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Derbent, city, southeastern Dagestan republic, southwestern Russia. The city lies in the narrow gap between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains at their closest approach.
Derbent was founded in 438 ce as a fortress to guard the principal caravan route from southwestern Europe to Southwest Asia. It fell to Arabs in 728, Tatars in 1220, and Russians in 1813. Many ancient monuments survive, including the ruins of the 5th-century citadel and an 8th-century cathedral mosque. The modern city’s industries include wool spinning and wine making. A large cannery is also located in Derbent. In 2003 the ancient city and its numerous defensive structures were made a World Heritage site. Pop. (2010) 119,200 (2014 est.) 120,470.
This article was most recently revised and updated by Amy Tikkanen, Corrections Manager.
Derbent is located in Russia’s Dagestan region, on the western coast of the Caspian Sea. It owes its rich history to its strategic position, along the travel route between Europe and the Middle East, on the border of Europe and Asia, where the mountains of the Caucasus almost arrive at the coast leaving a narrow 3-km strip of plain.
Physical evidence of Derbent’s defensive role dates from the 7th or 8th century BCE, and, since the 1st millennium BC, control of the north-south passage on the western side of the Caspian Sea has been linked to this location. Archaeological excavations since the late 1970s have confirmed Derbent’s nearly 2,000 years of continuous history as urban settlement, the oldest in Russia and one of the most ancient in the region. Evidence was found of a fortified settlement in the region of the citadel during the 3rd century BCE and 4th century CE, which was confirmed by historical documents Greek-Roman authors knew this settlement by the name of Albanian gate and meanwhile the ancient Armenian authors called it the Chol/Chor.
The modern name of Derbent (from Persian dar, “gate”, and band, “red, communication, barrier”) is associated with a great fortification constructed in the 5th century by the Sasanian Empire. Two walls were constructed 300 to 400 m apart, extending approximately 3.6 km from the Caspian Sea up to the citadel situated on the mountain. The walls extend 500 m into the Caspian Sea to protect the harbour and the mountain wall continues 40 km west, over the mountains, defending the northern borders from warlike nomads by completely blocking the pass between the sea and the mountains. Seventy-three defence towers were constructed, 46 of which were in the north wall. Nine of the original 14 gates survive. During the 6th century, wall construction, for both the city walls and citadel, was characterized by dry armor-clad brickwork (poke and spoons) made of big rectangular blocks with ragged stone on lime mortar in its internal backfilling.
The citadel is surrounded on three sides by steep slopes and has massive stone walls between 2.5 m and 3.2 m thick, over 700 m in length and 10 to 15 m in height. Within the citadel, the ruins and archaeological remains of a number of buildings are found, including the Khan’s Palace, a bath, several underground water tanks, a 5th-century Christian church, and an 8th-century mosque, one of the earliest in the former Soviet Union.
Between the parallel defence walls, the city was built with the commercial sector close to the waterfront and the residential buildings near the citadel. In the late 19th century, the southern wall was demolished, and a modern city developed along the seafront and beyond the remaining wall. Within the historic town, many buildings survive including courtyard houses, public buildings, mosques, baths, madrasahs, and the remains of a caravanserai.
Fortifications combined with the medieval buildings of the old part of the city, the so-called Magalims, form a unique cultural landscape. Derbent has largely maintained its original form and provides impressive evidence of the city’s greatness and power in different historic periods over 15 centuries – Arab, Seljuk, Mongol, Timurid and Safavid periods until the 19th century when it became part of the Russian Empire. The property that is inscribed as the covers 37.658 ha and is surrounded by a 451.554-ha buffer zone.
Derbent's location on a narrow, three-kilometer strip of land in the North Caucasus between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus mountains is strategic in the entire Caucasus region. Historically, this position allowed the rulers of Derbent to control land traffic between the Eurasian Steppe and the Middle East. The only other practicable crossing of the Caucasus ridge was over the Darial Gorge.
A traditionally and historically Iranian city,  the first intensive settlement in the Derbent area dates from the 8th century BCE the site was intermittently controlled by the Persian monarchs, starting from the 6th century BCE. Until the 4th century CE, it was part of Caucasian Albania which was a satrap of the Achaemenid Persian Empire, and is traditionally identified with Albana, the capital.  The modern name is a Persian word (دربند Darband) meaning "gateway", which came into use in the end of the 5th or the beginning of the 6th century CE, when the city was re-established by Kavadh I of the Sassanid dynasty of Persia,  however, Derbent was probably already into the Sasanian sphere of influence as a result of the victory over the Parthians and the conquest of Caucasian Albania by Shapur I, the first shah of the Sassanid Persians.  In the 5th century Derbent also functioned as a border fortress and the seat of a Sassanid marzban. 
The 20-meter-high (66 ft) walls with thirty north-looking towers are believed to belong to the time of Kavadh's son, Khosrau I, who also directed the construction of Derbent's famous fortress that still remains to this day.  Some say that the level of the Caspian was formerly higher and that the lowering of the water level opened an invasion route that had to be fortified.  The chronicler Movses Kagankatvatsi wrote about "the wondrous walls, for whose construction the Persian kings exhausted our country, recruiting architects and collecting building materials with a view of constructing a great edifice stretching between the Caucasus Mountains and the Great Eastern Sea." Derbent became a strong military outpost and harbour of the Sassanid empire. During the 5th and 6th centuries, Derbent also became an important center for spreading the Christian faith in the Caucasus.
During periods when the Sasanians were distracted by war with the Byzantines or protracted battles with the Hephthalites in the eastern provinces, the northern tribes succeeded in advancing into the Caucasus. The first Sasanian attempt to seal off the road along the Caspian seacoast at Darband by means of a mud-brick wall has been dated in the reign of Yazdegerd II (438–457 AD). 
