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Historical monuments

The history of Nakhchivan

With its ancient history, rich culture and centuries-old national heritage, the Turkic Oghuz motherland, Nakhchivan, has always been part of the territory of Azerbaijan. It is one of the cradles of human civilization and a popular trade, art, science and cultural center of the East.

Stone and Bronze Age monuments discovered in the territory of Nakhchivan together with roughly two thousand graphic symbols and depictions on hard rocks in Gemigaya, traces of ancient urbanization and colored plates of different shapes are testimony to the existence of one of the earliest centers of civilization.

Research shows that the primitive people who settled in the Nakhchivan area during the last ice age triggered a long historical process. The primitive people who lived in the Gazma, Kilit, Dashgala, and Ermemmed caves in this area lay the foundations of Neolithic settlements such as I Kultepe, Sederek, Ovchulartepesi, Khalaj, Duzdag, Shahtakhti, and Neheji. The existence of both the Gemigaya monument and the religious and architectural complex, Eshabi-Kehf, establishes this territory as one of the country’s earliest and culturally-rich centers. It is no coincidence that the first urban culture emerged here and that Nakhchivan - the major residential settlement – evolved as a city five thousand years ago.

Strong tribal unions emerging on the Nakhchivan territory during the IV-II millenniums BC had a significant influence on the development of the family roots of Azerbaijani nation. These were mostly Kaspi, Kadusi and Nakhchi tribal unions who had Turkish origins. Nakhchivan, one of the most ancient urban settlements of Azerbaijan was not only its main city, but also one of the oldest cities of the East and indeed, of the entire world. With its five-thousand-year history, the city of Nakhchivan subsequently developed into one of the economic, political and cultural centers of Azerbaijan.

BC Nakhchivan belonged to the Azerbaijan Manna State until the end of the IX-VII centuries when it became part of Atropatena.

Throughout the early centuries BC, the socio-economic and cultural prosperity in Nakhchivan accelerated.  During the Early Middle Ages Nakhchivan was seized by the Sassanids, and the quarters of Sassanid merzbans  (border guards) were located here. Coins were minted on behalf of Sassanid kings in the city of Nakhchivan with an estimated 30,000 homes and population of 150,000.

In the VII Century Nakhchivan, together with other regions in the Southern people did not accept foreign oppression and rose up against the Arabs to Caucasus, was subjected to the invasion of the Arab Caliphate.  Azerbaijani defend their freedom.  Nakhchivan, led by Babek, became one of the main centers of the freedom war (816-837).

Towards the end of the IX century, when the Arab caliphate was much weaker, Nakhchivan territories were incorporated within the state of Sajis (879-930) and subsequently, the state of Salaris (941-981).  Towards the end of the century, and as a result of the prevailing political situation, the independent or semi-independent “Nakhchivanshahlig” (Nakhchivan kingdom) was formed in Nakhchivan and survived for about 80 years.

The Emirate was established by Malik shah, the son of Seljuk ruler Alp Arslan (1063-1072), who owned Nakhchivan in 1064 and built special quarters for himself and his vizier Nizam el-mulk. The viceroy of the Seljuks in Azerbaijan was also based in Nakhchivan. 

After the collapse of the Great Seljuk Empire, Azerbaijan Atabeyler-Eldenizler state (1136-1225) was founded by Eldeniz (1136-1175) on the territory of Azerbaijan. Taking advantage of the situation in the country in 1946, Atabey Shamsaddin Eldeniz added the Nakhchivan province to his own territory and, from that period onwards, Nakhchivan city and its province became the inherited iqta (Manor) of Eldeniz family.

Once weakened by the Mongol crusade (1221), the Atabeyler-Eldenizler state was eliminated by Kharezmshah Jalaladdin who then seized Nakhchivan. This situation continued until 1231 when the Mongols, during their second crusade (1231-1239), definitively established dominance in Azerbaijan. During the XIII-XIV centuries Nakhchivan was a political hub for the Hulakus, Chobanis, Jelairs.  When the fifth Mongol ulus (nation) Hulakus government was established (1256), the Azerbaijan government was also recognised.

