Baku

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Baku
Bakı
Details of the façade of Dede Qorqut on the Ismailiyya building Maiden Tower of Baku Philharmony Fountain in front of the Magomayev Philharmonic Hall A vessel on the Bay of Baku Baku BoulevardBaku montage. Clicking on an image in the picture causes the browser to load the appropriate article.
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Coat of arms of Baku
Coat of arms
Nickname(s): City of Winds
Baku is located in Azerbaijan
Baku
Baku
Location in Azerbaijan
Coordinates: 40°23′43″N 49°52′56″E / 40.39528°N 49.88222°E / 40.39528; 49.88222Coordinates: 40°23′43″N 49°52′56″E / 40.39528°N 49.88222°E / 40.39528; 49.88222
Country  Azerbaijan
Government
 • Mayor Hajibala Abutalybov
Area[1]
 • Total 2,130 km2 (820 sq mi)
Elevation −28 m (−92 ft)
Population (2012)[2]
 • Total 2,122,300
 • Density 996.38/km2 (2,580.6/sq mi)
Demonym Bakili
Time zone AZT (UTC+4)
 • Summer (DST) AZST (UTC+5)
Postal code AZ1000
Area code(s) (+994) 12
Vehicle registration 10-90 AZ
Website www.baku-ih.gov.az
Official name: Walled City of Baku with the Shirvanshah's Palace and Maiden Tower
Type: Cultural
Criteria: iv
Designated: 2000 (24th session)
Reference No. 958
Endangered: 2003–2009
State Party: Azerbaijan
Region: Europe and Asia

Baku (Azerbaijani: Bakı, IPA: [bɑˈcɯ]) is the capital and largest city of Azerbaijan, as well as the largest city on the Caspian Sea and of the Caucasus region. Baku is located 28 metres (92 ft) below sea level, which makes it the lowest lying national capital in the world. Baku is also the largest city in the world located below sea level. It is located on the southern shore of the Absheron Peninsula, which projects into the Caspian Sea. The city consists of two principal parts: the downtown area and the old Inner City (21.5 ha). At the beginning of 2009, Baku's urban population was estimated at just over two million people.[3] Officially, about 25 percent of all inhabitants of the country live in Baku's metropolitan area.

Baku is divided into eleven administrative districts (raions) and 48 townships. Among these are the townships on islands in the Baku Bay and the town of Oil Rocks built on stilts in the Caspian Sea, 60 km (37 mi) away from Baku. The Inner City of Baku along with the Shirvanshah's Palace and Maiden Tower were inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000. According to the Lonely Planet's ranking, Baku is also among the world's top ten destinations for urban nightlife.[4]

The city is the scientific, cultural and industrial center of Azerbaijan. Many sizeable Azerbaijani institutions have their headquarters there, including SOCAR, one of the world's top 100 companies and others.[5] The Baku International Sea Trade Port, sheltered by the islands of the Baku Archipelago to the east and the Absheron Peninsula to the north, is capable of handling two million tons of general and dry bulk cargoes per year.[6] In recent years Baku has become an important venue for international events. It hosted the 57th Eurovision Song Contest in 2012 and will host the 2015 European Games.

Etymology[edit]

The name Baku is widely believed to be derived from the old Persian names of the city باد-کوبه Bād-kube, meaning "Wind-pounded city", in which bād means "wind" and kube is rooted in the verb کوبیدن kubidan, "to pound", thus referring to a place where wind is strong and pounding.[7] Indeed, the city is renowned for its fierce winter snow storms and harsh winds. This is also reflected in the city's nickname as the "City of Winds". A less probable folk etymology explains the name as deriving from Baghkuy, meaning "God's town". Baga (now بغ bagh) and kuy are the Old Persian words for "god" and "town" respectively; the name Baghkuy may be compared with Baghdād ("God-given") in which dād is the Old Persian word for "give". Arabic sources refer to the city as Baku, Bakukh, Bakuya, and Bakuye, all of which seem to come from a Persian name.

Various different politically motivated hypotheses have been also proposed to explain the etymology of the word Baku to suit a given political agenda . According to L.G.Lopatinski[8] and Ali Huseynzade,[9] for example, Baku is derived from Turkic word for "hill". Caucasian history specialist Kerope Patkanov also explains the name as "hill" but in the Lak language.[9] The Turkish Islamic Encyclopedia presents the origin of the word Baku as being derived from the words Bey-Kyoy, which mean "the main city" in Turkic. Another theory suggests that the name Baku is derived from the ancient Caucasian Albanian city which was called Baguan.[citation needed]

History[edit]

Main article: History of Baku

Antiquity[edit]

Roman stone inscription in Gobustan dating back to 84-96 A.D.

Around 100,000 years ago, the territory of modern Baku and Absheron was savanna with rich flora and fauna. Traces of human settlement go back to the Stone age. From the Bronze age there have been rock carvings discovered near Bayil, and a bronze figure of a small fish discovered in the territory of the Old City. This have led some to suggest the existence of a Bronze Age settlement within the city's territory.[10] Near Nardaran, in a place called Umid Gaya, a prehistoric observatory was discovered, where on the rock the images of sun and various constellations are carved together with a primitive astronomic table.[11] Further archeological excavations revealed various prehistoric settlements, native temples, statues and other artifacts within the territory of the modern city and around it.

