See Also:Darband

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Updated:Monday 13th October 2014

Derbent Definition

(Wikipedia) - Derbent For other uses of "Derbent", see Derbent (disambiguation). Derbent (English) Дербент (Russian) Administrative status (as of April 2006) Country Federal subject Administratively subordinated to Capital of Administrative center of Municipal status (as of October 2012) Urban okrug Administrative center of Statistics Population (2010 Census) - Rank in 2010 Time zone
-  City  -
Location of the Republic of Dagestan in Russia
DerbentLocation of Derbent in the Republic of Dagestan
Coordinates: 42°03′N 48°18′E / 42.050°N 48.300°E / 42.050; 48.300Coordinates: 42°03′N 48°18′E / 42.050°N 48.300°E / 42.050; 48.300
Republic of Dagestan
City of Derbent
Republic of Dagestan
City of Derbent, Derbentsky District
Derbent Urban Okrug
Derbent Urban Okrug, Derbentsky Municipal District
119,200 inhabitants
MSK (UTC+04:00)
Derbent on WikiCommons
UNESCOWorld Heritage Site Citadel, Ancient City and Fortress Buildings of Derbent Type Criteria Reference UNESCO region Inscription history Inscription
Name as inscribed on the World Heritage List
iii, iv
2003 (27th Session)

Derbent (Russian: Дербе́нт; Avar: Дербенд, Derbend; Lezgian: Кьвевар, K′vevar; Azerbaijani: Dərbənd; Lak: Чурул, Churul; Judeo-Tat: Дэрбэнд, דארבּאנד, Dərbənd), formerly romanized as Derbend, is a city in the Republic of Dagestan, Russia, located on the Caspian Sea, north of the Azerbaijani border. It is the southernmost city in Russia, and it is the second-most important city of Dagestan. Population: 119,200 (2010 Census); 101,031 (2002 Census); 78,371 (1989 Census).

Derbent occupies the narrow gateway between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains connecting the Eurasian steppes to the north and the Middle East to the south. Its etymology derives from the Persian Darband (دربند), meaning "locked gate", and it is often identified with the legendary Gates of Alexander, being known in Arabic as Bāb al Abwab ("Gate of Gates") and Turkish as Demirkapı ("Iron Gate"). Derbent claims to be the oldest city in Russia (8th century BCE). Since antiquity, the value of the area as the gate to the Caucasus has been understood, and Derbent has archaeological structures over 5,000 years old. As a result of this geographic particularity, the city developed between two walls, stretching from the mountains to the sea. These fortifications were continuously employed for a millennium and a half, longer than any other extant fortress in the world. Over the years, different nations gave the city different names, but all connected to the word gate; its name in Persian is Darband, which means "closed gates".

  • 1 History
  • 2 Geography
    • 2.1 Climate
  • 3 Administrative and municipal status
  • 4 Demographics
  • 5 Economy and culture
  • 6 Notable people
  • 7 Twin towns and sister cities
  • 8 References
    • 8.1 Notes
    • 8.2 Sources
  • 9 External links

HistoryView of the city from Naryn-Kala, 1910s

Derbent''s location on a narrow, three-kilometer strip of land between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus mountains is strategic in the Caucasus. Historically, this position allowed the rulers of Derbent to control land traffic between the Eurasian Steppe and the Middle East. The only other practicable crossing of the Caucasus ridge was over the Darial Gorge.

The first intensive settlement in the Derbent area dates from the 8th century BCE; the site was intermittently controlled by the Persian monarchs, starting from the 6th century BCE. Until the 4th century CE, it was part of Caucasian Albania and is traditionally identified with Albana, the capital. The modern name is a Persian word (دربند Darband) meaning "gateway", which came into use in the end of the 5th or the beginning of the 6th century CE, when the city was re-established by Kavadh I of the Sassanid dynasty of Persia.

The 20-meter (66 ft) high walls with thirty north-looking towers are believed to belong to the time of Kavadh''s son, Khosrau I. The chronicler Movses Kagankatvatsi wrote about "the wondrous walls, for whose construction the Persian kings exhausted our country, recruiting architects and collecting building materials with a view of constructing a great edifice stretching between the Caucasus Mountains and the Great Eastern Sea." Derbent became a strong military outpost and harbour of the Sassanid empire. During the 5th and 6th centuries, Derbent also became an important center for spreading the Christian faith in the Caucasus.

