Churches of Baku: Then & Now / Part 1

Azerbaijan and its capital city Baku, have always been one of the most tolerant places in the world where all religious communities lived in peace for centuries. This has led to construction of great and beautiful architectural monuments of various confessions including churches, some of which were built by donations and funding from local muslim population. Nevertheless, with the establishment of Soviet regime in Baku in 1920, the majority of churches and mosques were shut-down and barbarously demolished by bolsheviks. This was a result of Stalin's so-called fight against religions and took place through whole USSR. Among those were the great Bibi-Heybat Mosque, Alexander Nevsky Orthodox Cathedral, Roman Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception and many others. First part of this articles will be dedicated to churches which were demolished by communists and didn't remain until our days.

I have collected many photos of these churches for years. Unfortunately, while collecting them I just saved soft versions on my PC HD and never thought writing down the original sources (i.e links) of these photos. Nevertheless, I have very few doubts that photographers who took these photos originally may ever complain because they probably aren't alive by today. Still, thanks to everyone who collected these photos and made them available online. So, let's begin:

1) Alexander Nevsky Cathedral:

I decided to begin with Alexander Nevsky Cathedral because it was the biggest church ever built in Baku and the biggest Orthodox church in whole Caucasus region during its time. Although its construction brought palpable emotions to some inhabitants of Baku (as it was constructed on a territory which was an old Muslim cemetery), most of donations voluntarily came from Muslim population of the city (some say more than 70% of funds) including a donation from Zeynalabdin Taghiyev, an oil magnate of the time. Jewish community of the city also made some donations to its construction. The ceremony of laying the first stone in 1888, was attended by Russian Emperor Alexander III and his family with the future emperor, his son Nicholas II. Its construction was finished in 1898. Designed by a German born architect and his Polish student, its main arch, domes and crosses were made of pure gold. In 1936, it was demolished by the Soviet government. Rumours are its demolition process was so complicated that half way through, communists decided to blow it up using dynamites. Today, a music school is located on the very territory where it once proudly stood. Once again, being the biggest church in Baku, its domes and crosses could be seen from many spots of the city, which is well demonstrated by old photos:

entrance of Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
scan of a postcard with illustration of Alexander Nevsky Cathedral 
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, a glance from a spot nearby hotel Metropol (now Nizami Museum)
view of Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
view of Alexander Nevsky Cathedral (can be noticed in top-middle part of the photo). Photo shot by Viktor Korvin-Kerber, pilot of sea aviation
view of Alexander Nevsky Cathedral from a bazaar located nearby
another view of Alexander Nevsky Cathedral from a bazaar located nearby
demolition of Alexander Nevsky Cathedral by communists in 1936 before it was completely blown up using dynamites.
2) Roman Catholic Church of Virgin Mary's Immaculate Conception:

Constructed in 1912 as a worship place for Polish population of Baku, this catholic church was a beautiful and outstanding monument built in Neo-Gothic architectural style. Despite the fact that a permission for its construction was already given in late 1890's, money shortage stood as barrier for more than a decade. The church was demolished in 1931 by the Soviet regime. Its territory was occupied by a new building named Dzierzynski Club (today known as Shahriyar Club).  
Catholic Church of Virgin Mary's Immaculate Conception
view from today's R.Behbudov street

Construction of Catholic Church of Virgin Mary's
Immaculate Conception, 1911



Catholic Church of Virgin Mary's Immaculate Conception, this is probably a view from today's crossroad of U.Hajibeyov and R.Behbudov streets, somewhere nearby a corner of Sahil park.
Catholic Church of Virgin Mary's Immaculate Conception, view from today's Z.Aliyeva street
3) Balakhany Church of Saint Makary of Egypt:

Despite being called Balakhany church (Balakhany is a settlement in Baku suburbs), this church was actually located in suburban settlement of Baku named Surakhany. The reason probably comes from oil workers who gave a mutual name of Balakhany to the settlements of Balakhany, Surakhany and Ramana as they all three were mutually used in oil exploration. It was built in 1903 for as worship place for orthodox workers employed in these oil fields. By late 19th century, there were more than a few thousand orthodox workers employed in this particular area. Actually there was a temporary small wooden church before its construction (which was later moved somewhere else). Balakhany Orthodox Church of Saint Makary of Egypt was completely demolished by the Soviet regime in 1933. 

Balakhany Orthodox Church of
Saint Makary of Egypt
Balakhany Orthodox Church of Saint Makary of Egypt in 1904


view of Surakhany settlement from the church
4) Saint Nicholas Cathedral:

Saint Nicholas Cathedral which was located within the old city walls (Icheri Sheher) was one of the first orthodox churches built in Baku after city's occupation by Russian Empire. It was first decided to be built on the territory of Shirvanshah's palace by demolishing an old mosque but luckily, this insane idea was rejected by russian military general of engineering squad Peter Truzson. As a result, it was built near Shemakha gate on a territory of old houses and a bathhouse. Just as other many churches, this cathedral was demolished by Soviets in 1930. 


Saint Nicholas Cathedral,
view from Shemakha gate

 
Saint Nicholas Cathedral,
view from Shemakha gate
5) Saint Thaddeus and Bartholomew Cathedral:

Also know as Budagov church (as its construction was funded by millionaire Budagov), it was built in 1911 nearby today's crossroad of Shamsi Badalbeyli and Rashid Behbudov streets. It was blown up and demolished by the Soviet regime in 1930. Today Baku Academy of Music is located in this very territory. 
construction of Saint Thaddeus and Bartholomew Cathedral
Saint Thaddeus and Bartholomew Cathedral
Saint Thaddeus and Bartholomew Cathedral, view from former Basin street (now Fizuli street)
6) Baku Military Port Church of Saint Aleksiy, Metropolit of Moscow:


Built in 1868 in Bayil district of Baku by funds of Naval Ministry and partially with church money. Constructed of stone, its height equalled 36 meters. It was mainly for Orthodox people who lived and worked in Bayil district (mostly seamen (both military and civil) and their families), which despite being located not too far from central Baku, lived its own life due to bad roads and weak communication means. Bayil was a district of ports and remains the same way to date. The church was demolished by soviets in 1930's.

Baku Military Port Church of Saint Aleksiy, Metropolit of Moscow (Bayil district)
7) Saint Ilya Church in Black city:

Built in 1906 for the Orthodox population of the Black city (industrial region of Baku which mainly consisted of oil refineries and plants). It was located nearby today's subway station named after Khatai, in front of the architectural building constructed in 1911 for chief engineers of Nobel's oil firm. Church of Saint Ilya was another huge and beautiful architectural monument which was demolished in 1929 as a result of Stalin's ill policy. 

Saint Ilya Church in Black City
Saint Ilya Church in Black City



Saint Ilya Church in Black City on the left, building constructed in 1911 for chief engineers of Nobel's oil company on the right (actually it's the house I grew up in and remains there up to date; the one-storied fire station (white in color) also remained till our days) 
a view from almost the same angle today, about a 100 years later...