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Bakı (bəkēˈ) or Baku (bəko͞oˈ), city (2021 est. pop. 2,371,000), capital of Azerbaijan, on the Caspian Sea. Greater Bakı includes almost the whole Absheron peninsula, on which Bakı proper is situated; the city is located below sea level. The city was a leading Soviet industrial and cultural center and until World War II was the USSR's chief petroleum center. It handled one of the greatest volumes of freight (mainly oil and oil products) of any Soviet port. Oil drilling (especially on the Absheron peninsula and offshore) is the major economic activity. Bakı has many oil refineries and factories that produce oil-field equipment, and is one terminus of a pipeline that extends to near Ceyhan, Turkey. Other important industries include shipbuilding and the processing of food and tobacco. The city is linked by rail to Russia, Georgia, and Turkey. Many of Bakı's people are Azeri (46%), but there are large numbers of Russians and Armenians.

The city was first mentioned in a 9th-century chronicle; but as early as the 6th cent. B.C. oil and gas wells in the area were worshiped, and shrines were made of constantly burning fires. Bakı was a great medieval trade and craft center. It flourished in the 15th cent. under the independent Shirvan shahs and from 1509 to 1723 under Persian rule. Captured by Peter I in 1723, it was returned to Persia in 1735. Russia annexed it definitively in 1806. Oil production began in the late 19th cent. Taken by the Bolsheviks in 1917, the city was occupied during the next two years by the White Army and its foreign allies (mainly Britain). From 1918 to 1920, Bakı belonged to the independent, anti-Bolshevik Azerbaijan republic. In Jan., 1990, Bakı was the scene of fierce fighting as Soviet forces put down Azeri militants who had declared independence. Since independence (1991) Azerbaijan's economic growth has been disproportionately concentrated in Bakı.

The Old City, comprising the 13th-century fortress of Bad-Kube, has narrow, winding streets, several mosques, and the 17th-century palace of the khans of Bakı, who were vassals of the Persian shahs. The mosque of Synyk-Kala dates from the 11th cent. and the Maiden's Tower from the 12th. In the European-style New City are the university (est. 1920), the Azerbaijan Academy of Sciences, and many other educational and cultural institutions. In recent years new construction—including the Heydar Aliyev Center (2012), Baku Crystal Hall (2012), Flame Towers (2013)—has transformed the city. The Fire Temple, 16 mi (26 km) from the city, still taps an ancient natural gas seepage and was a place of worship for Zoroastrians.

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(Azerbaijani, Baky; possibly from the Persian bad kube,“windblown”), city, capital of the Azerbaijan SSR. One of the largest industrial, scientific, and cultural centers of the USSR. Large port on the western coast of the Caspian Sea, in the southern portion of the Apsheron Peninsula. The central part of Baku is situated in an amphitheater, with ledges descending toward Baku Bay. The average January temperature is 3° C, and the average July temperature is 25–30° C. Annual precipitation is 180–300 mm. Strong winds (northerly) are characteristic, primarily in the fall.

Greater Baku (2,192 sq km, 1967), which consists of ten administrative raions with 46 urban-type settlements, forms a huge agglomeration which occupies a considerable part of the Apsheron Peninsula and adjacent sections of marine and land oil fields. It also includes the islands of the Apsheron (Zhiloi, Artema, and others) and Baku (Bulla, Svinoi, and Duvannyi) archipelagoes.

The population of greater Baku is 1,261,000 according to the census of Jan. 15, 1970. In the early 19th century there were 4,500 people living in Baku, but at the end of the 19th century there were about 112,000. Approximately 25 percent of the entire population of the Azerbaijan SSR and nearly 50 percent of its urban population is concentrated in greater Baku. The population basically consists of Azerbaijanis and Russians; Armenians, Jews, Dagestani peoples, and others also live there. The average annual number of workers and employees is over 500,000.

Historical information. Baku is first mentioned in fifth-century sources; it also appears in the writings of Eastern geographers of the ninth to tenth centuries (al-Istakhri, al-Masudi, al-Magdasi), and as early as this period the extraction of oil in Baku was known. The first mention of the port of Baku appears in the work of al-Magdasi. In the second half of the 12th century, Baku was for some time the political center of the state of Shirvan. Authors of the 12–15th centuries write of the oil sources of Baku (Iakut Khamavi, Zakaria al-Kazvini, Khamdallakh Kazvini, and Abdurrashid Bakuvi). Oil was already being exported to the countries of the East at this time. Caspian coastal trade passed through the port of Baku. In the late 15th and 16th centuries the fortress of Baku was considered one of the strongest in the Transcaucasus. In 1540 the troops of the Safawids captured Baku after a protracted battle. In the 1580’s, Turkey conquered Baku, and in 1604 the fortress was destroyed by the troops of the Iranian shah Abbas I, although it was soon reestablished. In the 17th century, Baku was a major city. According to the Turkish voyager Evliya Chelebi (mid-17th century), the oil of Baku brought great profits to the shah’s treasury (7,000 tumans a year). Oil was exported to Iran, Middle Asia, Turkey, India, and other countries.

