The Gulistan fortress is located 2 kilometers west of the Gulistan village, Shahumyan district, the Artsakh Republic. More precisely, it lies on the right bank of the Inja River, on a huge wedge-shaped rocky hill opposite Mount Mrov.
A river flowing from the wooded foot of Mrov surrounds the western part of the hill from three sides. The slope is relatively accessible only from the southern side. Due to this, the main entrance to the fortress faces that direction.
The fortress is built on a flat area on top of a cliff that is elongated like a tongue. With a length of 240 meters, the cliff’s greatest width is 30. The fortress wall with the towers stretches over the very cliff, following its edge.
On the southern side, the fortress has an additional second wall. From the northwest, in a slope covered with dense forest, there is a secret underground passage. In the western part of the fortress, a palace stands on a narrow elevated part on the cliff edge. A second small palace is located at the foot of the southern slope, on the road leading to the entrance to the fortress. On this side, there used to be settlement – now, only the ruins of a church, a mill, a bath, and a bridge are visible.
It is unknown when the fortress has been built.
Late 19th-century scholars generally considered that Melik Beglar I (the middle of the 17th century), though his residence was in another area of the district, in Khorekavan, has spread his dominion over the Gulistan fortress during the years of his rule over the area. Formerly, the fortress belonged to Abraham-Yuzbashi, the previous ruler of the district.
However, the authority of Melik Beglar and his successors did not extend directly to the village of Gulistan and its environs. In a correspondence from 1720-1730 related to the Armenian-Russian relations, the Yuzbashi brothers Yesayi, Abraham, and Sarkis were mentioned many times as the masters of the district, village, and fortress of Gulistan.
Based on records, one may conclude that the Gulistan fortress was an important reference point for the Artsakh national liberation struggle during the first 30 years of the 18th century for one of the five military units – the army of Jraberd-Gulistan. At that time, Yesayi-Yuzbashi and Abraham-Sparapet enjoyed special fame and authority. With their stubborn resistance and flexible policies, they saved the district from plunder by the Caucasian highlanders and the Turkish army.
In all likelihood, it was during this period, in the first decades of the 18th century, that the walls of the fortress and its internal structures (including the palace) which survived to this day were completely rebuilt.
The extremely favorable location of the fortress has undoubtedly been very useful for defense. In particular, a study of the historical layers of the ruins shows that the inner palace was rebuilt on a structure dating back to at least the 17th century.
After the weakening of the sons and the death of Abraham-Sparapet in the middle of the 18th century, the fortress passed into the hands of Melik Hovsep, a representative of another well-known district family. But his main residence remained in the palace in Khorekavan.
The construction of the small palace at the foot of a hill and, probably, also the renovation of the inner palace should be connected with Melik Hovsep. Under the rule of Melik Hovsep and his sons Melik Beglar and Melik Abov, the fortress has been one of the most important strongholds of the entire district and resisted the encroachments of the Shusha khans who had subjugated entire Artsakh.
One of the centers of the Armenian-Russian diplomatic correspondence was located in the fortress, and it is no coincidence that the Russian-Persian peace treaty was signed here on October 12, 1813.
From Artak Ghulyan’s book “Palaces of the Meliks of Artsakh and Syunik” (RAA Scientific Research Series, Volume 4)
The ruins of the Gulistan fortress