Men know that you are mine by birth:
My nest,  my refuge,  and my hearth,
My mother,  native land,  dear earth!
Sever soul and body??  Death but can.
O Azerbaijan,  my Azerbaijan!
Samad Vurgun

  Window to Gazakh

Home     Content     Album    Guestbook    About

The history of the region

Historically Gazakh covered a vast territory that comprised current Gazakh, Agstafa, Tovuz and part of Gedabey districts of Azerbaijan, part of current Armenia - Karavansaray (present Ijevan), Barana (Noembriyan), Shemsaddin (Berd), Qaraqoyunlu (Krasnoselsk), Dilijan regions and Borchali region of Georgia. The north-west of Azerbaijan has been populated since the ancient times. The fertile nature of the area, abundance of animals, warm climate of the Ganja-Gazakh plains and plateaus Cheyranchol created favourable conditions for the early settlement of these places. Here archaeologists have found the traces of ancient camps, settlements, burial mounds, relating to the Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages. The  findings show that the ancient masters were preparing the stone and flint tools, ceramic and bronze utensils. People were growing wheat and barley, breeding cows, sheep and horses. Bronze swords, axes, daggers, knives, clubs, arrows and spears found here indicate the past military power of the region.

One of the most ancient sites of human being in Azerbaijan has been found in the famous grotto Damjily. Archaeological excavations conducted in this area in 1957-1958 revealed numerous stone tools and bones of various animals. The Stone Age settlement has also been found near the village of Shikhli. The black vessels from Baba-Dervish Eneolithic settlement (4-2 millennium BC) near the village of Demirchiler were decorated by the ancient artists thousand years ago. The excavation near Gazakhbeyli village in 1952 revealed an ancient settlement and a cemetery dated VIII-VII centuries BC. Along with the dead a large number of weapons, pottery and iron utensils were discovered in the graves. Burial mounds of the Bronze Age are still being found throughout the whole Gazakh region.

From the first centuries of the Millennium, this region had been a part of the Caucasian Albania. According to Roman historians here in Garayazi steppe, in the 1st century BC the Albanian army fought with formidable Roman legions led by Gnaeus Pompey. The people of Albania comprised a variety of ethnic groups, most of whom were Turkic. In 313 Albania adopted Christianity. There are several churches (V-VIII cc.) survived in the region and dated to the period of the Caucasian Albania.

The region was conquered by a succession of neighbouring powers (invaders), including the Sassanid Persians, the Byzantine Empire, the Arabs, the Seljuq Turks, the Georgians, the Mongols, the Timurids, the Kara Koyunlu and Ak Koyunlu Turkoman tribes and finally by Safavid Iran. As a settlement of the major Turkic tribe, Gazakh was first mentioned by the Arab historian Al-Kufi when he described events happened in the VII century. From the X century the Turkic-speaking tribes from the North began their movement towards the territory of Azerbaijan. A large relocation of the Qipchag-Turkic tribes to Borchali and Gazakh took place in the XII century when the Georgian King David IV settled 40000 Qipchag families along the Georgian borders. Although at that time these lands were included in Georgia, the medieval Georgian chronicles described the area as a region of Turkic populations and called it "Didi Turkoba" (Big Turkic region). Ancient toponymy of the area from the Kura River to the Caucasus Mountains also demonstrates the Turkic past of this region. Simultaneously with the movement of Turkic-speaking tribes from the north to the south, there was another movement of Turkic-speaking tribes from the south to the north. For example, a great wave of the Kara Koyunlu tribes moved here from Iran in the XV century.

In the era of the Safavids a semi-independent Gazakh sultanate was formed in the north-west of Azerbaijan. It was a part of the Karabagh (Ganja) principality (beylerbey). The Gazakh sultanate, whose rulers had a hereditary sultan title, was ruled by three generations.

In 1736, the last Safavid ruler Nadir convened a meeting of feudal lords and proclaimed himself a shah. The ruler of the Karabakh (Ganja) principality Ugurlu Khan Ziyadoglu opposed this decision. In retaliation Nadir Shah reassigned Gazakh, Shemseddil and Borchali from the Karabakh principality to the Georgian king Teimuraz. For a short period in 1752 the Gazakh sultanate became a part of the Sheki Khanate. At the end of the XVIII century Gazakh and Shemseddil again became vassals of the Georgian King Irakli II and the area became known as the Gazakh-Shemseddil sultanate. In 1801 the Gazakh-Shemseddil sultanate along with Georgia was annexed to Russia. The Gazakh-Shemseddil sultanate was abolished in 1819 and its territory was divided into Gazakh and Shemseddil divisions (distansiya).

As a result of the administrative reform in 1841 the Transcaucasian region was divided into the Georgia-Imeritiyan province and the Caspian region. Territory of the Gazakh division, as a part of the Elizavetopol uyezd (county), was included into the Georgia-Imeritiyan province. Under the new reform in 1846 provinces of Tiflis, Kutaisi, Shamakha and Derbent were created. Gazakh was included in the Tiflis province. In 1867 the Gazakh uyezd was established and it became a part of the newly formed Elizavetopol province. The territory of the Gazakh uyezd was 5908 sq. kilometres and in 1897 its population reached 112 thousand people. In 1909 the town of Gazakh received a status of the district city.

In 1918 Azerbaijan and Georgia declared their state independence. Shortly thereafter, all territorial and border issues between the two countries were addressed and resolved. Georgia renounced claims to the Gazakh uyezd. Meanwhile Azerbaijan waived claims to the Borchali uyezd. The Gazakh uyezd in 1918-1920 was a part of the Ganja province. In 1919 the Tovuz uyezd was isolated from the Gazakh area.

Azerbaijan Republic existed for two years. Then as a result of the Russian intervention the national government of Azerbaijan was overthrown. On May 5, 1920 the cavalry of the XI Red Army entered Gazakh. The territory of the former Gazakh uyezd was divided by the Bolsheviks and part of it was illegally transferred to Armenia. In typical Stalinist style two exclaves of Gazakh (Yukhary Askipara and Barkhudali) were created inside Armenia.

Due to new administrative divisions in 1930 uyezds were abolished and the whole territory of Azerbaijan was divided into 63 districts. The Gazakh uyezd was transformed into the Gazakh district (rayon). In 1939 the Agstafa district was formed from the part of the Gazakh district. In 1959 Gazakh and Agstafa districts were combined and since 1990 the Agstafa district has been separated again. In 1964-1965 the Tovuz district also was a part of the Gazakh region. Thus, the Gazakh district has been in the current administrative boundaries since 1990.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Azerbaijan was subjected to the aggression by Armenia. Not limited with the fighting in Karabakh, the Armenians attacked the Gazakh district. In early 1990 the Armenians burned several villages of the Gazakh region and occupied their territories. The aggressors’ intrusion was stopped, but these villages are still under the Armenian occupation.

Nowadays Gazakh is one of the fast and well-developing regions of Azerbaijan.