Khizi

On the way to Khyzy, 10 km from the Baku-Rostov highway, you can watch a very interesting natural phenomenon: various geological rocks create a special colorful landscape on top of the hills. It is believed that a similar geological phenomenon happens only in one more place on the planet: the Death Valley in the United States.

When we say Khyzy, we first think of red mountains, red trees and red poppies. The road leading from the village of Gilazi is located along the golden Sarafata Ridge. The highest peak on the ridge is Mount Saraku, which is 958 meters high. There are mountains here on which on side is a winter pasture and the other is a summer pasture. The beauty of colorful and hennaed mountains and countless Khyzy springs is astonishing.

Note

The distance between Baku and Khyzy is 70 km. Located in the Guba-Khachmaz tourist region and surrounded mainly by forests, the district is washed by the Caspian Sea in the east. Among Azerbaijan’s mountainous district, Khyzy is the closest to Baku. Its climate is moderate and arid. It is located on a plateau with numerous hills from the southern slope of the Great Caucasus Mountains as far as the Samur-Davachi plain. Khyzy is so small that the central street is only a few hundred meters long. At first sight, it looks extremely tedious. As you leave the centre and travel to surrounding areas, these thoughts are replaced with new different impressions. Khyzy is the homeland of prominent figures of national literature, Cafar Cabbarli, Mikayil Musviq and Cabir Novruz.

Mikayil Musviq (1908-1938)

The first thing you see on your way to Khyzy is the home museum of Mikayil Musviq. Although he was a teacher and translator, he is famous for his lyrical poems. The poet with a romantic spirit fell victim to the bloody terror of the Stalin era. In 1937, he was arrested for his free thoughts and became one of the thousands of national intellectual who were shot by a firing squad.

Cafar Cabbarli (1899-1934)

The house in which he was born and lived until 6 is now a museum. He was a playwright, poet, prosaic, actor, scriptwriter and a film director. In 1925, he translated Shakespeare’s tragedy “Hamlet” for the State Drama Theatre and staged it for the first time. His play “Sevil”, which he wrote in 1927, is dedicated to the subject of women’s freedom in the East. He was the first to bring the first woman to the stage, Izzat Orucova, in the conservative Muslim East. He is also the founder of national cinema. It is no accident that the Azerbaijanfilm studio bears his name.

Population

The local population is called Tat or mountain people. Their dialect is similar to the Baku dialect. The Tats were resettled to Khyzy from Iran in the 4th-6th centuries and the process of resettlement continued at various times. According to historical records, they started migrating to Azerbaijan about 1,400 years ago. The total number of Tats, who live mainly in the north-eastern part of the country, is about 20,000. Some of them live in Khyzy.

The place-name Khyzy

According to the Arab historian Ibn Fadlan (8th century), the Muslim community of the Khazars was led by someone from the Khiz clan. Based on this, the word Khyzy is a derivative of the name Khazar. The specialist in Turkic philology, Firudin Calilov, writes in his book “The People of Azar” that according to Ibn Fadlan, in the main city of the Khazars, the Muslim community was led by someone from the Khiz clan. Therefore, the origin of the name Khyzy is linked to the word Khazar. Khyzy is the name of a tribe. Khyzy people are Turkic-speakers. The Turkic-speaking Khyzy people lived in northern Azerbaijan in the second millennium BC. Khyzy people believed in Prophet Ilyas and God.

Khazars

“The rule of the Khazars lasted several centuries from the Caspian and Black Sea coasts to the Baltic Sea.”

S. S. Bogush, historian

The Greek geographer, Strabo, who lived in the first century AD, recorded that trade routes to India passed through Azerbaijan, including the Khyzy-Barmak region. According to Herodotus, this region was populated by Khazars. In the first century BC, they migrated to other countries and left behind only the name of the Caspian Sea (Khazar). After the death of Atilla (454), the Khazar clans who were under the rule of the Hun Empire, got a chance to pursue an independent policy. After defeating Sassanid garrisons in 457 and looting Iranian lands, they returned to Azerbaijan. As a result of the Iranian-Byzantine wars that went on for centuries, the main transit roads passed through the territory of the Khazar state. As a result, the roads leading from Iran, India and China to Europe were controlled by the Khazars, and they maintained a large army of contract soldiers with money received from the taxes they imposed on the Silk Road. One of the main areas populated by Khazars, who had founded multiple settlements and cities in the country, was Khyzy. Beginning from the first century AD, Hun, Sabir and Khazar tribes passed through Darband and started to settle in the Albanian steppe, including on the plains of the Khyzy-Barmak region. This place is historically called Khyzy-Barmak region.

