Ganja is the second largest city of Azerbaijan in terms of population. The city is located in a rich area with a lot of potential for agricultural in the South of the rivers Ganja and Kur.
There are different opinions about the formation of Ganja as a city. Some historians date the city in the period B.C. while others to the beginning of the Middle Ages.
When it comes to the history of the city we should first of all mention the fact that the city has been a social-economic and cultural centre. Alike other cities of our country (Gabala, Nakhchivan, Sheki, Shamakhi) Ganja was inhabited earlier in a beautiful geographical site and was later formed into a city.
During the first part of the 7th century, Ganja was ruined by the Iranians and in the second half of the same century by the Arabians. In the late 7th century, Ganja was turned into a battle field during the war between the Arabians and the Khazars. Azerbaijan continuously suffered attacks that had also a great repercussion in Ganja city that was also attacked and ruined.
Until the 11th century - when Ganja lost to Seljuk Turks- it was the centre of Christianity of the Caucasus Albania. Due to the earthquake that took place in 1139, the original city that was established in the 5th century was destroyed and rebuilt in the 12th century a bit more East of the former location.
The city turned into one of the important trade centres for its location on the main caravan roads. The city was again destroyed in 13th century as a result of Mongolian invasion. In the 15th century, Ganja was subordinated to the Garagoyunlu state.
For a short period, Ganja was renamed Abbasabad by Shah Abbas after a war against the Ottomans. He built a new city 8 km to the southwest of the old one, but the name changed back to Ganja during the Safavid rule. Ganja was the capital of the Karabakh (Ganja) Beylerbey, one of the four administrative units and principalities of the time. In 1747, Ganja became the center of the Ganja Khanate.
Russian expansion into the South Caucasus met strong opposition in Ganja. With military attack on the khanate in 1804 led by Pavel Tsitsianov the city was occupied and called Elizavetpol to the honor of Elizavetta, the wife of the Russian Tsar Aleksandr.
In 1918, Ganja became the temporary capital of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic at which point it was renamed Ganja again, until Baku was recaptured from theBritish backed Centrocaspian Dictatorship. In April 1920, the Red Army occupied Azerbaijan. In May 1920, Ganja was the scene of an abortive anti-Soviet rebellion, during which the city was heavily damaged by fighting between the insurgents and the Red Army. In 1935, Joseph Stalin renamed the city Kirovabad after Sergei Kirov, the communist leader. In 1991, Azerbaijan re-established its independence, and the ancient name of the city was given back.
A construction boom has dramatically transformed the urban face of Ganja as the city has seen a boom in the construction sector in recent years. This boom has inevitably led to dramatic changes in the city's urban development, transforming the old Soviet city into a hub of high-rise, mixed-use buildings.
In the 20th, century, between the 70s and 80s, Ganja started improving a lot. Among this improvement, there was the establishment of new factories, companies, centers, parks etc.(among them a car factory, an engineering factory, a crystal factory, a processing of non-ferrous metals company, a carpet company, a wine factory etc). During that period, the industry of Ganja lived its best period and developed in a substantial way. Ganja International Airport, the Railway Station, the second department of Ganja's State University, some new hospitals, a Diagnostic Center for Health, Hotels, the Theater of Ganja and the Azerbaijan Technology University were also established during that period when the country was been leaded by Haydar Aliyev as a head of soviet Azerbaijan. When he was running for becoming the President of Azerbaijan, there was big war with Armenia. After he was elected as President he started putting effort for peace making prosses and achieved cease-fire and stop armed conflict. He was President during 10 years (1993-2003) and he became national hero of Azerbaijan for his high management skills.
The road from Baku to Ganja is one of the main transit roads of Azerbaijan. Also important gas and oil pipelines as Baku-Tiblisi-Ceyhan and Baku-Tiblis-Qars pass from Ganja.
Ganja is famous for the mountain Kepez and the 7 lakes around it, and particularly Goy-Gol. The place is ideal for canoeing, swimming, walking, excursions and family picnics.
The city is the motherland of great poets such as Mesheti Khanum Ganjavi and Nizami; in one word-Ganja is the centre of the country's literature scene and production.