Movses Kagankatvatsi left a graphic description of the sack of Derbent by the hordes of Tong Yabghu of the Western Turkic Khaganate in 627. His successor, [ citation needed ] Böri Shad, proved unable to consolidate Tong Yabghu's conquests, and the city was retaken by the Persians, who held it as an integral domain until the Muslim Arab conquest.
As mentioned by the Encyclopedia Iranica, ancient Iranian language elements were absorbed into the everyday speech of the population of Dagestan and Derbent especially during the Sassanian era, and many remain current.  In fact, a deliberate policy of “Persianizing” Derbent and the eastern Caucasus in general can be traced over many centuries, from Khosrow I to the Safavid shahs Ismail I, and ʿAbbās the Great.  According to the account in the later "Darband-nāma", after construction of the fortifications Khosrow I “moved much folk here from Persia”,  relocating about 3,000 families from the interior of Persia in the city of Derbent and neighboring villages.  This account seems to be corroborated by the Spanish Arab Ḥamīd Moḥammad Ḡarnāṭī, who reported in 1130 that Derbent was populated by many ethnic groups, including a large Persian-speaking population. 
In 654, Derbent was captured by the Arabs, who called it the Gate of Gates (Bab al-Abwab),  following their attack on Persia, who transformed it into an important administrative center and introduced Islam to the area. The impression of antiquity evoked by these fortifications led many Arab historians to connect them with Khosrow I and to include them among the seven wonders of the world.  The Darband fortress was certainly the most prominent Sasanian defensive construction in the Caucasus and could have been erected only by an extremely powerful central government.  Because of its strategic position on the northern branch of the Silk Route, the fortress was contested by the Khazars in the course of the Khazar-Arab Wars. The Sassanids had also brought Armenians from Syunik to help protect the pass from invaders as Arab rule weakened in the region at the end of the ninth century, the Armenians living there were able to establish a kingdom of their own, which lasted until the early years of the thirteenth century.  
Excavations on the eastern side of the Caspian Sea, opposite to Derbent, revealed the Great Wall of Gorgan, the eastern counterpart to the wall and fortifications of Derbent. Similar Sassanian defensive fortifications there—massive forts, garrison towns, long walls—also run from the sea to the mountains.
The Caliph Harun al-Rashid lived in Derbent and brought it into great repute as a seat of the arts and commerce. According to Arab historians, Derbent, with population exceeding 50,000, was the largest city of the 9th century Caucasus. In the 10th century, with the collapse of the Arab Caliphate, Derbent became the capital of an emirate. This emirate often fought losing wars with the neighboring Christian state of Sarir, allowing Sarir to occasionally manipulate Derbent politics. Despite that, the emirate outlived its rival and continued to flourish at the time of the Mongol invasion in 1239. In the 14th century, Derbent was occupied by Timur's armies.
The Shirvanshahs dynasty existed as independent or a vassal state, from 861 until 1538 longer than any other dynasty in the Islamic world. They were renowned for their cultural achievements and geopolitical pursuits. The rulers of Shirvan, called the Shirvanshahs, had attempted, and on numerous times, succeeded, to conquer Derbend since the 18th Shirvanshah king, Afridun I, was appointed as the governor of the city. Over the centuries the city changed hands often. The 21st Shirvanshah king, Akhsitan I, briefly reconquered the city. However, the city was lost once again to the northern Kipchaks.
After the Timurud invasion, Ibrahim I of Shirvan, the 33rd Shirvanshah, managed to keep the kingdom of Shirvan independent. Ibrahim I revived Shirvan's fortunes, and through his cunning politics managed to continue without paying tribute. Furthermore, Ibrahim also greatly increased the limits of his state. He conquered the city of Derbend in 1437. The Shirvanshahs integrated the city so closely with their political structure that a new branch of the Shirvan dynasty emerged from Derbend, the Derbenid dynasty. The Derbenid dynasty, being a cadet dynasty of Shirvan, inherited the throne of Shirvan in the 15th century.
In the early 16th century the kingdom of Shirvan was conquered by Shah Ismail of the Safavid dynasty. As Shah Ismail incorporated all the Shirvan possessions, he also inherited Derbend.
Derbent stayed under Iranian rule, while occasionally briefly taken by the Ottoman Turks such as in 1583 after the Battle of Torches and the Treaty of Istanbul, till the course of the 19th century, when the Russians occupied the city and wider Iranian-ruled swaths of Dagestan.       
Being briefly taken by the Russians as a result of the Persian expedition of 1722–23 by Peter the Great, the 1735 Treaty of Ganja, formed by Imperial Russia and Safavid Iran (de facto ruled by Nader Shah), forced Russia to return Derbent and it bastion to Iran. In 1747, Derbent became the capital of the Derbent Khanate of the same name.
During the Persian Expedition of 1796, Derbent was stormed by Russian forces under General Valerian Zubov, but the Russians were forced to retreat due to internal political issues,  making it fall under Persian rule again. As a consequence of the Russo-Persian War (1804-1813) and the resulting Treaty of Gulistan of 1813, Derbent and wider Dagestan were forcedly and irrevocably ceded by Qajar Iran to the Russian Empire.  For background see Russian conquest of the Caucasus#Caspian Coast.)
In the 1886 population counting of the Dagestan Oblast, of the 15,265 inhabitants Derbent had, 8,994 (58,9%) were of Iranian descent (Russian: персы ) thus comprising an absolute majority in the town. 
2015 gunmen attack
On December 30, 2015 RT reported that unknown gunmen attacked a group of tourists visiting the Naryn-Kala fortress one person was killed and eleven injured.  ISIS subsequently claimed responsibility for the attack. 
The walls of this OLD fortress are still in remarkably good condition, but there is very little left inside the walls.
The inside of the citadel is actually a bit disappointing as it is practically empty. However, the views are worth it.
