BAKU: How we lose our summits?
July 31, 2004

How we lose our summits?

By Ulvi Ismayil, Muskie Fellow/MPP candidate
Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs,

University of Minnesota. USA

Azerbaijan indeed has beautiful landscape. I have realized it more since I
came to study in the US, the country that, along with Turkey, I used to
consider “as other two countries having beautiful landscapes after
Azerbaijan” mostly from the TV programs that I watched. My thoughts about
impeccable landscapes of “other countries” have changed since then. After
being in the US for one year I realized that the affection between you and
landscape is not because latter’s beauty but how close you are to that
landscape morally and spiritually. Now even the parts of Azerbaijan that I
labeled for myself, as the ugliest seem to me the “most beautiful sections
of the world not to be compared to anywhere else”. In short this is how you
feel when you truly love your country. You even miss the small rock from
your backyard.

Indeed, what God has withheld when creating Azerbaijan? At the high school
and even now we Azerbaijanis love remind ourselves and inform strangers that
Azerbaijan has 9 out 11 climatic zones totally existing in the globe. We
love to travel our forests, seas, and mountains especially in the recent
years. Apart from enjoying the great sightseeing of these places, we as
other nations in the world show the highest peaks and deepest points of our
country in the general data related to our country. Thus after conquering
our hearts with their beauties these landscapes now become the symbols of
our pride in annual publications, journals, travel guides related to our
country. Therefore, this landscape and data related to them is saint for
each nation and to lose them might be the biggest sin in the history of each

Nations and countries however do lose their prides. People fight and die for
them as we have seen in the world history. Some of these wars begin and end
fairly, some do not. However in both cases the peace get reached and both
sides agree with their fates. However the most painful is when you lose
object of your pride – mountain peak, lake without war or conflict, just as
you lose your wallet, set of the keys from your car, can of coke at the
party. Unfortunately, people of Azerbaijan had to face this shame too. “We”
suddenly lost the third highest peak in Azerbaijan – Mount Gapydzhik, the
highest summit of the Caucasus Minor, Zangezur Mountain Range, at the height
of 3,904 meters.

I know most of you will not believe me. Why should you? Isn’t it insane and
abnormal? I did not believe it myself at the first too while writing my
Diploma Project for Master’s degree at Baku State University in spring of
2000. I was looking at the data provided at the brochure of the EU’s TACIS
program for the three South Caucasus Republics – Armenia, Azerbaijan and
Georgia. There in the introduction part of this economy-related brochure
printed in 1996 I saw indication of highest peaks in each Republic. Well,
nothing would have surprised me in the section related to Armenia prepared
by the EC’s most prestigious program that respects the sovereignty of these
republics if I did not see Mount Gapydzhik transliterated as Kapudjuk as
second highest summit in Armenia (!) after Mount Aragats, (4090 m)

“Oh, our Armenian neighbors! Double standards of the West! You again!” I
said to myself, something that I would typically say being upraised in
Azerbaijan for the entire period of Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over
Nagorno Karabakh. Well, I said, another misprinting or abuse I said. I do
not care. I know from my childhood, from excellent Geography teacher that I
had at high school of Soviet times that Mount Gapydzhik is in Azerbaijan.
These were the years when almost each house had the World map in the wall. I
just need to go to the next bookstore and buy the map of Azerbaijan Republic
and see my pride – Mount Gapydzhik that stands on the north of Ordubad
region, in the Zangezur range of mountains, Nakchichevan Autonous Republic,

Well, when I reached the bookstore, I did not want to buy that map, because
there was no Mount Gapydzhik with the height of 3904 there, in the
geographic map of Azerbaijan Republic printed in 1996. It was not even on
Armenian side – Zangezur region that “enters” into Azerbaijan, the region
that first Communist boss of Azerbaijan SSR, N. Narimanov granted to Armenia
on the day of establishment of Armenia SSR – on November 29, 1920. As if the
entire massive piece of rock has melted in the extremely hot summer of
Nakhichevan, walked away or blown with the wind. If it happened in the “Day
of Judgment”, I would believe it, but not now. However, that was what map
showed to me. Instead, in the map, somewhere around the “former place” of
Gapydzhik, it suddenly showed smaller in height Mount Gazangeldag at 3,814

First I thought, well maybe we have renamed Gapydzhik into Gazangeldag and
also discovered that it is not 3904 meters high but is actually 3814 meters.
They also found out recently with the satellite technology that actually
Mount Everest is 8 meters lower than thought earlier. But mistake of 90
meters? Then I though that maybe since it is in the border of Azerbaijan
(Nakhichevan AR) and Armenia (Zangezur), it is “commonly” shared peak. But
so is “Bazarduzu”, the highest peak in Azerbaijan (4466 meters). “Bazarduzu”
is also in the border but this time between Azerbaijan and Russian
Federation (Dagestan AR). Thus, it seemed to me that in 1996, five years
after independence and centuries of living in its foothills we suddenly
discovered that actually Gapydzhik was in the Armenian “side” of the border
and therefore we should not show it even in the maps, because this mount
leans towards the land granted to Armenia.