In the 1st century, Romans organized two Caucasian campaigns and reached Baku. Near the city, in Gobustan, Roman inscriptions dating from 84–96 AD were discovered. This is one of the earliest written evidences for Baku.[12]

Rise of the Shirvanshahs and the Safavid era[edit]

See also: Shirvanshah
A miniature painting marking the downfall of the Shirvanshahs at the hands of the Safavids.

During the 8th century Baku was the realm of the Shirvanshahs. The city frequently came under assault of the Khazars and (starting from the 10th century) the Rus. Shirvanshah Akhsitan I built a navy in Baku and successfully repelled another Rus assault in 1170. After a devastating earthquake struck Shamakhy, the capital of Shirvan, Shirvanshah’s court moved to Baku in 1191.[13]

Relics from the sunken Sabayil Castle.

The Shirvan era greatly influence Baku and the remainder of Azerbaijan. Between the 12th and 14th centuries, massive fortifications were undertaken in Baku and the surrounding towns. The Maiden Tower, the Ramana Tower, the Nardaran Fortress, the Shagan Castle, the Mardakan Castle, the Round Castle and also the famous Sabayil Castle on the island of the Bay of Baku was built during this period. The city walls of Baku were also rebuilt and strengthened.

By the early 16th century Baku's wealth and strategic position attracted the focus of its larger neighbors, and had already been ruled in the previous two centuries by the in Persia centred Kara Koyunlu and Ak Koyunlu. The fall of the Ak Koyunlu brought the city immediately into the sphere of the newly formed Safavid dynasty, who, led by Shah Ismail I laid siege to Baku in 1501 and captured it making it an integral part of his empire for the next centuries to come. The House of Shirvan, who ruled Baku since the 9th century, was extinguished.

At this time the city was enclosed within the lines of strong walls, which were washed by the sea on one side and protected by a wide trench on land. In 1540 Baku was again captured by the Safavid troops following an occupation by the Ottomans as a result of the Battle of Chaldiran. In 1578 the Ottomans captured Baku and held it till 1603, when it was again put under Persian control.[14] In 1604 the Baku fortress was destroyed by Shah Abbas I.

Downfall of the Safavids and the Khanate of Baku[edit]

The fall of the Iranian Safavids gave rise to the various Azerbaijani khanates, who most of them were already established in the late Safavid era while the rest of them were established during the rule of Iranian ruler Nader Shah. After the death of Nader Shah in 1747, the semi-independent principality of Baku Khanate was formed. It was ruled by Mirza Muhammed Khan but soon became a dependency of the much stronger Quba Khanate. During the time, the population of Baku was small (approximately 5,000), and the economy was ruined as a result of constant warfare.

Russian conquest[edit]

Painting of Baku's shoreline in 1861 by Alexey Bogolyubov.

On 26 June 1723, after a long siege, Baku surrendered to the Russians and the Safavids were forced to cede the city alongside many other of their Caucasian territories. By 1730, the situation had deteriorated for the Russians as Nadir Shah's successes in Shirvan forced the Russians to make an agreement near Ganja on 10 March 1735, ceding the city and all other conquered territories in the Caucasus back to Persia.

By the end of the 18th century, Tsarist Russia now began a more firm policy with the intent to conquer all of the Caucasus at the expense of Persia and Ottoman Turkey. In the spring of 1796, by Yekaterina II’s order, General Valerian Zubov’s troops started a large campaign in the North Caucasus and Transcaucasia against Qajar Persia following the sack of Tblisi and Persia's aim to restore it's suzerainity over Georgia and Dagestan. Zubov had sent 13,000 men to capture Baku, and it was overrun subsequently without any resistance. On 13 June 1796, a Russian flotilla entered Baku Bay, and a garrison of Russian troops was placed inside the city. Later, however, Pavel I ordered the cessation of the campaign and the withdrawal of Russian forces following his predecessor, Catherine the Great her death.. In March 1797, the tsarist troops left Baku.[citation needed]

In 1813, following the Russo-Persian War (1804-1813), Russia signed the Treaty of Gulistan with Persia, which provided for the cession of Baku and most of its territories in the North Caucasus and South Caucasus to Russia.

Discovery of oil[edit]

Oil workers, known as 'Neftchiler', digging an oil well by hand at Bibi-Heybat.

The first oil well was mechanically drilled in the Bibi-Heybat suburb of Baku in 1846, though a number of hand-dug wells predate it. Large-scale oil exploration started in 1872, when Russian imperial authorities auctioned the parcels of oil-rich land around Baku to private investors. Within a short period of time Swiss, British, French, Belgian, German, Swedish and American investors appeared in Baku. Among them were the firms of the Nobel brothers together with the family von Börtzell-Szuch (Carl Knut Börtzell, who also owned the Livadia Palace) and the Rothschild family. An industrial oil belt, better known as Black City, was established near Baku.

