.mw-parser-output .hidden-begin{box-sizing:border-box;width:100%;padding:5px;border:none;font-size:95%}.mw-parser-output .hidden-title{font-weight:bold;line-height:1.6;text-align:left}.mw-parser-output .hidden-content{text-align:left}@media all and (max-width:500px){.mw-parser-output .hidden-begin{width:auto!important;clear:none!important;float:none!important))You can help expand this article with text translated from the corresponding article in Russian. (March 2023) Click [show] for important translation instructions. Machine translation, like DeepL or Google Translate, is a useful starting point for translations, but translators must revise errors as necessary and confirm that the translation is accurate, rather than simply copy-pasting machine-translated text into the English Wikipedia. Do not translate text that appears unreliable or low-quality. If possible, verify the text with references provided in the foreign-language article. You must provide copyright attribution in the edit summary accompanying your translation by providing an interlanguage link to the source of your translation. A model attribution edit summary is Content in this edit is translated from the existing Russian Wikipedia article at [[:ru:Дербент]]; see its history for attribution. You may also add the template ((Translated|ru|Дербент)) to the talk page. For more guidance, see Wikipedia:Translation.
Other transcription(s)
 • AzerbaijaniДәрбәнд (Dərbənd)
 • Tat and AvarДербенд
 • LezgianКьвевар, Цал, Дербенд
 • DargwaЧяли
Coat of arms of Derbent
Location of Derbent
Derbent is located in Republic of Dagestan
Location of Derbent in Dagestan
Derbent is located in European Russia
Location of Derbent in European Russia
Derbent is located in Caspian Sea
Location of Derbent near the Caspian Sea
Derbent is located in Caucasus mountains
Location of Derbent near the Caucasus mountains
Derbent is located in Russia
Location of Derbent in Russia
Coordinates: 42°03′N 48°18′E / 42.050°N 48.300°E / 42.050; 48.300
Federal subjectDagestan[1]
City status since1840
 • MayorKhizri M. Abakarov
 • Total69.63 km2 (26.88 sq mi)
0 m (0 ft)
 • Total119,200
 • Estimate 
123,720 (+3.8%)
 • Rank137th in 2010
 • Density1,700/km2 (4,400/sq mi)
 • Subordinated toCity of Derbent[1]
 • Capital ofCity of Derbent,[1] Derbentsky District[1]
 • Urban okrugDerbent Urban Okrug[5]
 • Capital ofDerbent Urban Okrug,[5] Derbentsky Municipal District
Time zoneUTC+3 (MSK Edit this on Wikidata[6])
Postal code(s)[7]
Dialing code(s)+7 87240
OKTMO ID82710000001
Derbent is at the foot of the snow-capped Caucasus Mountains, seen here in a photo taken by the MODIS on the orbiting Terra satellite, June 2003

Derbent (Russian: Дербе́нт; Lezgian: Кьвевар, Цал; Azerbaijani: Дәрбәнд, romanizedDərbənd; Avar: Дербенд), formerly romanized as Derbend,[8] is a city in Dagestan, Russia, located on the Caspian Sea. It is the southernmost city in Russia, and it is the second-most important city of Dagestan. Derbent occupies the narrow gateway between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains connecting the Eurasian Steppe to the north and the Iranian Plateau to the south; covering an area of 69.63 square kilometres (26.88 sq mi), with a population of roughly 120,000 residents.

Derbent claims to be the oldest city in Russia, with historical documentation dating to the 8th century BC, making it one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.[9] Due to its strategic location, over the course of history, the city changed ownership many times, particularly among the Persian, Arab, Mongol, Timurid, and Shirvan kingdoms. In the 19th century, the city passed from Persian into Russian hands by the Treaty of Gulistan of 1813.[10]


Derbent is derived from Persian "Darband" (Persian: دربند, lit.'Door/opening in a Barrier', from dar "door/gate" + band "barrier/dam", lit., "gate in the barrier"[11]), referring to the eastern-most pass in the high Caucasus Mountains (whence the putative "barrier/dam") on the beaches of the Caspian Sea. (The other pass, the Darial Pass, is in the Central Caucasus Mountains, and likewise carries a Persian name, standing for "the Alan Pass/gate" – with the Alans being the modern Iranic Ossetians.)

