Stowarzyszenie Projektów Międzynarodowych „INPRO”

The Spring to Come

The Spring to Come

One lives in the hope of becoming a memory.

This article is dedicated to the valuable memory of Mammad Amin Rasulzadeh, a prominent state figure of Azerbaijan, ideologist of the Azerbaijan National Liberation Movement and the creator of our first democratic state. He was forced to live the last 33 years of his life in 7 different countries, including Poland where he met his wife Vanda, with a hope in heart that one day Azerbaijan will become independent again.

Time flies and the generations change. 

We young people learn from our parents first, then media and public education. While struggling with university exams, job searching and other boring adult life issues, we may never get the chance to learn about the colorful heritage of our countries. And you know what they say about those who forget the history…

Youth embracing change. 

The name of my volunteering project really motivates me to wake up every Monday morning. A European Solidarity Corps volunteer, excitedly waiting for his Warszawa-Rzeszów Flixbus, felt something special in that Central European capital city. Something created a Déjà vu on his mind: the architecture. So familiar as if he has seen them a 1000 times before… Oh it is 12:45, run for the Flixbus, Ayxan!

Have a positive year! Such a nice wish we made on 31st of December 2019. 

The start of my volunteering coincided with confusing pandemia in the world. Many people were in a dilemma between to travel abroad or to #stayathome

At this time volunteers of a non-profit Polish NGO based in the city of Rzeszów – Stowarzyszenie Projektów Międzynarodowych “INPRO” – got an invitation from a high school located in a small Polish town. Very simple task: prepare a nice presentation about yourself and your country, and deliver it to students. What could possibly surprise me, right?!

Uncle Google knows what you want, and more…

A bit surfing on the internet, jumping from Page 1 to Page 2 was fun and informative. Azerbaijan with its excotic name and slogan (“Land of Fire” oooh), location, language, cuisine, music, and other cultural information could easily get the attention of youngsters. But somehow Google knew that Ayxan is not an ordinary guy who will be easily satisfied with the information that everybody knows. So now I know the reason for my architectural Déjà vu in Warszawa…

Are You Ready??? 1, 2, 3, 4

5 centuries ago, when nowadays Azerbaijan was a part of the former Safavid Empire, the two nations allied against the Ottoman Empire. Polish diplomats started to visit Caucasia, followed by the merchants, who came here for popular Eastern goods (textiles, cold weapons, jewellery and spices), and the third group of travellers – missionaries. Just after 2 centuries almost all main historical Azerbaijan cities hosted Polish missions of Dominicans, Carmelites and Jesuits.

All empires fall, eventually.

In the 19th century, Azerbaijan and Poland found themselves in a strange relationship. As a result of partitions of Poland and occupation of Caucasus by the former Russian empire, Warsaw and Baku became parts of the same country. Thousands of Poles in Azerbaijan at that time, can be divided into 2 groups:

  1. The exiles were condemned to penal service usually in the local military garrisons (the Caucasus was called “warm Siberia”).
  2. Highly qualified specialists (engineers, architects, doctors, scientists) voluntarily came for career and money after the Baku oil boom. The capital of Azerbaijan, which was only a small oriental town, in a short time became a westernised metropolis.

Hello, is it me you’re looking for?…

Before World War I, the prosperous Polish community in Baku numbered a few thousand people. Among the most prominent Poles were the engineers:

  • Witold Zglenicki (1850-1904) was the first person who gave the idea of extracting oil from the seabed and designed appropriate equipment. He was also the most generous sponsor of Polish science in history, giving the Mianowski Fund almost 2,400,000 USD of his income from oil plot in Surakhany.
  • Tadeusz Wyganowski (1877-1926), the builder of the first pipeline connecting the Caspian and the Black Seas and author of “Memoirs from the Caucasus”.
  • Pawel Potocki led the oil extraction works till the last moments of his life. The engineer’s heroism had inspired Margarita Aligier to dedicate a poem to him, “Old Man”. As requested, Potocki was buried in Bibi Heybat, the oil fields which he created by the sea.
  • Stefan Skrzywan (1876-1932) built the water supply system in Azerbaijan.
  • Polish geologist Rudolf Zuber (1858-1919), known in Poland for the discovery of mineral water springs in Krynica).

Tell me more, tell me more, was it love at first sight?

The most powerful imprint Poles have left was on the architecture of Baku. For over 22 years, the chief architect of Baku was respectively 4 talented designers:

  1. Jozef Goslawski (1892-1904) designed some of the most significant buildings:
  • Baku City Council is currently used by the Baku authorities;
  • Female Islamic School now houses the Museum of Hussein Javid;
  • Tagiyev Palace currently houses the History Museum of Azerbaijan;
  • Tagiyev Villa in the village of Mardakan, Absheron Peninsula;
  • The old Tagiyev textile factory in the settlement of Zych, Absheron Peninsula.

 

2. Kazimierz Skórewicz (1904-1907) came to Baku at the invitation of J.Goslawski. He made an important contribution to Baku as a co-creator of the boulevard on the Caspian Sea. Additionally, he designed the State Bank building, Rothschild Office Building (currently it is the Azerbaijan Prosecutor’s Office) and the Tagiyev Arcade.

