Social Studies

Nakhchivan

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Nakhchivan – the city in Azerbaijan, capital of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic. It is located at the right bank of Nakhchivan Chai river (feeder of Aras River). A strip of territory of neighboring Armenia separates the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic from mainland Azerbaijan.

Nakhchivan is the ancient city, located at one of the crucial trade crossroads from Europe to India and China, at the bottom of the Zangazur Range of Lesser Caucasus Mountains. The ancient heart of the city with its narrow streets still preserves numerous historic monuments. Ptolemy even had written about the boisterous charm of the splendid gardens and the prosperity of the city in the 2nd century BC. The ancient land of Nakhchivan is replete with examples of material culture that date back to primitive-communal era, antiquity, Middle Ages and the modern age. These include caves, which were a home to primitive men, earliest settlements, remnants of ancient cities, majestic fortresses and citadels.

Nakhchivan emerged as of the most ancient cities in the territories of Azerbaijan, in the 6th century BC when it was still known as one of the towns of Caucasian Albania. It later turned into the capital of the Seljuk Empire in the 11th century. It was the capital of the Eldegiz State in the 12th-13th centuries, a part of the Russian Empire as the Nakhchivan Khanate, part of Azerbaijan, since 1828, and an autonomous republic as a part of the Republic of Azerbaijan since 1923.

The City Julfa lies in south-eastern Nakhchivan, along the border with Iran. The ancient fortress Alinja Gala, located at the right bank of Alinja River, is close to Julfa, standing on the scalp of the mountain, which towers the wide plains. It was one of the strongest defensive installations of its time, which was also the home to the main treasury of the Eldegiz. As a result of archeological excavations in 1974, one of the largest caravanserai in Azerbaijan, 37 meters long, was discovered a little to the west from Julfa, right at the banks of the Aras River.

Turkish traveler Evliya Chelebi, who visited Nakhchivan in 1648, wrote about Nakhchivan that the “city is adorned with 10 000 large houses, covered in clay; it has 70 cathedral mosques and shrines, 40  quarter mosques, 20 guest houses, 7 beautiful bathhouses, and around 1000 shops”.

In the 12th-14th centuries, Nakhchivan was one of the important administrative-political, craft-trade and cultural centers not only in Azerbaijan, but in the entire Near East. Nakhchivan is one of the historic parts of Azerbaijan, which counts on a very rich history. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Nakhchivan was the capital of the Nakhchivan Khanate. In the early 19th century, it became the battleground for the Russian-Persian wars. As a result of the 1826-1828 Russian-Persian war, Nakhchivan became a part of the Russian Empire in 1828.

Nakhchivan is a home to endless steppes and mountains, which go higher than the clouds. The majestic Ilan Dagh, which has inspired numerous legends, is considered the symbol of Nakhchivan. One of the legends has it that during the great flood, the bilge of Noah’s Ark hit an unknown barrier, while reaching its final haven – the Gami Gaya (“ship-rock”). Noah looked under the bilge and exclaimed “Inan, Dagh” (“Believe, it’s a mountain!”). That is where the mountain takes its name. Its peak is truly fork-shaped, as if it has really been hit by the ark bilge. With time, the name transformed into “Ilan Dagh” (“snake-mountain”), which reflects the similarity of the mountain outlines to the back of a dragon.

One of the vivid architectural monuments of the medieval Azerbaijan is the Mausoleum in Karabaghlar Village in Sharur Region. It is located 30 km to the north-west from Nakhchivan city and is shaped as a cylinder with semicircular facets. The 30-m tall tower is circular inside. There are two minarets standing on a square foundation and connected with an arch in 30 m from the tower itself.  Interestingly, the minarets date back to the 12th century, whereas the scientists claim the tower is from the 14th. The main decorative element of the tower is bricks, painted in turquoise, with numerously repeating word “Allah”.

The architectural monument in the center of Nakhchivan, famous among people as the “AtaBaba Tomb”, is one of the outstanding creations of Nakhchivan architectural school. It is the tomb of Yusif Ibn Kuseir. The author of this masterpiece is the local architect Ajami Ibn Abu Bekir, who built it in 1160-1162. It is an octagonal construction, built from thoroughly baked brick and topped with a pyramid-shaped hipped roof. The upper part boasts a wide fascia with Kufic inscription from the Koran. Inside, the tomb is divided into a wide upper chamber and a vault. The architect’s name is inscribed at the top of the first facet, left from the entrance.

