Culfa / Culfa

Julfa is the administrative capital of the Julfa administrative region of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic. Julfa is separated by the Aras River from its namesake, the town of Jolfa on the Iranian side of the border. The two towns are linked by road and railway bridges.

In 1603, during the Ottoman-Safavid War of 1603-1618, Shah Abbas I of Persia retook Julfa from the Ottoman Empire and was seen as a liberator by its Armenian population. However, Abbas had realized that he was unable to defend the territory along the Aras River from incursions by the Ottomans. His solution was to evacuate the region, undertaking a scorched earth policy to prevent its wealth and population falling into Ottoman hands. In October 1605, the Shah issued an edict declaring that the entire population of Julfa must leave their homes and move deep into the Persian Empire.

About three thousand families were deported from Julfa, and many drowned while attempting to cross the Aras. After the deportation was completed, the town was destroyed by fire to prevent the inhabitants from returning. The deportees were taken to an area near Esfahan in Persia (now Iran), where a new town, New Julfa, was established. New Julfa is now a district of Esfahan, and is the modern day center of the Iranian Armenian population in Iran.

In 1606, a second deportation was made of inhabitants that had escaped the first deportation.

In the 17th century a small settlement was founded amid the ruins of the destroyed town, which, in 1747, became part of the Iranian Nakhichevan administrative division within Qajar Iran. At the start of the 19th century this settlement moved to a new location three kilometres to the east of the historical town, at the point where the Yernjak River flows into the Aras. Following the Russo-Persian War of 1826-28 and the resulting Treaty of Turkmenchay in 1828, the village of Julfa became the official border crossing between Persia and Russia as the former was forced to cede its last remaining Caucasian territories, containing state customs services, a garrison and post office.

The town became part of the Armenian oblast from 1840 to 1847, and then part of the Erevan Gubernia of the Russian Empire between 1847 and 1917. According to the Russian Empire Census in 1897 Julfa was a village with a population of 763, of which 751 were Armenians. Following the Russian Revolution, between 1918 and 1920 Julfa was the subject of a territorial dispute between the Democratic Republic of Armenia and the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. As a result of the Treaty of Kars, it became part of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic under the Transcaucasian SFSR in 1922, which itself became part of the Azerbaijan SSR in 1936.

During the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the status of Nagorno-Karabakh from 1988 to 1994, the remaining Armenian population (which had been slowly declining due to emigration during the Soviet era) was either evacuated or was forcibly deported to Armenia.

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