Dəmir Qapı Dərbənd is the ancient citadel of Azerbaijani local nations there. You can glimpse to the city from here. Unfortunately I could not enter inside of museum because of night visit, but you can spend interesting time here.
this place is worth the visit being a 2000 year old fort, good displays be will to spend some time here.
The 7th century fortress and the city walls once provided a bulwark against invaders from the north. Today, this UNESCO site is the highlight of any visit to Derbent. Parts of the walls have been restored - so much so that in some cases new parts have been built to replace presumably missing bits. Inside the fortress, the grounds have been set out with lawns and flower beds. From the ramparts there are good views across the town and down to the Caspian Sea. Some buildings were locked. There is also a small museum in the fortress but the descriptions of the objects are only in Russian. As for the city walls, inside the town they are in parts almost hidden by buildings and could benefit from having their features made more visible and obvious.
The most ANCIENT city in Russia (PHOTOS)
The Russian Academy of Sciences dates the first population here back to the 4th century BC.
And although the city of Kerch recently laid claim to Derbent&rsquos status after Crimea became a part of the Russian Federation, it still remains one of the most ancient cities on the planet.
It&rsquos situated on the shore of the Caspean Sea, where the mountains of the Greater Caucasus stretch toward the water, forming the Great Caucasian Passage.
The area&rsquos ancient tribes were sedentary ones, engaged in agriculture.
Christianity arrived in Derbent in 313, when Urnair, the tsar of Caucasian Albania, instituted it as the official faith. Derbent, which was part of the ancient state at the time, fell under the religion&rsquos influence. This happened long before Christianity made it to any of Russia&rsquos other regions.
The fortifications that one will encounter when visiting Derbent were erected to defend against constant attacks from nomads - the Huns and Khazars - in the 5-6 centuries.
The Naryn-Kala citadel is part of the Derbent Stronghold, which is included in UNESCO&rsquos World Heritage Site list. It is comparable to the Great Wall of China in scale.
In the 7the century, Muslim Arabs brought their own religion to Derbent.
By the start of the 8th century, Derbent was transformed into the Caucasian Caliphate&rsquos main foothold in the region.
Derbent truly flourished in the period from the 8th to the 13th century, when the ancient city became one of the most important cities of the Medieval period.
In 1222, Genghis Khan&rsquos army appeared at the city walls. At first, the city successfully managed to fend off the Mongolians. But, in 1239, Derbent finally fell.
As the Russian state gradually became a force to be reckoned with, its interest in the city grew. Just as St. Petersburg is considered Russia&rsquos window to Europe, so was Derbent thought to be the gateway to the East.
In 1722, Peter I disembarked on the north shore of Dagestan and moved toward Derbent. Having received the keys to the city&rsquos gates, the Russian Emperor stayed for the night. Legend has it that Peter personally made a hole in his chamber&rsquos wall to create a window overlooking the water. Although, who knows if there&rsquos any truth to this legend.
Nevertheless, Derbent would not become part of Russia until much later, in 1806. The region would not be safe for Russian troops for quite some time.
For a long time in the 19th century, the region endured the Caucasus War, in which the Russian Empire&rsquos army fought for the annexation of the mountainous regions of the North Caucasus.
The region was also not left out of the October Revolution and the subsequent Civil War between the Red and White armies, as well as World War II.
Today, in peacetime, anyone can visit Derbent and its once unbreachable citadel to marvel at the ancient history that permeates the ancient city&rsquos walls.
Click here to find out what life was like in Soviet Caucasus republics (PHOTOS).
If using any of Russia Beyond's content, partly or in full, always provide an active hyperlink to the original material.
Derbent - History
Derbent has an important strategic location in the Caucasus: the city is situated on a narrow, three-kilometer strip of land between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus mountains. Historically, this position allowed the rulers of Derbent to control land traffic between the Eurasian Steppe and the Middle East. The only other practicable crossing of the Caucasus ridge was over the Darial Gorge.
The first intensive settlement in the Derbent area dates from the 8th century BCE the site was intermittently controlled by the Persian monarchs, starting from the 6th century BCE. Until the 4th century CE, it was part of Caucasian Albania and is traditionally identified with Albana, the capital. The modern name is a Persian word (دربند Darband) meaning "closed gates", which came into use in the end of the 5th or the beginning of the 6th century CE, when the city was re-established by Kavadh I of the Sassanid dynasty of Persia.
The 20-meter (66 ft) high walls with thirty north-looking towers are believed to belong to the time of Kavadh's son, Khosrau I. The chronicler Movses Kagankatvatsi wrote about "the wondrous walls, for whose construction the Persian kings exhausted our country, recruiting architects and collecting building materials with a view of constructing a great edifice stretching between the Caucasus Mountains and the Great Eastern Sea." Derbent became a strong military outpost and harbour of the Sassanid empire. During the 5th and 6th centuries, Derbent also became an important center for spreading the Christian faith in the Caucasus.
Movses Kagankatvatsi left a graphic description of the sack of Derbent by the hordes of Tong Yabghu of the Western Turkic Khaganate in 627. His successor, Böri Shad, proved unable to consolidate Tong Yabghu's conquests, and the city was retaken by the Persians. In 654, Derbent was captured by the Arabs, who transformed it in an important administrative center and introduced Islam to the area. Because of its strategic position on the northern branch of the Silk Route, the fortress was contested by the Khazars in the course of the Khazar-Arab Wars. The Sassanids had also brought Armenians from Syunik to help protect the pass from invaders as Arab rule weakened in the region at the end of the ninth century, the Armenians living there were able to establish a kingdom of their own, which lasted until the early years of the thirteenth century.
Excavations on the eastern side of the Caspian Sea, opposite to Derbent, revealed the Great Wall of Gorgan, the eastern counterpart to the wall and fortifications of Derbent. Similar Sasanian defensive fortifications there—massive forts, garrison towns, long walls—also run from the sea to the mountains.
