Agdam is a crazy but kind heart topping all roads that lead to lowland and upper Qarabag. Its hospitable people have always been good at commerce. Even in Soviet years when shops were always empty those looking for something would visit the Agdam bazaar and then tell others about the town’s two-storey houses and neat streets. People familiar with its past can hardly believe that there is nothing left of what used to be Agdam, the heart of Qarabag. This is bitter reality…
The distance to Baku is 358 km. Agdam sits in the Qarabag valley where the Kura-Aras plain leans on the Lesser Caucasus. Its terrain is largely flat with some low mountains. Agdam is 410-1365 meters above sea level. The Xacin and Qarqar rivers flow through it. 1700 hectares is covered by forests and 91 by arable land. The territory is rich in limestone, cement, gravel and sand. It borders on the Upper Qarabag Autonomous District. Of 11,000 Agdam residents who fought in the Qarabag war 6,000 were killed, leading to the establishment of three avenues of martyrs in the district in only five years. Today life continues only on 25 per cent of the district’s territory…
History of occupation
75 per cent of the district, 13 historical 18 religious sites, are under occupation.
From the first days of war the heaviest burden fell on Agdam. After the fall of Shusha, Lachin and Kalbajar, Agdam was chosen as the next target. As a result of an all-out offensive on Agdam, 87 of its villages and the town’s center were wiped out from the surface of earth, while 126,000 residents have been refugees since.
It was in Agdam that protests started against the efforts to separate Qarabag from Azerbaijan launched in Khankandi in February 1988. In response to Armenians’ territorial claims, hundreds of angry Agdam residents, armed with truncheons and stones, marched to the neighboring Armenian-populated Askeran. On that day, two youngsters, Ali Haciyev and Baxtiyar Quliyev, were killed, becoming first victims of ethnic conflict in Azerbaijan’s latest history. Other courageous residents of Agdam, such as Sirin Mirzayev, Allahverdi Bagirov and Canpolad Rzayev, fought and died for their country and have become Azerbaijan’s National Heroes.
It is first mentioned in written sources in 1357. An 1174 inscription on the town’s ancient cemetery suggests that there was a fortress here. This is confirmed by the presence of an ancient limestone quarry in the Shahbulaq settlement near Agdam. Since the fortress walls were subsequently made of the limestone, it was called Agdam.
Registered as a city in 1828, Agdam had only 55 houses in the 1832-33 period. In the early 19th century, there were three locksmiths and three soap-making enterprises here. Carpet-weaving became widespread in those years too. An article in a 1882 Kafkaz newspaper says:
“Muslim women weave carpets in almost every hut in Agdam. These huts serve as weavers’ homes.”
According to reports, some 1200 carpets were woven here. Carpets and rugs were then sold in Agdam’s bazaar. In 1853, the Sogomonov brothers established a winery in the Muradbayli village, while in 1890 special equipment was imported to enable production of brandy. Another winery in Agdam was established by the Khublarov brothers in 1862. There was a winery in the Boyahmadli village. It was owned by Aleksandr Zildkhiyev. Besides, Agdam was Azerbaijan’s leading cotton-producing district. Cotton was mainly grown in lowland villages. Those engaged in cotton-growing were called “cotton gentlemen”. Ismayil from Xindiristan subsequently built a cotton-processing and cocoon drying factory in Agdam. In the early 20th century, there was a small tobacco factory in Agdam, mainly producing shag tobacco. This shows that Agdam set on a capitalist development path in the early 20th century and was an important economic center not only for Qarabag but the whole of Azerbaijan.
The Xacin river
The 119-km-long river flows through Kalbajar, Agdam and Barda districts. It originates from the 2100-meter Uyuxlu mountain of the Qarabag range. Xacin derives its name from a same-named province in Caucasian Albania. The province is linked to the 7-10th century events. The Xacin principality was established in Qarabag (Arsag) in the 12-13th centuries. The names related to the Xacin fortress which was destroyed in Mongol attacks in 1227. In the 15th century, Qaragoyunlu ruler Jahanshah Haqiqi awarded the Jalalis the title of monarchs. This monarchy was joined to Russia in 1813. There are many historical sites in the Xacin valley.
Most have been destroyed following Armenian occupation. These include the Khanoglu tomb (17th century), the mansion of Qarabag Khan Panahali (18th century) and his tomb (19th century), the twin-minaret Agdam Juma mosque (1870).
Agdam bread museum
The first bread museum of the USSR was established at Agdam’s old mill. It was possible to observe all processes starting from grain-grinding to bread-baking. The museum also provided information about the history of farming. The establishment of the museum in Agdam was not accidental because the town is known for its fertility, which has always attracted conquerors. The museum has been under occupation since 1993.
The Agdam place-name consists of Ag and Dam components. Ag is white, while Dam means a fortified place, a walled fortress. The name is also explained as a “bright place”, i.e. “a place lightened by sunlight”. The territory appears to have been used as a winter camp for cattle-breeders who subsequently built houses here and named it Agdam. Some researchers say the place-name means Ag Adam (white Adam).
Now let’s visit the part of Agdam where life still goes on, i.e. the 25-per-cent Azerbaijan is in control of. Perhaps the only place worth seeing is Azerbaijan’s best-known sacred place built on the grave of a prominent descendant of the prophet.
Seyid Lazim Aga
This is the name of the prophet’s descendant who has cured thousands of people. He enjoyed tremendous respect as an elder. Born in Lachin, he lived in Agdam. Local people say that a very noble man, Ali, used to live in the Camanli village of Agdam in the early 20th century. He was the governor’s village elder. Ali was a close friend of Lazim Aga’s father, which is why he invited him to live in the village. The family is related to the fourth Shiite Imam Zeynalabdin. Seyid Lazim Aga died at the age of 114 and was buried in the Cumsud mosque in Camanli.
It is 16 km north-east of the center. Its previous name was Qara Camanli and it was inhabited by a Turkic-speaking tribe. A 1859 document says the village had 59 families. Villagers were mainly engaged in cattle-breeding in the Mil-Qarabag valley and settled down here only in 1928. Qara Camanli means a place belonging to the Qaracamanli family. A person called Qara was a well-known proprietor. Camanli is the quietest village near the frontline.
The ceasefire is often breached in the frontline Qarvand village. Although local farmlands and cornfields are often the focus of snipe fire, people continue living here. Many village houses have been damaged, while roofs and second floors have become completely unusable.
Ayaq Qarvand village
The frontline village is 16 km north-east of the district center, on the Xacin river bank off the Agdam-Barda highway. It is below the Bas Qarvand village, which is why the word Ayaq (foot) has been added to its name. Qarvand residents are descendants of an ancient Turkic-speaking Caspian tribe. The name is linked to the Garayvand tribe.
Bas Qarvand village
It is 17 km north-east of the district center, on the right bank of the Xacin river in the Qarabag plain. Its previous name was Kakilbayli Qarvand. Kakilbay was the elder of first village settlers.
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