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For the administrative district, see Shamakhi Rayon.
Official seal of Şamaxı
Şamaxı is located in Azerbaijan
Coordinates: 40°37′49″N 48°38′29″E / 40.63028°N 48.64139°E / 40.63028; 48.64139Coordinates: 40°37′49″N 48°38′29″E / 40.63028°N 48.64139°E / 40.63028; 48.64139
Country  Azerbaijan
Rayon Shamakhi
 • Total 6 km2 (2 sq mi)
Elevation 709 m (2,326 ft)
Population (2010)
 • Total 31,704
 • Density 5,300/km2 (14,000/sq mi)
Time zone AZT (UTC+4)
 • Summer (DST) AZT (UTC+5)
Area code(s) +994 176

Şamaxı (also, Schemacha, Shamakhy, Shamakhi and Shemakha is a city in and the capital of the Shamakhi Rayon of Azerbaijan. The city has a rich heritage and has provided the backdrop to major political events throughout much of its two millennia of existence. The city's estimated population as of 2010 was 31,704.[1] It is famous for its traditional dancers, the Shamakhi Dancers, and also for giving its name to the Soumak rugs.[2]

In its history eleven major earthquakes have rocked Shamakhi, but through multiple reconstructions it maintained its role as the economic and administrative capital of Shirvan and one of the key towns on the Silk Road. The only building to have survived eight of the eleven earthquakes is the landmark Juma Mosque, built in the 10th century.


Shamakhi in 1734
Yeddi Gumbez Mausoleum

Shamakhi was first mentioned as Kamachia by the ancient Greco-Roman Egyptian geographer Claudius Ptolemaeus in the 1st to 2nd century CE.

Shamakhi was an important town during the Middle Ages and served as a capital of the Shirvanshah state from the 8th to 15th centuries and the capital of the independent Shirvan Khanate, which was also known as the khanate of Shemakha. The Catholic friar, missionary and explorer William of Ruysbroeck passed through it on his return journey from the Mongol Great Khan's court.

In 1476 Venetian diplomat Giosafat Barbaro, while describing the city, stated: “This [Sammachi] is a good city; it has from four to five thousand houses, it produces silk, cotton as well as other things according to its tradition; it is situated in greater Armenia (Armenia grande) and the majority of its residents are Armenians.”[3]

In 1562 Englishman Anthony Jenkinson described the city in the following terms: “This city is five days’ walk on camels from the sea, now it has fallen a lot; it is predominantly populated by Armenians…”[4][5]

Mausoleum of Shakhandan, brother of famous Azeri poet Nasimi. Built in 17th century.

Adam Olearius, who visited Shamakhi in 1637, wrote: "Its inhabitants are in part Armenians and Georgians, who have their particular language; they would not understand each other if they did not use Turkish, which is common to all and very familiar, not only in Shirvan, but also everywhere in Persia.".[6] The Russians first entered Shirvan in 1723, but soon retired leaving it to Ottomans who possessed it in 1723-35. In 1742 Shamakhi was taken and destroyed by Nadir Shah of Persia, who, to punish the inhabitants for their Sunnite creed, built a new town under the same name about 26 kilometres (16 mi) to the west, at the foot of the main chain of the Caucasus Mountains. The new Shamakhi was at different times a residence of the Shirvan Khanate, but it was finally abandoned, and the old town rebuilt. In the mid-1700s, the population of Shamakhi was about 60,000, most of whom were Armenians.[7] The Shirvan Khanate was finally annexed by Russia in 1805.

The British Penny Cyclopaedia stated in 1833 that "The bulk of the population of Shirvan consists of the Tahtar, or, to speak more correctly, Turkish race, with some admixture of Arabs and Persians. . . . Besides the Mohammedans, who form the mass of the population, there are many Armenians, some Jews, and a few Gipsies. According to the official returns of 1831, the number of males belonging to the Mohammedan population was 62.934; Armenians, 6,375; Jews, 332; total males 69,641. The prevalent language of Shirvan is what is there called Toorkee or Turkish, which is also used in Azerbijan." The same source also states that according to the official returns of 1832, the city of Shamakhi was inhabited by only 2,233 families, as a result of devastation from the sack of the city "in the most barbarous manner by the highlanders of Daghestan" in 1717.[8] The Encyclopædia Britannica stated that in 1873 the city had 25,087 inhabitants, "of which 18680 were Tartars and Shachsevans, 5177 were Armenians, and 1230 Russians." Silk production continued to be the main output, with 130 silk-winding establishments, owned mostly by Armenians, although the industry had considerably declined since 1864.[9]

