APA starts a new project named “Get to know Western Azerbaijan”. The purpose of the project is to present detailed information about the history, geography, culture, monuments, and lifestyle of the population and households of the Western Azerbaijan region, to introduce readers, particularly to the young generation. The first guest of the project is Jabi Bahramov, of Gafan origin, head of the “Western Azerbaijan History Department” of the Institute of History of ANAS, doctor of philosophy, and associate professor.
APA presents the article of Jabi Bahramov about the Gafan district of the Western Azerbaijan region.
Zangazur consists of 7 mahals: Garakilse, Gorus, Gafan, Mehri, Zangilan, Gubadli, and Lachin. Gafan is an ancient Azerbaijani land, located at the heart of Zangazur. Taking it as a whole, in the Western Azerbaijan region, in Zangezur itself, in the 19th-century chamber lists in 1832, 1833, and 1874, the full majority of the population of more than 223,000 people who lived here before the occupation of Tsarist Russia were Azerbaijanis. In the territory of Western Azerbaijan, there are hundreds of toponyms related to the Bayandur, Kayi, Khalaj, and Chepni tribes of the Oghuz Turks, especially the Gajar, Baharli, Zalgane, Zulgadar, Padar, and “Choban” tribes of the Kayi Turks. The presence of several Baharli villages in Garakilsa, Gafan, and Zangilan can be explained by the widespread of the tribe of the same name in this area. Gajaran, Avsharli, Chepni, Chullu, Khalaj, Chobanli, and Darzili in the Gafan district of Western Azerbaijan region; Bayandur, Yayci in the Gorus district; Baharli, Uz, Murkhuz, Burjalar Darzili, Zabazadur in Karakilsa district; Khalaj, Padar, Dondarli in Gubadli district; The names of Baharli, Burünlü, Ordekli villages in Zangilan district are related to the names of 24 Oghuz tribes.
The history of some residential settlements in Zangazur is very ancient, and these toponyms are encountered in Urartian cuneiform inscriptions. Almost all hydronyms in the Zangazur area (Bazarchay, Bargushad, Okhchucay, Chandur chay, Okhdar chay, Bastichay, Ayri chay, Deli chay, Padarchay, Gazangol, Garagol, etc.) are in Azerbaijani. In general, it can be said that the detailed historical, ethnographic, linguistic, and toponymic researches conducted by us strongly suggest that, with the exception of a few villages, there are no topo morphants of Armenian origin in the territory of Western Azerbaijan. After the occupation of the Russian Empire, that territory (except for the western part) came under the control of the Russian Empire according to the treaty dated 1813. According to the Turkmanchay agreement, dated 1828, Iravan, Nakhchivan Khanate, and the western part of Karabakh Khanate also became a colony of Tsarist Russia. The population of Western Azerbaijan, mainly from the natural geographical point of view, was engaged in agriculture, animal husbandry, and handicrafts. The population of Western Azerbaijan mainly engaged in farming, animal husbandry, and handicraft. I can even say that fruits growing in Aldara village of Mehri region are reflected in the works of medieval European and oriental travelers. It is not a small matter. When we look at the history of the XX century, some industrial fields had been established there. The copper-molybdenum combination created in the Gafan area is especially noteworthy. It dates back to after 1937. But let me also say that as a result of such industrial facilities, the environment of Gafan and Zangezur as a whole was polluted and poisoned. This means a very big ecological blow. The point is that such a combination exists in the territory of the Mehri district. The polluted water of both plants flows into the Araz river, and from there into the territory of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
The lifestyle and cuisine of the Gafan population of Western Azerbaijan are also very rich.
The lifestyle and cuisine of the Gafan population of Western Azerbaijan are also very rich. Although they were expelled from their ancestral lands, keep alive their household and kitchen traditions living in different regions of the Republic of Azerbaijan. As a whole, Zangazur cuisine is an integral part of the national cuisine of Azerbaijan. However, this cuisine contains such unique dishes that you can't find in other places. For example, there are several variants of meals called "gourmet (roasting)" in Gafan and Zangazur and the entire Western Azerbaijan region. Let's remind that the people of Zangazur, including the people of Gafan, are very long-lived.
