Baku, a government of Russian Transcaucasia, stretching along the west coast of the Caspian Sea from 41° 50′ to 38° 30′ N. lat., and bounded on the W. by the government of Elisavetpol and the province of Daghestan, and on the S. by Persia. It includes the Kuba plain on the north-east slope of the Caucasus; the eastern extremity of that range from the Shad-dagh (13,960 ft.) and the Bazardyuz (14,727 ft.) to the Caspian, where it terminates in the Apsheron peninsula; the steppes of the lower Kura and Aras on the south of the Caucasus, and a narrow coast-belt between the Anti-Caucasus and the Caspian. The last-mentioned region lies partly round the Kizil-agach Bay, opening to the south. Area of government, 15,172 sq. m. Both slopes of the Caucasus are very fertile and well irrigated, with fine forests, fields of rice and other cereals, and flourishing gardens. The steppes of the Kura are also fertile, but require artificial irrigation, especially for cotton. In addition to agriculture and cattle-breeding, the vine and mulberry are extensively grown.
The Apsheron peninsula is dry and bare of vegetation; but within it are situated the famous petroleum wells of Baku. These, which go down to depths of 700 to 1700 ft., yield crude naphtha, from which the petroleum or kerosene is distilled; while the heavier residue (mazut) is used as lubricating oil and for fuel, for instance in the locomotives of the Transcaspian railway. Whereas in 1863 the output was only 5500 tons of crude naphtha, in 1904 it amounted to 9,833,600 tons; but business was much injured by a serious fire in 1905. The oil-fields lie around the town of Baku: the largest, that of Balakhany-Sabunchi-Romany (6 sq. m.), is 8&FRAC12; m. north of the town; that of Bibi-Eybat, is 3&FRAC12; m. south; the "black town" (Nobel's) is 2 m. south-east; and beyond the last names is the "white town" (Rothschild's). The lighter oil is conveyed to Batum on the Black Sea in pipes, and is there shipped for export; the heavier oils reach the same port and the ports of Novorossiysk and Poti, also on the Black Sea, in tank railway-cars. At Surakhani, 13 m. east of the town, is the now disused temple of the Parsee fire-worshippers, who were attracted thither by the natural fountains of inflammable gas.
The government is divided into six districts, the chief towns of which are Baku (the capital of the government), Geok-chai (pop. 2247 in 1897), Kuba (15,346), Lenkoran (8768), Salyany (10,168), in district of Jevat, and Shemakha (20,008). The population numbered 828,511 in 1897, of whom the major part were Tatars; other races were Russians, the Iranian tribes of the Tates (89,519) and Talysh (34,994), Armenians (52,233) and the Caucasian mountaineers known as Kurins.
Baku, 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.)