The Armenian district of Nakhijevan city, 1910
The old woman in the right is my maternal great-grandmother, Yeghisabet Voskanyan.
She is the survivor of the massacres in Nakhijevan implemented by Azerbajanis (then, Caucasian Tatars) in 1918.
The establishment of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic in 1918 began with the systematic extermination of the Armenian populations living in Azerbaijan, in Nakhijevan and Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh). Often viewed as an extension of the 1915 deportation and genocide of Ottoman Armenians, Azerbaijani forces in Baku slaughtered at least 15,000 Armenian civilians in the 'September Days.' Azerbaijanis also slaughtered 1,000 Armenians in 1919-1920 in the Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) cities of Shushi and Khaibalikend.
These historic genocidal massacres contribute to Armenian distrust of Azerbaijan today.
Soviet rule brought the massacres against Armenians to an end, but the dispute over Artshakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) during the dismantling of the Soviet Union reignited violence against the Armenian minority in Azerbaijan.
From 1988 to 1990, Azerbaijani mobs robbed, beat, raped, and murdered ethnic Armenians in the towns of Sumgait, Baku, and Kirovabad. This campaign of terror caused the forced expulsion of nearly all Armenians living in Azerbaijan. In one significant massacre in the village of Maragha, Azerbaijani forces murdered over 100 Armenian civilians in April 1992.
The last Armenians fleed from Nakhijevan in 1988 -1990.
The historic Armenian cemetery in Djulfa spans the 6th through 17th centuries. At its peak, there were some 10,000 intricately carved stones crosses (khachkars) across three hills, marking the different eras of Armenian history. By 1998, following systemic destruction of the khatchkars by Azerbaijani authorities over the decades, only 2,000 remained.
Azerbajani soldiers in Nakhijevan, 1918
ARTSAKH (Nagorno-Karabagh) MUST NOT HAVE THE DESTINY OF NAKHIJEVAN
Photo: Julfa Armenian Cemetery
Photograph circa 1987, Research on Armenian Architecture.
Khatchkars are cross-stones about one meter wide and up to 2.50 meters high, richly decorated with Christian symbols, flowers and arabesque climbing plants as well as with subjects from daily life.
These delicately engraved stones represent a 1500-year-old tradition of Armenian stone masons. Khatchkars are unique and were used as freestanding styles but also as ornaments in the masonry of Armenian churches and cloisters.
Since the early Middle Ages they have been used as tombstones in cemeteries.
Khatchkars in the Jufla cemetery in 1915
An undated photo showing a section of the cemetery. On the right side of the riverbank is Iran. The Areas River serves as the international border.
In 1998, Azerbaijani forces continued the systematic destruction of the remaining 2,000 khatchkars in the Djulfa cemetery. Eyewitnesses on the Iranian border cited the use of bulldozers to demolish the stones, the remnants of which were transported by train (see above.) Following three weeks of attacks, roughly 800 khatchkars were destroyed. Through the intervention of groups such as UNESCO and ICOMOS, the demolition was halted.
On December 10, 2005, the government of Azerbaijan began the final demolition of the historic Armenian cemetery in Djugha (Djulfa), an ancient Armenian city now located in Azerbaijan. This marked the final blow to the 10,000 intricately hand carved khachkars (stone crosses) which were erected between the 6th through the 17th centuries.
Khackars are a uniquely Armenian form of stone carving which UNESCO has recognized as being both culturally and religiously significant to the Armenian people and constituting part of humanity’s share intangible cultural heritage in need of urgent safeguarding.
By December 15, 2005, the final destruction was complete. Approximately 200 Azerbaijani soldiers amassed at the Nakhichevan-Iran border to desecrate the remaining grave markers at the Djugha (Djulfa) Armenian cemetery. The cemetery has since been replaced with an Azerbaijani military training base.
In 2007, at the 16th International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) General Assembly in Quebec City, a resolution regretfully stated with regard to this Azerbaijani vandalism: “this heritage that once enjoyed its worthy place among the treasures of the world’s heritage can no longer be transmitted today to future generations,”
ARTSAKH MUST NOT HAVE THE DESTINY OF NAKHIJEVAN
Nakhijevan Historical Remark.
