Ganja, Azerbaijan

"Gəncə" redirects here. For the village in Goygol rayon, see Gəncə, Goygol.
"Ganjak" redirects here. For places in Iran, see Ganjak, Iran.
"Gandzha" redirects here. For the village in Iran, see Gandzha, Iran.
City & Municipality

Nickname(s): Red City
Coordinates: 40°40′58″N 46°21′38″E / 40.68278°N 46.36056°E / 40.68278; 46.36056
Country  Azerbaijan
  Mayor Elmar Valiyev
  Total 170 km2 (70 sq mi)
Elevation 408 m (1,339 ft)
Population (2015)
  Total 325,200
  Density 2,848/km2 (7,380/sq mi)
  Population Rank in Azerbaijan 2nd
Demonym(s) Ağali,Lələ,Küçəli
Time zone GMT+4 (UTC+4)
  Summer (DST) GMT+5 (UTC+5)
Area code(s) (+994) 22
Vehicle registration 20 AZ

Ganja (Azerbaijani: Gəncə, Ҝәнҹә [ˈgænd͡ʒæ]) is Azerbaijan's second largest city with a population close of about 325,200.[1][2] It was named Elisabethpol (Russian: Елизаветпо́ль, tr. Yelizavetpol; IPA: [jɪlʲɪzəvʲɪtˈpolʲ]) in the Russian Empire period. The city regained its original name, Ganja, in 1920 during the first part of its incorporation into the Soviet Union. However, its name was changed again in 1935 to Kirovabad (Russian: Кироваба́д; IPA: [kʲɪrəvɐˈbat]) and retained that name through most of the rest of the Soviet period. In 1989, during Perestroika, the city regained its original name.


Even though some sources from medieval Islamic time attribute the building of the town to a Muslim Arab ruler, modern historians believe that the fact that the name Ganja derives from the New Persian ganj ("treasure") and in Arabic source the name is recorded as Janza (from the Middle Persian ganza) suggests that the city existed in pre-Islamic times and was likely founded in the 5th century.[3] The area in which Ganja is located was known as Arran from the 9th to 12th century; its urban population spoke mainly in the Persian language.[4][5]


Feudal era

Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Elisavetpol (town).

According to medieval Arabic sources, the city of Ganja was founded in 859-60 by Muhammad ibn Khalid ibn Yazid ibn Mazyad, the Arab governor of the region in the reign of the caliph al-Mutawakkil, and so-called because of a treasure unearthed there. According to the legend, the Arab governor had a dream where a voice told him that there was a treasure hidden under one of the three hills around the area where he camped. The voice told him to unearth it and use the money to found a city. He did so and informed the caliph about the money and the city. Caliph made Muhammad the hereditary governor of the city on a condition that he would give the money he found to the caliph.[6]

Foundation of the city by Arabs is confirmed by the medieval Armenian historian Movses Kagankatvatsi, who mentions that the city of Ganja was founded in 846-47 in the canton of Arshakashen by the son of Khazr Patgos, "a furious and merciless man".[7]

Historically an important city of the South Caucasus, Ganja has been part of the Sassanid empire, Great Seljuk Empire, Kingdom of Georgia, Atabegs of Azerbaijan, Khwarezmid Empire, Il-Khans,[8] Timurids,[9] Jalayirids,[10] Qara Qoyunlu,[11] Ak Koyunlu,[12][13] the Safavid, the Afsharid, the Zand and the Qajar empires of Persia/Iran. Prior to the Iranian Zand and Qajar rule, following Nader Shah's death, it was ruled locally for a few decades by the khans/dukes of the Ganja Khanate, who themselves were subordinate to the central rule in mainland Iran and were a branch of the Iranian Qajar family.[14][15] Ganja is also the birthplace of the famous poet Nizami Ganjavi.

Gate of Ganja, now in Gelati Monastery

The people of Ganja experienced a temporary cultural decline after an earthquake in 1139, when the city was taken by king Demetrius I of Georgia and its gates taken as trophies which is still kept in Georgia, and again after the Mongol invasion in 1231. The city was revived after the Safavids came to power in 1501, and incorporated all of Azerbaijan and beyond into their territories. The city came under brief occupation by the Ottomans between 1578–1606 and 1723-1735 during the prolonged Ottoman-Persian Wars, but nevertheless stayed under intermittent Iranian suzerainty from the earliest 16th century up to the course of the 19th century, when it was forcefully ceded to neighbouring Imperial Russia.[16]

16th-19th centuries and Iran's ceding to Russia

For a short period, Ganja was renamed Abbasabad by Shah Abbas after war against the Ottomans. He built a new city 8 kilometres (5 miles) to the southwest of the old one, but the name changed back to Ganja during the time[17] During the Safavid rule, it was the capital of the Karabakh (Ganja) beylerbey,[18] one of the four such administrative units and principalities.[19] In 1747, Ganja became the center of the Ganja Khanate for a few decades following the death of Nader Shah, until the advent of the Iranian Zand and Qajar dynasties. The khans/dukes who de facto self-ruled the khanate, were subordinate to the central rule in mainland Iran and were from a branch of the Iranian Qajar family.[14][15]

The siege of Ganja Fortress in 1804 during the Russo-Persian War (1804-1813) by the Russian forces under leadership of general Pavel Tsitsianov.