Shamakhi was the capital of the Shamakhi Governorate of the Russian Empire until the devastating earthquake of 1859, when the capital of the province was transferred to Baku. The importance of the city declined sharply afterwards. According to the Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary (vol. 77, p. 460, published in 1903), Shamakhi had 20008 inhabitants (10450 males and 9558 females), of which 3% were Russians, 18% were Armenians, and 79% "Azerbaijani Tatars." With regard to religion, 79% of the population was Muslim, of which 22% was Sunni and the rest Shiite; the remaining 21% was "Armeno-Gregorian" (members of the Armenian Apostolic Church) and "Pravoslav" (Orthodox).[10]

This city also has had a successful education system, literature and poets such as Mirza Alakbar Sabir and Seyid Azim Shirvani. Also students of Samaxi earn high points in the exams of Azerbaijan. Hence, students Samaxi take part in international science Olympiads. In 2006 Rafail Comerdov participated in the International biology Olympiad in Argentina and won the silver medal.


  • The 1191 earthquake was so destructive that the capital of Shirvan was transferred to Baku.
  • The 1667 earthquake is considered to have been the worst with a death toll of 80,000;[11] one-third of the city collapsed, according to the Persian merchants' reports.[who?]
  • The 1859 Shamakhi earthquake on December 2 caused the shifting of the same-named government center to Baku.
  • The 1872 earthquake triggered emigration to Baku, where oil production had started in industrial proportions.
  • In 1902, a devastating earthquake destroyed the 10th-century Juma Mosque.

Popular culture[edit]

The "Queen of Shemakha" is a major protagonist in the poem "The Tale of the Golden Cockerel" by Alexander Pushkin, on which the opera "The Golden Cockerel" by Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov was based. The character, however, is totally fictional and bears no actual relation to the city.

Twin cities[edit]

Notable natives[edit]

See also[edit]


Entance Şamaxı.jpg


  1. ^ http://world-gazetteer.com/wg.php?x=1&men=gpro&lng=en&des=wg&geo=-26&srt=npan&col=abcdefghinoq&msz=1500&pt=c&va=&geo=470326863
  2. ^ "Soumac". Retrieved 10 June 2014. 
  3. ^ Barbaro Iosaphat, Viaggi fatti da Vinetia, alla Tana, in Persia, in India, et in Costantinopoli. ALDUS. – IN VINEGIA. M. D. XLIII. (1543) p. 55

    "Questa è buona città: fa fuochi da quarto in cinquemila, lauora laiori di seta & cottoni, & altri mestieri secondo i loro costume, et è nella Armenia grande, e buona parte de habitatori sone Armeni."

  4. ^ Извѣстiя Англичанъ о Россiи во второй половинѣ ХVI вѣка. Переводъ съ Англiйскаго, съ предисловiемъ С. М. Середонина, p. 63
  5. ^ Principal Navigations, Voyages and Discoveries of the English Nation, 2nd ed., London 1598, London Reprinted 1985, p. 91-101. "Journey of Anthony Jenkinson into Persia"
  6. ^ [Adam Olearius. Relation du voyage de Adam Olearius en Moscovie, Tartarie et Perse..., vol. 1, traduit de l'allemand par A. de Wicquefort, Paris, 1666, p 405-406]
  7. ^ "Shamaki, reckoned the capital of this province, stands on a river which falls into the Caspian-Sea, and is about sixty-six miles from Derbent towards the south, and ninety-two from Gangea to the south-east. This city was one of the best and most populous of Persia, before it was destroyed by an earthquake. It is, however, supposed to contain near 60,000 inhabitants, chiefly Armenians and strangers, whom the pleasantness of the country and traffic have invited thither" (An Universal History: From the Earliest Accounts to the Present Time, by George Sale, George Psalmanazar, Archibald Bower, George Shelvocke, John Campbell, John Swinton, vol. 43, London, 1765, p. 138)
  8. ^ The Penny Cyclopædia of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, vol. XI, London, 1833, p. 174-175.
  9. ^ The Encyclopedia Britannica, vol. 21, Philadelphia, 1894, p. 831, article "Shirvan."
  10. ^ Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary. Shemakha
  11. ^ NGDC. "Comments for the Significant Earthquake". Retrieved 27 August 2010. 
  12. ^ "Аббас Сиххат". Great Soviet Encyclopedia. 
  13. ^ Журнал оф милитарий хисторий, Выпуски 1-6. Воен. изд-во. Министерства обороны Союза ССР. 1966. p. 119. 
  14. ^ "Гуртьев Леонтий Николаевич". Heroes of the country. 
  15. ^ "Сабир". Great Soviet Encyclopedia. 
  16. ^ "Хади Мухаммед". Great Soviet Encyclopedia. 
  17. ^ "Сеид Азим Ширвани". Great Soviet Encyclopedia. 
  18. ^ "Эфендиев Султан Меджид". Great Soviet Encyclopedia. 
  19. ^ "Ганизаде Султан Меджид Муртаза-Али оглы". Great Soviet Encyclopedia. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]