Professor A. V. Williams Jackson of Columbia University wrote in his work From Constantinople to the Home of Omar Khayyam (1911):

Baku is a city founded upon oil, for to its inexhaustible founts of naphtha it owes its very existence, its maintenance, its prosperity.... At present Baku produces one-fifth of the oil that is used in the world, and the immense output in crude petroleum from this single city far surpasses that in any other district where oil is found. Verily, the words of the Scriptures find illustration here: 'the rock poured me out rivers of oil.

Oil is in the air one breathes, in one's nostrils, in one's eyes, in the water of the morning bath (though not in the drinking water, for that is brought in bottles from distant mineral springs), in one's starched linen – everywhere. This is the impression one carries away from Baku, and it is certainly true in the environs.[15]

By the beginning of the 20th century almost half of world production was being extracted in Baku.[16] The oil boom contributed to the massive growth of Baku. Between 1856 and 1910 Baku's population grew at a faster rate than that of London, Paris or New York.

World War I[edit]

Soldiers and officers of the army of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic shortly after the Battle of Baku.
Neftchiler Avenue in Baku, circa 1920.

In 1917, after the October revolution and amidst the turmoil of World War I and the breakup of the Russian Empire, Baku came under the control of the Baku Commune, which was led by veteran Bolshevik Stepan Shaumyan. Seeking to capitalize on the existing inter-ethnic conflicts, by spring 1918, Bolsheviks inspired and condoned civil warfare in and around Baku. During the infamous March Days, Bolsheviks and Dashnaks seeking to establish control over the Baku streets, were faced with armed Azerbaijani groups. The Azerbaijanis suffered a crushing defeat by the united forces of the Baku Soviet and were massacred by Dashnak teams. An estimated 12.000 Azerbaijanis were killed in their own capital.[17][18] After the massacre, on 28 May 1918, the Azerbaijani faction of the Transcaucasian Sejm proclaimed the independence of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (ADR) in Ganja, thereby becoming the first Muslim-majority democratic and secular republic.[19] Shortly after, Azerbaijani forces, with support of the Ottoman Army of Islam led by Nuru Pasha, started their advance into Baku, eventually capturing the city from the loose coalition of Bolsheviks, Esers, Dashnaks, Mensheviks and British forces under the command of General Lionel Dunsterville on 15 September 1918. Baku became the capital of the ADR.

Soviet conquest[edit]

Bakili poets and intellectuals like Mikayil Mushfig were executed during the Stalinist purges in the USSR.

The independence of the Azerbaijani republic was a significant but a short lived chapter. On 28 April 1920, the 11th Red Army invaded Baku and reinstalled the Bolsheviks, making Baku the capital of the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic.

The city underwent many major changes. As a result, Baku played a great role in many branches of the Soviet life. Since about 1921, the city was headed by the Baku City Executive Committee, commonly known in Russian as Bakgorispolkom. Together with the Baku Party Committee (known as the Baksovet), it developed the economic significance of the Caspian metropolis. From 1922 to 1930, Baku was the venue for one of the major Trade fairs of the Soviet Union, serving as a commercial bridgehead to Iran and the Middle East.[20]

World War II[edit]

Baku's growing importance as a major energy hub remained in sight of the major powers. During World War II and the Nazi German invasion of the southwestern Soviet Union, Baku had become of vital strategic importance. In fact, capturing the oil fields of Baku was one of the ultimate goals of Operation Edelweiss, carried out between May and November 1942. However the German Army's closest approach to Baku was no closer than some 530 kilometres (329 miles) northwest of Baku in November 1942, falling far short of the city's capture before being driven back during the Soviet Operation Little Saturn in mid-December 1942.

Fall of the Soviet Union[edit]

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Baku embarked on a process of restructuring on a scale unseen in its history.[21] Thousands of buildings from Soviet period were demolished to make way for a green belt on its shores; parks and gardens were built on the land reclaimed by filling up the beaches of the Baku Bay. Improvements were made in the general cleaning, maintenance, and garbage collection, and these services are now at Western European standards. The city is growing dynamically and developing at full speed on an east-west axis along the shores of the Caspian Sea.

Geography[edit]

Greater Baku satellite image, Landsat 5, 6 September 2010

Baku is situated on the western coast of Caspian Sea. In the vicinity of the city there are a number of mud volcanoes (Keyraki, Bogkh-bogkha, Lokbatan and others) and salt lakes (Boyukshor, Khodasan and so on).

