Azerbaijan is one of the rare countries that can be called the cradle of humanity. Life began in this territory a very long time ago. Rock paintings and petroglyphs in Gobustan near Baku dated by scholars to the end of the seventh and beginning of the sixth millennium BC confirm that even then in Azerbaijan there was a developed culture.
The history of the second millennium clearly illustrates that the people of Azerbaijan are among the nations that are distinguished by their identity. Over the past two thousand years, Azerbaijanis, as an integral part of human civilization, have made a significant contribution to the treasury of world civilization.
Azerbaijan has always been art-rich nation, along with its architectural monuments, which are one of the branches of folk art since ancient times. The Maiden Tower is one of the most significant architectural monuments of Baku.
Samples of engraving on the Bailovo castle (13 century), figures of horses and sheep placed on the graves (15-19 centuries) can also be considered a new and memorable page of sculpture.
Keeping the character of a frieze, in due time “Bayil stones” constituted a decorative element of a magnificent architectural monument located on the land. Carpets woven at different times and in different schools of carpet weaving in Azerbaijan, as well as in Baku, still fascinate with their beauty. Many of them are preserved in famous museums of the world now.
Among the Gobustan cave paintings, the figures depicting people performing the “Yally” dance deserve special attention. These drawings show that the Azerbaijani people have been interested in music since ancient times.
The history of theatrical art that dates back to ancient times begins with the performances of “Vizier of Lankaran Khanate” and “Hadji Gara” by M.F.Akhundov, staged in March and April 1873 in Baku.
In the 70s and 80s of the 19th century, lovers of theatre were active in many towns of Azerbaijan. They gradually began to gather in Baku around famous theatrical figures. Therefore, by the end of the 80s, the theatre life in Baku revived again and a real theatrical group appeared here. Since 1887, the Baku Theatre Society has been headed by H.Makhmudbeyov, S.M.Ganizade and N.Veliyev. Due to their efforts, this society has significantly increased and turned into a troupe, which from 1888 began to act as an independent theatrical group.
Since 1890 N.Narimanov made a great contribution to implementation of the requirements of realism on the stage and to the development of the theatre with sound ideas in Azerbaijan.
In 1896, H.B.Zardabi organized the first professional theatre group in Baku called “The First Muslim Drama Troupe”. The “Union of Artists” was established for the first time in Baku in 1897.
In 1906, the “Muslim Drama Artists” company was established in Baku. The company was headed by the famous theatrical figure Dj.Zeynalov.
On January 12 (in a new style - January 25), 1908, the foundation of the Azerbaijan professional musical theatre was laid by the performance of the first not only in Azerbaijan, but also the entire Muslim East opera of great composer U.Hajibeyov - “Leyli and Majnun”.
In 1910, a new cultural and educational society, called “Safa” and its theatre department were established.
In 1917, the “Union of Muslim Artists was” created in Baku.
Subsequently, following the overthrow of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, in 1920 the “United State Theatre” was established.
During the different years of the Soviet period this center of art had different names. In 1991, the theatre was renamed to the “Azerbaijan State Academic Drama Theatre”.
In 1923, the “Baku Theatrical College” was created. The first theater for children and young people in the republic called the “Baku Children’s Theatre” started its activity in 1928.
In 1931 the Puppet Theatre was created in Baku. Nowadays well-known the “Azerbaijan State University of Culture and Arts” was founded in 19231945 as the “Azerbaijan Theatre Institute” on the basis of the “Baku Theatrical College”
The repertoire of the Azerbaijani theatre, passing through a long and complicated path of development has expanded significantly today. Currently, the Azerbaijani audience has the opportunity to enjoy various theatre productions staged at the highest professional level in the “Azerbaijan State Academic Drama Theatre”, the “Baku Municipal Theatre”, the “Azerbaijan State Pantomime Theatre”, the “Azerbaijan State Theatre of the Young Spectators” and other theatres.
