Monday, January 15, 2007


I arrived this morning from Baku, the capital and largest city of Azerbaijan. I went there for work, and it is never too much to say how much these trips contribute to the fact that I love my job. I was there for three days and apart from the professional meetings, I had the chance to visit the city and learn a small bit about the history and the culture of this far-east European country. The name of Baku is believed to be derived from the ancient Persian name of the city, Badu-kube, meaning “city where the wind blows”. Being there, it isn’t difficult to understand the reason for this name! The history of Baku dates back to 1st millennium BC, but the city only became important in the 12th century, when ruling Shirvanshah Ahsitan I made it the new capital after an earthquake destroyed Shemakha. At this time the city was enclosed with the lines of strong walls, what is now known as the Old Town and includes two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Palace of the Shirvanshahs and the Maiden Tower. This part of the city is picturesque, with its maze of narrow alleys and ancient buildings; wander the cobbled streets past the Palace, two caravanserais (ancient inns where I had a wonderful meal while listening to live traditional music!), the Maiden Tower, the baths and the Djuma Mosque. In 1723, after a lasting siege and firing from the cannons, Baku surrendered to the Russian soldiers of Peter the Great. For almost one hundred years it often changed hands between the tsarist Russia and Persia, until a treaty was signed in 1813, providing for the cession of Baku and most of the Caucasus from Iran and its annexation by Russia. Since 1873, an oil belt of Baku began to be formed, giving birth to a second part of the town, known as Black City or boomtown. Within a short period of time, departments and representations of European and American firms were established in Baku, among them the firms of the Nobel and Rothschild families. By the beginning of the 20th century, almost half of the oil reserves in the world had been extracted in Baku. This oil boom led to the construction of interesting beaux-arts mansions, which now house fine arts, history and literature museums, South of the Old City. In 1918, after bloody disputes between the Azerbaijani faction of the “Transcaucasian Sejm” and the Dashnak-Armenian forces, an Azeri-Ottoman army entered the capital, causing British rulers and much of the Armenian population to flee and since that time Baku was the capital of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, which existed for two years only, though. On April 28, 1920 the Red Army invaded Baku and occupied the city. The National Government had to flee to Europe and many Azeri personalities in Baku were killed by the Soviet troops. The new rulers were at the origin of the third part of the city, the Soviet-built town, which is, without any doubts, the least interesting. Modern, oil-rich Baku has a population of around 2 millions, spread of a rectangular lay-out rising up hills that rim the Bay of Baku, in the Caspian Sea. The basis of Baku’s economy is petroleum; but the city is proud of many of its famous sons, who include chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov, Physics Nobel Prize Lev Davidovich Landau, cellist Mstislav Rostropovich and Kerim Kerimov, head of Soviet space program for 25 years. Unforgettable experiences from Baku also include the crazy drivers and the warmth of Azeri hospitality.


Blogger Renaldas said...

So did your stay lived up to the standards described by the previous visitors? VIP treatmant and absolutely crazy driving... :)

I am glad you liked Baku.

11:40 AM  

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