Baku is a delightful city, preserving traces of its ancient history, and merging the ancient and modern architectural styles.
Baku’s oil revenues gave a powerful boost to the formation of the country’s educational movement, the democratic press, the secular theater and the revival of cultural life in general. At that time many oil magnates came to create architectural pearls, which formed the new unique look of Baku: beautiful buildings, reflecting the harmonious unity of the European and Oriental architecture.
The Azerbaijan National Museum of History is one of these pearls, dating back to the 19 century.
This largest museum in Azerbaijan, built in 1895-1896, was originally the private residence of Haji Zeynalabdin Taghiyev, who was the famous national oil baron remembered for his generous philanthropy.
The Italian Renaissance-style mansion is immense and takes up an entire city block.
The Bolsheviks confiscated Taghiyev’s property in 1920 when they took control of the city. Fortunately, they did not destroy the entire interior. Instead, they used it to house the National History Museum.
The exterior of Taghiyev’s residence is not nearly as impressive as its interior. In fact, it’s easy to ignore this building if you base your decision solely upon the facade alone. However, the museum itself is at the very top of everyone’s list of places to visit in Baku. If you have a chance to see only one oil baron mansion in Baku, this should be the one.
This first state museum, since its opening, has been operating as a cultural, educational and research establishment in the country. It exhibits the tangible wealth of Azerbaijani history and is involved in the promotion as well as the collection, protection, investigation and publishing of the country’s past.
Over 300,000 items are assembled in 10 collections in the museum, including a valuable library consisting mainly of unique books. The collections allow visitors and researchers to investigate the history of the country and the daily life and culture of the nation from ancient times to the present.
There are four floors in some parts of the building, which was designed by Polish architect Jozef Gosławski.
On the second floor of Taghiyev’s residence, there are two major ballrooms side by side. One is based on Oriental designs [Mauritanian] and the other, on Occidental designs. The Oriental Room has enormous plate glass windows, gilded arches, highly ornamental walls, ceilings and chandeliers. The tracery in the Occidental Room are more perpendicular to each other and are rectangular.
According to photographs that are about 90 years old, one of the most elaborate rooms was Taghiyev’s wife’s boudoir [private sitting room]. All of its movable furniture and paintings have disappeared and nothing remains today except the ornate mirrored mosaic ceiling.
By presidential order in 2008-2009, some two million manats ($1,907 million) were allocated to restore the museum.
This order enabled the return of many invaluable art samples, lost abroad, back to the country. A total of 4,000 new exhibits were purchased and 1,200 exhibits gained a second life after restoration.
Located at the Haji Zeynal Abdin Taghiyev street 4 (near the “Sahil” underground), the museum operates everyday except Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
A ticket for adults is 5 manats ($4.8), while pupils, students and students of military schools have the chance to visit the museum for 2 manats ($1.9). A family ticket for parents with children is 10 manats ($9.6).
The Azerbaijan National Museum of History will celebrate its 95th anniversary in October with a solemn ceremony.
A book “Azerbaijan National Museum of History – 95” was also published in Azerbaijani, Russian and English in commemoration of the 95th anniversary of the museum and the 70th anniversary of the Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences.
The book elucidates the history of the museum over 95 years as well as gives information about the expositions and outstanding figures working here over the years.