Muslims in Baku

Baku has been habited by representatives of different nationalities and confessions in almost all periods of its history, among them also Muslims: Persians, Tats, Caucasian Türks and others. It is scientifically proved that Turkic speaking tribes that moved to Eastern Transcaucasia, including Baku, in 11-17th centuries by the beginning of the 20th century had various tribal names as Padars, Shahsevans, Karapapakhs, Jevanshirs, Türks, Tatars, and Caucasian Türks etc. Before these tribes appeared there, the territory of nowadays Azerbaijan has been basically Islamized as a result of the Arab invasions. Several Muslim feudal states have come into existence including Shirvanshahs’ state with Baku as a center. In 1870 N. Zeidlitz, Russian scholar specialized in Caucasian studies, wrote the following about the Caucasian Tatars and Muslims living in Baku: “The Tatars of Baku province originate from various Turkic tribes who moved to this region during the incursions of Seljuks, Mongols, Ak Koyunlu and Kara Koyunlu, Turkmen tribes and Sefevids. Those tribal groups mixed with the natives of the region both in Eastern Transcaucasia and the northern part of Persia forming a Turkic language, something in between the Turkish (Ottoman Turkish), Kumyk, Nogai and Jagatai languages”. 

In 1907 “Caucasian Calendar” wrote: “The vast majority of population in Baku and generally in Baku province is Tatars of Atropatene. They belong to Mongol race and Turkish generation; they speak in a dialect influenced by Persian.” 

”According to Armenian archbishop Sargis Jalalian, who visited Baku in 1850: “The population was Persian and there were about 150 families of Armenians”. In 1860 the town had 2544 families with population of 13.300, from whom 589 Armenians, 11.076 Muslims and 1635 Orthodox. There is some information about the ethnographical situation in Baku in 1889 in the volume “Baku and the surroundings” published in Tiflis. The total population of Baku was 92.600, from them 39.508 were Shiite Muslims (mostly Tatars)…”. The majority of the Shiite Muslims in Baku were Tats of Iranian origin, ¾ of the total population, and they were speaking not only Turkish, but also new Persian, the ¼ of population were Tatars. Thus, from 39.508 Shiite Muslims 29.631 were Tats, and 9.877 were of Turkic origin. According to the volume “some of Tatars so far call themselves Mogals, the same as Mongols”, which means that by 1889 nowadays territory of the Azerbaijani capital was settled by 7.000 Caucasian Tatars that was 7-8% of the total population. Consequently in 80s of the 19th century Tats were the second in number after the Armenians.  According to the data of census of population on January 28, 1897 Baku had a population of 111.904 from which 39.9% were Muslims – Tats, Caucasian Tatars, and Persians. 

During the further period of history including the early Soviet era the correlation of the Christian and Muslim populations didn’t differ essentially according to the data of census of population. 

The situation changed in 1988-1990, after the deportation of Christians, particularly Armenians and Russians from Baku, as a result of which the vast majority of Baku population now consists of Azerbaijanis.