Baku - a city of winds
- General information
Baku is a capital of the Republic of Azerbaijan. It is one of the largest industrial, scientific and cultural centres not only in the country but in the entire region. It is a major port on the west coast of the Caspian Sea, in the southern part of the Absheron Peninsula.
It is a lively and very interesting city, where life does not stop even at night. Over the last decade Baku has greatly changed: new multi-storey buildings of shopping centres, hotels and banks harmonize very well with the old buildings. Baku is divided into 11 administrative districts.
- Population, language, confession
Azerbaijan has always been famous as a cosmopolitan city. The population of the capital of Azerbaijan perfectly reflects the ethnic composition of the country: here, besides the titular nation - Azerbaijanis also live people of other nationalities. Among them Lezgins, Talysh, Jews, Russian, Ukrainians, Tatars, Kurds, Avars and many others.
The official language is Azerbaijani, but historically Russian language was widespread. In recent years, thanks to the country's integration into the international community, more and more people, especially young people know also English language.
Over the years, the population dynamics of the capital has changed. So if in 2003 the city had 2.03 million people, already at the end of 2011 the number of officially registered population in the capital has increased to 2 million 796 thousand 300 people.
- Geographical location and climate of Baku
Baku is located on the western shore of the Caspian Sea, its area is approximately 2,2 thousand square kilometers The central part of the city is situated in the amphitheatre and terraces go down to the Baku Bay. Modern Baku streches far beyond the historical centre - Old City (Icheri Sheher), its new buildings raise on hills located along the Baku Bay. In a business centre and along the highways construction is dense and the suburbs - more liberal. Although in recent years this division is rather conditional - thanks to the population growth the residential districts and peripherals are also actively being built.
The climate is temperate in Baku, with hot summer with low humidity and mild winter. The average annual temperature in January is 3.4 degree C, and in July - 25.8. Autumn is warm, much warmer than spring.
- Historical note
According to its territory and the number of population Baku has long been considered one of the biggest cities in the East. In the XII century, Baku was one of the major cities of the Shirvanshahs state, XVI century - the Safavids state, XVII century - the Ottoman Empire, XVIII century - Baku khanate.
Baku history dates back centuries, and its name is found in the medieval Byzantine, Arab, Persian and European sources which state Baku as a rich city on the Great Silk Way.
People anciently settled in this territory which eventually has been crowded by settlements establishing future city. The reason for this is the physical and geographical conditions of the territory, its location in the centre of the intersection of migration and trade routes stretching from north to south and from west to east (the “Silk Way”), climatic conditions, as well as a valuable energy substance, from ancient times appearing on the surface of the earth, and called “nafta”. Actually it was the first oil of the planet, which began to be produced industrially.
Baruka, Bhagavan, Atesh and Bhagavan, Bakukh, Bakuya, Bad Cuba (Persian - windy), Baku, Baka - the ancient names of Baku city are found in various written sources of antiquity. Byzantine author of the first half of the V century Priscus Paniysky describing the way from Scythia to Media informs on the “bursting fire from the sea stone” near Baku. This is the first chronological indication of the lights near Baku. Starting from IX century, in Arabic sources for the first time there are words: Baku, Bakukh, Bakuya, Bakuye.
This city has become one of the first seaports on the Caspian coast in ancient times. According to one of the ancient sea routes along the Volga to Astrakhan, thence by sea - from Russia and Europe to Baku, ships sailed with the conquerors, peaceful merchants and travelers. From there, they could go further: to the south-west, through Georgia to the Black Sea countries, to the east - Persia, China, and India. If the entire Azerbaijan is a country on the virtual border of Europe and Asia, then Baku-Absheron is one of the main gates for the Europeans wishing to know Asia and inhabitants of Asian and Far Eastern countries who aspired to visit Europe. They all passed through Baku where caravans travelling on the Great Silk Way stopped.
At the period when the Shirvanshahs state was established, Baku has become even more important. In the XII century, after the massive earthquake that destroyed Shemakha, Shirvanshah Akhsitan I who lost his wife and children, moved the capital of Shirvan Khanate to Baku.