It is often identified with the Gates of Alexander, a legendary barrier supposedly built by Alexander the Great in the Caucasus. The Persian name for the city came into use at the end of the 5th or the beginning of the 6th century AD, when the city was re-established by Kavadh I of the Sassanid dynasty of Persia, but Derbent was probably already in the Sasanian sphere of influence as a result of the victory over the Parthians and the conquest of Caucasian Albania by Shapur I, the second shah of the Sassanid Persians.[12] The geographical treatise Šahrestānīhā ī Ērānšahr written in Middle Persian mentions the old name of the fortress – Wērōy-pahr (The Georgian Guard):

šahrestan [ī] kūmīs [ī] panj-burg až-i dahāg pad šabestān kard. māniš [ī] *pārsīgān ānōh būd. padxwadayīh [ī] yazdgird ī šabuhrān kard andar tāzišn ī čōl wērōy-pahr [ī] an ālag. (The city of Kūmīs of five towers Aži Dahag made it his own harem. The abode of the Parthians was there. In the reign of Yazdgird, the son of Šabuhr made it during the invasion of the Čōl, at the boundary of the Georgian Guard.).[13]

-Wėrōy-pahr: "The Georgian Guard" The old name of the fortress at Darband;...[14]

In Arabic texts the city was known as "Bāb al-Abwāb" (Arabic: بَاب ٱلْأَبْوَاب, lit.'Gate of all Gates'),[15] simply as "al-Bāb" (Arabic: ٱلْبَاب, lit.'The Gate') or as "Bāb al-Hadid" (Arabic: بَاب ٱلْحَدِيد, lit.'Gate of Iron').[16] A similar name meaning "Iron Gate" was used by Turkic peoples, in the form "Demirkapi".[17][18]


View of the city from the citadel of Naryn-Kala, 1910s

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.

Persian rule

Derbent is renowned for its Medieval fortress, Naryn-Kala, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Derbent's fortress during winter

A traditionally and historically Iranian city,[19] the first intensive settlement in the Derbent area dates from the 8th century BC; the site was intermittently controlled by the Persian monarchs, starting from the 6th century BC. Until the 4th century AD, it was part of Caucasian Albania which was a satrapy of the Achaemenid Persian Empire, and is traditionally identified with Albana, the capital.[12] 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 AD, when the city was re-established by Kavadh I of the Sassanid dynasty of Persia,[20] 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 second shah of the Sassanid Persians.[12] In the 5th century Derbent also functioned as a border fortress and the seat of a Sassanid marzban.[12]

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 fortress.[21]

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.[22] The chronicler Movses Kaghankatvatsi 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).[12]

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]

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.[23] 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.[23] According to the account in the later "Darband-nāma", after construction of the fortifications Khosrow I “moved much folk here from Persia”,[24] relocating about 3,000 families from the interior of Persia in the city of Derbent and neighboring villages.[23] 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.[25]

Arab conquest

In 643, Derbent was captured by the Arab Muslims, who called it the Gate of Gates (Bab al-Abwab),[26] following their invasion of Persia. They 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.[12] 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.[12] 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, which lasted until the early years of the thirteenth century.[27][28] The Holy Saviour Armenian Church still rises up in the skyline, though it is used as the Museum of Carpet, Arts and Crafts today due to the decline in the Armenian population. There was also a second Armenian church and two Armenian schools which served the Armenian community, which numbered about 3,000 in the census of 1913.

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.[citation needed] According to Arab historians, Derbent, with a population exceeding 50,000, was the largest city of the 9th century in the Caucasus. In the 10th century, with the collapse of the Arab Caliphate, Derbent became the capital of an emirate. Emirate of Derbent often fought losing wars with the neighboring Christian state of Sarir, allowing Sarir to manipulate Derbent's politics on occasion. 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.

Shirvanshah era

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 Timurid 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.

Russian conquest

Illustration entitled Derbendt int rÿck van Persien ("Derbent in the Persian Empire"). Published by Jacob Peeters in 1690
Derbent in the 1980s

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 Constantinople, till the course of the 19th century, when the Russians occupied the city and wider Iranian-ruled swaths of Dagestan.[29][30][31][32][33][34][35]

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 its 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,[36] 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 ceded by Qajar Iran to the Russian Empire.[37] (For background, see Russian conquest of the Caucasus#Caspian Coast.)

In the 1886 census of Dagestan Oblast, as part of Russia's Caucasus Viceroyalty, people of Iranian descent (Russian: персы) were still an absolute majority at 8,994 out of 15,265, or 58,9%.[38]


The modern city is built in the North Caucasus of Eastern Europe; near the western shores of the Caspian Sea, south of the Rubas River, on the slopes of the Tabasaran Mountains (part of the Bigger Caucasus range). Derbent is well served by public transport, with its own harbor, a railway going south to Baku, and the Baku to Rostov-on-Don road.

To the north of the town is the monument of the Kirk-lar, or forty heroes, who fell defending Dagestan against the Arabs in 728. To the south lies the seaward extremity of the Caucasian wall (fifty metres long), otherwise known as Alexander's Wall, blocking the narrow pass of the Iron Gate or Caspian Gates (Portae Athanae or Portae Caspiae). When intact, the wall had a height of 9 m (29 ft) and a thickness of about 3 m (10 ft) and, with its iron gates and numerous watch-towers, defended Persia's frontier.[20]


Derbent has a cold semi-arid climate (Köppen climate classification BSk).

