The past without future
Transcript of Author's speech

This is Sovetski – the neighborhood just outside Baku’s historic core is home to 50,000 to 60,000 people – for now. This footage left from the ongoing relocation in Sovietski. They were born, grew up, grew old in Sovetski and...moved to new apartments. I am standing on the roof of one of the oldest buildings in Sovetski, observing the line between the past and future, the future with the high-buildings and parks, and the past without further future.

 These houses during the Soviet time, built in one night without discipline, are scheduled for demolition in the coming years.  The national government announced plans three years ago to level Sovetski and replace it with a public park.

The name became ironic: while the rest of Baku adapted to Soviet customs, wearing modern clothes and avoiding religious observance, Sovetski remained a bastion of traditions.

The neighborhood dates back some 200 years. Dozens of Sovetski buildings are more than a century old, including old mosques and a Russian Orthodox church built in 1845 and baths built in 1888. Before the Soviet regime, One of the street was named as Chadrova, because women here were wearing chadra.

But the neighborhood’s cultural importance lies “not only in ornaments, history, and buildings. This is a folklore area, an ethnographic area. There are many museums devoted to popular people,” including the Azerbaijani composer Uzeir Hajibekov and Mstislav Rostropovich, the world-famous Russian conductor, who was born in Baku.

 

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I met this man while I was shooting the beautiful architecture of Sovetski, he sto pped me and started to tell about the dwelling where he lives, and the importance and historically significance of his home. As he told, the building was built in 1895 by two brothers who were living here until Soviet Regime came. The building where he has been living already 60 years was included in architecture book for its style and beautiful historical elements.

Baku is changing so rapidly, that if it isn’t comprehensively recorded now, generations to come will have no idea what their city used to look like.

The first time I became aware that if you don’t record your environment, the bulldozers will remove it!

While following my main hero he started to ask locals about the name strange name of Sovetski, why and for what it was called Sovetski, despite that many of these building were built in the beginning of Soviet Period.  Interestingly, many could not find answers for this “simple” question.

The atmosphere has changed significantly in this area, new buildings have been built, new parks were built on the site of the old streets however The older generation remember this place as old buildings, narrow roads, passages, closed neighborhoods, unwritten laws ...

The governme8nt is offering residents 1,500 manats ($1,911) per square meter in compensation for lost property. They are seeking at least 4,000 manats per square meter, the minimum they say they need to afford new homes in the center, where most have lived all their lives. At 1,500 manats residents would have to move to new housing complexes in suburban districts on the far outskirts of Baku. However,  one of the residents I met was quite happy to be moved to another place. 

Personal Archive of Behruz Huseynzade
Personal Archive of Behruz Huseynzade
Personal Archive of Behruz Huseynzade
Personal Archive of Behruz Huseynzade
Personal Archive of Behruz Huseynzade
Personal Archive of Behruz Huseynzade

According to the Deputy Chairman of the State Committee for Urban Planning and Architecture, the residential houses in Sovetski have become worthless. He told that these buildings will be demolished in a short time.  Yes, for good and bad, whole areas are being demolished and it’s a shame, because some of them are beautiful examples of the local vernacular style quite apart from being people’s homes!

So, I may not be able to stand in the way of “progress” but at least there will be many files, somewhere on the web marked “Old Baku” where the children and grandchildren of present day Bakuians may look back at what used to be and ask the question “why did we do that?”

The project done for Diploma work by the Master student of Caucasus School of Journalism and Media Management, 2015. 

 

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