The community moved from balmy Southern Germany to the windswept steppe of the Norther Caucasus, as the economy of Wuttemburg had been devastated by the Napoleonic war. Tzar Alexander I offered grants of land in its newly acquired Caucasian empire, a loan of money and a horse to every family prepared to pledge allegiance to Russia.
In the winter of 1818–1819, 194 German families arrived at the regional capital of Elisabethpol (now known as Ganja) from Tbilisi in Georgia. They were granted land 6 kilometres to the west of the city and it was here that they founded the town of Helenendorf.
Another German settlement, the town of Annenfeld was founded almost simultaneously 40 kilometres away and by the beginning of the 1880s and six more German colonies were established throughout the region. By 1918 there were thought to be some 6,000 Germans living in Azerbaijan.
provided another reminder of Stalin’s murderous paranoia. Her Grandfather was a Christian Iraqi who moved to Turkey then to Azerbaijan in 1914 due to inter-ethnic clashes. In 1940 he was forcibly removed to Tomsk in Siberia where he eventually married and Valerisa was born. In 1956, the family were allowed to move to Georgia and finally Valerisa married in 1976 and moved to Helenendoft by then renamed Xanlar and now called Goygol…
Internally displaced families from the occupied region of Nagorno-Karabakh now occupy many of the houses first built by German families in the middle or the 19th Century.
Ironically, descendents of the families exiled to Siberia in 1941 were given the right to return to Germany in 1989, one-hundred and seventy years after making their epic journey to Azerbaijan. I wonder how many were still alive by that point to take up the offer?