|NAKHIJEVAN. A historical and geographical survey.|
| Location. Nakhijevan is situated in the area between the mountain range of Zangezur and the river Arax. It borders on the Republic of Armenia and the Islamic Republic of Iran. In 1931 Turkey exchanged some territory with Iran and acquired a common frontier with Nakhijevan.
A Historical Introduction. The unearthed archaeological monuments (Mokhrablur /Kültapa/, Shorblur/Shortapa/) attest that the territory of Nakhijevan has been inhabited since at least the Neolithic Age, i.e. the 7th to 5th millennia B.C.
Nakhijevan was located within the borders of Urartian (Ayraratian) Armenia (9th to 7th centuries B.C.), as well as the Armenian kingdoms of the Orontids (6th to 2nd centuries B.C.), the Artashessians (189 B.C. to the early 1st century A.D.) and the Arshakids (66 to 428). Over many centuries, it formed an administrative part of two Armenian principalities, the Artzrunies' in the west, and the Syunies' in the east. In ancient times and in the Middle Ages, Nakhijevan included the following districts of Metz Hayk (Armenia Maior): Sharur District, Ayrarat Province; Yernjak and Jahuk Districts of Syunik Province, as well as Nakhijevan and Goghtan Districts of Vaspurakan Province. Goghtan was the district where Mesrop Mashtots ¥405 to 406¤, the inventor of the Armenian alphabet and the father of Armenian translators, first introduced the Armenian letters and opened the first Armenian schools.
Nakhijevan shared the fate of the other districts of Historical Armenia and did not escape the Arab invasions of the 7th to 9th centuries. After its liberation from the Arab invaders' yoke, it formed part of the kingdom of the Armenian Bagratids (885 to 1045).
During the period between the 11th century and the early 13th century, Nakhijevan was under the domination of the Seljuk-Turks; in the 13th to 14th centuries, it suffered the yoke of the Tatar-Mongols. From the 15th century until the 16th, the Kara Koyunlus (Black Sheep Turkomans) and Ak-Koyunlus (White Sheep Turkomans) reigned in the district, which shifted into the rule of the Persian Safavids in the 16th century and suffered their sway until the 18th century.
Notwithstanding the harsh living conditions into which the indigenous Armenians of Nakhijevan found themselves in the aftermath of the aforementioned incursions, they succeeded in developing the economy of the district: a number of canals and aqueducts as well as numerous stone bridges were built, and the roads renovated. By the second half of the 15th century, the Armenian natives of the district had made such great progress in commerce and crafts that new urban settlements came into being there, with the older ones, such as Nakhijevan, Vordvat and Jugha, prospering and increasing the number of their inhabitants. As attested by the contemporaries, at this period, the population of Jugha, a purely Armenian township, reached 50,000.
In 1605 Shah Abbas II, who was retreating from the battle-field after having been defeated by the Ottoman troops, put the indigenous Armenians of Nakhijevan to unprecedented and unspeakably disastrous deportation. In the aftermath of this calamity, most of the Armenian villages and towns of Nakhijevan were stripped of their populations: some of them were later re-inhabited by various Muslim tribes of Turkic origin which had moved to Nakhijevan from the depths of Persia under the auspices of the Shah himself.
As attested by Adam Oléarius, a German specialist in Oriental Studies, in 1636 Persian Shah Sefi issued a decree permitting part of the Armenian deportees to return to their native villages. This helped rapidly restore the economy of Nakhijevan and revive its culture.
On 17 May 1639, the representatives of Iran and Turkey met in Kasr-e-Shirin to sign a peace treaty under which Armenia was to be partitioned between these two states. Eastern Armenia shifted into the possession of Persia, within the borders of which the Khanates of Yerevan and Nakhijevan were established.
After Nadir Shah's death in 1747, Nakhijevan Khanate became a semi-independent entity. In order to gain trophies, the local khans repeatedly invaded the neighbouring khanates and pashalics; moreover, they imposed heavy taxes upon their own subjects, oppressing particularly the Christians, namely the Armenians. The Armenian-inhabited villages of Nakhijevan were also periodically plundered and devastated by the neighbouring Turkish, Kurdish and Persian rulers who invaded Nakhijevan in retaliation for the local khans' incursions.
