Pages 96-100

by Nigar Abdullayeva

We have featured many of Azerbaijan’s charming environments, historical monuments and beautiful sites. The capital, Baku, also has some wonderful views. The reconstruction and renovation work carried out here in recent years has seen historical monuments restored and the many parks dotted about the city reconstructed in modern style. The work has brought both splendour and facilities for the population’s pleasure. Nowadays, the National Seaside Park is a firm favourite with both residents and guests of Baku.

The changing face of Baku Boulevard

As we write we see the Boulevard in the National Seaside Park changing beyond recognition. We should begin by briefly reviewing its historical development. Professor Nariman Aliyev of the Azerbaijan University of Architecture and Construction tells us that the shore was once a dock surrounded by piers for boats and ships. At that time there was no conception of a boulevard. Then, in 1909, Muhammad Hasan Hajinski, head of the municipality’s construction department announced to a session of the Baku Duma that a Seaside Boulevard would be established for people to use at their leisure and that he would personally supervise the work.

The Baku Duma provided 60,000 roubles for the construction of the Boulevard and the city’s magnates also made their contribution. According to Prof. Aliyev the first Boulevard was much shorter than the present one:
It was where Maiden Tower stands now, the sea used to be at the foot of the tower, and there are still some traces of the original promenade. Construction began in 1911. It was no longer than 300-500 metres because people would not allow the destruction of the piers; they fished from there and if the piers were destroyed there would be nowhere to dock the boats. It was not until later that people had the idea that it would be a good place for people to promenade. The construction of the Boulevard could not be fully developed in the pre-Soviet period. Although development accelerated later, serious problems also appeared. Thus the city was expanding and developing, but there was no provision to extend the Boulevard.

So, at that time, the Boulevard stretched from the Caucasus Mercury Pier (now the Puppet Theatre) to Seyid Mirbabayev’s house (Azneft square). In the 1950s and 1960s the Mirvari (Pearl) cafe, the Little Venice water park, the Bahar (Spring) cinema and other entertainments were built. Prof. Aliyev tells us that the Boulevard was lengthened to 3 kilometres in 1960. In the 1970s it reached 3.5 km. For comparison the city has a 16.5 km. coastline.

In fact the professor proposed that the Boulevard be extended to 6 km. and this was actually included in the draft plan for Baku prepared in 1970, but development was increasingly difficult, because industry occupied much of the seashore.

Construction work recommenced from the beginning of Heydar Aliyev’s term as president of Azerbaijan (1993-2003) and the Boulevard was soon extended to 3.7 kilometres. President Aliyev signed a decree on 29 December 1998 affording National Park status to the Boulevard and cleaning, renovation and reconstruction work accelerated.

Flag Square

On 10 January 2008, the cultural and ecological importance of the city’s seaside promenade was recognised in President Ilham Aliyev’s decree to establish the Seaside Boulevard Office under the Cabinet of Ministers. This heralded the launch of a substantial renovation programme, which resulted in the head of state declaring:
It is not one of the most beautiful boulevards; it is the most beautiful, for its natural environment, renovation, modernity and comfort...

Do you remember the time when there were rocks and communication with the sea was impossible? Now people can walk right next to it.

Industry was excluded from the city centre. Prof. Aliyev comments:
This creates a great opportunity to develop and extend the Boulevard from Bayil peninsula to Zykh settlement, some 16.5 km (round the curve of Baku Bay –ed.) This will be the only Boulevard of its kind in the world and it would be good to make it 150-200 metres wide. We can shelter it from the wind and create a very good leisure zone. Flag Square has been established this year, at the Bayil end, with the world’s highest flagpole. Although this is not the highest point in the city, it is one of its most beautiful parts and the placement of the flag here adds a particular splendour. This is the first such square anywhere, combining the Boulevard with a symbol of state.

The use of international expertise in renovating the Boulevard in national style certainly enhances the attractiveness of the capital city.

The Boulevard today

The Seaside Boulevard really does now appeal to all sections of the population; it caters for the leisure demands of all age groups. There are attractions and playgrounds for children, modern entertainment centres for the youth and more relaxed areas for their elders: fountains in the midst of green trees and charming flowers.

Nazim Majidov, deputy chief of the Seaside Boulevard Office, tells us that the Boulevard will be extended in both directions, up to 16 kilometres. Of course trees are central to any park and in Baku’s National Park, together with the native plants, there are trees and bushes brought in from abroad, especially from the Netherlands, Italy and Turkey.

Mr. Majidov believes that the new Boulevard will attract people all year round:
The olive trees planted on the Boulevard attracted a lot of attention. So this year we brought more new trees in. These new ones belong to the Baobab group and are famed for their longevity; they can live for more than 200 years. They came from Argentina via Europe. Of course, we plant new bushes and flowers according to season.

He also assures us that every consideration has been given to safety. New carousels and attractions are being installed:
We are installing attractions produced with the latest technology by the most prestigious Italian, French and German companies. There are now more than 30 carousels and attractions here.

Turning to the shopping centres that have opened on the Boulevard, the deputy chief says that, of course, they do not disturb people and kiosks, cafes and restaurants are very important leisure facilities:
Leisure doesn’t simply mean walking along the promenade, sitting on the benches and breathing the sea air, although there are areas free of attractions. Particular parts of the boulevard are geared towards the younger population. The attractions and carousels are mainly installed in the area in front of Government House, so as not to disturb the peace of other parts. We decided that one part of the Boulevard would be essentially for those who prefer peace and quiet.

Having visited boulevards in several countries Mr.Majidov says
…with some pride that our National Park in no way lags behind any other. I think that a boulevard should be distinguished by its environment and plants – traditionally it is tree-lined. The beauty of our Boulevard is in the ambience of the centuries’ old trees. The special zones round the Little Venice water park and the Sahil (Shore) restaurant are also special constructions. As you know, there used to be parachute jumps from the clock tower.

Boat trips for Eurovision

The National Park will be extended to State Flag Square in time for the Eurovision-2012 Song Contest to be held in Baku in May next year; by then it will be 6 km. long. Mr. Majidov tells us that most of the buildings there have already been cleared: Only part of the Ship Maintenance Factory is left and that will be moved in the coming months. To speed up the process, work has begun at both ends of the strip, one team working from the ‘Hand Games Palace’ to State Flag Square and the other in the opposite direction. It will be completed in time for the contest.

He added that it is planned to continue the Boulevard towards the Black City (industrial) area at the other, eastern, end of Baku Bay.

In all, it will take 10 years to extend the Boulevard. There is much clearance work to be done.

The Seaside Boulevard Office is keen to ensure that foreign visitors are catered for and its staff and others who work on the Boulevard will have English language training. Mr. Majidov’s expects the time around the contest to be a very busy one:
There is a very large screen on the Boulevard. It will provide all the information necessary for foreign tourists, as well as information on Azerbaijan’s history and culture. The cruise boats will also be replaced. Contracts have already been signed for 3 or 4 new ones.

So, we invite visitors to see the rare trees and flora, gaze out to sea and relax in the entertainment centres established on the 102-year-old Baku Boulevard; beautiful in every season. There is more information about the facilities here on the website: