Azerbaijan is a country characterized by the richest architectural and artistic heritage, located at the crossroad of major trade routes from Asia to Europe. Lands of fertile area between two rivers of Kura and Arax and sacred fires of Absheron peninsula were places where throughout millenniums there sprang up and spread life and culture, architecture and art. (1)
Ancient settlements of the VI-III Millenniums B.C. were discovered in many regions of Azerbaijan. Made of raw, flat-convex bricks, the buildings of three types were singled out: household, dwelling and cult-ritual.
The first proto-temple was discovered in Karabakh steppe, settlement of Ilanly-Tepe, V Millennium B.C. Another settlement was discovered in Kelbadjar region with a big multi-roomed house of the III Millennium B.C. fenced by a defensive wall. This is supposedly the first proto-citadel designed for the protection against attacks of neighbouring bellicose tribes.
Afterwards, most ancient Caspians merged with Albanians, and back in the 4 century B.C. they were reported to have taken part in the battle of Gaugamels where Albanians-soldiers camped to the right from the troops of Persian king Darius III.
In the ancient times, Caucasian Albania (Agvania) was located on a vast territory which is evidenced by of many languages springs of the I c. B.C. -X c. According to these reports, the country occupied an area from Derbent in the north to river Araks in the south, from the Caspian sea in the east to Asia Minor in the west. (2)
Throughout its existence, the state of Caucasian Albania had several capitals. The first of them, as I see it, was the town of Albanopol, Albanus, Albakus, Al-Baku. Survived from that period is the so called temple of seven planet gods — Maiden’s Tower of the VII century B.C. The second Baku fortress of the V century B.C. and the cult fortress Sabail of the VI-V centuries B.C. were built near the town. Subsequently, capitals were the towns of partav (Barda) and Kabala.
Ruins of fortresses, temples and burials detected by researchers are indicative of grandeur and beauty of ancient capitals. Projects aimed at restoring these capitals are likely to throw light on the unique nature of the ancient architecture.
Note that defensive work was erected on the Caspian lowland to protect against invasions of northern nomads. First came walls of Derbent fortress with its two rows partitioning the entire maritime lowland and then moving off 40 km to the mountains. Second came obstructions that started with the fortress of Chirag Kala. Third came walls from the fortress of Besh Barmag which, like previous ones, partitioned the entire lowland and moved away to the sea. Finally came the Baku fortresses and temples-citadels located on Absheron peninsula. Worth of note is that the above-mentioned defensive work, despite different designs and spatial parameters, had much in common in terms of single Albanian fortification architecture. It’d be appropriate to note that the said fortresses and defensive walls protected Absheron peninsula and fertile lands of Kura-Arax lowland. Also, Absheron peninsula and the Caspian lands southwards were notable for their underground inflammable gas fields.
Noteworthy is the fact that the gas fields incessantly burnt in many Absheron settlements.
It was no mere coincidence that local residents identified natural fires with deities; as a consequence, a great number of faithful pilgrims fell into the habit of visiting these places.
Note should be taken that these fires were placed at the foothills, along the Caspian seacoast, while a big settlement that arose around a group of fires, later grew into the town-fortress of Baku, this flame-coloured capital of sacred fires.
Some researchers underscored the ancient origin of Baku. Thus, English scientist Flinders Petrie considered the name of Baku identical to «Bakhau», first referred to in the Egyptian mythology’s «Book of the Dead» going back to the III Millennium B.C. In the Sanskrit language, «Bhaga» meant sun, moon; in Avesta and Old-Persian, «Baga» meant god; it was detected on Behistun cineiform inscription of the V century B.C. denoting god.
Quoting early medieval historians, Kesravi Tabrizi identified Bag-van and Ateshi Baguan with ancient Baku as saying that it was «a town of god» or «place of god». He wrote as follows: «The town’s name is accounted for by the fact that one of major temples of fireworshippers is located here». He meant a tower temple called Gyz-galasy (Maiden’s Tower) or Khunzar-Gunzar of the VII century B.C. (sunward). The temple is distinguished by its size and expressiveness among other nearby small temples and fire altars.
Among legends devoted to ancient Baku, there is the one of goddess Zummuriada who, as we see it, built a tower in place of today’s Juma Meschid. Note that Zummuriada — Zumrud (emerald) — was the goddess of green star Vega.
When adjusted for legends and archaeologist-discovered ruins of ancient buildings, I’d like to express my own view that there were the following temples in the ancient sacred town of Ateshi-Baga-van: principal seven-altar eight-storeyed tower temple of Great Mithras or ancient Mazda (Gyz-galasy); ancient temple of Apam Napata of the III-II Millenniums B.C.; tower temple of Zummuriada — goddess of Vega, architecturally identical to the temple of seven-planet gods; nearby temple of Arta Vakhishta, son of Akhura Mazda — spirit of fire; close to the principal temple — small temple, most probably devoted to Vogu Mana (happy thought). Also, there were five temples inside a large rabat — lower town. The town was a cult center with every kind of complexes around it, including cult fortress of Sabail, Second Baku fortress, a great many temples and altars.