From the late 18th century, Russia actively started to increase its enroachments into Iranian and Turkish territory to the south. Following the events that happened through the Iranian re-annexation of Georgia and its subsequent take-over by Russia in 1801, Russia was now keen to conquer the rest of the Iranian possessions in the Caucasus. Russian expansion into the South Caucasus met particularly strong opposition in Ganja. In contrast with spreading suzerainty over Christian Georgia and Sunni Daghestan, military attack on the khanate in 1804 led by Pavel Tsitsianov was seen as a direct challenge to Iran being an incursion into a mainly Shia-populated territory. Some western sources assert that "the capture of the city was followed by a massacre of up to 3,000 inhabitants of Ganja by the Russians".[20] They also claim that "500 of them were slaughtered in a mosque where they had taken refuge, after an Armenian told the Russian soldiers that there might have been "Daghestani robbers" among them".[21] Thosaunds of Azeris left Ganja and fled to Iran following the capture.[22]

According to the October 1813 Gulistan Treaty, the Ganja Khanate, together with most of Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Dagestan, were forcefully ceded by Qajar Iran to Russia following Iran's defeat in the Russo-Persian War (1804-1813).[16] A brief Iranian recapture of its territories happened between 1826-1827 during the Russo-Persian War (1826-1828),[23] but the resulting Treaty of Turkmenchay made its inclusion into the Russian Empire definite.[24] It was renamed Elisabethpol (Russian: Елизаветполь) after the wife of Alexander I of Russia, Elisabeth, and in 1868 became the capital of Elisabethpol Governorate.[25] Elizavetpol was an uyezd of Tiflis Governorate before 1868. The Russian name was not accepted by Azerbaijanis who continued to call the city Ganja.[26]

20th century

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 the British 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.[27] In 1935, Joseph Stalin renamed the city Kirovabad after Sergei Kirov.[28] In 1991, Azerbaijan re-established its independence, and the ancient name of the city was given back. For many years the 104th Guards Airborne Division of the Soviet Airborne Troops was based in the town.[29]

In November 1988, the Kirovabad pogrom forced many Armenians to leave the city.[30][31]

21st century

Reconstruction in the 21st century has led to dramatic changes in the city's urban development, transforming the old Soviet city into a hub of high-rise, mixed-use buildings.[32]

In 2008, Ganja Mausoleum Gates were built on the basis of sketches of ancient Ganja gates made by local master Ibrahim Osman oglu in 1063.[33][34]



Ganja has a semi-arid climate (Köppen climate classification: BSk).

Climate data for Ganja (1981–2010, extremes 1890–2014)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 22.8
Average high °C (°F) 7.0
Daily mean °C (°F) 3.2
Average low °C (°F) 0.5
Record low °C (°F) −17.8
Average precipitation mm (inches) 8
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.1 mm) 7.0 7.0 8.0 8.2 9.0 7.0 4.0 3.0 4.0 6.3 6.5 6.0 76.0
Average rainy days 3 4 6 8 9 6 4 3 4 6 6 4 63
Average snowy days 3 5 2 0.2 0 0 0 0 0 0.4 1 2 14
Average relative humidity (%) 71 71 68 70 68 61 59 61 65 74 76 74 68
Mean monthly sunshine hours 120 113 141 182 229 267 278 252 212 168 123 115 2,200
Source #1: Deutscher Wetterdienst (sun, 1961–1990)[35][36][lower-alpha 1]
Source #2:[37]

Administrative divisions

Today, Ganja is divided into 2 rayons (administrative districts).[38] The mayor, presently Elmar Valiyev, embodies the executive power of the city.[39][40]


Ethnic groups in Ganja
Year Azerbaijanis % Armenians % Russians % Others 1 % TOTAL
1886 [41]
1897 [43]
1939 [44]
1959 [45]
1999 [48]
1 Georgians, Jews, Ukrainians etc.

