Derbent: UNESCO World Heritage Site
By: The PH Team
The Republic of Dagestan is located in the North Caucasus in southern Russia. The region is Russia's most diverse, recognizing more than 30 official native languages.
In addition, Dagestan contains Russia's oldest city and UNESCO world heritage site - Derbent.
Derbent is located in Dagestan, the North Caucasus region of southern Russia and on the western coast of the Caspian Sea.
Much of its history is as a result of its strategic position dividing Europe and the Middle East and on the border of Europe and Asia.
The natural beauty of Derbent is also credited to its location, where the Caucasus Mountains meet the coast of the Caspian Sea - leaving a narrow 3km strip of plain.
Physical evidence of Derbent’s defensive role dates from the 7th or 8th century BCE, and, since the 1st millennium BC.
Since the 1970s, archaeological excavations have confirmed Derbent’s nearly 2,000 years of continuous history as an urban settlement, the oldest in Russia and one of the most ancient in the Caucasus region.
UNESCO World Heritage Site
The old city of Derbent was finally recognized as a UNESCO world heritage site in 2003.
The walls of the old city extend into the Caspian Sea to protect the harbour, while the mountain wall continues west over the mountains, a historical defense by completely blocking the pass between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains.
Within the ancient 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 church, and an 8th century mosque - one of the earliest anywhere in the former Soviet Union.
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 early Islamic and non-Islamic buildings have survived and are well-preserved, including; a 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, form a unique cultural landscape and give Derbent a feeling not present anywhere else in the region.
Derbent has largely maintained its original form and provides impressive evidence of the city’s different historic periods over 15 centuries including; the Arab, Seljuk, Mongol, Timurid and Safavid periods in its history.
In the 19th century, it became part of the Russian Empire and later part of the Soviet Union.
UNESCO World Heritage. “Citadel, Ancient City and Fortress Buildings of Derbent.” UNESCO World Heritage Centre, United Nations, whc.unesco.org/en/list/1070.