APA’s correspondent traveled to the liberated territories liberated from occupation under the leadership of Supreme Commander-in-Chief Ilham Aliyev. Our correspondents have prepeared a series of reports from those areas in the "In the Footsteps of Victory" project. Here is the next report from this series:
Kalbajar- 80 km
7:45 p.m. The sun rises behind the sleepy snowy mountains.It has not yet heated the mountains, forests, icy roads. So, the traces of snow that fell in the past days are in the mountains, forests, on the ground, and the cold is in our souls.
We are in the Goygol district, Togana village. We have stood in front of the sign "Kalbajar - 80 km".
As you guessed, our way is to Kalbajar. We go to visit the Khudavang or Dadivang monastery - an ancient Albanian temple complex. Our way will pass from the Murovdag range, one of the most strategic points of Azerbaijan, which is dangerous and at the same time frozen in the veins of those who know his name. We will pass the famous Omar bridge and go to the Kalbajar.
We are unaware from the danger that waits us in the icy, snowy, muddy roads, steep slopes, ravines, cliffs.
Alongside with our collegaues in the visit initiated by the Ministry of Defense, We will be accompanied by representatives of the Russian Orthodox communities of Gabala region, Udi of Nij settlement and Ganja city.
The truck is already waiting which will take pilgrims from Khudavang to Kalbajar. We take our supplies and take our places. The car roars with a mad roar, the passenger must be on the road...
We climb the slopes of the mountains, leaving behind the newly awakened village houses. As the way stretches, and the view on our left and right changes, our ways is becoming more and more difficult, sometimes we pass through a river, sometimes through the mouth of a cliff, or sometimes through a ravine or an abyss.
As the height increases, the mountains are densely closed in white. The forests are getting thinner and thinner, the trees are sometimes visible, then the alpine meadows are replaced by bare, snow-covered rocks. The Sun also seems more cheerful, the peaks of the mountains and the icy rocks are shining like mirrors under its rays.
Fortunately, the weather is beautiful. According to the weather forecast, the weather in Kalbajar will be rainless, sunny, and temperature will increase by five degrees today. I sometimes see excavators and road-clearing tractors at the foot of the mountains, on the roadsides. Some of them are good, some are broken. I think, many of them are waiting here over the year, and in the case of having any an avalanche, debris on hard, heavy roads, they come to help.
There are the posts of Azerbaijani soldiers on our way. We pass and go. Someone from our traveling companions says that these roads are one-way, if two cars come forward, there is no room to give way, so the posts communicate with each other, the car above waits when a car rises from below, and vice versa.
In this point, our car wants to turn some curve. But because the curve is so hard, the car stumbles, the wheels begin to collide with the muddy-icy ground, we say “yes, right now, we will roll into the ravine”. Our brewing machine attacks harder, snorts, roars, roars, and finally turns the curve and shouts with a triumphant cry, then takes a deep breath and prepares itself for the next fight.
- Is this Kalbajar’s way? Someone asks.
-There is also from Agdere. This is the mountain road. It passes over the Murov, from the famous Omer pass.(He is our traveling companion, it seems that he is very informative).
- The people of Kalbajar have left with this read in the April in 1993, many of them have went from this snowy-icy roads with the foot, again he says.
For a moment, everyone keeps silence, the cold of the snovy mountains makes our inside cold. The scenes of that exile come to life before our eyes. We feel in the place of those people. It does not occur to me that in a few hours, during a conversation with a Russian peacekeeper, I will introduce myself as a person from Kalbajar and I will say that I am from one of these villages,and I became a refugee in 1993.
Our car leaves the last ascent and goes to the "plain".
They say that here is already Omar pass, we will take a rest and continue our way again.
The rest in the Omar pass
I say Omar pass, you say the place of where the earth and sky connect. The weather is calm at the top of these mountains - 3395.5 meters; There is no blizzard, no snow, no rain, no fog. There are range of mountains under the our feet. As if we have stood on the great cake which is sprinkled with icing or powdered sugar. There is a clear blue sky over our head. If you raise your hand, you can touch the dome of the sky. Goygol is the face of the pass, and the opposite mountains are Kalbajar.
The way stretches from Murov range, twists and turns like a snake, as if with the sword of an imaginary "Zorro" the signature is drawn on the chest of the mountains.
This summit is of historical significance for us more than geographical. It has been dug into the memory of our people with bloody and ruthless stories. We have been many casualties from the beginning of Karabakh war. The bloodiest of them is the " Murovdag Operation" carried out in January-February 1994. Azerbaijan Army had thousands of martyrs in those battles. In the following years, we have been martyres that have faced danger, trapped in an avalanche.
The restless souls of many of our martyrs roam in the cold bosom of these mountains.
There have been the bloody battles in the Omar pass in the first days of the Patriotic War. Although the thick snow cover hides the traces of many battles, it clearly seems from the explosion on the former Armenian post, the traces of the burn. At present, the Omar Pass is under the control of the Azerbaijani army, where a commandant's post has been established. Our soldiers are fulfilling their duties here with perseverance.
As soon as we get out of the car, we are warned: Do not go off the road, the area is mined.
We will often hear such warnings after crossing the pass and going to Kalbajar. In general, when Armenians left the territories after the November 10 agreement, they mined most of the area.
The rest ends and we continue our travelling. Our way from here is only downhill.
A brief look at the history of Kalbajar
We often see Armenian posts and trenches untill we reach to Kalbajar. Azerbaijani soldiers service in these posts right now.
There are road cleaning techniques again at the bottom of the roadside ravines. However, many were destroyed by landmines planted by Armenians. Now, as we climb the Murov range, the opposite happens: When the height decreases, the snowy rocks are replaced by alpine meadows, alpine meadows to sparse trees, and then to forests. Kalbajar has its special nature. Here, the mountains are harder. Among the rocks, along with bare trees, there are also evergreen trees such as shrubs. I can't tell exactly, is it a cypress or another coniferous tree? I think I have never seen such trees in any mountainous area of Azerbaijan.
Melting snow in the south of the mountains often flows into small mountain rivers in front of us. The small mountain rivers compete with us in reaching the bottom, they unite downstream and grow louder, and finally join the Tartarchay.
After passing the Omar pass and leaving the tough passes of Kalbajar mountains behind, the way is larger and we often encounter military trucks of our army.
Kalbajar has received the status of an administrative district on August 8, 1930, and is the highest mountain district of Azerbaijan. The main part of the territory is forested. It is rich in minerals, including gold and chrome deposits. Industrially important mercury reserves are located in Shorbulag and Agyatag in the Kalbajar region.
Kalbajar is considered on of the ancient human settlement. There have been discovered ancient settlements with a history of more than 30,000 years, rock paintings 6,000 years old, examples of the ancient Turkish alphabet in the form of trash. The stone monuments in the region have been created in Northern Azerbaijan during the period of early Turkism, fire worship, Christianity, and from the 7th century onwards, when Islam spread.
Kalbajar was occupied by the Armed Forces of the Republic of Armenia in 1993. According to the peace agreement signed on November 10, 2020, on November 25, the Armenian Armed Forces evacuated the Kalbajar region and handed it over to the Azerbaijani Armed Forces.
The village where Ahshig Alasgar got married
Our car stops on the hill. Below the river flows through the ravine, and on the other side of the river again mountains. Along the slope on the that side of the river, only houses built of river stone are visible.
The name of the river is Yanshag. Also the name of the village. It is said that the population is origin of Gazakh district. “Yanshag” means “ashig”. Ashig Alasgar who was not able to rejoin with Sahnabanu, married at the age of 40 namely from this village. As a result of the massacre committed by Dashnaks against Turks in 1918-1919 as other people of Goycha, the ashig who forced to leave his land stayed as a guest in this village for several years. Maybe Ashig Alasgar once lived in one of the destroyed places where we see only stone. How to know?
The village occupied by Armenians in 1993, liberated in February 1994 by Azerbaijani Armed Forces, later was lost again. Very far from the houses, we see destroyed place where crooked metals have been thrown. 535th special regiment had been deployed here. When Kalbajar was handed over blowing up military unit they made this place in such condition.
Those who want to see heaven...
Finally, our car is on asphalt road. After that our ways will cross with various mountain rivers which we do not know the names, sometimes they will flow side by side. The murmur of the rivers joins the roar of the car and mixes with the snow of the mountains, melting and disappearing.
Speaking of mountain… Before the Patriotic War started, there was famous video of Kalbajar disseminated by Armenians; the road that passes through steep mountains, rocks. It was heartbreaking for many viewers to see who had these beautiful places. Now our car passes through namely that road. When I saw that video I had wished for these places. I could not imagine that I will pass through those places after 3-4 months. How else miracle to be!
Occasionally we come across with burnt houses, with destroyed doors, windows, yards. The majority of infrastructure of the stations set up on Tartarchay river is out of order. Armenians when handing over Kalbajar took what they could, and destroyed, burned what they could not take with themselves.
A post on Zod road
We park our car on the next intersection. We wait for police car which will accompany us to Khudavang Monastery. Meanwhile several servicemen approach. As we open the door one says with a laugh:
-Welcome to our Peykanli.
-Where is here?-We ask.
-It is Zod road- The other serviceman points out- About after 10 km our border with Armenia starts.
-How will we go to Khudavang?
- Just along the bank of Taratarchay. Now the car will come to accompany you. There is no so much distance left. As we will not stay here more, we do not see any need to get off the car.
In the distance we see several servicemen putting a map on the bonnet of the car and discussing something. I liken the uniform of the one of the servicemen to the uniform of Russian peacekeepers.
-Are there also Russians here?- We ask.
-Yes there are. Russians are also here, Armenians too.
-On the other side, in the car.
We pay attention now, there stayed cars of Red Cross on the other side of our car.
-Why they are here?
-They have come together with the Red Cross. For showing the place of our martyrs.
- Have bodies of the martyrs not been completely removed yet?
-Not yet. The voice of the soldier who greeted us with a smile is getting toughened.- Peacekeepers have come in order to determnine the place of our martyrs with us.
The car that will accompany us arrives. We say goodbye to our servicemen and continue our way. The road along Tartarchay river leads us to the Vang village where the Khudavang monastery located. Again we pass by many burnt, destroyed houses. After the occupation of Kalbajar, Armenians had lived in these areas, albeit sparsely.
Vang village, on the doorstep of a monastery
It is 12:00. After 4 hours existing trip, finally we arrived in Vang village.
The crosses of the Khudavang monastery, the red-tiled roofs, and the ancient walls seen in the distance. Our car stops in the bridge. The road is divided into several places here, one of them to the direction of Agdara, the other to river, other one to village and other leads to the monastery. On the road to monastery the post of Azerbaijani servicemen has been set up. No one is allowed to go to Khudavang Monastery without passing this post. After passing the post easily and getting up about 200 meters, our car stops in front of the monastery.
As Khudavang monastery is under the control of Russian peacekeepers, noting our purpose of arrival we enter the yard of the monastery. We have a very less time, we have to hurry. Because..
(to be continued)
You will read: The writings on the wall of Khudavang monastery. The voice coming from the inside of Arzu Khatun church. Dark ways leading to the heart of the monastery. Locked grave of Dadi. What said Russian peacekeeper about Khojaly?