Zardab

In the Soviet period, during the cotton season, i.e. from September to November, entry into the district was restricted. Beginning from schoolchildren, people working in all spheres were all sent here to harvest cotton. During the summer season, girls from the collective farm weeded out green fields, clearing cotton bushes from unnecessary grass, under the scorching sun from 6 o’clock in the morning until dusk. Officially, all workers were supposed to harvest cotton as “volunteers”. You can also call this place the navel of the country. Sometimes, it is called the Mozambique of Azerbaijan in jest. Those who do not know the region will never forget it once they visit it in the heat of the summer season. The only thing that breaks the silence in Zardab, a distant region which lives a quiet provincial life, is mosquitoes. There are no hotels in the district. The recreational zones located along the Kura River consist only of restaurants.

Note

The distance between Baku and Zardab is 285 km. It is 35 km from the Ujar train station. It was established as a district in 1935. It is located on the bank of the Kura River on the Shirvan plain. Most of the territory of the lowland district is below sea level. Oil and gas reserves have been discovered here. Its winters are moderate and summers are dry. The district has a semi-desert and arid steppe climate. In Zardab, which will stick in your mind with its tiring hot weather, the temperatures reach 45 degree Celsius in summer. Semi-desert plants are common here. There are tuqay forests on an area of 1,000 ha along the bank of the Kura River. Zardab is also the homeland of Hasan bay Zardabi.

 

Hasan bay Malikov-Zardabi (1837-1907)

He went down in history as the founder of national theater, the press, the first girls’ school, the organizer and chairman of the first teachers’ congress held in 1906, a material naturalist and a public figure. The newspaper Akinchi, which he founded on 22 July 1875, was the first newspaper published in Turkic in the East and Muslim and Turkic world. This date is marked as National Press Day in Azerbaijan. He was the first Muslim who graduated from the University of Moscow and founded the first charity movement in the East with his Camiat-Xeyriyya which he established in 1872. In 1873, he staged the first theater show in Baku in the Azerbaijani language together with his pupils. That date is marked as National Theater Day. Hasan bay Zardabi’s home museum has been open to the public in the district since 2005.

History

The town, which has been known since the 15th century, is mentioned as Zardan sancak in an Ottoman Turkish source belonging to 1578. At the time of the khanates, it was a large population center. Due to the development of navigation on the Kura River, the town of Zardab also rapidly expanded. Those who carried oil to the Qarabag side of the Kura River frequently used a local ferry. From 1827, large sailing vessels moored to Zardab. From the second half of the 19th century, Zardab started to shrink rapidly, because villagers who were freed from the bays started to leave Zardab from 1853 and moved to gardens located along the bank. From the 1860s, fishing played a special role here. The town, which begins from the Kura River, developed in different directions on the plain. At the same time, it stretched along the river.

Due to its geographical location, it played a strategic role as a suitable ford over the Kura River. In the past, travelers, caravans and troops forded the Kura River on the territory of Zardab. In 1500-1501, the Safavid troops led by Shah Ismayil moved from Erzincan to Tabriz, passed through modern Zardab and headed toward Shamakhy. Alvand, one of the oldest villages of Zardab, is engaged in the production of liquorice roots and sugar. Bakikhanov recorded in his book “Gulistani Iram” that in 1775, Agasi Khan sat in the village of Alvand and ruled the whole of Shirvan from there. The Alvand market was regarded as one of the largest markets in the East at the time. In the 19th and 20th centuries, it was one of the largest villages in Goychay region. During land reclamation work carried out in Zardab in the 1970s, reservoirs, graves, china and ceramic dishes, copper coins minted by the Eldegiz and other dynasties, women’s jewels and other artifacts were discovered along ancient caravan routes. They are currently exhibited at the Zardab history museum.

Business

Just like everywhere in Azerbaijan, fishing is common in Zardab, which is located on the bank of the Kura River. Fishing is one of the favorite businesses for Zardab residents. Almost all local men have a fishing tackle. They spend their pastime mainly fishing. When the catch is good, they have big fish parties at home. During the Great Patriotic War, the Kura River was the main bread winner for locals. In the years of famine, fish caught in the river saved the district from destitution.
Zardab residents who grow up on the bank of the Kura River are normally very good at swimming, because they learn to swim in the fast-flowing “crazy” river. Often, they jump into the river in the heat of the summer and swim to the other bank. Only men do so. Hundreds of wooden boats scattered along the bank of the river belong to local residents. They use the boats to transport their cattle to the other side for gazing, pick and bring grass and weeds from the opposite forests or carry the vegetables which they plant on the opposite side. The only steamboat on the river belongs to a man called Sahvalad. In order to take a tour of the Kura in the most luxurious and sole means of transport in Zardab, it is enough to speak to its owner.

The opposite bank of the Kura is a thick forest. Zardab residents call it Qarabag. Until the 1990s, there was a thick green forest there. As a result of the Qarabag war, its aftermath and the economic crisis following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the forest was totally destroyed for fuel and trade. One of the main roads leading to Qarabag passes through Zardab.


Revolution Bridge

A bridge built over the Kura River connects Aran lands, Agjabadi District and Qarabag. The bridge which connects Zardab and Agjabadi is symbolically called the Revolution Bridge. The bridge built in 1985 is of exceptional importance to Qarabag and Shirvan people, because before that time, it was very difficult to travel from Shirvan to Qarabag. When it rained and the river burst its banks, the torrent washed the roads away in the blink of an eye, which posed a great danger to people traveling through the gorge.

Place-name

In N. Zeydlis’s book “Baku Province”, the word Zardab is explained as “cold water”. In Persian, it also means yellow water, which means a lake that forms from flood waters. Indeed, the flood waters of the Turyan River created swamps here in the past. According to one assumption, this name is derived from the Persian words zard – yellow and ab – water. It means yellow venomous water. According to another version, zard means a bird whose flesh is edible. This is more logical, because there were many zards – fig birds – in the tuqay forest, and therefore, in the course of time, the name of the bird became the name of the population center. According to another theory, Zardab means golden water. The water that remained in pits after the Kura and Qarasu burst their banks was as important as gold for crops and farmers. Indeed, the water that floods the area every year washes and cleans the soil. It is believed that it was this cleanness that prompted several saints to come to this land. The talk is about ovliyas, seyids and sheikhs who used to live in Zardab. It is also known that the yellow aba worn by clerics in the past was called zardaba.

 

Veysal Qara shrine (7th century)

The most famous historical-religious monument in Zardab is located near the villages of Seydlar and Bicaqci. The holy shrine is linked to the name of a follower of the prophet, a champion of justice and a descendant of Hazrat Ali, Veysal Qarani, who was buried here. The local population regards it as a shrine, makes donations and takes care of it. In their dialect, there is even an oath “I swear to the Veysal Qara shrine or I swear to Veysal Qara…”

Legend has it that in the 650s, Arabs arrived in Azerbaijan in order to spread Islam under the leadership of Hazrat Ali. A battle took place in the town of Suffin near the tuqay forests. Zardab’s village of Yuxari Seyidlar is now situated in this area. It is believed that Prophet Muhammad’s follower Veysal Qarani became a martyr here. Since that day, his grave has become a shrine called Veysal Qara. In Zardab, which is regarded as one of the areas where religious beliefs and faith are strong, this shrine is visited by pilgrims most of all during the month of Muharram.

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