German Settlements of Azerbaijan

My father's grandmother (1908 - 2002) coming from an Azerbaijani family who resided in the city of Ganjah, was actually born in a summer house of a German friend of her father, who used to visit this friend a lot during warm summer days. This summer house was located in a town named Helenendorf, which to a surprise of you, my dearest readers was a town of Azerbaijan (north - west) founded by Swabian German families (mostly from Reutlingen) who moved to Elisabethpol (name given to city of Ganja after Russian occupation in 1805) from Tiflis (old name of Tbilisi, capital city of Georgia). In Ganjah, a land located six kilometers westwards was given to these families. That's exactly where a town named Helenendorf (later named Khanlar and now Goygol) was founded by Swabian families in 1819. About fourty kilometers away from Helenendorf, Germans founded another town named Annenfeld, which later merged with the city of Shamkir. But these two towns were not all. A few more small German settlements were founded from late 1800's to early 1900's. Among these were: 

Georgsfeld (later renamed into Leninsfeld and now named Chinarli, is a village in Shamkir region)
Alexejewka (still called Alexejewka, is a village in Agstafa region)
Grünfeld (later renamed into Kirovka and now known as Hasansu, is a village in Agstafa region)
Eichenfeld (renamed to Engelskend and now to Irmashli, is a village in Shamkir region)
Traubenfeld (part of the city of Tovuz in Tovuz region)
Jelisawetinka (part of the city of Agstafa in Agstafa region)

Annenfeld (now Shamkir) in 1900
According to the German consul to Istanbul, 1918 there were about six thousand ethnic Germans living in this part of Azerbaijan. The majority of German population here worked for farming and production of grapes which later came to a point where almost 60% of the region's wine production was run by Hummel Brothers and Vohrer brothers from Helenendorf. 

Germans working on wineyards in Helenendorf
Another huge industry which arrived in this particular region, was the building and functioning of two copper smelters and a hydroelectric station by Siemens in 1865 and 1883. Nevertheless, these smelters were shut down by Russian government in 1914, as soon as the Russian Empire entered World War I. In addition to that, German businesses were banned all over the country. 
Helenendorf, science class and physical training in a German primary school 
Helenendorf being the first German settlement in Azerbaijan, was also a holy center for the German population of the surrounding area. There were a number of German Lutheran churches built in cities of Gadabay, Shamakhi, Baku and Annenfeld. But the first one (St.John's) was built in Helenendorf in 1857. Fortunately, it was not demolished by Russian bolsheviks like many other churches and remains safe to our date. It was even renovated a few years ago. 

Saint John's Church in Helenendorf (Goygol), then and now
German church (renovated)
 in Annenfeld (Shamkir)
German cemetery
in the surrounding area

Unfortunately, with the establishment of Soviet regime in Azerbaijan, by the orders coming from Moscow, all German sounding settlements were renamed and later in 1941, German population of Azerbaijan was deported to Siberia. Prior to deportation in 1941, number of German residents reached almost 23.000.

Helenendorf, a military Lazaretto
Family portrait of a German family in Azerbaijan
During these peaceful years before the deportation, Germans managed to found an active community which along with agriculture, heavy industry and priesthood, well-integrated to many  other spheres like education (total number of seven primary schools with German as the language of instruction), politics (Helenendorf born ethnic German Lorenz Kuhn was a member of parliament, representing German community during Azerbaijan's independence years from 1918 to 1920) and even city governance (Nikolaus von der Nonne worked as a major of capital city Baku from 1898 to 1902). With such a fast growth, a small influence of German culture on Azerbaijani's people was also inevitable. That is why I started this article mentioning my grand-grandmother. Whether it was her birth in a summer house of a German gentleman, or years spent around these people, something did make her stand out from other relatives of mine. She passed away in 2002 when I was a university student and I still remember how precise, accurate and punctual she was even in her last days...


source of some photos used in this article:

www.azer.com
www.wikipedia.com
www.peacecorpsmary.blogspot.com

related articles:
How I travelled to Ganjah to find the German Lutheran church of 19th century