The Caliph Harun al-Rashid spent time living in Derbent and brought it into great repute as a seat of the arts and commerce. According to Arab historians, Derbent, with population exceeding 50,000, was the largest city of the 9th century Caucasus. In the 10th century, with the collapse of the Arab Caliphate, Derbent became the capital of an emirate. This emirate often fought losing wars with the neighboring Christian state of Sarir, allowing Sarir to occasionally manipulate Derbent politics. Despite that, the emirate outlived its rival and continued to flourish at the time of the Mongol invasion in 1239.
In the 14th century, Derbent was occupied by Timur's armies. In 1437, it fell under the control of the Shirvanshahs of Azerbaijan. During the 16th century, Derbent was the arena for wars between Turkey and Persia ruled by the Iranian Safavid dynasty. The Ottoman Empire gained control of the city following the Battle of the Torches in 1583, and Ottoman ownership was secured with the Treaty of Istanbul of 1590.
By the 1735 Ganja treaty, Derbent fell within the Persian state. In 1722, during the Russo-Persian War, Peter the Great of Russia wrested the town from the Persians, but in 1736, the supremacy of Nadir Shah was again recognized. In 1747, Derbent became the capital of the khanate of the same name.
During the Persian Expedition of 1796, Derbent was stormed by Russian forces under Valerian Zubov. As a consequence of the Treaty of Gulistan of 1813—between Russian and Persia—Derbent became part of the Russian Empire.
A large portion of the walls and several watchtowers have been preserved in reasonable shape till our days. The walls, reaching to the sea, date from the 6th century, Sassanid dynasty period. The city has a well-preserved citadel (Narin-kala), enclosing an area of 4.5 hectares (11 acres), enclosed by strong walls. Historical attractions include the baths, the cisterns, the old cemeteries, the caravanserai, the 18th-century Khan's mausoleum, as well as several mosques. The oldest mosque is the Juma Mosque, built over a 6th-century Christian basilica it has a 15th-century madrassa. Other shrines include the 17th-century Kyrhlyar mosque, the Bala mosque and the 18th-century Chertebe mosque.
Read more about this topic: Derbent
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Map of Derbent
Many think that a visit to Derbent is our of the reach of an independent Western traveler. Dagestan has a very bad reputation as a troublesome region with high crime rate and as a source of jihadist threat. Practically all Western countries issued travel warnings, discouraging travelers to go there, and even Moscovite Russians have a firm conviction that Dagestan is a dangerous place. But -if you venture to go there - literally everybody will try to convince you that there is no calmer and friendlier place on Earth than Dagestan. And after two days I was ready to believe rather them than my own bureaucrats in the ministries.
But let us see the practical side: Travelling to Dagestan is not difficult at all, there are no restrictions, extra permits, checkpoints, you can get the visa with the normal procedure, and travel around freely. From Moscow there are a lot of flights daily to Mahachkala. If you book the ticket well in advance a fares are quite low - 40-60 euros one way. I was flying Utair, a low cost company based in Moscow's Vnukovo airport. (Advisable for those who understand Russian as they do not have English website.) From Mahachkala airport you have to take a taxi to the bus station (avtovokzal), from where there are innumerable marshrutkas going to Derbent. As a rule they leave when full, but normally as I realized you don't have to wait more than a couple of minutes. The bigger ones (Gazella minibuses) cost 200 rubles (3 EUR) per seat, but they make the 170 km-s in 2-2,5 hours. Faster, more comfortable shared taxis cost more -cca 500 rubles (7,7 EUR) per person. As you arrive to Derbent you have to take another taxi to your hotel. Taxi rides within the town cost somewhere between 80 and 160 rubles 1-2 EURs so it is really not necessary to walk anywhere if you are not into it. Accommodation cannot be a problem - there are a lot of local hotels, guesthouses on booking.com. Prices generally are much lower than anywhere else in Russia, Dagestan is still among the poorest regions of the country - it will be a relief after th skyrocketing prices in Moscow.
The Old Town is easily walkable, but the Naryn-Kala fort is on the top of a hill, and can be quite exhausting experience to walk up there in the summer heat. The fortress is heavily reconstructed but retains some traces of the olden ages -it worth the 500 rubles, and you can easily spend there 2 hours. An ambitious reconstruction project is (or rather was) on the way. Parts of the city walls and some streets are nicely restored. An impressive staircase leads along the wall from the fortress towards the center. But it ends halfway in a clamped backyard.
Juma Masjid - the other crown jewel - is much more atmospheric place, than the fort. It's the oldest mosque of Russia and the interior is really stunning . Unfortunately taking pictures inside is forbidden.
Though there are some Russians who still dare to come, Dagestan is absolutely off the beaten track. You have to be prepared for quite limited tourist facilities - no souvenir shops and fridge magnets - the only tourist spot is in front of Naryn-Kala (on the picture) - but the obligatory accessories of the 21st century are present from ATMs to diet coke. The good command of Russian makes it hassle-free - but I am sure that you can survive without Russian also.
Getting back to the airport is easier as it is on the way to central Mahachkala, so most probably your driver will drop you there without any surcharge.
The last day in the Republic of Dagestan started the best way it could have started. Several people from the tour group and I went to the seaside to see the sunrise over the Caspian Sea.
The Caspian Sea is not an actual sea, it is classified as the world largest lake. However, the water there is actually a bit salty, and also it is too big to call a lake. It is located between Europe and Asia.
The sunrise time was 6:00 am, so we left the hotel at 5.45 and in 10 minutes were at the seafront area of Derbent.
The sky started changing the colors from dark blue and violet to warm tints of orange and red. I loved the fact that even though it was so early in the morning, there were people walking, men fishing.
I really love watching how the sun rises. There is something very peaceful and incredibly relaxing about that. Especially, when you see it happening over the sea. You can hear the sounds of waves and watch how the sky changing its color. It is like a real meditation for your whole body.
