Azerbaijan International

Summer 2004 (12.2)

The Ali and Nino Walking Tour
by Betty Blair and Fuad Akhundov

Double Gates
Gosha Gala Gapi
Tsitsianashvili Gates or Shamakhi Gates

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The double gate that provide one of the few road entrances into Ichari Shahar ("Inner City" or sometimes referred to as "Old City") go by various names. Locally, they are often called "Gosha Gala Gapi" (Double Gates). But sometimes they are referred to as Tsitsianashvili Gates dating to a dramatic historical event that occurred there or as the Shamakhi Gates, since the road leads north to that city.

In "Ali & Nino", the gates provide the backdrop for the description that follows when the Azerbaijanis (Muslims) are attacked in March 1918 by Armenians and Bolsheviks-a bloody massacre with casualties estimated at about 10,000 civilians. Here the author describes the mood of the city and the efforts to defend the Old City.

From "Ali & Nino", pp. 182 ff

"Nino was bending over the atlas. "I'm looking for a country that is at peace," she said, and her finger crossed the many-colored borderlines.

"Maybe Moscow. Or Petersburg," I said, mocking her. She shrugged her shoulders, and her finger discovered Norway.

"I'm sure that's a peaceful country," I said, "but how do we get there?"

"We don't," sighed Nino. "America?"

"U-boats," I said cheerfully.

"India, Spain, China, Japan?"

"Either they're at war, or we can't get there."

"Ali Khan, we're in a mousetrap."

"You're quite right, Nino. There's no sense in running away. We will have to find a way to put a bit of common sense into our town, at least till the Turks come."

"What's the use of having a hero for a husband!" said Nino reproachfully. "I don't like banners and slogans and speeches. If this goes on, I'll run away to your uncle in Persia."

"It won't go on," I said, and left the house.


"On the eve of the battle the town was unfamiliar and depressing. People were still walking along the streets, going about their business or just for a walk. But somehow all this seemed unreal and ghostly, as if they already felt that everyday life would soon become absurd.

"Have you got enough weapons?" asked Ilyas Bey.

"Five guns, eight revolvers, one machine-gun and ammunition. And there's a cellar for the women and children."

"Nino raised her head. "I'm not going into cellar," she said firmly. "I'll defend my home with you." Her voice sounded hard and firm.

"Nino," said Mahmad Heydar quietly, "we'll do the shooting and you'll dress the wounds."

"Nino bent her head, her shoulders sagged. "Oh God-our streets will become battlefields, the theater will be the Headquarters. Soon it will be as impossible to cross Nikolai Street as to go to China. We'll have to change our politics or conquer an army to be allowed to go to the Lyceum of the Holy Tamar [Nino's High School]. I can see you creeping on your stomachs through the Governor's garden, armed to the teeth, and there'll be a machine gun near the lake where Ali Khan and I used to meet. We live in a strange town."

"I'm sure there won't be any fighting," said Ilyas Bey. "The Russians will accept our ultimatum."

"Mahmad Heydar laughed grimly. "I forgot to tell you hat I met Asadullayev when I was on my way here. He says the Russians refuse. They demand that we surrender all our weapons. They won't get mine."

[For more description about the battle between Azerbaijanis and the Bolsheviks and Armenian Dashnaks that ensued in March 1918 near the Double Gate Entrance of the Old City, see the subheading, "Oil and Ethnic Conflict" and "Oil Rescued the Inner City" in the article, "Baku: City that Oil Built" by Farid Alakbarov in AI 10.2 (Summer 2002), pp 32 and 33.

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