Shamkir

Annanfeld

The village founded by German colonists on the territory of present-day Shamkir in 1819 was known as Annanfeld until 1938. The district was a settlement for German colonies in the 19th century with special permission of czarist government. The settlement was also known as Anino. Houses and buildings constructed in German architectural style and tidy streets create a special atmosphere here. Pear and plane-trees are planted along the street. According to German beliefs, pear is the symbol of open attitude to work, abundance and fertility. The start of World War Two affected local Germans as well. Stalin ordered to exile them and no-one came back. The German church (1909) in the central park is still there but does not function.

In the early 19th and 20th centuries, three of eight German colonies, Eigenfeld, Annenfeld and Georgsfeld, were located in Shamkir. Annenfeld was named after the Queen of the Netherlands, Anna Pavlova, while Georgsfeld was named George Alekseyevich, the son of Alexander III. They left Helenendorf (today’s Goygol District) due to a lack of arable land. There were several reasons of resettling Germans in the East. The main reason was the political and economic crisis in Germany and the disintegration of the country following Napoleon-led war in the early 19th century. Another reason is said to be religion. Lutheranism, one of the leading directions of Protestantism whose followers protested against certain some Catholic Church rituals, was adopted as official religion. Missionary activities began and as part of this activity some settlements emerged in the South Caucasus. In the first years of settlement colonists attempted to spread Protestantism among local people. The attempts backed by the czar government were even more visible in Qarabag. Germans who lived in Azerbaijan for over 120 years did not forget their major activities and traditions: vine-growing and wine-making.

Wine-making

Today’s winery No 2 was founded by German brothers Christo Forer in 1860-1896. The equipment installed at the time is still operation, which is further evidence of German quality. White and red wines made of various grapes are kept in hundred-year-old oak tanks with a capacity of several tons. The factory has a huge basement. It is very interesting to tour it, taste the wines. The winery also produces high-quality brandy.

Note

It is in the Ganja-Gazakh plain 400 km from Baku. Ceyrancol is in the north-east of the district, on the left of the Kura river. The Ganja-Gazakh plain is in the center and north-east of the Lesser Caucasus and south of the district. The Kura and its branches (Zayam, Cahir) flow through here area. Noted for its water reservoirs, the district has power stations such as Shamkir (380,000 kilowatt) and Yenikand. The 42nd km of the Baku-Tbilisi railway passes Shamkir. It is an hour’s drive from Ganja. The district was founded in 1930 in the north-west of the country and was known as Shamkhor until 1991.

Place-name

Arab and Persian sources of the Middle Ages describe it as Shamkir, while Turkic sources refer to it as Shamkur. Zeynaloglu, author of the 1924 “Short History of Azerbaijan” published in Istanbul, described the name as someone worshipping the Sun. A group of linguists describe the name as Shamkur, i.e. the side of the Kura river. A. Bakixanov links the etymology to the name of the ruler of Tabaristan bin-Ziyad. Six rulers of this dynasty conquered many parts of Iran and the South Caucasus over 150 years. There is written evidence that the second ruler of the dynasty Shamkir bin – Ziyad (935-967) named the town he founded near Ganja after himself. The remains of a dual-entrance fortress, an ancient bridge and a minaret, are still there.

Ancient Shamkir

The ancient Shamkir was built on 30 hectares in the 5-6th centuries on the left bank of the Shamkir river on a trade route crossing Barda, Ganja and Tbilisi. In medieval Azerbaijan, Shamkir was one of the prosperous cities with grandiose buildings, good water supply and sewage system, big and crowded markets and developed handicrafts. 9th century historian Ahmad al-Balazuri notes that Salman ibn Rabia al-Bahili conquered the ancient town of Shamkir. After Arab invasion, in 854-855, great commander Buga rebuilt the town and settled the Caspians there. They subsequently adopted Islam. He brought merchants from Barda and named the city

Mutavakkiliyya after a caliph. In early Middle Ages the town thrived on the Silk Way and turned into a significant centre in the 9-10th centuries. In the 13th, the Mongols invaded the town and destroyed it despite the resistance from the local people. The town lost its significance afterwards. Shamkir was known as Samkur in the Middle Ages and was looted several times as a result of foreign invasions. Local residents, fed up with such invasions, left the ancient town and built a new settlement 9-10 km away. During its renaissance in the 9-12th centuries, the town was conquered by the Seljuk and, as part of the Ganja khanate, was occupied by Russia in the 19th century.

Historical sites

As everywhere else in the western zone, this area is rich in historical sites. There are monuments such as the Shamkir fortress, the Koroglu castle, bridges built in the Middle Ages and the Didivan tower. There are ruins of a 9-11th century ancient town, maiden towers and sanctuaries in Seyfali and Tatarli villages. Some of the surviving remarkable sites include a small castle, Irmashli caves, the Irmashli sanctuary and the old cemetery of the Iron Age in the Atabaylar village, a 17th century Didivan tower in the Yeni Hayat village. There is an Alban temple of the early Middle Ages in the Dag-Dasbulaq village which is now as sanctuary.

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