For example, my grandfather lived for 94 years, my father for 85 years, his uncle for 101 years, and my grandmother for 100 years. This is not only about our family. It belongs to the population of all of Western Azerbaijan - Gafan, and Zangazur, and is related to the nature of Gafan and Zangazur. Gafan has springs that are distinguished by taste. The water of every spring, every river has its own taste. There is always snow on top of Khustub mountain, located in the Gafan district, and Alangaz mountain, which separates Mehri district from Ordubad. The snow does not melt even in the summer.
For example, tickets sold to passengers at Mehri station included these words: Azerbaijan Railways. In other words, there is no doubt that the ownership of the corridor belongs to the Republic of Azerbaijan from a legal point of view.
XII-XIII century sources, mention the name of the village of Aldara, which means that the area has very ancient roots. Let me also say that toponyms were given in the form of Azerbaijani names on the maps drawn by European travelers, cartographers, and geography experts. We can see these facts in the maps of 1819, 1823, 1830, 1840, 1847, 1856. That is, this is his proof that these lands belong to the people of Azerbaijan. The issue of relocating Armenians to the lands of Western Azerbaijan has always caused me laughter and surprise. Since Russian officials were in charge of this relocation process. Ambassador Griboyedov, Chopin, Verinka, and Shavrov write unequivocally that 40,000 Armenians from the territory of the Gajar Dynasty (Iran) and 85,000 from the territory of Ottoman Turkiye were transferred to Tsarist Russia as a state. The point is that the process of population displacement took place either during the khanates, during the Safavid Empire of Azerbaijan, or during the Afsharid Empire. In particular, several Armenian families lived near Iravan. But this does not mean that they are the autochthonous population of this land. The autochthonous population of these areas is unequivocally Azerbaijanis. This fact is proved not only by historical sources, and archaeological materials, but also by compiled review books. The names of these villages were written in the Istanbul review book of the Ottoman government compiled in 1593 after the peace of Constantinople (present-day Istanbul). It is true that not the nationality of the population, but their religious affiliation was mentioned in those sources, including the Gafan territory of the Western Azerbaijan region. For example, there is a very popular village of Upper Giratakh. It is noted that 4 families lived in that village in 1593. But later the number of these families increased.
The whole majority of the Gafan territory consisted of the Azerbaijani population. It shows itself in the names of villages: Be it Shaharjik village, or Yukhari Giratakh that we mentioned, Eyvazli, Jighi, Gomaran, Gajaran.
During the Arab invasion, one of the main centers of the Khorramdin movement was Zangazur and its Gafan district. These territories were used favorably for military purposes. Now there is an expression known as the Zangazur Corridor, along that corridor there are tunnels that have an incredible structure. And those tunnels were built by the order of the USSR government, dated May 17, 1940, by the Minister of the USSR Ministry of Roads, Kaganovich, and the railway was built. 4 offices were established for this process: in Julfa, Ordubad, Mehri cities, and Minjivan settlement. The railway was unequivocally owned by the Azerbaijan SSR Railway Office. For instance, it was written on the tickets sold to passengers at the Mehri station: Azerbaijani Railways. That is, there is no doubt that the ownership of the corridor belonged to the Republic of Azerbaijan from a legal point of view.