In 1723, during the Persian campaign of Peter I, Baku was taken by the Russian troops. It was returned to Iran in 1735. Numerous wars and internecine feudal conflicts had an adverse effect on Baku. In the 1730’s it was a small town; its trade declined and oil production decreased. In 1747, Baku became the center of the Baku Khanate.

Baku was annexed by Russia in 1806 during the Russo-Iranian war of 1804–13. It began to grow rapidly in the 1870’s with the development of the capitalist oil industry. The production of oil in the Baku region grew from 26,000 tons in 1872 to 11 million tons in 1901, totaling about 50 percent of the world’s oil production. The construction of the Baku-Batumi oil pipeline from 1897 to 1907 was a major event. By the early 20th century the working class of Baku numbered over 60,000 people. It was multinational.

The revolutionary movement in Baku began at the end of the 19th century. The first social democratic circles appeared in 1898–99. The group Iskra arose in 1901, and the Baku committee of the RSDLP was established in the same year. The social democratic group Gummet (Energy) was formed under the auspices of the committee in 1904. The Baku strikes were major actions taken by the proletariat. The Baku proletariat participated actively in the Revolution of 1905–07. The Baku soviet of workers’ deputies was created in November 1905; in October 1906 a trade union of oil workers was established. Soviet power was proclaimed in Baku on Oct. 31 (Nov. 13), 1917. On Apr. 25, 1918, the Baku sovnarkom (council of people’s commissars) was established. It implemented a number of socialist measures. On July 31, 1918, because of the onslaught of the foreign and domestic counterrevolution, the Soviet regime in Baku temporarily fell. The first congress of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan was held illegally in February 1920 in Baku, and it adopted a resolution on the preparation of an armed uprising in order to reestablish Soviet power. On the night of Apr. 27, 1920, the proletariat of Baku overthrew the bourgeois nationalist Musavatist government. The 11th Red Army came to the aid of the insurgent Azerbaijani people, and on Apr. 28, 1920, the Azerbaijan SSR was proclaimed. Baku became the capital of the republic.

Economy. Modern Baku is a major industrial complex with development of oil and gas extraction; the petrochemical, chemical, machine-building, and metalworking industries; production of construction materials; and light industry and the food industry. Greater Baku has its own power system with a number of large power plants (the Northern Regional State Power Plant, the Krasnaia Zvezda and Krasin thermoelectric power plants, etc.). In 1968 the gross industrial output of Baku had risen by a factor of 25.7 in comparison with 1913.

Particularly notable among the numerous industrial enterprises of the city are the oil fields—the old fields Leninneft’ (Balakhany, Savunchi, and Ramana), Ordzhonikidzeneft’ (Surakhany, Karachukhur), Kirovneft’ (Binagadi), Aziz-bekovneft’, and the field named in honor of the Twenty-six Baku Commissars (Bibi-Eibat) and the new fields Karadag-neft’ (on land), the field named in honor of the Twenty-second Congress of the CPSU, and the Narimanov and Serebrovskii fields (at sea). The oil refineries are concentrated in the eastern part of Baku (the Novobakinskii Refinery, the refinery named in honor of the Twenty-second Congress of the CPSU, and the Karaev and other refineries), as are chemical, machine-building, and metalworking plants (the Lieutenant Shmidt Plant, the Kishlinskii Plant, a high-voltage apparatus plant, an instrument-making plant, and domestic machine-building enterprises, including plants producing refrigerators, television sets, gas stoves, etc.). There are also many enterprises engaged in light industry and the food industry (combines for textiles, worsteds, and fine fabrics; shoe factories, meat-packing combines, flour mills, etc.). In the suburbs of Baku there is oil and gas extraction, gas processing, and construction materials industry (cement and asbestos plants, numerous stone quarries, and sand pits).

Baku is an important transportation junction. It is third among the capitals of the Union republics in volume of freight turnover. The commercial seaport is most important in terms of freight turnover; its importance increased greatly after the Baku-Krasnovodsk sea ferry crossing was put into service. Baku is linked to many of the country’s cities by air routes. Railroad lines leave Baku for Rostov-on-Don, Tbilisi, Yerevan, and Astara. The city is linked with industrial and health resort areas by local railroad lines (including the Baku-Sabunchi line—the first electrified railroad in the USSR). Intracity transportation is by trolley (since 1924), bus (since 1932), and trolleybus (since 1941); in 1967 the first line of the Baku subway system was put into service.

Municipal construction is proceeding rapidly. Between 1959 and 1968, 5 million sq m of living space was constructed in Baku. Zabrat, Mashtaga, Diubendi, and Primorsk have arisen as new satellite cities around Baku.


