The city is renowned for its harsh winds, which is reflected in its nickname, the "City of Winds
Baku is long attested under the Perso-Arabic name باکو (
). Early Arabic
sources also refer to the city as Bākuh
all of which seem to come from a Persian
name. The further etymology is unclear.
A popular etymology
in the 19th century considered it to be derived from Persian بادکوبه (Bâd-kube
, meaning "wind-pounded city", a compound of bād
, "wind", and kube
, which is rooted in the verb کوبیدن kubidan
, "to pound", thus referring to a place where wind would be strong and pounding,
as is the case of Baku, which is known to experience fierce winter snow storms and harsh winds). This popular name (Badkubə
in modern Azerbaijani script) gained currency as a nickname for the city by the 19th century (e.g., it is used in Akinchi
, volume 1, issue 1, p. 1), and is also reflected in the city's modern nickname as the "City of Winds
" (Azerbaijani: Küləklər şəhəri
). Another and even 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".
During Soviet rule
, the city was spelled in Cyrillic as "Бакы" in Azerbaijani (while the Russian
spelling was and still is "Баку", Baku
). The modern Azerbaijani spelling, which has been using the Latin alphabet since 1991, is Bakı
; the shift from the Perso-Arabic letter و (ū
) to Cyrillic "ы" and, later, Latin "ı" may be compared to that in other Azerbaijani words (e.g. compare قاپو qāpū
in old Perso-Arabic spelling with modern Azerbaijani qapı
, "door") or in suffixes, as و was often used to transcribe the vowel harmony
in Azerbaijani (which was also the practice in Ottoman Turkish
). (See also Azerbaijani alphabet
Roman stone inscription in Gobustan
dating back to 84–96 A.D.
Around 100,000 years ago, savanna rich in flora and fauna covered the territory of present-day Baku and Absheron
Traces of human settlement go back to the Stone Age
rock carvings have been discovered near Bayil, and a bronze figure of a small fish in the territory of the Old City. These have led some to suggest the existence of a Bronze-Age settlement within the city's territory.
, a place called Umid Gaya features a prehistoric observatory, with images of the sun and of various constellations are carved into rock together with a primitive astronomic table.
Further archeological excavations have revealed various prehistoric settlements, native temples, statues and other artifacts within the territory of the modern city and around it.
In the 1st century AD, the Romans
organised two Caucasian campaigns and reached Baku. Near the city, in Gobustan
, Roman inscriptions dating from 84 to 96 CE survive - some of the earliest written evidences for Baku.
Rise of the Shirvanshahs and the Safavid era
A miniature painting
marking the downfall of the Shirvanshahs at the hands of the Safavids
Baku was the realm of the Shirvanshahs
during the 8th century AD. The city frequently came under assault from the Khazars
and (starting from the 10th century) from the Rus'
. Shirvanshah Akhsitan I
built a navy in Baku and successfully repelled a Rus' assault in 1170. After a devastating earthquake struck Shamakhi
, the capital of Shirvan
, Shirvanshah's court moved to Baku in 1191.
By the early 16th century Baku's wealth and strategic position attracted the attention of its larger neighbours; in the previous two centuries, it was under the rule of the Iran-centred Kara Koyunlu
and Ak Koyunlu
. The fall of the Ak Koyunlu brought the city immediately into the sphere of the newly formed Iranian Safavid dynasty
, led by king (shah
) Ismail I
. 1501–1524). Ismail I laid siege to Baku in 1501 and captured it; he allowed the Shirvanshahs to remain in power, under Safavid suzerainty. His successor, king Tahmasp I
. 1524–1576), completely removed the Shirvanshahs from power and made Baku a part of the Shirvan
province. Baku remained as an integral part of his empire and of successive Iranian dynasties for the next centuries, until ceded to the Russian Empire
through the 1813 Treaty of Gulistan
. The House of Shirvan, which had ruled Baku since the 9th century, was extinguished in the course of Safavid rule.