Ganja is the second largest city of Azerbaijan after Baku with about 313,300 residents. The city is also inhabited by a large number of Azerbaijani refugees from Armenia and IDPs from the Azerbaijani community of Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding areas. Their number was estimated to be 33,000 in 2011.[50]

Historic Armenian community

In addition to Persian and Turkic-speaking Muslims, the city has had a numerically, economically and, culturally significant Armenian Christians community.[51][52] Among the Armenians, the city is known as Gandzak (Գանձակ)[53][54][55] The name Gandzak derives from gandz (Arm. - գանձ), the loan word from Old Iranian, which means treasure or riches.[56][57] The city's historically important Christian figures include Kirakos Gandzaketsi, author of the History of the Armenians[58]), Armenian[59] philosopher Mkhitar Gosh[60] author of the Code of Laws that was used in Armenia, Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia and Armenian diasporan groups in Europe,[61] 13th century polymath Vardan Areveltsi[62] and Grigor Paron-Ter, Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem. Among the modern time's prominent Armenian person's of the city were Russian-Armenian architect Karo Halabyan,[63] secretary of the Armenian SSR Communist Party Askanaz Mravyan,[64] and the Olympic champion Albert Azaryan,[65] and Artyom Alikhanian a Soviet Armenian physicist, and one of the founders and first director of the Yerevan Physics Institute. He is known as the "father of Armenian physics",[66] and Abraham Alikhanov a Soviet Armenian physicist, academic of the USSR Academy of Sciences.

The founder of the Hethumid dynasty, Oshin of Lampron was an Armenian nakharar and lord of a castle near Ganja who fled to Cilicia in 1075 during the Seljuk invasion of Armenia.[67]


The urban landscape of Ganja is shaped by many communities. The religion with the largest community of followers is Islam. The majority of the Muslims are Shia Muslims, and the Republic of Azerbaijan has the second highest Shia population percentage in the world after Iran.[68] The city's notable mosques include Shah Abbas Mosque, Goy Imam Mosque, Shahsevenler Mosque, Qirikhli Mosque and Qazakhlar Mosque.[69]

There are some other faiths practiced among the different ethnic groups within the country. The other faith worshipping places include Alexander Nevsky Church, German Lutheran Church, Saint John Church and Saint Sarkis Church.[70][71] Before the Kirovabad Pogrom in 1988 a significant community of Armenian Christians existed.


The economy of Ganja is partially agricultural, partially tourist based, with some industries in operation. Ore minerals extracted from nearby mines supply Ganja's metallurgical industries, which produces copper and alumina.[72] There are porcelain, silk and footwear industries. Other industries process food, grapes and cotton from the surrounding farmlands.

The city has one of the largest textile conglomerates in Azerbaijan and is famous for a fabric named Ganja silk, which received the highest marks in the markets of neighboring countries and the Middle East.[73][74]

Tourism and shopping

Traditional shops, modern shops and malls create a mixture of shopping opportunities in Ganja. Javad Khan Street is the traditional shopping street that is located in the old town.[75] In 2013, construction work started on the Ganja Mall, which is expected to be the city's largest mall.[76]

In 2016, Ganja will be the European Youth Capital, an event with a budget of 5.7 million euros, projected to boost tourism by about one-fifth.[77][78]


The city has many amenities that offer a wide range of cultural activities, drawing both from a rich local dramatic portfolio and an international repertoire. The city is known for its famous metal handicrafts industry during the Middle Ages. The most notable works of that period includes Gates of Ganja and Ancient Ganja Gate.[79][80][81]

Ganja Ethnographic and History Museum is the oldest museum in the city, with over 30,000 artifacts.[82] The city is also home to Nizami Ganjavi Museum, which was built in 2014.[83] The museum contains a research section, a library, a conference room, and corners for guests and tourists’ relaxation.[83]

As of 2012, the city along with Baku and Lankaran participates in Earth Hour movement.[84][85]


Ganja is primarily known for its Azerbaijani and Islamic architecture, but its buildings reflect the various peoples and empires that have previously ruled the city. During Ganja Khanate period, the Khans proceeded to make an indelible impression on the skyline of Ganja, building towering mosques and houses from red bricks.[86]

Among the oldest surviving examples of Islamic architecture in Ganja are the Nizami Mausoleum and Shah Abbas Caravanserai, which assisted the Shahs during their siege of the city.[87][88] The area around and inside the mosques, contains many fine examples of traditional architecture like Chokak Bath.[89]

Music and media

On 21 January 2012, president Ilham Aliyev laid the foundation of Ganja State Philharmonic.[90] The facility will include a 1,200 concert hall, an open-air cinema theatre, a drawing gallery, an urban center and an observation tower.[90]

The two regional channels Kapaz TV and Alternativ TV are headquartered in Ganja.[91]

Parks and gardens

Ganja has many well-maintained parks and gardens, with the Khan's garden being one of the most scenic parks, and one of the city's most known landmarks.[92] It features interesting landscaping, and consists of a wide variety of trees and plants in an open concept.[93]


The city has one professional football team, Kapaz, currently competing in the second-flight of Azerbaijani football, the Azerbaijan First Division.[94] The club has three Azerbaijani league and four cup titles.


