Image of Derbent

11 largest cities of Russia

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Location: Republic of Dagestan Map


Description of Derbent

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)

Image of Derbent 

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 government buildings.


Getting here

By plane
Derbent does not have its own airport, the nearest one is in Makhachkala. There is no direct public transport from there, but usually there are taxi drivers at the airport who pick people up in a "collective" taxi to Derbent. If there are none, or this option does not suit you, you will have to go with a change through Kaspiysk or Makhachkala. In the opposite direction, you can use the Derbent-Kaspiysk minibus, warning the driver that you need to go to the airport.

By train
Electric trains from Makhachkala come to Derbent 4 times a day, the journey takes 2.5-3 hours. Minibuses travel at least an hour faster, but electric trains can be more convenient with departure from the center of Makhachkala (whereas bus stations are located on the far outskirts) and a clear schedule. Electric trains go to the Azerbaijani border three times a day (the Tagirkent-Kazmalyar-Yalama checkpoint, also known as the “lower post”). From long-distance trains in Derbent there are trailer cars to Moscow; rare international trains from Russia to Azerbaijan also stop.

1  Station Derbent, st. Vokzalnaya (near the sea, in the "lower" part of the city). The station building is one of the most impressive buildings in Derbent from the time of the Russian Empire.

By bus
Minibuses from Makhachkala (from the southern bus station) depart “on filling” (usually about once every half an hour) and arrive in Derbent, respectively, to the northern one, on the way 1.5 hours. There are rare direct buses in Baku, but with a transfer at the border you can get there more often . Minibuses also run from Derbent throughout Southern Dagestan (Kubachi and to the south), their place of departure and schedules are usually known to the inhabitants of these villages. There are long-distance buses from Derbent to other regions of Russia, most often with a dubious level of comfort.

There are two bus stations in Derbent, one close to the city center, the other on the highway on the outskirts. In addition, minibuses and collective taxis can depart from the vicinity of these bus stations, as well as from the central market or train station (and the list may not be exhaustive).

2  Northern bus station, st. Gagarina / Ave. Agasiev. Combined with the market, the situation is appropriate (but if your minibus is not recruited for a long time, pastry vendors will find you themselves). There is no list of routes, no timetables at the bus station. Freedom Square in the lower part of the old city is about 15 minutes on foot or 5 bus stops.
3  Southern bus station, Kavkaz highway, near the southern exit from the city (minibuses run).

By car
The P217 highway passes through Derbent, it is also M29 or "Bakinka". To the north to Makhachkala about 120 km, to Grozny - 290 km. To the south, the same route goes to the Azerbaijani border (about 50 km), and then the Azerbaijani roads lead to Guba (40 km from the border) and Baku (about 250 km from the border).

On the ship
There is no passenger shipping in Derbent, even in a cruise-tourist format.


City transport

The bus fare is 20 rubles. (2021). Of the online maps, 2GIS knows the routes best of all, although the information there comes with a lag.



ancient period
The first mention of the "Caspian Gate" is in Hecateus of Miletus - VI century BC. e. In the IV century BC. e. Hares Mitelensky writes about the fortress (he described the events that took place in the 8th-7th centuries BC).

The importance of the Caspian passage was the reason for the aspirations of the Scythians, Sarmatians, Alans, Huns, Khazars and others. It survived turbulent historical events, assaults and destruction, periods of decline and prosperity. One of the most important sections of the Great Silk Road ran here, and Derbent acted as a crossroads of civilization, connecting East and West, North and South.

The ancient Greek historian Herodotus was one of the first to provide information about the "Derbent Passage" in the 5th century BC. e. The Seleucid Empire also showed great interest in the city, the first military campaign of which was under Seleucus I in 290-281 BC. e. In 66-65 BC. e. military campaigns of Lucullus and Pompey to the Caucasus are carried out, one of the goals of which was the capture of Derbent.

The successors of Rome and Parthia in the struggle for the Caucasus in the early Middle Ages were Byzantium and Sasanian Iran.

An important fact in the history of Derbent, which, according to a number of authors, was part of Caucasian Albania under the name Diauna, was the adoption of Christianity. The city served as the northern outpost of Albania. In the second half of the 5th century, the Albanian king Vache II made the city of Derbent for some time the main Christian stronghold of Albania in the fight against Zoroastrianism. From the 5th century, the active development of the city began, as well as large fortification construction, designed to protect Western Asia from a new wave of nomads - the Turkic tribes of the Huns and Khazars. At the same time, in addition to strengthening the city, attempts to curb the nomads in a peaceful way did not stop. The historian Yeghishe (5th century), who described the anti-Iranian popular uprising in Armenia in 449-451, pointed out that after the capture of Derbent, which was under the control of Persia, by the Armenian army under the command of Vardan Mamikonyan, the “gate commandant” Prince Vahan ... was instructed to go to the country of the Huns and other barbarian lands, helping the Huns in order to conclude a peace treaty with them and become at the same time against the enemy.

