric Calderwood writes.


Fishermen lay their nets on the Mekong River close to the site of an approved dam site near Luang Prabang, Laos, on Feb. 8 2020.
Fishermen lay their nets on the Mekong River close to the site of an approved dam site near Luang Prabang, Laos, on Feb. 8 2020.

Fishermen lay their nets on the Mekong River close to the site of an approved dam site near Luang Prabang, Laos, on Feb. 8 2020.AIDAN JONES/AFP via Getty Images

In Laos, a Dubious Dam Threatens Luang Prabang

A hydroelectric project could force UNESCO to delist the spectacular World Heritage Site, Nathan Thompson writes.


A man walks through Mariupol, Ukraine.
A man walks through Mariupol, Ukraine.

A man walks through the destroyed historic city center of Mariupol, Ukraine, on April 12.Maximilian Clarke/LightRocket via Getty Images

Russia’s Imperial Arrogance Is Destroying Ukrainian Heritage

The Kremlin believes it’s the true heir of classical civilization—and is poised to replicate its pillage of Syria in Ukraine under the guise of cultural preservation, Jade McGlynn and Fiona Greenland write.

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