End of longing: Returning to Lachin through the same road 28 years later - REPORTAGE - PHOTO

End of longing: Returning to Lachin through the same road 28 years later -  REPORTAGE - PHOTO
  • Clock-gray 17:29
  • calendar-gray 04 January 2021

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 another reportage from this series.

Villages and cities destroyed by 28 years of occupation

We are heading to Lachin region, which was liberated from Armenian occupation after 28 years.

After military and civilian police check our documents in the city of Horadiz, we are allowed to enter the liberated territories from occupation.

We have to pass through Jabrayil region, and from there to Zangilan and Gubadli. All settlements of the three regions were destroyed during the 27-28 years of Armenian occupation. For this reason, all the villages are similar. If we do not read the boards with the names of the villages, it is impossible to know in which village of the region we are.

In fact, my memories want to remind me of something, but nothing is familiar to me. Because the last time when I left Shusha 28 years ago, I passed through this way. At that time, Shusha was shelled with “Alazan” missiles until the early hours of the morning, so it was decided to evacuate all students in the city – students of Shusha Pedagogical technical school, Agricultural technical school and the Shusha Branch of Azerbaijan Pedagogical Institute. At that time, there were very few students left from our institute. I arrived at the bus terminal, there was no car to go to the districts, and the students of the Pedagogical College saw me and get me on their  PAZ bus. I came this way for 8 hours, hungry and thirsty, and on my feet. Now I am returning back this way. There are so many ruins that I can't see anything familiar.

 A gift from a technical school student

We arrived in Gubadli's last village towards Lachin - Khandak village. It is getting dark and we are said that we will stay in this village for the night. The reason is that it is the first day of the week. It turns out that to go to Lachin it should be the second day of the week. Because the Lachin corridor is used by Armenians on odd days of the week and by Azerbaijanis on even days. The weather is too cold to bear. My journalist colleagues in our group start to make a fire, some find a rubber tire, some find a piece of wood to make it.

There are only Azerbaijani servicemen in the village. It is not a good idea to ask for a place to spend the night. Our soldiers are serving in a difficult situation in the ruined villages. However, no one complains about this situation. Because we will be one of the first civilians to enter Lachin. After eating, everyone goes to sleep in their car. I want to sleep, but I can't fall asleep. This road, which I went through 28 years ago, flash before my eyes. I remember on my last trip a technical school student gave me a book. I also remember the name of the book - " El chalangi ". I called home and you can guess the answer to my question "I had a book called “El chalangi, where is it?": "Why do you need that book at this time of night?"

It is already morning, but the mountains still do not allow us to see the sun. Everyone gets out of the car at the call of a soldier. The "Get ready, let's go" command makes everyone smile. We wash our faces with the ice cold water coming from the mountain. We get in our car and join the caravan. Number of our car caravan increased over night. Soldiers leaving for military service in the villages of Lachin region in more than 10 military vehicles also joined the caravan.

Instructions from the Russian peacekeeper

We set off. We leave the Khandakh village of Gubadli, enter the Gulabirdina village of Lachin region.

My heart beats fast, the excitement is killing me. As I climb, I see the sun. It's as if I understand now that it's so beautiful. We reach the military post of the Russian peacekeeping troops. The leader of the group approaches and informs about the passing cars. The Russian officer says no more than 26 cars will pass

The officer calls and instructs the drivers: "You can't stop car through the corridor,” “You can not take pictures”, "When you face Armenians, you can't show hand gesture", "If there is a dispute, you should keep silence and wait for us to come" and so on. Cars are counted, and three of the peacekeepers' armored vehicles, one in the front, one in the middle, and one at the end, set off to take us through the corridor.

To Lachin city through the corridor

As we climbed, the roads in the northern direction of the mountains became icy. We do not care about it. But we look at the mountains and forests like greedy. We look at, but we are not satisfied. We say, "We wish we could get out of the car and breathe the air of these snowy mountains." At least we could take a picture…I am looking for the spring at the bottom of a walnut tree, while crossing the road in December 1991, I stopped the bus and drank the water from. But there is neither walnut tree, nor spring. Armenians cut down all the walnut trees on the side of the road. When you look at the stumps of felled trees, it is not difficult to understand that the forests have been cut down in recent days.

We enter Lachin city. The armored vehicles of the peacekeepers warn the Armenian cars we come across and take them off the road, opening our way. I look at the face of one of the Armenians, he turns his face to the side and smokes. The fear on the faces of Armenians is obvious. And I smile, because I look into their eyes with the pride of being a representative of the victorious state, the victorious people

The speed of our cars does not exceed 30-40. As passing through Lachin city, I see houses burned down or demolished in 1992.  The doors and windows of the surviving houses were demolished in recent days. Armenian crosses are placed on the side of the road from each 50-100 meters.

One of the four Armenians sitting in the car stopped by the peacekeeping officers wants to show a hand gesture to us. Another Armenian hit him in the hand and make him lower his hand from the window. I laugh heartily at this scene, and they turn their faces away in order not to see this.