Angry and with these ideas in my mind, I searched the materials from the
former Soviet Union. Almost each map of the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist
Republic had “Kapudjuk” in the maps referring to Az.SSR. Even the road maps
of Azerbaijan SSR from 1966, printed in Moscow, had that peak in Azerbaijan
SSR. It could not be peak of “internal borders”, because this road map was
only about Azerbaijani SSR. There was separate one about each republic for
its roads, which then would have the highest and lowest places in that
Soviet republic. I looked for it in Azerbaijan Soviet Encyclopedia (ASE) and
it was there too. Why, I asked to myself, suddenly, in 1996, in independent
Azerbaijan we did not want to mention this honor of us in our literature and
maps? Even the “set of maps of the Republic of Armenia”, collected and put
online by the US Embassy in Armenia and especially by its former team member
Diplomat Brady Kiesling (famous for his public resignation from US
Diplomatic services in summer of 2003 as a protest of the US operations in
Iraq) shows Mount Gapydzhik clearly in the border between Azerbaijani SSR
(Nakhichevan) and Armenian SSR
(Zangezur( )

Mount Gapydzhik was not only mentioned in issues related to Azerbaijan when
it came to maps and cartography. In the foothills of this summit, in
Nasirvaz village of Ordubad Region, Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic there
lays the famous Gemiqaya (“Rock of vessel” in Turkish) carvings
(petroglyphs) with paintings of ancient goats and ensemble dances exactly
similar to those in Gobustan near Baku
(), Kalbadjar region in
Azerbaijan and many other on the globe. Some of these paintings by ancient
men date back to 5000 years BC. Nasir Rzayev, famous paleontologist and
archaeologist have studied these carvings and has written several
monographic books on them. Later Prof. Vali Aliyev joined these studies
() and described them to be
of 4th-2nd millennium BC. One would think that Azerbaijanis should preserve
them as they preserve Gobustan. We lost, even temporarily, those painting in
Kalbadjar during Karabakh war of 1992-1994, but in which fight did we lose

Moreover, both “Gapydzhik” and “Gemigaya” mounts have placed themselves deep
in the mythologies of Azerbaijanis. One ancient myth of the region says that
Noah with his ark was looking for a place to land after the deluge.
According to the myth, first his ark hit the rock and Noah said, “Maybe it
is a mountain” and thus gave the name for Mount “Belke” (“Maybe” in
Azerbaijani) that stands uptown Ordubad. Then his ark hit another mountain,
and Noah said, “Be sure it is mountain (“Inan” ki dagdir”” in Azerbaijani)
and thus gave the name to Inan Dag that also is in Nackichevan (changed into
Ilan Dag i.e. “Snake” mountain in later centuries,). The myth finally “ends”
by heating the big piece of rock that caused Him to say “Finally it is a
mountain” (in Azerbaijani “Akhir” ki, dagdir””). Today the Turkish name of
Mount Ararat is “Agri” meaning “pain” that is also believed to be “changed”
throughout the centuries from “Akhir” (Kamil Veliyev, “Elin Yaddashi, Dilin
Yaddashi” (“Nation’s memory, Tongue’s memory”), Baku, Azerbaijan, 1988))

Another version of this myth said that actually Noah’s ark landed not in
Mount “Akhir” (Agri/Ararat), but on Mount Gapydzhik which means “Little
Door” probably to the new world and that is why its foothills are called
Gemiqaya (i.e. rock of vessel – ark). People living by this summit even
today insist on this version of “deluge” myth considering the ship-like form
of this mount – Gemigaya.

Famous philologist and researcher of Kitabi-Dede-Gorgut, Safarali Babayev
says that some topographic references in that most ancient and biggest epic
book of Azerbaijani Turks, refer also to the foothills of this giant. He
insists that lake “Goycha” (“Blue lake” in Turkish) that is mentioned in
Kitabi-Dede-Gorgut is not the former name of Lake Sevan in modern Armenia
(Lake Goy-cha) as some other Azerbaijani researchers of the book insist, but
this one-hectare lake in the foothills of Mount Gapydzhik, which is called
“Goy-gel”. He argues that 1 day trip from one settlement to “Goycha” as
described in Kitabi-Dede-Gorgut is not feasible if you think it is Lake
Goy-cha (i.e. modern lake Sevan) because then this trip with the travel
methods of those days would be 7 days instead of one. He thinks that
“Goycha” in Kitabi-Dede-Gorgut, is actually Lake “Goy-gel” in the foothills
of this Mountain. As another argument he brings the name of Mount
GAzan-gel-dAg (mentioned above), that has “Gazan” and “gel” (lake) in its
root (“Gazan” was one of the most famous heroes in this epic that some say
is 14 centuries old and “gol” i.e. lake next to it would mean “Mount of
Gazan’s lake”).

With all these in my mind, I had a chance to ask the question to the
professionals of this job – who draw maps for us. While doing research on a
different topic during my employment with UN, I visited then newly
re-organized by former President Heydar Aliyev the Department of Land and
Cartography in the summer of 2002. There, after completing my official
business, I asked to the senior person at this department why now we do not
have Gapydzhik in our maps anymore. He first did not even understand what I
am talking about. Later when I explained to him, he replied quietly that he
did not know why we suddenly do not show it in the geographic and other maps
of Azerbaijan anymore. For me it was very sad to see such a poor situation
of Cartography department.

Ironically, the only map outside of Azerbaijani “official information” that
still shows the correct location of the Mount Gapydzhik is the one used by
the UN and its office in Azerbaijan – at UNDP’s annual Human Development
Reports (links provided below). Thanks to its professional and highly
intellectual staff (both international and national) we have now at least
one credible information to show the location of Mount Gapydzhik in world
geography and still be proud of it. Both UN and UNDP annual Human
Development Reports on Azerbaijan have been under harsh criticism of
Azerbaijani Government. At each meeting of our Government with any UN
official, the latter always is criticized by the former first for UN’s
non-forcing the application of four UN SC resolutions to liberate Nagorno
Karabakh and surrounding Azerbaijani territories and secondly for its
liberal criticism of Azerbaijani Government in the above-mentioned Reports
for several years now. However, in the term of territorial integrity of
Azerbaijan Republic, UN seems to be doing enough to be thanked for: