Derbent as Russia’s Oldest City? Think Again, Moscow Says
Not so many years ago, Derbent buzzed with plans to celebrate its 5,000th anniversary, envisioning the day when it would claim the title of “Russia’s oldest city.”
Not so fast, came the response from Moscow. Like a plastic surgeon with a supernatural touch, the central government peeled away centuries. Out went the plans to commemorate 5,000 years, in came a grand fete to mark the city’s 2,000th birthday.
The mix of Muslims, Christians and Jews who live here along the Caspian Sea reacted collectively with a baffled “What?!” and continued to cherish the older date.
“Throughout the Soviet period they said it was 5,000 years old, and then suddenly they changed it,” groused Alex Abdulfez, a young tour guide at the ancient fortress called Naryn-Kala, which dominates the town. “I don’t recognize any other date. I don’t accept it; nobody does. Everybody in Derbent says it’s 5,000 years old.”