APA employees toured the territories liberated from the occupation by the Azerbaijani army under the leadership of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief Ilham Aliyev. Our employees have prepared a series of reports from these territories under the heading "In the wake of victory".
We present other reportages from this series:
Our next trip to Karabakh took place on March 17. Within the framework of the visit, we would visit several villages of Khojavand district, Azykh cave, and Hadrut settlement. For me, as in most cases, it was still an exciting trip, and the main reason for my excitement this time was the Azykh cave. Because during our last visit to Khojavand, we passed by the village of Azykh and went to Salakatin, but we could not visit the Azykh cave due to both our time was limited and it had not been clarified whether the area was safe or not.
Although our first stop is not considered a historical place, it is no less important for our time. We stop near the Fuzuli city, at the point where the Fuzuli Hadrut road was laid. On March 15, during the next visit of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev to Karabakh, the foundation of Fuzuli-Hadrut road was laid here. Currently, active work is underway in the area. A large road junction will be built here and roads to Shusha, Hadrut, Tugh, Jabrayil, as well as to the villages of Fuzuli will join and separate here.
Our caravan is moving and we are heading for Edilli village of Khojavand.
Although the snow that fell a few days ago has strengthened its position in the mountains, it has succumbed to the warm breath of the spring in the plains. Only in the north of the hills are the remains of snow in some places. The earth has worn green dress again and the flowers that have risen in some places have added their own purple patterns to the dress. After Novruz, every inch of Karabakh will be covered with emerald green and will not only look mesmerizing but also conceal these ruthless consequences of the war–heads of missile pierced as arrow, trenches resembling open wounds in the heart of the earth, fortifications, empty shell boxes.
We turn to the left in the direction of Mangalanata mountain. I am already familiar with these places. Last time we went to Akhullu village of Khojavand this way. This time, we will pay a visit to neighbor Edilli village. The village of Edilli, which I saw in the distance that time. Different from Akhullu village which was mainly settled by Azerbaijanis during Soviet times and was occupied and destructed on January 9 in 1992, in Edilli, the houses, the yards, and the gardens are all safe. Then we saw them from afar, and this time we will watch them closely.
I said that even though the spring air is felt in the plains, these places - the foothills of the Karabakh range, these charming villages in the heart of the mountains – it is still winter. That is why Edilli's houses-doors, roof-stones, beauty-elegance, poverty-worn out are still invisible under the snow. The sound of water slowly dripping from the gutter of abandoned houses joins the rays of the spring sun and spreads around like a sweet symphony.
Many streets in Edilli were paved with stones. Some of those who came with us, who are familiar with these places, say that Edilli's streets were not like that before. All these are the stones of the houses demolished in Fuzuli and Akhullu, and they brought them here and laid them on the ground. Someone even knows their gates.
Gahraman Hasanov who studied in Edilli says that the real name of the village is not Edilli but Adilli: “This is the land of Adil bey. Azerbaijanis lived here. Armenians are not local here. Our school was not far from here. I graduated from university in 1971 and I taught at that school. The events began in 1988, and then the place was occupied by Armenians. I have not come to this village for 31 years. I had Armenian colleagues here. Today I want to tell them that I have come and you are not here. I extend my gratitude to the Supreme Commander-in-Chief, our glorious army for putting an end to 31 years of longing, and I bow before our veterans and to the souls of our martyrs.
Although the snow-covered houses, the appearance of many of them is full of poverty and obsoleteness. Except for the administrative buildings, there are very few renovated, modern-looking houses.
One of the repaired houses is the property of General Kamo Aghajanyan. Aghajanyan was head of the National Security Service of the so-called “Nagorno-Karabakh Republic”. Even though he had Azerbaijani blood in his veins, he denied it and refused his father’s name – Akbar.
Aghjanyan, who was born and grew up in Edilli, raised weapons at his relatives when the Karabakh conflict broke out.
There is a monument, erected for the honor of the Patriotic War participants and surrounded by pines, in the center of village.
After Edilli, we also visit Dudukchu village, face with a similar scene here. Armenians also lived in Dudukchu during occupation. It is said by pruned, cared mulberry trees in the entry of the village first of all, then by drowsy, sleepy houses, scattered along the valley. That is why, live sign remains in the village, although there is not a living. There is just a shortage of smoke from flues of houses, and sounds of cattle from yards…
We do not delay here, we have many places to go yet.