Nature was also subjected to the Armenian genocide

We reach the end of the corridor, we already enter the villages which are under control of Azerbaijani Army. We get out of the car in Malibay village of Lachin region and breathe the fresh air of the mountains. We have forgotten everything, hunger, thirst, cold ... But we look at the snow-capped mountains and rocks. The ruined villages look like paradise to us. The Armenian vandalism we see is invisible to our eyes.

In Malibay village, we do not even mention cutting of wooden electric poles with saws, dismantling of iron poles, opening of electric wires, removal of water pipes from the ground. Actually, these events no longer surprise us.

We have seen more severe scenes in the liberated settlements of Fuzuli, Aghdam, Tartar, Jabrayil, Zangilan, Gubadli regions. The main point is that our mountains are in place, still high…

Our group leader informs us that after completing your work, come to Garigishlag village and we will be in the military unit located there.

 “Well,” I said and smiled.

“Why are you smiling?” asked the head of the group.

 “I can not believe”

“What?

“To walk freely in Lachin.”

 “Beleive and profess,” said our group head with smiling.

We begin to look through the area. Our operator Ziya asks where to start?

“If I knew” said I, smiling again.
Evening is falling, and we need to move a little faster.

Firstly, we start with the genocide committed by Armenians against nature. When we look at the felled trees, the smile on our faces is replaced by sadness again. It is not only trees in the mountains and forests that are being cut down. The entire forest strip of the Minkand river, especially along the right bank, has been cut down and carried. It is also clear that it has been cut down in recent days.

I see a monastery at the foot of the mountains in the village of Kosalar. If you look from here as a result of the demolition of houses, cutting down trees, there is a building that is far away - after 3-4 villages, it is possible to see it.  We get in the car and head to the monastery. To "Aghoghlan" monastery in Kosalar village of Lachin region ...

“Aghoghlan" monastery

According to the information, the stone inscriptions about the history of "Aghoghlan" monastery were stolen in different years, so only different legends about the monument remain.

Aghoghlan monastery (or Sisernavang) is a basilica of the 5th-6th centuries located on the banks of the Agoghlan River near the town of Lachin, in the village of Kosalar.

According to story, the monastery complex was built on the site of an older polytheistic temple. According to Christian beliefs, the relic of St. George was kept in the monastery.

The name of the monastery used in the literature of Azerbaijani language - "Aghoghlan" monastery - is connected with the name of a small mountain river passing near the monument.

The monument does not have a construction inscription. The monastery is believed to have been an apse-free basilica with a simple rectangular shape at the initial stage.

Doctor of Architecture, Professor Gulchohra Mammadova noted in her research that in 844 Sisarnavag (Aghoghlan) was a fairly large and famous monastery, whose servant was mentioned as a witness in the gift document.

The architectural features of the temple, of course, allow us to say that the history of its construction dates back to ancient times. According to the researcher, in 1613 the castle walls surrounding the monastery were strengthened and the main arched entrance gate was built. The inscription on this information disappeared between 1989 and 1992, when the Lachin region was under Azerbaijani control. The main church building and the bell tower were renovated in 1779. The church inscription disappeared in 1967.

In the 19th century, the monastery church was used by Armenians living in the nearby village of Zeyva and was named St. Stephen's Church. The Armenian residents of Zeyva left the village during the Armenian-Muslim massacres in 1905 and never returned back. During the USSR, the church was protected as a historical monument.

The monastery underwent a major overhaul in 1999-2000 with the financial support of the Armenian Diaspora and opened in 2001. Every year the church held a holiday in honor of St. George.

During the 28-year occupation of Lachin region, Armenians tried to assimilate this monastery, too. Stone inscriptions depicting the historical and religious monument allegedly belonging to Armenians are placed on the walls of the monastery. However, the land where the church is located has historically been the homeland of the Oghuz and Kipchak Turks. The history of the construction of the monastery also refutes those claims of the Armenians. When the Armenians were leaving the area in recent days, they again destroyed the candlesticks and some historical materials installed in the monastery.

Ruined cemetery

Leaving the monastery, we are heading to Garigishlag village. It is already getting dark. We enter an area resembling a rocky area from the outside. A closer look at the stones in the area reveals that we are in a cemetery.  Almost all the graves in the ancient cemetery were destroyed, grave markers and headstones were taken. The trees at the edges of the cemetery were cut down and the area was turned into a plain. I want to find a mosque in the village. 

Our officers do not allow: “We also recently came, perhaps mines have been planted, so it’s life-threatening, it’s impossible!” They said.

I am trying to find out what is in the nearby villages, territories where they themselves can go, that is, they consider them safe. I understand that it is too late and I cannot go now, I am preparing for tomorrow.

Honestly, up to this point, we even forgot about hunger. Last time we ate last night in Gubadli.

Suddenly they called a serviceman - the commander invites journalists to a soldier's dinner. Here it is, military hospitality. We are heading to the military unit.

(to be continued)

In the next report: Ancient caves in nearby villages, Istisu, Turshsu, the ancient palace of Hamza Sultan, which became a hotel ...

Mirmehdi Aghaoghlu

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