Climate data for Derbent
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 26.7
Mean daily maximum °C (°F) 4.8
Daily mean °C (°F) 2.1
Mean daily minimum °C (°F) −0.2
Record low °C (°F) −18.9
Average precipitation mm (inches) 30.7
Average precipitation days 11.0 10.9 8.7 6.1 5.9 5.8 4.9 5.2 7.3 9.3 10.6 11.2 96.8
Mean monthly sunshine hours 72 73 102 158 227 260 275 248 193 133 86 67 1,894
Source: climatebase.ru[39]

Administrative and municipal status

Within the framework of administrative divisions, Derbent serves as the administrative center of Derbentsky District, even though it is not a part of it.[1] As an administrative division, it is incorporated separately as the City of Derbent—an administrative unit with the status equal to that of the districts.[1] As a municipal division, the City of Derbent is incorporated as Derbent Urban Okrug.[5]


Historical population
Source: Census data

According to the 1897 census, Derbent had 14,649 inhabitants, 9,767 of whom were Tatar (later known as Azerbaijani) speakers (66.7%) and 1,004 were Russian speakers (6.9%).[40]

In 1916, Derbent had a population of 31,168 consisting of 7,919 Shia Muslims (25.4%), 7,567 Russians (24.3%), 6,879 Jews (22.1%), 5,138 Caucasian highlanders (16.5%), 2,604 Armenians (8.4%), and 1,061 Sunni Muslims (3.4%).[41]

According to the 2021 Census, the main ethnic groups in the city are:[42]

Jewish community

Main article: History of the Jews in Derbent

Jews began to settle in Derbent in ancient times. During the Khazars' reign, they played an important part in the life of the city.[43] The Jewish traveler Benjamin of Tudela mentions Jews living in Derbent in the 12th century, and Christian traveler Wilhelm of Rubruquis writes about a Jewish community in the 13th century. The first mention of Jews in Derbent in modern times is by a German traveler, Adam Olearius, in the 17th century.

Derbent's Jewry suffered during the wars in the 18th century. Nadir Shah of Persia forced many Jews to adopt Islam. After the Russian conquest, many Jews of rural Dagestan fled to Derbent, which became the spiritual center of the Mountain Jews. The Jewish population numbered 2,200 in 1897 (15% of total population) and 3,500 in 1903. In the middle of the 20th century, Jews constituted about a third of the population of Derbent.[44] In 1989, there were 13,000 Jews in the city, but most emigrated after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. In 2002, there were 2,000 Jews with an active synagogue and community center.[45] The chief rabbi of Derbent, Obadiah Isakov, was badly injured in an assassination attempt on July 25, 2013, sparking concerns of further acts of antisemitism targeting the Jewish community.[46] In 2016, the Jewish population was down to 1,345.[47]

Economy and culture

The city is home to machine building, food, textile, fishing, and fishery supplies, construction materials, and wood industries. It is the center of Russian brandy production. The educational infrastructure includes a university as well as several technical schools. On the cultural front, there is a Lezgin drama theater (named after S. Stalsky). About two kilometers (1.2 miles) from the city is the vacation colony of Chayka (Seagull).

The Soviet novelist Yury Krymov named a fictional motor tanker after the city in his book The Tanker "Derbent".


Derbent has 3 state and 1 municipal theaters.

Citadel of Derbend

Main article: Fortifications of Derbent

Sassanid Fortress Naryn-Kala (Derbent)

Derbent resembles a huge museum and has magnificent mountains and shore nearby, and therefore possesses much touristic potential, further increased by UNESCO's classification of the citadel, ancient city and fortress as a World Heritage Site in 2003; however, instability in the region has halted development.

The current fortification and walls were built by the Persian Sassanian Empire as a defensive structure against hostile nomadic people in the north, and continuously repaired or improved by later Arab, Mongol, Timurid, Shirvan, and Iranian kingdoms until the early course of the 19th century, as long as its military function lasted. The fortress was built under the direction of the Sassanid emperor Khosrow (Chosroes) I.[21]

A large portion of the walls and several watchtowers still remain in reasonable shape. 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.

Religious monuments

As of 1865, the city had: 1 - Russian and 1 - Armenian church; 1 - Sunni and 16 - Shiite mosques, as well as 3 synagogues.[48]






Notable people

Twin towns – sister cities

See also: List of twin towns and sister cities in Russia

Derbent is twinned with:[58]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g Law #16
  2. ^ "База данных показателей муниципальных образований". Archived from the original on October 6, 2017. Retrieved June 9, 2015.
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  34. ^ Ernest Meyer, Karl, Blair Brysac, Shareen (2006). Tournament of Shadows: The Great Game and the Race for Empire in Central Asia. Basic Books. p. 66. ISBN 978-0-465-04576-1.((cite book)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)[permanent dead link]
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  47. ^ Derbent as Russia's Oldest City? Think Again, Moscow Says
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  53. ^ Huseynov G.-B. Ya., 2005, p. 702.
  54. ^ How does the Orthodox live in Dagestan?
  55. ^ Holy stones
  56. ^ Reconstruction and improvement of the historical Muslim cemetery Kyrkhlyar
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  58. ^ "Города-побратимы". derbent.ru (in Russian). Derbent. Retrieved February 3, 2020.