The ancient Karabakh is the heart of Azerbaijan, the land that gave the country a great number of talents. Karabakh is not only the unique nature, the landscapes included in the List of Natural Monuments of the Republic; it is also a constellation of gifted individuals - poets, writers, musicians, khanendes (performers of mugam - the national music). Karabakh is the cradle of the Azerbaijani music. The nature and resources of this ancient land leave no one untouched. Probably that is why this beautiful land is occupied now…
The district of Barda is located in the center of the Karabakh Plain, in the northwestern part of the Kura-Araz lowlands, on the bank of the Terterchai River. The region is also traversed by the Khachin River. The Kura River flows along the border of the district. The large Upper Karabakh channel has been built in the district. There are two beautiful lakes along the road from Barda to Terter and one more (Agali) is located near Barda.
Forests occupy 6856 km of the district's territory. The land features many relict trees; there are oaks, hornbeams, garagaches, walnuts and plane trees. The fauna includes wolves, foxes, jackals, wild boars, hares, pheasants, gooses, francolins etc. Hunting and fishing are available.
Natural conditions favor melon, cotton and grain growing.
Until the collapse of the USSR, the district was an All-Union Sanatorium and a popular resort, largely owing to the land, rich in healthful mineral springs. The most acclaimed are Istisu, located 3 km. from Barda, and the spring near the village of Muganli.
The town of Barda is located 314 km from Baku. In Arabian written sources (Ibn Khovgal), Barda, located in the western part of Azerbaijan, was mentioned as "The Mother of the Arran Towns". In the past, the town was a key stop on the Great Silk Road. Barda was known to the neighboring nations already two thousand years ago. There was even a legend claiming that the town had been founded by Alexander the Great; the legend was mentioned in the works of such ancient authors as Balazuri and Kazvini. Since the 6th century BC, Barda became the capital of Caucasian Albania.
Archeological expeditions revealed ruins of an ancient town near present Barda. Numerous objects found there evidence the high level of culture, trade and crafts: jewelry, forging, pottery, silk production, woodworking and carpet weaving.
This was a town with advanced infrastructure: archeologists found underground water communications and sewer systems built with the use of ceramic pipes. The streets of the town were cobbled; red brick was used in construction works. Money was coined at the mint. The findings indicate established links between Barda and the adjacent towns of Azerbaijan and the whole Middle East. Archeologists have also found objects of material culture covering the period from the 2nd millennium BC to the Late Middle Ages. Many architectural monuments remained to the present day. They include remainders of the famous bridge across Terter (7th-9th centuries), the mausoleums of "Akhsatan Baba", "Guloglular" (with the burial of Bakhman Mirza Gadzhar, a famous scientist) built by Akhmed Ibn Ayub al-Khafiz, an architect, "Imamzade" (scientists believe this mausoleum to be the place of Sheikh Ibragim's burial). There is also a square-shaped cob fortress.
As the capital of Caucasian Albania, Barda became the religious center of the Albanian Christian Church in 552. Christianity in Caucasian Albania was introduced by Syrian missionaries.
However, since the first half of the 7th century Barda became an arena of Arabian - Khazar wars. During the reign of Caliph Muawiyah (661-680), Barda was restored and surrounded with fortress walls. The Arabs garrisoned the place as an outpost against Khazar invasions. The population of Barda at that time was estimated at100000 inhabitants - quite large for a town in those times. That is why Mugaddasi, an Arabian writer, called Barda "The Baghdad of this region".
Since the collapse of the Caliphate and until the nearly end of the 10th century, Barda was a part of the Salarids State. There is an interesting event in the history of Barda. In 944 Vikings, heading out the Kievan Princedom and sacking everything there was to sack, reached Kura. According to the records, the Vikings troops were quite large in number, from 30 to 50 thousands men. For a short time, they managed to capture and hold Barda. However, after a few months the Vikings, many of which had died of unknown illnesses, left the town without a fight.
More serious were results of the Mongol raids. The town was severely damaged during the invasion of Tamerlane (15th century). After the devastation by Persian Shah Nadir in 1736, the town did not recover. It fell into decay and became merely a small populated place within the Karabakh Khanate (the end of the 18th century).
In the past, Barda comprised the sharply delineated center of the town - Shahristan, surrounded by fortress walls, and Rabata - residential quarters of artisans, craftsmen and merchants. There were quarters of blacksmiths (present village of Gara Demirchiler), potters, stonemasons, wood engravers tanners etc. It was a town of beautiful fabrics, ceramic and glass ware, embellishments made of common and precious metals. A great number of the famous "Karabakh Type" carpets (both with and without nap), made by Azerbaijani craftsmen, were produced in Barda. This was a genuine Town of Craftsmen, praised by the famous Azerbaijani poet Nezami Ganjevi in his poem "Islander-Name".
The ancient town was glorified by Gazi Mahiatdin Bardi, a prominent political figure of the 14th century, progressive jurist and scientist Muhammed Ibn Abdulla Abubekr Bardi (died in 961), renowned in the East, the author of "The Answer to Dissidents" (regarding the Muslim law). His works indicate democratic and progressive views of their author.
