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Formation of the town Zakatala

Formation of the town ZakatalaThe article concerns the town of Zakatala, the centre of the Zakatalsky region in the north-west of Azerbaijan on the border with Georgia and Daghestan.

The town has been formed on the base of the fortress “New Zakataly”, built by the Russian armies in 1830, and covers the area of 9 hectares. It was described by many an author, one of them writes: “I got the fortress New Zakataly, founded in 1830, in the vicinity of the village Zakatala… It lies on a small mount and has in about two versts around. The location is rather favorable, and to conquest it one should have a powerful and artful artillery. Thus to the Asian armies, not excluding Turkish, it is invincible. Before 1830 there were houses of dwellers…»[1].

The historic centre of the town, around which the town was being formed, is the old town square and the park with the area of one hectare, adjoining to it. S. Suleimanova writes that among the Zakatala archeological material there is document in Arabic, which runs of the freedom proclaiming to a slave in “meidanu-l-khauriyia” – “plane-tree square” or we may read as “meidanu-l-khurriyya” – “freedom’s square”)[2]. Of course that as “plane-tree square is meant the above-mentioned square”, where a famous 800 years old plane-tree grows[3]. In the plane-tree grove there was a mosque, which was later destroyed, and a built church has been preserved on this square, the meetings of the Djar jamaat were held there[4]. In this connection Suleymanova writes, that the plane-tree’s name in Latin – populous is connected with the Latin word “populus”, that means “people”, people’s meeting, as people’s meetings in ancient Rome were held in plane-tree groves. The memoirs of K. Gan, a traveler, prove our supposition that the old square was known as the plane-tree square. He writes: “Approaching Zakatala….. from afar one can see white walls of the citadel, dominating over the small town and vicinity. Soon we entered the town through wide streets and stayed at the “club”, situated on a wide square in the shade of tall plane-trees and lindens”[5].

At the same time one should note that the place, where the fortress is situated (above the square) is called “Papakh”[6].  It is likely formed from pipe (used in the languages of the Avar group peoples living on the left bank of the Alazan) “Caucasian plane-tree”[7] with the ending kh’ which means situating “at”. The foundation of the town Zakatala is directly connected with the occupation of the Djar republic by the tsar armies in 1830, during the rule of count Pascevich and the building of the fortress «on the place of the ruined village cemetery»[8]. On the 28th of February Pascevich admitted as necessary to occupy a part of the village Djar and to build a fortress on this spot. So a part of Djar was ruined and a fortress was founded which was called New Zakatala…”[9]. Three times the Avars attempted to withdraw the tsar armies from the occupied spot, but all the three attempts failed. The first was made by Imam Hamzat-bek in 1830, when the fortress had not been completed yet. The second – by Imam Shamyl in 1853, and the third – in 1863 under the command of Zanki-apandi from Djar and Murtuz-Hadji from Tsalban.

The more detailed description of the fortress foundation proper we can meet in “The Caucasian war” by V. Potto. “The next day, on the 28th of February, the Shirvan regiment, six troops of the forty first regiment, two troops of the Caucasian sappers, three hundreds of Kazaks occupied Zakatala. After it, the commander entered the fortress, and on personally examining the vicinity, ordered to found a fortress in the Djar gorge to subdue the locals and to protect our borders from predating Lezgins. The building was started immediately. Houses and gardens of the locals were bought by the state at a very high price…” (the above-cited author’s words contradict Potto’s data – Sh.Kh.) The forests around were cut out and tall age-old plane-trees were used for the fortress wooden fences[10].

The choice of this place for the fortress foundation is explained by several reasons. Firstly, as Russian sources write, “New Zakatala enforcement …., at the village Zakatala, that gave the name to the fortress, shuts the exit from the gorge of the same name[11]. Secondly, the building of a fortress in this very place would allow to control the most numerous and influent Djar jamaat (1260 yards before the tsar armies conquest) [12], i.e. not less 8 thousands people). Besides, Djar had both natural (“Char location and especially Zakataly which occupy the upper part of the Zakatala gorge, is extremely difficult due to thick gardens and stone fences that filled all the gorge”) and artificial (Zakataly is separated from Char by a stone wall[13]) fortifications. The conqueror faced a large fortificated region, which could be taken with much difficulty as every house was a small fortress, surrounded by a stone wall. For instance, in January 1804, to conquer Djar General Gulyakov’s troop had to follow “the road, named zakatalo, running higher Djar and lined with houses and walled gardens of the Lezgins”[14]. In this labyrinth of gardens, houses- fortresses and high stone walls many a conqueror’s troop was defeated.

