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Derbent (Dagestan Republic) - the Oldest and the Most Southern Russian City
October 5, 2014 14:27


The oldest and the most southern city in Russia does not look like a museum, although it has enough of museum treasures. Derbent is a live eastern city, and its respectable age didn’t dry it, but only added color to the city. The age of the city is counted even not in centuries - the emergence of the settlements in this place, at the “Caspian Gate” is related to IV millennium BC by the scientists, and the city has existed here since VI century BC.

In this sense, only the slightly younger Kerch can compete with Derbent. Derbent is located not far from the mouth of the Samur River, in the place where the Caucasus Mountains are very close to the shore, on the three-kilometer neck of land between the mountains and sea.

The strategic importance of the city is obvious if you look at the map: it is the crossroads of the road from east to west, the gate on the way between the sea and the mountains. “The Gate” is the root of the city’s name in several languages. This Caspian fortress was owned alternately by Persians, Arabs, Albanians, Turks, Russians during the long history of Derbent, and was endeavored literally by everyone who claimed authority over the surrounding area. Peter I conquered Derbent during the Persian campaign, but later it went to Persia again, and finally joined the Russian Empire only in 1813. It is clear that the most important thing in Derbent is the fortress, well preserved, although rebuilt many times. The fortress consists of several objects: the citadel of Naryn-Kala and the double wall leading from the castle to the sea. These walls once went straight into the sea, but the sea-land described by ancient historians are not preserved nowadays.

Derbent can be conditionally divided into three parts: the upper town - magals, the middle or inner town – shahristan, the downtown - the port and port districts. The district of magals is the oldest part of the city adjacent to the citadel of Naryn-Kala. The majority of population here are Azerbaijanian Shias. In order to get to the magals, you have to pass through the gate in the northern or southern wall.

A maze of curved medieval streets had to confuse the enemy entering the city. Besides, these streets have no names, so the addresses consist of a magal number and a house number. The numbering starts with magals located below and grows as the height increases. The total number of magals is eight. The synagogue of Derbent is located not far from the Armenian Church. The basement of the synagogue stores the collection of the Museum of the Mountain Jews gathered by local enthusiasts. Another attraction of the Middle City is Qirxlar, the cemetery of forty Islamic martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the Prophet Muhammad.

This is one of the most important shrines of the Islamic Caucasus. Qirxlar (this is a Turkic word meaning “forty”) occupies a large part of the Muslim cemetery: rows of coffins carved out of monolithic stones are surrounded by a fence. The beautiful Tutibike mausoleum built at the end of XVIII century in honor of the wife of one of the rulers of Derbent stands nearby. The Derbent railway station built more than a hundred years ago and well preserved is a part of the port district of the city. It contains two spirits plants, a cognac plant and a plant of sparkling wines. Each of them has a store selling drinks from local grapes. 

Author: Anna Dorozhkina

Tags: Derbent Naryn-Kala Dagestan Republic North Caucasus  

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