In compliance with the Treaty of Turkmenchai signed on 10 February 1828, after the termination of the Russo-Persian war of 1828, the semi-independent Khanate of Nakhijevan and Yerevan Khanate passed into the rule of Russia. With this respect, special mention should be made of a declaration made by Russian Emperor Nikolai I on 21 March of the same year. It particularly stated, "Our valorous troops ...conquered Yerevan Khanate situated on both banks of the river Arax, as well as Nakhijevan Khanate, that is part of ancient Armenia: both of them shifted into the possession of the victor."_*1
Between 1849 and May 1918, Nakhijevan formed part of Yerevan Province.
In the days of the Armeno-Tartar fights_*2 in 1905, almost all the Armenian-inhabited villages of Nakhijevan were plundered and devastated: "I passed through many villages of Nakhijevan District: all of them represent[ed] an awful scene. Pillaged villages, burnt buildings, churches, schools... Can there be found any civilised person, anyone of more or less nobility who will justify those merciless, brutal and barbaric acts that were committed in Nakhijevan and throughout the Province of Yerevan? They will say that it was the handiwork of the ignorant, blind mob, but was that throng not led by the so-called intelligent Turks, Pan-Islamists and other Turkish dignitaries...?"_*3
By the way, one of the objectives pursued by the Pan-Islamic Organisation established in Baku was "to slaughter the Armenians or force them into emigration, thus taking possession of their lands."_*4
The Turkish troops who invaded Transcaucasia in 1918, after World War I, also entered Nakhijevan, where they massacred most of the local Armenians, only some of them having a narrow escape to Zangezur. The local Muslim elements were a great aid to them in the carnage of the Christians.
On 14 December 1918, Vicar of Yerevan Diocese Khoren the Bishop reported to Catholicos Gevorg V that 62 churches and 18 schools had been destroyed in Nakhijevan District._*5
At the beginning of 1919, Nakhijevan became part of the Republic of Armenia with the status of province; in the summer of the same year, however, the Musavatists rose in rebellion, as a result of which, in September ensued a Turko-Armenian war.
On 30 November 1920, the Revolutionary Committee of Azerbaijan made a declaration on the occasion of the Sovietization of Armenia. In that document they declared Nakhijevan as an inseparable part of Armenia: "...from now onwards no territorial issues should incite bloodshed between the two centuries-old neighbours, i.e. the Armenians and the Muslims. The Districts of Zangezur and Nakhijevan are inseparable parts of Soviet Armenia..."_*6
On 16 March 1921, without the participation of the Armenian side, Turkey and Russia signed an illegal agreement, in accordance with which, Nakhijevan was put under the "protection" of Azerbaijan._*7
The year 1923 marked the establishment of the Autonomous Republic of Nakhijevan within the territory of Azerbaijan. On 9 February 1924, its territory was divided into 5 administrative districts (Babek, Ilyichevsk, Shahbuz, Julfa and Ordubad) which occupied an area of 5,500 square kilometres.
The population of the Autonomous Republic of Nakhijevan constantly manifested a high rate of growth: thus, in 1873 they amounted to 69,000; in 1913 to 135,000, and in 1991 to 306,000._*8 The massacres perpetrated between 1918 and 1920, as well as the policy of discrimination conducted against the region's ethnic Armenians during the Soviet years, and the measures aimed at driving them away from their historical birthplace gradually resulted in the decrease of their number: thus, in 1897 they amounted to 34,672 souls (34.4 %); in 1926 to 11,276 souls (10.8 %), and in 1979 to 3,406 souls (1.4 %)._*9
A record of 1918 states that "The large territory of the district of Hin Nakhijevan is inhabited by about 35 thousand Armenians and 48 thousand Turks. The former constitute one-third of the population of the city of Hin Nakhijevan, while the rest are Turks."_*10
In the first years of the Soviet rule, the national, political and economic persecution aggravated to such an extent that the inhabitants of 15 Armenian-inhabited settlements (Nakhijevan City, Shekhmahmud, Khalilu, Kültapa, Uzun-Oba, Nazarabad, Ghulibek-Diza, Kyarimbek-Diza, Nazari, Khalkhali, Yarmeja, Aylapat, Jahri, Hajjivar and Gharakhanbeklu) of Nakhijevan District wrote the following in a document, "...we have chosen Comrades Grigor Kyureghian and Gegham Avetissian from Shekhmahmud Village as our representatives to be sent to Yerevan and Tpkhis [an old version of the name of the Georgian capital Tiflis] to put the issue of the deplorable state of the unfortunate and hard-working people of Nakhijevan before the proper bodies to settle it once and for all so that their legal and civil rights are wholly respected. We do not find it unnecessary to state that we have unanimously decided to leave this region and move elsewhere..."_*11
The last purely Armenian-inhabited villages of Nakhijevan and the others still retaining their Armenian residents were totally stripped of their populations on 22 November 1988, with the exception of Tseghna Village, which was left derelict on 13 June 1989_*12: in this way, this region, which had always been populated by the Armenians during the long millennia of its existence, was abandoned and has been lying desolate for more than a decade and a half now, something that never befell it throughout its history.