The general territory of the city is 110 km2, and the population of the city is approximately 321.700 people. There are 2 big regions and 7 settlements in Ganja.
The most predominant cultural heritage monuments in Ganja are the following:
Russians: 0.3 %
Ukrainians, Jews, Georgians, Lezgi, Avar, Talish etc: 0.5 %
Armenians: 6 -10 persons
The city is predominantly moderately Muslim, but there are also citizens that are Christians or Jews.
Novruz Bayrami - Novruz is a traditional holiday in Azerbaijan which celebrates the coming of Spring. When Azerbaijan was part of the Soviet Union, the celebration of Novruz was generally unofficial, and at times even prohibited. Currently in Azerbaijan, Novruz is treated as an official public holiday. In accordance with the Labour Code of Azerbaijan, everybody receives five days off for Novruz.
Usually preparation for Novruz begins a month prior to the holidays. Each of forthcoming 4 weeks is devoted to one of the four elements and called accordingly in Azerbaijan. Each Tuesday people celebrate the day of one of the four elements - water, fire, earth and wind. People do house cleaning, plant trees, make new dresses, paint eggs, make national pastries such as shakarbura, pakhlava and a great variety of "national cuisine". Wheat is fried with kishmish (raising) and nuts (govurga). As a tribute to fire-worshiping every Tuesday during four weeks before the holiday people jump over small bonfires. On the holiday eve the graves of relatives are visited and tended.
Novruz is a family holiday. In the evening before the holiday the whole family gathers around the holiday table on which are laid various dishes to make the New Year rich. The holiday goes on for several days and ends with festive public dancing and other entertainment of folk bands, contests of national sports.
The decoration of the festive table is khoncha, a big silver or copper tray with Samani placed in the centre and candles and dyed eggs according to the number of family members around it. The table should be set, at least, with seven dishes.
Main traditional meals
Dolma - there are 3 kinds of dolma which are made mainly with meat. 1) with vegetable (tomato, egg-plant, green pepper), 2) with grape leaves, 3) with cabbage.
Plov - national food which is made with rise, greens, meet and spices. People are cooking it on special days and for celebrations.
Dovga – a yoghurt soup cooked with a variety of herbs (coriander, dill, and others), rice and (sometimes) chickpeas. It is often served warm in winter or refreshingly cold in summer.
Dushbara - a sort of dumplings of dough filled with ground meat and flavor. Ingredients include flour, ground beef, onion, some grasses, black pepper and tomato.
After Azerbaijan gained its independence, Ganja kept and further developed some of relations it had during the Soviet period and in the same time started to establish new regional cooperations. Its geographical location and diversified industry have positioned Ganja as a hub in the region. The regional cooperations are focused on economical relations mainly, but cultural and social relations are also being developed.
Ganja has established twining programmes and has engaged in close co-operation with different cities such as, Rustavi and Kutaisi ( Georgia), Izmir, Qars, Bursa, Ankara, Konya and Elazig (Turkey), Derbend (Russian Federation), Dnepropetrovsk (Ukraine) and Düşenbe (Tazikistan)
Ganja has enlarged its international relations beyond the region and reached cities in Europe, Asia and Amerika such as Olomouc (Czech Republic), Thessaloniki (Greece), Bordeaux region and Strasbourg (France), New Jersey (USA) and Vunqtau (Vietnam).
The type of cooperation differs from city to city. For example with Rustavi, a city in Georgia, Ganja has had historical relations which have also been strong during the Soviet period due to the network of aluminum factories in the region.
Ganja has relations with the French region Bordeaux for its wine industry. In 2011, an international wine festival was organized in Ganja in close cooperation with French wine makers.
Very recently Ganja libraries established cooperation with the central library of Strasbourg city.
Ganja also have good relations with UNESCO. Anniversaries of the two great poets from, Nizmai Ganja and Mehseti Ganjawi are celebrated in UNESCO.