At this time the city was enclosed within lines of strong walls, which were washed by the sea on one side and protected by a wide trench on land. The Ottomans briefly gained control over Baku as a result of the Ottoman-Safavid War of 1578–1590
; by 1607, it came under Iranian control again.
In 1604 Shah Abbas I
. 1588–1629) destroyed Baku fortress.
is a temple built by Indian traders before 1745, west of the Caspian Sea. The inscription invokes Lord Shiva
at the Atashgah.
Downfall of the Safavids and the Khanate of Baku
The Safavids temporarily lost power in Iran in 1722; Emperor Peter the Great
of Russia took advantage of the situation and invaded
; the Safavids were forced to cede Baku to Russia.
By 1730 the situation had deteriorated for the Russians; the successes of Nader Shah
. 1736–1747) led them to sign the Treaty of Ganja
on 10 March 1735, ceding the city and all other conquered territories in the Caucasus back to Iran
The eruption of instability following Nader Shah's death in 1747 gave rise to the various Caucasian khanates
. The semi-autonomous Persian-ruled Baku Khanate
(1747-1806) was one of these. Initially ruled by Mirza Muhammed Khan
. 1747–1768), it soon became a dependency of the much stronger Quba Khanate
. During this time, the population of Baku remained small (approximately 5,000), and the economy suffered as a result of constant warfare.
Russo-Persian Wars and Iran's forced cession
From the late 18th century, Imperial Russia switched to a more aggressive geopolitical stance towards its two neighbours and rivals to the south, namely Iran and the Ottoman Empire. In the spring of 1796, by Catherine II
's order, General Valerian Zubov
's troops started a large campaign
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 stationed inside the city. Later, however, Emperor Pavel I
of Russia (reign | 1796 | 1801}}) ordered the cessation of the campaign and the withdrawal of Russian forces following the death of his predecessor, Catherine the Great
. In March 1797 the tsarist troops left Baku and the city became part of Qajar Iran
Discovery of oil
Oil workers digging an oil well by hand at Bibi-Heybat.
The Russians built the first oil-distilling factory
in 1837. The first person to drill oil in Baku was Baku Armenian Ivan Mirzoev
, who is also known as a 'founding father of Baku's oil industry.'
Digging for oil began in the mid-1800s, with the first oil well
drilled in the Bibi-Heybat
suburb of Baku in 1846.
It was mechanically drilled,
though a number of hand-dug wells pre-dated it. Large-scale oil exploration started in 1872 when Russian imperial authorities auctioned parcels of oil-rich land around Baku to private investors. The pioneer of oil extracting from the bottom of the sea was the Polish geologist Witold Zglenicki
. Soon after, investors appeared in Baku, including the Nobel Brothers
in 1873 and the Rothschilds
in 1882. An industrial area of oil refineries, better known as Black Town
: Чёрный город), developed near Baku by the early 1880s.
Professor A. V. Williams Jackson
of Columbia University wrote in his work From Constantinople to the Home of Omar Khayyam
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.
By the beginning of the 20th century, half of the oil sold in international markets was extracted in Baku.
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
or New York
World War I
Soldiers and officers of the army of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic shortly after the Battle of Baku
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
, led by the veteran Bolshevik Stepan Shahumyan
. Seeking to capitalize on the existing ethnic conflicts, by spring 1918, Bolsheviks inspired and condoned civil warfare in and around Baku. During the famous March Days
of 1918, Bolsheviks and Dashnaks
, seeking to establish control over Baku streets, faced armed Azerbaijani groups. The Azerbaijanis suffered defeat from the united forces of the Baku Soviet and were massacred by Dashnak teams in what was called the March Days
. An estimated 3,000–12,000 Azerbaijanis were killed in their own capital.