Despite the complicated conditions during the XIII-XIV centuries, Nakhchivan was prospering on socio-economic and cultural levels. Well-known figures in government, science and culture operated in Nakhchivan. Originally from Nakhchivan, Nasraddin Tusi, for example, was an Azerbaijan scientist who was famous among the world’s scientific leading figures.

In the XV century Nakhchivan was part of the Turkish states of Garagoyunlu and Aggoyunlu.  In the XVI century, however, it was included in the Azerbaijani Safavids state and Nakhchivan was recognized as one of the important economic, political and cultural centers of Azerbaijan during this period.

During the 1830s Nadir Khan declared himself Shah, and absorbed the entire territory of Azerbaijan, including Nakhchivan, into the indivisible Azerbaijan province. After the killing of Nadir Shah in 1747, Nakhchivan evolved into a virtually feudal state – a khanate.

The territory of the Nakhchivan khanate was substantially larger than the current Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic and included most of the Dereleyez and Zengezur territories.

On March 21, 1828, by the order of Tsar Nicholas I, the so-called administrative state – the 'Armenian Province' - was founded in the territory of the former Iravan and Nakhchivan khanates. In April 1840, the tsarist government passed law on the administrative reforms in the Transcaucasus which came into effect on January 1, 1841. Under this law the commandant management methods were repealed and a general Russian administrative system was introduced.

In 1870 Sherur-Dereleyez geza, consisting of the entire Azerbaijani population was founded within the Iravan province which included the Azerbaijani historical territories of Iravan, Nakhchivan, Goyche district and Sherur-Dereleyez, Yeni Bayazid.

On 28 May 1918 Azerbaijan declared its first Democratic Republic. In June 1928 the rebel groups of Andranik Ozanyan attacked Nakhchivan and committed savagery against peaceful people. The heroic Turkish general Kazim Garabekir pasha, together with the local population, defeated the Armenian murderers and chased them out of Nakhchivan. In November 1918, the Araz-Turkish Republic was established and Nakhchivan was its capital. Its territory was 8.6 thousand square kilometers and the population was close to one million.  

On 28 April 1920, Azerbaijan was invaded by Russia, and the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic collapsed. On 28 July, the Soviet government was established in Nakhchivan.

As a result, an agreement to join Nakhchivan and Zengezur to the territory of Armenia was reached between the Armenian administration and Soviet Russia. This was further strengthened on 13 October 1921 by the Gars treaty signed by Turkey, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia in conjunction with a Russian representative. However, it was indicated in the treaty that Nakhchivan should remain in the territory of Azerbaijan and be given autonomy.

Azerbaijan MIK (CEC- Central Executive Committee) adopted a decision on 31 December 1923 to turn Nakhchivan Autonomous Territory into Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic. The plenum I of the Transcaucasus MIK (CEC) held on 8 January 1924 ratified this decision. On 18 January 1924, the administrative organs of Nakhchivan SSR were organized. On 9 February in 1924, through the decree of Azerbaijan SSR MIK(CEC) , Nakhchivan Autonomous Territory turned into Nakhchivan ASSR. When the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic was founded, its territory covered only 5.988 square km of Nakhchivan’s historical territory. During the meeting of the Constitution Commission of the Republic of Azerbaijan, held on 14 January 1998, Azerbaijan’s national leader Heydar Aliyev said, “The autonomy of Nakhchivan is a historical achievement. We have to protect and preserve this.  The autonomy of Nakhchivan is a big factor to play in securing the return of its lost territories. We have to protect this factor.”

Azerbaijan’s national leader Heydar Aliyev noted that our nation faced a number of tragedies during the XX century. Among these, the calamities in Nakhchivan are perhaps the most terrorizing and tragic. Nakhchivan’s rights have always been restricted.