It’s important to note that before the fortress construction the upper part of Djar was known as Zakatala (the locals still call the upper part of their village Zakatala), and the lower part, where the mosque in the plane-tree grove is situated was called Djar-bazar (local Avar population call it Char-bazar[15]). Makhmudov A.R. writes: «one should distinguish the town of Zakatala from the village Upper Djar which is situated some kilometers away from the town. The local Avars call the very Upper Djar as Zakatala and call the town Char-bazaar»[16]. It is known, that in Char-bazar of the XVII c. the Georgians used to live alongside with the Avars, but had to leave (on account of Djaro-Kakheti wars) for Yenicel ( a small district on the left bank of the Alazan around the village Aliabad of the Zakatalsky region) and Kyziky[17].

For the first time Zakatala is mentioned in 1738 in the letter of the Djar kadi (judge) to his son Mukhammed as “the fortress of Zakatala”[18]. It is mentioned in the text “Djar wars chronicles” in the connection with the events of the year 1741[19]. This name in XVIII c. was known to the Georgians too. Thus, for instance, John Bagrationi in “Kartly and Kakhetia villages’ description” written in1794-99 while indicating settlements “Yenicely” mentions the toponym “Zakatala” [20].

The local manuscript of the XVIII c. gives the following explanation of the name Zakatala: “As for the origin of the name of Zakatala, the point is that the first man who brought this land to life was the man with the name Zaka. He formed thus a clearing (tala), which was called afterwards “Zaka’s clearing” or Zakatala “This etymology explains the fact that in local sources the toponym originally is fixed as Zakaltala, i.e. “Zaka’s clearing - Zakatala”[21]. One must say that Arabian name Zaki (clean, virtuous) is widely - spread among the Djar Avars. Thus, the etymology of the toponym “Zakatala” has its logics. This is proved by another source – a local chronicle of the XVIII c.[22].

In this connection statements of some researchers that the settlement old Zakatala, now a part of the village Djar, was founded in the XVII c. by the Tsakhurs, migrated from Daghestan[23], and who gave this name to it, look no more than a fantasy, based upon the similarity of these two names. The authors of the Russian Empire times to please the political conjuncture as well as many other facts of this place history interpreted the etymology of this toponym to state the idea of the Avars coming to the Zakatalsky district. According to this version it is explained as “Zakhar’s village, as according to the tradition the first man to settle was a Georgian named Zakhar”[24]. This etymology migrated to many an official edition of the Russian Empire[25], but in the modern works on toponymy that version is determined as insufficient[26].

In 1830 during the occupation of this region by the Tsar armies, the considerable part of local Avars had to emigrate to Daghestan and Turkey. During the revolt of 1830 villages of Djar, Zakatala and Kapisdar were ruined and the population moved to khutors named Tanachi, a part of them moved to different villages or escaped to Daghestan[27]. The Tsar government allowed the Djars people to return and to rebuilt the village only in 1838[28]. There is some information of Djars emigrating to Turkey, particularly to an Anatolia town Tokat, which in the middle of the XIX c. numbered 6000 houses, of them – 1800 Armenians. According to this source, here in Ottoman period lived families of Djar, a considerable part of which arrived here with the Zakatala’s khan (? – Sh.Kh.), escaping from Djaro-Belokan’s oblast after taking New Zakatala, and which got from Porta 4000 piastras (240 rubles) a month each[29].

The fortshadt founded at the New Zakatala fortress around this territory was given a town status in 1851. By the royal order of July 4, 1851 it was commanded to confer a town status on “the fortshadt, or a small town of Zakatala”. By the time of this transformation only 126 dwellers of both genders lived there[30]. By the end of the Caucasian war or Imamate abolishment in 1859 total population number had slightly changed (387 residents), and later it diminished (324 residents in 1861)[31].     However, the population of the town began growing gradually and according to the data of the year 1886, it numbered 1231 people, the Avars numbered 493, the Armenians - 510, the Russians – 167, the Mugals – 25, the Georgians -20. By the year 1897 Zakatala comprised 3009 citizens. In the course of wars and feuds of the beginning of the XX c. the population reduced to 2572 people, due to the flow-out of the Armenian and Russian population. However, soon it began growing again and by 1939 it reached the figure of 8710 citizens.

After rapid growth in the 1930th its speed reduced, and by 1956 its population numbered 9100 dwellers[32]. According to census of 1959, there were 10 250 dwellers in Zakatala, 13 377 people in 1970, 16143 in 1979. Presently its population numbers the figure of 20 000.