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 founding the first Muslim-majority democratic
The newly independent Azerbaijani republic, being unable to defend the independence of the country on their own, asked the Ottoman Empire for military support in accordance with clause 4 of the treaty between the two countries. Shortly after, Azerbaijani forces, with support of the Ottoman Army of Islam
led by Nuru Pasha
, started their advance on Baku, eventually capturing the city from the loose coalition of Bolsheviks
and British forces under the command of General Lionel Dunsterville
on 15 September 1918.
After the Battle of Baku
of August–September 1918, the Azerbaijani irregular troops, with the tacit support of the Turkish command, conducted four days of pillaging and killing of 10,000 to 30,000
of the Armenian residents of Baku
. This pogrom
became known as the "September Days
". Shortly after this, Baku was proclaimed the new capital of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic.
The Ottoman Empire, recognising defeat in World War I by October 1918, signed the Armistice of Mudros
with the British (30 October 1918); this meant the evacuation of Turkish forces from Baku. Headed by General William Thomson
, some 5,000 British troops, including parts of the former Dunsterforce
, arrived in Baku on 17 November. Thomson declared himself military governor of Baku and implemented martial law
in the city until "the civil power would be strong enough to release the forces from the responsibility to maintain the public order". British forces left before the end of 1919.
The independence of the Azerbaijani republic was a significant but short-lived chapter in Baku's history. 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 Soviet life. Baku was the major oil city of the Soviet Union. From about 1921 the city was headed by the Baku City Executive Committee, commonly known in Russian as Bakgorispolkom
. Together with Baku Party Committee (known as the Baksovet
), it developed the economic significance of the Caspian metropolis. From 1922 to 1930 Baku became the venue for one of the major trade fairs
of the Soviet Union, serving as a commercial bridgehead to Iran and the Middle East.
World War II
Fall of the Soviet Union and later
After the 1991 dissolution of the Soviet Union
, Baku embarked on a process of restructuring on a scale unseen in its history.
Thousands of buildings from the Soviet period were demolished[by whom?]
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 general cleaning, maintenance, and garbage collection, and these services are now[when?]
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
. Sustainability has become a key factor in future urban development.
Absheron Peninsula satellite image, Landsat 5
, 6 September 2010
Baku has a temperate semi-arid climate
(Köppen climate classification
) with hot and humid summers, cool and occasionally wet winters, and strong winds all year long. However, unlike many other cities with such climate features, Baku does not see extremely hot summers and substantial sunshine hours. 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 seasons is 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 centre left it one of the most polluted cities in the world, as of 2008.
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.
The speed of the khazri
sometimes reaches 144 km/h (89 mph), which can cause damage to crops, trees and roof tiles.
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.
Today, Baku is divided into 12 rayonlar (sub-rayons)
(administrative districts) and 5 settlements of city type.
(Azeri spellings are in brackets.)
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 First Nagorno-Karabakh War
and the pogrom against Armenians
starting in January 1990, the city's large Armenian population was expelled.
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, nationalised by the Soviets, to the Jewish community; he encouraged the restoration of these buildings. Renovation has begun on seven of the original 11 synagogues, including the Gilah synagogue, built in 1896, and the large Kruei Synagogue.
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.
Baku has been a cosmopolitan city at certain times during its history, meaning ethnic Azerbaijanis did not constitute the majority of population.
In 2003 Baku additionally had 153,400 internally displaced persons
and 93,400 refugees.
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.
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 Baku oil fields. Fifty years before the battle, Baku produced half of the world's oil supply.
Tourism and shopping
Baku is one of the most important tourist destinations in the Caucasus, with hotels in the city earning 7 million euros in 2009.
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 set the world record
for tallest flagpole
on 24 May 2011, the city of Dushanbe
set a new record with a 3 metres (9.8 feet)-higher flagpole.
A few years later, the Flag Pole was dismantled and the National Flag Square was closed off with fences.
Baku has several shopping malls; the most famous city centre malls are Port Baku, Park Bulvar
, Ganjlik Mall, Metro Park, 28 MALL, Aygun city and AF MALL. The retail areas contain shops from chain stores up to high-end boutiques.