Climate[edit]

Baku has a subtropical semi-arid climate (Köppen climate classification: BSk) with warm and dry summers, cool and occasionally wet winters, and strong winds all year long. However, unlike many other cities with this climate, Baku does not see extremely hot summers. This is largely because of its northerly latitude and the fact that it is located on a peninsula on the shore of the Caspian Sea. Baku and the Absheron Peninsula on which it is situated, is the most arid part of Azerbaijan (precipitation here is around or less than 200 mm (8 in) a year). The majority of the light annual precipitation occurs in seasons other than summer, but none of these months are particularly wet. During Soviet times, Baku with its long hours of sunshine and dry healthy climate, was a vacation destination where citizens could enjoy beaches or relax in now-dilapidated spa complexes overlooking the Caspian Sea. The city's past as a Soviet industrial center has left it as one of the most polluted cities in the world.[22]

At the same time Baku is noted as a very windy city throughout the year, hence the city's nickname the "City of Winds", and gale-force winds, the cold northern wind khazri and the warm southern wind gilavar are typical here in all seasons. Indeed, the city is renowned for its fierce winter snow storms and harsh winds.[7] The speed of the khazri sometimes reaches 144 kph (89 mph), which can cause damage to crops, trees and roof tiles.[23]

The daily mean temperature in July and August averages 26.4 °C (79.5 °F), and there is very little rainfall during that season. During summer the khazri sweeps through, bringing desired coolness. Winter is cool and occasionally wet, with the daily mean temperature in January and February averaging 4.3 °C (39.7 °F). During winter the khazri sweeps through, driven by polar air masses; temperatures on the coast frequently drop below freezing and make it feel bitterly cold. Winter snow storms are occasional; snow usually melts within a few days after each snowfall.

The average annual temperature in Baku and that of the Earth differ by less than 0.1 °C (0.18 °F): it is 14.2 °C (57.6 °F).[24]

Climate data for Baku
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 6.6
(43.9)
6.3
(43.3)
9.8
(49.6)
16.4
(61.5)
22.1
(71.8)
27.3
(81.1)
30.6
(87.1)
29.7
(85.5)
25.6
(78.1)
19.6
(67.3)
13.5
(56.3)
9.7
(49.5)
18.1
(64.6)
Daily mean °C (°F) 4.4
(39.9)
4.2
(39.6)
7.0
(44.6)
12.9
(55.2)
18.5
(65.3)
23.5
(74.3)
26.4
(79.5)
26.3
(79.3)
22.5
(72.5)
16.6
(61.9)
11.2
(52.2)
7.3
(45.1)
15.1
(59.2)
Average low °C (°F) 2.1
(35.8)
2.0
(35.6)
4.2
(39.6)
9.4
(48.9)
14.9
(58.8)
19.7
(67.5)
22.2
(72)
22.9
(73.2)
19.4
(66.9)
13.6
(56.5)
8.8
(47.8)
4.8
(40.6)
12.0
(53.6)
Precipitation mm (inches) 21
(0.83)
20
(0.79)
21
(0.83)
18
(0.71)
18
(0.71)
8
(0.31)
2
(0.08)
6
(0.24)
15
(0.59)
25
(0.98)
30
(1.18)
26
(1.02)
210
(8.27)
Avg. precipitation days (≥ 0.1 mm) 6 6 5 4 3 2 1 2 2 6 6 6 49
Avg. snowy days (≥ 1 cm) 4 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 10
Mean monthly sunshine hours 89.9 89.0 124.0 195.0 257.3 294.0 313.1 282.1 222.0 145.7 93.0 102.3 2,207.4
Source #1: World Meteorological Organisation (UN),[25] Hong Kong Observatory[26] for data of sunshine hours
Source #2: Meoweather (Snowy days)[27]

Administrative divisions[edit]

Today, Baku is divided into 12 raions (administrative districts) and 5 settlements of city type.[28][29] The mayor, presently Hajibala Abutalybov, embodies the executive power of the city.[30]

Demographics[edit]

Year Azerbaijanis  % Russians  % Armenians  % Jews  % Others  % Total
1851[31] 405 5.5% 7,431
1886[32] 37,530 43.3 21,390 24.7 24,490 28.3 391 0.5 2,810 3.2 86,611
1897[33] 40,341 36 37,399 33.4 19,099 17.1 3,369 3 11,696 10.5 111,904
1903[34] 44,257 28,4 59,955 38,5 26,151 16,8 n.a. n.a. 28,513 18,3 155,876
1913[34] 45,962 21,4 76,288 35,5 41,680 19,4 9,690 4,5 41,052 19,1 214,672
1926[35] 118,737 26.2 167,373 36.9 76,656 16.9 19,589 4.3 70,978 15.7 453,333
1939[36] 215,482 27.4 343,064 43.6 118,650 15.1 31,050 3.9 79,377 10.1 787,623
1959[37] 211,372 32.9 223,242 34.7 137,111 21.3 24,057 3.7 56,725 8.7 652,507
1970[38] 586,052 46.3 351,090 27.7 207,464 16.4 29,716 2.3 88,193 6.9 1,262,515
1979[39] 530,556 52.4 229,873 22.7 167,226 16.5 22,916 2.3 62,865 6.2 1,013,436
1999[40] 1,574,252 88 119,371 6.7 378 0.02 5,164 0.3 89,689 5 1,788,854
2009[41] 1,848,107 90.3 108,525 5.3 104 0 6,056 0.6 83,023 4.1 2,045,815

Until 1988 Baku had very large Russian, Armenian, and Jewish populations which contributed to cultural diversity and added in various ways (music, literature, architecture and progressive outlook) to Baku's history. With the onset of the Karabakh War and the pogrom against Armenians starting in January 1990, the city's large Armenian population was expelled.[42][43] Under Communism, the Soviets took over the majority of Jewish property in Baku and Kuba. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev returned several synagogues and a Jewish college, nationalized by the Soviets, to the Jewish community. He encouraged the restoration of these buildings and is well liked by the Jews of Azerbaijan. Renovation has begun on seven of the original 11 synagogues, including the Gilah synagogue, built in 1896, and the large Kruei Synagogue.[44]