G. Ibragimov points out that for the date of January 1, 1974 the Tsakhurs numbered 4125 of the total population number of 16500[33]. However, according to the latest data, precisely, according to the official information provided by a regional statistics committee, in Zakatala 2000 dwellers out of 20 000 residents are the Tsakhurs, which makes up 10%[34]. The Tsakhur population of the town is descendants from the Rutul district of Daghestan, mostly from the village Mishlesh which is indicated by the fact of their using the Mishlesh dialect[35]. The latter is a generally accepted form of intra-Tsakhur communication though the Azeri language has become greatly widespread among the Tsakhurs living in town even for the communication with each other. Also, several hundreds of Ingiloys live in the town, a quarter of them being single and living and working in the town separately[36].

The Azeri’s population of the town is formed of the Shekins - 1,5 thousand people, the Terekemeys (descendants from Georgia) - nearly 1100 people, the Shekins district of Azerbaijan (1,5 thousand people), the Nakhichevans – up to 1000 people, descendants from Iran - about 400 people, the Karabakhs – about 200 people, the Gyanjins and dwellers of neighboring regions – 200 people. In general, there are about 5 000 Azeris in the town.

Along with them, there are about 3 000 people of different nationalities, basically the Avars and the Tsakhurs, have the Azeri's mentality, and for them the Azeri language is a basic and sometimes the only means of communication. 400 Ingiloys (Muslim Georgians) live in the town as well. A little more than 10 000 Avars live in the town after the extension of the town in 2010, and the total number of its population is more than 20 000 residents.

While analyzing, for example, ethnic structure of population, living in Djar street of Zakatala town (about 110 people), it is discovered that 83% of them are the Avars, 14% are the Azeris, about 2% are the Russians and 1% are the Tsakhurs. While doing corresponding analysis of population living on Mamedguluzade street (a little more than 210 people) the Avars make up more than 53%, the Azeris make up 37 %, the Tsakhurs – 5%, the Georgians – 2,5%, the Laks – 1,5% and the Lezgins – 1%.

Ethnic situation in the town was also influenced by extension of the Zakatala due to bordering Avari villages which entailed increase of the Avari population in the town. Along with these territories, by the decree of Ilkham Aliev, president of Azerbaijan Republic, of June 22, 2010, a settlement located in western outskirts of the town was attached to it. The settlement, which got the name of Chaidib (Avar. “in ferns”) among the local population, was abolished, and its territory and population were numbered with the town.

Primarily, when a status of town was given to Zakatala ond up to the middle of the XX century the main street of the town was Belokanskaya street. It ran from so called “Bilkan Kavu” (Avar. Belokan’s gate)[37] and stretched along the plane-tree square up to the river Tsilban-or. In the Soviet time Belokan street was renamed Communist street, and now it is a part of the Azerbaijan avenue. In old Zakatala’s dwellers’ comprehension the towns has borders: in the north – the fortress, in the east – the Lenin park, in the south-east – Demeshko and Komsomolskaya streets, in the south and the south-west - a monument to Sevil Gazieva, which is situated at the cross of Communist and Kirov streets (now Geidar Aliev and Dede Korkud correspondingly). In this borders the town remained up to the end of the XIX c., then it began growing rapidly basically because of Nakhichevan Armenians migrating from the territory of the Ordubad district. It covered the territory of the villages Chukak, Tlebel-uba. The town covered the Avar quarters of Chukak: Katsaral–uba, Gargarazul–uba, Tushiyazul–uba, Musaaliyazul–uba. One should note that there was ancestral cemeteries of the Avar tukhums within the town, for instance the Katsaral family next to the building of the Prosecutor’s office, which stands in the place where the Katsarals buildings were situated before.

Later on the growth of the city occurred and obviously will occur at the cost of the Avari villages surrounding the town which means their gradual joining the town and its building up.