To be honest, I had some doubts about getting up that early to watch the sunrise, because we came back late a day before that morning. However, standing there and enjoying this lovely scene, I realized that was the best decision to make.
After the sunrise I went back to the hotel, packed and got ready for my last day in the Republic of Dagestan.
We left the hotel by 8.00 am. First, we had breakfast in a diner, where it was possible to order different types of food. There were vegetables, meat, salads, drinks (250-300 rubles). Then it was time for shopping. We got to see Derbent Market. The variety of things was available there. For example, vegetables, fruits, nuts, meat, sweets, famous “Urbech” (paste made of nuts, flux, coconut and etc).
After quick shopping we got to learn more about the history of Derbent, we did it while visiting an ancient citadel Narin Kala. By the way, the old city of Derbent and Narin Kala both are UNESCO World Heritage sites.
First we had an excursion in the citadel Narin Kala. We were told a bit about the history of Derbent and also the citadel. Derbent actually claims to be the oldest city in Russia. It didn’t always belong to Russia though, the city actually changed its’ ownership a lot of times.
You can walk around the territory of the citadel yourself, or hire a guide, like we did. The guide would tell you more about the history of Narin Kala. Unfortunately, I don’t remember much. One thing that I remember, that there used to be a big beautiful garden and all the wifes of the ruler went there for their mornig walks.
The thing that I really enjoyed was the view from Narin Kala. It was possible to see the city and the Caspian Sea. I really loved the colors, the roofs were red, green, blue, the whole rainbow of colors was presented there.
Old city of Derbent
When the excursion in Narin Kala was over, we went to the streets of Old Derbent. The walk was quite fast, that I didn’t get to experience the vibe of the old city fully. However, I definitely liked it.
Everything looked very authentic and interesting. Moreover, the locals were walking around and smiling to us, some of them were looking out of their windows.
I saw many colorful cars, that actually made the scenery very photogenic. Th kids were playing and running around.
To sum up, I want to say that I would have prefered to stay in the old city longer to enjoy it fully. In addition, there were so many places that would look great at the photos.
3. Saru-Kym Sand Dune
We left Derbent and were on the way to our last destination in the Republic of Dagestan. It was Saru-Kym sand dune. Definitely, something that I would not expect to see in Russia.
The first thing I saw when we arrived was a little café/shop. Then I noticed that men were making barbecue outside. However, we had to go a little further to the entrance, where we bought the tickets. After that we walked more, maybe another 10-15 minutes. It was getting really hot, and that made the walk not that enjoyable.
Saru-Kym is one of the biggest sand dunes in Eurasia. The name translates to “yellow sand”. When you see this place, it seems that you got teleported to a mini desert in the middle of the mountains. It does seem like something very unique and even unrealistic.
It was fun but so hard to run or walk on sand dunes. Especially, when I got down the hill to take some pictures and then decided to go up. In addition, the sun was so strong there, I literally felt myself like being in a real desert.
I would imagine how beautiful and spectacular the view is while the sunset in Saru-Kym. However, we left earlier. Certainly, oneday I will come back to the Republic of Dagestan and Saru-Kym sand dune to contemplate the sunset there.
The word Dagestan is of Turkish and Persian origin, directly translating to "Land of the Mountains." The Turkish word dağ means "mountain", and the Persian suffix -stan means "land".
Some areas of Dagestan were known as Lekia, Avaria and Tarki at various times. 
Between 1860 and 1920, Dagestan was referred to as Dagestan Oblast, corresponding to the southeastern part of the present-day republic. The current borders were created with the establishment of the Dagestan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic in 1921, with the incorporation of the eastern part of Terek Oblast, which is not mountainous but includes the Terek littoral at the southern end of the Caspian Depression.
Names for Republic of Dagestan in its official languages Edit
- – Респу́блика Дагеста́н (Respublika Dagestan) – Дагъистаналъул Жумгьурият (Daġistanałul Jumhuriyat) – Дагъистан Республика (Daġistanes Respublika) – Дагъыстан Жумгьурият (Dağıstan Cumhuriyat) – Республика Дагъустан (Respublika Daġustan) – Дагъусттаннал Республика (Daġusttannal Respublika) – Дагъустан Республика (Daġustan Respublika) – Республика Дагъустан (Respublika Daġustan) – Республика Дагъустан (Respublika Daġustan) – Республика Дагъустан (Respublika Daġustan) – Дагыстан Республикасы (Dağıstan Respublikası) – Дегӏестан Республика (Deġestan Respublika) – Дағыстан Республикасы (Dağıstan Respublikası) – Республикей Догъисту (Respublikei Doġistu)
The republic is situated in the North Caucasus mountains. It is the southernmost part of Russia and is bordered on its eastern side by the Caspian Sea.
- Area: 50,300 square kilometers (19,400 sq mi)
- internal: Kalmykia (N), Chechnya (W), and Stavropol Krai (NW)
- international: Azerbaijan (Balakan District, Khachmaz District, Oghuz District, Qabala District, Qakh District, Qusar District, Shaki District and Zaqatala District) (S), Georgia (Kakheti) (SW)
- water: Caspian Sea (E)
There are over 1,800 rivers in the republic. Major rivers include:
Kazikumuchskoe koysu, Avarskoe koisu, Andiyskoe koisy, Shura-ozen'
Dagestan has about 405 kilometers (252 mi) of coastline on the Caspian Sea.
Most of the Republic is mountainous, with the Greater Caucasus Mountains covering the south. The highest point is the Bazardüzü/Bazardyuzyu peak at 4,470 meters (14,670 ft) on the border with Azerbaijan. The southernmost point of Russia is located about seven kilometers southwest of the peak. Other important mountains are Diklosmta (4,285 m (14,058 ft)), Gora Addala Shukgelmezr (4,152 m (13,622 ft)) and Gora Dyultydag (4,127 m (13,540 ft)).