Ethnic groups[edit]

Today the vast majority of the population of Baku are ethnic Azerbaijanis (more than 90%). The intensive growth of the population started in the middle of the 19th century when Baku was a small town with a population of about 7,000 people. The population increased again from about 13,000 in the 1860s to 112,000 in 1897 and 215,000 in 1913, making Baku the largest city in the Caucasus region.[45]

Baku has been a cosmopolitan city at certain times during its history, meaning ethnic Azerbaijanis did not constitute the majority of population.[46] In 2003 Baku additionally had 153,400 internally displaced persons and 93,400 refugees.[47]

Religion[edit]

The 13th century Bibi-Heybat Mosque. The mosque was built over the tomb of a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad.[48]

The urban landscape of Baku is shaped by many communities. The religion with the largest community of followers is Islam. The majority of the Muslims are Shia Muslims, and the Republic of Azerbaijan has the second highest Shia population percentage in the world after Iran.[49] Zoroastrianism had a long history in Azerbaijan, evident in sites such as the Fire Temple of Baku[50] or ceremonies like Nowruz, along with Manichean. The city's notable mosques include Juma Mosque, Bibi-Heybat Mosque, Muhammad Mosque and Taza Pir Mosque.

There are some other faiths practiced among the different ethnic groups within the country. By article 48 of its Constitution, Azerbaijan is a secular state and ensures religious freedom. Religious minorities include Russian Orthodox Christians, Catholic Levantines, Ashkenazi Jews and Sufi Muslims.

Economy[edit]

Downtown Baku, with the Flame Towers in the background.

Baku's largest industry is petroleum, and its petroleum exports make it a large contributor to Azerbaijan's balance of payments. The existence of petroleum has been known since the 8th century. In the 10th century, the Arabian traveler, Marudee, reported that both white and black oil were being extracted naturally from Baku.[51] By the 15th century, oil for lamps was obtained from hand-dug surface wells. Commercial exploitation began in 1872, and by the beginning of the 20th century the Baku oil fields were the largest in the world. Towards the end of the 20th century much of the onshore petroleum had been exhausted, and drilling had extended into the sea offshore. By the end of the 19th century skilled workers and specialists flocked to Baku. By 1900 the city had more than 3,000 oil wells, of which 2,000 were producing oil at industrial levels. Baku ranked as one of the largest centres for the production of oil industry equipment before World War II. The World War II Battle of Stalingrad was fought to determine who would have control of the Baku oil fields. Fifty years before the battle, Baku produced half of the world's oil supply.[52]

Currently the oil economy of Baku is undergoing a resurgence, with the development of the massive Azeri-Chirag-Guneshli field (Shallow water Gunashli by SOCAR, deeper areas by a consortium led by BP), development of the Shah Deniz gas field, the expansion of the Sangachal Terminal and the construction of the BTC Pipeline.

The Baku Stock Exchange is Azerbaijan's largest stock exchange, and largest in the Caucasian region by market capitalization. A relatively large number of transnational companies are headquartered in Baku. One of the more prominent institutions headquartered in Baku is the International Bank of Azerbaijan, which is run by Dr. Jahangir Hajiyev and employs over 1,000 people. International banks with branches in Baku include HSBC, Société Générale and Credit Suisse.[53]

Tourism and shopping[edit]

Baku is one of the most important tourist destinations in the Caucasus, with hotels in the city earning 7 million euros in 2009.[54] Many sizable world hotel chains have a presence in the city. Baku has many popular tourist and entertainment spots, such as the downtown Fountains Square, the One and Thousand Nights Beach, Shikhov Beach and Oil Rocks. Baku's vicinities feature Yanar Dag, an ever-blazing spot of natural gas. On 2 September 2010, with the inauguration of National Flag Square, Baku became home to the world's tallest flagpole, according to the Guinness Book of Records.[55][56] However, on 24 May 2011 Baku lost this record by just 3m to the city of Dushanbe in Tajikistan.[57]

Baku has several shopping malls; the most famous city center malls are Park Bulvar, Metro Park, 28 MALL, Aygun city and AF MALL. The retail areas contain shops from chain stores up to high-end boutiques.

The city is listed 48th in the 2011 list of the most expensive cities in the world conducted by the Mercer Human Resource Consulting.[58] Its Nizami street is one of the most expensive streets in the world.

Culture[edit]

Gara Garayev, one of Baku's greatest composers.

The city has many amenities that offer a wide range of cultural activities, drawing both from a rich local dramatic portfolio and an international repertoire. It also boasts many museums such as Baku Museum of Modern Art and Azerbaijan State Museum of History, most notably featuring historical artifacts and art. Many of the city's cultural sites were celebrated in 2009 when Baku was designated an Islamic Culture Capital.[59] Baku was also chosen to host the Eurovision Dance Contest 2010.

