BAKU, TOWN, the chief town of the government of the same name, in Russian Transcaucasia, on the south side of the peninsula of Apsheron, in 40° 21' N. and 49° 50' E. It is connected by rail with the south Russian railway system at Beslan, the junction for Vladikavkaz (400 m.), via Derbent and Petrovsk, with Batum (560 m.) and Poti (536 m.) on the Black Sea via Tiflis. A long stone quay next the harbour is backed by the new town climbing up the slopes behind. To the west is the old town, consisting of steep, narrow, winding streets, and presenting a decidedly oriental appearance. Here are the ruins of a palace of the native khans, built in the 16th century; the mosques of the Persian shahs, built in 1078 and now converted into an arsenal; nearer the sea the "maidens' tower," transformed into a lighthouse; and not far from it remains of ancient walls projecting above the sea, and showing traces of Arabic architecture of the 9th and 10th centuries. Beside the harbour are engineering works, dry docks and barracks, stores and workshops belonging to the Russian Caspian fleet. Besides the petroleum refineries the town possesses oil-works (for fuel), flour-mills, sulphuric acid works and tobacco factories. Owing to its excellent harbour Baku is a chief depot for merchandise coming from Persia and Transcaspia - raw cotton, silk, rice, wine, fish, dried fruit and timber - and for Russian manufactured goods. The climate is extreme, the mean temperature for the year being 58° F., for January 38°, for July 80°; annual rainfall 9.4 in. A wind of exceptional violence blows sometimes from the N.N.W. in winter. Pop. (1860) 13,381; (1897) 112,253; (1900) 179,133. The town is mentioned by the Arab geographer, Masudi, in the 10th century. From 1509 it was in the possession of the Persians. The Russians captured it from them in 1723, but restored it in 1735; it was incorporated in the Russian empire in 1806. In 1904-1905, in consequence of the general political anarchy, serious conflicts took place here between the Tatars and the Armenians, and two-thirds of the Balakhani and Bibi-Eybat oil-works were burned.
See Marvin, The Region of the Eternal Fire (ed. 1891) and J. D. Henry, Baku, an Eventful History (1906).
(P. A. K.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)