The capital of Azerbaijan manages to acquire a modern look without losing the charm of the ancient city. The city has carefully preserved the legacy of the past. Few cities in the world are changing as quickly as Baku. And nowhere else in Eurasia do East and West blend as seamlessly or as creatively as this city. For more than thousand years, from a small fortress arising in the middle of the Great Silk Road, the city has turned into a large modern metropolis while retaining its special oriental flavour. The city is the political, cultural, economic centre of Azerbaijan and major transport hub of the whole Caucasus.
Located on the crossroads of the East and West, the city has always been and still remains administrative, political, cultural and trade centres of the region. Furthermore, a 1735 Catalan map highlights the value of the city in the time of Great Silk Road. The map described the whole Caspian Sea as “Sea of Baku”.
Baku Oil Boom
Historically, Baku was the capital of Shirvanshahs’ State and later, become the centre of Baku Khanate in XVIII century. After the Russian invasion of Azerbaijan in early XIX century, Baku started to play a major role which vitally affected the economy of whole Russian Empire. In, 1846, the world’s first oil well was drilled in Baku and in a short period of time, Baku changed to an oil city.
In 1882, Nobel brothers started to move in to Baku with their technical staff. They established a colony located in “Black City” called Villa Petrolea. One year later, in 1883, Rothschilds arrived in Baku and created “Caspian-Black Sea Joint-Stock Company”. Along with the foreign investors, local Baku oil magnates started to emerge. The most well-known of them were Haji Zeynalabdin Tagiyev, Musa Nagiyev, Murtuza Mukhtarov, Shamsi Asadullayev and Seid Mirbabayev. By the beginning of the XX century, the number of oil companies in Baku reached to one hundred. As a result of the oil boom, Baku expanded so rapidly and population grew so fast that even the city was bigger than London, Paris and New York. The city continued to be a major oil producer during the XX century as well.
Oil Stones of Baku
In 1949, a vast amount of oil reserves was discovered under the Caspian Sea. The oil production from ground moved to the sea with the first operating offshore oil platform in the world called “Oil Stones” (Neft daşları in Azerbaijan language). It is recorded in Guinness World Records as the world’s first offshore oil platform. Located 55 km east from the closest shore of Absheron Peninsula, the most distinctive feature of Oil Stones is that it is fully functional city. It had a population of about 2,000 people and over 300 km (190 mi) of streets built on piles of dirt and landfill.
Nowadays’ Baku is an ultramodern city combining the glamour of XXI century together with the mystery of its ancient past. Only here, you can buy a hand-woven carpet from the noisy bazaar in the morning and go to admire the futuristic skyscrapers of the Flame Tower in the evening. In addition after having tasted traditional Azerbaijani dishes in a heart-warming conversation, you can finish the day by skipping a glass or two in the trendy Bentley’s Bar at the Four Seasons hotel.
The city of more than three million inhabitants consists of three major parts: the Old, Soviet and Modern parts. Baku has 12 administrative units, including both – Big Baku itself and several urban-type settlements. Unsurprisingly, the core of the present-day city is the Old City, or fortress, of the ancient Icheri Sheher. This part is highly picturesque, with its emerald green fig trees.
Baku- Cultural centre of Caucasus
Baku is also the biggest cultural centres in Caucasus. After all, It is the place where a national theatre, the first in Muslim East, lifted the curtain and the first opera was performed. Subsequently, the first Azerbaijan newspaper was published here and the first Azerbaijan library was opened. Today the city has dozens of museums, theatres , philharmonic, opera theatre, film studio, cinema theatres and libraries.
See our Hallmarks of Baku post to learn more about the this beautiful city.