Nakhchivan: Fortress of Alinja-gala: History of magnificence & invincibility
By Susanbar Aghamaliyeva
Alinja-gala is the fortress on the top of the mountain of the same name on the right bank of Alinjachay in Julfa District of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic. The oldest sources describe it as Erinjag, Erinjik, Alanjik, Alinja, Alanjug, etc.
The meaning of Alinjagala is connected with the word “alan” standing for “duzanlik” (plain area) in Turkic languages. It is related to a place that looks like a little square.
Rui Gonsales Klavikho, the ambassador of Enricon III, king of Castilla, the Spanish diplomat to the government of Teymurilar in 1403-1406, describes Alinjagala as a fortress on a high and precipitous mountain surrounded by the walls and the towers.
Within the walls, down from the mountains there are vineyards, gardens, cornfields, springs, and pools, and the fortress is located on the top of the mountain.
The folk etymology of the name of the fortress is explained as “Alinjak”, meaning “take off your hand”. It is also connected to the invincibility of the fortress. There are also various theories behind the construction of Alinjagala. Proceeding from historical sources, some researchers relate it to about 2,000 years ago, but others refer to the Sasanian period of the III-VII centuries.
The Alinjagala is described as a strong fortification in Kitabi-Dada-Gorgud. In the Middle Ages sources, the name of Alinja was considered a fortress, mountain, and river. As regards some other sources, historians Asoghik in 928-1001, Nasavi XII century, Sharafaddin Ali Yazdi XV century, Turkish traveler Ovliya Chalabi XVII century, and others provided information about Alinja.
Alinja is the symbol of the mightiness, and warlikeness, of the lands having natural specificity. Above all, the extraordinary view of the fortress attracts attention. The walls of Alinja begin from the slopes of the Alinja mountain and gradually go up and fully embrace its top. The oldest foundation of the fortress was built of big stones and burnt bricks brought from the villages around. Three walls with half-round towers remain on the east slope and on the west slope remain the ruins of eight walls. Alinjagala mainly consists of three large areas. The fortress with strong walls and precipitous cliffs had turned it into an invincible defense fortification. On top of the fortress resembling a little township there are remnants of ruins of a lot of settlements, houses, and administrative buildings built with burnt bricks and foundation stones.
Furthermore, according to historical researches, the fortress chiefs and big feudal lords lived there. The remnants of beautiful palaces and buildings belonging to feudal lords in Alinjagala even were spoken about in the literature of the XIX century. It was possible to keep a herd of horses and cattle and to place 600 fighters with their horses and additional military ammunition in the fortress. Over 13 ponds were dug at different points and on the hilltop in the rock special arks were engraved. By means of these arks rain and snow waters floated into those ponds.
During capital archaeological excavation works in the fortress and as a result of chance discoveries different material cultural remnants – pottery fragments, coins, construction materials, etc. were found and among them, the glazed and unglazed ware samples are related to the IX-XI centuries. On their surfaces, there are different natural paintings and animals, of which gazelle, deer, snake, fish, etc. The main designs of glazed tableware consist of geometric fragments. Very qualified celadon pottery found around the fortress is attractive.
For the researchers, the celadon tableware was brought to Azerbaijan from China through the Great Silk Way. Within the power of Atabaylar-Eldanizlarin Azerbaijan, the importance of Alinjagala became higher and the families of the rulers were sheltered there in case of emergency as it had fulfilled the function of fortification. The residence of Zahida Khanum, ruler of Nakhchivan, and the treasure of Eldanizlar were in the Alinjagala fortress. During the attack of Jallaladdin Magburnini, the son of Kharazmshah Mahammad in 1225, Ozbak Eldaniz ruler (1210-1225) sheltered in Alinjagala, and there in one of the battles was killed. The Alinjagala was under Hulakular in the XIII-XIV centuries as well, in the second half of the XIV century under the power of Jalairilar.
During 1387-92 Alinjagala defenders took advantage of Teymur’s absence from Azerbaijan and attacked Tabriz four times and thrice they could capture the city. In 1393, the 40,000-strong troops of Teymur attacked Alinjagala. This time, a group of fortress defenders headed by Altun left the fortress secretly. On their return, they found the fortress gates had been captured by Teymur’s troops and it came under attack. Altun and his fighters having possessed very advantageous and strategic positions defeat the troops of Teymur. Two of the four tuman (of then thousand) emirs were killed and the defenders could enter the fortress.
In 1397, Shaki and Georgian army units attacked Alinjagala and defeated Sultan Sanjar, the leader of Teymuri, and broke out of Sultan Tahir’s encirclement and sent him to Baghdad. For a while, Seyid Ali, Haji Saleh, and three Georgian leaders headed the defense of the fortress. According to the historical facts, Alinja made Teymur worry very much. In 1399 on their way back from India to Samarkand, he got information about the situation in Azerbaijan from the envoy coming from Tabriz, and four months after reaching Samarkand he left it for Azerbaijan. Under the leadership of 5-6 emirs, army units were sent to Alinja. Since the conflicts occurred the fortress had remained unruled and for this, they were yielded at Teymur’s presence. Teymur watches the fortress and wonders at its mightiness. After Teymur’s death in 1405, Alinja again passed into the power of Jalalar and then Garagoyunlular. Iskandar, the ruler of Garagoyunlular, who was fighting his brother Jahanshah at that time had sheltered in Alinjagala. Iskandar having been killed by his son Gubad Mirza Alinja was captured by Jahanshah. Alinja fortress has then been under the power of Aggoyunlular but then under Safavids was destroyed because of feudal conflicts and wars.
Today, the fortress is protected at the state level and it is included in the list of precious historical monuments in the territories of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic by the Azerbaijani state. Being one of the most attractive historical monuments in the country, the fortress has also been a favorite tourist destination. Because it has been a pride of Azerbaijan's history with its magnificence and invincibility.
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