Şamaxı (also, Schemacha, Shamakhy, Shamakhi and Shemakha) (Urdu and Arabic: شماخی) is a city in and the capital of the Shamakhi Rayon of Azerbaijan. The city has a rich heritage and has provided the backdrop to major political events throughout much of its two millennia of existence. The city's estimated population as of 2010 was 31,704. It is famous for its traditional dancers, the Shamakhi Dancers.
In its history eleven major earthquakes have rocked Shamakhi, but through multiple reconstructions it maintained its role as the economic and administrative capital of Shirvan and one of the key towns on the Silk Road. The only building to have survived eight of the eleven earthquakes is the landmark Juma Mosque, built in the 10th century.
Shamakhi was first mentioned as Kamachia by the ancient Greco-Roman Egyptian geographer Claudius Ptolemaeus in the 1st to 2nd century.
Shamakhi was an important town during the Middle Ages and served as a capital of the Shirvanshah state in 8-15 century and the capital of the independent Shirvan Khanate, which was also known as the khanate of Shemakha. The Catholic friar, missionary and explorer William of Ruysbroeck passed through it on his return journey from the Mongol Great Khan's court.
In the middle of the 16th century it was the seat of an English commercial factory, under the traveler Anthony Jenkinson, who was afterward the envoy extraordinary of the Persian Shah to Tsar Ivan IV the Terrible of Russia.
This city also has had a successful education regime, literature and poets such as M.E. Sabir and S.E. Shirvani. Also students of Samaxi earn high points in the exams of Azerbaijan. Hence, students Samaxi take part in international science Olympiads. In 2006 Rafail Comerdov participated in the International biology Olympiad in Argentina and won the silver medal.
Adam Olearius, who visited Shamakhi in 1636, wrote that the population of the city consisted of Persians, Armenians and some Georgians, and while they all had their own languages, they spoke a Turkish language, like the people of Shirvan in general. In the 1720s, the population of Shemakhi was about 60,000, most of whom were Armenians and strangers. In 1742 Shamakhy was taken and destroyed by Nadir Shah of Persia, who punished the inhabitants for their disobedience and Sunnite creed by building a new town under the same name about 16 miles (26 km) to the west, at the foot of the main chain of the Caucasus Mountains. The new Shemakha was at different times a residence of the Shirvan Khanate, but it was finally abandoned, and the old town rebuilt. The Russians first entered Shirvan in 1723, but soon retired leaving it to Ottomans who possessed it in 1723-35. Shirvan Khanate was finally annexed by Russia in 1805.
The British Penny Cyclopaedia published in 1833 stated that "The bulk of the population of Shirvan consists of the Tahtar, or, to speak more correctly, Turkish race, with me admixture of Arabs and Persians. Besides the Muslims, who form the mass of the population, there are many Armenians, some Jews, and a few Gipsies. According to the official returns of 1831, the number of males belonging to the Muslim population was 62.934; Armenians, 6,375; Jews, 332; total males 69,641." The same source also states that according to the official returns of 1831, the city was inhabited by only 2233 families, as result of devastation during the wars. According to Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary, Shamakhi had 20008 inhabitants (10450 males and 9558 females); of them Azerbaijanis 79%, Armenians 18%, and Russians 3%.
Until the devastating earthquake of 1859, Shamakhi was the capital of the Shamakhi Governorate of the Russian Empire. From 1859, when the capital of the province was transferred to Baku, the importance of the city declined.
- The 1191 earthquake was so destructive that the capital of Shirvan was transferred to Baku.
- The 1667 earthquake is considered to have been the worst with a death toll of 80,000 one-third of the city collapsed, according to the Persian merchants' reports.
- The December 2, 1859 earthquake caused the shifting of the same-named government center to Baku.
- In 1902, a devastating earthquake destroyed the 10-century Juma Mosque.
Queen of Shemakha is a major protagonist in "The Tale of the Golden Cockerel" by Alexander Pushkin and opera "The Golden Cockerel" by Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov. The character has, however, no real relation to the city.
- Abbas Sahhat — poet and dramatist
- Aghasadyg Garaybeyli — actor, People's Artist of Azerbaijan SSR (1940)
- Alexsey Chernyayevsky - an outstanding Russian and Azeri teacher
- Aliheydar Garayev — People's Commissar for Military and Naval Affairs of Azerbaijan SSR (1920)
- Khagani Shirvani — poet
- Leonti Gurtyev — Hero of the Soviet Union
- Mirza Alakbar Sabir — poet
- Muhammad Hadi — poet
- Seyid Azim Shirvani — poet
- Sultan Majid Afandiyev — People's Commissar of Agriculture of the Azerbaijan SSR (1921–1924)
- Sultan Majid Ganizade — writer and translator
- Zeynalabdin Shirvani — geographer and traveler, historian, anthropologist, educator and poet