More about Azerbaijan

GENERAL INFORMATION ON AZERI CULTURE

One of the world’s most ancient nations – the nation of Azerbaijan – has the right to feel proud for its history, material and cultural monuments, literature, arts and music heritage.

Wonderful nature, climate, natural resources of the country produced a significant impact on artistic thinking and creation skills of Azerbaijani people as well. In spite of a long and difficult way undergone by different types of arts in Azerbaijan, they still represent a unity and provide outstanding opportunities for the creation of a full idea of fine arts of Azerbaijan. The folk arts of Azerbaijan are multi-colored, complete and rich, as its natural resources. The folk art is connected with daily life of people and daily life occupies a very special life in the fine arts as well. Folk arks cover a long period from ancient times to nowadays and including a variety of products from garments to housing goods and decoration.

Quite obviously, the style of life, aesthetic tastes, the national image and qualities, are strongly reflected in folk arts. One can easily come across numerous wonderful models of Azerbaijani folk arts in the world’s largest museums. The pieces of arts created by the skillful hands of Tabriz, Nakhichevan, Gandja, Gazakh, Guba, Naku, Shaki, Shamakhi and Nagorny Kharabakh can be found in large museum collections of Victoria and Albert of London, Louvers of Paris, Metropoliten of Vashington and Vienna, Rome, Berlin, Istanbul, Tehran, Cairo museums.

The history of folk arts in Azerbaijan has a long and interesting history. Works of art made from metal extracted from Nakhichevan, Migachevir, Gadanay, Gandja and other places are approximately 5000 years old. Crockery, weapons and adornments found here are not historical facts alone, but valuable sources which testify the skills of the master.

Material and cultural models, found during archeological excavations in the territory of Azerbaijan, testify that our ancestors made crockery, daggers, axes, belts and adornments of bronze and used them in daily life. This proves the ancient age of such types of activity as copper-smithy and gold smithy.

There are those with portrayals, showing traditions, religious ideas and even garments of people of that epoch among art patterns made from metal. History, of ethnographical and artistic features of folk art are reflected on the garments. These features are reflected both on garments of certain form and its adornments and fine needle-work, knitting.

Bronze needles and awls from the beginning of the bronze epoch (III millennium B.C ) were found during archeological excavations in Azerbaijan as well. These findings prove that the ancient population of Azerbaijan could sue clothes for themselves. Little clay statues founded from Kultapa and Mingachevir (III millennium B.C) and seals of the V century B.C found in Mingachevir provided opportunities to have a certain idea of garments of that time. Clothing remnants sued from different silk materials are found in Mingachevir catacombs of V-VI centuries B.C. Number of adornments ( III-IV century B.C), made of gold, and clay crock of foot-gear form are well-grounded evidences, proving old high material culture of Azerbaijanis.

Different pictures, scraped on housing implements made from copper, bronze, gold and adornments, prove existence of fine art in Azerbaijan since ancient times.

Horse-cloth with flowers on clay figure of horse (II millennium B.C.), found in Maku in South Azerbaijan, golden basin with picture of line (I millennium B.C), found in Hasanli hill near the Urmiya lake, and other findings show the ancient history of carpet-making, one of the branches of folk art in Azerbaijan.

Remains of palaz (a kind of carpet without pile) and carpet of I and III centuries discovered during archeological dig in Mingachevir.

According to archeological dig and written sources Azerbaijan people has been occupying with carpet-making since bronze epoch ( late II millennium – early I millennium). Heorodot, Klavdi Elian, Ksenofont and other world historians wrote about carpet-making development in Azerbaijan.

Carpets, weaved by separate carpet-making schools of Azerbaijan (Guba, Baku, Shirvan, Gandja, Gazakh, Nagorny Karabakh, Tabriz) in different periods, amaze people till nowadays. Most of them kept in well-known museums of the world.

Gobustan rock pictures, pictures, belonged to the early of bronze epoch (III millennium B.C) in Aychingilli and Parichingil mountains near the Zalkha lake in Kalbacar region, rock pictures in the Gamigaya mountains in the north of Ordubad town have exception importance among the most old patterns of fine art. Pictures about ancient people’s mode of life, welfare, labour, carved in the Gobustan rockeries, represent special interest. Different subjects, scenes on hunting, cattle breeding, planting and other branches of household, human and animal pictures were carved in dynamic way. The Gobustan rock pictures – pictograms cover multi-centuries old history from primitive communal order to feudalism.

