The historical territories of Azerbaijan, bordered on the Great Caucasus from the North, the Alagoz chain, the basin of the lake Goycha and the Eastern Anatoly from the west, the Caspian Sea from the East and Sultaniye-Zanjan-Hamadan from the south, is a place of the primary cultures which gave the start to modern civilization. In those territories historically belonged to Azerbaijan people they established rich distinctive culture and the state system.
Sounding of ‘Azerbaijan’ regularly changed along the history. Historical sources reflect former names of Azerbaijan as Andirpatian, Atropatena, Adirbijan and Azirbijan.
The territory of Azerbaijan is rich with archeological monuments which prove it to be one of the regions of the primitive men’s first settlement. Archeological finds of the caves of Azikh, TAglar, Damjili, Dashsalahli, Gazma(Nakhchivan) and other monuments, the shin-bone of the most ancient Azikh man (Azikhantrop) lived 300-400 thousand years ago in the Age of Asheul prove the abovementioned theory.
Great states such as Manna, kingdom of Iskit(Skit, Skif), Atropatena and Albania appear on the lands of Azerbaijan in the 1st millennium BC and the 1st millennium AD. Those states played distinctive role in perfection of ruling traditions, in history of the economy and culture of the country and in formation of united people.
Since the first centuries AD Turkic language was gaining priority among minor people and ethnic groups lived in the territory of Azerbaijan. Turkic language was the means of relation between the north and the south. This fact played important role in formation of united folk for the reason that monotheism was absent in Azerbaijan at that time. The belief to the head God of the Turks did not prevailed over other spread religions. Zoroastrianism, fire-worship, belief in the Sun, the Moon, the Sky, the stars, ground, water etc. still existed. Christianity was widely spread in the northern part of the country, i.e. in some places of Albania, especially in western mountainous regions. Acceptance of Islam in the 7th century made a great change in the history of Azerbaijan.
In the middle of the 9th century Azerbaijan re-establishes its traditions of the state system and in the lands of the spread of Islam we see new states: Sajis, Shirvanshakhs, Salaris, Ravvadis, Shaddadis.
After Arabic Khilafet fell into decay since the mid of the 9th century Turkic-Islamic empires increased their role in the Caucasus, in all the Near and the Middle East. States ruled by such Turkic-Islamic dynasties as Sajis, Shirvanshahs, Salaris, Ravvadis, Shaddadis, Shaki governors, Saljugis, Eldanises, Mongols, Elkhanis-Hulakus, Chobanis, Jalayirs, Teymuris, Osmans, Garagoyunlus, Aggoyunlus, Safavis, Afshars, Gajars and others remained in the history of the state system of Azerbaijan, of the whole South Caucasus and the Near and the Middle East.
State system establishment of Azerbaijan progressed between the 15th and the 18th centuries and later. The great empires of the period Garagoyunlu, Aggoyunlu, Safavi, Afshar and Gajar were directly ruled by the Azerbaijan dynasties.
İn the reign of the great statesman of Azerbaijan Uzun Hasan (Hasan the High)(1468-1478) the emperor of Aggoyunlu appeared as a great military-political entity in the whole Near and the Middle East. State system establishment of Azerbaijan had been developing. Uzun Hasan aimed to create strong centralised state embracing the territory of the whole Azerbaijan. For this purpose he composed ‘Ganunname'(the about the Law). He made one to translate Gurani-Kerim (Koran) into azeri, ordered Abu Bekr Tehrani to write Oguzname (Oguz epic) in the name of ‘Kitabi-Diyarbekerriye’.
The distinctive importance carries out the period of the late 15th and early 16th , when the prominent statesman and the grandson of Uzun Hasan Shah Ismail Khatai(1501-1524) realized his grandfather’s wish and united all the territories of Azerbaijan under his control. He created a centralized Azerbaijan state -Safavi; the capital was Tebriz. During the reign of the Safavis state system establishment in Azerbaijan progressed. Azerbaijani had been the sate language. Reforms carried out by Shah Ismail, Shah Tahmasib and Shah Abbas and other Safavi rulers, their internal and foreign policy changed the state of Safavi to one of the greatest empires of Near and the Middle East.
After Savafi fell into decay Nadir shah Afshar(1736-1747), a prominent Azerbaijani commander, continued ruling traditions in Azerbaijan territories after Savafi fell into decay. Being of Turkic-Afshar origin from Azerbaijan, he strengthened the borders of the former empire and in 1739 occupied the Northern India including Deli. Despite of his great efforts he couldn’t establish the great centralized state.