Speaking about poetry and culture in Ganja it impossible not to talk about Nizami and Mashati Ganjavi who are an important part of Ganja’s history of culture and literature. Nizami Ganjavi is one of the luminaries of world classical literature. Nizami Ganjavi combined philosophy and poetry with history and legends to create a literary legacy that resonates to this day. Born around 1141 A.D. in Ganja, Azerbaijan, his birthplace is reflected in his name because Ganjavi means "from Ganja". Nizami received an exemplary education that included science, mathematics, Islamic theology, history, philosophy, ethics, and Persian and Arabic literature. His education is often reflected in his poetry, which he began to write at the age of thirty.
Nizami’s literary career began with short form poems, such as gasida, gazal, and rubai, which were compiled into an anthology. Unfortunately, very few of the reported 20,000 poems included in his Divan survived, leaving scholars with scant literature from his early literary years. Consequently, Nizami is best known for his Khamsa, or “Quintet”. Each of the five epics composing his Khamsaare was written with a unique meter. Scholars cannot pin down the exact years of completion, but can give the following approximate dates: Treasury of Secrets (1174-1175), Khosrow and Shirin (1180), Leyli and Majnun (1188), Seven Beauties (1197), and Iskander-Nameh (1203).
Known as a poet, scholar, and philosopher, Nizami is recognized for using his poetry to examine the development of mankind in society. Nizami’s work developed during an interesting period in Persian literature because poets at the time began to break away from traditional poetry that focused on the elite. With the rise of a new urban middle class, people were more interested in personal struggles and the tragedies of individuals. Nizami’s subjects reflected this as his characters were often trying to balance their adherence to social restrictions while also maintaining a sense of individual identity. His romantic epic poems are full of passionate emotions and philosophical commentary on humanity. While all of his epics are based on Persian and Arabic history and legends, he re-works the story into new creations.
Nizami’s influence on literature lasted long after his death. He was a major proponent in the use of vernacular language in poetry, introduced new style concepts, and founded a new literary form. His literary impact spanned Iran, Turkey, Central Asia, and India, where poets imitated Nizami’s Khamsa in form and theme. Later poets such as Jami, Amir Khusro, Alisher Navoi, and Fuzuli were all heavily influenced by Nizami. As a notable figure in the Eastern Renaissance of the twelfth century, Nizami’s poetry is still honored and studied today in Azerbaijan and throughout the East.
Mahsati Ganjavi (XII century Azery poetess) There is a little information about her life. There exists a number of controversial suggestions concerning Mahsati: was she really a historical personality? Did she live before or after Omar Khayyam? Where was she born?
Recent researches showed that Mahsati was born at the end of XIth century in Ganja, received perfect education, closely acquainted with the Eastern literature and music. She spent her most productive creation period in the palace of Sultan Mahmud Seldjuk and his uncle Sanjar Seldjuk's palace.Mahsati Ganjavi commonly wrote rubai on Persian language.
Mahsati Ganjavi was a famous rubai writer not only in her era, but much more later. The love plot holds the main place in her creations. The rubais are marked out by their worldliness, humanism, epicurism and optimism. Mahsati Ganjavi describes love as a fragile natural feeling which makes a man's fame higher. The poetess protested against religious prejudices, hypocrisy, conservatism and protected a man's moral freedom. Her poems reflected the people, especially women's, romantic dreams of a free and happy life.
There are a street, a school, pedagogical college and other places named after MahsatiGanjavi. There is a Museum of MahsatiGanjavi in Ganja. The monument of MahsatiGanjavi was erected in 1980.
The art of mugam is an important branch of verbal heritage of the culture of Azerbaijan's professional music. It has deep roots in the cultural traditions and history of Azerbaijan people. There is a great number of followers of this cultural tradition in the country, and it plays an important role in the national culture as a source of endless inspiration for the composers, painters, sculptors and poets that speak about culture in Azerbaijan.
The poetry is typically about divine love and is most often linked to Sufi Islam. Mugam was created in ancient Iran territory and developed in the Republic of Azerbaijan and its provinces.
UNESCO proclaimed the Azerbaijani mugam tradition a Masterpiece of the Oran and Intengible Heritage of Humanity on November 7, 2003.