Khyzy-Barmak region

Its name derives from that of the Barmak tribe that inhabited this place. Khyzy people lived in this region in the second millennium BC. The region was involved in Silk Road trade. It is even believed that Dada Qorqud was originally from the Khyzy-Barmak region. The German traveller Adam Oleari, who visited the Khyzy-Barmak region, heard about Dada Qorqud from the local people and recorded that Darband residents say that his grave is in the city cemetery. They said that Qorqud was a friend of Muhammad, sat at his feet, learnt from him and lived for 300 years after his death. His grave is in a cave on a rocky mountain. The Dada Qorqud ballade told about the Khyzy-Barmak region, the Oguz plateau, the Cigatay plain and Mount Boybayim. It also takes into account many other facts. It is claimed that Dada Qorqud was from the Khyzy-Barmak region. He went to the city of Darband from there.

The territory of the Khyzy-Barmak region belonged to the Turkic-speaking Sak Massaget state which existed from the 5th century BC. Barmak means bar – product and mak – priest, i.e. a “productive priest”. The knowledgeable Barmaks used cuneiforms. Strabo recorded that there was a “large and densely-populated holy region in Albania. People worshipped Helia (Sun) here. The Albanian name of the God of the Sun is not known. That place was Mount Barmak. The Alins (mountain people) who lived around the mountain worshipped the sun. The mountain people of the Khyzy-Barmak region worshipped the sun until the 7th century. Along with that, the Barmak tribe worshipped fire. They regarded agriculture as a holy trade. Around Mount Barmak, there was a fire temple created due to burning natural gas. In the 3rd-6th centuries, fire worship was a state religion in Khizan Kingdom. In the 7th century, the Khyzy-Barmak mountain people converted to Islam. It is believed that Roman troops of Emperor Domitian, Caesar Augustus Germanicus and Julius Maximus’s Legio XII Fulminata arrived in Absheron. The legion took control of the coastal areas of the Khyzy-Barmak region. They left after spending the winter here. In the first century AD, Hun, Sabir and Khazar Turkic tribes passed through Darband and started to settle in the Albanian steppe, including the Khyzy-Barmak region. Beginning from the 9th-11th centuries, the Silk Road which passed through the Khyzy-Barmak region helped establish trade relations with many European and Asian cities. The Khyzy-Barmak region was located on the trade road that connected Baku, Dagestan, North Caucasus and southern Russian lands. In the Middle Ages, the Khizan Kingdom (Khyzy Kingdom) existed here. After the Russia-Iran war of 1804-1813, it was taken over by Russia together with the Guba Khanate.

Tourism

Khyzy is the first stopping point on the northern tourist route. It is worth visiting some places that form the tourism potential of the area.

Xalac village

The village located at a distance of 4 km from the district centre is called Xalac. There is a famous 15th century shrine here. This shrine, which is located at an ancient graveyard, is called “Ag Pir”. The old gravestones depict the sun, which was the emblem of the Safavid Empire. The 19th century “White Mill” nearby is listed as one of Khyzy’s historical monuments of local importance.
Xalac is the name of a tribe. They were part of the Seljuk-Oguz Turkic alliance. They were one of the Turkic tribes that participated in the invasion of the Middle East in the 12th-18th centuries. Some Xalac people still live in Iran and Turkmenistan. The Xalac people, who lived here in the 19th century, were engaged in cattle-breeding. Villages under the same name exist in other parts of Azerbaijan.

Alisirin village

The 15th century Sheikh Heydar sepulchre is located inside an old cemetery near the village of Sixlar. According to contemporaries, Sheikh Heydar, the father of the Safavid ruler Shah Ismayil, was an extremely courageous man. He collected a lot of troops and weapons, reached an agreement with his brother-in-law, Shah Yaqub, the son of Uzun Hasan, and invaded Dagestan and Shirvan in 1483. He returned from this campaign with a lot of spoils of war and captives. In 1487, he launched another campaign and took 6,000 people prisoner. Sheikh Heydar’s successful second campaign frightened neighbouring states, including Sultan Yaqub. Fearing that the Safavids will get stronger, he came to help Shirvanshah Farrukh Yasar during Heydar’s last invasion of Shirvan in 1488. On seeing that a clash with the united troops was inevitable, the sheikh turned to the south, and on 9 June 1488, a bloody battle happened between Shirvanshah’s united forces and Qizilbashes (Safavids) at the foothills of Mount Sahdag. Both sides suffered a lot of losses. Sheikh Heydar was killed. There are different versions about the grave of the sheikh who was buried in Azerbaijan. According to one of them, it is at the ancient cemetery in Khyzy’s village of Alisirin (Sixlar). Sheikh Heydar’s grave is visited as a shrine.

