Nakhichevan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Nakhichevan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic


(Nakhchyvan Mukhtar Sovet Sosialist RespubLikasy), a component part of the Azerbaijan SSR. Formed Feb. 9, 1924. Located in southern Transcaucasia. Borders on Turkey and Iran along the Araks River. Area, 5,500 sq km (6.4 percent of the territory of the Azerbaijan SSR); population, 215,000 (as of Jan. 1, 1973), or 4 percent of the population of the Azerbaijan SSR. The republic is divided into five administrative raions; it has three cities and three urban-type settlements. Its capital is the city of Nakhichevan.

Constitution and government. The Nakhichevan ASSR is a socialist state of workers and peasants, an autonomous Soviet socialist republic. Its present constitution was adopted by the Extraordinary Tenth All-Nakhichevan Congress of Soviets on Sept. 18, 1937. The supreme bodies of state power are the unicameral Supreme Soviet of the Nakhichevan ASSR, elected for a four-year term, with one deputy for every 2,000 inhabitants, and its presidium. The Supreme Soviet forms the republic’s government, the Council of Ministers. The Nakhichevan ASSR is represented by 11 deputies in the Soviet of Nationalities of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. Local bodies of state power are raion, city, settlement, and village soviets of working people’s deputies, which are popularly elected for a two-year term.

The Supreme Soviet of the Nakhichevan ASSR elects for a five-year term the republic’s Supreme Court, consisting of two judicial divisions (one dealing with criminal cases and the other with civil cases), as well as the Presidium of the Supreme Court. The procurator of the Nakhichevan ASSR is appointed by the procurator general of the USSR for a five-year term.

Natural features. The Nakhichevan ASSR occupies the southeastern part of the Transcaucasian Highlands. Almost 75 percent of its territory lies at an elevation of more than 1,000 m. The Daralagez Range stretches to the north and the Zangezur Range to the east (the highest point in the republic is Mount Kapydzhik, 3,904 m). The southern and southwestern parts of the territory along the Araks River are a plain with elevations ranging from 600 to 1,000 m.

Among the republic’s minerals are molybdenum and complex-metal ores, rock salt, facing stone, and building materials. There are also mineral springs.

The climate is sharply continental and arid. The average january temperature ranges from —30 to —6°C in the plains and from —10* to —14°C in the mountains; the July temperatures are 28°C and 25°-5eC, respectively. Average annual precipitation is 190–300 mm on the plains and 300–600 mm and more in the mountains. On the plains the growing season lasts about 265 days.

The Araks River and its tributaries, the Arpachai (Arpa), the Nakhichevanchai, and others, are of great importance for irrigation. Among the hydraulic-engineering facilities that have been built are the Araks Hydroengineering Complex and the Batabatgel’ and Uzunobinsk reservoirs in the Nakhichevanchai basin; as of 1974, the Arpachai Reservoir was under construction.

The soils in the plain are primarily sierozem and meadowsierozem and are saline in places; the foothills and the medium-elevation mountains have gray-brown solonets, mountain-chestnut, and mountain-forest brown soils, whereas the high-mountain areas have soddy mountain-meadow soils.

Because of the aridity and continental climate there is a prevalence of drought-resistant plants (xerophytes). Wormwood and wormwood-halophytic semidesert vegetation exists mainly in the plains area and partially on the foothills; mountain xerophytes (such as thyme beds and frigana) grow at medium elevations, and in places there are deforested meadows that have become steppes; subalpine and partially alpine meadows, as well as meadow steppes, are found at high elevations. The republic’s territory is almost without forests. The forest area does not exceed 3,000 ha.

The wild goat and Asiatic mouflon are bred in the Nakhichevan ASSR; leopard, bear, and wild boar are encountered; fox, European hare, and stone marten are also common. Most characteristic of the birds are the Caspian snow partridge, alpine accentor, crag martin, rock partridge, and black-bellied sand grouse; among the reptiles are Radde’s viper, a number of chicken snakes, and Phrynocephalus helioscopus.

Population. The main population of the Nakhichevan ASSR is made up of Azerbaijanis (190,000; 1970 census); there are also Armenians (6,000), Russians (4,000), and Kurds (1,000). The population of the republic was 104,900 in 1926, 126,700 in 1939, 141,000 in 1959, and 202,000 in 1970. As of Jan. 1, 1973, the average population density was 39 persons per sq km. The plains area (with about 80 persons per sq km) is the most densely populated part, and the mountain area (with 15–20 persons per sq km) is the least densely populated. The urban population is 53,000 (25 percent of the total). The republic’s cities include Nakhichevan (35,000 inhabitants in 1973), Ordubad, and Dzhul’fa.

