Baku

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File:Baku-satellite view.jpg
Satellite view of Baku
File:Azerbaijan-Baki.png
The Baku harbour on the south of Absheron peninsula

Bakı (Azeri: Bakı, Russian: Баку), also known as Baku, is the capital of Azerbaijan. It is located on the southern shore of the Apsheron Peninsula, at Template:Coor dm. Modern Baku consists of three parts: the Old Town (İçəri Şəhər), the boomtown and the Soviet-built town. Population (2003 census): 1,900,000. About 3 million people in metropolitan area (due to high numbers of refugees and IDPs).

The boomtown, south of the old city, was built after massive petroleum exploitation began nearly a century ago and has interesting beaux-arts architecture. Fine arts, history and literature museums are located there, all housed in the mansions of pre-Revolutionary millionaires.

Modern Baku spreads out from the walls, its streets and buildings rising up hills that rim the Bay of Baku. Greater Baku is divided into 11 districts and 48 townships. Among these are townships on islands in the bay and one island town built on stilts in the Caspian Sea, 100 kilometres from Baku proper (the so-called Oil Rocks).

History

File:Baku 1.jpg
A view of Baku from the top of Maiden's Tower

Baku's name is thought to orginate from one of two Persian phrases: Bagh-Kuh ("Mount of God") and bad kube ("city of winds").

The history of Baku dates back to 1st millennium BCE, with the earliest written evidence from 6th century CE, however. The city was the location of an important fire temple of the Persian religion of Zoroastrianism, which was prevalent before the Islamic conquest of Iran.

The first written reference to Baku dates from 885, although archaeologists have found remains of a settlement predating by several centuries the birth of Jesus. The city became important after an earthquake destroyed Shemakha and in the 12th century, leading Shirvanshah Ahistan I to made Baku the new capital. In 1813, Russia signed the Treaty of Gulistan with Persia, which provided for the cession of Baku and most of the Caucasus from Iran and their annexation by Russia.

The center of Baku is the old town, which is also a fortress. The walled city of Baku (called the "inner town") became in December 2000 the first location in Azerbaijan classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Most of the walls and towers, strengthened after the Russian conquest in 1806, survive. This section is picturesque, with its maze of narrow alleys and ancient buildings. Wander the cobbled streets past the Palace of the Shirvanshahs, two caravansaraies (ancient inns), the 11th century Maiden Tower (nice view of the harbor), the baths and the Djuma Mosque (it used to house the Carpet and Applied Arts Museum, but now is a mosque again; the carpets got moved to the former Lenin museum). The old town also has dozens of small mosques, often without any particular sign to distinguish them from the next building.

During World War II ten defense zones were built around the city to prevent possible German invasion.

The Martyrs' Cemetery, formerly the Kirov park, is dedicated to the memory of those who lost their lives during the war with Armenia and also to the 137 people who were killed on January 19 and 20, 1990 when Soviet tanks and troops took to the streets of Baku. Photographs of victims featured on each tombstone are sobering and poignant. Now 20 January has become a national holiday of deep emotional meaning.

Climate

The climate is hot and dry in the summer, cool and wet in the winter, with gale-force winds that sweep through on occasion, caused by masses of polar air; however, snow is rare at 28 metres below sea level, and temperatures on the coast rarely get down to freezing.

Baku is located on the western shore of the Caspian Sea and is Azerbaijan's largest city, one of very few places where Soviet citizens could actually experience beaches or relax in now-dilapidated spa complexes overlooking the salty Caspian Sea. The old Inturist Hotel was one of Baku's largest, now being renovated, but overshadowed by the newer Hyatt Park, Hyatt Regency, Park Inn and Excelsior.

Economy

The basis of Baku's economy is petroleum. The existence of petroleum has been known since the 8th century. By the 15th century oil for lamps was obtained from hand dug surface wells. Commercial exploitation began in 1872, and by the beginning of the 20th century the Baku oil fields were the largest in the world. Towards the end of the 20th century much of the onshore petroleum had been exhausted, and drilling had extended into the sea offshore. Baku ranked as one of the largest centres for the production of oil industry equipment before WWII. The World War II Battle of Stalingrad was fought to determine who would have control of the Baku oil fields. Fifty years before the battle, Baku produced half of the world's oil supply: Azerbaijan and the United States are the only two countries ever to have been the world's majority oil producer. Currently the oil economy of Baku is undergoing a resurgence, with the development of the massive Azeri Chirag Gunashli field (Shallow water Gunashli by SOCAR, deeper areas by a consortium lead by BP) and the Shah Deniz gas field. As the largest town in the country, the city is served by the Heydar Aliyev International Airport.

Famous people from Baku

Famous people born in Baku include chess grandmasters Garry Kasparov and Teimour Radjabov. Kasparov was the top-ranked player in the world for many years -- he was driven out of Baku along with most of the other Armenians, and has said he will never return.

Lev Davidovich Landau [1] was born in Baku on January 22, 1908. He was a Nobel Prize Laureate in Physics in 1968.

Mstislav Rostropovich [2] was born in Baku on March 27, 1927. He is one of the most esteemed cellist of his generation.

Richard Sorge [3] is thoght to be one of the greatest spies in history, was born in 1895 in Baku. Acting as a German journalist in Germany, China and Japan he passed vital information to the Soviet intelligence agencies.

Genrich Altshuller lived and worked in Baku since he was 5 years old. Genrich Altshuller is father of TRIZ (TIPS) system, inventor and author.

Lotfi Zadeh, inventor of fuzzy logic, was born in Baku on 4 February 1921, grew up in Iran, and is now (2005) a professor of computer science at University of California, Berkeley.

External links

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