The National Museum of the History of Azerbaijan is a research, cultural and educational institution that collects, studies, exhibits and promotes material and spiritual heritage in relation to all periods of the history of Azerbaijan. The museum was founded under the name "Educational Museum of the Native Land - Istiglal" ("Independence") on June 15, 1920. From October 1920 to March 1936, the State Museum of the Azerbaijan SSR began to be called. Since July 1920, the Museum of History was placed in a mansion built by the famous oil tycoon and philanthropist Haji Zeynalabdin Tagiyev in 1895-1901. The museum received its first visitors in May 1921.
In the initial period of creation, the museum had departments of history, archeology and ethnography, botany and zoology, mineralogy and geology, fine arts and crafts, public education, educational and auxiliary institutions, as well as a society for the study of Azerbaijan. In subsequent years, the museum has repeatedly undergone structural changes.
From 1925 to the 60s, the Museum of History functioned as the archaeological center of the republic. Archaeological research conducted in Khojaly, Nakhichevan, Gabala, Ganja, Mingachevir, etc. archaeologists from the Museum of History, Davud Sharifov, Eugene Pakhomov, Iskhagog Jafarzade, Salekh Gaziev, Mamedali Huseynov and others, laid the foundation for the scientific study of ancient monuments of material culture in Azerbaijan. Objects discovered during these expeditions and ethnographic expeditions enriched the museum's collection and became the source for many books and dissertations.
Since the 60s, although the museum did not organize archaeological expeditions, it has become the center of a new direction - underwater archaeological research. In 1968-1972, a diving group led by Viktor Kvachidze explored the Caspian Sea and Primorsky Territories. She discovered underwater archaeological materials that have a special place in the museum today. The rich collection of the museum served as a source for booklets, catalogs, albums and articles published in different years.
Tagiyev’s mansion, which houses the museum, was built in 1895-1901 by the Polish architect Joseph Goslawski. This three-story mansion with huge domes overlooking Baryatinsky Street (now Abdulkerim Alizade) and a facade facing Gorchakova Street (now Gadzhi Zeynalabdin Tagiyev Street) is one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. The facade with a marble staircase faces west. On the ground floor is the European Hall, decorated with pilasters with floral ornaments. The interior in the East Hall is characterized by magnificent ornamentation, as well as columns in the Moorish style. Adjacent to the Eastern Hall is the Winter Garden with a fountain.
During the construction of the mansion, various architectural styles were used. The symmetrical main facade was built in the style of the Italian Renaissance, a dressing room in the French Rococo style, a dining room in the Flemish Baroque style, a bedroom in modern style. Tagiyev’s office, dining room, living room and other rooms were decorated with oak products. In total, 270 people were involved in the construction of the mansion - engineers, architects, carpenters, carvers and other craftsmen. The columns of the mansion were decorated with mirror and colored glass mosaics, and the floor was covered with birch parquet. Furniture and accessories from the USA, paintings and brocade curtains from Germany, building materials, as well as equipment, chandeliers and interior items were brought from Russia and Western Europe.
In 2005, a major restoration and reconstruction of the Museum of the History of Azerbaijan began. The Tagiyev mansion has been restored historical interior and exterior. In November 2005, the museum was granted national status in accordance with an order of the Cabinet of Ministers. On December 28, 2007, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and his wife Mehriban Aliyeva attended the opening ceremony of the National Museum of the History of Azerbaijan.
Currently, the useful area of the building is 3000 square meters. Of these, 2000 are reserved for a scientific exposition, where on the basis of monuments of material and spiritual culture, genuine documents of the political history and socio-economic life of the country, the history of Azerbaijan from ancient times to the present is reflected.
The total number of museum items exceeds 300,000 items. 20,000 of them are on display, the rest is stored in scientific funds - numismatic (over 150,000), archaeological (93,000), ethnographic (9000), weapons (2300), scientific archives (12000), precious metals fund (15000), negatives and photographs fund (10,000), Rare Book Fund (4,570).
Today, the museum has 6 thematic and chronological departments: an exposition of antiquity and the Middle Ages, a department of the new period, an exposition of the newest period, a specialized department of numismatics and epigraphy, ethnography, a department of scientific excursions and mass work. Among other things, the museum operates a laboratory where priceless exhibits are carefully restored, the decoration group, the exhibition security group, the production group, the commission for the reception and purchase of exhibits, as well as an extensive library.
The numismatic fund covers more than a 2000-year period of statehood in Azerbaijan, the entire history of coinage and monetary circulation on its territory. For the first time, coins in Azerbaijan appear during the time of Alexander the Great. These are coins of Alexander the Great himself, coins of the Hellenistic states (Seleucia, Parthia, Bactria, Pontus and others) and the great ancient centers - Athens, Rome and others. In ancient Azerbaijan (in Atropatene and Caucasian Albania) silver coins were first minted in the III century BC. In the early Middle Ages, the minting of Azerbaijani mints of Nakhichevan, Baku, Barda and others was carried out. The museum’s rich collection includes coins from the period of the Arab caliphate, the period of feudal states, the period of the Mongol invasion, coins of the Shirvanshahs and others.