Historical survey. The oldest monuments of the tribes who settled in ancient times on the territory of Nakhichevan—the present-day Nakhichevan ASSR—date from the Neolithic period. In the eighth and seventh centuries B.C., the territory of the Nakhichevan ASSR was a part of the states of Mannai and Media. It became part of the Achaemenid state in the sixth century B.C., and later part of Atropatene.

By the beginning of the Common Era, Nakhichevan was an important site of trade between the West and the East. In the third century the territory was conquered by Iran; in 623, by Byzantium; and in the mid-seventh century, by the Arabs. The territory was one of the regions of the Khurramit-Babekit movement in the eighth century. In the ninth and tenth centuries it was part of the feudal states of the Sadjid (879–930) and the Salarid (941–965), and it came under the power of the Seljuks in the 11th century.

In the 13th and 14th centuries Nakhichevan suffered devastating incursions by Mongol invaders and Tamerlane. In the 15th century it was incorporated into the states of the Kara-Koyunlu and Ak-Koyunlu, and in the 16th and 17th centuries it was under the Safawids. From the 16th through the 18th century the territory suffered considerably from incursions by Turkish and Iranian raiders. In the 17th century, Nakhichevan was the location of a widespread peasant movement led by Ker-ogly against foreign invaders and native exploiters.

The independent Nakhichevan Khanate came into being in the mid-18th century, after the fall of the empire of Nadir Shah. As a result of the Russo-Iranian War of 1826–28, and in accordance with the Troniy of’Turkmanehai of 1828, the khaimts was unified with Russia. The territory’s economy and culture were favorably affected by unification, and there was an end to the devastating wars, incursions by foreign raiders, and internecine strife.

In the first quarter of the 19th century, direct links were established with the culture of the Russian people. Progressive members of the Nakhichevan intelligentsia, such as E. Sultanov, Dzh. Mamedkulizade, M. T. Sidgi, and G. Sharifov advocated the education of the masses, the creation of a theater, and the publication of newspapers and journals.

The working people were under a double yoke—that of the tsarist officials and that of the native feudal lords, the khans, the beks (members of the nobility), and the Muslim clergy. In the early 20th century the peasants owned only 7.9 percent of the land. More than 90 percent of the population was illiterate. On the eve of the Revolution of 1905–07 in Russia, and also during the revolution, the peasant movement in the region intensified. In a number of localities it assumed the character of armed takeovers of land. Peasants seized pastures and irrigation facilities. Social Democratic cells originated at that time (in Nakhichevan, Dzhul’fa, and other cities); revolutionary work among the population was also carried on by sections of the Gummet (Energy) Social Democratic group.

After the February Revolution of 1917, soviets came into being in the cities of Nakhichevan and Dzhul’fa and at the Shakhtakhty railroad station, but from March to November 1917, Nakhichevan was in fact controlled by an organ of the bourgeois Provisional Government, the Special Transcaucasian Committee. From November 1917 through March 1918, the administration of the counterrevolutionary, bourgeois-nationalist Transcaucasian Commissariat was active there. In June 1918, Nakhichevan was occupied by Turkish troops, and in November by British troops. In 1918 the Musavatists, supported by the interventionists, proclaimed the so-called Araks Republic.

In July 1920 the working people of the territory addressed a request for aid in their liberation struggle to the governments of the RSFSR and the Azerbaijan SSR. Units of the Eleventh Red Army lent support to the insurgents; on July 28, 1920, Soviet power was proclaimed in the territory, and a revolutionary committee was established (M. Bektashev, A. Kadymov, G. Askerov, G. Babaev, and others). On the same day, the Nakhichevan Soviet Socialist Republic was formed, in a close military and economic alliance with the Azerbaijan SSR and the RSFSR. The revolutionary committee carried out the first socialist measures. The Nakhichevan Oblast Committee of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan was chosen in early 1921, at the First Krai Party Conference. On the basis of a resolution of the Third All-Nakhichevan Congress of Soviets in February 1923, the Nakhichevan Autonomous Krai was created within the Azerbaijan SSR, and on Feb. 9, 1924, it became the Nakhichevan ASSR. The first constitution of the Nakhichevan ASSR was adopted on Apr. 18, 1926.

The years of Soviet power in the republic have seen the establishment of socialist industry (mining, food-processing, light industry, and so on) and highly diversified kolkhoz agriculture. A cultural revolution has been successfully carried out: illiteracy has been eliminated, many previously existing clan and feudal vestiges have disappeared, national cadres of the working class and a people’s intelligentsia have grown up, and institutions of higher learning, educational and scientific research institutions, libraries, and clubs have been established. Considerable development has been achieved in the republic’s art and literature (seeAZERBAIJAN SOVIET SOCIALIST REPUBLIC: Literature).

