101-ROOM PALACE OF PHILANTHROPIST WHO LIVED 101 YEARS
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.