This district is rich in black and white marble and iron reserves and used to be a summer pasture for surrounding villages. It was called “The Hill of the Rising Sun”. The district where numerous meadows, springs, mountains and forests are all near each other has strong potential for tourism. When a copper mine was put into operation here in the 19th century, the word “mine” became a geographical name in the language of the local population. Although Gadabay was granted status as a district in 1930, most of the old-age population still calls the settlement where mines and factories are located a “mine”. Gadabay remained out of sight both under tsarist and Soviet rule. Locals often cite the saying “out of mind, out of sight”, regretting that this factor prevented their development. I think this makes Gadabay attractive and different from other places: it has remained out of sight, in other words, clean and pure. The people of Gadabay call their district “a land mullahs and taboos keep away from”.


The distance between Baku and Gadabay is 444 km. It has a 123 km border with Armenia in the west and southwest. Gadabay is located in the median and high zones of the Small Caucasus Mountains. The highest mountains are Qoshabulaq (3,549 m), Qojadag (3,317 m) and Qaraarkhaj (3,063 m). The district has an arid climate. It has moderate hot summers and cold winters. Gadabay has a dense network of rivers and forests with a total area of 30,500 ha.

When you first visit Gadabay, you will not see anything eye-catching here. The district centre is so small and tedious that you want to leave it immediately. Therefore, before visiting the district, you should carry out some research into this place. This small research will be replaced with great impressions after you visit Gadabay. Thus, the following are the most important tips about this charming land.


When you say potato, the first thing is that springs to mind is Gadabay. It is the homeland of the potato which is regarded as second bread. The country’s largest potato-growing district provides tonnes of potatoes every year. A local sort of potatoes stands out for its sweet taste. Local Gadabay potatoes are twice more expensive than potatoes imported from abroad. Potatoes here are sold not in kilograms, but in sacks and are used for cooking “kullama”. Small potatoes with thin peel are cleaned and placed in ashes. Then, they sprinkle them with salt and eat them with their peel.

Shir-Shir waterfall

The waterfall is a must-see site in Gadabay and is located in the district woods. You cannot see it because it is hidden behind trees. You can follow the sound of the water and find the waterfall in the rocky area. In summer, you can come across groups of men having a picnic with braziers. They drink and eat to the accompaniment of ashiq music, raise toasts and go under the waterfall when it is too hot. When they see an unknown woman, they run away and hide behind the rocks, which looks quite funny.

Mineral waters

Gadabay boasts numerous Narzan-like springs. The district has an average of 26 well-known springs. The most famous springs are Narzan (the villages of Slavyanka, Kichik Qaramurad and Soyudlu), Turshsu (Qalakand), Mormor (the village of Mormor) and Turshsu (Shinikh). The people of Gadabay call these medicinal springs a real remedy. In summer, you can see long queues near these springs. People from surrounding districts and holiday-makers take litres of water from here.


Clean air and stress-free and healthy lifestyle, as well as hard work at farms have turned the district into a land of old-timers. In Gadabay, there are more than 100 centenarians. A book has been written about them. Most of the old-timers live in Gadabay’s Shinikh area.


Most women in Gadabay – ranging from young girls to old grannies – are skilful horse riders. Sometimes, they gallop so fast in the mountains that the dust mixes with the fog and you have to step back. They resemble Amazonian women from history books. Women who live in villages in winter and in pastures in summer go everywhere on horseback. It is the most comfortable means of transport here. Therefore, you can see them everywhere – in the mountains, in summer pastures and in the woods. Some men admit that they cannot compete with women in horse riding.


It is a combination of the words “gada” and “bay”. Gadabay used to be populated by ancient Turkic tribes. Geographical names derived from the words “kat” and “bak” exist in the Turkic states of Central Asia as well. Those places which include the ancient Turkish word “kat” had numerous gatehouses and look-out stations in order to protect the population from sudden enemy attacks. There are dozens of stories related to the name Gadabay.