Azerbaijan has a wide range of music and music styles but the most popular is pop music. In 2011, Azerbaijan won the Eurovision song contest with an all-out pot ballad, which was written by a Swede, the writer of most of their entries, many of which are western inspired. Aside from winning duet Eldar and Nigar, national heroes in Azerbaijan, as soloists and in their duet, better known as Ell and Nikki, Westernised Azerbaijani pop includes Emin Agalarov, the son in law of president Ilham Aliyev. In contrast to the mugam traditions of Central Asian countries, Azeri mugam is more free-form and less rigid; it is often compared to the improvised field of pop.
Instruments used in traditional Azeri music include the stringed instruments tar (skin faced lute), the kamancha (skin faced spike fiddle), the ou, originally barbat, and the saz (long necked lute); the double-reed wind instrument balaban, the frame drum ghaval, the cylindrical double faced drum nagara (davul), and the goshe nagara (naqareh) (pair of small kettle drums). Other instruments include the garmon (small accordion), tutek (whistle flute), and daf (frame drum).
Main concerts in Ganja
The youth of Ganja pays special attention to music. Mostly they listen to famous songs by signers from all over the world. That’s why an organization of famous singers’ concerts has a special importance among youth. Most of the concerts get organized in spring, summer and autumn time, during the evenings. Different singers from different countries, and Azerbaijani famous singers as well, give special concerts for Ganja citizens. Ganja has hosted such famous singers like Ruslana, the winner of Eurovision Song Contest 2004, a famous Turkish singer FerhatGocer, different participants of Eurovision Song Contest, Azerbaijani participants of Eurovision Safura, AyselTeymurzade, Sabina Babayeva, the winners of Eurovision 2012 El & Nikki, different rock bands and hip-hop stars, pop singers and jazz musicians. Also, almost all of the famous Azerbaijani singers usually give concerts in Ganja.
Ganja's economy Ganja is developing day by day. One could say that there a significant potential and many opportunities to launch a business in Ganja. During the last 10 years a great number of companies has been established there. Among these, there is the “Ganja Automobile factory”, the "Ganja non-ferrous metal processing factory”, the “Ganja manufacturing” factory, the ”Ganja Alumina plant”, the “Textile factory”, the “Aluminum factory” and the “Ganja Wine factory”.
The Ganja Wine factory was established in the year 1998. Ganja's wine won the “International Golden star” award in for its quality in Geneva, the “International Platinum Star” in Paris and the “28th International award “ in Madrid. This plant produces not only wine but in the same time vodka and cognac.
Nowadays 50% of the wine production is exported abroad. Twenty different kinds of wine are produced in this factory.
As the result of agrarian reforms successfully implemented since 1995, a number of trade relationships has been established inside the domestic economy, while property has been effectively used, the infrastructure of the agrarian sector has been improved, entrepreneurship initiatives have taken place and the look of the villages has changed.
This means that a number of fundamental changes has happened in the social aspects of agriculture as well as in terms of infrastructure. In the place of big economic blocks, a number of individuals had the opportunity to create a business, and public land property was made suitable for agriculture, cattle and production, while agricultural equipment was replaced by individual (personal) property upon the privatization policy.
Ganja, was once a city that aroused the curiosity of travelers as a place where Eastern and Western civilization met. Today, the contemporary western way of life co-exists in harmony with the more traditional way of life. Modern buildings and art forms appear side by side to cultural heritage sites. Ganja is the second largest city of Azerbaijan and the second most active trade, import and export, industrial, entertainment and educational center of the country.
The climate in Ganja is continental and the city life goes together in harmony with a beautiful countryside.
Ganja is beautiful all around the year, even during the rainy and occasionally snowy winter days. Spring with it is different shades of green and blossoming trees is rather short and the month of May marks already the beginning of summer in Ganja. Summer in Ganja means rushing to the countryside. The long autumn, when the skies are clear and the temperatures are moderate, is especially suitable for tourism.
The cuisine of Ganja is also an experience no to be missed. Fresh fruits and vegetables of an unbelievable variety appear on the menus especially in spring, summer and autumn, while fresh fish from the river Kur, dolma, dovga, pkhlava, plov, bozbash are a treat to palates mistreated elsewhere.
All information can be found on website www.ganja.az