Among Baku's prestigious cultural venues are Azerbaijan State Philharmonic Hall, Azerbaijan State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre. The main movie theatre is Azerbaijan Cinema. Festivals include the Baku International Film Festival, Baku International Jazz Festival, Novruz Festival, Gül Bayramı (Flower Festival) and the National Theater Festival.[60][61] International and local exhibitions are presented at the Baku Expo Center.

Architecture[edit]

Main article: Architecture in Baku
The Maiden Tower in Old Baku, a UNESCO World Heritage Site built in the 11th–12th century, recognized as the symbol of the city.

Baku has wildly varying architecture, ranging from the Old City core to modern buildings and the spacious layout of the Baku port. Many of the city's most impressive buildings were built during the early 20th Century, when architectural elements of the European styles were combined in eclectic style.[62] Baku thus has an original and unique appearance, earning it a reputation as the 'Paris of the East'.[63]

Late modern and postmodern architecture began to appear in the early 2000s. With economic development, old buildings such as Atlant House were razed to make way for new ones. Buildings with all-glass shells have appeared around the city, the most prominent examples being the Azerbaijan Tower, Heydar Aliyev Cultural Center, Flame Towers, Baku Crystal Hall, Baku White City and SOCAR Tower. These projects also caught the attention of international media as notable programs such as Discovery Channel's Extreme Engineering did pieces focusing in on changes to the city.[64]

The Old City of Baku, also known as the Walled City of Baku, refers to the ancient Baku settlement. Most of the walls and towers, strengthened after the Russian conquest in 1806, survived. This section is picturesque, with its maze of narrow alleys and ancient buildings: the cobbled streets past the Palace of the Shirvanshahs, two caravansaries, the baths and the Juma Mosque (which used to house the Azerbaijan National Carpet and Arts Museum but is now a mosque again). The old town core also has dozens of small mosques, often without any particular sign to distinguish them as such.

In 2003, UNESCO placed the Inner City on the List of World Heritage in Danger, citing damage from a November 2000 earthquake, poor conservation as well as "dubious" restoration efforts.[65]

Parks and gardens[edit]

Baku has large sections of greenery either preserved by the National Government or designated as green zones. The city, however, continues to lack a green belt development as economic activity pours into the capital, resulting in massive housing projects along the suburbs.[66]

Baku Boulevard is a pedestrian promenade that runs parallel to Baku's seafront. The boulevard contains an amusement park, yacht club, musical fountain, statues and monuments. The park is popular with dog-walkers and joggers, and is convenient for tourists. It is adjacent to the newly built International Center of Mugham and the musical fountain.

Other prominent parks and gardens include Heydar Aliyev Park, Samad Vurgun Park, Narimanov Park, Alley of Honor and the Fountains Square. The Martyrs' Lane, formerly the Kirov Park, is dedicated to the memory of those who lost their lives during the Nagorno-Karabakh War and also to the 137 people killed on Black January.

Nightlife[edit]

Baku boasts a vibrant nightlife. Many clubs that are open until dawn can be found throughout the city. Clubs with an eastern flavor provide special treats from the cuisine of Azerbaijan along with local music. Western-style clubs target younger, more energetic crowds.[67] Most of the public houses and bars are located near Fountains Square and are usually open until the early hours of the morning.

Baku is home to restaurants catering to every cuisine and occasion. Restaurants range from luxurious and expensive to ordinary and affordable.[68]

In the Lonely Planet "1000 Ultimate Experiences", Baku placed 8th among the top 10 party cities in the world.[4][69]

Music and media[edit]

The music scene in Baku can be traced back to ancient times and villages of Baku, generally revered as the fountainhead of meykhana and mugham in the Azerbaijan.[70][71]

In recent years, the success of Azerbaijani performers such as AySel, Farid Mammadov, Sabina Babayeva, Safura, Elnur Hüseynov and Arash in the Eurovision Song Contest has significantly boosted the profile of the Baku music scene, prompting international attention. Following the victory of Azerbaijan's representative Eldar & Nigar at the Eurovision Song Contest 2011, Baku hosted the Eurovision Song Contest 2012.[72][73]

2005 was a landmark in the development of Azerbaijani jazz in the city. Its been home to legendary jazz musicians like Vagif Mustafazadeh, Aziza Mustafa Zadeh, Rafig Babayev and Rain Sultanov.[74][75] Among Baku's prominent annual fairs and festivals is Baku International Jazz Festival, which features some of the world's most identifiable jazz names.[76][77]

Baku also has a thriving International Center of Mugham, which is located in Baku Boulevard, Gulustan Palace and Buta Palace, one of the principal performing arts centers and music venues in the city.[78]

The majority of Azerbaijan's media companies (including television, newspaper and radio, such as ANS, Azad Azerbaijan TV, Ictimai TV and Lider TV) are headquartered in Baku. The films The World Is Not Enough and The Diamond Arm are set in the city, while Amphibian Man includes several scenes filmed in Old City.