The Albanian historian Mukhtar Qosh called Gadabay Getabey in his work “The Albanian Chronicle” (1206). It is believed that the word Gettabey deformed later and turned into Gadabay. In the ancient Turkic language, it meant a great and powerful person.
Due to its geographical terrain, it was a territory populated by bellicose Turkic tribes in the past. For this reason, in literature the word Gadabay means a person you address or a courageous boy.

The place name of Gadabay consists of the words gada – watchman and bak – hill in ancient Turkic and means a “watch hill”. This assumption is closer to reality.

The ruins of Gadabay Fortress, which was first mentioned in historical sources in the 12th century, are located in the uphill area.
According to another assumption, the word Dadabay deformed and turned into Gadabay. In the Middle Ages, some of these territories were divided by the Atabay, Shakarbay and Gadabay fathers and sons. Gadabay was the son of Atabay. The district still has villages called Atabay and Shakarbay.

In connection with the word bak – hill, it is necessary to mention the Gadabay oikonym as well. The word Gadabay consists of ket – watchman in ancient Turkic languages and bak – a hill in Turkic languages and means a watchman.

Gold mine

Residents of Gadabay describe themselves as “poor people living on gold”. The history of copper extraction goes centuries back in the district which is known for its precious metal deposits. Archaeological excavations showed that residents of this region used copper in the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC. The rich iron reserves of the district were discovered in the 19th century. The arrival of foreigners in Gadabay is related to underground reserves here. In 1849, a Greek man Grigoris Mekhov and his friends came to Gadabay in search of treasures and after research and permission from the tsarist government, he began drilling and exploration work at local mines.
German entrepreneurs who began building a factory in the mountains carried out a lot of work here. Until 1865, the copper extraction and processing industry was led by Hermann Tanker from Hanover and Simen Maric from Denmark. Subsequently, all shares were bought by the German brothers Werner and Walter Siemens.


“Gadabay is paradise on earth”
Wolfman (German engineer and geologist, 1890)
Siemens brothers in Gadabay

The Siemens brothers who came to Russia in 1856 decided to build an India-Europe communication line. Since the line was to pass through the Caucasus, Walter Siemens went to Tehran to sign a contract. In order to build this line, a lot of copper and other metals were needed.

The Siemens company reconstructed a local copper-smelting factory in 1856. However, the Siemens brothers did not restrict them only to this factory. They opened another copper-smelting factory in Qalakand in 1883. They built a road and railway between Gadabay and Qalakand, as well as a power station to smelt copper. Thus, Qalakand products were exported to the international market. This factory was the largest in the Caucasus and the only one in Azerbaijan, and it produced one fourth of copper used in Russia.
The Siemens company built the first hydroelectric power station in tsarist Russia in 1883. The copper-smelting factory in the village smelted copper by means of electrolysis. At a time when industrial cities of Europe like London, Paris and St Petersburg used kerosene lamps, Gadabay was already using electricity.

The Siemens brothers made a lot of money from the exploitation of copper mines here. Some people think that apart from copper, they secretly took 57 tonnes of silver and 3 tonnes of gold to Germany. After the Socialist Revolution, the new authorities failed to operate the copper-smelting factories, which is why the whole business collapsed. After a long break, the mines started operating again at the end of the 20th century. This time gold extraction in Gadabay was handed over to the British.


Grunfeld is the name of the quarter populated by Germans who started to migrate here from 1819. A hospital built here in the second half of the 19th century and houses and other buildings which stand out for their architecture still remain intact. A road covered with stones attracts attention in the settlement. The Germans who brought a lot of innovations here 130-140 years ago built a road using local stones in order to maintain the roads during rains and snowfalls. Many industrial buildings and houses belonging to the Germans were ruthlessly destroyed in the first years of Soviet rule. Germans no longer live in Grunfeld. Despite that, you feel like in a different world when you come here. A visit to this quarter, which has a completely different aura, is a must.