The history of the film industry in Azerbaijan began on August 2, 1898. Among the first released newsreel documentaries were films like “Fire of the Bibi Heybat Oil Gusher”, “Oil Gusher in Balakhany”, “Festival In City Park”, “Caucasian Dance”, etc. and one short motion picture “You’re Caught Up” created by photographer and cinematographer Alexander Mishon.
1898-1935 became a period of silent films’ creation in Azerbaijan, characterized by the formation of both documentary and fiction films.
The first film distribution offices were established in Baku by stock companies (trade houses) founded by the Pirone brothers in the Caucasus in 1915.
In 1916, the first Azerbaijani comedy film based on U.Hajibeyov’s operetta “Arshin Mal Alan” was produced.
In 1923, the Azerbaijan Photo Film Institution (APFI) was established by a special decree. Since 1961, operating under various names this organization is called the film studio “Azerbaijanfilm” named after J.Jabbarli.
1935-1960s, in Azerbaijan became a period of talking pictures’ development.
Since 1965, Azerbaijan Television has launched the production of animated films.
During the Soviet period, dozens of films were dubbed into the Azerbaijani language by “Azerbaijanfilm’s dubbing department every year. Since 1994, the dubbing department of the film studio “Azerbaijanfilm” has operated as a dubbing studio.
The 60s-70s of the 20th century can be called the period of the revival of Azerbaijani cinema. Films made during this period were devoted to moral and ethical issues, differing views on history and modern life, the analysis of people’s characters, formation of new generation of the young people and other topics.
In 1993, the State Film Fund of Azerbaijan was created to permanently preserve national and foreign films.
Since independence, more than 25 independent commercial studios and film companies has operated in Azerbaijan.
The Heydar Aliyev Foundation, which has been operating since 2004, along with other branches of culture, continues its successful activity towards the development of national cinema.
Being awarded prizes of a number of international competitions, the Baku Media Centre has introduced interesting documentaries commissioned by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation at the disposal of audience. The film “Under the Single Sun”, dedicated to the “Year of Multiculturalism” in Azerbaijan, has been translated into six foreign languages in order to give a broad idea of the Azerbaijani model of multiculturalism in European countries.
Azerbaijan is one of the art-rich nations that can be proud of its cultural properties, such as musical heritage which was developing through the centuries.
At the beginning of the 20th century, in conditions of socio-political and cultural development, U.Hajibeyli laid the foundation for modern Azerbaijani professional musical culture and created a synthesis of national musical art with oral traditions and compositional creativity, which influenced the intensification of active interaction of Eastern and Western cultures. In 1908, the first mugham opera created by U.Hajibeyli “Leyli and Majnun” was staged at the theatre of Zeynalabdin Taghiyev and got great success. Thus, the foundation in history of not only Azerbaijani, but the entire Muslim East opera was laid and the outstanding composer became the founder of the mugam opera genre.
The building of the above-mentioned theatre was erected in 1910 by the famous construction engineer Bayev. On October 18, 1918, this building was bought by the government of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, which issued the decree giving this theatre the official status of the State Opera Theatre. Later, in 1959 the theatre achieved the status of the Academic Theatre.
Firstly, in Muslim East, by initiative of U.Hajibeyli, there was created Azerbaijan State Conservatory in Baku, in 1922 1921.
The 30s-80s of the 20th century were marked by the rise in Azerbaijan music. In the years of independence, along with such forms of sympyonism as symphony and opera, small forms of musical works were also created.
During the last quarter of a century, composers often turned to genres of opera and choral music.
Such works as “Khan qizy Natavan” by V.Adygozalov, “Intizar” by F.Alizade, choral works “Salatin” by R.Mustafayev and “Chanaggala” by V.Adygyozalov were created.