Natural resources Edit
Dagestan is rich in oil, natural gas, coal, and many other minerals. 
The climate is hot and dry in the summer but the winters are harsh in the mountain areas. [ citation needed ]
- Average January temperature: +2 °C (36 °F)
- Average July temperature: +26 °C (79 °F)
- Average annual precipitation: 250 mm (10 in) (northern plains) to 800 mm (31 in) (in the mountains). 
Dagestan is administratively divided into forty-one districts (raions) and ten cities/towns. The districts are further subdivided into nineteen urban-type settlements, and 363 rural okrugs and stanitsa okrugs.
Early 1st millennium Edit
In the first few centuries AD, Caucasian Albania (corresponding to modern Azerbaijan and southern Dagestan) became a vassal and eventually subordinate to the Parthian Empire. With the advent of the Sassanian Empire, it became a satrapy (province) within the vast domains of the empire. In later antiquity, it was a few times fought over by the Roman Empire and the Sassanid Persians as the former sought to contest the latter's rule over the region, without success. Over the centuries, to a relatively large extent, the peoples within the Dagestan territory converted to Christianity alongside Zoroastrianism.
In the 5th century, the Sassanids gained the upper hand, and by the 6th century constructed a strong citadel at Derbent, known henceforward as the Caspian Gates, while the northern part of Dagestan was overrun by the Huns, followed by the Caucasian Avars. During the Sassanian era, southern Dagestan became a bastion of Persian culture and civilization, with its center at Derbent,  and a policy of "Persianisation" can be traced over many centuries. 
Islamic influence Edit
In 664, the Persians were succeeded in Derbent by the Arabs, who in the 8th century repeatedly clashed with the Khazars. Although the local population rose against the Arabs of Derbent in 905 and 913, Islam was eventually adopted in urban centers, such as Samandar and Kubachi (Zerechgeran), from where it steadily penetrated into the highlands. By the 15th century, Christianity had died away, leaving a 10th-century church at Datuna as the sole monument to its existence.
Alternating Persian and Russian rule Edit
As Mongolian authority gradually eroded, new centers of power emerged in Kaitagi and Tarki. In the early 16th century, the Persians (under the Safavids) reconsolidated their rule over the region, which would, intermittently, last till the early 19th century. In the 16th and 17th centuries, legal traditions were codified and mountainous communities (djamaats) obtained a considerable degree of autonomy.
The Russians intensified their hold in the region for the first time in the 18th century, when Peter the Great annexed maritime Dagestan from Safavid Persia in the course of the Russo-Persian War (1722–23). The territories were however returned to Persia in 1735 per the Treaty of Ganja.
Between 1730 and the early course of the 1740s, following his brother's murder in Dagestan, the new Persian ruler and military genius Nader Shah led a lengthy campaign in swaths of Dagestan in order to fully conquer the region, which was met with considerable success, although eventually he suffered several decisive defeats at the hands of various ethnic groups of Dagestan, forcing him to retreat with his army. From 1747 onwards, the Persian-ruled part of Dagestan was administered through the Derbent Khanate, with its center at Derbent. The Persian Expedition of 1796 resulted in the Russian capture of Derbent in 1796. However, the Russians were again forced to retreat from the entire Caucasus following internal governmental problems, allowing Persia to capture the territory again.
Russian rule consolidated Edit
In 1806 the khanate voluntarily submitted to Russian authority, [ citation needed ] but it was not until the aftermath of the Russo-Persian War (1804-1813) that Russian power over Dagestan was confirmed, and that Qajar Persia officially ceded the territory to Russia. In 1813, following Russia's victory in the war, Persia was forced to cede southern Dagestan with its principal city of Derbent, alongside other vast territories in the Caucasus to Russia, conforming with the Treaty of Gulistan.  The 1828 Treaty of Turkmenchay indefinitely consolidated Russian control over Dagestan and removed Persia from the military equation. 
Uprisings against imperial Russia Edit
The Russian administration, however, disappointed and embittered the highlanders. The institution of heavy taxation, coupled with the expropriation of estates and the construction of fortresses (including Makhachkala), electrified highlanders into rising under the aegis of the Muslim Imamate of Dagestan, led by Ghazi Mohammed (1828–32), Gamzat-bek (1832–34) and Shamil (1834–59). This Caucasian War raged until 1864.
Dagestan and Chechnya profited from the Russo-Turkish War (1877–78), to rise together against imperial Russia. Chechnya rose again at various times throughout the late 19th and 20th centuries.
Soviet era Edit
On 21 December 1917, Ingushetia, Chechnya, Dagestan and the rest of the North Caucasus declared independence from Russia and formed a single state called the "United Mountain Dwellers of the North Caucasus" (also known as the Mountainous Republic of the Northern Caucasus) which was recognized by major world powers. The capital of the new state was moved to Temir-Khan-Shura.   The first prime minister of the state was Tapa Chermoyev, a prominent Chechen statesman. The second prime minister was an Ingush statesman Vassan-Girey Dzhabagiev, who in 1917 also became the author of the constitution of the land, and in 1920 was reelected for a third term.  After the Bolshevik Revolution, Ottoman armies occupied Azerbaijan and Dagestan and the region became part of the short-lived Mountainous Republic of the Northern Caucasus. After more than three years of fighting the White Army and local nationalists, the Bolsheviks achieved victory and the Dagestan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic was proclaimed on 20 January 1921. As the Soviet Union was living out its last moments, Dagestan declared itself a republic within Russia but did not follow the other ASSRs in declaring sovereignty. 
Post-Soviet era Edit
In August 1999, an Islamist group from Chechnya, led by Shamil Basayev and Ibn Al-Khattab, launched a military invasion of Dagestan, with the aim of creating an "independent Islamic State of Dagestan". The invaders were supported by part of the local population but were driven back by the Russian military and local paramilitary groups.  In response to the invasion, Russian forces subsequently reinvaded Chechnya later that year. 
