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« Dagestan »
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The Republic of Dagestan is
a federal subject (a republic) of
Russia, located in the North
Caucasus region.
Its capital and
largest city isMakhachkala,
located at the center of
Dagestan on the Caspian Sea.
With a population of 2,910,249,Dagestan is
ethnically very diverse (it is Russia's most
heterogeneous republic, where no ethnic
group forms a majority) with several dozen
ethnic groups and subgroups inhabiting the
most of which speak
Caucasian and Turkic languages. Largest among
these ethnic groups are
the Avar, Dargin, Kumyk, Lezgian, Laks,Azerbaijani, T
abasaran and Chechen.[13] Ethnic Russians comprise
about 3.6% of Dagestan's total
population.[14] Russian is the primary official
language and the lingua franca among the ethnic
The word Dagestan is of Turkic and Persian
origin. Dağ means 'mountain' in Turkic and -stan is a
Persian suffix meaning 'land'. The
word Dagestan therefore means 'the land of
mountains'. Dagestan used to be called Kohestan
'mountainous place' in Persian and Arabized as
Ghahestan. When the Persian language gradually
faded in those regions and the Turkic language
prevailed, the Persian koh (kuh in contemporary
Persian) was replaced with its Turkic equivalent dagh.
The present city transliterated as Derbent is from the
Persian Darband, meaning a point on a mountain that
one cannot climb further. In Persian Islamic mysticism
Darband is the place
where Simorgh (Shahrokh or Phoenix) lives and is the
end point and farthest point of the world that man can
imagine. Some areas of Dagestan were known
as Albania, Avaria, and Tarkov at various times
The republic is
situated in the
North Caucasus
mountains. It is the
southernmost part
of Russia, and is
bordered on its
eastern side by
the Caspian Sea.
Dagestan is rich in oil, natural
gas, coal, and many other minerals.
The oldest records about the region
refer to the state of Caucasian
Albania in the south, with its capital
at Derbent and other important
centres at Chola, Toprakh Qala,
and Urtseki. The northern parts were
held by a confederation of
Dagestani tribes. In the first few
centuries AD, Caucasian Albania
continued to rule over what is
present day Azerbaijan and
mountains of Dagestan. It was
fought over in Antiquity by Roman
Empire and the Sassanid
Persians and converted
to Christianity early on.
In the 5th century AD, the Samian peregrinations took place from Ukraine to this land, they returned to their
natal country by 150 BC. The Sassanids gained the upper hand and constructed a strong citadel
at Derbent. Derbent is one of the oldest towns that has saved its original look till nowadays. One can hardly
find another town that has survived so many invasions and destructions, has been an apple of discord and
a scene of bloody battles so many times. Derbent occupies the narrow gateway between the Caspian
Sea and the Caucasus Mountains connecting the Eurasian steppes to the north and the Middle East to the
south. Its etymology derives from the Persian Darband (‫)دربند‬, meaning "locked gate",[8] and it is often
identified with the legendary Gates of Alexander, being known in Arabic as Bāb al Abwab ("Gate of
Gates") and Turkish asDemirkapı ("Iron Gate").
Derbent claims to be the
oldest city in Russia (8th
century BCE).[9] Since
antiquity, the value of the
area as the gate to the
Caucasus has been
understood, and Derbent
has archaeological
structures over 5,000 years
As a result of this geographic particularity, the city developed between two
walls, stretching from the mountains to the sea. These fortifications were
continuously employed for a millennium and a half, longer than any other
extant fortress in the world. Over the years, different nations gave the city
different names, but all connected to the word gate; its name
in Persian is Darband, which means "closed gates".
A large portion of the walls and several
watchtowers still remain in reasonable shape.
The walls, reaching to the sea, date from the
6th century, Sassanid dynasty period.
The city has a well-preserved citadel
(Narin-kala), enclosing an area of 4.5
hectares (11 acres), enclosed by
strong walls.
Historical attractions include the baths, the cisterns, the
old cemeteries, the caravanserai, the 18th-century Khan's
mausoleum, as well as several mosques. The oldest
mosque is the Juma Mosque, built over a 6th-century
Christian basilica; it has a 15th-century madrassa. Other
shrines include the 17th-century Kyrhlyar mosque, the
Bala mosque and the 18th-century Chertebe mosque.
To the north of the town is the
monument of the Kirk-lar, or forty
heroes, who fell defending Dagestan
against the Arabs in 728. To the south
lies the seaward extremity of
the Caucasian wall (fifty metres long),
otherwise known as Alexander's Wall,
blocking the narrow pass of the Iron
Gate or Caspian Gates (Portae
Athanae or Portae Caspiae). When
intact, the wall had a height of 29 ft
(9 m) and a thickness of about 10 ft
(3 m) and, with its iron gates and
numerous watch-towers,
defended Persia's frontier.
The first Islamic activists and the descendants of the Prophet Muhammad
(PBUH) had started their charitable mission here.
After Arabs conquered Iran in 602, they reached the walls of ancient Derbent
under the command of Maslama in the first quarter of the 8th century. They
considered the town could become a center of Islamic religion in the northeast
From that time on Derbent became the spiritual home and Islam became the
most wide-spread religion of the region.
In 733 seven mosques were built
here. Each town quarter (magal)
had one. And a special
cathedral mosque to be used for
Friday prayers called al-Masjid
al-Djamii was raised.
In 1796 there 15 mosques existed
in Derbent. The Djuma-mosque is
truly the cradle of Russian
It is one of the first significant mosques, that was built out of the Islamic caliphate.
The Djuma-mosque is situated in the center of Derbent’s old part. It is a part of an
architectural ensemble of the ancient town. The group of buildings consists of the
main mosque, a madrasah and some houses where religious leaders live.
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