Sumgayit

Every inch of land comes to life in Sumqayit
People create miracles in Sumqayit

In the times of the Soviet Union everyone seemed to know this verse about Sumqayit, a true miracle of socialist construction, by heart. This was one of the most popular songs children sang in music classes at school…

In 1935, the decision was made to allocate a place for the construction of a thermal station on Absheron. Shortly afterwards, an area near the Sumqayit railway station, 30-35 km from Baku in the northwestern part of the peninsula, was allocated and the work began. Years later, it would transpire from the diary of a construction worker what difficulties workers had encountered in establishing the new town:
“Powerful winds considerably delayed the construction: the trenches we dug in the morning were filled with sand again the same evening… Some barracks were covered with so much sand overnight that it took two to three trucks to clean them up.”
Established on the Caspian coast after the capital, Sumqayit was often called the “city of youth” because its builders and first residents were youngsters. Subsequently Sumqayit became known as the town of industrialists, chemists and construction workers. There are plans to set up a free economic zone there.

Note

Established in 1949, Sumqayit is located 35 km from Baku, on the west coast of the Caspian in a plain at the outfall of the Sumqayit river. It was one of the Soviet Union’s socialist cities, i.e. a major industrial center set up in the years of socialist construction. It has a dry subtropical climate. There are northerly and south-westerly winds here. It is considered the second biggest industrial center of the country. Most of the chemical and non-ferrous metallurgy enterprises are concentrated in Sumqayit. The local synthetic rubber plant was one of the largest rubber producers in the USSR. Most industrial enterprises were built in Sumqayit in 1947-53.

History

The construction of the city commenced in 1938, during the years of socialist construction. It began with the installation of barracks for workers. Although the foundations of the synthetic rubber plant, pipe-rolling mill and chemical works were laid quite soon, the work was brought to a halt due to the start of World War Two. Soon afterwards the construction resumed and lasted until the very break-up of the USSR. Placed close to each other and to residential settlements, the industrial facilities gradually expanded their assortment, while metallurgy and petrochemical industries developed. Although such industrialization and enhancing production were quite gratifying, Sumqayit also earned a reputation for being the most environmentally disastrous city of Azerbaijan. Large volumes of hazardous discharges and emissions undermined the quality of air and water in the city.

Historians say this territory was inhabited by Media tribes in the 7th century B.C. When the foundation of the present City Executive Authority building was laid, many pottery items and coins attributed to ancient times were discovered. There were four sites called Sumqayit here in the past: an ancient settlement, a river, a lighthouse and a railway station. The first written evidence of this place was left by English traveler H. Berrow in 1580. French writer Alexander Dumas, who visited Azerbaijan in 1858, referred to a Sumqayit post-office in his book “Caucasus trip”.

“There is a river called either Sumqayit or Suqayit near the city. When it rains, the river become lively again. The name of the river relates to a 7th century Persian tribe. It is said that there were caravan roads along both banks of the Sumqayit river.”
Russian traveler I. Berezin

Place-name

The place-name is also rendered as Suqayit and Sumqay in literature. It has three explanations. One theory goes that the place-name is linked to ancient Turkic tribe “suqa” or “sunqa”. Another explanation is the name of the Sumqayit river, which flows slightly to the north of the city. The river, flowing in semi-desert conditions, does not have a mouth and completely dries out in dry weather. Since it doesn’t flow into the Caspian, it was often described as “su qayidan cay” (river bringing its waters back). This is the theory behind the name of the river and the subsequently established city. There are other interesting theories as well…

The “Sum, qayit” legend

The legend goes that while a train of camels was passing through this area, it ran out of water. There was a young couple, Sum and Jeyran, who were dying of thirst. Jeyran was completely emaciated under the oppressive sun and Sum sets off looking for some water for his beloved one. Jeyran, fearing that Sum would get into trouble looking for water, cries after him:
– Sum, qayit! (Sum, come back!) Sum, qayit! Sum, qayit!
This is why the place was named Sumqayit…

Symbol

The statue of a pigeon perched on 15 spiraling stones at the entrance of the city is considered the symbol of Sumqayit. The figure symbolizes the number of Soviet republics involved in the construction of the city, the spiral denotes endlessness, while the pigeon was the sign of both peace and the Sumqayit station.

Sumgayit pogroms

Sumqayit, which led a very tranquil life until the years of perestroika, suddenly became a center of ethnic rioting. The developments of 28 February 1988 went down in history as the Sumqayit pogroms.

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