The parliament of Dagestan is the People's Assembly, consisting of 72 deputies elected for a four-year term. The People's Assembly is the highest executive and legislative body of the republic.
The Constitution of Dagestan was adopted on 10 July 2003. According to it, the highest executive authority lies with the State Council, comprising representatives of fourteen ethnicities. The members of the State Council are appointed by the Constitutional Assembly of Dagestan for a term of four years. The State Council appoints the members of the Government.
Formerly, the Chairman of the State Council was the highest executive post in the republic, held by Magomedali Magomedovich Magomedov until 2006. On 20 February 2006, the People's Assembly passed a resolution terminating this post and disbanding the State Council. Russian president, Vladimir Putin offered the People's Assembly the candidature of Mukhu Aliyev for the newly established post of the president of the Republic of Dagestan. The nomination was accepted by the People's Assembly, and Mukhu Aliyev became the first president of the republic. On 20 February 2010 Aliyev was replaced by Magomedsalam Magomedov. Then the head of the republic becomes Ramazan Abdulatipov (acting until 2013 – 2017, following the resignation of Magomedov). [ citation needed ] Since 3 October 2017, the head of the Republic is appointed Vladimir Vasilyev. 
Because its mountainous terrain impedes travel and communication, Dagestan is unusually ethnically diverse and still largely tribal. It is Russia's most heterogeneous republic. Dagestan's population is rapidly growing. 
Vital statistics EditSource: Russian Federal State Statistics Service
Average population (x 1000) Live births Deaths Natural change Crude birth rate (per 1000) Crude death rate (per 1000) Natural change (per 1000) Fertility rates 1970 1,438 41,381 9,543 31,838 28.8 6.6 22.1 1975 1,544 42,098 10,292 31,806 27.3 6.7 20.6 1980 1,655 44,088 11,188 32,900 26.6 6.8 19.9 1985 1,744 50,053 12,010 38,043 28.7 6.9 21.8 1990 1,848 48,209 11,482 36,727 26.1 6.2 19.9 3.07 1991 1,906 47,461 12,062 35,399 24.9 6.3 18.6 2.94 1992 1,964 44,986 12,984 32,002 22.9 6.6 16.3 2.70 1993 2,012 41,863 14,777 27,086 20.8 7.3 13.5 2.46 1994 2,117 44,472 15,253 29,219 21.0 7.2 13.8 2.45 1995 2,209 45,680 15,700 29,980 20.7 7.1 13.6 2.41 1996 2,251 42,282 15,565 26,717 18.8 6.9 11.9 2.19 1997 2,308 41,225 15,662 25,563 17.9 6.8 11.1 2.10 1998 2,363 41,164 15,793 25,371 17.4 6.7 10.7 2.05 1999 2,417 38,281 16,020 22,261 15.8 6.6 9.2 1.87 2000 2,464 38,229 16,108 22,121 15.5 6.5 9.0 1.82 2001 2,511 38,480 15,293 23,187 15.3 6.1 9.2 1.79 2002 2,563 41,204 15,887 25,317 16.1 6.2 9.9 1.85 2003 2,609 41,490 15,929 25,561 15.9 6.1 9.8 1.81 2004 2,647 41,573 15,724 25,849 15.7 5.9 9.8 1.76 2005 2,684 40,814 15,585 25,229 15.2 5.8 9.4 1.69 2006 2,721 40,646 15,939 24,707 14.9 5.9 9.1 1.64 2007 2,761 45,470 15,357 30,113 16.5 5.6 10.9 1.81 2008 2,804 49,465 15,794 33,671 17.6 5.6 12.0 1.94 2009 2,850 50,416 16,737 33,679 17.7 5.9 11.8 1.92 2010 2,896 52,057 17,013 35,044 18.0 5.9 12.1 1.92 2011 2,914 54,427 16,917 37,510 18.1 5.8 12.3 1.98 2012 2,931 56,186 16,642 39,492 19.1 5.7 13.4 2.03 2013 2,955 55,641 16,258 39,383 18.8 5.5 13.3 2.02 2014 2,982 56,888 16,491 40,397 19.1 5.5 13.6 2.08 2015 3,003 54,724 16,132 38,592 18.2 5.4 12.8 2.02 2016 3,029 52,924 15,642 37,282 17.4 5.2 12.2 1.98 2017 3,041 50,322 15,562 32,567 16.4 5.1 11.3 1.91 2018 3,077 47,960 14,842 33,118 15.6 4.8 10.8 1.86 2019 3,110 45,516 14,482 31,034 14.7 4.7 10.0 1.78 2020 3,138 46,506 19,412 27,094 14.9 6.2 8.7
Ethnic groups Edit
The people of Dagestan include a large variety of ethnicities. According to the 2010 Census,  Northeast Caucasians (including Avars, Dargins, Lezgins, Laks, Tabasarans, and Chechens) make up almost 75% of the population of Dagestan. Turkic peoples, Kumyks, Azerbaijanis, and Nogais make up 21%, and Russians 3.6%. Other ethnicities (e.g. Tats) each account for less than 0.4% of the total population.
Such groups as the Botlikh, the Andi, the Akhvakhs, the Tsez and about ten other groups were reclassified as Avars between the 1926 and 1939 censuses. 
