Azerbaijan International

Winter 1998 (6.4)

Architecture of the Oil Baron Period
Ashurbeyov Residence

Gogol 28

This three-storied residence occupies an entire block and opens to an inner courtyard. Teymur Ashurbeyov constructed the house as a marriage gift in 1904 to his son Bala Bey and daughter-in-law Ismat Khanim, the parents of Sara Ashurbeyov (1905- ). The architect for the project was the famous Joseph V. Goslavski.

Bala Bey had offices on the ground floor. His family of six children lived on the second, and his mother and brother occupied the third floor. Originally, the Ashurbeyovs had acquired their wealth as landowners, but later they became oil barons. They were highly respected in Baku because of the two large mosques that they built.

One of several murals along the communal stairwell.

When the Bolsheviks stormed Baku (1920), the
Ashurbeyov property was confiscated. The family fled to Turkey via Georgia and the Black Sea. For six years, they lived off the sale of Ismat Khanim's diamonds which she had managed to smuggle out when they escaped. The parents sacrificed everything to provide education for their six children in Istanbul.

Homesick, Bala Bey decided in 1926 that it would be safe to return with his family to Baku. It was a tragic decision that led to his death ten years later when Stalin had thousands of people arrested simply because of their previous affiliations or occupations. Bala Bey was found guilty of being a "nobleman, landowner and oil-industrialist" and was imprisoned and eventually executed. His wife and children were left to struggle in a one-room apartment.

Baku Oil Barons
Entrance to the residence.

During the Soviet period, the Ashurbeyov mansion was split into numerous apartments. Today, the building, though neglected, still has not lost its magnificence and splendor. Of particular note are the huge murals in the stairway leading to the upper floors. Sara, 93, the most distinguished of the Ashurbeyov children, became a renowned historian and lives today with her sisters in a small, run-down, Soviet-built concrete block two-room apartment.

Azerbaijan International (6.4) Winter 1998.
© Azerbaijan International 1998. All rights reserved.

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