The archaeological collection of the museum consists of materials from Mingachevir, Orenkala, Kul-tepe, Kabbalah, Nakhichevan, Ismayilli, Yaloylutepe, Shemakhi, Ganja, Baku. The museum’s collection contains many stone and obsidian tools of the Paleolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic and Eneolithic eras. A special place is occupied by a fragment of the jaw of a fossil man - the azykhanthropus, who lived 300-350 thousand years ago, discovered in 1968 in the Azykh cave, near the city of Fizuli. The most ancient monuments of the material culture of Azerbaijan indicate that its roots go back to ancient times, as evidenced by the cave paintings discovered in Gobustan, Absheron, Kelbajar and the town of Gemigaya, Ordubad region.
The ethnographic fund of the museum contains a rich collection of carpets and rugs. Archaeological sites tell us that in Azerbaijan, the art of carpet weaving was known as far back as the 9th century BC. The antiquity of carpet weaving is evidenced by the works of such ancient Greek, Roman and Arab authors as Herodotus, Xenophon, Al-Mugaddasi. Azerbaijan is one of the unique carpet regions of the world. Here, over the centuries, the art of masters has been developed and perfected, creating the best examples of carpets and rugs, starting with the simplest - palace, and ending with the highest-pile pile carpet - khalcha. Azerbaijani carpet art is distinguished by a wide variety of carpet compositions, numbering over 600 species today. It is possible to note some carpet compositions named after the place of their production (Pirebedil, Chichi, Afurdzh, Salahly, Shikhly), or by the name of the ethnic group - Sor-sor, Jack, Gryz, Gasim ushaga, Talysh, Gara-goyunlu and so on. A feature of the Azerbaijani carpet ornament is the use of images of phytomorphic, zoomorphic, anthropomorphic (despite the prohibition of Islam to depict a person) and geometric origin, strongly stylized when transferred to the carpet. Azerbaijan carpet production is represented by various performance techniques. Mostly carpets and rugs are divided into two large groups: lint-free and pile. Lint-free carpet products include: palace, kilim, sumy, zil, shadde and return. The carpet weaving technique reaches the highest complexity in the manufacture of pile carpets.
Two stone molds for casting bronze products confirm the fact that the bronze weapons and tools found in Azerbaijan were mainly local products.
A rich collection of ceramic dishes belongs to the Bronze Age: boot-shaped vessels, jugs, dishes. Superbly made and decorated dishes, jewelry made of metal, stone, and bones speak of the heyday of the various types of handicraft production in the Bronze Age, of the high artistic tastes of ancient masters.
The weapon collection of the museum is one of the significant collections of monuments of material culture. This collection now totals over six hundred samples of weapons of various eras and peoples, many of which are wonderful examples of weapons and arts and crafts. Most of the collection consists of oriental weapons, numbering about 300 samples of cold offensive and defensive, as well as firearms of various regions of the Near and Middle East. The collection also contains individual weapons of Southeast Asia and the Far East, which are of interest for their constructive and artistic features.
The central place in the collection is occupied by the cold steel and firearms of the Caucasus, which is one of the largest collections of Caucasian weapons in terms of completeness and quality of the presented samples. Decorated with rich decor, diverse in technique and ornamentation, the Caucasian weapon is a unique phenomenon in the history of the material and artistic culture of the peoples of the East. Samples of cold steel and firearms relate mainly to the XVIII-XIX centuries, and some samples of ceremonial weapons - to the beginning of the XX century. The most interesting section in the exposition is represented by the famous Caucasian daggers, who have won worldwide fame for their fighting qualities and artistic performance. Caucasian pistols and rifles, despite the simple manufacturing technology, possessed high structural advantages and combat qualities. The weapons of the late medieval period collected in the collection are very diverse - they are chain mail, breastplates, greaves and bracers, shields and sabers, various axes and helmets.
The chandelier and irrigation ceramics discovered during excavations of the medieval cities of Azerbaijan are rich: Baylakan, Barda, Ganja, Baku, Shemakha. On many glazed dishes and bowls there are paleographic inscriptions of the IX-XII centuries - the heyday of ceramic production.
The museum’s ethnographic fund carefully preserves a rich collection of minted copper items. Since ancient times known in Azerbaijan, copper products with great skill were made from local raw materials in the ancient and medieval cities of Baku, Nakhichevan, Lankaran, Shemakh, Ganja, Shusha, Sheki, Cuba and other cities. But the most famous center for the manufacture of ornamented copper products throughout the Caucasus was Lagich, located near the ancient center of culture and art of Shemakha. It was established that in the late XIX - early XX centuries there were up to 180 copper workshops.
Copper products made by Azerbaijani craftsmen were distinguished by a variety of shapes, richness and richness of ornaments, and originality. By means of hot forging, Azerbaijani craftsmen-braziers gave any shape to their products: more than 80 types of copper products are known - water vessels, gazans for cooking various dishes, tableware, as well as various household items and bath accessories. The museum also has a rich collection of national clothes, fabrics, embroidery.