After Nadir Shah’s death his great empire fell into decay and in the second part of the 18th century the struggle of Azerbaijan for freedom gave the birth to new smaller states; khanates and sultanates appeared in the territory of Azerbaijan.
At late 18th century the government of Iran passed to the dynasty of the Gajars(1796-1925) of Azerbaijani origin. Their main policy was to unite all the territories once ruled by their ancestors–the Garagoyunlus, the Aggoyunlus, the Safaviz and by Nadir shah and Azerbaijani khanates as well, under their government.
The liberty movement in Northern Azerbaijan concluded tragically. In March 1918 the dashnak-bolshevik government with S. Shaumyan at its head executed the terrible genocide against Azerbaijanis. But the interference of Turkey brought victory to liberation movement in Azerbaijan. In May 28th of 1918 the northern Azerbaijan witnesses the establishment of the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan –the first Parliamentary Republic in the history of the people of Azerbaijan, the first democratic, legal and secular state in the whole East and Islamic world.
In the period of Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan parliamentary experience had been gained in two stages. The First period lasted from May 27th till November 19th of 1918. In may 28th the Parliament declared about independence of Azerbaijan, assumed governing of the country and adopted historical Declaration of Independence. During 6 month period the Parliament composed of 44 turkic-moslem members, functioned under the name of the National Board of Azerbaijan and adopted very important historical decisions.
The Second period of parliamentary experience of the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan or the Baku period, started from December 7th of 1918 and lasted till April 27th of 1920; only 17 months. By its decision from September 1st of 1919 the parliament established the Baku State University. The establishment of the national University was the most important event in the history of our people. Though the fall of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, the Baku State University helped to preserve the ideas of Republic and played great role in re-gaining of the independence.
In lifetime of the DRA the parliament gathered 155 times. 10 of them were in the period of the National Board of Azerbaijan (May 27th -November 19th 1918), the rest 145 in the period of the Parliament of Azerbaijan (December 7th 1918- April 27th 1920).
Parliament discussed over 270 drafts. 230 of them were adopted. Active and business-like disputes caused the adoption of the laws on the third reading. During its 23 month live the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan proved that no colonial or repression regime, how cruel it might be, is in power to crush liberty ideals and state traditions of Azerbaijan people.
The Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan fell under the military attack of the Soviet Russia. State independency of Northern Azerbaijan was liquidated. In April 28th of 1920 in the territory of Azerbaijan the Soviet Socialist Republic of Azerbaijan (SSRA) appeared instead of the Democratic Republic. The system of the independent state government established in DRA had directly been liquidated after Soviet occupation.
In the thirties of the 20th century the Azerbaijani people met with repression. 29 000 people were subjected to repression in 1937
In the 60th of the 20th century for objective and subjective reasons Azerbaijan witnessed drawbacks in many spheres of its economy, industry and agriculture Despite of former successful achievements of Azerbaijan people.
Hundreds of plants, factories and other production swatch established over the whole republic during 1970-1975. 213 great plant facilities started to function. In many important industrial spheres Azerbaijan won the first places in the Soviet Union. 350 kinds of products made in Azerbaijan were exported to 65 foreign countries.
The late period of Azerbaijan state establishment has started with the adoption of the Constitution Act ‘about the State Independence of Azerbaijan Republic’ on October 18th of 1991, on the eve of the fall of the USSR and is still successfully going on.
The territory of the Republic of Azerbaijan forms a constituent geological part of the Alpine folded belt. Sedimentary deposits embracing the southwestern parts of the Major and Minor Caucasus, including the intermountain Kur-River trough, as well as the Mid- and South Caspian basins consist of diversity fold systems. The Earth’s crust thickness in Azerbaijan varies in the range from 38 to 55 km. Its maximum thickness is observed in the Minor Caucasus area, while its minimum thickness is typical for the Talysh foothills. Geological setting of the area consists of sedimentary, volcanic-sedimentary, volcanic and terrestrial deposits embracing almost entire stratigraphic range beginning from pre-Cambrian period up to Holocene time.
The Great Caucasus meganticlinorium, the Kur River intermontane trough and the Minor Caucasus megasynclinorium constitute the principle structural systems in Azerbaijan. The Major Caucasus meganticlinorium has very intricate structural architecture embracing ancient geologic features along with those generated recently. All constituent structures of the Major Caucasus meganticlinorium abruptly plunge towards the Caspian basin and terminate entirely within the coastal area.
Azerbaijan is situated on northern extremity of the subtropical zone, south-eastern Caucasus and north-western part of Iran plateau. Its climatic diversity is caused by the complicate geographical location and landscape, the proximity of the Caspian Sea, the effect of sun’s radiation, air masses of different origin, etc.