The Germans who ran Gadabay copper mines for 50 years built dozens of bridges here. The bridges were built because of railways. The first 28 km Gadabay-Qalakand railway was built in the Transcaucasia in 1879 in order to establish communications between the copper-smelting factory and the mines. Since the territory was mountainous, bridges were essential in many places – over gorges and rivers. Only local stones were used to build them. In some places, they were forced to cut through rocks. They say that the Siemens brothers were very generous with regard to workers building the bridges and pay them a high salary. Most of the bridges have now been destroyed. The ones that survived are being protected as historical monuments. One of them attracts attention with its beauty.

Bloody Bridge

This name was given to the bridge because of an incident. They say that a carriage transporting workers to mines overturned on this bridge and fell into an abyss. After this incident, which killed all the passengers of the carriage, people called this place a bloody bridge. It is so high that you feel dizzy when you look down. Those who are afraid of heights should not use the bridge. The bridge has seven arches and was built in a bow-shaped form.

The two-arch bridge near the village of Chaldash and one-arch bridges in the Gadabay district centre are still intact. They were built so wide in order to allow phaetons to cross them. Today the bridges are used by cattle and pedestrians.

Gadabay people

The people of the western region, including Gadabay, are called Ayrims. Although it means a slow and rude person, the etymology of the word has a completely different explanation. Ayrim is the name of an ancient Turkic tribe living here. According to local residents, the Ayrims were bellicose Turks who refused to obey the shah and retreated into the mountains.

According to another assumption, those who can tell the fortune by looking at the moon are called Ayrims. Ay (moon) is a heavenly body, rum is good news or informer. In the ancient Turkic language, rim meant foretelling, knowing and comprehending. In the Dada Qorqud epos, Ayrim meant a leader, an elder or God who foretold future events.

The area used to be populated by astronomers who studied heavenly bodies and astronomy. This is proved by old observatories here, but no scientific research has been carried out at them.

According to another theory, the Greeks who moved to Caucasian Albania in the 7th-8th centuries called locals “ay rum” because they did not understand their language. In Turkish, Rum is used as a synonym for Greek.

Ayrim or ayrum means brave, courageous and quick. In Sak culture, this word was used as meaning “a creative spirit”. Kipchak tribes used the word ay as a name meaning a hero. At the same time, Ayrim is mentioned as a tribe name in Oguz eposes; it is related to the name of a tribe that lived in the mountains and foothills.

History books describe ancient Albanians as white-faced, tall and beautiful people with fair hair and colored eyes. People who meet this definition live in Gadabay’s remote villages. As Germans and Slavs settled here in the 19th century, the ethnic composition of Gadabay changed.

Russians in Gadabay

In the middle of the 19th century, the tsar ordered the resettlement of some Christian sects to remote parts of the empire due to religious differences. According to another theory, it was in fact part of the covert policy of Russification in the empire. The Molokans who came to Azerbaijan and Gadabay settled in the villages of Slavyanka, Ivanovka and Saratovka here. The Russian Slavic villages are very different from Azerbaijani villages. The well-planned houses and comfortable roads that were built about 150 years ago are still intact.

Novosaratovka village

The first Russians came to Gadabay in 1831. Twelve exiled Molokan families settled in the village of Novosaratovka. It is interesting that the Russians living here speak Azerbaijani with a Gadabay accent. The architectural structure and lifestyle of Molokan villages is so different that anyone who comes here forgets that they are in Azerbaijan. The Russians have maintained their customs, cuisine and music. They get together to play the accordion, sing chastushkas and dance. When someone comes here, they turn on classical Russian baths and bathe the guests with their famous brooms. In summer, it is possible to rent a house and stay in Saratovka.

The Albanian temple

In the village of Saratovka, there is an Albanian temple built in 1535. The Molokans do not use these historical churches, preferring to administer their religious rites at home. They say that there used to be a stone inscription on this church. This stone inscription and the big cross in the church mysteriously disappeared later.


