Memories of Baku

By Vestnik Kavkaza

Moscow saw the release of the book by Nicolas Iljine “Memories of Baku.” The book describes the history of the city in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It contains unique photos of old Baku and the history of its life.

Azerbaijani and foreign authors participated in the project, among them are the historian of Baku, architecture expert Fuad Akhundov and Pr. Thaddeus Sventohovski.

“I have been 18 times in Baku due to my work. I loved the city and the country,” Nicolas Iljine, the book’s editor, says. “I have a hobby – I collect postcards from the places where I have been. I collected them in Odessa, I collected them in Baku. To finish the trilogy, I will deal with Tbilisi later. All these cities have always been unique for their tolerance, a fusion of nationalities, and a high culture.”

At the moment the book has been published only in English to attract a Western reader. However, the Russian version is coming soon. Telling Vestnik Kavkaza on the idea of composing the book, Iljine said: “It is in English because I studied in the UK and not only this. There is a lack of information in English, especially on the development of culture and architecture in Baku. So, we decided to do it. I began to collect postcards from local people, in curiosity shops, and so on. I collected 300 postcards. In general I got 600 various cards of those times. Then I found the authors who knew architecture, the old city, and music and asked them to take part in the project. I added materials from different archives, especially from the Public Library in St. Petersburg. That’s how this book appeared, as well as smart sponsors who supported us. We will have a presentation in London because it is in English. Odessa, Baku, and Tbilisi were similar in the beginning of the 20thcentury. Development of culture was strong, as well as a fusion of tribes and nationalities. The most interesting period is to the middle of the 1920s. Probably I will begin to compose a book in Tbilisi next year. I need a year and a half to collect material and choose authors for a book.”

Today the book “Memories of Baku” has been presented. How do such books influence raising the young generation?

“Baku is really a unique city which was built by various architects,” Polad Byul-Byul Ogly, Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of Azerbaijan in Russia, told Vestnik Kavkaza. “They understood that the country was Muslim, the Eastern country, and wanted to reflect an Eastern style. Baku has various styles and that’s why it is interesting. The eclectic creates a unique image of Baku which attracts tourists, guests, and residents of the city, who love Baku and are proud of living here.”

“The fact is that we think we know the history of our former country and the history of our neighbours very well,” Mikhail Shvydkoi, special envoy of President of Russia on international cultural cooperation, says. “But it is not so and concerns not only the post-Soviet space. Beyond the space there is shallow understanding what Baku and Azerbaijan are, I speak about Baku because we have presented a book on Baku today. I think not only for young people, but also for all people who want to learn the world this book would be very interesting. It contains unique photos, wonderful articles, memories on fascinating phenomena of Baku’s life, i.e. life of all Azerbaijan.”