During the Great Patriotic War (1941–45), the republic’s working people manifested great courage and heroism at the front and in the rear. Three persons were awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union, and thousands of working people were awarded orders and medals for their feats of combat and labor.

The republic’s economy and culture continued to develop during the postwar period. There has been a considerable increase in the people’s material and cultural standard of living. As of 1974 there were 21 Heroes of Socialist Labor in the republic. The Nakhichevan ASSR was awarded the Order of Lenin in 1967 for its achievements in developing the national economy and in cultural construction, and on Dec. 29, 1972, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the USSR, the republic was awarded the Order of Friendship of Peoples. G. A. MADATOV

Economy. The Nakhichevan ASSR is a republic with diversified agriculture and developing industry. In 1972, 21.1 percent of all industrial and office workers were engaged in industry and construction, 27.2 percent were in agriculture, 8.3 percent were in transportation, 6.4 percent were in commerce, public food service, materials and equipment supply, and state purchases, and 24.8 percent were in education and science and in cultural and health-care institutions.

INDUSTRY. Industry was established primarily during the years of Soviet power. In 1973 total industrial output had increased by a factor of 7.9 as compared with 1940 and by a factor of 2.6 as compared with 1965. Two hydroelectric power plants, with a total capacity of 44 megawatts (MW), have been built jointly with Iran on the Araks River. Power is also received from the Unified Transcaucasian Power Grid. Development has also been attained in the mining industry (the Paragachai molybdenum, lead, and zinc mines, as well as the Nakhichevan rock salt mine), machine building, and metalworking (the Nakhichevan Electrical Equipment Plant and the Shakhbuz Automotive Repair Plant).

Among the large-scale enterprises of light industry in the republic are the Il’ichevsk Cotton-ginning Mill, the Ordubad Silk Mill, and the Nakhichevan Garment Factory. The food-processing industry includes winemaking (wineries in Nakhichevan, Shakhbuz, and Abrakunis), the production of mineral water (the Badamlinsk and Sirab Plants), meat and dairy industry (a meat-packing plant and dairy in Nakhichevan), canning (in Ordubad), and tobacco curing (Nakhichevan). There is also wood-products industry (a furniture factory in Nakhichevan) and building-materials industry (a plant producing reinforced-concrete articles and a building-materials combine in Nakhichevan).

Industry is mainly concentrated in Nakhichevan (which accounts for more than 40 percent of the republic’s industrial output), Ordubad (about 10 percent), and Il’ichevsk (20 percent). A glass-container plant and a milling combine were under construction as of 1974.

AGRICULTURE. The main areas of agriculture are cotton growing, viticulture, horticulture, tobacco growing, and sericulture. Since the terrain is highly dissected, arable land is limited. Irrigation plays an important role in agriculture, and more than 80 percent of the sown area is irrigated (see Table 1 for data on sown areas). In 1972 the republic had 60 kolkhozes and 17 sovkhozes. The number of tractors in agriculture rose from 203 in 1940 to 792 in 1972, and the number of grain combines from ten in 1940 to 119 in 1972.

Table 1. Sown Areas in all categories of farms (hectares)
Cereal crops..................38,60036,40018,700
wheat ....................26,80023,00014,000
Industrial crops ................10,3008,3006,100
cotton ....................9,4007,8002,800
tobacco ...................6004003,300
Potatoes and vegetable andmelon crops.................9008001,700
Fodder crops .................6,1005,90012,100
Total sown area ..............55,90051,40038,600

Grain is sown in all areas, but mostly on the plains along the Araks River. Cotton is cultivated in Il’ichevsk and Nakhichevan raions, which are also the location of the principal sown areas of tobacco, although the areas also extend to the foothills and the mid-elevation mountain area. All farms have vegetable and melon crops. The Nakhichevan ASSR has intensively developed viticulture (in all raions except Ordubad Raion) and horticulture. In 1973 the area of vineyards on kolkhozes and sovkhozes was 7,000 hectares (ha). Industrial and seedless grapes predominate. Orchards (1,900 ha on kolkhozes and sovkhozes) in Ordubad Raion (with more than 80 percent of the area) consist mainly of stone fruits (apricots, peaches, cherries, and so on).