There used to be big nut gardens in a place called Findiqli near Novosaratovka. An internal tourist route is being organized to the territory which has been declared a zone of ecotourism. There is a multi-storey waterfall called Findiqli here. You can get to the waterfall in two ways: though a higher mountain road, which is a short and easier way. Those who choose the lower road will have to walk in water for about 2 km. Although this road is difficult, it is still worth experiencing this “water adventure”. After a journey through the water and rocks, you finally reach the waterfall, hear its noise and watch its foamy natural water baths. You can even take a cold shower and bathe in a natural spa formed by the brisk water. It is a wonderful place to relax and picnic.

One of Azerbaijan’s oldest cemeteries is located in Saratovka. Unique stone pictures draw attention here. Most of the graves belong to the early Middle Ages.

On the cross

The famous researcher and journalist, Murad Aji, proposes some interesting ideas about the history of the cross. According to his study, the cross existed in the pre-Christian period. Based on various sources, the author travelled extensively in Turkic-populated areas and made notes on the cross. Although the Christian religious was officially dominant in Caucasian Albania in the 4th century, crosses were not used, while pagan Kipchak Turks used the cross in their religious rituals in the first century. Almost all historical monuments on the territory of Gadabay, including all tombstones, have crosses of various sizes and forms. These are symbols that local people used in their religious rituals in ancient times.

Novoivanovka village

It is located several kilometres away from Saratovka. A Russian culture museum has been set up in the village which has an astonishing view. As a result of the social situation and Armenian aggression after the beginning of the policy of perestroika in 1985, people moved out of here. Currently, there are only 15-20 Russians living in the village. Novoivanovka is the last population centre on Gadabay’s 123 km border with Armenia. The current residents of the village are Azerbaijanis who were expelled from Armenia as a result of Armenian aggression in 1948-53 and in 1989.

The previous name of Novoivanovka was Qarapapaq and some time later, Seyidlar. There are place names like the Seyid Gorge and Qarib Seyid here. The ancient tombstones in this area prove that the village was populated by Muslims.

White Church

Novoivanovka’s most famous monument is the White Mosque located several kilometres away from the village. After the Russians arrived here, they called it “Mechetka”. The monument’s original name is the White Church. The 4th century historical church is Gadabay’s most ancient Albanian church. Unlike other similar buildings, it is white, which is why it is called the White Church. The White Church was built from local riverbed stones. Ethnographic symbols of the Albanian period are engraved on its stones.

Although the vast territory of enigmatic beauty where the White Church is located has been declared a zone of ecotourism, there is no tourist infrastructure here. There is only a farm belonging to Haji Alakbar here. Fish is being cultivated in three artificial lakes at the farm. The most delicious fish in Gadabay is the spotted fish. If you happen to travel to Novoivanovka, definitely visit Haji’s farm.

Slavyanka village

Slavyanka is a picturesque village at the entrance to Gadabay. Resembling Russian fairy tales with its colored wood and classical houses, Slavyanka is known for its yellow raspberries and raspberry jam. This sort of berry grows only in this village in Azerbaijan. Its previous name was Qizilja. The village is regarded as a resort. While the temperatures reach 40 degrees in the town in the heat of summer, the temperatures here do not rise above 18-20 degrees. In July, mountain slopes are full of poppies. New hotels near mineral springs in Slavyanka and in the upper and lower parts of the village are open in summer.

The villagers in Slavyanka live side by side with 1,000-year-old historical monuments. Huge tombstones in the ancient Oguz graveyard draw attention. Villagers say that foreigners who came here in previous centuries searched the graveyard for treasures and took away the treasures they dug out of barrows. The territory where no scientific research has been carried out is rich in ancient fortresses and temples belonging to Oguz tribes.

History and historical monuments

It is believed that historical and cultural monuments in Gadabay belong to the 12th-7th centuries BC. Various tools and jewels that have been found in the territory and belong to the late Bronze Age and the early Iron Age prove that craftsmanship was well-developed in Gadabay at the time. Before the Mongol invasion in the 12th century, Gadabay Fortress already existed here. The ruins of the fortress were found in the settlement of Madan (mine) where copper was produced in the past century.

Maiden’s Tower

The tower is a huge building located in the village of Soyudlu on the bank of the Shamkir River. The fortress, which is also known under the name of Namardqala, is situated in such a complicated geographical area that it is almost impossible to get there. The height of the fortress, which is located on a steep rock, is up to 15 metres. It is possible to get to the fortress only in arid summer months when rainfalls are rare. During the rains, the river bursts its banks and poses a threat, and it is impossible to get to the fortress.

The Maiden’s Tower, which resembles Chiraqqala in Davachi, is believed to have been built under Sassanid rule in the 5th-6th centuries. The Sassanids and Caucasian Albania waged a war for this area which is rich in copper reserves. In order to fortify their positions along the Shamkir River during a military conflict, the Albanians built a defensive fort. Various sources say that the fortress was built in the 9th century and was regarded as one of the strongest installations in the 12th century Atabay state.

Isgandar Fortress

This fortress in the Shinikh region is different from others. It was built as a defensive fortress during the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the 1990s. Fierce fighting took place in the village located on the front line. In Turkic, the word Shinikh means a steep rock, while siniq means a place populated by Turkic tribes.

Every inch of Gadabay soil is rich in historical monuments. In this land of fortresses, one fortress of national importance, 81 fortresses of world importance and 24 fortresses of local importance have been registered. This is what we saw during the five or six days that we spent here.

Tala Church

It is an ancient church located in a forest in the upper part of the district in an area called Tala. There are various deep dents on the monument which is hidden behind trees. It is believed that tunnels going in different directions were built here. They say that it used to be a prayer room.

Boyuk Qaramurad village

The village is situated at the foot of Mount Shahdag on the bank of the Qaramurad River. The name of this population centre with a perfect view is understood to mean a great and brave person. In 1888-1891, the German scientist Waldemar Belk carried out archaeological excavations on the territory of Qaramurad. He opened ancient graves and found gold, silver and bronze jewels and weapons inside. He made a list of things found in the graves and took all of them to Germany. Now those documents and things are kept at the Berlin Museum.

Bell Church (5th-7th centuries)

The most famous historical monument in the village of Boyuk Qaramurad belongs to the 5th-7th centuries. It took its current shape after being restored in the 12th-13th centuries. Some sources say that it was built in 1634. We asked locals why they call it the Bell Church. It turned out that a huge iron bell used to hang from the ceiling of the church. The chimes of the bell could be heard around. In 1960, the bell mysteriously disappeared from the church. The villagers assume that it was stolen. Crosses and patterns of different forms are engraved on the walls of the temple. They say that this temple was used as a caravanserai.

Qiziltorpaq village

They say that the village is called so because its land is very productive. An ancient Albanian monastery is located in the woods 1-2 km from the village. When you walk around, you notice that some parts of the monuments have been damaged. The monuments were damaged by those who searched for treasures in the belief that jugs of gold had been buried in the foundation of the temple. It is recommended that you visit the Qiziltorpaq waterfall which is situated in another part of the village. This place which is situated in a dense forest between the mountains is called Dalikdash. It is home to rare species of birds, animals and plants included in the Soviet Red Book.

Chaldash village

In this name, chal means color. This name comes from the fact that colored stones and rocks have always looked grey here. The local population used to engage in saz art. Many ashiq generations have lived in the village. The most famous historical monument in Chaldash is an ancient building for religious rituals, which has been left over from the time of Caucasian Albania and belongs to the 5th-7th centuries. It is located in the courtyard of a village house. A haystack is kept inside the building. There are no inscriptions or symbols on its walls. The jugs mounted on the walls of the temple have been destroyed by treasure hunters.


Qalakand is located at the foot of Mount Shahdag on the bank of the Shamkir River. The place is interpreted as a noisy roadside place. Qala is also the name of a Kipchak tribe.

The village, which is situated too far from the town in the mountains and dense forests, is a real ethnic museum. There are 11 monasteries in Qalakand alone. Almost all homes in the village have medieval maps. A villager discovered a big piece of concrete as he tried to plant potatoes in his courtyard. It was a big tombstone with big and decorative crosses and inscriptions in an ancient alphabet. Getting a shovel and digging out works left over from the antique period is regarded as normal here.
A resident of the village, Bakir Mammadov, has collected all the ancient things he has found in the area. As we entered his house, we thought that we were in a history and ethnography museum. Jugs of various sizes, ceramic dishes, various metal coins, jewels and all types of spears, knives and weapons are available there.

Small fortresses

There are 30 small fortresses in Gadabay. These small fortresses, built from huge stones weighing about one ton, are of strategic importance. They are called Oguz fortresses. Members of the ancient Turkic tribe who built the small fortresses were tall and fit-looking. This is proved by the size of the tombs. The small fortresses are defensive look-out stations. They were used for reconnaissance purposes and served as centres of communication for big fortresses. Unlike the fortresses located on the heights, the small fortresses were built from large rocks. Those killed in action were buried in the same territory.

Sabatkechmaz Fortress

It is located 2 km off Qalakand. It is called Sabatkechmaz or Govdu. It means a steep rock, a steep river bank, a hill and so on. It is a word of Turkic origin. The hill is shaped like a place for a small fortress.

Sabatkechmaz temple

There is a building in a mountain forest away from the small fortress. For its type and structure, it looks like other Albanian monuments located here. The villagers call the one-cell monument an Albanian temple. They also say that it was a watchtower and belongs to the early Middle Ages. Koroglu Fortress can be clearly seen from this place.

The fortress named after the people’s hero Koroglu has been built on the ruins of Oguz Fortress near Qalakand, which belongs to the Bronze Age.

Koroglu Fortress (5th-7th centuries)

It is also called Javanshir Fortress. It is located 2,000 metres above sea level. In fact, it was a comfortable fortress and city in its time. Water was supplied to the fortress from afar by pipes made from clay. The remains of a two-source secret water tank and a wind mill inside the fortress are still intact. There were remains of double tandirs, a cave that could house hundreds of sheep, as well as several ancient temples around the fortress. At this fortress of Albanian origin, many coins, household utensils, spears, bows and arrow tips, as well as women’s jewels have been discovered.

It is a monument belonging to the 5th-7th centuries. It was built in the final days of Albanian rule by Varastirdat, the farther of the prince of the Girdman state, Javanshir. It is a huge defensive complex of strategic importance built on a steep rock where the ruler and his families and loved ones took refuge during an enemy attack.

It is possible that the historical monument, which is regarded as a feudal fortification, was built in the 12th century. The belonging of the fortress to Javanshir and Koroglu is explained in the following way. Although as a historical monument, it belongs to the Albanian period, it was controlled by Koroglu in the 16th-17th centuries. There are many places linked to Koroglu’s name in Gadabay – the Koroglu gorge, Mount Koroglu and so on. It is believed that the fortress was one of Koroglu’s main havens in Azerbaijan.

Who is Koroglu?

Koroglu is a mystical people’s hero for all Turkic peoples. In the 16th-17th centuries, the Ottoman Empire and many parts of Azerbaijan were engulfed in a peasant movement. One of these peasant uprisings was led by Koroglu. Legend has it that Koroglu’s real name was Rovshan. His father Ali had his eyes put out. Exasperated by the condition of his father who had his eyes put out on orders from the monarch, Rovshan chose the nickname Koroglu (blind man’s son) and started fighting injustice. There is little information in written sources about Koroglu and his companions. Some researchers say that Koroglu operated in Anatolia, while most of them say in Azerbaijan. Stories about Koroglu’s name are collected in the Koroglu epos. Koroglu, who stood out for his bravery and courage in fighting, is a friend of the poor, an enemy of oppressors and a people’s hero.

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