Out of the city's radio stations ANS ChM, Ictimai Radio, Radio Antenn, Burc FM, and Lider FM Jazz are some of the more influential competitors with large national audiences. ANS ChM was one of the first private and independent FM radio broadcasting service in the Caucasus and Central Asia regions when it was established in May 1994.[79]

Some of the most influential Baku newspapers include the daily Zaman (The Time), Bakinskiy Rabochiy (The Baku Worker), Echo and the English-language Baku Today.

Baku is also featured in the Battlefield 4's gameplay mission.[80]

Sports[edit]

Baku will host a Formula One race through the city streets starting in 2016.

Since 2002, Baku has hosted 36 major sporting events and selected to host the 2015 European Games.[81] Baku is also to host the fourth edition of the Islamic Solidarity Games in 2017.

Baku is also one of world's leading chess centres, having produced famous grandmasters like Teimour Radjabov, Vugar Gashimov, Garry Kasparov, and Rauf Mammadov, as well as the arbiter Faik Hasanov. The city also annually hosts the international tournaments such as Baku Chess Grand Prix, President's Cup, Baku Open and currently bidding to host 42nd Chess Olympiad in 2014.[82][83]

First class sporting facilities were built for the indoor games, including the Palace of Hand Games and Heydar Aliyev Sports and Exhibition Complex. It hosted many sporting events, including FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup, Rhythmic Gymnastics European Championships in 2007 and 2009, 2005 World Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships, 2007 FILA Wrestling World Championships and 2010 European Wrestling Championships, 2011 World Amateur Boxing Championships, 2009 Women's Challenge Cup and European Taekwondo Championships in 2007.[84][85] Since 2011 the city annually hosts WTA tennis event called Baku Cup.[86] In 2012, City Challenge GmbH brought its first motorsports event to the city.

The Synergy Baku Cycling Project participates in the Tour d'Azerbaïdjan a 2.2 multi-stage bicycle race on the UCI Europe Tour.

Baku made a bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympics and later made a bid for the 2020 Summer Olympics.[87] However, Baku failed to become a Candidate City both times.[88]

The largest sport hub in the city is Tofig Bahramov Stadium with 31,200 seating capacity. The city's three main football clubs are Neftchi Baku, FC Baku and Inter Baku of whom first has eight Premier League titles making Neftchi the most successful Azerbaijani football club. Baku also has several football clubs in the premier and regional leagues, including AZAL in Premier League. The Baku Olympic Stadium, a planned 65,000 seat football stadium, is currently under construction and will be based on Boyuk Shor settlement.[89]

In the Azerbaijan Women's Volleyball Super League, Baku is represented by Rabita Baku, Azerrail Baku, Lokomotiv Baku and Igtisadchi Baku.

Transport[edit]

Baku black cab, introduced in 2011

Throughout history the transport system of Baku used the now-defunct horsecars, trams and narrow gauge railways. As of 2011, 1000 black cabs are ordered by Baku Taxi Company, and as part of a programme originally announced by the Transport Ministry of Azerbaijan, there is a plan to introduce London cabs into Baku.[90][91] The move was part of £16 million agreement between Manganese Bronze and Baku Taxi Company.[92][93]

Local transport includes the Baku Metro, a rapid-transit system notable for its art, murals, mosaics and ornate chandeliers. Baku Metro was opened in November 1967 and includes 23 stations at present; 170 million people used Baku Metro over the past five years.[94] In 2008, the Chief of the Baku Metro, Taghi Ahmadov, announced plans to construct 41 new stations over the next 17 years. These will serve the new bus complex as well as the international airport.[95]

Plans are afoot to introduce a single Smart Card for payment on all types of city transport. The metro is now the only form of transport in Baku to use any type of card-based fare-payment system.[96]

Baku's Central Railway Station is the terminus for national and international rail links to the city. The Kars–Tbilisi–Baku railway, which will directly connect Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan, began to be constructed in 2007 and is scheduled for completion in 2013.[97] The completed branch will connect Baku with Tbilisi in Georgia, and from there trains will continue to Akhalkalaki, and Kars in Turkey.[98]

Baku Yacht Club

Sea transport is vital for Baku, as the city is practically surrounded by the Caspian Sea to the east. Shipping services operate regularly from Baku across the Caspian Sea to Turkmenbashi (formerly Krasnovodsk) in Turkmenistan and to Bandar Anzali and Bandar Nowshar in Iran.[99] The commuter ferries, along with the high-speed catamaran Seabus (Deniz Avtobusu), also form the main connection between the city and the Absheron peninsula.[100]

The Baku Port was founded in 1902 and since then has been the largest Caspian Sea port. It has six facilities: the main cargo terminal, the container terminal, the ferry terminal, the oil terminal, the passenger terminal and the port fleet terminal. The port's throughput capacity reaches 15 million tons of liquid bulk and up to 10 million tons of dry cargoes.[101] Beginning in 2010, the Baku International Sea Trade Port is being reconstructed. The construction will take place in three stages and will be completed by 2016. The estimated costs are 400 Million US$.[102] From April to November the Baku Port is accessible to ships loading cargoes for direct voyages from Western European and Mediterranean ports.

The State Road M-1 and the European route E60 are the two main motorway connections between Europe and Azerbaijan. The motorway network around Baku is well developed and is constantly being extended.