In 1973, agricultural output on kolkhozes and sovkhozes was as follows: grain, 22,500 tons (as compared to 18,600 tons in 1960); raw cotton, 5,300 tons (15,700); tobacco, 5,700 tons (1,300); vegetables, 3,200 (700); grapes, 16,200 (3,700); fruit, 960.

Livestock raising is oriented toward production of meat, dairy products, and wool. As of Jan. 1, 1973 (on all types of farms), there were 61,400 head of cattle (43 percent more than in 1940), including 24,300 cows and buffalo cows (1.6 times more than in 1940), and 226,600 sheep (double the number in 1940). Livestock raising has been developed throughout the republic: in the plains section it is primarily for the production of meat, milk, and wool; in the foothills and mid-elevation mountains and at higher elevations it is for meat and wool. Balbas sheep, the largest and most productive coarse-wool breed in Azerbaijan, are raised. Sericulture is also developed (in Ordubad Raion).

In 1973, state purchases of the most important agricultural produce (on all types of farms) were as follows: grain, 5,100 tons; raw cotton, 5,300 tons; tobacco, 5,700 tons; vegetables, 3,300 tons; grapes, 21,400 tons; livestock and poultry (in liveweight), 2,800 tons; milk and dairy products, 9,200 tons; wool, 407 tons; and silk cocoons, 87 tons. Purchases of eggs totaled 2.2 million.

TRANSPORTATION. A 187-km section of the Baku-Yerevan railroad line passes along the state border. There is a branch line from Dzhul’fa to Tehran (Iran). A network of motor-vehicle roads has been developed that connects almost all the republic’s populated areas. There is regular air service between Nakhichevan and Baku.

INTERNAL DIFFERENCES. The Araks plain is the area of concentration of almost all the republic’s industry; there is well-developed agriculture, producing cotton, grapes, tobacco, and grain, as well as livestock for meat, milk, and wool. In the foothills and mid-elevation mountain areas, agriculture specializes in viticulture, horticulture, tobacco growing, and sericulture; there are also enterprises of the mining and food-processing industries. In the high-mountain area the economy is primarily concerned with livestock raising.

STANDARD OF LIVING. There has been constant improvement in the standard of living, based on growth of the republic’s national income. In 1973 the volume of retail goods turnover (in comparable prices) had increased 780 percent as compared with 1940. In 1972, state and cooperative enterprises and organizations, as well as housing-construction cooperatives, built apartment houses with a total area of 25,400 sq m; kolkhozes, kolkhoz workers, and rural intelligentsia built 20,500 sq m; and industrial and office workers, at their own expense and with the help of state credit, built 8,700 sq m. There has been an increase in the social insurance and pension funds for the people.


Public health. In 1913 the territory of the present-day Nakhichevan ASSR had two hospitals, with a total of 20 beds; widespread diseases included malaria (in the zone adjoining the Araks River, 70–80 percent of the people had malaria, and in Norashen’ almost 100 percent were infected), trachoma, and typhus. During the years of Soviet power, the incidence of malaria has been sharply reduced; trachoma, typhus, and relapsing fever have been completely eliminated. By 1973 there were 2,000 hospital beds (9.1 per thousand inhabitants), as against 400 beds (three per 1,000 inhabitants) in 1940. There were 290 physicians (one physician per 740 inhabitants), as against 58 physicians (one per 2,300 inhabitants) in 1940. The Nakhichevan ASSR has the balneological health resort of Badamly; the Dardag, Kyzylvan, Gemiur, Vaikhyr, and Batabat mineral springs; and treatment centers at Sirab and Nagadzhir.

Education and cultural affairs. Before the establishment of Soviet power, the Nakhichevan ASSR had 45 elementary schools, with about 2,000 pupils. During the 1973–74 academic year, there were 222 general-educational schools of all types, with 70,500 students; three vocational-technical schools, with 1,087 students; and three secondary specialized schools, with 1,200 students. The teachers college in Nakhichevan had an enrollment of 1,600. There were 25 preschool institutions.

As of Jan. 1, 1973, the republic’s educational and cultural institutions included 226 people’s libraries (with 1.4 million copies of books and journals), the Historical Museum of the Nakhichevan ASSR, the Museum of the Literature of Azerbaijan in Nakhichevan, 187 clubs, 152 motion-picture projection units, and 12 extracurricular institutions. (See also below: Music; Theater.)

Science and scientific institutions. After the establishment of Soviet power in Nakhichevan, local scientific institutions were organized; among them were experimental stations and bases of the Academy of Sciences, ministries, and other departments of the Azerbaijan SSR. An astronomy expedition of the Shemakha Astrophysical Observatory of the Academy of Sciences of the Azerbaijan SSR has been operating in Shakhbuz Raion since 1970. A scientific center of the Academy of Sciences of the Azerbaijan SSR, with divisions of physics, astronomy, mathematics, chemistry, geology and geography, biology, hydrobiology, history and philology, and economics, was organized in the Nakhichevan ASSR in July 1972. In 1973 there were more than 100 scientific workers in the Nakhichevan ASSR.

Press, radio, and television. The Azerbaijani-language republic newspaper Sharg gapysy (Gate of the East) has been published since 1921. Local radio broadcasts are carried in Azerbaijani, Russian, and Armenian for hours per day, and local television for 30 minutes per day. Programs are relayed from the Central Television Studios (12 hours) and the Azerbaijan Republic Television (10½ hours), as are radio programs from Moscow and Baku.

Architecture and art. Numerous artistic monuments that have been preserved in the Nakhichevan ASSR occupy a prominent and important place in the history of art in the Azerbaijan SSR. Among them are bronze, clay, and stone animal figurines, pottery, remnants of cyclopean structures dating from the late second to first millennium B.C., medieval tower mausoleums of the Nakhichevan architectural school (in Nakhichevan, Dzhuga, and Karabagliar), and dwellings in Ordubad (18th and 19th centuries), which form a characteristic typological group in the national residential style of Azerbaijan.

Tombstones in the shape of a ram or cow have also been found. B. Sh. Kengerli, one of the founders of Soviet Azerbaijani realistic painting, lived and worked in Nakhichevan. The best-known types of decorative and applied art from the most ancient times have been silk-weaving, rug-making (rugs, bags for bedding, and saddlebags), embroidery with pearls and beads (women’s dresses and curtains for alcoves), patterned knitting (stockings), artistic metalworking (ornamental copperware), and wood carving (door panels).

During the Soviet period cities and villages have experienced extensive development in the construction of apartment houses, public buildings, and industrial structures; projects have been carried out for the creation of green areas and provision of amenities in populated areas, and also for restoration of architectural landmarks. There has been a great deal of construction in Nakhichevan (outstanding among the public buildings is the Dzh. Mamedkulizade Music and Drama Theater, 1964). Among the traditional types of decorative and applied arts, rug-making and crocheting continue to exist.

In 1970 the Nakhichevan Division of the Writers’ Union of the Azerbaijan SSR was founded in Nakhichevan.

Music. The music of the Nakhichevan ASSR contains many genres of Azerbaijan’s musical art. Folk songs and dances (work songs; songs of daily life; and traditional-ceremonial, heroic, and historical songs) have their roots in ancient magical ceremonies, such as holidays marking the change of seasons. Round dances-songs, such as the ancient Ially dance-song, which still exists, are distinguished by their expressiveness, emotionality, and diversity. Musical instruments include the zurna and balaman (winds) and the nagara (percussion); the ancient tulum still exists.

In 1923, after the establishment of Soviet power in Nakhichevan, a musical subgroup was organized at the State Drama Theater (now the Dzh. Mamedkulizade Music and Drama Theater). Other groups include the Araz Song and Dance Ensemble (since 1959), a folk-instrument orchestra (since 1966), and a children’s music school (since 1938); there are also music schools in other cities.


Theater. In the late 19th century an amateur troupe that staged dramatic performances was organized in Nakhichevan. An important role in the establishment of the theatrical art in the Nakhichevan ASSR was played by the creative work of the writer Dzh. Mamedkulizade and the educational and cultural work of M. S. Gulubekov and the first Azerbaijani director, G. Arablinskii. The professional theater developed after the establishment of Soviet power.

The State Drama Theater, which was established in 1923, became one of the republic’s cultural and educational centers. Of great importance for the activity of the theater’s troupe was the participation of the outstanding Azerbaijani actors M. A. Aliev, A. M. Sharifzade, S. Rukhulla, and S. M. Movliavi. In 1962 the theater was reorganized as the Dzh. Mamedkulizade Drama and Music Theater. Its repertoire includes plays by M. F. Akhundov, Dzh. Dzhabarly, D. Medzhnunbekov, S. Vurgun, Sh. Kurbanov, M. Nasirli, G. Ibragimov, K. Agaev, and A. Iusifli, as well as works of classical Russian and foreign drama. As of 1974 the troupe included People’s Artists of the Azerbaijan SSR E. M. Akhverdiev, I. G. Gamzaev, Z. M. Gamzaeva, M. Kuliev, and I. G. Musaev and Honored Artists of the Azerbaijan SSR F. M. Alikhanova, K. Kazieva, and M. M. Mirishli.


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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.