So Baku has become one of the main cities of Shirvan. Shirvanshah declared the new capital, built the walls of Icheri Sheher. They were surrounded by graff, the population was engaged in handicrafts - carpets, copper and bronze utensils, weapons (today most of them are kept at the museums of various countries.) Baku became a strategic port on the Caspian Sea, creating additional conditions for its prosperity.
Oil production has played great importance in the history of the city. In the days of the Great Silk Way caravans with camels laden with oil exported to Europe and Asia passed here.
At the beginning of XIX century, Azerbaijan was part of the Russian Empire. At this time the industrial production of oil was started and it has promoted the development of city. Baku began attracting foreign capital, offices of Rothschild Nobel brothers and others have been opened. When oil production reached a massive scale, cultural life flourished in Baku: there appeared theatres and opera house. In those days it was called the “Paris of the Caucasus.”
The Soviet period of Baku begins from the year 1920. In Soviet times, Baku became the capital of the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic, and has become one of the largest administrative, industrial, scientific and cultural centres of the USSR. During the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945 Baku was a major strategic hub to fuel military aircrafts and armored vehicles, which was one of the most important factors of the USSR victory. After the war, Baku also remained significant oil-producing region of the USSR.
Heydar Aliyev – at that time First Secretary of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan SSR and Alish Lemberansky – mayor played an important role in the modern image of Baku during the Soviet period. In 1959 Lemberansky was appointed a chairman of executive committee of the Baku Council of People's Deputies. At his initiative, many cultural facilities and residential buildings were built in Baku. There were provided landscaping, and constructed new gardens and parks. Baku Seacoast Boulevard has been thoroughly updated and expanded, and it has become a wonderful park with flowering decorative bushes and fruit plants. Cafe “Pearl” was built on the Boulevard, there has appeared its “Venice” where “gondolas” sailed with children and adults.
Heydar Aliyev came to the republic in 1969 and precisely during his reign the highest architectural and cultural progress of Azerbaijan has been occurred. In those “golden years” under the patronage of Heydar Aliyev there were built important facilities such as the Republic Palace (now the Heydar Aliyev Palace), State Circus, Baku seaport, Palace “Gulistan”, Musical Comedy Theatre, Green Theatre, Baku funicular, as well as the hotels “Moscow”, “Azerbaijan”, “Absheron”, and many other facilities in the country.
The political and economic crisis in the second half of the 80s has brought new realities in the life of Soviet Azerbaijan and Baku, which led to a series of tragedies, break in society and collapse of the USSR.
Since gaining independence by Azerbaijan and the returning of Heydar Aliyev in the early 90's to power this time as president, the country has entered a period of political consolidation, economic and social recovery continuing to this day. Today, after recovering from the economic and social crises of heavy post-Soviet period of the late 20th century, Baku experiencing a rebirth as a major economic and cultural centre of the South Caucasus.
- Economy of Baku
Since the end of XIX century, Baku has become the largest centre of oil and gas. In addition to the oil industry here has developed weaving, opened mechanical plants, tobacco factories, mills, processing plants, etc. In the middle of the XX century there were developed petrochemical, machine-building, metal-working industries and the production of building materials in Baku.
Today Baku city is a large scientific and industrial centre of entire Caucasian region. Since the beginning of XXI century military industry, high-tech industries and information technologies have been successfully developed in the capital of Azerbaijan.
Baku is rapidly becoming a tourist city with a rich infrastructure of recreation and entertainment. In Azerbaijan, there are dozens of high quality branded hotels belonging to the world's largest chains, shopping and business centres, sports and entertainment complexes. Just recently there has been opened the largest European entertainment centre Megafun shilling the visitors with hundreds of colorful attractions and gaming machines.
Baku is a railway and transport hub of Azerbaijan, as well as the largest port in the Caspian Sea. Leading position in freight turnover belongs to commercial seaport. Daily flights to many cities in the world are provided from Heydar Aliyev International Airport. Railway trains leave from Baku to Georgia, Russia, Iran. The city has an international bus station, underground, public transport, the system of intellectual transport management.
- Education, Culture and Sports
Baku is the centre of cultural and scientific life of Azerbaijan. In 1873 there was established the first national Theatre, and in 1908 for the first time in the Muslim East was given the first opera “Leyli and Majnun”. The first Azerbaijani university and also the first library were opened just in Baku.