Between 1988 and 1989, the Armenian deportees of Nakhijevan mainly resettled in Vayots Dzor and Ararat Marzes (regions) of the Republic of Armenia.
As for the origin of Nakhijevan's present-day population that is called Azerbaijanian, they mainly descend from various Turkic and Kurdish tribes among which the Kengerli and Gharajalar can be mentioned. The former, who resettled from Tigranakert (Diarbekir), constituted 920 families in the district in 1829 and lived in Nakhijevan City, as well as in the villages of Jahri, Giaurarkh (Kruakk), Khok, Shahtakht, Gerdasar, Vaykher, Nahajir, Kölk, Mahmudova, Kültapa, Kakhap, Bulghan, Trkesh, Selesüz, Gharabaghlar and Kerimbey-Diza._*13 The latter, who chiefly lived in the district of Daralagyaz, led a semi-nomadic life: in 1829 they formed 660 families._*14
Under the Tsarist regime, a common ethnonym, i.e. Tartars, was used with reference to all these tribes. Upon the establishment of the Soviet regime, it was changed into Azerbaijanians after a newly-founded republic that had first appeared upon the political and historical arena. In fact, at first the ethnonym of Azerbaijanians was referred to the representatives of all the nationalities inhabiting this newly-established republic called Azerbaijan: the Tartars, the Armenians, the Russians, the Lezghins and the Talysh (after the example of the USA, where all the nationalities are called Americans). In the course of time, however, the ethnonym of Azerbaijanian began to be used only with reference to the former Tartars.
Historical Monuments. The territory of the Autonomous Republic of Nakhijevan abounds in a wide variety of monuments of material culture. Unfortunately, the local Armenian monuments, that formed the bulk of the cultural heritage of the region, were not fully documented due to the artificial and deliberately-set obstacles devised by the authorities of Azerbaijan in the Soviet years. Appended to this atlas is a list of monuments (218 buildings of Christian worship /monasteries, churches, chapels/; 41 castles; 26 bridges; 86 sites of towns and villages; over 4,500 cross-stones, and 23,000 tombstones)_*15 that were recorded as being located in the territory of Nakhijevan: all of them date back to the period preceding the 20th century. Another list includes about 30 Muslim (Persian, Seljuk, Turk-Tatar-Azerbaijanian) monuments that are attributed to the same period, but form a smaller number and do not boast antiquity: most of them are quite recently-erected monuments.
Beginning with the mid-1990s, the Armenian historical monuments situated in the territory of Azerbaijan as well as those in Nakhijevan became targets of a flagrant anti-Armenian hysteria manifested at state level. With every single passing day, more and more Armenian monuments are destroyed in this country in a premeditated way due to the bigoted intolerance and discrimination shown against whatever is of Armenian origin
Between 1998 and 2006, the authorities of Nakhijevan totally annihilated the world-famous cemetery of Jugha (5th to 17th centuries), boasting over 3,000 ornate, inscribed cross-stones and more than 5,000 tombstones, the armed forces of the country being the immediate perpetrators of this crime. Complete destruction also befell the churches and monasteries of Agulis, Aprakunis, Shorot, Krna, Tseghna and other settlements: they were either exploded or pulled down by means of bulldozers.
Nowadays the Azerbaijanians, whose ethnonym has not been in use for even 90 years, keep Nakhijevan, once an inseparable part of Historical Armenia, annexed to their state. Over the recent decade and a half, they obliterated an unspeakably great number of centuries-old Armenian monuments, inflicting a formidable and irretrievable loss upon the treasury of world civilisation.
Perhaps, the declaration Doctor of Historical Sciences Hajjifahreddin Safarli, the head of Nakhijevan Branch of the Institute of History, Ethnography and Archaeology of Azerbaijan's National Academy of Sciences, made on 27 October 2007 can be considered the climax of the policy of vandalism exercised by the Azerbaijanian authorities. He stated, "There are no Armenian monuments in Nakhijevan; nor have they ever existed here..."