1926 Census 1939 Census 1959 Census 1970 Census 1979 Census 1989 Census 2002 Census 2010 Census 1 Number % Number % Number % Number % Number % Number % Number % Number % Avars 177,189 22.5% 230,488 24.8% 239,373 22.5% 349,304 24.5% 418,634 25.7% 496,077 27.5% 758,438 29.4% 850,011 29.4% Dargins 125,707 16.0% 150,421 16.2% 148,194 13.9% 207,776 14.5% 246,854 15.2% 280,431 15.6% 425,526 16.5% 490,384 17.0% Kumyks 87,960 11.2% 100,053 10.8% 120,859 11.4% 169,019 11.8% 202,297 12.4% 231,805 12.9% 365,804 14.2% 431,736 14.9% Lezgins 90,509 11.5% 96,723 10.4% 108,615 10.2% 162,721 11.4% 188,804 11.6% 204,370 11.3% 336,698 13.1% 385,240 13.3% Laks 39,878 5.1% 51,671 5.6% 53,451 5.0% 72,240 5.1% 83,457 5.1% 91,682 5.1% 139,732 5.4% 161,276 5.6% Azerbaijanis 23,428 3.0% 31,141 3.3% 38,224 3.6% 54,403 3.8% 64,514 4.0% 75,463 4.2% 111,656 4.3% 130,919 4.5% Tabasarans 31,915 4.0% 33,432 3.6% 33,548 3.2% 53,253 3.7% 71,722 4.4% 78,196 4.6% 110,152 4.3% 118,848 4.1% Russians 98,197 12.5% 132,952 14.3% 213,754 20.1% 209,570 14.7% 189,474 11.6% 165,940 9.2% 120,875 4.7% 104,020 3.6% Chechens 21,851 2.8% 26,419 2.8% 12,798 1.2% 39,965 2.8% 49,227 3.0% 57,877 3.2% 87,867 3.4% 93,658 3.2% Nogais 26,086 3.3% 4,677 0.5% 14,939 1.4% 21,750 1.5% 24,977 1.5% 28,294 1.6% 38,168 1.5% 40,407 1.4% Aghuls 7,653 1.0% 20,408 2.2% 6,378 0.6% 8,644 0.6% 11,459 0.7% 13,791 0.8% 23,314 0.9% 28,054 1.0% Rutuls 10,333 1.3% 6,566 0.6% 11,799 0.8% 14,288 0.9% 14,955 0.8% 24,298 1.0% 27,849 1.0% Tsakhurs 3,531 0.4% 4,278 0.4% 4,309 0.3% 4,560 0.3% 5,194 0.3% 8,168 0.3% 9,771 0.3% Others 43,861 5.6% 52,031 5.6% 61,495 5.8% 63,787 4.5% 57,892 3.6% 58,113 3.2% 25,835 1.0% 19,646 0.7% 1 18,430 people were registered from administrative databases, and could not declare an ethnicity. It is estimated that the proportion of ethnicities in this group is the same as that of the declared group. 
More than 30 local languages are commonly spoken, most belonging to the Nakh-Daghestanian language family. Russian became the principal lingua franca in Dagestan during the 20th century  Over 20 of Russia's 131 endangered languages as identified by UNESCO can be found in Dagestan. Most of these endangered languages have speakers in the mountainous region on the Dagestan-Georgia border. 
Prior to Soviet rule, the literary lingua-franca status to some extent belonged to Classical Arabic.  The northern Avar dialect of Khunzakh has also served as a lingua franca in mountainous Dagestan where Avar-related peoples lived.  And throughout centuries the Kumyk language had been the lingua-franca for the bigger part of the Northern Caucasus, from Dagestan to Kabarda, until the 1930s.    Kumyk also had been an official language for communication of Russian Imperial administration with the local peoples. 
The first Russian grammar written about a language from present-day Dagestan was for Kumyk.  Author Timofey Makarov wrote:
From the peoples speaking Tatar language I liked the most Kumyks, as for their language's distinction and precision, so for their closeness to the European civilization, but most importantly, I take in account that they live on the Left Flank of the Caucasian Front, where we're conducting military actions, and where all the peoples, apart from their own language, speak also Kumyk.
According to a 2012 survey which interviewed 56,900 people,  83% of the population of Dagestan adheres to Islam, 2.4% to the Russian Orthodox Church, 2% to Caucasian folk religion and other native faiths, 1% are non-denominational Christians. In addition, 9% of the population declares to be "spiritual but not religious", 2% is atheist and 0.6% follows other religions or did not answer the question. 
Dagestanis are largely Sunni Muslims, of the Shafii rites, that has been in place for centuries. On the Caspian coast, particularly in and around the port city of Derbent, the population (primarily made up of Azerbaijanis) is Shia. There is also a Salafi population, which is often a target of official repression. 
The appearance of Sufi mysticism in Dagestan dates back to the 14th century. The two Sufi tariqas that spread in the North Caucasus were the Naqshbandiya and the Qadiriya. The mystic tariqas preached tolerance and coexistence between the diverse people in the region. The Communist total intolerance for any religion after the Communist Revolution of 1917 also suppressed the Sufi movements. Shaykh Said Afandi al-Chirkawi was a prominent scholar, spiritual leader and murshid of Naqshbandi and Shadhili tariqahs in Dagestan until his death. 
Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union there has been an Islamic revival in the region, and by 1996 Dagestan had 1,670 registered mosques, 9 Islamic universities, 25 madrassas, 670 maktab, and it's estimated that "nearly one in five Dagestanis was involved in Islamic education", while of the 20 000 or so Russian pilgrims for Hajj more than half were from Dagestan. 
A relatively large number of native Tati-speaking Jews – the "Mountain Jews" – were [ when? ] also present in this same coastal areas. However, since 1991 and the collapse of the Soviet Union, they have migrated to Israel and the United States. These were an extension of much larger Azerbaijani Jewish community across the border in the Azerbaijani districts of Quba and Shamakhi. 
The number of Christians among the non-Slavic indigenous population is very low, with estimates between 2,000 and 2,500. Most of these are Pentecostal Christians from the Lak ethnicity.   The largest congregation is Osanna Evangelical Christian Church (Pentecostal) in Makhachkala, with more than 1,000 members. 
Watch the video: UNESCO site Derbent FORTRESS 6th century citadel Naryn-Kala Persian Fortification @ Dagestan Russia (November 2022).