Nakhichevan Province – Where Noah Descended

Nakhichevan Province – Where Noah DescendedNakhichevan Province is believed to have been the land where Noah descended to from the peak of Mount Ararat after the Great Flood. The city of Nakhichevan is one of the oldest settlements of historic Armenia, occupying the site of a prehistoric settlement Kültəpə. “Nakhichevan” means “the pre-shelter” in Armenian.

According to a tradition, Noah is buried here, in the vicinity of the village of Tmbul. Witnesses who had seen Noah’s tomb told that Tmbul housed a mausoleum with one support column in the center. Noah’s tomb was supposedly ruined several decades ago.

Lying on the crossroad of key trade routes of antiquity, Nakhichevan has been from times immemorial a prominent cultural, economic, and administrative center of Armenia.

In the early 1st century AD, the city along with the Armenians housed Jews and Greeks, whose ancestors had been captured by King Tigran the Great.

The ancient city of Nakhichevan featured a fortress, the ruins of which can now be seen on the outskirts of modern Nakhichevan. The lengthy walls of this fortress stretched for 3 – 4 kilometers and were enforced with watchtowers in key points.

In fact, most of Nakhichevan is now in ruins thanks to the efforts of the Caucasian Tatars, i.e. Azerbaijanis. Here, they managed to wipe out any traces of the historic Armenian presence. The cultural heritage of Armenians left in Nakhichevan has invaluable importance for all humanity, except for the Azerbaijanis.

Nakhichevan was included into the “Armenian province” in accordance with the 1828 Treaty of Turkmenchay. After the dissolution of the province, Nakhichevan was controlled by Erivan Governorate. Since late 1919, Nakhichevan Province for a short time has been a part of the First Republic of Armenia.

All the ancient districts of Nakhichevan Province, including Goghtn, Chahaponk, and Jahuk, are now under Azerbaijani control in accordance with the 1921 Moscow Treaty between the Russian SFSR and the Republic of Turkey. Since 1921, the Azerbaijani government has been carrying out oppression against the Armenian population of Nakhichevan. And on February 9, 1924, Nakhichevan was proclaimed an autonomous republic under the control of Azerbaijan.

Over the years between 1921 and 1989, Armenians have been forcefully exiled from their homeland. Back in 1960, the majority of Nakhichevan’s population were Armenians.

Statistical data demonstrates that in 1897, 34.672 Armenians (34,4% of the total population) lived in Nakhichevan. In 1926, this number decreased to 11.276 (10.8%). In 1971, only 3.406 Armenians (1.4%) lived in Nakhichevan. Today, there are no Armenians in the autonomous republic.

In the Soviet years, Nakhichevan has been a closed borderline zone. It was very difficult to get into Nakhichevan as it is and impossible if one had an Armenian surname. No photographing was allowed as well, though some people managed to take photos of everything left there.

In the 8th century BC, Nakhichevan was a part of the Kingdom of Van (Urartu). Between the 7th and 2nd centuries BC, Nakhichevan was controlled by the Armenian Orontid and Arsacid dynasties. Up until the 9th century AD, Nakhichevan has been a part of the Vaspurakan Province. And since the 10th century, it has been a part of Syunik.

Agulis is one of the most renowned cities of the province. In historical accounts, chroniclers mention two- and three-story mansions of the city’s inhabitants, workshops, religious schools, rich library, caravanserai, 12 gorgeous monasteries, and churches including the Church of Saint Mother of Good, Saint Minas, Saint Shmavon, and others, of which only ruins now stand.

The village of Mesropavan is also located in Nakhichevan: the creator of the Armenian alphabet Mesrop Mashtots himself lived here at some point. Another famous town is Ordubad, which was renowned for its silk production, numerous palaces, churches, and monasteries. Again, nothing of them is left except for ruins.

Before the official adoption of Christianity in Armenia in 301 AD, Ordubad had been a major pagan center of Armenia. Many antique plane trees stand today in Ordubad, most of which are 1.000 – 1.200 years old. The oldest plane tree is estimated to be over 2.500 years old.

The town of Old Jugha in the ancient district of Yernjak is a symbol of the Azerbaijani’s barbarism. There, they have destroyed numerous khachkars (cross-stones), temples, and schools, wiping out the traces of historical Armenian presence.

The city of Nakhichevan itself has been known for its churches. Travelers’ accounts from the 8th century AD state that there have been around 80 churches in the city at the time. Unfortunately, none of those monuments stand today.

Overall, 219 Armenian monasteries and churches existed in Nakhichevan Province, but now, there are no Christian monuments left in the region that would have any value for both the Armenian and worldwide human culture. Over 90% of the Muslim structures now standing in Nakhichevan were built in the 20th century.

Karine Ter-Sahakyan

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