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Historic Centre of Sheki with the Khan’s Palace

Historic Centre of Sheki with the Khan’s Palace
The historic city of Sheki is located at the foot of the Greater Caucasus Mountains and divided in two by the Gurjana River. While the older northern part is built on the mountain, its southern part extends into the river valley. Its historic centre, rebuilt after the destruction of an earlier town by mudflows in the 18th century, is characterized by a traditional architectural ensemble of houses with high gabled roofs. Located along important historic trade routes, the city's architecture is influenced by Safavid, Qadjar and Russian building traditions. The Khan Palace, in the northeast of the city, and a number of merchant houses reflect the wealth generated by silkworm breeding and the trade in silk cocoons from the late 18th to the 19th centuries.

Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Centre historique de Sheki avec le palais du Khan
La ville historique de Sheki est située au pied de la chaîne du Grand Caucase et divisée en deux par la rivière Gurjana. Tandis que la partie nord, plus ancienne, est bâtie sur la montagne, sa partie sud s’étend dans la vallée fluviale. Son centre historique, reconstruit après la destruction d’une ville antérieure par des coulées de boue au XVIIIsiècle, se caractérise par un ensemble architectural traditionnel de maisons à hauts toits en bâtière. Située le long d’importantes routes commerciales historiques, la ville possède une architecture influencée par les traditions de construction issues des règnes safavide, qadjar et russe. Le palais du Khan, au nord-est de la ville, ainsi que les diverses maisons de marchands, reflètent la richesse générée par l’élevage des vers à soie et le commerce des cocons de la fin du XVIIIe siècle au XIXsiècle.

Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

مركز شاكي التاريخي وقصر خان الملكي
تقع مدينة شاكي التاريخية عند سفح جبال القوقاز الكبرى ويمر وسطها نهر جرجانا قاسماً إياها إلى قسمين. وفي حين جرى بناء الجزء الشمالي من المدينة، وهو الجزء الأقدم فيها، على الجبل، فإن الجزء الجنوبي منها يمتد في وادي النهر. ويمتاز مركز المدينة التاريخي، الذي أعيد بناؤه بعد تدمير مدينة سابقة كانت قائمة مكانه جرّاء التدفقات الطينية في القرن الثامن عشر، بتشكيلة معمارية تقليدية من المنازل ذات الأسطح العالية الجملونية. وتمتلك المدينة، الواقعة على طول طرق تجارية تاريخية هامة، بما فيها من عناصر هندسية معمارية مستلهمة من التقاليد الإنشائية التي تعود للفترات الصفوية والقادرية والروسية. ويجسّد قصر خان، الواقع في شمال شرق المدينة، بالإضافة إلى المنازل التجّار المختلفة، الثروة الناتجة عن تربية دودة القز وتجارة الشرانق في الفترة الممتدة من أواخر القرن الثامن عشر وحتى القرن التاسع عشر.

source: UNESCO/ERI
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

舍基历史中心及汗王宫殿
古城舍基位于大高加索山脉脚下,古尔贾纳河穿城而过。历史更为久远的北部建在山上,南城则延伸至河谷。18世纪的泥石流毁坏了此前的古镇,如今的历史中心是之后重建的产物,其特征是拥有高山墙屋顶的传统建筑群。该城位于重要的古商路之上,其建筑受萨非、卡扎尔和俄罗斯建筑传统的影响。位于城区东北部的汗王宫殿和众多商人宅邸反映了从18世纪末到19世纪的蚕种和丝茧贸易带来的财富。

source: UNESCO/ERI
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Исторический центр Шеки вместе с Ханским дворцом
Исторический город Шеки расположен у подножия гор Большого Кавказа и разделен на две части рекой Гурджана. Северная, более старая часть города построена на горе, а его южная часть простирается в долину реки. Исторический центр Шеки, восстановленный после разрушения в результате селей в XVIII веке, характеризуется традиционным архитектурным ансамблем домов с высокими остроконечными крышами. Расположенный вдоль важных исторических торговых путей, город был построен под влиянием сефевидских, каджарских и русских архитектурных традиций. Ханский дворец, расположенный на северо-востоке города, а также ряд  купеческих домов отражают богатство Шеки, порожденное шелководством и торговлей шелковыми коконами с конца XVIII по XIX века.