Azerbaijani composers participated in social and political events that took place in life of the country. Due to that, urgent socio-political problems of that period were reflected in various symphonic creations of composers. The Karabakh theme forms an important part in the history of Azerbaijani music. The subject was emphasized by V.Adygozalov’s oratorios “Karabakh Shikastasi” and “Caravan of Grief”, T.Bakikhanov’s symphony “Cry of Karabakh”, A.Alizade’s ode “Motherland”, R.Mustafayev’s cantata “Azerbaijan, you are right”, N.Mamedov’s seventh symphony dedicated to the Hodjaly tragedy, H.Khanmemmedov’s poem “My saz is crying”, written for folklore musical instruments (devoted to martyrs of Karabakh, 1991), S.Ibrahimova’s cantata “Martyrs of My Land” and “I miss you, Shusha” created for tar and string orchestras, etc.
In 1920, the first school of art was opened in Baku. In 1932, the Union of Artists of Azerbaijan was created. Works of famous artists Tahir Salahov, Sattar Bahlulzade, Mikayil Abdullaev, Vidadi Narimanbeyov, Rasim Babayev, Sanan Gurbanov, Togrul Narimanbeyov and many other talented artists serve to enrich the fine arts of Azerbaijan.
The first State-level museum in Azerbaijan is the Independence Museum, founded in the period of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (1918-1920). This museum, established in December, 1919 in Baku, was located in the ADR parliament building (now the Institute of Manuscripts) and was revived as a spiritual successor in 1991.
In Soviet times, the Natural History Museum (1930), the Azerbaijan State Theatre Museum (1934) and National Art Museum of Azerbaijan (1936) were created in Baku. Since 1936, the State Museum is called the National Museum of History of Azerbaijan. The National museum of Azerbaijan literature named after Nizami Ganjavi was established in Baku, in 1939.
Modern buildings, such as the Heydar Aliyev Center (architect Zaha Hadid, 2013 2012), the International Mugham Center of Azerbaijan (2008), Azerbaijan Carpet Museum (architect Franz Janz, 2014), Baku International Bus Terminal (2010 2009), Baku Heydar Aliyev International Airport (2014), and others serve to improve the image of the city. These constructions, made of glass and metal structures, give a brand new and special charm to this wonderful city. The building of the Carpet Museum, located in the center of Baku, in front of the Primorsky Boulevard was built in the form of a rolled carpet.
In the years of independence, monumental sculpture has entered a new stage of development.
The monuments to H.Javid, A.Navoi, A.S.Pushkin, T.Shevchenko, Mozart, N.Tesla, poet Kh.Shirvani (Khaqani), artist A.Azimzade, football player T.Bahramov, composers G.Garayev and F.Amirov have been built in Baku. An ethnographic park named after the epic of Oguz “Kitabi-Dede Gorgud” was laid in the center of the city.
In connection to the announcement of Baku as capital of Islamic culture in 2009, a number of activities dedicated to this event, such as the “Woman Portrait” exhibition, “East and West” fashion show and a concert consisting of Azerbaijani women composers’ works were organized by the Museum Centre.
The launch of the prestigious Eurovision Song Contest 2012 in the capital of Azerbaijan had paved the way for tourist arrivals from around the world giving a powerful impetus to development of the country’s tourism industry.
In accordance with the Decree of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan of 2014, the State Service for the Protection, Development and Restoration of Cultural Heritage had been established.
The recovery operations and reconstruction works were carried out on such State Cultural buildings as Heydar Aliyev Palace, the Azerbaijan State Puppet Theatre named after A.Shaig, the Azerbaijan State Russian Drama Theatre, the Azerbaijan State Theatre of Young Spectators and the Azerbaijan State Academic Drama Theatre.
Historical and cultural monuments of Baku city being under state protection
(in early 2017)
Archeological – 1
Architectural – 2
Archeological – 62
Architectural – 78
Gardens and parks, memorial monuments – 45
Archeological – 25
Architectural – 780
Gardens and parks, memorial monuments – 18
Number of clubs of Baku city
Number of clubs – 60
Number of places in the auditorium and lecture halls – 12497
Museums of Baku city
Number of museums – 36
Culture and leisure parks of Baku city
Number of parks – 105
Public libraries of Baku city
Number of libraries – 101
Book stocks, in thousands – 9305,4