On the 19 January 1990, in the middle of the night, several hours before the Soviet Army attacked peaceful people in Baku, Nakhchivan was subjected to the assault of Armenian aggressors. Azerbaijan’s first Nakhchivan martyrs fell when the Kerki village was invaded by Armenians. Due to the hypocritical position of the USSR leadership, the Nakhchivan ASSR Supreme Council, at the request of the nation, took the courageous decision and declared the Nakhchivan ASSR withdrawal from the USSR. National leader Heydar Aliyev was first to present the correct political assessment regarding 20 January 1990 bloodshed the following day in Moscow.

On his return to Nakhchivan on 22 July 1990, the people received him with joy and great celebration. As a result of his return, Nakhchivan became free of the danger of Armenian invasion between 1990 and 1993. The state flag of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic in 1918 was adopted as the State Flag of Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic. On 3 September 1991, despite his objections, Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic Supreme Assembly elected Heydar Aliyev as Chairman. At the same time, the Soviet government was annulled in Nakhchivan.

The development of the new independent Azerbaijan was pursued successfully in Nakhchivan. As a result of Heydar Aliyev’s wisdom and determination, the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic was able to defend its autonomy during this difficult trial period. The Republic was later formalized in the 1998 Constitution. 

Towards the summer of 1993, Nakhchivan turned into a district where strong political stability was established. Therefore, during the June events of 1993, the attention of the entire republic was turned to Nakhchivan and, at the request of the nation, Nakhchivan AR Supreme Assembly Chairman, Heydar Aliyev, came to Baku.  Changes took place in the political administration of the republic, civil war was prevented and separatist forces were silenced, stability and peace were established, and socio-economic reforms were prepared and held. Even after Heydar Aliyev began to lead the political administration for the second time in Azerbaijan, the reforms launched by him in Nakhchivan AR were implemented successfully.

During the first session of the Nakhchivan AR Supreme Assembly held in 1995 on 16 December, the loyal associate of the national leader, V.Y. Talibov, was elected the Chairman of the Nakhchivan AR Supreme Assembly.

During the meeting of the Constitution Commission of the Republic of Azerbaijan held under the chairmanship of Heydar Aliyev in 1998, while the Constitutional draft of Nakhchivan AR was being discussed, Heydar Aliyev said, “We are therefore taking very serious steps in the field of Azerbaijan legislation and we are regulating these issues. In other words, by going through great historical stages as part of the independent state of Azerbaijan, Nakhchivan AR is finally going to receive relevant status and identity. This is important for today and tomorrow.”

On 26 December 1998, the new constitution of Nakhchivan AR was organized and ratified by the Milli Mejlis.

The successor of our national leader Heydar Aliyev, the world-renowned government figure Ilham Aliyev, was elected the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan in October 2003. This was a major historical event in the life of the country. During the years of Ilham Aliyev’s presidency (2003-2013), the Azerbaijan government has become a world leader in terms of its socio-economic development rate.  President Ilham Aliyev has always paid attention to the comprehensive development of the country, including Nakhchivan AR. 

The political path and building strategy defined by the national leader and Ilham Aliyev’s new reforms program are implemented effectively in Nakhchivan. Of specific importance is the sustained, pro-active contribution of the Nakhchivan AR Supreme Assembly Chairman Vasif Talibov, and the great construction work implemented under his leadership. Nakhchivan AR’s current level of socio-economic and cultural development is unprecedented.

Currently, Nakhchivan AR covers seven administrative regions like Babek, Julfa, Ordubad, Sederek, Shahbuz, Sherur and Kengerli. There are the cities of Nakhchivan, Ordubad, Julfa, Shahbuz, Sherur, 8 settlements and 206 villages in the Autonomous Republic.

Throughout history, as an inseparable part of Azerbaijan, Nakhchivan has been an integral part of the country. Armenian invasions, however, have separated Nakhchivan from Azerbaijan’s other territories. Now Nakhchivan is blockaded by Armenians and this has left the Autonomous Republic face to face with big challenges. However, Nakhchivan and the Nakhchivanis have not lost hope; in fact, they are more determined.

A knowledge of history confirms that the ancient Turkish land of Nakhchivan has belonged to Azerbaijan for thousands of years; it is an inseparable part of the country and is one of the old cultural centers of Azerbaijan.