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Darband is built around a Sassanid fortress, the only one preserved in the world. The fortress has been continuously used for some 1500 years.

Derbent (Дербе́нт) (Persian دربند Darband) is the southernmost city in the Russian Federation, and it is the second most important city of Dagestan, with a population of over 90,000. The Azeris are the main ethnic group, followed by Lezgins and Tabasarans.

Derbent claims to be the oldest city in the Russian Federation. Since antiquity the value of the area as the gate to the Caucasus has been understood and Derbent has archaeological structures over 5000 years old. As a result of this geographic particularity the city developed between two walls, stretching from the mountains to the sea. Over the years different nations gave the city different names, but all connected to the word 'gate'.


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

Derbent has a unique strategic location in the Caucasus: the city is situated on a thin strip of land (3 km) between the Caspian sea and the Caucasus mountains, controlling land traffic between south-eastern Europe and the Middle East.

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 (50 m long), otherwise known as Alexander's Wall, blocking the narrow pass of the Iron Gate or Caspian Gates (Portae Athanae or Portae Caspiae). This, when entire, 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 formed a valuable defence of the Persian frontier.


The first intensive settlement in the Derbent area dates from the 8th century BC. Until the 4th century AD it was part of Caucasian Albania, and is usually identified with Albana, the capital. The modern name, a Persian word (دربند Darband) meaning "closed gates", came into use in the end of the 5th or the beginning of the 6th century, when the city was refounded by Kavadh I of the Sassanid dynasty of Persia. The walls and the citadel are believed to belong to the time of Kavadh's son, Khosrau I. Derbent becamse a strong military outpost and harbour of the Sassanid empire. During the 5th and 6th centuries Derbent becomes also an important centre for spreading the Christianity faith in the Caucasus.

During the 630s it was invaded by the Khazar khanate. In 654 Derbent was captured by the Arabs, who transformed it in an important administrative centre and introduced Islam to the area. The Caliph Harun al-Rashid spent time living in Derbent, and brought it into great repute as a seat of the arts and commerce. In the 10th century, with the collapse of the Arab Caliphate, Derbent became an emirate, until its invasion by the Mongols in 1239.

In the 14th century it was occupied by the hordes of the Tatar warlord Timur. In 1437 it fell under the control of the Shirvan Khan. During the 16th century Derbent was the arena for wars between Turkey and Persia ruled by the Persian Safavid dynasty. By the early 17th century the Safavid Shah Abbas I inflicted a serious defeat on the Turks and recoverd Derbent.

By the 1735 Ganja treaty Derbent fell within the Persian state. In 1747 Derbent became the capital of the khanate of the same name. In 1722 Peter the Great of Russia wrested the town from the Persians, but in 1736 the supremacy of Nadir Shah was again recognized. Finally in 1796 it was occupied by Russian forces involved in the 2nd Persian campaign. As a consequence of the Gulistan Treaty of 1813 — between Russian and Persia — Derbent became part of the Russian empire.

A large portion of the walls and several watchtowers have been preserved in reasonable shape till our days. The walls, reaching until the sea, date from the 6th century, Sassanid dynasty period. The city has a well preserved citadel (Narin-kala), comprising an area of 45,000 m², enclosed by strong walls. Historical attractions include the baths, the cisterns, the old cemeteries, the caravanserai, the 18th century Khan's mausoleum, the Armenian Church as well as several mosques: the most interesting built from a 6th century Christian basilica is the Juma Mosque (with a 15th century madrassa); the 17th century Kyrhlyar mosque, the Bala mosque and the 18th century Chertebe mosque.

Economy and Culture

The city is home to machine building, food (even a brewery and wineries!), textile, fishing and fishery supplies, construction materials and wood industries. The education infrastructure is quite good; there is a university as well as several technical schools. On the cultural front, there is a Lezgin drama theatre (S. Stalsky theatre). About 2 km from the city is the vacation colony of 'Chayka' (Seagull).

Derbent being in practice a huge museum and with magnificent mountains and shore nearby, a great potential for development of the tourism industry exists, further increased by UNESCO's classification of the Citadel, Ancient City and Fortress as 'world heritage' in 2003, however instability in the region hasn't allowed further development (Russian visa procedures are also not very helpful.)

Note: Some text used with permission from The original text can be found here (Дербент de:Derbent nl:Derbent


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