Movses Kagankatvatsi left a graphic description of the sack of Derbent by the hordes of Tong Yabghu of the Western Turkic Khaganate in 627. His successor, Böri Shad, proved unable to consolidate Tong Yabghu''s conquests, and the city was retaken by the Persians. In 654, Derbent was captured by the Arabs, who transformed it into an important administrative center and introduced Islam to the area. Because of its strategic position on the northern branch of the Silk Route, the fortress was contested by the Khazars in the course of the Khazar-Arab Wars. The Sassanids had also brought Armenians from Syunik to help protect the pass from invaders; as Arab rule weakened in the region at the end of the ninth century, the Armenians living there were able to establish a kingdom of their own, which lasted until the early years of the thirteenth century.

Sassanian fortress in Derbent

Excavations on the eastern side of the Caspian Sea, opposite to Derbent, revealed the Great Wall of Gorgan, the eastern counterpart to the wall and fortifications of Derbent. Similar Sassanian defensive fortifications there—massive forts, garrison towns, long walls—also run from the sea to the mountains.

The Caliph Harun al-Rashid lived in Derbent and brought it into great repute as a seat of the arts and commerce. According to Arab historians, Derbent, with population exceeding 50,000, was the largest city of the 9th century Caucasus. In the 10th century, with the collapse of the Arab Caliphate, Derbent became the capital of an emirate. This emirate often fought losing wars with the neighboring Christian state of Sarir, allowing Sarir to occasionally manipulate Derbent politics. Despite that, the emirate outlived its rival and continued to flourish at the time of the Mongol invasion in 1239.

In the 14th century, Derbent was occupied by Timur''s armies. In 1437, it fell under the control of the Shirvanshahs of Azerbaijan. Conquered by Shah Ismail of Iran during the 16th century, and while occasionally briefly taken by the Ottoman Turks such as in 1583 after the Battle of Torches and the Treaty of Istanbul, Derbent stayed under intermittent Persian suzerainty till the early 19th century.

Being briefly taken by the Russians under Peter the Great during the Persian expedition of (1722-23) by Peter the Great, the 1735 Treaty of Ganja formed by Imperial Russia and Afsharid Persia, forced Russia to return Derbent and it''s mighty bastion back to Persia. In 1747, Derbent became the capital of the Derbent Khanate of the same name.

During the Persian Expedition of 1796, Derbent was stormed by Russian forces under Valerian Zubov. As a consequence of the Treaty of Gulistan of 1813—between Russian and Persia—Derbent became part of the Russian Empire.

The Caspian Gates

A large portion of the walls and several watchtowers still remain in reasonable shape. The walls, reaching to the sea, date from the 6th century, Sassanid dynasty period. The city has a well-preserved citadel (Narin-kala), enclosing an area of 4.5 hectares (11 acres), enclosed by strong walls. Historical attractions include the baths, the cisterns, the old cemeteries, the caravanserai, the 18th-century Khan''s mausoleum, as well as several mosques. The oldest mosque is the Juma Mosque, built over a 6th-century Christian basilica; it has a 15th-century madrassa. Other shrines include the 17th-century Kyrhlyar mosque, the Bala mosque and the 18th-century Chertebe mosque.


The modern city is built near the western shores of the Caspian Sea, south of the Rubas River, on the slopes of the Tabasaran Mountains (part of the Bigger Caucasus range). Derbent is well served by public transport, with its own harbor, a railway going south to Baku, and the Baku to Rostov-on-Don road.

To the north of the town is the monument of the Kirk-lar, or forty heroes, who fell defending Dagestan against the Arabs in 728. To the south lies the seaward extremity of the Caucasian wall (fifty metres long), otherwise known as Alexander''s Wall, blocking the narrow pass of the Iron Gate or Caspian Gates (Portae Athanae or Portae Caspiae). When intact, the wall had a height of 29 ft (9 m) and a thickness of about 10 ft (3 m) and, with its iron gates and numerous watch-towers, defended Persia''s frontier.