source: UNESCO/ERI
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Centro histórico de Sheki con el Palacio del Kan
La ciudad histórica de Sheki está situada al pie de las montañas del Gran Cáucaso y dividida en dos por el río Gurjana. Mientras que la parte norte, más antigua, está construida sobre la montaña, la parte sur se extiende hasta el valle del río. Su centro histórico, reconstruido tras la destrucción de una ciudad anterior por los deslaves de lodo en el siglo XVIII, se caracteriza por un conjunto arquitectónico tradicional de casas con tejados a dos aguas de gran altura. Situada a lo largo de importantes rutas comerciales históricas, la ciudad posee una arquitectura influenciada por las tradiciones de construcción de los reinados de safávida, qadjar y ruso. El Palacio del Kan, en el noreste de la ciudad, así como las diversas casas de comerciantes, reflejan la riqueza generada por la cría de gusanos de seda y el comercio de capullos desde finales del siglo XVIII hasta el XIX.

source: UNESCO/ERI
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

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Historic Centre of Sheki with the Khan’s Palace: Upper caravanserai. view from the yard © Azerberpa
Outstanding Universal Value

Brief synthesis

The historic city of Sheki, lying in a forested valley of the eastern Caucasian mountains, has ancient origins, dating back to the 6th century BCE. The current historic centre results from its reconstruction, after a mud flood in 1772, on higher ground in a mountain valley east of the previous site. Due to the natural limitations of the valley, the historic area has retained its overall urban form, but has expanded within the original building lots, following traditional typological patterns. The traditional buildings with their typical high saddle roofs, deep verandas and gardens are the key characteristics of the historic urban landscape, within the spectacular setting of the forested mountain slopes.

Being in contact with important trade routes, the region of Sheki has been subject to a variety of cultural influences. Christianity was here introduced as early as the 1st century CE, and Islam in the 7th century. During its recent history, it has been under various realms, including the Safavids, Ottomans and Qajars until the 18th century. In 1743, Sheki was established as the first and the most powerful of a series of Khanates in Caucasus, representing a new administrative system in the region. This was followed by Russian rule in the 19th century. These different cultures have also influenced the features of architecture, of which the Khan´s Palace is an outstanding example, also reflected in many of the interiors of wealthy merchant houses such as fireplaces (bukharas), decorations, and a vernacular type of windows (shabaka) etc. The fortress, the Khan Palace, and the caravanserais, reflect the important administrative and commercial role of the city.

As a trading centre, in contact with Asia and Europe, and also as a part of Silk Road route, the principal economy of Sheki, from the ancient times, has been based on silkworm breeding, the trading of cocoons and raw silk, and the development of various crafts, which continue in the region. These activities were favoured due to its particularly suitable climatic conditions. At the same time, the morphology of the urban fabric and its growth patterns were a direct result of the topography of the site, and the economic developments and the activities related to the silk trade. Houses were built with high-pitched roofs for breeding the silkworms in the airy spacious attics. Extensive commercial relations with other regions that mainly included trades of silk products, triggered the building of new caravanserais, shops, public fountains, mosques, public baths, and storage buildings in a very short period of time after 1772. One caravanserai and some shops are still used by local people for various trade purposes.

The urban pattern of the city of Sheki is determined by the water harvesting and management. The city is in the catchment area of ​​the Kish river in a space drained by streams that have been intercepted and transformed into a network of channels over time. Added to this water supply are the waters from mountain glaciers and meteoric glaciers. The hydraulic network is diversified, distinguishing the fresh and less potable waters according to the different origins: spring, rainwater and torrent. An elaborate distribution system manages the water network up to the residential houses and productive gardens, structuring the urban plot and the division into neighbouring areas. The cultivated plots, each with a house on one side, are a distinctive character of the city of Sheki.

The gardens partly comprised of mulberry trees combined with their residential houses constituted a production system based on the series of operations related to the feeding and breeding of the silkworm and its processing. Thus, a type of ‘garden city’ was created in which the elements of aesthetic and symbolic value were integrated with functional and utilitarian characters.

Criterion (ii): As the major cultural and commercial centre in the region, the Historic Centre of Sheki exhibits an important interchange of multiple cultural influences, which have their origin in its history over two millennia, but developed particularly under the Safavid, Ottoman and Qajar influences, and the later impact of Russian rule. Sheki in turn influenced a wider territory of Caucasus and beyond. The current urban form, which dates back to the new construction after the flood of 1772, continued earlier building traditions responding to the local climatic conditions, and the requirements of the traditional economy and crafts activitiesIn particular construction elements and details of Sheki’s domestic architecture, such as balconies, doors, arches, and fences, reflect oriental characteristics that later evolved under Russian influence.

