Nakhchivan is called one of the centres of development of civilization in the East. There are more than one and a half thousand historical and cultural monuments, of which about sixty have the status of world importance, including the fortress city of Alinja Castle. It is located on the mountain of the same name not far from the city of Julfa (Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic), and the supposed time of its construction is 6-8 centuries. Today Alinja Castle delights with its extraordinary view: the fortress walls, starting from the very foot of the mountain, rise row after row along the slope, enclosing its top with residential and other structures located on it. A museum was built next to the monument, which contains the exhibits found during archaeological excavations.
Construction of Alinja Castle
Alinja was a kind of small-town, with its own residential and public buildings, treasury, army and stables. This is how the Spanish traveller of the 15th century Rui Gonzalez de Clavijo described it: “Alinja stood on a high steep mountain, which was surrounded by walls with towers below. Inside the walls, on the slopes of the lower mountains, there were many vineyards, orchards, pastures, springs and cisterns of water. ”
Enclosed by powerful walls with towers, this fortress had all the conditions for the long-term deployment of a garrison of 600 soldiers, along with horses, weapons and other ammunition, and even for keeping livestock. There used to be watchtowers and towers, barriers on the roads leading to the fortress.
In order to ensure that during the siege the garrison did not experience a shortage of drinking water, several water reservoirs were built in the rocky ground, to which channels were carved from the top of the mountain to collect rain and snow water. The storage ponds were of various sizes. So, the pond to the north-west of the village of Shakhtakhty was 23 m long and 6 m wide, 2-4 m deep, and the watercourse to it was 131 m long.
The fortress consists of three main parts – east, south-west and north-west. For the ascent from the eastern part to the upper north-west and south-west, stone steps were arranged. The upper part resembled a small town, where there were many residential buildings and public buildings made of raw bricks. In the past, these buildings were destroyed and rebuilt more than once. In the eastern part of the fortress, there was a secret underground passage to the Alinja-chai river. The ruins of more than fifty buildings are visible on a flat part of the fortress. Along with this, there is a house called “Shakhtakhty” for the commandant of the fortress and stables.
Role of the Alinja Castle in history
Alinja Castle played an important role in the history of Azerbaijan, as a fortress inaccessible to foreign invaders. During the time of the Azerbaijani state of Atabeks (1136-1225), whose rulers used this fortress as a repository of the state treasury, as a safe haven for the family of the ruler, for the imprisonment of people dangerous to the state, the importance of Alinja Castle especially increased.
Dominating the entire surrounding area, at one time it managed to become a reliable outpost on the trade and military route passing through Nakhchivan. The fortress was one of the most powerful defensive structures of its time and was mentioned in many historical sources. The treasury of the Turkic Seljuks was kept here, the ruler of the Atabek state, Muzaffar ad-Din Uzbek, spent the last years of his life in Alinja Castle. The fortress saw many conquerors; it was destroyed and rebuilt several times. The famous commander Tamerlane admired her majesty and came here to personally make sure that his troops captured the impregnable fortress.
In the ages of XIII-XIV. Alinja was under the control of the Hulaguids and it was in the possession of the Jelairids in the second half of the fourteenth century. Construction work was undertaken here during this time, and the fortress was even more strengthened. Sultan Ahmed Jelair kept the state treasury and his family and princes in Alinja Castle during the invasion of Emir Timur. Under the leadership of the son of the Sultan, Melik Tair, a garrison of 300 soldiers was placed in the castle.
For almost 14 years, from 1387 to 1401, the fortress staunchly resisted 4 attacks and sieges by Timur’s forces, and it was only after the conflict between the defenders of the fortress began and they began to abandon the fortress and invincible Timur managed to occupy the nearly deserted Alinja Castle.
Meaning of the name Alinja
The fortress is commonly referred to as ‘Erinjag’, ‘Eranjak’, ‘Erindzhik’, ‘Alyndzha’, ‘Alandzhik’, ‘Alanjuk’, ‘Alancha’ in historical texts. The name “Alinja” which has survived to this day, is connected etymologically with the ancient Turkish word “Alan” which in translation means “plain”
On the other hand, the name of the fortress and river comes from the name of the Mongolian Khan Alinji, as the aforementioned Mirgeidarzade wrote in reference to local people.
Restoration of the castle
In 2014, the state decided to restore the monument: the archaeologists were tasked with restoring the state of the fortress as close as possible to its original appearance. As the head of the archaeological group in Alinja-gala, Veli Bakhshaliyev, told the Moscow-Baku portal, restoration work began at one of the ascents to the fortress, for this a road was laid to the mountain, along which building materials were manually lifted. In a short time, the western and eastern gates of the fortress were restored to their original state, and the walls were strengthened. Archaeologists practically managed to bring Alinja-gala to its original state.
“During the excavations, dwelling and public premises, stables, barns, tyandirs, water pools and underground water pipelines“ kyakhriz ”were discovered. Residential buildings located close to each other consisted of one room, they were heated by a small stove; hand mills, pottery, axes, coins were preserved in them. All the revealed facts allow us to judge the lifestyle of the people who lived here, ”Veli Bakhshaliyev says.
How to visit Alinja Castle
To get from Nakhchivan city to Alinja Fortress, you need to drive 25 km and walk about 2 km. The fortress is located at the top of the mountain of the same name around Khanagah and Alinja villages of Julfa region. There are two ways to get there, but you need a guide – no one can escape from these steep paths. Since the road is steep, visitors have to sit and rest in several places until we reach the Castle.