Climate Climate data for Derbent Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year Record high °C (°F) Average high °C (°F) Daily mean °C (°F) Average low °C (°F) Record low °C (°F) Precipitation mm (inches) Avg. precipitation days
17.0 (62.6) 25.0 (77) 18.0 (64.4) 24.0 (75.2) 31.0 (87.8) 41.0 (105.8) 38.0 (100.4) 40.0 (104) 34.0 (93.2) 27.0 (80.6) 23.4 (74.1) 19.0 (66.2) 41.0 (105.8)
5.0 (41) 4.3 (39.7) 7.5 (45.5) 13.2 (55.8) 19.4 (66.9) 24.6 (76.3) 27.9 (82.2) 27.5 (81.5) 23.3 (73.9) 16.7 (62.1) 11.6 (52.9) 7.7 (45.9) 16.0 (60.8)
2.7 (36.9) 2.0 (35.6) 5.0 (41) 10.2 (50.4) 16.1 (61) 21.4 (70.5) 24.7 (76.5) 24.2 (75.6) 20.0 (68) 13.8 (56.8) 9.2 (48.6) 5.3 (41.5) 13.2 (55.8)
0.6 (33.1) −0.2 (31.6) 2.8 (37) 7.4 (45.3) 12.7 (54.9) 17.7 (63.9) 21.3 (70.3) 20.7 (69.3) 16.6 (61.9) 10.9 (51.6) 6.7 (44.1) 3.1 (37.6) 10.3 (50.5)
−14.0 (6.8) −10.9 (12.4) −14.0 (6.8) 0.1 (32.2) 1.9 (35.4) 10.0 (50) 12.9 (55.2) 9.0 (48.2) 6.0 (42.8) −1.0 (30.2) −3.9 (25) −12.0 (10.4) −14.0 (6.8)
13.1 (0.516) 21.2 (0.835) 19.3 (0.76) 12.0 (0.472) 16.0 (0.63) 17.4 (0.685) 33.7 (1.327) 16.2 (0.638) 26.0 (1.024) 34.3 (1.35) 17.9 (0.705) 29.4 (1.157) 256.5 (10.099)
15.3 15.3 10.2 7.6 5.8 2.8 2.9 6.6 7.7 10.1 10.6 10.0 104.9
Administrative and municipal status

Within the framework of administrative divisions, Derbent serves as the administrative center of Derbentsky District, even though it is not a part of it. As an administrative division, it is incorporated separately as the City of Derbent—an administrative unit with the status equal to that of the districts. As a municipal division, the City of Derbent is incorporated as Derbent Urban Okrug.


The main ethnic groups are (2002 Census):

  • Lezgins (32.6%)
  • Azerbaijanis (31.7%)
  • Tabasarans (15.4%)
  • Dargins (5.5%)
  • Russians (5.0%)
  • Aghuls (2.9%)
  • Rutuls (0.7%)
Jewish community

Jews began to settle in Derbent in ancient times and, during the Khazars'' reign, were an important part of the city. Jews living there are mentioned in the 12th century by Benjamin of Tudela, and in the 13th by the Christian traveler Wilhelm of Rubruquis. The first mention of Jews in Derbent in modern times is by the German traveler Adam Olearius in the 17th century. Derbent''s Jewry suffered during the wars in the 18th century; Nadir Shah of Persia forced many Jews to adopt Islam. After the Russian conquest, many of the Jewish occupants of rural Dagestan fled to Derbent, which became the spiritual center of the mountain Jews. The Jewish population numbered 2,200 in 1897 (15% of total population) and 3,500 in 1903. In 1989, there were 13,000 Jews in the city, most of whom emigrated after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. In 2002, there were 2,000 Jews living in Derbent along with an active synagogue and community center. The chief rabbi in Derbent is Obadiah Isakov, who became a rabbi in 2004. On July 25, 2013, an assassination attempt on Isakov''s life was made by an unknown person near his home, badly injuring him. The incident sparked concerns among the local Jews of further acts against the Jewish community.

Economy and culture

The city is home to machine building, food, textile, fishing and fishery supplies, construction materials and wood industries. It is the center of Russian brandy production. The educational infrastructure includes a university as well as several technical schools. On the cultural front, there is a Lezgin drama theater (named after S. Stalsky). About two kilometers (1.2 miles) from the city is the vacation colony of Chayka (Seagull).

Derbent resembles a huge museum and has magnificent mountains and shore nearby, and therefore possesses much touristic potential, further increased by UNESCO''s classification of the citadel, ancient city and fortress as a World Heritage Site in 2003; however, instability in the region has retarded development.

The Soviet novelist Yury Krymov named a fictional motor tanker after the city in his book The Tanker "Derbent".

Notable people
  • Michail Dadashev, writer, poet, economist, translator and historian of Mountain Jews language and heritage.
  • Sergey Izgiyayev, poet, playwright and translator of Mountain Jewish descent
  • Yagutil Mishiev, writer
  • Israel Tsvaygenbaum, artist
  • Igor Yusufov, politician
  • Najmaddin Sadigov, Chief of General Staff of Azerbaijani Armed Forces and Deputy Minister of Defense of Azerbaijan Republic.
  • Rustam Khabilov, sambist and UFC fighter
  • Bella Nisan, ophthalmologist
Twin towns and sister cities

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