Use of Building
1904 - 1920: This palatial residence that occupies nearly an entire city block was built by Teymur Ashurbeyli as a wedding gift for his son Bala Bey. The entire ground floor was occupied by his company. Bala Bey, his wife, four daughters and a son lived on the 2nd floor and his mother and an uncle on the 3rd. When the Bolsheviks came, the Ashurbeylis fled to Turkey.
1920 until the early 1990s: Like most buildings in the city, it was divided into numerous apartments.
Since independence (1991): Privatization has taken place and owners have begun making repairs.
When the Bolsheviks stormed Baku in 1920, the Ashurbeyli property was confiscated, and the family fled to Istanbul via the Black Sea where they remained for six years, living off the sale of diamonds that Bala Bey's wife Ismat had managed to smuggle out. Considerable money was spent for education, especially tutors in languages.
In 1926, thinking it safe to return, Bala Bey returned to Baku with his family. It was a fatal decision, which resulted in his death. In 1935, he was arrested. His crime? Being "a nobleman, landowner, and oilindustrialist". He was executed in 1937, at the height of Stalin's repressions.
Difficulties dogged the children. They struggled even to find simple one-room accommodations. No one wanted to associate with them or hire them. Nevertheless, the four daughters each carved out careers for themselves and Sara, the eldest, became recognized as an expertise in the medieval history of Baku. Their brother was killed in World War II. None of the Ashurbeyli daughters married. There are no direct descendents.
This building incorporates several styles, which are characteristic of many of the buildings of the Oil Baron period. Unfortunately, the staircase area - as public space - is quite rundown and in serious disrepair. Paint is peeling off the walls. Electric wires dangle from the ceiling. The floor is damaged, as are the decorative pillars, wooden frames and staircase banisters.
However, despite the neglect, one can still catch a glimpse of building's magnificence and splendor.
Large murals, some at least 12-15 feet tall, grace the staircase that leads to the third floor. Most are filled with pastoral scenes of women with hints of romance.
During the early Soviet period, the Bolsheviks painted over, or destroyed, most of the murals throughout the city, branding them as "capitalist architectural extravagances." In many cases, they even tore out the beautiful molding, volutes and scrollwork. Bolshevik ideology demanded that even architecture be stripped down to reflect the simple and modest life of common workers. And thus, much of the architecture of the Oil Baron period was destroyed.
This private apartment complex is not open to general tourists.
Back to Index AI 13.2 (Summer 2005)
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