After the 2020 war in Nagorno-Karabakh, every street in Baku bears a reminder of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. These reminders take the form of colorful murals featuring images and portraits of soldiers. However, they are not limited to public spaces alone; they can also be found on the windows of private vehicles, blocks of buildings, and shop walls. It’s worth noting that these images do not depict graphic representations of war and death but rather focus on portraits of individual males who lost their lives during the conflict.
This tradition of commemoration emerged after the first Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in 1988-1994, the main difference in commemoration between the eras is the scale and colors of the murals. In the 90s, small marble portraits covered the walls of the streets, while today, large colored images stretch from nine-story buildings to the glass walls of shops and cars.
Another way fallen soldiers are commemorated is through “Martyr’s Spring” (known as “şəhid bulağı” or “şəhidlər bulağı” in Azerbaijani). These memorials consist of decorated concrete walls displaying pictures of the martyrs, whose names are engraved on mounted black marble. These memorials are strategically placed in neighborhood locations where many passers-by can see them, and a water tap is installed on-site to supply drinking water, thus the name “Martyr’s Spring.”
This photo project serves to illustrate the way memorialization has preserved the collective memory of the conflict over the past 30 years in Armenia and Azerbaijan. However, beneath the captivating visuals lies a complex web of politics and nationalism that must be understood to ensure a more nuanced and reflective approach to commemorating the fallen and preventing the glorification of war.
Commemorative Plaques for fallen soldiers of the First Karabakh War in the Roundabout Neapol, Khatai raion, Baku
The commemorative plaque for a fallen soldier of the first Karabakh war, Tahir Hasanov, who was posthumously awarded the title of "The National Hero of Azerbaijan, mounted on the entrance wall of the central school in Baku
View of the entrance to an apartment block in a neighbourhood in Hazi Asalanov , Baku. A commemorative plaque for the Senior Lieutenant Hasan Rzadeh, a fallen soldier of the second Karabakh War.
Ilgar Abbasov, fallen soldier, who died in the First Karabakh War, along with the quote of the late president Heydar Aliyev, “Every Martyr is the source of every nation’s spiritual greatness.”
A commemorative plaque for Ramin Gasimov in the street named after him in Mardakan, a settlement in Baku. The plaque also quotes the fallen soldier: “We are born for life, we will die for our homeland.” This quote is from his essay about homeland written in high school.
Photo posters of fallen soldiers from the Karabakh Wars in Yasamal,Baku. The poster displays one of the common mottos about martyrdom: “Martyrs won’t die, Homeland cannot be divided.”
Photo collage of the group of fallen soldiers from the Karabakh Wars in Baku. Arasta Bakhishova, the english teacher who set aside her qualification and became a nurse at a hospital is the only woman who carries the status of a martyr.
The Spring devoted to the fallen soldiers of the wars in Nagorno Karabakh. Fallen soldiers: Rufat Mammadov (First Karabakh War), Rajab Mammadov and Timur Aliyev. The memorial plaque mentions it as a commemoration by neighbours and MKIS (Housing and Communal Services) in the neighbourhood known as “kvadrat” in Hazi Aslanov.
A man stands next to the commemorative wall for his son, fallen soldier Nijat Shukurlu, from the Second Karabakh War.
The memorial complex for fallen soldier, Elvin Bayramov from the Second Karabakh War.
A woman carries a pin on her chest for her son-in-law Natig Bakhishaliyev, a fallen soldier from the second Karabakh War.
The portraits of fallen soldiers from the second Karabakh war along the flags of Azerbaijan and Turkey on glasses of the shopping mall in Baku
The portrait of fallen soldier ,Teymur Yagubov , from the First Karabakh War
The posters of 21 fallen soldiers of the second Karabakh War on screens of a van.