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Coordinates: 39°59′35″N 46°55′50″E / 39.99306°N 46.93056°E / 39.99306; 46.93056

From top left:
Aghdam is located in Azerbaijan
Aghdam is located in Karabakh Economic Region
Coordinates: 39°59′35″N 46°55′50″E / 39.99306°N 46.93056°E / 39.99306; 46.93056
Country Azerbaijan
369 m (1,211 ft)
 • TotalCurrently uninhabited
Pre-war population was 28,031[1]
Time zoneUTC+4 (AZT)

Aghdam (Azerbaijani: Ağdam) is a ghost town and the nominal capital of the Aghdam District of Azerbaijan.[2] Founded in the 18th century, it was granted city status in 1828 and grew considerably during the Soviet period. Aghdam lies 26 km (16 miles) from Stepanakert at the eastern foot of the Karabakh Range, on the outskirts of the Karabakh plain.

Before the First Nagorno-Karabakh War, butter, wine and brandy, machine, and silk factories, an airport and two railway stations functioned there. By 1989, Aghdam had 28,031 inhabitants. As Azerbaijani forces withdrew from Karabakh following political turmoil in the country during the war,[3] Armenian forces captured Aghdam in July 1993. The heavy fighting forced the city's population to flee eastwards. Upon the seizure, Armenian forces sacked the town. Until 2020, it was almost entirely ruined and uninhabited.[4][5][6]

As part of an agreement that ended the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war, the town and its surrounding district came under Azerbaijani control on 20 November 2020.


The city's name is of Azerbaijani origin, meaning "white house", where means "white" and dam is "house" or "attic", thus referring to a "bright sun-lit, white house" which was given by Panah Ali Khan of the Karabakh Khanate in reference to the Imarat cemetery.[7][8][9] Another possibility presented by Azerbaijani authors is that it was derived from ancient Turkic glossary meaning "small fortress".[10]

In November 2010 it was renamed by the NKR government to Akna (Armenian: Ակնա).[11][12]


Early history[edit]

Aghdam lies in the vicinity of Tigranakert of Artsakh, an ancient Armenian city dating to the 2nd–1st centuries B.C.[13]

Aghdam was founded in the middle of the 18th century. It was the location of the summer palace of Panah Ali Khan Javanshir and the Javanshir family cemetery.[14] In 1828, it received the status of a city in the Shusha Uyezd of Elisabethpol Governorate. During the Soviet period, Aghdam had multiple industries such as butter, wine, brandy, and silk factories, as well as hardware and tool factories.[15][16] An airport and two railway stations functioned there. Aghdam had technical, agricultural, medical, and music schools.[17]

First Nagorno-Karabakh War[edit]

Aghdam Mosque on an Azerbaijani stamp, depicted as it looked before the Karabakh war

Aghdam was the scene of brutal fighting in the First Nagorno-Karabakh War. According to journalist Robert Parsons, Azerbaijani forces used Aghdam as a base for attacks on Karabakh, launching BM-21 Grad rockets and bombing raids from there against civilians, while Armenian forces indiscriminately shelled Aghdam.[18][19]

According to Human Rights Watch, Armenian forces exploited the power vacuum in Azerbaijan at the time, and seized Aghdam in July 1993. As the city fell, its entire population fled eastward.[20] HRW reported that "during their offensive against Aghdam, Karabakh Armenian forces committed hostage-taking, indiscriminate fire, and the forcible displacement of civilians" and that "after the city was seized, it was intentionally looted and burned under orders of Karabakh Armenian authorities".[21] HRW considered these actions serious violations of the rules of war, but noted that given the tit-for-tat nature of the conflict, it considered the actions of Aghdam Armenian forces a revenge for the Azeri destruction of Mardakert, which, according to Thomas Goltz, who was in Mardakert in September 1992, became a "a pile of rubble", noting "more intimate detritus of destroyed private lives: pots and pans, suitcases leaking sullied clothes, crushed baby strollers and even family portraits, still in shattered frames".[22] The city has sometimes been referred as the Hiroshima of the Caucasus.[23][24][6][25][26]

BBC journalist Roy Parsons reported that "every single Azeri house in the town was blown up to discourage return" as during the war, the Azeris used Aghdam as a base from which to shell Karabakh and Armenians could not trust them not to do it again.[18]