The Heydar Aliyev International Airport is the only commercial airport serving Baku. The new Baku Cargo Terminal was officially opened in March 2005. It was constructed to be a major cargo hub in the CIS countries and is actually now one of the biggest and most technically advanced in the region.[103] There are also several smaller military airbases near Baku, such as Baku Kala Air Base, intended for private aircraft, helicopters and charters.[104]

Education[edit]

Baku hosts many universities, junior colleges and vocational schools. Baku State University, the first established university in Azerbaijan was opened in 1919 by the government of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. In the early years of the Soviet era, Baku already had Azerbaijan State Oil Academy, Azerbaijan Medical University and Azerbaijan State Economic University. In the post-WWII period, a few more universities were established such as Azerbaijan Technical University, Azerbaijan University of Languages and the Azerbaijan Architecture and Construction University. After 1991 when Azerbaijan gained independence from the Soviet Union, the fall of communism led to the development of a number of private institutions, including Qafqaz University and Khazar University which are currently considered the most prestigious academic institutions. Apart from the private universities, the government established the Academy of Public Administration, the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy and various military academies. The largest universities according to the student population are Baku State University and Azerbaijan State Economic University. In addition, there are the Baku Music Academy and the Azerbaijan National Conservatoire in Baku established in early 1920s. Publicly run kindergartens and elementary schools (years 1 through 11) are operated by local wards or municipal offices.

The Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences, the main state research organization in Azerbaijan is locating in Baku as well. Moreover, Baku has numerous libraries, many of which contain vast collections of historic documents from the Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman and Soviet periods, as well as from other civilisations of the past. The most important libraries in terms of historic document collections include the Nizami Museum of Azerbaijan Literature, the National Library of Azerbaijan, the Mirza Alakbar Central Library, the Samad Vurgun Library and the Baku Presidential Library.

Health care[edit]

The city has many public and private hospitals, clinics and laboratories within its bounds and numerous medical research centers.[105] Many of these facilities have high technology equipment, which has contributed to the recent upsurge in "medical tourism" to Baku, particularly from post-Soviet countries such as Georgia and Moldova, whose governments send lower-income patients to the city for inexpensive high-tech medical treatments and operations.

Notable residents[edit]

For more details on this topic, see Category:People from Baku.
Kerim Kerimov, one of the founders of the Soviet space industry, and for many years a central figure in the Soviet space program.

Because of its intermittent periods of great prosperity as well as being the largest city in the Caucasus and one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse in the Soviet Union, Baku prides itself on having produced a disproportionate number of notable figures in the sciences, arts and other fields. Some of the houses they resided in display commemorative plaques. Some of the many prestigious residents include: Academy Award winners Rustam Ibrahimbeyov and Vladimir Menshov, one of the founders and head of the Soviet space program Kerim Kerimov, Nobel Prize winner and physicist Lev Landau and famous musicians such as Gara Garayev, Uzeyir Hajibeyov, Muslim Magomayev, Vagif Mustafazadeh and Alim Qasimov. World-famous cellist Mstislav Rostropovich was born and raised in Baku, as was world famous chess player, Garry Kasparov.

International relations[edit]

Twin towns and sister cities[edit]

Baku is twinned with:[106][107][in chronological order]

Country City State / Province / Region / Governorate Date
Senegal Senegal Dakar CoA.gif Dakar Logo council region dakar.png Dakar Region 1967[106][108][109]
Italy Italy CoA Città di Napoli.svg Naples Flag of Campania.png Campania 1972[110]
Iraq Iraq Basra Basra Governorate 1972[106][108]
Bosnia and Herzegovina Bosnia and Herzegovina Coat of arms of Sarajevo.svg Sarajevo Flag of Sarajevo Canton.png Sarajevo Canton 1975[106][108][109]
United States United States Seal of the United States Virgin Islands.png Christiansted United States Virgin Islands 1976[106][111]
United States United States Seal of Houston, Texas.png Houston Flag of Texas.svg Texas 1976[106][111]
France France Blason ville fr Bordeaux (Gironde).svg Bordeaux Flag of Aquitaine.svg Aquitaine 1979[106][108][112]
Iran Iran Tabriz Logo.jpg Tabriz East Azerbaijan Province 1980[106][109]
Turkey Turkey İzmir İzmir Province 1985[113]
Vietnam Vietnam Vũng Tàu Bà Rịa–Vũng Tàu Province 1985[108]
United States United States Seal of Honolulu, Hawaii.svg Honolulu County Flag of Hawaii.svg Hawaii 1998[106][114]
Turkey Turkey Sivas Sivas Province 2000[115]
Brazil Brazil Bandeira da cidade do Rio de Janeiro.svg Rio de Janeiro Bandeira do estado do Rio de Janeiro.svg state of Rio de Janeiro 2013[116]

Partner cities[edit]

Partnership relations also exist at different levels with:[117] Berlin, Paris, Vienna, Tbilisi, Astana, Minsk, Moscow, Volgograd, Kizlyar, Tashkent and Chengdu.

Gallery[edit]

Panorama of Baku

See also[edit]

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External links[edit]