In 439-457, fortifications were built by Yazdegerd I; in 479-529 Khosrow I Anushirvan replaced the old walls made of raw brick with masonry. The fortress began to take on the form that has survived to our time. From the fortress, located at the foot of the mountain range, two walls descended to the sea, blocking the Caspian passage and designed to protect the city and the trade route.

The growing power and wealth of Derbent could not but attract powerful neighbors. In 552, the Khazars attacked the city. The patriarchal throne, for the purpose of salvation, was transferred from the city of Chola (Derbent) to the city of Partav.

In 626, the Western Turks invaded Transcaucasia through Derbent. The assault on Derbent is colorfully described by Movses Kaghankatvatsi:
"Gaishah [the Persian governor from the Agvan princes] saw what happened to the defenders of the great city of Chora and to the troops who were on the marvelous walls, for the construction of which the Persian kings exhausted our country, gathering architects and finding different materials to build a great building, which they built between the mountains of the Caucasus and the great eastern sea ... At the sight of a terrible danger from the ugly, vile, broad-faced, eyeless crowd, which, in the form of women with loose hair, rushed at them, a shudder seized the inhabitants; especially at the sight of well-aimed and strong shooters, who, as if with a strong hail waited for them, and, like ravening wolves, having lost their shame, rushed at them and mercilessly cut them in the streets and squares of the city. mutilated and old; they did not complain, and their hearts did not shrink at the sight of boys hugging slaughtered mothers; on the contrary, they milked their blood from their breasts like milk. As fire penetrates a burning reed, so they entered through one door and went out through another, leaving there the deeds of predatory animals and birds.

According to Yu. D. Brutskus, some part of the Jews, starting from the 5th century AD. e. moved from Persia to Derbent.

There is a hypothesis that the rulers of Khazaria converted to Judaism under the influence of the Jews of the Eastern Caucasus (current Mountain Jews) at the beginning of the 8th century. According to legend, this happened during a dispute arranged between representatives of three religions, and the Jewish preacher was at the Khazar court immediately, while envoys from Christians and Muslims arrived at the invitation.

The trade route along the western coast of the Caspian Sea and the Volga connected the countries of the Middle East with Khazaria, Russia, Volga Bulgaria, the peoples of the Urals and the North. Derbent was an important node on it. It was a port for ships sailing from Iran to Itil, the capital of Khazaria, in which goods were reloaded from ships to pack caravans going to Transcaucasia. In size and importance, Derbent surpassed Ardabil and Tiflis and was equal to Berda, the former capital of the Caliph governor in the Caucasus. Coins were minted here. The earliest copper coin in Derbent was minted in 794. The minting of its own coin in Derbent, as a rule, coincided with the strengthening of the independence of the Derbent principality.


Arab conquest

A new stage in the development of the city is associated with the invasion of the Arabs in the 7th century. When the first Arab detachments appeared at the gates of Derbent in 642/643, Shahrbaraz (Shahriyar) was the Sasanian governor of the city. Since that time, an active process of Islamization of the population of the city began. At this time, the ancient Juma mosque was built.

Derbent, along with the rest of Arran, was united with Armenia under the control of a single governor. The territory of the former Iranian marzbanate Albania, together with the Armenian region of Syunik and Tiflis, became part of one of the regions of the governorship - Arminiya.


Capital of the Derbent Emirate

During the collapse of the Caliphate, the inhabitants of Derbent in 869 proclaimed Hashim ibn Surak their emir, who became the founder of the Hashemid dynasty. During the reign of his son Muhammad I in 901, the Khazars, led by King K-sa ibn Buljan, attacked Derbent, but were repulsed. In 969, Emir Ahmad built a citadel and fortified himself in it.

The Juma Mosque is the most ancient temple, later, after its conquest by the Arabs, it was converted into a mosque, as evidenced by the entrance. The entrance is on the south side, although the entrance to the mosque is always on the north side.


From the Seljuks to the Safavids

In the 11th century, the Seljuk Turks invaded Asia Minor and created a power covering Mesopotamia, Syria and most of Iran. In 1067, the first Seljuk detachment headed by the hajib of Sultan Alp-Arslan, Sau-Tegin, entered Derbent. In 1075 the city finally came under the rule of the Seljukids. In XII, an independent principality was again formed in Derbent, which existed for a relatively short time - until 1239.