The Armenians used the city as a buffer zone until November 2020; as a result Aghdam was empty, decaying, and usually off-limits for sightseeing.[27]

Armenian occupation[edit]

The ruined city once had a population of almost 30,000 people,[1] but today it is an almost entirely uninhabited ghost town.[28][29] An OSCE Fact-Finding Mission that visited the town in 2005 reported that the entire town of Aghdam was "in complete ruins with the exception of the mosque in the center". FFM observed activity of scavenging for building materials in the town.[30] According to former U.S. Co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group Carey Cavanaugh, the city was destroyed not in fighting, but by being dismantled "brick by brick".[31] The Aghdam mosque, the only building left standing in Aghdam, has been vandalized with graffiti and used as a cowshed.[32][33][34]

Aghdam's cemeteries, including the historic 18th-century tombs of Imarat Garvand were destroyed, desecrated and looted. Western diplomats reported unearthed graves and only just one damaged tombstone remaining in the Imarat Garvand cemetery. [35]

In June 2010, Andrei Galafyev, a photographer who visited the Aghdam in 2007, reported that "the floor in the mosque is entirely dirtied with manure of cattle, which wander on the ruins of Aghdam in the daytime."[36] His photographs showed cattle within the Aghdam mosque.[37] Its derelict condition, including a purportedly missing roof, drew criticism from Azerbaijani and Turkish communities, who wrote a letter in 2010 to Pope Benedict XVI asking him to "warn Armenians".[38] In 2009, Shahverdyan then-head of Nagorno-Karabhakh's tourism department reported that the upper roof of the mosque had been restored in early 2009 and that their surroundings were cleaned from rubble and fenced in order to preserve Muslim cultural heritage in the area.[39] In November 2010, the government of Artsakh announced that the mosque and its surroundings had been cleaned.[40] They also announced that the mosque of Aghdam, as well as the mosques of Shusha, had been refurbished.[41] However RFE/RL journalist, who visited Aghdam in 2011, posted photos of the mosque with no roof, and what he described as "the neglected and damaged interior of Aghdam's once-glorious mosque".[42]

Panoramic view of ruins of Aghdam

Return to Azerbaijan[edit]

As part of the agreement that ended the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war, the town and its surrounding area were returned to Azerbaijani control on 20 November 2020.[43] On 24 November 2020, president Aliyev and vice president Aliyeva visited the ruined city and made a speech.[44] Shortly after the return to Azerbaijani control, clean-up of the city began. The government predicted that it would take 2–5 years for people to be able to live in the city again and that the last landmines would be removed in 15 years' time.[45]


On May 22, 2021, Azerbaijani news outlets announced government's plans of rebuilding Aghdam city center. In addition, construction of a road between Barda and Aghdam started.[46][47] On May 28, president Aliyev visited the city and announced that its reconstruction had begun. He laid the foundation stones of the city's school No1, "Victory Museum" and "Open Air Occupation Museum", "the Industry Park", the first residential building and visited the Panah Ali Khan palace, the Imarat tombs and other reconstruction projects.[48][49][50][51]

According to the announced plan of the city, eight nearby villages will be merged with Aghdam, with a projected population of around 100,000. The residential areas will consist of multi-storey buildings and private houses. The city will be surrounded by gardens and be rebuilt as "smart city", to become a green energy zone. Inside the city, a large green belt covering an area of 125 hectares, an artificial lake, canals and bridges, motorways, pedestrian and bike paths, and electricity powered public transportation are also planned.[52]



Aghdam has a cold semi-arid climate (BSk) according to the Köppen climate classification.

