Absheron’s Bağ Evi: Looking for a Lost Cottage

ita eng
15 June 2018

They were meant for escape from Baku’s sizzling summer days, when high humidity and powerful winds can cover the skin with a gritty, wet film. Bağ evi (literally, “garden house”) are the equivalent of dachas in Russia. Photos by Sheyda Allahverdiyeva

(Originally published by Chai Khana )

Absheron’s villages first emerged several hundred years ago around defensive towers built to alert the population about incoming attacks from the sea. The practice of building summertime houses in these spots started in the late 19th century, when Azerbaijan’s first oil millionaires vied to construct the most luxurious villa with the greenest garden. The villas, now mostly destroyed, changed the look of Absheron’s modest hamlets. But further change was to come.

After Azerbaijan became part of the Soviet Union in 1922, the government began to lease land on the peninsula to Azerbaijanis prominent in the arts, science or industry. Simple bağ evləri, described by architect Leyla Musayeva, 26, as “small white houses with verandas and flat roofs,” began to shape the villages’ look.

Given the peninsula’s strong winds, the houses had flat roofs covered with asphalt to keep the wind from blowing away the roof. Any swimming pools were built high above ground to prevent sand from blowing into the water.

Despite nostalgia for the Absheron bağ evləri, some Azerbaijanis believe their time may have passed. Over the course of four weekends, this reporter could find only three such cottages in nine seaside villages.

With economic growth and the development of the domestic tourism sector, a trend is emerging among middle-class Bakuvians to travel abroad or elsewhere in Azerbaijan. Those who do head to the coast often favor those villages that have kindergartens, cinemas, hypermarkets, reliable utilities and Internet connections