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History

History

The Seaside Boulevard is one of the most distinctive features of the Azerbaijani capital Baku, which boasts a wealth of sites of historic and architectural interest. With its unique array of plants and trees, the Seaside Boulevard is a firm favourite with both local and foreign visitors.

“Boulevard” was originally a French word, meaning a wide street or promenade, sometimes running along the seafront. The first boulevards were created in the 17th and 18th centuries in western Europe.

The history of the Baku boulevard dates back to the beginning of the 20th century. In 1909, a green area was planted between the Caspian seafront and the street running parallel to it, at that time called Alexander II after the Russian Tsar. The creation of the Baku boulevard was dictated by the need to improve the waterfront in the centre of the city. Construction work in the area began in the second half of the 19th century. A talented Azerbaijani architect, Gasim Bay Hajibababayov (1811-1874), carried out the first engineering work on the seafront, developing a project for the construction of warehouses there in 1862. In 1867, fountains and a water supply system and a number of other facilities were built.The narrow seafront, used in the second half of the 19th century mainly for economic purposes, was home to the warehouses and wharves of various trading companies. They divided the front into two parts: the area stretching to the west was called Aleksandrovskaya Seafront, and the one to the east – Petrovskaya. In 1865, Baku Governor Mikhail Kolyubakin filed a petition for the dismantling of the section of the old fortress wall facing the sea, which was approved by the Caucasian Military District. After the demolition of the fortress wall along the seafront, the construction of new houses began.Baku’s sustained development and population growth, the fall in the water level of the Caspian Sea, and extension of the city to the seafront after the demolition of the fortress walls all necessitated an architectural design for the seafront. The creation of a seaside boulevard was repeatedly discussed in the Baku City Duma. At the end of the 19th century, various designs were developed to improve the seafront and construct a boulevard, but they were not implemented because of a lack of funds.This issue was resolved through the efforts of Mammadhasan Hajinsky, a talented engineer, skillful organizer and head of the construction department of Baku City government. On April 7, 1909, Hajinsky managed to have the building of a seaside boulevard included on the agenda for discussion in the Baku City Duma. The report of this meeting was published on April 9, 1909 in the newspapers Kaspiy and Baku.Hajinsky was able to justify the importance of constructing a new boulevard: in his speech, he stressed that Mikhailovsky Garden was not enough to meet the cultural and leisure requirements of the urban population, noting the need to allocate more territory to that end. Speaking about the economic feasibility of improving the seafront, he noted that flower stalls and cool drinks kiosks alone would bring the city treasury 4,000-6,000 rubles a month. Baku City Duma was enthusiastic about the report, allocating 10,000 rubles to creation of the boulevard, and another 2,500 rubles per annum to its maintenance. It was recommended that Baku City Administration start implementation of this project as soon as possible. The Hajinsky Plan was the first document to provide funds for the construction of the boulevard.

Given the importance of the boulevard in shaping the image of this ancient port city, Baku City Duma announced a competition for the best project. About 30 specialists took part in the competition, including prominent architects and civil engineers such as Ziver bay Ahmadbayov, Józef Płoszko and Johann Edel. Established architect Adolf Eichler was heavily involved in the landscaping work for the boulevard under the leadership of Hajinsky.Initially, the boulevard stretched from the Stone Wharf (now Azneft Square) to the Caucasus and Mercury Shipping Company Wharf (now the building of the Abdullah Shaig Azerbaijan State Puppet Theatre). In the pre-revolutionary period, the Phenomen Cinema, swimming baths and Baku School of Naval Aviation all operated on the territory of the boulevard.The Seaside Boulevard was also improved in Soviet times. After the dismantling of a number of wharves, the second part of the boulevard was built in the 1930s from the present-day Puppet Theatre to Bulbul Avenue. The next stage of development took place in 1936-1938. Work to improve and landscape the area from Azneft Square to the Intourist Hotel had already been completed by that time.Further improvements were made to the Seaside Boulevard in subsequent years. The Mirvari Cafe, the Bahar and Samad Vurgun summer cinemas, the little Venice area of canals and bridges and other leisure and entertainment facilities were built here in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1967, the architect Mikayil Huseynov proposed a project to reconstruct the Seaside Boulevard.

After National Leader Heydar Aliyev assumed the leadership of the republic in 1969, a new stage began in the development of the Seaside Boulevard. It was reconstructed in the 1970s as part of large-scale greening and landscaping carried out in the republic and the capital. The boulevard was expanded to the east and west, with its length reaching 3.7 km.The republic lived through hard times in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The period of breakdown affected the Seaside Boulevard too, with the appearance of dozens of facilities unrelated to recreation, and an increase in the level of the Caspian Sea resulting in the loss of valuable tree species.On December 29, 1998, National Leader Heydar Aliyev, who considered the Seaside Boulevard an integral part of the country’s history and culture, signed a decree granting it the status of a National Park in accordance with Article 76 of the Law of the Republic of Azerbaijan On Nature Protection and Use of Natural Resources. According to Resolution No. 132 of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Azerbaijan, dated December 29, 2001, the Seaside National Park was included in the list of historical and cultural monuments of national significance.

President Ilham Aliyev issued a Decree on January 10, 2008 to establish the Seaside Boulevard Department in order to restore the natural landscape of the boulevard, maintain its historical appearance, develop the area’s rich flora, protect the boulevard, and oversee social and cultural events there.The decree began capital improvement in the Seaside National Park: the area of vegetation was significantly expanded and made even more attractive with the planting of new varieties of trees and flowers, including exotic plants (palm trees, baobabs imported from Argentina, and cacti from Mexico). New attractions, cinemas and pleasure boats appeared too.The extension and development of the National Park is being constantly addressed by President Ilham Aliyev, demonstrating the watchful attention and care of the country’s leadership for the National Park. By order of President Aliyev, the territory of the Seaside National Park was extended from the Palace of Hand Games to the State Flag Square in the run-up to the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest. The updated boulevard became 2 km longer. A number of objects of historical significance were created on this territory, including State Flag Square, the State Flag Museum and Baku Crystal Hall, an indoor activities and sports complex which hosted Eurovision.The boulevard was extended in two directions in 2015 in the lead up to the First European Games – the first part, stretching from State Flag Square (Petroglyphs Museum) to Bibi-Heybat, was named Bail Boulevard, the second – from the Sea Trade Port to the Hotel Boulevard, was named White City Boulevard. The White City Boulevard is 2.7 km long and covers a total area of 33 hectares. As a result of the reconstruction and improvement work, modern cultural, recreation and catering facilities have been built on the territory of the new boulevard.Work continues today to construct and improve the National Park, which combines elements of both eastern and western architecture. In a decree of January 15, 2016 President Aliyev approved the merger of the State Flag Square Complex Administration and the Seaside Boulevard Department. At present, the National Park covers an area of  215.164 hectares, with a total length of 16 kilometers.