Sumgayit (Azerbaijani: Sumqayıt; Russian: Сумгаит; also, Sumgait and Sumqayyt) (Urdu, Arabic and Persian: سومقاییت) is one of the largest cities in Azerbaijan, located near the Caspian Sea, about 31 kilometres away from the capital, Baku. The city has a population of 308,700 (2009 census), making it the third-largest city in Azerbaijan after the capital Baku and Ganja. The city has a territory of 83 km². It was founded on November 22, 1949. Two settlements are within the city administration: Jorat and Haji Zeynalabdin, a settlement named after oil businessman and philanthropist Haji Zeynalabdin Taghiyev. It is home to Sumqayit State University.
According to historians, Medean tribes lived in the area. During the construction boom, when the foundation of the executive power building was being excavated, remains of an ancient caravanserai along with personal items and kitchenware was found at the site. A popular legend about the city states that a caravan was passing by the area. A male by the name Sum and a female named Jeyran, who were in love with each other, were among the travellers. Due to a lack of water supply, Jeyran became thirsty and Sum went on to look for water. Sensing trouble of losing Sum, Jeyran screamed Sum qayıt, Sum qayıt (Sum, come back). The city name is believed to have originated from this legend. The first reports of settlements at the present site of Sumgayit were in 1580, when English traveller H. Barrow mentioned Sumgayit in his writings and in 1858, when Alexander Dumas wrote about the area in his memoirs Trip to Caucasus, although nothing substantial was created on the site until the Soviet Union gained control over the area in the 1920s.
In 1935, the Soviet government decided to develop heavy industry in Absheron Peninsula, and the future location of Sumgayit was chosen from its proximity to Baku and its key position on existing railroad lines. Between 1938-1941, a thermal power station was constructed to power Baku's growing petroleum industry. This was soon followed by more heavy industries. Due to World War II the construction of the area stopped and resume in 1944, when metallurgical and chemical plants were constructed and put into operation. The first production of Sumgayit Chemical Plant led to a rapid growth and construction boom, creating a new job market, and a need for a resident population. In 1949, Sumgayit gained official city status according to resolution of the Supreme Soviet of Azerbaijan SSR. In 1952, a tube-rolling plant delivered its first produce thus developing black metallurgy production in Azerbaijan. The same year, another new Synthetic Rubber Production Plant started its operations producing ethylene obtained from oil. Operations at Sumgayit Steel Processing Plant and Sumgayit Aluminium Plant were commenced in 1953 and 1955, respectively. In 1957-1955, a number of scientific research facilities and cultural centers were built, leading to further development of the city infrastructure.
In 1960, authorities started building the Petroleum Chemical Factory, the largest in Europe at the time. From 1961 through 1968, a brick producing factory, a polymer construction materials industrial complex, a phospohor production plant were built. In 1970-1980s, light industry and mechanical engineering facilities were added to the industrial base of the city. By the end of 1980s, Sumgayit was already the center of chemical industry of USSR.
On 25 January 1988 the first wave of Azeri refugees from Armenia settled in the city of Sumqait. On February 29, 1988, violence erupted against the ethnic Armenian population living in Sumqayit, setting off a series of killings involving Azeris and Armenians. Approximately 26 Armenians and 6 Azerbaijanis died, with over 2000 injuries in 3 days of ethnic rioting. As a result, the whole Armenian population was forced from Sumqayit. The Sumqayit riots marked the beginning of the long-term stand-off between Armenians and Azeris, culminating in the later Nagorno-Karabakh War and continuing into the present. Later the city has become home to a number of refugees mainly hailing from Qubadli and Zengilan regions from the war.