One of the most Armenian areas of the Armenian Highlands was Nakhijevan, which is actually a continuation of the Ararat Valley.
Armenian tradition holds that Nakhijevan was founded by Noah.
The oldest culture artifacts found in the region date back to the Neolithic Age (6000 B.C.E. to 4000 B.C.E.).
Nakhijevan is the 35th province of Vaspurakan, the 8th province of Mets Hayk‘ (Great Armenia), ‘where the city that shares the same name is located.’ the Nakhijevan Region included Goght‘n, Ernjak, Chahuk, and Sharur provinces of Historical Armenia. Their territories extend upon the valleys and mountainous regions on the left-hand coast of the Araxes River, which is surrounded by mountainous chains of Zangezur and Vayk‘. Since Vaspurakan, Syunik and Ayrarat were provinces of the Middle World (central territories) of Historical Armenia, therefore the territory of Nakhijevan, too, was regarded as a Middle World (central) territory of Armenia.
Like other territories of Historical Armenia, Nakhijevan as well, has been under the rule of different empires for many centuries.
In the first decades of the 1800s, Russia captured the territories on the left bank of the Araxes, Transcaucasia from Persian Empire.
In 1828, the Russians created the Armenian Marz, which included the two khanates of Yerevan and Nakhijevan, which were under the rule of Persian Empire. According to the data of 1831, 3 of the 5 largest settlements of the region were in Nakhijevan: Nakhijevan - 5,470 inhabitants, Ordubad - 3,444 and Jahri - 1,880 people. The other two largest settlements were Yerevan with 11,920 people, which was the largest settlement and administrative center of the region, and Vagharshapat with 2,175 people.
Until 1921, Nakhijevan was never a part of the provinces, in the territory of which Azerbaijan Democratic Republic was to be declared in the middle of 1918. On the contrary, Nakhijevan, starting from the Armenian Marz (1828-1840) until 1918, was always a part of the provinces in which territory the Republic of Armenia was founded in 1918.
On March 18, 1921, an agreement was signed in Moscow between the Russian Bolsheviks and the Turkish Kemalists, by which, Nakhijevan was included in the Soviet Azerbaijan.
AND THE GRIEF IS CARRYING ME...
Stella Loretsyan (b. 1986) lives and works in Yerevan, Armenia. She got her Bachelor’s Degree in Philology, Pedagogics of the English language, and her Master’s Degree in Philosophy with a specialization in Social Philosophy and Ethics.
She is a translator/interpreter of English and a writer with an intention to spread the word about the Armenian Genocide and massacres implemented by Turks and Azerbaijanis in different periods, the Nagorno-Karabagh Conflict, the cultural genocide of Nakhijevan and other occupied Armenian settlements through the translation of the works of Armenian authors and writing on the above-mentioned themes herself, and to represent prominent works of the philosophical and psychological literature to the Armenian public. She believes in the idea that through the objective reflection of the past and ongoing realities of the world, literature can lead to deep transformations on personal, social, and global levels.
Her translation works include the collection of the ‘‘First series of Essays’’ by the American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson and the collection of short stories under the headline ‘’Genocide’’, the novella ''The Purpose for Living'' by the Armenian writer Spartak Matosyan, etc.
Her works are - the play ‘’Nareh’s Portrait‘’ with autobiographical motives and the short story ‘’And the Grief is Carrying me…’’ based on actual events.
‘’And the Grief is Carrying me…’’ has been created within the framework of the ‘’What is Time, What is Place” Interdisciplinary, Site-Specific, Curatorial Festival implemented by Mihr Theatre in 2022.
Online Materials about Nakhijevan:
1. Julfa Cemetery Digital Repatriation
Project by Argam Ayvazyan, Armenian historian,
researcher from Nakhijevan:↳link
2. Djulfa Virtual Memorial and Museum
3. Silent Erasure:
A Satellite Investigation of the Destruction of Armenian Cultural Heritage in Nakhchivan, Azerbaijan implemented by Caucasus Heritage:↳link
4. The Guardian Article: Monumental loss:
Azerbaijan and ‘‘the worst cultural
genocide of the 21st century’’:↳link
6. ‘‘The New Tears of Araxes’’
Documentary Movie: ↳link
7. ‘‘NAKHIJEVAN. The ancient land of Armenia.