101-ROOM PALACE OF PHI­LAN­THROPIST WHO LIVED 101 YEARS

Azeri Observer - - Azeri Observer - BY NARGIZ HAJIYEVA PHD IN ART HIS­TORY

T his unique palace, which com­bines the el­e­ments of the tra­di­tional Is­lamic and ad­vanced Euro­pean civ­i­liza­tions, cur­rently houses two mu­se­ums, the Azer­bai­jan State Mu­seum of His­tory and Taghiyev’s house mu­seum. Vis­it­ing it would give you the op­por­tu­nity to delve into its magic at­mos­phere and to un­veil the cur­tain of the many-cen­tury-long his­tory of Azer­bai­jan.

Lo­cated at the cross­roads of the Eastern and Western civ­i­liza­tions, Azer­bai­jan has long played the role of a bridge be­tween them and there­fore at­tracted close at­ten­tion of ex­perts and sim­ply those who ap­pre­ci­ate the won­ders of this world. A great num­ber of out­stand­ing Azer­bai­jani art­works worthily oc­cupy a re­mark­able place among the trea­sures of the world art her­itage. Azer­bai­jani minia­tures, car­pets, ce­ram­ics and par­tic­u­larly ar­chi­tec­ture, speak vol­umes about the ver­sa­til­ity of the art of this na­tion, the an­cient roots of its cul­ture and the vi­tal­ity of its artis­tic tra­di­tions, which have shaped up since time im­memo­rial.

How­ever, the works of art not only re­veal the beauty of the artis­tic forms in­her­ent to the Azer­bai­jani peo­ple, but also re­flect

upon the chal­leng­ing fate of the coun­try, which served as a bat­tle­field be­tween pow­er­ful neigh­bors.

The ar­chi­tec­tural mon­u­ment in ques­tion em­bod­ies that very amaz­ing beauty and the tough fate of the owner, oil millionaire and phi­lan­thropist Haji Zey­nal­ab­din Taghiyev. The his­tory of this one-of-a-kind palace is closely in­ter­twined with the his­tory of Azer­bai­jan it­self and vividly shows the dis­tinct fea­tures of that epoch.

The his­tory of this man­sion dates back to 1895 when Taghiyev de­cided to build a house that has no matches in Baku as a present for his wife, Sona-khanim. Iosif Goslavsky, a no­ble Pole, who had con­structed sev­eral daz­zlingly beau­ti­ful build­ings in Azer­bai­jan, worked on the ar­chi­tec­ture of the house. Hav­ing joined the ef­forts of the best ar­chi­tects of that time, Goslavsky suc­ceeded in cre­at­ing an amaz­ing piece of ar­chi­tec­ture. The three-sto­ried man­sion, which was built over nine years, in­cor­po­rated the Eastern and Western tra­di­tions. All the four fa­cades of this grand man­sion and the giant domes on the roof

at­tract the viewer’s at­ten­tion from afar. The dis­tinc­tive­ness of its ap­pear­ance and the del­i­cacy of ar­chi­tec­tural el­e­ments dis­tin­guish this build­ing, which is one of the most beau­ti­ful ones in Baku. Though the build­ing is quite re­served and rig­or­ous out­side, on the in­side it is im­pres­sive and stands out for its no­ble lux­ury. The won­drous house has 101 rooms, and each of them rep­re­sents a tiny mas­ter­piece that brings to us the im­mor­tal spirit of cen­turies.

The Al­ham­bra palace in Spain, a Moresque pearl, served as a cre­ative im­pulse for the ar­chi­tect. Har­mo­niously com­bin­ing lo­cal tra­di­tions with the Moresque and Art Nou­veau styles in this build­ing, the ar­chi­tect ac­com­plished amaz­ing re­sults. To­tal space of the house, which is full of rich or­na­ments, is 3,000 square me­ters. The height of room ceil­ings is over 12 me­ters.

Ac­cord­ing to his­to­ri­ans, over 9 kg of gold was used to em­bla­zon the palace alone, and the most ex­pen­sive and rare ma­te­rial was uti­lized to fix the in­te­rior. The doors of the palace are made of lemon tree wood and the wall­pa­per is made of ex­pen­sive tex­tile. Six species of trees were used to create the par­quet of the palace. The mir­rors were or­dered in France, while the fur­ni­ture – in Amer­ica, and the wall­pa­per and fab­rics came from Ger­many.