If we were to compare churches and mosques in Gafan territory, the number of mosques was more. I’d like to touch upon the religious monuments in Gafan and Zangazur in general. There is a number of historical monuments related to the religion of Islam in Gafan, as well as other mahals of Western Azerbaijan. Along with mosques, pirs (places that are believed to be sacred among people) can also be considered here. For example, there is a famous Kekilli pir located near Yukhari Giretagh village of Gafan district, it was famous in Zangazur. People have not reached the extremes of religious movements, that is, there is no religious fanaticism. They were sincere, and their religious beliefs were also manifested in such a sincere form. If we compare the churches and mosques in the lands of Western Azerbaijan, including in the Gafan area, the number of mosques was more. Because the population believed in Islam. That is, the majority of the population was Azerbaijani. There were churches from the Albanian era. In terms of architectural style, it has nothing to do with Armenians. The displaced Armenians took possession of those churches and somehow made them their own. In this direction, there was also the patronage of the USSR. For example, there were 10-12 churches in the territory of Mehri district, among which there were a few unfinished churches built for the Armenians who were relocated in the second half of the 19th century, the rest were all Albanian churches and no Armenians went to worship them. So this means that those churches were not theirs.
Taking the opportunity, I’d like to draw attention to the issue of the Zangazur Corridor, which is still relevant at the moment. The construction of the Zangazur corridor was stopped in November 1987. There was a border post of the USSR on the border with South Azerbaijan 3 km south of the village of Aldara, and the road built for the corridor continued there and stopped right there. The construction of this corridor is directly related to the exceptional role of the Great Leader Heydar Aliyev. At that time, Heydar Aliyev was a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the first deputy chairman of the USSR Council of Ministers, and Heydar Aliyev's influence allowed us to overcome the obstacles we encountered in this work.
The Armenians met with the pro-Armenian leaders of the USSR and tried to prevent the construction of the road and obstruct the process. Despite this, the commission made a serious analysis and came to the conclusion that the option offered by Azerbaijan is more efficient, and the construction of the road was started. The corridor was a very important issue for the whole of Azerbaijan. We have repeatedly witnessed the National Leader making accurate predictions and foreseeing everything. He made a very clear decision on this issue. The corridor is 46 km in total. There are 9 tunnels. The geographical conditions of those roads are very complicated. Steep, impassable rocks... Construction of that road requires a lot of effort. Construction of the road started in June of 1940. The decision was adopted on May 1940. Work was completed until May of 1941. At one time, that road played a big role in saving the USSR. Because most of the goods were received through that corridor. The ownership right of this corridor belongs to the Republic of Azerbaijan. This is a fact. This corridor has a very important strategic importance for us and is also very important in terms of the unification of the entire Turkic world.
I would like to also add that certain issues were studied in connection with the Western Azerbaijan region. For example, we have prepared the book called "History of Zangazur" and submitted it to print, which means this work has been done and is being continued. There are a lot of studies in connection with Iravan khanate, Iravan city. "Iravan how it is" work which was published last year, is among them. As well as, Nazim Mustafa's "History of Iravan city" work, Elchin Garayev's two-volume edition related to "History of Iravan Khanate", and Ziyad Ahmadov's "History of Governorate Iravan" work are examples of this. These factors were reflected in the atlas (2007) that we prepared.
Now the main duty is to present it in a complex manner. Work is underway in the direction of this sorting. Three departments were established in ANAS in response to Mr. President's calls regarding the territory of Western Azerbaijan. Linguistics, Folklore, and History institutes are working on these issues. The task before us is to fundamentally prepare the entire history of Western Azerbaijan and convey it to our people and the world community. We are thinking of publishing those works in at least 3 languages.
There have been many well-known people from Gafan district as well as from Zangazur. The Father and mother of National Leader Heydar Aliyev are from Jomardli and Urud villages of the Garakilse mahal. Jomardli and Mahammadali villages were created by Heydar Aliyev's father Alirza Aliyev's great-grandfathers Jomard and Alagoz Muhammad. They have been warlords of Panah Ali Khan Javanshir and Karabakh khan. The genealogy of this generation goes back to Uzun Hasan, the founder of the Aq Qoyunlu state of Azerbaijan, and Shah Ismail I, the founder of the Safavid state of Azerbaijan.
Mr. President's Order on the establishment of the West Azerbaijan Community, and the created conditions, including the ideas he emphasized in his speeches, of them pleases me personally. All this serves a great purpose.
Prepared by Nihat Pir