Azerbaijan was rich of architectural pieces one of branches of folk art along with works of fine art since ancient times. Maiden tower and Shirvanshahs palace in Baku, Momina Xatun and Yusif ibn Kuseyr mausoleums, created by architect Acami in Nakhichevan, Natavan’s home, pictures on walls of Shaki khan palace and other patterns are rare pearls of architecture.

Picture of people, dancing Yalli, represents special interest among the Gobustan rock pictures. This picture testify Azerbaijan people’s interest in music since ancient times.

Motherland of Azerbaijan people possessed rich musical and cultural heritage is famous as Land of flames.

Azerbaijan music, enriching world musical culture with its rare pearls, has multi-centuries old traditions. Creators of folk music, handed over these traditions to generations, have great role in development of Azerbaijan music.

Folk songs, dances, ashug creation (folk poet and singer) have specific place in Azerbaijan national music.

Mugams are foundation of Azerbaijan national music. It is not accidental that UNESCO, specialized organization of UN, entered Azerbaijan mugam into the list of world cultural heritage.

Our national music has been developing along with literature since ancient times. For instance, mugam developed along with with Eastern poesy. Thus, singers, performed mugam, recited ghazals (a kind of poem) by Azerbaijan well-known poets as Nizami, Khagani, Fuzuli, Nasimi. Poetic forms of national poesy like Garayli, divani, tadjnis along with goshma, mukhammas, ustadnama, gafilband are ashugs’ favor forms.

Works of art, created by classics and contemporaries, take honorable place in world cultural treasure. Works by M.F.Akhundov, N.Vazirov, M.S.Ordubadi, G.Zakir, M.A.Sabir, J.Mammadguluzade, M.P.Vagif, M.V.Vidadi and other poets and writers hasn’t lost their aesthetic importance.

One of the art kinds, related with Azerbaijan literature, is theatre. The roots of Azerbaijan theatre art related with people’s activity, mode of life, solemn and wedding traditions, range of vision. Elements of spectacle in rites, ceremonies and games took important role in popular theatre. It was realistic and related with working categories. Repertoire of popular theatre consisted of short spectacles of ethic content. Popular theatre played important part in establishment of Azerbaijan professional theatre.

Roots of theatre art, dated to old times, started with spectacles “Vizier of Lankaran khanate” and “Hadji Gara” by M.F.Akhundov, staged in Baku in March and April 1973.

Repertoire of Azerbaijan theatre, passed difficult way of development, has neen enriched now. Different spectacles, amazing spectators, are staged in Academic National Dramatic Theatre, Municipal Theatre, Pantomime Theatre, Theatre of Young Spectators and etc.

Cinematography, one of the most interesting and popular art kind of our time, penetrate into people’s life and become integral part of it. National cinematography opens bottoms of human heart and new live horizons. It gained great experience year-by-year and created number of different works, reflecting our people’s life and problems. These films were kept for future generations and became people’s spiritual knowledge.

Azerbaijan fine art is old and rich as history of our people. Research of theatre, cinema, music and folk art, passed long and difficult way of development, proves high cultural heritage of Azerbaijan people. Culture and fine art workers of Azerbaijan always make efforts to spread our culture to world and has achieved it partly. Entering of Azerbaijan mugam into world cultural heritage by UNESCO, rewarding of well-known film master R.Ibrahimbayov, screenwriter and producer by “Oscar” and keeping of manual works and carpets, made by popular masters in famous museums of the world are obvious proves.

THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE FINE ARTS IN ANCIENT TIMES AND MIDDLE AGES

The most ancient models of material culture in the territory of Azerbaijan are from the 8th millennium BCE. Ancient megalith monuments, herdsman stones, dolmens, caves, defense buildings, burial mounds, metallic instruments pottery and jewelry were typical of Azerbaijani households of that period. The national cultural and aesthetical ideations are reflected on rock carvings. The Azikh cave (with a length of 215-220 meters) near the town of Fuzuli proves that Azerbaijan is one of the most ancient dwelling- places of humankind in the world.

Of exceptional importance to serve as examples of ancient models of fine art are the rock carvings in Gobustan, in the Ayichingili and Parichingil Mountains near Zalkha lake in the Kalbadjar region during the Bronze epoch (3rd millennium BCE), and rock carvings into the Gamigaya Mountain in the north of the town of Ordubad.. The rock carvings “Boyukdash”, “Kichikdash”, “Jingirdagh”, and “Shongardagh” portray the lifestyle of ancient peoples, their housing and labor. Dynamic scenes, pictures of people and animals, episodes of hunting, cattle-breeding, farming, and other spheres of life, were perfectly carved into rock. The rock carvings in Gobustan, which are known as pictograms, cover a long historical period from primitive communal order to feudalism.