In 1395, through the Derbent passage, Tamerlane entered the Terek valley and inflicted a crushing defeat on the banks of the Golden Horde troops. In the same year, he handed over Derbent to the Shirvanshah Ibrahim I, entrusting the protection of the Derbent passage.

Around 1469, the city was visited by Afanasy Nikitin, who mentioned it in his travel notes "Journey Beyond the Three Seas".

From 1541 to 1542, Derbent took part in the internecine wars of the Samur Valley. The Akhtyns, accustomed to maintaining their importance with the help of the capital of the Shirvanshahs - Shemakhi, which since 1538 became the seat of the beylerbeks of Shirvan - turned to the new government, in the person of the ruler of Derbent, beylerbek Alkhas Mirza Safavid. Alkhas Mirza, acting in the interests of Iran, who wanted to gain a foothold in Sunni territory, organized an attack on Rutul. As a result, Rutul, who was in alliance with Kumukh, was burned in 1541-1542 by the Kyzylbash-Akhtyn army. Alkhas-mirza was the representative of the Iranian authorities in the North-Eastern Caucasus, the ruler of the Safavid district, which had the city of Derbent as its center.

Since the 16th century, Derbent, like the whole of Shirvan, has been part of the Safavid state. Safavid power was briefly lost as a result of the Turkish-Persian war of 1578-1590. During the next Turkish-Persian war of 1603-1618, the Safavids, having recaptured the city, restored their power over Derbent.


Between Russia and Persia

In March 1668, Derbent stormed the Don Cossack ataman Stepan Razin during a campaign along the Volga and Yaik rivers and to the Caspian Sea. It was the capture of Derbent that marked the beginning of Razin's Persian campaign, which ended with the burning of the Persian fleet in the Caspian Sea.

At the beginning of the 18th century, Peter I undertook the famous Persian (Caspian) campaign. On August 5, 1722, the Russian army under the command of Admiral General Apraksin moved to Derbent, and on August 15, a transport flotilla (21 ships) arrived at the city with artillery and provisions under the command of Captain Verden. On August 23, the Russian army occupied the city. Local residents, led by the local naib Imam Kulibek and the Muslim clergy, solemnly welcomed the Russian emperor and presented him with two silver keys to the city gates and the book “Derbent Name”, which tells about the history of the city. Peter I paid special attention to its historical monuments. The scientists and specialists who were in his retinue: D. K. Kantemir, I. G. Gerber, L. Ya. Soimonov gave the first description of historical monuments, laid the foundation for the study of Derbent. Measures were taken to protect and improve the city, it was ordered to build a harbor according to the drawing, food warehouses, infirmaries, trading posts of Russian merchants were opened. Peter I granted the people of Derbent the right to free trade within Russia, planned the development of viticulture, winemaking, and sericulture here. But a storm began, which blew 30 cargo ships. There was not enough food, and it was not possible to get bread in the lands of Shirvan and Mushkyur covered by uprisings. An epizootic began - 1,700 horses died in one night. As a result, the military council decided to suspend the advance to the south, and Peter I turned back, leaving a small garrison in the city.

On September 12, Russia concluded a peace treaty with Persia, according to which Russia received the city of Derbent with its adjacent regions. Thanks to the resettlement policy of Peter I, already in 1723, large Armenian and Georgian "settlements" were formed in the city.

In 1735, according to the Ganja Treaty, Derbent again went to Iran, after which the Dagestan campaigns of Nadir Shah began. Derbent became an outpost of Iranian troops for the conquest of Dagestan. In 1741, the Shah began the third campaign in Dagestan, during which he was defeated. In 1747, Derbent was cleared of the Iranian garrison by Utsmi Ahmed Khan. In the same year, 1747, Nadir Shah was killed.

In the 18th century - the beginning of the 19th century, one of the largest slave markets in the Northeast Caucasus was located in Derbent.

Since 1758 - the reign of Fet Ali Khan (son of the Cuban Khan Hussein Ali Khan). Even during the life of his father, in 1757 he annexed the Salyan district to the Quba Khanate. In 1759, Fatali Khan, in alliance with Shamkhal Murtuzali, Utsmi Emir-Gamza and Qadi Tabasaran, decided to take possession of Derbent, where Magomed-Gasan Khan was the khan, who did not enjoy the favor of the people, especially the beks. Fatali Khan entered into secret negotiations with the beks, presented them with gifts and acquired a significant number of supporters for himself.

