It turned out they are not monuments at all
Sovetskaya – a famous street in the city center, enjoying the romantic reputation of a semi-criminal locality. In old times, the general Bakuvian attitude towards the ‘tough guys’ from Sovetskaya was mixture of fear, respect and some kindred tenderness. In 2014, when they started the demolition of that street, with its half-ruined, sun-dried brick houses, the indigenous Bakuvians were indignant to the fact that ‘an integral piece is being torn down of their beloved city. The unauthorized demolition of the buildings was accompanied by scandals: people were discontent with the amount of compensation awarded. Therefore, some of them had to be resettled by force; they were literally moved out of their houses.
The Winter Boulevard – a long park with prevaient marble surfaces that are traditional for Baku, was built on territory regained from residents along Badalbeyli Street, just above Sovetskaya.
The Winter Boulevard in Baku
But that’s not all: the plan from the central part of Baku, approved in 2011, entails the further transformation of the city. However, it faced a minor obstacle: there were quite a lot of historical and architectural monuments in the area subject to demolition. They were not to be demolished according to the law.
When Bakuvians witnessed the demolition of Abbas Mirza Sharifzadeh’s house and a building, known as Farajullah Bath, they started actively protesting on social media.
“Here lived Abbas Mirza Sharifzadeh, an outstanding Azerbaijani theatrical figure. Photo sputnik.az
However, numerous publications on social media and articles in the press did not bring any results.
Arguments for demolition
Elchin Aliyev, Chairman of the Azerbaijani Architects’ Union, expressed his opinion on his Facebook page. He said that he knew that district well:
“One is scared to go there. There wasn’t even a place one could get through! How did our residents live there? Where did their children play and take a rest? It’s the right thing to do to demolish it! To my mind, there are at least three-four monuments of architecture and we’re only talking about the facades of the buildings. The interior and state of these buildings were in a critical condition. In this district, there are also several buildings (maximum 6-7) with distinctly beautiful architectural details: doorways; balcony brackets; detailed columns, monograms, etc., but an ugly building should not be maintained just because of some distinct elements of their facades!
In order to solve the problem the law was simply changed: on May 23, a decree from the Cabinet of Ministers of Azerbaijan “On the Approval of the Definition as to the Degree of Importance of State-Protected Immovable Historical and Cultural Monuments in the Azerbaijani Republic was changed. 23 state-protected buildings, located right in the mentioned territory, suddenly ceased being monuments.
The residents being ‘forced out’
Despite officials’ entrepreneurial spirit, the public has not calmed down. An Internet campaign under the slogan ‘Stop the Demolition of Historical Buildings in Baku!’ was launched on the website www.change.org.
Meanwhile, the residents of the buildings which were part of the demolition, complain that they have been evicted by force, which is a violation of the law.
“Suleyman Rustam (edit. A renowned poet and playwright) was born in our house, which is behind a club (blind alley # 7). It was my great grandmother who delivered a baby because there were no maternity hospitals at that time. Hudu Mammadov, a crystallographer, an Honored Member of the British Royal Academy, as well as other people, rented a room in our house. The houses are being demolished illegally, without taking into account their historical value and people’s opinion, says Gulchokhra Aliyeva, one of the residents of the area subjected to the demolition.
According to her, as part of the law, land should be purchased in accordance with the law on the purchase of land for state needs, the General Plan of Baku city and based on an agreement with the population. However, the residents, unwilling to leave their houses, are intimidated and blackmailed:
“There has already been a case of death of a lonely elderly woman, who was the last heiress of the house where the women’s club was located. She was intimidated so much that she was even afraid to pick up the phone. The entire yard was made into ruins, the power supply was cut off, only a half-broken staircase, leading to her flat on the second floor, was kept in tact. Homeless vagabonds spent nights in the abandoned flats. This woman did not suffer from any diseases; she was seasoned veteran and healthy person. However, when we came to visit her before her death, she told us: “They have driven me to death by their demolition, said Aliyeva.
According to Jamil Akhundov, an architect, many buildings of architectural and historical value have been already barbarously destroyed.
“Back in the day, a small group of our enthusiastic architects conducted a comprehensive analysis of this area (89 hectares) and introduced a restoration project, which guaranteed the preservation of all architectural monuments amounting to 30% of the constructed area and taking into account experience from Europe in completing such tasks. The creation of a new infrastructure involved complex zoning procedures, where each functional sector was divided by main roads, properly linking the territory to the contiguous parts of the city. The project required profound reflection on the part of those who were engaged in the construction in the historical part of the city and that’s why it was ignored, he said.
According to Novruz Eldarov, an architect, ex-head of the “Big Baku Regional Development Plan project, they came up with another project that aimed at the restoration of the street in question, allowing houses of value to be preserved and all unfit ones to be replaced, so that this location could maintain its appearance and remain a place of interest for tourists.
The project was developed by a British man’s, Mcbain Cooper’s, company with help from a grant from the World Bank. The Azerbaijani Architects’ Union was also actively engaged in the project.
“Regrettably, there are no competent professional agencies in Baku capable of implementing such projects, says N. Eldarov.
In his words, the demolition of historical buildings is a crime.
“What this area needs is restoration, rather than the demolition of everything in sight in order to lay out a park. They have already made such a ‘park’ behind H.Aliyev’s palace. And so what? That’s not a park! I personally appealed to the president, but I didn’t receive any response. Regrettably, we are again losing architectural and significant buildings of Baku right before our eyes! Eldarov believes.
Several public figures, headed by Farhan Jabbarov, a scientific secretary of the National Museum of History of Azerbaijan, called on the country’s leadership to prevent the destruction of the historical buildings in Baku. However, the buildings are still being demolished.
The water distributing tower dating back to the end of 19th century
Here is a bath dating back to 1888. #83 Mukhtarov Street