By Nigar Orujova
Last time, I invited you to visit an unusual village in Shamkir founded by German colonists. Now if you liked it, we recommend you not to miss any opportunity to have a look at another former German settlement, located in the picturesque Goygol region.
Azerbaijan has many settlements of different nationalities. The history of each colony is captivating. The German sign in the center of the country located between East and West is unbelievable, but still a reality.
In the early 19th century, about 500 families of landless German peasants left their native Germany accepting the invitation of the Russian tsar, found shelter in Azerbaijan, then part of the Russian empire.
Azerbaijanis accepted the immigrants with open hearts and helped them as much as they could especially in the first round of immigration during the cold winter.
Germans established six settlements, first of which was Helenendorf. Here, establishing German settlement, they began to cultivate rice and tobacco, planted large areas of olive trees and cotton, and produced oil from sunflower seeds.
The 1840s, the colonists had fully adapted to the new climate and land conditions and engaged themselves in viticulture. After wine-production, they started manufacturing of the oak casks, and soon formed the first German wine-production and other co-operative societies.
Twenty years on, Helenendorf had eight shoemakers, four high-class tailors, eight smiths, four joinery workshops and carriage workshops. They used to delivere their products to all corners of Russia.
It is hard to imagine such a productive settlements in Azerbaijan, which at that time was not very well developed.
The true economic breakthrough came to Helenendorf at the turn of the century. The construction of cognac factories in 1895 and the establishment of purchasing points in the province convenient for the Baku - Tbilisi railway promoted the efficiency of the enterprises. Local cognacs and wines were of such high quality that they were awarded prizes at international exhibitions in 1899 and 1900.
At the end of the 19th century, Helenendorf had electricity, telegraph and telephone communications and even a system of water supply, which for this time was a real wonder. In neighboring villages all these appeared only a hundred years later.
By the beginning of the 20th century, there were over 13,000 German colonists. However, the bad times approached the fruitful settlements. Starting with World War I, Russian Empire began to pressure the colonists, which peaked after the Revolution.
The newly created Azerbaijan Republic's government, which in 1918 declared its independence and secession from the Russian Empire, facilitated the establishment of the All-Caucasian German National Council.
The colonists improved their settlements, built schools, churches and education centers, and carried out educational and charitable work.
After the first republic in Azerbaijan was occupied by the Red Army in 1920, the private property of the German colonists was expropriated and transferred to the Bolsheviks. In order not to lose everything, the former prosperous German families formed industrial and collective farms.
But the government continued to suppress the settlements, and before World War II, the German colonists had no other way but immigrate to Germany. However, this was also forbidden, and only few families were able to leave in time.
Other colonists who planned to immigrate were declared to be counter-revolutionaries by the Soviet authorities, arrested and dispatched to Siberian camps.
More than 20,000 German colonists were living in Azerbaijan by October 1941, and almost all of them were deported to Siberia, Northern Kazakhstan or to the Soviet Republics of Central Asia, to harsh environments.
The German origin of the town transcends through the straight streets, wooden houses with carved facades and a Lutheran church built in 1854.
There is a place of special attraction here, a house of the last German living in Goygol. Azerbaijan's Culture Ministry plans to turn into a museum the house of late Victor Klein.
Klein was the last surviving German in Azerbaijan. In 1941, 5-year-old Victor was not forced to leave the country along with other members in the community as his father had been killed and the child was declared to be Russian.
The culture of the German people settled in Azerbaijan can be felt when visiting Klein's house.
Klein left everything in the house intact and preserved. The handmade furniture, one of the distinct features of Helenendorf, is the same as it was in the 1850s. There is still a Christmas tree that he kept for about 40 years.
Goygol, where German and Azerbaijan culture interweaved, is a must see place for all tourists interesting in history, art, and human fates.