Boyuk Zira

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Boyuk Zira
Island of the Baku Archipelago
Outline of Nargin Island
Outline of Nargin Island
Boyuk Zira is located in Caspian_Sea
Boyuk Zira
Boyuk Zira
Coordinates: 40°17′38″N 49°55′18″E / 40.29389°N 49.92167°E / 40.29389; 49.92167
Country Azerbaijan
Region Absheron Region
Boyuk Zira (Nargin) island on a 1965 topographic map.

Boyuk Zira (Böyük Zirə), also known as Nargin, is an island in the Caspian Sea. It is one of the islands of Baku Archipelago located in the Baku bay near Baku city. Nargin Island is part of the Baku Archipelago, which consists of the following islands: Boyuk Zira, Dash Zira, Qum Island, Zenbil, Sangi-Mugan, Chikil, Qara Su, Khara Zira, Gil, Ignat Dash and a few smaller ones.

Nargin is the biggest island that separates the Bay of Baku from the sea south of the Absheron Peninsula. It has a length of 3.1 km, and a width of 900 m. The northwestern side of the island is vertical and steep. There is little vegetation.

Caspian seals, sturgeon, and numerous types of birds, such as teal ducks, herring gulls, and grebes are some of the species that can be found on and around Boyuk Zira Island.


A modern name of the island is “Boyuk Zira”, which was also its initial name, and it is originated from merging of two words – “boyuk” means “big” in Azerbaijani and “jazira” means “island” in Arabic.

Most of the names of islands in Baku archipelago, including Boyuk Zira were changed by the Russians and partially by Cossacks, who appeared in the Caspian Sea in the 17th century. Boyuk Zira was also called Nargin, which is related to the name of Peter the Great. Shape of these islands reminded the Russian emperor of Revelian islands with analogous names in the Gulf of Finland, after a war with Swedes. German “Nargin” and Estonian “Nartingen” mean a “narrow strait”. In 1990, Nargin Island has been returned its indigenous name.[1]

Strategic significance[edit]

Boyuk Zira Island, located in the Caspian Sea, 5 km directly offshore from Baku port, is strategically significant for Azerbaijan and is under the authority of the Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Azerbaijan. The island is stony.[2] In January, 2008 SOCAR finished construction of a 17 km long, 12–14 meters deep water line extending from Lökbatan township to Boyuk Zira Island.[3]



A beacon in the island began to function on December 11, 1884. The beacon was constructed in the southern stretch of the island and provided ships with an opportunity to enter Baku bay at night. The beacon is a stone residential building with three-metered tower on a roof, along with a lamp. A kerosene-wick burner, and then a gas lamp with a light-optic apparatus of the 4th degree, which was specially produced in Sweden, illuminates a way for ships.

In 1941, because of the beginning of the Great Patriotic War, the building of the beacon was blown up by order of the Soviet Military Command. Anti - aircraft guns were established on the island to defend Baku from German air raids, because the building of the beacon was a potential landmark for German aviators. The beacon was restored in 1958 and still functions. An 18m, stone tower equipped with a complex optical-navigational system, was built in the elevated middle part of the island. Servicing of the way is carried out by a watching method and personnel are changed every two weeks. The beacon's light is seen 20–30 km from Baku. The beacon's power is provided by solar batteries, which gives a charge up to 7 days and also by a diesel generator.[4]

World War I[edit]

Nargin Island hosted tragic events in the history of Azerbaijan and Turkey during World War I. About 10 thousand soldiers, as well as civilians, who were captured in 1914-1915 in Turkey during the occupation of Eastern Anatolia by the Russian army, were in captivity on the island. The captives died of starvation, snake bites, and murder and torture by prison guards. According to Hasan Cüneyt Zapsu, a deputy and counselor of the Cabinet of Ministers of Turkey, his grandfather Abdurrahim Rahmi Zapsu was imprisoned on Nargin Island and escaped with the help of a nurse. Vecihi Hürkuş – a Turkish pilot also escaped from the island with assistance of local residents and a film dedicated to him is intended to be shot in Turkey.[5]

A documentary exposing the tragedy Turkish soldiers endured in Nargin island in the early 20th century, was shot by order of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Turkey. Archive documents and scenes of those years, and also memories of 11 Turkish soldiers, who were in camps in Nargin Island and returned to the motherland alive, were used in the film called “Hellish Nargin Island”. In recent years, erection of a monument to the perished Turkish soldiers in Nargin Island is frequently proposed by Turkhan Çomez, a deputy of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, and others.[6][7]

Victims of repressions[edit]

Nargin Island was called the Azerbaijani gulag during the Stalin-era repression. It was the place of mass shootings and burying of Stalin-Beria terror victims, who were brought there in barges. Ten thousands of people condemned by judicial communist “trios” were shot on the island, far from witnesses. Sometimes, barges full of people were sunk in order to save ammunition. According to scuba divers, there are still remains of people, tortured by the Soviet regime, tied with chains under water.

The latest history[edit]

Several years ago a plan was mooted for turning Boyuk Zira Island into a carbon-neutral eco-resort and recreation centre with a profile based on Azerbaijan's seven best-known peaks.[8] The cost of the project, known as “The dream island” by Danish architects Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) would have been around 2 billion US dollars.[9] But as of 2015 there is no sign of the project advancing.[citation needed]

Panoramic view[edit]

Panoramic views of Boyuk Zira Island.


External links[edit]