Architecture. In the Middle Ages the ancient part of Baku with its narrow bystreets (the so-called fortress, or Icheri-shekher) was enclosed by walls and a moat (the remains of the interior wall were restored from 1952 to 1957). The minaret Synyk-Kala (1078–79), the tower Kyz-Kalasy (the Maiden’s Tower, 12th century), and the palace complex of the Shirvanshahs (essentially 15th century) have been preserved on the site of the fortress. Eclectic buildings were erected in Baku in the second half of the 19th century. In Soviet times, old sections of the city were reconstructed and a number of new squares created in order to establish the architectural appearance of the center of the city in accordance with a general plan made in the 1920’s (the designers included A. P. Ivanitskii, V. N. Semenov, and L. A. Il’in). The public buildings erected in the 1930’s and 1940’s include the building of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan and of the Council of Ministers of the Azerbaijan SSR, the Nizami Museum (both by the architects S. A. Dadashev and M. A. Useinov), and the S. M. Kirov Park with a monument to him (1939; architect L. A. Il’in, sculptor P. V. Sabsai). During the postwar years, construction included the House of the Government (1952; architects L. B. Rudnev and V. O. Munts), the V. I. Lenin Republic Stadium (1952; architects L. I. Gonsiorovskii, O. M. Isaev, and G. A. Sergeev), the complex of buildings of the Academy of Sciences of the Azerbaijan SSR (1960’s; architect M. A. Useinov), the air terminal (1964; architect G. A. Medzhidov), the circus (1967; architects E. A. Ismai-lov and F. R. Leont’eva), and the Intourist Hotel (1969; architect M. A. Useinov). There are sculptural monuments to Nizami (1949; F. G. Abdurakhmanov) and Lenin (1955; D. M. Kariagdy); there is the monument Liberation (1960, F. G. Abdurakhmanov). The Memorial Pantheon of the Twenty-six Baku Commissars was completed in 1968 (architects G. A. Aleskerov and A. Guseinov, sculptors I. I. Zeinalov and N. Mamedov); it includes the high relief The Shooting of the Twenty-six Baku Commissars (1958; S. D. Merkurov).

Education and cultural affairs. The Academy of Sciences of the Azerbaijan SSR, founded in 1945, and more than 100 scientific institutions are located in Baku. There were no institutions of higher learning in Baku before the October Revolution. In the 1969–70 academic year there were 86,200 students in ten institutions of higher learning, including the Azerbaijan University, a polytechnic institute, institutes of oil and chemistry, national economy, medicine, pedagogy, physical culture, and the arts, a pedagogical institute of languages, and a conservatory. In 28 specialized secondary schools there were 39,500 pupils, and in 30 vocational technical schools, 16,500 pupils. In the 1913–14 academic year there were 25,000 children in 115 schools, while in the 1969–70 academic year there were 265,500 pupils in 386 general educational schools of all types. In 1968 there were 45,000 children in preschool institutions.

As of Jan. 1,1969, the following were functioning in Baku: the Azerbaijani Opera and Ballet Academic Theater, the Azerbaijani Dramatic Theater, the Russian Dramatic Theater, the Theater for Young Audiences, the Theater of Musical Comedy, and the Puppet Theater. There were 153 public libraries (5.5 million copies of books and periodicals). The largest libraries are the M. F. Akhundov Library of the Republic, the main library of the Academy of Sciences of the Azerbaijan SSR, the V. I. Lenin Central Library, and the library of Azerbaijan University. There are 16 museums, including the branch of the V. I. Lenin Central Museum, the R. Mustafaev Art Museum, the Nizami Museum of Azerbaijani Literature, and the Museum of the History of Azerbaijan. There are 105 clubs and 171 motion picture installations. Extrascholastic institutions include the Republic Palace of Pioneers and Schoolchildren, 13 Pioneers’ nouses, and nine children’s athletic schools.

The republic publishing houses Azerneshr (in Russian, Azgosizdat), Giandzhlika (Molodost’), Maarif (Pros-veshchenie), and others are located in Baku, as are Republic Radio and Television, the television station, and the Azerbaijan News Agency (AZTAG). As of Jan. 1, 1970, 12 republic newspapers and periodicals in Azerbaijani, Russian, and Armenian were published. The city’s evening newspapers are Baky (Baku, since 1958) in Azerbaijani and Baku (since 1963) in Russian.

Public health. In 1968 there were 85 hospitals in Baku with 16,400 beds; there were 219 medical outpatient polyclinics, 16 specialized dispensaries, 19 medical units, and 15 epidemiologic centers. There were 7,900 doctors (1 doctor for every 156 residents) and 14,100 secondary medical personnel. There is a large group of health resorts in Baku and its suburbs.


Ashurbeili, S. B. Ocherk istoriisrednevekovogo Baku (VIII-nachalo XIX vv.). Baku, 1964.
Gadzhinskii, D. D., and P. A. Azizbekova, compilers. Baku: Istoriche skie i dostoprimechatel’nye mesta. Baku, 1956.
Koval’skaia, N. Ia., and A. M. Gadzhizade. Baku:Ekonomiko-geograficheskii ocherk. Moscow, 1955.
Dadashev, S. A., and M. A. Useinov. Arkhitekturnye pamiatniki Baku. Moscow, 1955.
Bretanitskii, L. Baku.[Leningrad-Moscow,] 1965.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


, Baki
the capital of Azerbaijan, a port on the Caspian Sea: important for its extensive oilfields. Pop.: 1 830 000 (2005 est.)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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