The first settlement on this location date back to
the first millennium BC. Despite it seemingly isolated location the
city actually was a major center of trade between China and the
Mediterranean Basin. Derbent safe guarded so called North Passage of the
Great Silk Road that went North across the Caucasian mountains and
around Caspian Sea. In the time of wars, rebellions and general
unrest steppes of the South Russia and Kazakhstan with its violent,
but sparsely populated nomads became the preferred route. In the 5th
century AD Sassanids erected the defensive walls those purpose was
to control the North passage as well as to keep northern tribes
away. Charging caravans obviously made them a fortune.
Two walls run East of the city for 3.6 km (2
miles) to the Caspian Sea at 300- 400 m apart. To the West the walls
reached 40 km (25 miles). Despite its impressive structure the city
was captured repeatedly for its obvious strategic position. It was
held by the Persians, Arabs, Mongols, Timurids and many others. It
held its prominent role in the economy until 19th century. As
European colonialism spread the trading routes changed and the city
lost its position in the region. Its impressive remains all that is
left of its previous glory.
Narin- Kala (Нарын-Кала)
Narin Kala or Naryn Kala Fortress is the main
destination in the old part of Derbent. Over the past 5000
years this strategic mountain top was continuously occupied
by different people who looked for refuge here. Its name can
be translated as a "Sun Gate".
Much of military fortifications that you see today date back
to the 6th century when medieval walls and towers replaced
older citadel. Castle Narin Kala were built by the orders of
Shah Kawada on top of Dzhalgankiy mountain range. It held a
strategic location effectively locking one of the few
entrances through Caucasian mountains. It was done to
protect South Caucasian region and the Middle East against
attacks of war like nomadic tribes that inhabited present
day Southern Russia.
His work was continued by his son Shah
Khosrau I. Perimeter of the Derbent castle stretch for over
40 km in total length surround a total area of 4.5 hectares.
Wall thickness reached 3 meters and wall height up to 12
meters in addition to a natural cliffside. Additionally a
fortified port was added to strengthen defenses on the
Caspian side of Derbent to prevent circumvention of the city
in shallow waters.
UNESCO recognized Narin Kala Castle as a
monument of World importance. It is one of the few pre- Arab
fortifications that survived in such state of preservation.
Later additions were made up to 15th century. In addition to
military fortifications Narin Kala contains ruins of baths,
water cisterns, Christian church of the 5th century, Juma
mosque (13- 19 centuries) and many other private and