Our cars stop in a small square after rising upward slope turning to Azykh Cave. We will go on foot from here – to the Azykh Cave which is one of the residences of ancient people and situated 1,400 meters above sea, and 100-150 meters above Guruchay, which passes through nearby…
We are climbing stairs. I do not know how much we have climbed. We already have shortness of breath, we are tired. An employee of Institute of History of the ANAS, philosophy of doctor on history Bayram Guliyev, who contributes to our writings with his historical knowledge, is also with us this time. I ask him climbing the stairs is difficult. Azykh The cave is like Kaaba for historians like us, thus, they will climb it despite its difficulties. The main point is that the historical place has returned to us after the occupation of 30 years, the rest is detail.
I raise my head and look up, we have not reached half of the road yet. “I wonder how many stairs are left,” – I ask. An old man, who sits a little away and breathes as he is tired, says: “There are 392 stairs until here, I have counted.”
It becomes clear that we should climb the same number of stairs, nothing can be done.
It is Azykh – one of the ancient human residences of the world. I was probably, in the second or third class, when I first heard about the Azykh Cave. Truly, the war was continuing then, but we did not lose Karabakh yet. But I have thought neither at that time nor when Armenians occupied Karabakh that I would come to the Azykh Cave whenever. And now it is, I am standing in front of one of the ancient human residences and I want to enter the cave without a delay in order to see what is hidden by the mysterious Cave, which gave birth to our most ancient humans, our forefathers.
The entry of the Cave is muddy and slippery, additionally, there is a deep trench on one side. If you falter, you can fall into the trench. When you pass the muddy place, a narrow path like a as-Sirat bridge will take you to the deep places of the Cave. We cowardly pass through the narrow path with Bayram Guliyev by catching from the wall. I instinctively remember a movie on Indiana Jones. Fortunately, our own Spielberg- operator Faig takes a photo of the scene, makes us a movie character for just a moment.
“Azykh Cave is famous as a residential place of humans of the Stone Age, - Bayram Guliyev talks while observing the Cave, - People preferred to live by the river from ancient times, that is why the ancient civilizations appeared in the river basins. Azykh Cave has been in the focus of attention of people from ancient times, as it is located in the bank of Guruchay.”
Azykh Cave was discovered by an expedition, led by Mammadali Huseynov in 1960. Eleven cultural layers have been found out during conducted research works. Signs of Guruchay Culture, Acheulean Culture, and Mousterian Culture are remaining in the Cave. There are also signs of a fire at the age of 700 thousand years here.
After a while, when I rubs my hand on the ceiling of the cave and shows the traces of smut to Bayram muallim, he will say, half seriously, half jokingly: “ Maybe, this is smut of bonfire that our ancestors burned thousand of years ago, how to know”. What a lie, his words will sow the seeds of doubt in me.
Bayram muallim continiues: “In June 1968, Paleolithic archeological expedition under the leadership of Mammadali Huseynov during archeological excavations carried out from the 5th layer of the Azykh camp, together with several stone products, detected lower jaw belonging to primitive man. This finding belonged to women aged 18-22. That archeological finding was 350-400 thousand old. Some percentage of people could live until 30 years old in ancient period, many of them died early. Eating unhealthy and uncooked meat, damages by wild animals, cold climate caused the early death of people.
I also want to say quickly that starting from 2000s Armenians carried out illegal archeological excavations in the cave. We can see traces of these excavation works. A wooden bridge was installed as we pass the field where narrow passage is opened. Bayram muallim gives detailed information about these illegal archeological excavations conducted in the cave, and with grief: “Starting from 2001, international researchers group from England, Spain, Ireland and Armenia in Azykh cave, The works was leaded by Yolanda Fernandez-Jalvo, an employee of the National Museum of Natural Sciences in Madrid, Spain, and Levon Episkopyan, an employee of the Institute of Molecular Biology of the Armenian National Academy of Sciences. As a result of these “reaserches” 300,000 years old, the oldest cave bear bone in Europe and other examples of material culture were detected and afterward taken to London. When we look carefully we can see here also rough and unskilled reserarhes were carried out. All of these, as well as Armenian names written on walls with Cyrillic alphabet, is cultural crime that they conducted against us.”
While crossing the hole inside of the cave we come across a bigger cavern. You can not believe that there can be a gap of this size underground. By the way, the total area of the cave is 800 square kilometers and its length is more than 600 meters.
The place where we stand is the first corridor of the cave. There are seven such corridors in Azykh cave. The height of some of them is 20-25 meters. As the cave has entrance from other side too, air easily circulates. Therefore despite the inside of it is cold it is not so humid.