As a result of the Soviet planning of the industrial boom era, the city became heavily polluted. Soon after Azerbaijan's independence, the industrial sectors went into decline. The Absheron Peninsula (which consists of Sumqayit, Baku and the Abşeron rayon) was considered by scientists to be the most ecologically devastated part of Azerbaijan. The city was known for its children's cemetery, known as the "Baby Cemetery" which contains many graves of infants born with deformities and mental retardation that were further complicated by the lack of adequate medical care for the poor. Sumgayit was named as most polluted place on earth by the US based environmental group the Blacksmith Institute in 2006 and placed on their list of The World's Most Polluted Places by Time magazine in 2007. The report noted the former Soviet industrial base was polluting the local environment with industrial chemicals like chlorine and heavy metals. The report also mentioned cancer rates in Sumgayit were as much as 51% higher than the national average and that genetic mutations and birth defects were commonplace. The city administration prepared an environmental protection plan for 2003-2010 which has been steadily decreasing the levels of pollution to minimal. The program oversees 118 activities targeting to minimize the pollution on all possible levels of economic production. The program was prepared with participation of all industrial enterprises in the city and its enforcement is being regulated by the executive power of the city. For instance, the amount of waste water from industrial production went down from 600 thousand m3 during 1990's to 76.3 thousand m3 in 2005. Solid waste went down from 300 thousand to 3,868 tons a year. World Bank has issued a loan to Azerbaijani government for construction of a burial range for mercury waste.
- Population: 308,700 inhabitants, including 62,300 Azerbaijani refugees and IDPs
- Density of population, per km²: 3621
- Annual population upsurge (pers): 1944
- Average lifetime: 70 years
- Azerbaijanis 94.7%,
- Russians 1.7%,
- Ukrainians 0.3%,
- Tatars 0.3%,
- Jews 0.1%,
- others 1.9%.
- Gross domestic product (million AZM): 614,800 (1 AZM = 1.25 USD)
- Gross domestic product per capita (AZM): 2,079.8
- Import (million AZM): 28,860
- Export (million AZM): 32,380
During the Soviet rule of Azerbaijan, Sumgayit was believed to have the longest and cleanest sea side park in the republic. The Culture and Leisure Park was laid on 23 ha of Sumgayit coastline in 1967. On August 17, 1978 the park was given the name of a distinguished Azerbaijani poet Imadaddin Nasimi.
The same year, the city administration raised the Peace Dove monument in the middle of the park assigning the city a symbol of peace. The flora of the park includes 39 types of trees. Events of 1990's such as the Black January tragedy and Nagorno-Karabakh War, led to establishment of Stars (Ulduzlar) and 20 January Monument monuments in the park. In the eastern section of the park, Shehidler Khiyabani similar to Martyrs' Lane in Baku was established as burial ground for thousands of soldiers from Sumgayit who died during the war. According to the Decree No. 132 of the Cabinet of Ministers of Azerbaijan dated August 2, 2001 the park was given the status of national historical importance. Its current size is 80 ha.
In addition to Nasimi Culture and Leisure Park, the city administration built Ludwigshafen Park in 1997 in celebration of the 20th anniversary of twin-city relations between Ludwigshafen and Sumgayit. In 1999, Heydar Aliyev Park and Luna Park were built in the rapidly growing city.
Statistics shows that Sumgayit education have been higher from the past. According to statistics number of adopted to university is higher in Sumgayit. There are lyceums and ordinary schools in Sumgayit. In the schools ranking list of Sumgayit, Sumgait Private Turkish High School is the 1st. Also, TTEL and TET Gymnasium are top schools of Sumgayit. One of the top schools is Idrak school lyceum. It is new opened school, founded in 2008. There is a university in Sumqait. Sumqayit State University (Azerbaijani: Sumqayıt Dövlət Universiteti), is a public university located in Sumqayit, Azerbaijan. The university has seven departments and approximately 4000 students.
The city has extensive communication with Baku through bus services. The building of new subway line from Baku is on agenda currently.
The city has one professional football team competing in the top-flight of Azerbaijani football - Sumgayit PFC, currently playing in the Azerbaijan Premier League.
Notable people from Sumgayit:
- Ilham Zakiyev, judoka, twice Paralympic, twice World & four times European Champion.
- Rafael Aghayev, karate
- Shahin Imranov, boxer, Beijing Olympic Games 2008 bronze medalist
- Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, chess player
- Zeinab Mamedyarova, chess player
- Mehman Huseynzadeh, Football master