The Russian artist Ivan Pavlovich Sheblikin has authored an interesting painting “Pir Eyvaz”, which depicts a mausoleum in the southern part of Ordubad City. As legend has it, Eyvaz was one of the Sheikhs of the Bektashi Sufi Order and lived in the 16th century. Unfortunately, the monument was destroyed under the Soviet reign, which is why the painting by Sheblikin highlights the special value of the medieval structure.

One of the prominent representatives of the medieval Azerbaijani architecture is Ajami Abu Bekr oghlu Nakhchivani. The great Azerbaijani architect Ajami was born, lived and died in his hometown Nakhchivan. He authored some of the masterpieces of 12th century Azerbaijani architecture, such as the mausoleums of Momina Khatun and Yusif Ibn Kuseir, the “Dar Ul Mulk” palace complex of the Atabeys, including the state house, khanegah and madrasa, the Juma Mosque and a number of other magnificent constructions in different cities of Azerbaijan. His contemporaries called Ajami the “Sheikh ul Muhandis”, the head of all engineers.

The eminent Azerbaijani scientist, thinker and statesman Mohammed Ibn Hindushah Nakhchivani (1239-1376) also comes from Nakhchivan. The modern academic community is aware of only two scientific projects by him. The first one is the “Explanatory Dictionary of Persian” (“Sihahal-Furs”), which defines 2300 words. The book, consisting of 25 chapters and 431 paragraphs, is so replete and informative that it served as a valuable source for compiling dictionaries later on. The book is special, because it does not only define words, but also offers wide information about Azerbaijani-Turkic, ethnographic data, samples of poetry and interesting thoughts on linguistics. The second piece by Mohammed Ibn Hindushah Nakhchivani is known as the “Manual for penmen for defining degrees”. This piece of literature is now considered an encyclopedia of sorts of life in the Near and Middle East of that time. It also shares valuable information about Nakhchivan of that period. The author speaks of the daily burdens of the local people, as well as the political, socio-economic and cultural role of Nakhchivan in the history of the East. Hindushah Nakhchivani was also famous as a poet. He calls his hometown Nakhchivan a “Nagshe-Jahan” (“an adornment of the world”) in one of his poems.

A prominent representative and one of the founders of progressive romanticism in Azerbaijan, Hussein Javid, was born on 24th of October, 1882, in Nakhchivan. The poet and dramatist established a new style and shape of psychological and philosophical drama and had a profound effect on shaping the 20th century Azerbaijani literature and developing national theatre. Hussein Javid opened a new page in the literature and dramaturgy of Azerbaijan through his pieces, replete with motives of philosophical lyricism and issues of humanism and humanity.

The weekly illustrated magazine “Mullah Nasraddin”, published since 7 April 1906 in Tiflis, was the first satiric magazine in the Muslim world and enjoyed great popularity in the entire Near East. The founder of “Mullah Nasraddin”, Jalil Mammadguluzadeh, is also from Nakhchivan. Mammadguluzadeh worked in numerous genres, including drama, essays, stories and satiric articles. He supported unification of literary Azerbaijani. Mammadguluzadeh criticized his contemporaries, who he believed had “littered” Azerbaijani with unnecessary adopted words from Russian, Persian and Turkish, which only confused the common readers. Eventually he became one of the activists behind the Latinization of the Azerbaijani alphabet.

The founder of modern Azerbaijan, the great son of our motherland, Heydar Aliyev was also born in Nakhchivan on 10th May, 1923. During his leadership, our state managed to prevent a civil war, achieved a ceasefire regime in the war with Armenia over Karabakh, thanks to his political tenacity, strong professionalism and endless love for Azerbaijan. He led Azerbaijan to domestic political stability and a better financial condition. Aliyev’s name is also strongly connected to such largescale projects as the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline and Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas line, which undoubtedly impacted the prosperity of the country both in domestic and foreign policy development.

The Autonomous Republic (AR) of Nakchivan was formed as a part of Azerbaijan in early 1921. Within a rather short historic period, Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic achieved remarkable successes in strengthening statehood and democracy and played a crucial role in Azerbaijan gaining independence in the late 20th century. Nakhchivan is the city where the tricolor ADR flag was reinstated as the state flag for the first time in the Soviet period. It happened on 17 January 1990, when the regular meeting of the Supreme Majlis of Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic adopted a decision to reinstate the tricolor flag of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic as the state flag of Nakhchivan AR. On 3rd September 1991, our national leader Heydar Aliyev was elected the chairman of the Supreme Majlis of the Nakhchivan AR. It was under his leadership and guidance that the Autonomous Republic took crucial steps in building an independent, democratic and secured state in Azerbaijan. The Republic of Azerbaijan declared its independence on 17 October 1991.

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