Author: Allanna LESKENLI
The Heydar Aliyev Centre together with the National Museum of Georgia hosts a unique exhibition Masterpieces of History, which consists of Azerbaijani and Oriental collections with about 300 exhibits of medieval Azerbaijani art of the Qajar dynasty, including paintings, household items, clothes, furniture, chess, playing cards, kitchen utensils from the Sardar Palace of Irevan Khanate, as well as rare photographs from the archives of the pioneer of Russian photography Dmitry Yermakov (1846-1916) about the Irevan Khanate. Various tiles, fragments of wall decorations from the Sardar Palace and many other historical items confirm the high standard of living and cultural development of Azerbaijanis at the beginning and middle of the 19th century and indicate that Azerbaijanis inhabited the territory of the Irevan Khanate. Photo chronicles of Yermakov, which fixed the systematic destruction of Azerbaijani architectural heritage, is irrefutable proof of historical presence of Azerbaijani population in the territory of the Irevan Khanate. Unfortunately, the Sardar Palace once located in the centre of present Yerevan as part of the Irevan Khanate and other medieval Azerbaijani buildings, as well as the entire Irevan Fortress were completely destroyed by Armenian authorities. Thus, during the 20th century, the historical centre of Yerevan, its centuries-old architecture and culture were destroyed.
Exhibits demonstrated at the Masterpieces of History date back to the first and second halves of the 19th century. These include well-preserved unique items of ceramics, metal dishes, holders for Quran, mirrors, small chests for women's jewellery and cosmetics, Azerbaijani and Persian national clothes, carpets made of fine wool and silk, miniatures and portraits of Irevan khans from the Qajar dynasty, princesses, strong heroes, women playing musical instruments, representatives of the middle class. In a word, this is a collection of everything that once attracted the attention of the Azerbaijani artist and founder of the national master of ornaments and portraits Mirza Gadim Irevani, who had a great influence on the visual art of Azerbaijan. He worked under the reign of Fatali Shah. By the way, the exhibition has portraits of the Shah himself and the artist! According to historians, Fatali Shah attached great importance to the development of art. In particular, fine arts, which at that time played an instrumental role for establishing long-term public relations, strengthening the authority of the ruler, and in fact documented the moments of human community. The same is true for the architecture of that time. Apart from photographs of Yermakov, documenting the progressive destruction of the unique architectural structures of the Irevan Khanate (Sardar Palace, mosques, baths, caravanserai, etc.), the exhibition demonstrates fragments of painted walls, chess, inlaid tables, original kitchen utensils, clothes, carpets, etc., which miraculously survived and were extracted from the wreckage of the palace destroyed by Armenians.
The cultural and historical heritage of Azerbaijanis is a unique part of the permanent exhibition at the National Museum of Georgia. The museum’s curator, professor and historian Eldar Nadiradze, wrote a book Irevan khanate: historical and cultural profile, which was published in Azerbaijani, Russian and English and presented at the opening of the exhibition. The exposition is very popular with visitors. Walking through its halls, one can listen to the narratives of guides in Azerbaijani, French and other languages about the historical and cultural heritage of Azerbaijan, which indisputably confirms that the territory of Irevan, like the territory of Garabagh, is native Azerbaijani lands. The educational value of the exhibition, which will last until early October so that students also have time to visit it, is indisputable. They will find it really interesting because of the abundance of materials presented here, as well as the cultural and artistic virtues of their ancestors, who attached great importance to the aesthetic perception of the surrounding world. This was a topic of discussion for a group of Russian tourists, looking with admiration at the household items and clothes of Azerbaijanis of the mid-19th century. A man in a group was clearly a professional tourist, one of those who travel to expand their horizons so to speak. So, standing in front of a fragment of the palace wall, covered with ornaments, he told his companions that the palace was built inside the fortress itself, that it had been rebuilt several times by its owners, and that later a mirrored hall and summer residence were attached to the palace. Then he told his companions about how rich Irevan was during the Qajar dynasty. He informed us that the city had five squares, two madrasas, seven caravanserais, nine mosques, many baths and shops. Entrance and exit from the city-fortress was through three gates, bearing flags with an image of a lion. He also noted that the military flags of the Safavids and Qajars were similar, as they both had images of a lion and a sun on them. Flags were made of expensive fabrics.
The same group of tourists then took a photo of a lion placed at the entrance hall. By the way, we would like to thank the artists who so masterfully and tastily designed the compositional arrangement of exhibition halls. As soon as you enter the first hall, and up until the end of excursion, you have an impression of being inside the Sardar Palace and walking through its rooms! The illusion seems so real that there is an overwhelming desire to settle down in the refreshing coolness of the rooms somewhere on the couch or on a soft beautiful carpet.
Masterpieces of history raise a sense of discovery and aesthetic pleasure for visitors. It does not matter who came to this exhibition: townspeople, guests or tourists. It is important that this page of their life will be filled with new information, shedding light on the true historical facts.
The exhibition organically blends into the space of the Heydar Aliyev Centre, which continues to delight us with new and new expositions of educational nature. This is a result of the efforts of so many people, including the representatives of Georgia.
According to Fuad Akhundov, head of the Social and Political Affairs Department of the Presidential Administration of Azerbaijan, the Georgian National Museum has thousands of historical and cultural artefacts related to Azerbaijan. After President Ilham Aliyev and First Vice President Mehriban Aliyeva were informed about this, it was decided to organize a grand exhibition in Baku using these materials.