More than 30 public and private higher educational establishments are concentrated in the capital of Azerbaijan, therefore Baku can be called the biggest university town. Not only Baku citizens, but also foreign students study in hundreds of different specialties at Baku State University, Azerbaijan State Oil Academy, Azerbaijan Medical University, Azerbaijan Technical University, Azerbaijan State Marine Academy, Azerbaijan Tourism Institute and other universities.
There are many cultural facilities in Baku. Among these are theatres such as Azerbaijan Drama Theatre (www.azdrama.az), Opera and Ballet Theatre named after M.F. Akhundov (www.tob.az), Theatre for Young Audiences, Azerbaijan State Russian Drama Theatre named after S. Vurgun (www.rusdrama-az.com), Puppet Theatre named after A. Shaig (www.kuklateatri.com), Azerbaijan State Philharmonic named after M. Magomayev (www.filarmoniya.az); museums - State Museum of Musical Culture (www.musicmuseum.az), National Art Museum of Azerbaijan, History Museum of Azerbaijan (www.science.az/en/azhistorymuseum/index.htm), the world's first Museum of carpet (www.azcarpetmuseum.az), Museum of Modern Art (www.mim.az), etc.
There is also Baku State Circus, many modern concert halls and sports-grounds. In May 2012 the 57th song contest “Eurovision» was held in concert and entertainment complex Crystal Hall, Baku (www.eurovision.tv).
- Baku Sights
State pays great attention and care to the cultural heritage. By decrees of the Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, a number of historic facilities and unique structures and natural areas have been declared the state historical-architectural, ethnographic, historical and cultural reserves. Restoration works are widely undergoing in all regions of the country to restore cultural facilities, historical and architectural temples, towers, walls, bridges and caravan-serais.
In the centre of Baku on the 221 thousand square meters area there is situated an ancient fortress Icherisheher (“Inner City”) - an old residential area, historical and architectural reservation which was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. This unique open-air museum possesses more than 50 historical and architectural monuments covering different periods. Among the extant monuments there is the Shirvanshahs Palace, Maiden Tower the minaret Siniq Gala. More information about the historical and architectural reserve can be found by visiting the official website www.icherisheher.gov.az
One of the most majestic and mysterious monuments of Baku is the Giz Galasi - the famous Maiden's Tower rising in the city centre, opposite the National Park Boulevard. It was built so long ago, that there is still some debates about the date of the original foundation. Some studies refer the birth of the Maiden Tower to VI century BC. It narrates a beautiful ancient story about the tragic love. The word “Maiden” in the title of the tower means “Unapproachable”, “Unconquered.” There are many legends about the origin of the tower, but all share the same ending - a girl for some reason (mainly because of unrequited or forbidden love) jumped from the tower to the sea.
Tourists first visiting the Maiden Tower, wonder - how she could jump from here to the sea, if the distance from the tower to the sea about 100 meters? The thing is that the Maiden Tower was built in the first centuries and situated on the shore of the sea, the waves of the Caspian Sea washed its walls. But gradually, the water level in the sea fell, water of the Caspian Sea receded, and today inseparable Maiden Tower and the Caspian Sea have separated by wide avenues and seacoast boulevard.
Why did it serve as the tower? Scientific opinion that the tower was a defensive structure is rejected by small footprint of the tower which is unsuitable even for temporary residence, to say nothing about the defense! Today, scientists agree about the religious mission of the Maiden Tower. In XVIII-XIX centuries the Maiden Tower was used as a lighthouse, and in 1964 there was opened a museum in the tower.
Most of the foreign tourists visiting Baku, necessarily rise to the top of this ancient building to admire the sea. The total height of the tower is 29.7 m, diameter - 16.5 m. Thickness of the walls at the bottom 5 m, and in the top tier - 4 . The tower consists of 8 stages, there is a well dug to aquifer with 21 m depth.
Near the Maiden Tower, in the centre of Icheri sheher there is the largest monument of Azerbaijani architecture - Shirvanshahs Palace which was built about six hundred years ago, and completed throughout the XV century. This whole architectural ensemble consists of multiple structures which in composition and layout is unique in the world.
The complex was not built on a single architectural design and consists of a series of structures located in accordance with the relief on three levels: the main building of the palace (1420's), tombs-turbe (1435), the Shah's mosque with a minaret (1441), the mausoleum of Sayyid Yahya Bakuvi (1450s), Divankhana (1450s) and the remains of the mosque Keygubada. Portal from the east - Murad's gate (1585), and reservior and the remains of the bath relate to the palace buildings. In 1964, the complex was declared a museum-reservation and protected by the State.
The visitors of the capital are mostly interested in the temple of worshipers Ateshgah (“House of Fire») dating to XVII century and located in Surakhani settlement. It stands on a cliff, where thousands of years, due to the underground natural gas the lights are burning. And now near Muhammedli village you can watch the output of natural gas burning at the foot of the cliff. This place is called “Yanar Dag”, or “Burning Mountain”. In ancient times there were a lot of places in Absheron like this.
One of the most ancient historical monuments located near Baku is Gobustan which is famous for its rock paintings. In 2007, the cultural landscape of the Gobustan rock art was included in the UNESCO list of World Cultural Heritage.
In Baku State Historical Ethnography and Arts Reservation Gobustan, there are a lot of petroglyphs, camps, settlements, tombs, etc., in Boyukdash, Kichikdash, Jingirdag, Songardag Syhgaya mountains – the witnesses of stone age and ancient history of the Azerbaijani people. On the territory of Boyukdash you can find monuments of all periods from the Mesolithic to the Middle Ages.
Now there were found and studied more than 6,000 petroglyphs (rock drawings in the art of stone carving.) These are images of people and animals, as well as scenes of hunting, fishing, various symbols, including swastikas, spirals, crosses, pictures of reed boats, carts. The remains of unique “plates” - depressions carved in stone and even ornamented have been preserved. There are also unusual “musical instruments” - stones producing loud sounds, and each of them has its own sound. The rocks of Gobustan also preserve the evidence of the presence in I century AD Roman legionnaires aiming to occupy this attractive region. There was found a rock with a Latin inscription written by Roman centurions of the 11 Legion Lightning. It notes that at the time emperor Domitian Caesar Augustus Germanicus ruled in Rome.
In one of the suburbs of Baku city - in Mardakan settlement there are two fortresses with ancient history. One rectangular, built in the XII century by the son of Shirvanshah Manouchehr Ahsitanom, this fortress was erected in honor of the brilliant victory of Akhsitan over the enemy. The height of the fortress is 22m, the thickness of the bottom 2.1 m and upper part - 1.6 m. The fortress is divided into five stages from inside.
The second fortress is round, people call it Shikh galasy (Sheikh’s fortress). Its height is 12.5, inside it consists of three tiers. From the inscription on the fortress it has become known that it was built in 1232 by architect Abdulmajid Masud oglu.
Another historical complex is Baku State Historical and Ethnographic Reservation in Gala - Absheron village. Here are preserved ancient mosques, ancient roads, reservoirs, ancient cemetery (XV c.), baths, the settlement of the Bronze Age. Gala - a typical Absheron settlement which is sometimes called the “Old City” of Absheron.
Moden Baku has new symbols. First of all, it is Flame Towers («Tower of Fire”) widely replicated around the world during the broadcasting “Eurovision” song contest and consisting of three towers. Also ultramodern concert complex Crystal Hall where “Eurovision” song contest has been actually conducted is well-known around the world. Finally, we should mention the famous Heydar Aliyev cultural centre - a complex structure which includes a convention centre, a museum, a library and a park area of 9 hectares. This building has been designed by the famous female architect Zaha Hadid, the Discovery Channel produced the film series “Mega Structures”.
Of course, this list of sights of the capital of Azerbaijan is not limited. In Baku, you can also see one of the highest in the world flags (flagpole height - 162 meters), located on the State Flag Square, funicular which has been modernized after the major repair and renovation in 2012. Visit the famous seacoast boulevard which in 2009 celebrated its 100th anniversary - a favorite leisure area of Baku citizens and guests. It is impossible to list all, welcome to our hospitable city!