Decorative models, pictures, raised pictures on pottery and stone, as well as metallic wares and statues occupy an important place among ancient models of fine arts. Some of them, especially round crockery (Shahtakhti village, Nakhichevan AR), two-head deer figures (Dolandar village, Khodjavand region), bronze crockery with pictures of five fantastic animal (Gadabay), golden crescent-shape collar (Ziviyq), a golden basin (Hasangulu hill near the Urmiya lake), ceramic crockery, fond in the plains of Mil and Karabakh, are distinguishing for their delicacy and artistic perfection (VIII-VII centuries B.C.). Different glass wares, found in Mingachevir, Shamakhi, as decorative crockery, bowls, jewelry, show existence of glass production in Azerbijan as well.

Engraving and sculpture patterns were widespread in Albanian (Caucasus) art. Raised pictures of two peacock in the right and left of holy life tree on stone capital in Mingachevir temple (V-VI centuries) is one of the perfect examples of Albanian (Caucasus) sculpture. Plastic forms are spread in artistic metal wares are frequent artistic kinds. Deer, lion, peacock, bud were pictured on silver bowls, bronze water crockery, found Mingachevir, Torpaggala and other places. Bronze and stone pictures of peoples and animals, scenes, related with housing, fire and religious ceremonies predominate in round sculpture patterns of that period. Architecture complexes, palaces, castles, mosques and mausoleums constructed in the ancient historical towns of Azerbaijan as Qabala, Nakhichivan, Shamakhi, Baku, Barda, Gandja, Beylaqan, Tabriz, Maragha and Ardabilda in connection with spreading of Islam sicce VII century. Calligraphy – inscription, ornament, glaze and raised elements were widely used in decorative design of these buildings. Stone engraving examples, geometrical and plant patterns are typical for buildings, belonging to Shirvan-Absheron architecture school, while ornament motives occupy important place on buildings, belonging to Nakhichevan architecture school.

Inscriptions and raised pictures on Shirvansahs’ “Bayil castle” or “Sabayil” architecture monument, built in the Baku port in XIII century, played important role in decorative design of building. Human and animal pictures (tiger, camel, horse, bull, bird) were made in deep engraving style along with inscriptions on “Bay?l daslar?” (Bayil stones). “Bayil daslar?” of frieze type represents decorative element of previously onshore prominent architecture monument.

Azerbaijan fine art present unity with decorative applied art in the Middle Ages. Knight shooting clawed bird with arrow was pictured along with plant and geometrical ornaments on ceramic examples in Gandja, Beylaqan and other towns. Azerbaijan renaissance architecture was closely related with Nizami Gandjavi’s creation. He create architect, sculptor, mosaic decorators and painter characters (Farhad, Shapur, Simnar) in his poems.

DEVELOPMENT OF ARCHITECTURE FROM ANCIENT TIMES TILL THE ADOPTION OF ISLAM

Due to its mild climate and favorable conditions for humans, Azerbaijan was one of the first places where ancient human civilizations occurred. The results of archeological excavations demonstrated that ancient people in Azerbaijan created numerous works of arts, specifically architectural monuments.

Architecture reflects the history of the humankind. It started with natural caves that served as homes for ancient people. Azerbaijan has numerous such caves within its territory, particularly in the foothills of the Major Caucasus and Minor Caucasus Mountains, in the Talysh Mountains, in the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic, in Zangilan, Kalbadjar, Gadabay, Khanlar, Shamaxi as well as the Azikh cave, which was discovered in the territory of the Fuzuli region. It was determined that people lived in those caves nearly 1.5 million years ago and tried to adapt natural caves to their lifestyle as a result of increasing awareness and the development of labor and building tools. They drilled hole (flues) in the ceiling to guide fire smoke out of the cave, and they made special hollows into internal walls to keep their tools. The construction works that were carried out in caves by the ancient people resulted in the appearance of artificial caves in later stages. The artificial caves were made into sheer cliffs and at the foothills of the mountains, just as natural caves are situated. They can be found in the south-eastern foothills of the Major Caucasus, in the Minor Caucasus, on the Bargushad and Akara banks in the Gubadli region, near the villages of Maraza, Sundi and Darakandi in the Shirvan region, as well as in the territories, which long ago belonged to the ancient states of Manna and Midia. Wherever the artificial caves were built, ancient people tried to build them at a certain height above ground level for security purposes. The methods of artificial cave construction started changing after the invention of masonry. People began to build new mud and half-mud huts after masonry was invented. Such buildings were usually constructed into mountainsides and hillsides. Ancient people did not have strong skills in masonry building and were not capable of constructing buildings to their desired height. They created an underground grotto in the lower part, while the upper part (the entrance) served as a porch of natural stones to protect them from heat and cold. Scientists report that such buildings existed even before the state of Midiya and were widespread during the period of Midiya.