In or­der to dec­o­rate the rich­est and most fa­mous hall of the palace, the Eastern hall, which has no matches in the en­tire Mid­dle East, 8 kg of gold was used, of which 4 kg was des­ig­nated to gar­ment the ceil­ings of the hall. In the mid­dle of the ceil­ing, a sky sur­rounded by veg­e­ta­tive or­na­men­ta­tion is de­picted. The in­tri­cate pat­tern in­volves suras of the Qu­ran, and this is not a co­in­ci­dence, be­cause Taghiyev was a very re­li­gious per­son. It was him who for the first time in the his­tory of Azer­bai­jan ar­ranged at his own ex­pense trans­la­tion of the holy Qu­ran into the na­tive lan­guage, de­spite ar­du­ous op­po­si­tion of the lo­cal clergy.

Also distin­guished for its spe­cial beauty is the sanc­tum of his wife, Sona-khanim; mir­rors were used to dec­o­rate the ceil­ing of this room.

The con­tem­po­raries of Taghiyev used to say

that in the evenings friends and fam­ily mem­bers as well as em­i­nent towns­peo­ple gath­ered at his man­sion. They had leisurely con­ver­sa­tions, ex­changed news with each other, looked through Rus­sian pub­li­ca­tions and news­pa­pers in French, English and Ger­man, read mag­a­zines and books, and lis­tened to mu­sic. Ara­bic, Per­sian and Turk­ish lan­guages were spo­ken there.

Haji Zey­nal­ab­din was an ex­tremely in­quis­i­tive and knowl­edge-thirsty man. Hav­ing grown up in poverty, he ac­com­plished ev­ery­thing in life thanks to hard work and per­sis­tence. And he al­ways lamented the fact that he did not man­age to re­ceive ed­u­ca­tion. How­ever, on ac­count of his funds an en­tire gen­er­a­tion of young peo­ple in Azer­bai­jan had the op­por­tu­nity to study in the most pres­ti­gious uni­ver­si­ties of the world. He built the first-ever Is­lamic school for girls in Azer­bai­jan, as well as the first the­ater. It is not by mere chance, that thanks to his char­i­ta­ble un­der­tak­ings Taghiyev was pop­u­larly known as “fa­ther of the na­tion”.

Un­for­tu­nately, the life that Taghiyev en­vi­sioned for his fam­ily in this lux­u­ri­ous man­sion was not des­tined to ma­te­ri­al­ize. With the Com­mu­nists’ com­ing to power in 1920 all of Taghiyev’s prop­erty was con­fis­cated and he and his fam­ily mem­bers be­came out­casts. In 1924, at the age of 101, he died in his coun­try-house where he was al­lowed to tem­po­rar­ily re­side by the Soviet au­thor­i­ties. This was made pos­si­ble thanks to the then Azer­bai­jani Com­mu­nist leader Na­ri­man Na­ri­manov, who had re­ceived higher ed­u­ca­tion abroad at the ex­pense of Taghiyev’s funds.

His palace was left empty and never saw the owner’s re­turn. How­ever, un­ex­pect­edly, this house played a sig­nif­i­cant role in the cul­tural and his­tor­i­cal life of Azer­bai­jan. Dur­ing the Soviet times, the first- ever mu­seum of his­tory in Azer­bai­jan which col­lected the riches of our an­cient na­tion was set up on the first floor of the build­ing. Later, af­ter the re­pub­lic gained in­de­pen­dence, the whole build­ing was des­ig­nated for the mu­seum.

Through­out the 20th cen­tury, the man­sion had been re­stored sev­eral times; as a re­sult, some of its fres­cos were bar­bar­i­cally dam­aged as an el­e­ment of the “bour­geois re­main­der”. As late as in 2005 restora­tion work was ar­ranged in­volv­ing Ital­ian ex­perts, who care­fully and inchby-inch re­stored the grandeur and beauty of Taghiyev’s man­sion. Dur­ing the restora­tion op­er­a­tions we once again wit­nessed the wis­dom and the far-sighted vi­sion of Taghiyev. It turned out that upon the com­ple­tion of con­struc­tion work, in 1904, a photo al­bum il­lus­trat­ing in de­tail the ex­te­rior and in­te­rior of the man­sion was com­piled on his or­ders, which al­lowed the ren­o­va­tors to res­tore many el­e­ments of the house’s in­te­rior al­most back to their ini­tial shape.

This unique palace, which com­bines the el­e­ments of the tra­di­tional Is­lamic and ad­vanced Euro­pean civ­i­liza­tions, cur­rently houses two mu­se­ums, the Azer­bai­jan State Mu­seum of His­tory and Taghiyev’s house mu­seum. Vis­it­ing it would give you the op­por­tu­nity to delve into its magic at­mos­phere and to un­veil the cur­tain of the many-cen­tu­ry­long his­tory of Azer­bai­jan.

Ac­cord­ing to his­to­ri­ans, over 9 kg of gold was used to em­bla­zon the palace alone, and the most ex­pen­sive and rare ma­te­rial was uti­lized to fix the in­te­rior.

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