Remained on the territory of the district are numerous ancient architectural monuments. They include the Mausoleum of Khanaoglan (17th century), a caravanserai (18th century) in the village of Shahbulag, a mosque (17th century), The Palace and Mosque of Panahali-Khan, "Gutlu Musaogli" mausoleum (14th century) in the village of Khachinturbetli, two mausoleums and a mosque in the village of Papravend, a cave temple dated to the Christian period of Caucasian Albania, carved out on the northern slope of the Bozdag Mountain.
The town of Agdam is the administrative center of the district, located 362 km from Baku. Agdam was also one of the large towns located on the Karabakh plain. Turkic tribes would often build small defensive fortresses on lowlands (the word "Agdam" is translated from the ancient Turkic as "a small fortress").
Later the word gained its modern meaning of "light, white" - connected to the fact that one of Karabakh Khans, Panahali, built a house of white marble here, in the 18th century. It was a whole complex of harmonic structures - an imaret of white stone.
The town houses an unusual museum - The Museum of Bread. The museum's collections include unique artifacts - archeological findings relevant to bread and grain growing. There are petrified seeds, grain graters, hand mills, ware, ancient books, manuscripts, various documents describing the history of tillage, farmers' tools (sickles, ploughs, threshing boards) etc.
The town of Shusha is located 373 km from Baku. The town's name owes much to the splendid clean and transparent air of the land. "Shusha" is literally translated as "glass" (Azerbaijanis usually associate clean air with transparent glass). This is one of the most beautiful towns of our country, blessed by nature with unique springs - Isa Bulag, Turshsu, Sakina Bulag, Isti Bulag, Soyug Bulag, Yuz Bulag, Girkh Bulag, Charikh Bulag and many others.
The foundation and subsequent prosperity of the town are connected to strengthening of the Karabakh khanate. From two sides the town is screened by remained city walls, once heavily fortified. The town was founded by Panahali Khan, a Karabakh ruler (1756-1757). He built a fortress here and named it Panahabad. Later it was renamed into Shusha, the name of a village nearby. Panahali Khan also built other fortresses - Bayat, Shahbulag and reinforced the fortress of Askeran. In the 18th century Shusha emerged as on of the most important towns in Azerbaijan. It was surrounded by tall and thick fortress walls. A number of craftsmen's quarters were built, merchant routes connected Shusha with Persian towns and Moscow, the town began coining its own silver money - Panabadi.
Travelers have always admired this beautiful town, located high in the mountains. "Its houses are regular, beautiful, tall and lit through numerous fine windows. The town is built of stone from the rocks it is situated on. Every street is cobbled with wide slabs; roofs are made of boards" - these are the impressions of V. Vereshagin, a Russian painter.
The quarters had indoor galleries with stone pillars, market squares were large and the town's main square - Meydan - housed rows of shops and a two-storied caravanserai. There was also a cathedral mosque with two minarets.
Located near the border of the town was the "race track" - Dzhidir Duzu. It was located near the deep canyon of Dashalty. Steep staircase steps of Girkh Pilakan (forty steps) led downwards to the river of Dashalty, to the secret cave of "Khazina Gala" (the fortress of treasures). Every guest of Shusha would visit this place.
To count all ancient monuments of architecture and art in Shusha is not an easy thing to do - only the number of architectural monuments is estimated at 170, monuments of arts - 160. They include house museums: of Khurshud Banu Natavan, a poetess, museum of General Mekhmandarov, a participant of a heroic defense of Port Arthur, prominent composer Uzeyir Hadzhibekov, singer Bul-Bul, poet and painter Mir Mohsum Navab, there are the castles of Ibragim Khan and his daughter, Gara Beyukkhanum, "Ganja Gates", the fortress wall etc.
The town is often called the "conservatoire of the East". Shusha is a hometown to many prominent Azerbaijani singers, musicians, great composers and conductors - Dzhabbar Garyagdi Oglu, Gurban Primov, Bul-Bul, Seid Shushi, Khan Shushi, Rashid Beibutov, Uzeyir Hadzhibekov, Niyazi, Fikret Amirov and Suleyman Alasgarov.
It is also a hometown to writers S. Akhundov, A. Agverdiyev, N. Vezirov, poetess Khurshud Banu Natavan, poet Kasumbek Zakir, sculptors and painters T. Narimanbekov, Dzh. Garyagdi and others.
Located near Shusha is the town of Khankendi, first mentioned in written sources of the 9th century. It was founded by a Turkic tribe whose name, Verande, became the original name of the town. In the end of the 18th century the son of Panahali Khan, Mehti-Kuli Khan founded a large settlement on this place and later gave it to his wife, Peridzhan Begim. In the 1923 the town was renamed into Stepanakert but after the collapse of the USSR it regained its original name.
The district of Kelbadzhar is located on the slopes of the Lesser Caucasus. Its administrative center is the town of Gelbedzhar (translated as "high pass" or "highland"). The town is located 445 km from Baku.
The area is famous for its mineral springs, including thermal ones. The most famous of those, Istisu ("hot water") gave the name to a local resort. Other healthful springs are located 2000-2400 m above sea level, on the banks of the Terter River. In terms of chemical composition their waters are almost identical or even superior to waters of the world-famous Karlovy Vary springs (Czech Republic).
It has to be mentioned that natural landscape, historical-architectural monuments, transit-communication set of Nagorny Karabakh and surrounding districts, occupied by Armenia, have been destroyed by Armenians, in a word, tourism infrastructure of top
the region has fully been destructed.