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The oldest town in the Russian Federation - Derbent - is over 5,000 years old and is now included into the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Derbent is located 121km from Makhachkala, on the seashore of the Caspian Sea. The territory occupied by the city encloses a narrow strip of land stretching between the spurs of the mountains of Tabassaran (The Great Caucasian Ridge) and the Caspian Sea.

The fortress enclosing this narrow passage was called in many ways by different peoples (Dar-band (knot of the gates), Bab-al-Abuab (gates of gates), Temir-Kani (iron gates) etc.), meaning 'gates'. For Russians the Persian name sounded like Derben (iron gates). Thus, the city got the name of Derbent.

The history of the city is rich in events. The first settlements appeared here 5,000 years ago in the Bronze Age. The city was first mentioned by Gekatey from Milet, Ancient Greek philosopher (4th century BC). The role Derbent and its narrow territory lying between impenetrable mountains and the Caspian Sea played was really very important. Derbent was located in a strategically important place of the famous Caspian Track connecting Eastern Europe and Asia. Due to its strategic location, Derbent was regularly attacked by Skiffs, Sarmats, Allans, Gunnes, Khazars, Tatars, etc. The city survived assaults and invasions, depressions and flowering days. The Great Silk Route passed through Derbent that was the crossroad of civilizations connecting Wets and East, South and North.

In 1722, the Russian emperor Peter I, at the head of the Persian campaign, was given a ceremonial reception by representatives of the local nobility. According to Gulistan Agreement, Derbent was incorporated into Russian Empire in 1813.

Derbent's ancient town walls with numerous towers and gates had been destroyed several times under pressure of wars and time, but again and again they stood up on guard of "the iron gates". At first they were of pise, and only Khosrov Anushirvan erected stonewalls in 567.

In the time of the Khalifat, Derbent played a prominent role as it was the residence of the governor-general. Arabs brought Islam to Derbent and built here one of the biggest mosques- Moscque Juma (re-built in 733-34 on the basis of a Christian basilica of the 6th century).

Merchants from different parts of the world used to haunt Derbent's markets renowned for a great variety of goods. Silk, wool and cotton, carpets, jewelry, weapons, and dishes were brought from the countries of the East to the Western Europe and Russia.

Once the center of a principality (administrative unit of the tsarist Russia) in 1846, Derbent started to grow rapidly, especially when a railroad leading to Baku came through the city.

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