The Republic of Azerbaijan has a very rich flora. There are more than 4,500 species of higher plants here. The flora of Azerbaijan is much richer in the number of species than the flora of the other republics of the South Caucasus. Sixty-six per cent of the species growing in the whole Caucasus can be found in Azerbaijan. Relict genera of the tertiary period can be frequently found in all the zones of Azerbaijan, especially in Talysh. There are 240 endemic species of plants in Azerbaijan.
İn the Great and Minor Caucasus Mountains broad-leaved forests occur at 600-1,800 meters above sea level.
The diversity of various types of animals, which inhabit and populate a defined ground or water area, is the animal kingdom. The first reports on the richness and diversity of animal life in Azerbaijan can be found in travel notes of Eastern travelers. Animal carvings on architectural monuments, ancient rocks and stones survived up to the present times. The first information on the animal kingdom of Azerbaijan was collected during the visits of naturalists to Azerbaijan in 17th century. Unlike fauna, the concept of animal kingdom covers not only the types of animals, but also the number of individual species.
The animal kingdom of Azerbaijan is very rich, partly due to diversity of its natural complexes. There are 97 species of mammals, 357 species of birds, 67 species of reptiles and amphibians, 97 species of fish and over 15 thousand species of invertebrates in Azerbaijan.
The Red Book of the Azerbaijan Republic includes 108 species of animals, including 14 species of mammals, 36 species of birds, 13 species of reptiles and amphibians, 5 species of birds and 40 species of insects. The country’s fresh water basins and the Caspian Sea account for 30 species of fish. They are fished in the Kur River, surrounding lakes, as well as in the Mingechevir reservoir.
One of the world’s most ancient nations – the nation of Azerbaijan – has the right to feel proud for its history, material and cultural monuments, literature, arts and music heritage.
uite obviously, the style of life, aesthetic tastes, the national image and qualities, are strongly reflected in folk arts. One can easily come across numerous wonderful models of Azerbaijani folk arts in the world’s largest museums. The pieces of arts created by the skillful hands of Tabriz, Nakhichevan, Gandja, Gazakh, Guba, Naku, Shaki, Shamakhi and Nagorny Kharabakh can be found in large museum collections of Victoria and Albert of London, Louvres of Paris, Metropoliten of Vashington and Vienna, Rome, Berlin, Istanbul, Tehran, Cairo museums.
Works of art made from metal extracted from Nakhichevan, Migachevir, Gadanay, Gandja and other places are approximately 5000 years old. Different pictures, scraped on housing implements made from copper, bronze, gold and adornments, prove existence of fine art in Azerbaijan since ancient times.
Carpets, weaved by separate carpet-making schools of Azerbaijan (Guba, Baku, Shirvan, Gandja, Gazakh, Nagorny Karabakh, Tabriz) in different periods, amaze people till nowadays. Most of them kept in well-known museums of the world.
Azerbaijan was rich of architectural pieces one of branches of folk art along with works of fine art since ancient times. Maiden tower and Shirvanshahs palace in Baku, Momina Xatun and Yusif ibn Kuseyr mausoleums, created by architect Acami in Nakhichevan, Natavan’s home, pictures on walls of Shaki khan palace and other patterns are rare pearls of architecture.
Folk songs, dances, ashug creation (folk poet and singer) have specific place in Azerbaijan national music. Mugams are foundation of Azerbaijan national music. It is not accidental that UNESCO, specialized organization of UN, entered Azerbaijan mugam into the list of world cultural heritage.
Sightseeing places in Azerbaijan
From the time Azerbaijan gained its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 and the petroleum boom in the country, the region has been developing fast as a major tourist centre. Every city in the country has got its own related testimonials and experiences, which focus on the region’s ancient history. Also with time, new construction projects along with improved technology are coming together to provide a wonderful blend of contemporary services & entertainment and classic Azerbaijani culture & history.
The Palace of the Shirvanshahs, located in Baku, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site built in the 15th century by the Shirvanshah dynasty. This monument is the biggest piece of architecture under the Shirvan-Absheron branch and includes the main building, Diwan Khana, The Mausoleum, The Palace Mosque and The Palace Bath-house. The construction of the palace was initiated under the rule of Ibrahim I of Shirvan dynasty. The Palace is open to visitors from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.