Heydar Aliyev Cultural Center
Baku has wildly varying architecture, ranging from the Old City
core to modern buildings and the spacious layout of Baku port. Many of the city's landmarks were built during the early 20th century, when architectural elements of the European styles were combined in eclectic
Baku has an original and unique appearance, earning it a reputation as the 'Paris of the East'.
Baku joined UNESCO
's Network of Creative Cities
as a Design City on 31 October 2019 on the occasion of World Cities' Day.
There are a number of ancient hamams
in Baku dating back to the 12th, 14th and 18th centuries. Hamams play a very important role in the architectural appearance of Baku.
Teze Bey Hamam
Teze Bey is the most popular hamam (traditional bath) in Baku. It was built in 1886 in the centre of Baku and in 2003 it was fully restored and modernised. Along with its modern amenities, Teze Bey features a swimming pool and architectural details inspired by Oriental, Russian and Finnish baths.
Gum Hamam was discovered during archaeological excavations underneath the sand; hence the name: Gum hamam (sand bath). It was built sometime during the 12th–14th centuries.
In ancient times Bairamali Hamam was called "Bey Hamam". The original structure was built sometime during the 12th–14th centuries and was reconstructed in 1881.
Agha Mikayil Hamam
Agha Mikayil Hamam was constructed in the 18th century by Haji Agha Mikayil on Kichik Gala Street in the Old City (Icherisheher). It is still operating in its ancient setting. The Hamam is open to women on Mondays and Fridays and to men on the other days of the week.
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.
Music and media
The music scene in Baku can be traced back to ancient times and villages of Baku, generally revered as the fountainhead of meykhana
in the Azerbaijan.
The city's radio stations include: Ictimai Radio
, Radio Antenn
, Burc FM
, Avto FM
, ASAN Radio
and Lider FM Jazz
Some of Baku's newspapers include the daily Azadliq
(The Time), Bakinskiy Rabochiy
(Baku Worker), Echo
and the English-language Baku Today
Many clubs that are open until dawn can be found throughout the city. Clubs with an eastern flavour provide special treats from the cuisine of Azerbaijan
along with local music. Western-style clubs target younger, more energetic crowds.
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.
In the Lonely Planet
"1000 Ultimate Experiences", Baku placed 8th among the top 10 party cities in the world.
Parks and gardens
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.
The city will also host three group games and one quarter-final of the UEFA Euro 2020
European Football Championship.
Throughout history the transport system of Baku used the now-defunct horsecars
, trams and narrow gauge railways
. As of 2011, 1,000 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.
The move was part of £16 million agreement between Manganese Bronze
subsidiary LTI Limited
and Baku Taxi Company.
Local rail transport includes the Baku Funicular
and 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 3 lines and 25 stations at present; 170 million people used Baku Metro over the past five years.
In 2008, the Chief of 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.
In 2019, the Baku suburban railway
is a single Smart Card for payment on all types of city transport. The intercity buses and metro use this type of card-based fare-payment system.
Baku Yacht Club
Baku Port was founded in 1902 and claims to be 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 tonness
of liquid bulk and up to 10 million tons of dry cargoes.
In 2010, the Baku International Sea Trade Port
is began reconstruction. The construction was planned to take place in three stages and to be completed by 2016. The estimated costs were 400 Million US$.
From April to November 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.
There are also several smaller military airbases
near Baku, such as Baku Kala Air Base
, intended for private aircraft, helicopters
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 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 the early 1920s. Publicly run kindergartens and elementary schools (years 1 through 11) are operated by local wards or municipal offices.
According to the Ministry of Healthcare, healthcare facilities in Baku are "highly developed compared with the regions and doctors are waiting to work there, The regions, meanwhile, lack both doctors and clinics providing specialized medical treatment." Resulting in citizens travelling for many hours to Baku to receive adequate medical treatment.
Twin towns and sister cities
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