Noah's Land, Nakhichevan
Another exclave, another curiosity. Belonging to Azerbaidshan, but (as by the tie of writing, October 2022) only accessible by air from Baku. At present, land borders to Turkey and Iran are closed (Covid restrictions). And the one to Armenia was never open. According to legend, this is the land of Noah - yes, some experts claim that his ark landed here, and only touching the Ararat mountain further away, continuing his journey to what is now Nakhitchevan, were Noah finally stranded, and also died.
It was the Russians that divided Azerbaidshan some 100 years ago, placing a strip of Armenia in between the two. I was told that the Russians settled Armenians evicted from Iran in the land now occupied by Armenia, while in the same time ensuring that there is no continuous Muslim land corridor between Turkey and the Caspian Sea. Divide and conquer, the old approach of the Russian Empire, which not only applies to the conflicts between Armenia and Azerbaidshan, but also to Georgia with their 2 Russian made „countries“ Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Ensure that the people hate each other, and this will ensure that your rule over them will be successful.
Yes, I hard nothing positive about the Armenians, which are said to have slaughtered thousands of Aseris in conflicts dating back already more than 100 years. (I wonder what the Armenians would say about the Aseris). In any case, all of Azerbaidshan is full of posters depicting martyrs that died in the war, be it the one in 1992 where Azerbaidshan lost a substantial part of their territory, or the one of 2020 where they conquered back a big chunk. And the war is not over, I was told. Since there exists no land corridor between Az and Nakh, Armenia had to agree to establish one. Which so far has not happened, and so the general mood is that if Armenia does not surrender to the ultimatum they were given, Azerbaidshan will take by force which they think is rightfully theirs.
A lot of conflict, of which I do not see a peaceful end, given the hate which exists between these two nations. In comparison, we Europeans lead a peaceful life, and our worries are nothing compared to those in Azerbaidshan, or Ukraine. (Hopefully we learn the right lessons)
But let us look at the brighter side of Nakhichevan, what makes it worth to visit. You can climb to the „Machu Pichu of the Caucasus“, as the Alinja Castle is also nicknamed, with a marvelous view from the top (price is some 1500 stairs to climb).
You can (theoretically) throw a stone into Iran, when you visit the Gulustan Mausoleum
The black fence towards Iran that you see in the very back is the border fence and is said to be necessary to keep the narco traffic out of Azerbaidshan. Iranians, when they cross into Naklhitchevan, rather take the official crossing, often being motivated by nothing more than getting drunk. Even though Azerbaidshan is a Muslim country, alcohol is in ample supply. And, the Iranians at the other side are also Aseris, because Azerbaidshan was divided into 2 (Russian-Persian treaty), of which the Southern part now pertains to Iran. So we have a double partition, once with their brethren in Iran, and then the Northern part, today’s Azerbaidshan, again split with a strip of Armenia in between, leaving Nakhitchvan as an exclave.
Two days in Nakhichevan will probably suffice to enjoy all the highlights there, of which I presented only an extract. A very historical strip of land, very politically charged, and yet rich of culture. A visit to Azerbaidshan is not complete without also visiting this wonderful place.