References: [1] Зубарев Д. Поездка в Кахетию, Тушетию, Пшавию, Хевсурию и Джаро-Белоканскую область // Русский вестник. 1841. С. 551. [2] Сулейманова С. Джаро-белоканские аварцы // Азербайджан в мире. Баку, 2006. № 4. С. 132. [3] Гаджиев В.Д., Алекперов Х.М., Эфендиев М.Р., Мустафаева Р.К. Закатальский заповедник. М., 1985. С. 121. [4] Сулейманова С. Джаро-белоканские аварцы (историко-этнографическое исследование) // Азербайджан и азербайджанцы в мире. Баку, 2009. № 2. С. 65, 73. [5] Ган К.Ф. Путешествие в Кахетию и Дагестан // Сборник материалов для описания местностей и племен Кавказа. Тифлис, 1902. Вып. 31. Ч. 2. С. 56. [6] In 1830, all dzhars banished to a plane, and the inhabitants of this area in village Jar in the Papakh-uba (now part of a major Avar village Dinchi on the left bank of the Alazani). [7] Халилов М.Ш. Бежтинско-русский словарь. Махачкала, 1995. С. 219. [8] Берзенов Н. Краткий исторический и географический указатель достопримечательных местностей по Кахетии, Закатальскому округу и частию по Бакинской и Тифлисской губерниям. Тифлис, 1864. С. 18. [9] Посербский А. Очерк Закатальского округа // Кавказский календарь на 1866 г. Тифлис, 1865. С. 24. [10] Потто В.А. Кавказская война. Ставрополь, 1994. Т. I. С. 71. [11] Доливо-Добровольский. Экспедиция 1850-го года на лезгинской линии / Перевод с французского П. Волховского // Кавказский сборник. Тифлис, 1883. Т. VII. С. 615. [12] Коцебу М.А. Сведения о джарских владениях. 1826 г. // История, география и этнография Дагестана XVIII–XIX вв. Архивные материалы / Под ред. М.О. Косвена и Х.-М. Хашаева. М., 1958. С. 254. [13] Там же. С. 262. [14] Хицунов П. Сооружение памятника Генерал-майору Гулякову в Закаталах и его биография // Кавказский календарь на 1850 г. Тифлис, 1849. Отд. III. С. 106. [15] Саидова П.А. Закатальский диалект аварского языка… С. 16. [16] Махмудов А.Р. Краткий грамматический очерк закатальского диалекта аварского языка (фонетика, морфология, тексты с комментариями) // Рукописный фонд ИЯЛИ. Ф. 3. Оп. 4. Д. 56. Л. 4. [17] ЦIоралъул аваразул рагъазул тарих. ХIадур гьабуна Т.М. Айтберовас. – МахIачхъала, 1996. – Гь. 19. [18] Айтберов Т.М. Закавказские аварцы (VIII – начало ХVIII вв.). Махачкала, 2000. Ч. I. С. 179. [19] Хроника войн Джара в ХVIII столетии / Пер. П.К. Жузе, прим. Е.А. Пахомов, пред. В. Хулуфлу. Баку, 1931. С. 33. [20] Иоанн Багратиони. Описание Картли и Кахети. Изд. Т. П.Енукидзе и Г.В. Бедошвили. Тбилиси, 1986. С. 72. [21] Айтберов Т.М. Закавказские аварцы… С. 151. [22] ЦIоралъул аваразул рагъазул тарих. Гь. 17. [23] Azərbaycan toponimlərinin ensiklopedik lüğəti. Bakı, 2007. II cild. S. 290. [24] Хицунов П. Указ. раб. С. 106; Зубарев Д. Указ. раб. С. 555. [25] Семенов А. Географо-статистический словарь Российской империи. СПб., 1863–1885. Т. II. С. 250. [26] Никонов В.А. Краткий топонимический словарь. М., 1966. С. 143. [27] Фон-Климан Ф. Война на Восточном Кавказе с 1829 по 1834 год в связи с мюридизмом // Кавказский сборник. Тифлис, 1896. Том ХVII. С. 325. [28] ЦГИА Грузинской Республики. Ф. 236. Оп. 2. Д. 4. Л. 11–19. [29] Путевой журнал Е.И. Чирикова, русского комиссара-посредника по турецко-персидскому разграничению 1849–1852. СПб, 1875. С. 27. [30] Посербский А. Указ. раб. С. 32–33. [31] Ҹавадова З.Ə. Шимал-Гəрби Азəрбајҹан. Бакы, 1999. С. 52. [32] Советский Азербайджан / Под ред. М.М. Алиева. Баку, 1958. С. 310. [33] Ибрагимов Г.ХЦахурский языкМ., 1990. С. 3. [34] Clifton J.M., Tiessen C., Deckinga G., Lucht L. The sociolinguistic situation of the tsakhur of Azerbaijan // SIL International, 2005. P. 6. [35] Ибрагимов Г.ХУказрабС. 19. [36] Clifton J.M., Tiessen C., Deckinga G., Mak J. The sociolinguistic situation of the inghiloy of Azerbaijan // SIL International, 2005. P. 6. [37] Дзерожинский В.С. Из Кавказской войны. По поводу 50-летия осады Месельдегерского укрепления Шамилем в 1853-м году // Военный сборник. 1903. № 9. С. 54.


Автор: Shakhban Khapizov

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