The Derbent feudal lords well understood the importance of Derbent, they knew about the state of affairs within the Derbent Khanate and the relations of the Derbent people with the Cuban ruler. And the capture of Derbent by Fatali Khan was not included in their political calculations, since the capture of Derbent would lead to the strengthening of the Quba Khanate. Fatali Khan began the siege of Derbent at a predetermined time. Meanwhile, the inhabitants of Derbent rebelled, dissatisfied with the rule of the brothers Mohammed-Hussein and Tarikh-Bek. The allied troops were helped by the urban population, which opened the gates of Derbent. Craftsmen and small traders played a decisive role in the surrender of the city. Having taken possession of Derbent, Fatali Khan of Quba endowed his allies with villages inhabited by peasants and income from trade duties in the city of Derbent. After the annexation of Derbent, the importance of the Quba Khanate in the political life of the region increased even more.

In the spring of 1795, Persian troops led by Agha Mohammed, the founder of the Qajar dynasty, invaded Kakheti, and on September 12 captured and plundered Tbilisi. Fulfilling its obligations under the Treaty of St. George in 1783, the Russian government sent the Caspian Corps (about 13 thousand people) from Kizlyar through Dagestan to Persia.

On May 2, 1796, the commander-in-chief, lieutenant-general Count Valerian Alexandrovich Zubov, approached Derbent, whose population at that time consisted of 6,000 Muslims and 3,000 Armenians (including from nearby villages), the assault on the city began. On May 10, a white flag was thrown out on the fortress wall, and after that, Khan Sheikh Ali Khan also appeared in the Russian camp. On the same day, Major-General Savelyev was appointed commandant of the Derbent fortress, and on May 13, Commander-in-Chief Count Zubov solemnly entered the city. Sheikh Ali Khan remained an honorary prisoner in the Russian camp until he escaped. Zubov restored calm in Derbent, and transferred the khanate to the control of the uncle of the khan, Kassim. With the accession to the Russian throne of Paul I and a change in the course of foreign policy, in December of the same year, Russian troops from Transcaucasia were withdrawn, and all the conquered regions were returned. In 1799, the youngest son of the Cuban Khan Fatali Khan, Gasan, was proclaimed Khan of Derbent. Gathering a strong army, Sheikh Ali Khan moved to Derbent, but the twelve-day siege of the city did not bring him success and he was forced to make peace with Hasan Khan and recognize his rights to Derbent. After the death of the Derbent Khan in 1802, Sheikh Ali Khan annexed the Derbent possession to the Quba Khanate.


As part of the Russian Empire

In 1813, according to the Gulistan Peace Treaty, it was annexed to the Russian Empire, since 1846 - a provincial city, was part of the Dagestan region. From the 1840s, it experienced a rapid economic upsurge, associated, in particular, with the development of madder growing (growing madder, a plant from which a cheap dye was obtained). The main occupation of the locals was madder breeding and gardening. In total, in the vicinity of Derbent, south of the city, as of 1865, there were up to 1,500 gardens. They were bred - grapes, peaches, apricots, plums, pears and other crops. Armenians made wine and vodka from grapes. Some residents cultivated saffron, garden plants, and were also engaged in arable farming and cattle breeding. The Jews were engaged in the cultivation of tobacco. In 1898, the Port-Petrovsk (former name of Makhachkala) - Baku railway passed through Derbent.


As part of the USSR

In 1921 he became part of the Dagestan ASSR. In 1953 it became the administrative center of the Derbent District.


The Great Patriotic War

Many volunteers went to the front from Derbent, among them 9 were awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union.



Derbent is the southernmost city of the Russian Federation. It is located on the western coast of the Caspian Sea, on the Sukhodol River, north of the mouth of the Rubas River, where the mountains of the Greater Caucasus come closest to the Caspian Sea, leaving only a narrow three-kilometer strip of plain. Closing it, the city formed the so-called Derbent or Caspian passage. The role of Derbent and the Derbent passage in ancient times was great, it was located in one of the most strategically important and topographically convenient places of the famous Caspian route linking Eastern Europe and Asia Minor.



The climate of Derbent is transitional from temperate to subtropical semi-dry. The climate is influenced by the Caspian Sea, due to which autumn is long and warm, and spring comes with a delay. Winters are mild, snow lasts only two weeks a year, the coldest month is usually February. Summer is long and hot.

The average annual temperature in Derbent is positive: +13.7 °C, the average monthly temperature in February is +3.0 °C, the average monthly temperature in July is +25.7 °C (maximum +38.8 °C). The duration of the warm period is 270 days. Precipitation averages about 400 mm per year; the rainiest month is October. The average annual relative humidity is 69.5%, the average wind speed is 6.0 m/s.

The average water temperature in August is +25.6 °C, the maximum is +31.0 °C (in July).