Excursion into history
Extract from the article: “A Story of One City” (memories of Arif Shahbazov, Honoured Builder of Azerbaijan), “Echo+” newspaper, 8 December 2001
After the fascinating Tour of the Boulevard, that I took with my guide Arif Shahbazov in a back issue of our newspaper, we received many calls from our readers, who asked us to continue the topic. With pleasure I agreed to continue the virtual walk in old Baku.
- Where are we going this time? – I ask Arif Shahbazov.
- Shall we go to Petrov Square and look at the grandstand? – he suggests.
- Where? – I ask bewildered.
But my question goes unanswered: we approach a white-stone, square building with columns along the façade. You have probably already guessed that we are talking about the Museum Centre of the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Azerbaijan, which was called, until very recently, the V.I.Lenin Museum.
- So where is the square with the grandstand? - I ask, looking at my guide, perplexed.
- Don’t look at me, look there.
I look, and indeed there is no trace of the museum – as though it has vanished into thin air, and instead, right in the middle of the real square, shines a double decker grandstand, rectangular in shape. And there is a kind of arch with a grating at its foot. And it is crested with the former coat of arms of the former Socialist Azerbaijan; you know, that coat of arms with the oil-derrick.
- And what is this, I mean, when? – (my spine tingles as I feel that the question is a very strange one).
- What do you mean? – my guide asks in surprise.
I take a deep breath and rap out:
- The grandstand, I say, where is it from, the square, I say, where did you take it, and besides, why is it called Petrov Square? Arif muellim gave me some time to “overcome” the culture shock that I had just survived, and began answering all my questions one by one. It is called Petrov Square because it is located not far from the Petrov sea front. It was named after Peter I, in about 1890. It is part of the shore front, where the port and the warehouse have been located since the end of the 18th century. Once, a long, long time ago, there used to be a grandstand, but a wooden one, within the 26 Baku Commissars garden. That grandstand was the predecessor of this one in stone. Its “façade” used to face the Union of Writers of Azerbaijan. It was installed before every holiday and, after the celebration, it would be dismantled: it was designed for 10-15 people, it Swas up to two metres high, it served for a very long time as a “podium” for the leaders of the nation.
- And how long did it take the government to decide to construct a stone grandstand?
- They decided to construct this permanent grandstand almost right after the end of the Great Patriotic War. There was reason to celebrate then. In height it is much bigger than the old one, but it is only thirty metres long. The previous one was hardly respectable. And besides, there were so many positive aspects from this new beginning.
For example, while participants marched in single file past the wooden grandstand, the site of the stone one allowed them to march two by two. And it was possible to disassemble the military units and munitions in the nearby street and avenue.
- How quickly was it constructed and what is inside it?
- The construction project was given top priority, which is why it was finished within the schedule for such projects. There is a cloakroom inside and, of course, a lavatory.
- Well, if everything was so good, why was it pulled down?
- It is a very long story. The thing is that it took a very long time to decide upon the site for the construction of the V.I. Lenin museum. After considering a number of alternatives, they finally decided on this same Petrov Square. At the end of the day, it was quite spacious, and there were not too many plants on it.
And suddenly Arif muellim smiled.
- What – I ask, have you remembered something?
- Even before this square was built upon, I used to play hockey here as a kid.
- What did you play here? – I ask.
- Real hockey, on skates, on roller skates.
I had to breathe a sigh of obvious relief, because the presence of a natural ice rink in a southern country might have caused my immediate hospitalization.
You were telling me about the construction of the museum, I say to Arif muellim. They started constructing the museum itself in the 50s. Back then, an organization like the Main Branch of Baku Construction was not even thought of. All the construction offices of the city were united much later.
The museum was delivered at the end of the 50s. The truth is, none of the Politburo participated in the opening, nevertheless the ceremonies were particularly grandiose.
And there is one more interesting fact for those who don’t know. Initially, the building that was to be the V.I. Lenin Museum was designed as a branch of a union-wide network. Why? It is very simple. Because nothing connected Ilyich to Azerbaijan. Of course, we mean from a historical point of view. That is it!
Masuma Bagirova and Honoured Builder of Azerbaijan Arif Shahbazov walked in old Baku
Photo materials presented by A. Shahbazov