From time out of mind, Transcaucasia has always been the place to combine two cultures of the West and the East. As a result of fruitful interrelation, the peoples of Transcaucasia were successful in creating and further developing their high original culture. Throughout mlleniums the land of Absheron peninsula was known to have been the place with gas tongues of sacred fires blazing at all times.
This accounted for the fact that Absheron peninsula was reputed to be the place of god and divine fires which, in turn, gave birth to the emergence of fireworshipping religions — Mazdaism, Azerastrianism and later Zoroastrianism.
In spite of this together with powerful neighbouring Sassanid Iran that professed Zoroastrianism, Caucasian Albania was the country where Christianity took root as far back as in the 1 century A.D. thanks to the selfless activities of Apostle Elysee.
Note that the first Christian community was set up by Apostle Elysee in the town of Choga-Chala near the town of Derbent. After having founded the second Christian community, he arrived in the town of Ghis (Ghish), not far from the town of Nukha (present Sheki). While at Ghis, he built the first apostle church, this original mother of all the Christian temples of Transcaucasia.
Worth notice is that the first churches, metropology and education in Azerbaijan arose in this place proper (3).
At present, the said church has so far been thoroughly measured by professional restorers from the chair «Architectural constructions and restoration of monuments», Azerbaijan Architecture and Construction University.
Following the results measurements made, the experts worked up a project of restoration of the temple. (4) Restoration operations will start up in summer 2001 under the permanent supervision of the one of designers-restorers, active participant of the above-mentioned measurements of the Albanian curch.
Not long ago, Internet put up a note that Armenian «scientists» are going to restore the Khotavank Albanian monastic complex which they renamed into Dadivank on the grounds that a tomb of St.Dadi was placed in one of the churches of the complex. They are expected to celebrate the so called 1700-anniversary of Armenian Christianization.
It should be remembered that Armenians despise incontrovertible evidence that till XIX century Armenia was located in Front Asia and had nothing in common with Transcaucasia where there mainly lived the two peoples: Ibero-Kartlians, specifically Georgians, and Caspian-Albanians, specifically Azerbaijanians. Thus, Armenians, as we are going to state below, had nothing in common with the Albanian cultural heritage, ancient sanctuary — Khotavank monastic complex which is located on the territory currently occupied by Armenian troops — Kelbadjar region of the Azerbaijan Republic. Implementation of any architectural, building and restoration operations on the said territory is illustrative of Armenia’s full disregard of the UN and Lisbon decisions on Nagorno Karabakh.
Worth notice is the fact that the historical region of Arsak (5) — Khachen Albanian principality is rich in the works of ancient and medieval architects. One of the oldest monastic complex is Khotavank. According to the legend, the first one-naved basilika, now half-survived, was created as far back as in the 1 century A.D.
From 10 to 13 centuries, Khotavank served as the Christian spiritual center of Albanian Khachen principality.
During the reign of Albanian prince Hasan, son of Sakar’a Vakhtang (Bahram) (1142-1182), a dome church was erected in Khotavank. (6)
When prince Hasan’s son Vakhtang came to power, the significance of the abbey increasingly rose; there were a hotel, a library; even better, Vakhtang’s wife Arzu-khatun built a church there. Today, this presentable church is one of the most valuable monuments of the architecture of early medieval Albania.Inside the church, there survived fragments of fresco created by Arzu-Khatun and her daughters.
Contemporary of the epoch, Albanian historian from the town of Gandzak-Gyandja Kirakos Gandzakskiy wrote that they are endowed with talents and art of representation. Princess Arzu-Khatun built in 1214 in memory of her lost husband and later two sons lost as well.
In considering that Khotavank is a purely Albanian monument, Armenian «restorers» have no moral right to carry out any restoration and building operations.Acting against any conscience, without a twinge of conscience, they impertinently renamed this one-and-half thousand year old abbey changing Khotavank into Dadivank.
Proceeding from our bitter experience, we can confidently assert that many elements of this priceless Albanian monument of architecture history would be falsified and Armenized; Armenians would do their best to rub out any traces, indicative of monument’s Albanian origin.
Regretfully, the political and military aggression, by tacit consent of public opinion, is being accompanied by the cultural aggression on the basis of outrageous lie and morbid dream of never existent Great Armenia.
1.Akhundov D.A. Arkhitektura drevnego i rannesrednevekovogo Azerbaidjana. Baku, 1986.
2. Istoricheskaya geografiya Azerbayjana. Baku. 1987
3. Moisey Kalankatuyskiy. Istoriya Agvan. SPb.1861.
4.Headed by Professors Mamedova G.G. and Akhundov D.A.
5.Arsak.Ar-muzh, muzhestvenniy; Sak-saki, odin iz 26 albanskikh plemen. Zemlya muzhestvennikh sakov.
- Orbeli I.A. Izbranniye trudy. Yerevan, 1963.
- Akhundov D.A. Ostanovit falsifikatorov. Gaz. Bak. Rabochiy. 7.X.1990.
8. Kavkaz i Vizantiya, № 6; Karapetyan S.G. Pamyatniki srednevekovoy arkhitektury v gorodakh Shaki i Kapalak sobstvenno Albanii. Yerevan, 1988.
Davud Akhundov doctor of Architecture,рrofessor of the Azerbaijan Architecture and Construction University