The Maiden Tower is one of the most dominant architectural pieces, due to its vague design and the stories that surround it. Said to be built in the 12th century originally on the shore of Caspian Sea (later due to land reclamation, the tower is no more near the Caspian Sea), it was supposed to serve as a watch tower. But the construction and architecture, points the needle to nearly 2,500 years back. It’s an important part of Azerbaijani history considering that it features on the country’s currency notes and other documents.
The Atashgah Fire Temple or the Fire Temple of Baku is situated at Surakhani near Baku. This castle-style temple was nominated for World Heritage Site status in 1998 and declared a historical-architectural reserve by decree by the Azeri President in 2007. The inscriptions in either Sanskrit or Punjabi state that the place was a Hindu place of worship, unlike claims indicating it was a Zoroastrian Fire Temple. Today, it houses a museum and is no longer used as a temple.
Yanar Dag, translated as the “burning mountain” is a hillside near Baku that continuously vents flames of fire all year round, a process that has been going around for 1000 years. Natural gas vents on the sides of the mountain make sure that the flames don’t subdue despite of rain.
A hamam or public bath is a type of a sauna that originated in the Middle East. In Baku, the main “hamam” lies near the Baku Soviet Metro railway station as it is the oldest public bath in the city. Known as Hamam Mahallesi, different days are allotted for men and women with Monday’s and Friday’s for women and the rest of the days for men. Another public bath, only for men, is located in the old town and is known by the name of Teze Bey Hamami. This hamam is a little expensive as they offer a variety of baths like Turkish, Finnish, etc.
Icheri Sheher or the Old Inner City is the oldest part of Baku and is surrounded by fortification walls dating back to the 9th century. The streets inside the historical core of the city have been designed to block the strong winds coming from the Caspian Sea.
Alongside with historical sights, modern Baku has gained new symbols. First of all, it is the famous Flame Tower complex composed of 3 buildings. One tower is a residential building, the second one functions as a business centre and the third tower is a home for the Fairmont hotel. It is interesting that lighting of Flame Towers is considered to be the best in the world according to the survey of skyscrapercity.com, the influential forum on urban planning. The surface of the Towers is fully covered with LED screens which reflect different visual characters in motion, easily visible from the far corners of the city.
The Heydar Aliyev Cultural Centre has gained not less fame – it is a complex building which includes a congress-centre, a museum, a library and a 9 hectare park. The author of the design of the building is the famous architect Zakha Hadid. By the way, construction of the Flame Towers and the Heydar Aliyev cultural Centre were widely covered in the programs of Discovery and Science Channels.
And finally we have to mention ultra-modern Crystal Hall concert complex at the State Flag Square in Baku where the “Eurovision-2012” contest was held.
In Sheki city
Caravansarai (Caravan Palace)
Located on the M.F. Akhundov Avenue, Caravan Sarai or Caravan Palace is a historically cherished monument that was built by the Sheki Khans. The Caravan Palace was built as a resting place for the caravans that passed along the Silk Road through Azerbaijan. The site on which Caravan Sarai is built is said to be one of biggest stopovers for caravans in the Caucasus region. The Caravan Sarai has been decorated with traditional stained “Shebke” glass and frescoes and finds its notation among many poems of Ajerbaijan.
The Juma Masjid is a mosque built in the 16th century. Like any other mosque, it includes all regular features like the place where the Imam gives his lecture, mihrab pointing towards Mecca, and minarets through which Islamic followers are called during prayer rituals. But the highlight of this mosque is the 40m tall spire from where one can hear echo of a prayer.
Khansarai (The Palace of the Sheki Khans)
Khansarai or The Palace of the Sheki Khans has been the summer residence of the famous Sheki Khans and its palace, gardens and fortification walls has been constructed by Khan Hussein. The palace offers a stunning view of the surrounding mountains and you can also have a look at the tea house, parks and museums nearby the palace.
In Ganja city
Nizami’s mausoleum (Tomb of Nizami)
Situated just outside the city of Ganja, the tomb was built in honour of poet and writer Nizami Ganjavi. The monument was rebuilt in 1991 on the existing old structure which dated back to the 1940’s. The mausoleum is 20m tall and the area surrounding it displays the poet’s books inscribed on metal.
In the city of Ganja, lies a two storied building, aptly named “Bottle House”. It is decorated with nearly 50,000 glass bottles. A private family house, the decorations include a portrait of a member of the family who went missing during WWII.
Juma Mosque of Ganja (Shah Abbas)
The Shah Abbas or Juma Mosque includes two a 17th century minarets built as a tribute to the independence of Ganja from the Osman Empire. The red bricked building has been designed by Sheykh Baga-ud-din and has been decorated by “Shebke” stained glass paintings.