Winter 1998 (6.4)
of the Oil Baron Period
expansive building that houses the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan
(SOCAR) has a very unusual history. The owner was not involved
with oil at all, at least not in the early part of his career.
Mir Taghy Mir Babayev was an extremely talented singer of folk
music and was known for singing very complicated traditional
mughams. His fate was transformed overnight at one of the performances
he gave at a wedding of an immensely wealthy family. As the evening
proceeded, one of the groom's close relatives was so deeply moved
that he presented Mir Babayev with an enormous gift. The details
are confusing as to whether the gift was land that happened to
have oil on it, or a sum of money sufficient to buy land.
Regardless of the details, his career in oil began in 1906, and by 1912 he had purchased three large oil fields and expanded operations to 18 oil rigs employing 70 workers and producing 150,000 barrels a year.
Mir Babayev was able to buy one of the most elaborate residences
in Baku. Located near the sea, the three-story building with
its numerous chimneys was designed by P. Stern and built in 1896.
Typical of many buildings that incorporated an indigenous style
of architecture, the building looks out over an inner courtyard
from corridors lined with windows. When the Bolsheviks took over
Baku, Mir Babayev's property was confiscated. He emigrated to
France where some say he was reduced to living in poverty. Others
suggest that he could hardly have lived too poorly as his hobby
while living in Azerbaijan had been collecting diamonds and jewelry.
Unfortunately, Mir Babayev had no children to help set the record