At first masonry was used in front sides and laterals, then in back sides of grotto in next development period of buildings of cave type. Replacing of flat walls by masonry and improvement of people’s construction skill leaded gradually to appearance of overground buildings.

The buildings based on artificial caves passed a long way of historical development and became known under the name of Garadan in the history of architecture. Garadans that were built in Azerbaijan were gradually adapted to the local climatic condition and acquired various architectural-planning qualities. Domestic animals were usually kept in such residents as well. According to the historical sources, garadans were used in Azerbaijan until the beginning of the 20th century.

Megalith architectural monuments-cromlechs, menhirs (herdsman’s stone), dolmens and Cyclopes buildings were widespread along with the oldest places of residence found in Gobustan (caves, different primitive shelters and etc.).

These monuments made of high stones are called “galadja” or “horukdash” by people. Defense buildings as Chalkhangala near Nakhichevan (Bronze epoch) and Oglangala on the bank of the Arpachay river (II-I thousand years B.C) belonged to Cyclopes buildings. Rocky buildings (Bastam, Danali, Galaoglu and etc.) were found near the Araz river in Southern Azerbaijan.

New towns, defense buildings, grand towers were constructed in connection with birth of Manna state in the territory of Azerbaijan in IX-VII centuries B.C, then Atrapatena state in the south. Research of toms on cliffs of the Urmiya lakeside and monument complex in Hasanli region show that flat of porch type had been built since VII century. The fire altar (where holly fire kept) only religious monument of that time remained till nowadays. Architectural types, appeared in that period, influenced on consequent architectural development of Azerbaijan, as well as architecture of Iran and other Near East states in the Ahamanies period. Fire temples, appeared in connection with fire-worship spreading, are main religious buildings constructed before Islam.

Important steps were taken in town building in the period of Caucasian Albania (IV century B.C -VII century). Strong fortress walls and earthenware water-piping of Gabala town, defense system (“long walls”) built Damirgapi (Darband) passage, Chiraggala (VI century), Round Christian temple in Lakit village (V-VI centuries), basilica in Gum village (approximately VI century A.D.), temple complexes in Mingachevir (VII century) show high level of town-building culture. Architectural monuments of Sasanis period particularly attract attention. Gilgilchay wall, prolonged from the Caspian shore to the foot of Babadagh mountain, and Beshbarmagh wall, prolonged from Beshbarmag mountain in present Davachi region to the Caspian shore, create wide idea on development of fortification buildings.

Architectural direction changed in connection with spreading of Islam in Azerbaijan after Arabic occupation (VII century). Construction of buildings of new type as mosques, madrasas (religious school, caravanserais etc. became major line in architecture. Barda, Ardabil, Maragha, Urmiya, Shamaxi, Shamkir, Shabran, Beylagan, Gandja and Nakhichevan were important towns of Azerbaijan in that time. Turning of Shamaxi, Gandja and Nakhichevan into big towns happened in this period.

Christian temples, defense fortification were built in some provinces of Caucasian Albania along with Islamic buildings. Djavanshir tower, built in the territory of present Ismayilli (approximately VII century), and tower complex near Yukhari Askipara village of Gazakh region (V-VIII centuries) particularly attract attention.

Generally, Albanian buildings made in Azerbaijan territories before and after Islam took important role in architectural development. Some of them such as building remains of IV-V centuries in Pashan and Mukhakh villages of Zagatala region, Govurgala (VI century) in Boyuk Galdak village of Shaki region, Albanian monuments (IV-VIII centuries) in Boyuk Amirli village of Gabala region, Albanian church (middle ages) in Oguz town, Albanian church (I century) in Garakand village of Khodjavand region Nagorny Karabakh, Albanian temples in Sos village (IV century), Iatsi village (temple of V,VII and VIII centuries), in Tagaverd village (675), Guneychartar village (1236), Aterk village of Agdara region (V century), Kolatag (614), Gochogot (672, 698), former Dostahir (713), Gasapet (718), Chaldiran villages (XI century), as well as Susanlig (IV-V century), Vang (IX century), Trakhtik (1094), Tsakuri (1131), Mammadadzor (1147), Tug villages (1197) of Upper Nagorny Karabakh, Shushikand (905), Chanagchi (1065 and 1100), Khachmaz (1100), Khantsk (1122), Khndzristan villages (1202) of Asgaran region has been preserved till nowadays.

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