Climate data for Agdam
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 6.2
Daily mean °C (°F) 2.3
Average low °C (°F) −0.9
Average precipitation mm (inches) 15
Average precipitation days 4 6 7 7 10 7 3 3 4 6 5 4 66
Source: NOAA[53]


Year Population Ethnic groups Source
1908 931 Mostly Turkomans (later known as Azerbaijanis) Caucasian Calendar[54]
1923 1,660 [55]
1926 7,910 93.6% Turks (i.e. Azerbaijani) Soviet census[56]
1939 10,746 83.3% Azerbaijani, 8.7% Russian, 5.3% Armenian Soviet census[57]
1959 16,061 92% Azerbaijani, 3.6% Russian, 3.4% Armenian Soviet census[58]
1970 21,277 94.9% Azerbaijani, 2% Russian & Ukrainian, 2% Armenian Soviet census[59]
1979 23,483 97% Azerbaijani, 1.3% Russian & Ukrainian, 1.2% Armenian Soviet census[60]
1989 28,031 Soviet census[1]
1993 Capture by Armenian forces. Expulsion of the Azerbaijani population [61]
2005 0 [citation needed]


Before the First Nagorno-Karabakh War, butter, wine and brandy, machine factories and a railway station functioned in the city.[15][16]


Music and media[edit]

Mugham music, a musical tradition from the Karabakh region, is an important part of Aghdam's musical heritage; the city was home to Aghdam Mugham School and its "Karabakh nightingales" ensemble.[62][63]


An association football team used to be based in the town. That team is now based in Baku. It competes in the Azerbaijan Premier League under the name Qarabağ FK.[64] The Imarat Stadium was destroyed from bombardments by Armenian military forces in the First Nagorno-Karabakh War.[24][65][66][67]


Prior to the war, the city had bus and tram lines and an airport which no longer function.[68] In November 2020, Azerbaijan Railways announced that it was discussing plans to build a 104 km railway line from Yevlakh to Khankendi via Aghdam.[69]


Prior to the city's destruction and subsequent abandonment, it contained 74 schools, none of which are functioning now.[70]

Notable residents[edit]

Some of the city's notable former residents include military commanders Allahverdi Bagirov and Asif Maharammov, footballers Ramiz Mammadov, Mushfig Huseynov and Vüqar Nadirov, mugham singers Gadir Rustamov, Mansum Ibrahimov, Arif Babayev and Sakhavat Mammadov, actor Jeyhun Mirzayev, scientist Zakir Mammadov and singer Roya.

International relations[edit]

Twin towns and sister cities[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Демографические показатели по 15 новым независимым государствам" [Demographic indicators for 15 newly independent states]. Demoscope Weekly. 23 February 2014. Archived from the original on 2014-02-22. Retrieved 2014-06-03.
  2. ^ Gai︠a︡nė Novikova (2004). The Nagorno Karabakh Conflict: In Search of the Way Out : To the Question of the Readiness of Azerbaijani and Armenian Societies to a Compromise Resolution of the Conflict. Amrots Group. p. 138. ISBN 9789994131273.
  3. ^ De Waal, Thomas (2003). Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan Through Peace and War. New York: New York University Press. p. 213. ISBN 0-8147-1944-9.
  4. ^ Specter, Michael (2 June 1994). "Azerbaijan, Potentially Rich, Is Impoverished by Warfare". The New York Times. Cities like Agdam have been emptied of people.
  5. ^ "The story of FK Qarabag: How a team born from war now prepares to host Chelsea in the Champions League". 22 November 2017. Archived from the original on 2017-11-22.
  6. ^ a b Musayelyan, Lusine. "Life Among Ruins of Caucasus' Hiroshima". Institute for War and Peace Reporting.
  7. ^ "Agdam city". Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Azerbaijan. Archived from the original on 20 July 2012. Retrieved 26 July 2010.
  8. ^ Gan, Karl Fedorovich [in Russian] (1909). объяснения кавказских географических названий [Experience in explaining Caucasian geographical names]. Printing house of the office of His Imperial Majesty's Vicar in the Caucasus. p. 3.
  9. ^ Soviet Azerbaijan. Baku: Publishing house of the Academy of Sciences of the Azerbaijan SSR. 1958. pp. 693–762.
  10. ^ "Ağdam: məşhur çay evindən məscidinə qədər hər tərəfi tarix olan şəhər". BBC News Azərbaycanca (in Azerbaijani). 19 November 2020. Retrieved 27 June 2022.
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  13. ^ Hewsen, Robert H. (2001). Armenia: A Historical Atlas. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. pp. 58, 73, map 62. ISBN 0-226-33228-4.
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  72. ^ Azerbaijani occupied town twinned with Hungary's Tiszavasvari

External links[edit]