Sheki is also an exceptional testimony to the feudal system of the Caucasian khanates, which developed from 1743 to 1819, as expressed in the architecture of the Khan’s palaces, the interiors of wealthy merchant houses, and the fortifications.

Criterion (v): Completely realized according to ancient rules, the Historic Centre of Sheki represents an extraordinary example of a planned productive ‘garden city’, as exemplified in its hydraulic water system for driving mills and irrigation, productive structures related to sericulture, and the peculiar organization of the houses aligned with their cultivated fields, all set within a forested landscape setting.

Integrity

The Historic Centre of Sheki contains all the elements that justify its Outstanding Universal Value. Together with its setting, the settlement forms a coherent ensemble that has also retained its visual integrity intact. The boundaries of the property contain all the planned historical city with its productive garden houses, fortifications and monuments such as the fortress, the Khan Palace, and the caravanserais, that together reflect the residential, administrative and commercial role of the city. The water system, repartition in neighbourhoods (mehelle) and many traditional activities are mainly still intact and efficient. These represent the complete range of the attributes of the property that reflect a planned productive ‘garden city’ capital of the Sheki Khanate and subsequent Russian rule.

The integrity of the property is though vulnerable to new construction in the property and the lack of conservation of some historic buildings. Some newly built houses, modified residential buildings, and buildings that are in a critical condition all require varying degrees of immediate intervention. The Conservation Strategy guided by Restoration Manual will address the current shortcomings in the near future.

Authenticity

The Historic Centre of Sheki has retained its historical authenticity in relation to the intactness of its urban typology and overall form, and most private residences and some public buildings still reflect their former traditional use and functions. Sheki has also retained its traditional mechanisms for property maintenance and community involvement through neighbourhood representatives and a council of elders.

The essential part of the monumental complexes are intact and are part of extensive conservation and restoration programmes, carried out and in progress. Despite the existence of some inappropriate interventions and use of modern materials that affect authenticity, the Restoration Manual will set out required standards and the use of traditional materials.

The residential houses of Sheki have been gradually restored, many following traditional typological patterns of growth, but not all interventions have respected the authenticity of traditional materials, processes and design. 1,933 houses (71.6%) out of the 2,755 residential houses inside the property and its buffer zone maintain their authenticity having evolved over time according to functional transformations that do not affect the architectural typology or materials, or have minor changes, such as extensions. All the houses will be subject to preservation, guided through a Conservation Plan and a Restoration Manual.

Protection and management requirements

The Historic Centre of Sheki and the Khan’s Palace (120.5 ha) has been protected since 1967 as part of the “Yukhari Bash” State Historical and Architectural Reserve (283 ha) under the Law on the Protection of Historical and Cultural Monuments. It is also under strict protection within the general urban master plan of the city as a conservation area.

The setting is protected at two levels, a buffer zone (146 ha) surrounds the property at up to 200 meters, and beyond that there is a much larger zone for terrain control. The buffer zone is legally part of the “Yukhari Bash” architectural reserve, while the zone for terrain control remains within the reserve’s buffer zone which is also protected by the law. The forested setting of the property needs to be protected not just for its environmental value but also for its visual and cultural value, as a support for the Outstanding Universal Value of the property.

The Historic Centre of Sheki is under the management of the State Tourism Agency and its newly created Reserves Management Centre, together with other relevant stakeholders.

The Action Plan on Conservation and Rehabilitation of Historical Centre of Sheki and the Restoration Manual are both resource and guidance documents, which will form the basis for the development of planning guidelines and stronger protection for individual buildings. This process must be carried out by involving private individuals and the population through incentives for the restoration carried out respecting the historical and architectural character of the place and the attributes of the Outstanding Universal Value. An overall Conservation Master Plan also needs to be developed.

A management plan drafted in English will be adopted, implemented and translated, as envisaged in the Action Plan, and this will include strengthening the mandate and resources of the management team. Future management should strengthen the role of traditional governance structures, such as the Council of Elders, and the neighbourhood representatives in decision-making and management processes, and develop a tourism strategy to constrain the development of tourism facilities.

There is also a need to develop a monitoring system focused both on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the management plan.

As the property is in a zone of high seismic activity, its lower level is at high risk of serious floods, and its forested setting could be vulnerable to forest fires, a comprehensive approach to risk preparedness and mitigation needs to be developed in an Emergency Plan.