Public transport

Ganja has a large urban transport system, mostly managed by the Ministry of Transportation. In 2013, Ministry of Transportation stated that city, along with Nakhchivan and Sumqayit will have new subway line within the framework of the 20-year subway program.[95][96] The city had trolleybus system, functioning from 1955 to 2004.[97]

The Ganja trams is expected to become operational in 2015. The city had been without a tram system since Ganja tramway network ceased in the 1980s.[98] Alstom is expected to participate in the reconstruction of the tram-line.[99]


Ganja International Airport is the only airport in the city.[100] The airport is connected by bus to the city center. There are domestic flights to Baku and international service to Russia and Turkey.


Kars–Tbilisi–Baku railway will directly connect the city with Turkey and Georgia.

Ganja sits on one of the Azerbaijani primary rail lines running East-West connecting the capital, Baku, with the rest of the country. The Kars–Tbilisi–Baku railway will run along the line through the city. The railway provides both human transportation and transport of goods and commodities such as oil and gravel.

Ganja's Central Railway Station is the terminus for national and international rail links to the city. The Kars–Tbilisi–Baku railway, which will directly connect Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan, began to be constructed in 2007 and is scheduled for completion in 2015.[101] The completed branch will connect Ganja with Tbilisi in Georgia, and from there trains will continue to Akhalkalaki, and Kars in Turkey.[102]


Ganja is home to four major institutes for post-secondary education. Ganja State University was founded as Ganja Teachers Institute after Hasan bey Zardabi in 1939.[103] In 2000, the President of Azerbaijan renamed the institute to Ganja State University.[103] The university includes 8 faculty departments and 10 offices.[103] The city also includes Azerbaijan State Agricultural Academy, Azerbaijan Technological University and local branch of Azerbaijan Teachers Institute.[104]

Famous native

Because of its intermittent periods of great prosperity as well as being one of the largest cities in Azerbaijan and one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse in the Caucasus, Ganja prides itself on having produced a disproportionate number of notable figures in the sciences, arts and other fields. Some of the houses they resided in display commemorative plaques. Some of the many prestigious residents include: poet Nizami Ganjavi, Olympic champion Toghrul Asgarov, ruler of Ganja Khanate Javad Khan, poets Mirza Shafi Vazeh, Mahsati Ganjavi, Nigar Rafibeyli, composer Fikrat Amirov, philosopher Vardan Areveltsi and prime minister of Azerbaijan Artur Rasizade.

International relations

Twin towns — Sister cities

Ganja is twinned with various cities.[106]

See also


  1. Station ID for Gandja is 37735 Use this station ID to locate the sunshine duration


  1. Azərbaycan Respublikası. — 2. Azərbaycan Respublikasının iqtisadi və inzibati rayonları. — 2.4. Azərbaycan Respublikasının iqtisadi və inzibati rayonlarının ərazisi, əhalisinin sayı və sıxlığı, səhifə 66. // Azərbaycanın əhalisi (statistik bülleten). Müəllifi: Azərbaycan Respublikasının Dövlət Statistika Komitəsi. Buraxılışa məsul şəxs: Rza Allahverdiyev. Bakı — 2015, 134 səhifə.
  2. Bölmə 2: Demoqrafik göstəricilər, səhifə 89. // Azərbaycanın Statistik Göstəriciləri 2015 (statistik məcmuə). Müəllifi: Azərbaycan Respublikası Dövlət Statistika Komitəsi. Məcmuənin ümumi rəhbəri: Həmid Bağırov; Məcmuənin hazırlanması üçün məsul şəxs: Rafael Süleymanov. Bakı — 2015, 814 səhifə.
  3. Encyclopedia Iranica, "Ganja", C. Edmund Bosworth Archived 23 August 2011 at WebCite
  4. Ростислав Борисовч Рыбаков (1995). Восток в средние века. ISBN 978-5-02-017711-6.
  5. Дьяконов, Игорь Михайлович. Книга воспоминаний. Издательство "Европейский дом", Санкт-Петербург, 1995., 1995. - ISBN 978-5-85733-042-5. cтр. 730-731 Igor Diakonov. The book of memoirs.
  6. V.Minorsky. A History of Shirvan and Derbent.
  7. History of the Caucasian Albanians by Movses Dasxuranci, C.J.F. Dowsett trans. (London 1961), chapter 21.
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Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Ganja.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ganja.

Coordinates: 40°40′58″N 46°21′38″E / 40.68278°N 46.36056°E / 40.68278; 46.36056

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