Bayahmad Yurdu village

This village is situated at a distance of 10 km from the centre and is regarded as one of the most beautiful and picturesque mountain villages in Khyzy. Locals explain the name of the village by the fact that the territory was the personal property of Ahmad bay before the revolution. In fact, Bayahmad Yurdu is a place name related to a tribe. Representatives of the Seljuk tribe of Ahmadli came to Absheron in the 11th century and settled in the Khyzy-Barmak region. Bayahmad Yurdu is listed as an abandoned village. Its story is a little bit different. The village was bustling with life before the Great Patriotic War (1941-45). As the war broke out, 36 people went to the war from here. In the four years of the war, about 400 people died of hunger here. People who could not withstand the famine during the war started moving to the capital. Most of the population in Baku’s Papanin settlement are residents of Bayahmad Yurdu who left the village during the Second World War. In general, Khyzy-Barmak mountain people who started to migrate to Absheron in the second half of the 19th century merged kindred families in Baku villages and set up their own districts. Residents of the district of mountain people, who maintained their traditions, settled in the upper part of the city.

Qizilqazma

This zone, which has the biggest tourism potential in Khyzy, is located at a distance of 8 km from the centre. The large concrete road, which leads to a dry and clean place at a height of 1,500-1,600 meters above the sea level, goes through a thick forest. This region, where the difference in temperatures reached 8-10 degrees, is very famous. There is a small mountain lake in Qizilqazma. Several large villas have been built in the surrounding area. As you visit Khyzy, it is definitely worth seeing this superb place.

What is Altiagaj?

Altiagaj is one of the best known brands of the country and is located at a distance of 12-14 km from Khyzy. Altiagaj is located between several districts – Guba, Siyazan and Shamakhy. During the rule of the Shirvanshah state in the Middle Ages, the road from Shamakhy to Guba was built here. Altiagaj was frequently visited by travellers and caravans where they set up camps. The ancient caravan route which linked Shamakhy and Darband passed through this area in the past. Altiagaj is comprised of the words “alti” (six) and “agac” (tree). Agac was a measurement of length at one time. It is about seven kilometers long. It is a unit of measurement that appeared from sign trees which were planted every seven kilometers in order to measure the distance for trade caravans, post, pedestrians and means of transport between villages, provinces, regions and khanates. Incidentally, this unit of measurement is reflected in a number of place names. The distance between Altiagaj and Shamakhy is 42 km, that is to say “six trees”.

Russians in Altiagaj

The village used to be populated by Russians. Old Russian wooded houses are now rented out to tourists. The old church is closed. The large church bell is an attraction in the middle of the village. Orthodox Christianity started to spread in Azerbaijan in the early 19th century due to the “policy of resettlement” pursued by Russian tsarism in the region. In order to eliminate the heavy consequences of the split in the Russian Orthodox Church, sectarian Christians were exiled to the Caucasus.

The first Russian settlers in Azerbaijan founded the village of Altiagaj in Shamakhy District in 1834. The Russians, who were exiled from tsarist Russia two centuries before and were called Malakans, settled in several parts of Azerbaijan. Since the early 1990s, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russians have been leaving this area. Presently, most of the population in the village of Altiagaj, where 25 Malakan families live, are settlers from Western Azerbaijan (Republic of Armenia).

The villagers are engaged mainly in cattle-breeding. Altiagaj is famous for its apple gardens. A cable way has been extended from here to the upper mountain and forest zone. All conditions are right for picnics here. Altiagaj is a very good place for tourism. Many asthma patients come here for a breath of fresh air in summer. The area has great potential for hiking, a type of strolls and tourism. There are about 300 houses with a bed for the night in the area. Those who are fond of hiking take tourist trips to Shamakhy and Maraza from here. The office of the Altiagaj National Park is located at the entrance to the village.

Altiagaj National Park (ANP)

The Altiagaj National Park, which is located at a distance of 120 km from Baku, was set up on the basis of a state reserve under the same name in 2004 and is on the territory of Khyzy and Siyazan districts. Natural forests cover 90 per cent of the territory of the reserve which was set up with the aim of preserving the natural landscape, flora and fauna of the Greater Caucasus Ridge. There are rare species of plants and animals here. There are nine species of mammals and 12 species of birds living here.

Soyuqbulaq

This territory, which neighbours on the Sahdag National Park, has great potential for ecotourism. There is a place called Soyuqbulaq on the highest point of the ANP. Soyuqbulaq has springs with ice cold water and is on the territory of a forest on top of a mountain. Only locals and staff of the national park know this place, and they seize every opportunity to come to Soyuqbulaq for a picnic. According to ANP staff, if you do not make noise here, you will get a chance to see animals living in the park. It is possible to set up a tent and stay overnight here. You will enjoy the scenery. It is a wonderful place for relaxation. You need to get permission from the ANP administration to enter the park.

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