We left the cave. Our next destination is Tugh village.
Purpose of our visit to Tugh this time is to visit St. John's Church. As we give detailed information about it in our preious materials, we will not talk about the church. So, I walk away from the church and visit surrounding houses.
The nearby one-story building with an arched roof. As the roof of the building is covered with soil, water drips from the ceiling like rain as the snow melts. A little far away there is two-story another ancient building. The first floor has been made of rough-hewn stones, mainly belonging to the buildings of Tug village, and the second floor is a verandah. The building is likely more than two hundred years old. Armenians kept animals in this historical building, the second floor was used as a barn.
As if you are in an open-air museum. That's why you can't get enough of walking the streets of Tug. But we should go, Hadrut waits for us.
Our car leaving Tugh village and turns right at the crossroads. Asphalt road leads us to Hadrut settlement. Next time, after turning the road, the church and Hadrut's houses can be seen in the distance. It is painted on the rock we passed: MARTYRS DO NOT DIE, THE COUNTRY IS NOT DIVIDED.
Hadrut was one of the settlements where the bloodiest battles took place during the Patriotic War. The enemy could not accept the loss of this settlement, which is considered the southern gate of Nagorno-Karabakh. That’s why war for Hadrut was conducted not only in the battlefield but also in the information space. Apparently, the efforts of the Russian blogger in those days to "prove" that Hadrut was not liberated from the occupation have not been forgotten.
Hadrut surrounding by mountains from each side locates at Gozluchay valley. Traces of the war have not still erased from the buildings, houses here. One of such buildings is the building of the former district executive committee. Party committee of the Hadrut region has placed in this building in the Soviet period. Once upon a time, God knows how many people used to turn in the cold corridors of the building every day, now only headless winds blow. Folders and various documents were piled up in the eyes of the Soviet-made office furniture in the rooms. Although many of the documents in this folder are in Armenian, there are enough Russian documents remaining from the Soviet period among them. You can meet with a lot of Azerbaijani names and surnames in those documents. I turn the pages for curiosity and see that I am not mistaken.
The flowers in the pots on the edges of the windows have long since died of neglect. Maybe it may seem sentimental to someone, but when you look at those withered flowers, you really get ashamed. The war made not only the people miserable but also the flowers in the pot.
When to want to climb on of the upper floors, one of our colleagues, wandered the rooms before me, give a recommendation: “There is not anything interesting, only the chief's room is a little renovated. Rest of them is in a terrible situation”.
We finish our filming in the building that was once the building of the district party committee and go to the flag square. Several days ago, President Ilham Aliyev has raised an Azerbaijani flag here.
The number of new buildings in the settlement is little, many of them have remained from the Soviet period. No serious construction work has been implemented here in the occupation years. On the contrary, those which were exist, have been destroyed. For example, most probably, there was a monument on a pedestal extending a circular staircase on both sides.
When I look at this abandonment, scatterings, I anyhow recall evidence stuck in my memory related to Hadrut. In 1930, the Plague epidemic was spreading in Hadrut, a disease such as worldwide coronavirus. No matter how hard local authorities try, they cannot prevent the disease, on the contrary, the disease is getting more and more dead every day. Restrictions have been put for entry-exit to the settlement, in order to prevent an epidemic, Dr. Lev Zilber is invited from Russia. Those who died of the epidemic are burned due to being dangerous. In those days, so many people perished from the plague, so many corpses were burned that for a while the streets of Hadrut, the air of Hadrut, smelled of burnt people.
People's writer Elchin narrated all this in detail in his novel "Death Sentence". I recall those terrible days with the plague when I look at those left houses of Hadrut in the fresh weather. Yes, it seems, the world itself is a big Hadrut at present.
I remember also Uzeyir Hajibeyov in Hadrut. It is also not a coincidence. A great composer has given a lesson here after graduating from the Gori Seminary. A music school face-to-face with the Flag, Square recalls me Uzeyir Hajibeyov anyhow. For several months now, dusty pianos have been left unused, discarded notebooks, books about Beethoven's life, an empty canon case, and music CDs. Bedding on the floor of one of the rooms still remains. The names of our regions have been written on the wall. It seems that our servicemen spent nights here in the fierce period of the battles.
When you perceive the horrors of the war, you think that that how many lives have been lost in these cursed wars and what tragedies and misfortunes they caused since the time of the ancient man living in Azykh? You get upset.
...We should not leave Azykh cave.