3. Jozef Ploszko (1907-1910) also came to Baku at the invitation of J.Goslawski. He built public and religious buildings in a variety of styles, from Classical, through high-quality Venetian and French Gothic to Art Nouveau, which was very fashionable. His impressive ‘portfolio included below and more:

  • Ismailia Palace (now Presidium of Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences);
  • The Mukhtarov Palace  (now The Wedding Palace);
  • “Phenomenon” (now Azerbaijan State Puppet Theatre);
  • Sultan Haji Ali Mosque;
  • Rylski’s family house; Diplomatic mission of the Republic of Poland in the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic was led by Stefan Rylski.

4. Konstanty Borysoglebski (1910-1914) contributed to the development of public buildings such as “Olginsky Halls” in the capital of Azerbaijan.

BONUS: Eugeniusz Skibinski, the co-designer of the Baku Central Train Station, with more than 250 projects that today constitute symbols of the city.

 

It’s been a long day without you my friend…

World War I ended the lush lifestyles of the Polish community. Some Poles left at that time, others after the fall of the independent Azerbaijan Democratic Republic that existed 1918-1920 until the annexation of the country to Soviet Russia.

PS: 1 of 23 states which had recognized ADR was Poland.

PSS: ADR Government was full of Poles below and even more:

  • Wiktor Kleniewski – the Social Security Minister of the ADR.
  • Maciej Sulkiewicz – Chief of general staff of the ADR army.
  • Leon Kryczyński – Chief clerk of the Council of ministers of the ADR.
  • Olgierd Kryczyński – Deputy Minister of Justice of the ADR.
  • Stanisław Wąsowicz – Representative of the Polish committee.

And I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again…

“The Spring to Come” (“Przedwiośnie”) by Stefan Zeromski (1864-1925), one of the most famous Polish novels begins in Baku where the young Cezary Baryka, among a few old friends rushed from the lessons and hovered around, and even chased through the streets at night, through the pits and bumps, and amongst the ruins of old fire temples and mosques. Almost 100 years after its publication, the houses of glass envisioned in the novel are currently rising in Azerbaijan.

Yesterday. Today. Tomorrow.

House-museum of Leopold (1892-1942) and Mstislav (1927-2007) Rostropovich, 19 Rostropovich Street, Baku. The best known of the Rostropovich family was undoubtedly Mstislav, a cello virtuoso, conductor. He was born in Baku, but did not forget his roots. The museum is located in a house where the Rostropovich family lived from 1925 until 1931.

The Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception, 2A Orujev Street, Baku. The church is home to a nineteenth-century wooden statue of Christ (130 cm high).

Centre of Polish Language and Culture at Baku Slavic University, 25 Suleyman Rustam Street, Baku. The Centre, opened on the 9th of November 2006 by Senate Marshal Bogdan Borusewicz, is the combination of a specialist language laboratory, library and a language club, where visitors can read Polish newspapers and watch Polish movies.

Yelizavetpol -> Kirovabad -> Ganja = My Hometown

At the end of the 19th century Ignacy Krzysztalowicz was chief architect of the Yelizavetpol province (Yelizavetpol, also called Kirovabad in Soviet times, went back to its historical name Ganja when Azerbaijan gained independence in 1991). He was the author of the first master plan for Yelizavetpol (1873). It is worth adding that Krzysztalowicz also designed houses and palaces to the private order of wealthy citizens of Yelizavetpol. They can still be seen today in Ganja and the nearby mountain resort of Hajikend.

Caucasian – Carpathian friendship

Somewhere in the Azerbaijani part of the Caucasus lived Allilah, the heroine of a little-known but beautiful piece by Polish singer Czeslaw Niemen:

….Allilah, I’m waiting at the crossroads | Allilah czekam na rozstaju dróg

For sure I will return, with God’s help | Na pewno powrócę gdy pomoże Bóg

I’ll saddle the wind and unerringly arrive there | Osiodłam wiatr i nieomylnie trafię tam

Where’s Allilah eyes and Azerbaijan | Gdzie oczy Allilah i Azerbejdżan.

Czeslaw Niemen – Alilah

To sum up, in this short article I did my best to remind the forgotten ties between the country I am coming from and the country I am volunteering in right now. Today lots of Azerbaijanis come to Poland for education, career or just through relationships. Today not so many people in Poland know that many slavic origin people (Polish, Russian, Ukranian, etc.) lived and continue their lives in Azerbaijan. That is why we always need to promote all existing relations to live a more peaceful future.

My warmest regards go to the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Baku for kind assistance to access the useful publications used in this article: “Polish Places in Baku” and “Activity of the Poles in Azerbaijan” by the author Nasiman Yagublu.

Oops almost forgot to say. Who is Ayxan?

I am Ayxan from Azerbaijan, European Solidarity Corps volunteer in the project called “Youth embracing change” at INPRO association in Rzeszow, Poland. As you may already felt, I am someone who doesn’t like to talk much about himself. I am more a “Don’t believe me, just watch” person, especially, when it is about enjoying life haha. See you in reality!