Sara Taghiyeva's deal of a lifetime

By Vestnik Kavkaza
Sara Taghiyeva's deal of a lifetime

"Taghiyev's image is distorted in the press. Some cultural issues of pre-revolutionary Azerbaijan are distorted by separate historians. There is no objective approach. The government led by N. Narimanov singled him out among from the bourgeoisie, valued and respected him, because they were Taghiyev's contemporaries and knew him wide activities as an enlightener. The young leadership does not really know Taghiyev, only the slander which has leaked to the press,portraying him a predator and capitalist"...

These are lines from the letter of Sara Taghiyeva (Sarajeva), the youngest daughter of Azerbaijani millionaire and philanthropist Haji Zeynalabdin Taghiyev. Sara devoted her entire life to clearing her father's name. She wrote letters to the Chairman of the Presidium of the AzSSR Supreme Soviet, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Socialist Republic of Azerbaijan, the Kommunist and Baku Worker newspapers, the Union of Soviet Writers, Azerbaijan State University named after S.M. Kirov, Akhundov Azerbaijan State Institute of Teachers, Lenin Azerbaijan State Pedagogical University.

The story of her parents, Haji Taghiyev and Sona Arablinskaya, is well known. Baku millionaire and philanthropist, known far beyond Azerbaijan, fell in love with the daughter of a Russian military commander, Lieutenant General Balakishi Arablinski from Derbent. They married there in 1896. People say that Sona was not tempted by Taghiyev's millions. Being married, she got the opportunity to enter high society of Baku and participate in charitable activities, help those in need. Sona gave Taghiyev five children, becoming his companion and soulmate.

Today, Haji Zeynalabdin Taghiyev would be called a self-made man, a man who managed to overcome life's obstacles and change not only his life, but also the lives of many other people whom he helped. His natural intelligence, working ability and cast-iron will helped him earn the money to spend for charity, not to buy "golden toilets."

Much has been written how and where the shoemaker’s son earned millions, what charity projects he promoted in Azerbaijan and other cities of the Russian Empire. These are just a few of them: the Muslim Benevolent Society in St. Petersburg, St. Nina's School for Girls, the repair of mosques of the Caucasus, including those in Dagestan and Astrakhan ...

Taghiyev sent talented young people to study at universities of Moscow, Kazan, St. Petersburg, and Europe. He invested money in theater and publishing. A small touch reflecting Taghiyev's views: having arrived at the first graduation ceremony in the women's school, he gave the girls the Koran, translated into Azerbaijani, the works of Lev Tolstoy, Pushkin and Lermontov. The authorities, recognizing the philanthropist's contribution to the development of education and culture, assigned him the title of state councilor.

Taghiyev also offered material assistance to the government of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. Perhaps that's why, but, most likely, simply by acting on the patterns of the time, representatives of the new Soviet government nationalized his multi-million fortune. Taghiyev was left with just a cottage in Mardakan. They could take it away as well, they could even recognize the millionaire as the "enemy of the working people," but Taghiyev’s authority (they called him "el atasy" - "father of the nation") was indisputable. He helped too much people, so the new authorities were afraid that such radical steps can lead to popular discontent. Nariman Narimanov, who studied at the expense of Taghiyev's benefits, despite further ideological differences with his sponsor, secured for him the opportunity to stay at the cottage under house arrest.

Although the shoemaker’s son did not fit into a generalized portrait of a burzhuin who made capital on enslaving ordinary people, they treated him and his family "in the spirit of the time" - Taghiyev’s wife died of starvation, his son died in a psychiatric hospital

Perhaps Taghiyev’s name would have remained forgotten or anathematized if not for his younger daughter Sara.

She was born in Baku in 1899, was fluent in Azerbaijani, Russian, German, French, played the piano. She had a diploma in languages of the Institute of Noble Maidens of St. Petersburg and returned to Baku, where she married and gave birth to a daughter. A few years after Taghiyev's death, Sara was forced to leave for the city of her youth. It was called Leningrad then. There, she somehow came under suspicion in connection with the murder of the secretary of the Leningrad regional party committee, Sergei Kirov. The murder of the mayor resulted in severe repression - some suspected of involvement in the crime were shot, others were thrown into prison. At first, it was announced that Kirov was killed by the White Guards — the enemies of the people, and they started to expel thousands of former nobles, policemen, gendarmes, officials and clergymen to Siberia and Central Asia.

It is unclear how completely apolitical Sara came under suspicion. Perhaps the evil tongues reported to the authorities whose daughter she is. But Sara was not expelled - she was thrown into a punishment cell and tortured. They beat out a confession, but she didn't crack up...

Coming out of prison, Sara met her second husband, Nikolai Sarayev, and when it began to seem like life was getting better, war broke out. Sarayev did not survive the war, but God saved Sara, perhaps because this woman was destined to do something that no one else could do. After returning to Baku after the war, she immediately started to clear her father's name. Sara gathered mountains of documents confirming Taghiyev’s contribution to enlightenment, education, culture, construction and science; reviews of those who got an education and made their way in life thanks to her father.

"In 1955-1957, I worked as a librarian at the reading room of the Akhundov Institute. I worked to restore the truth about Taghiyev's progressive activities. He was regarded as a capitalist and for a long time was alienated from his progressive activities, which were attributed to other people. The administration of the institute warned me I should stop talking about the activities of the capitalist within the walls of the institute. However, despite the persuasions and warnings, I continued to tell the students and staff the truth, showing photos and documents of Taghiyev confirming his activities. This caused discontent and conflict with the administration. That's why I was dismissed. I could not find a job. All organizations had the same views, and the situation was the same," Sara wrote.

For many years, one could see an elderly woman with a huge portfolio in her hands on the steps of Baku state institutions, scientific institutes and newspaper editorial offices. She was not payed any pension, and all the money sent by her daughter she spent on paper, ink, envelopes.

At the beginning of the 2000s, the chief editor of the Baku-based Vyshka newspaper, Medina Hasanova, said: "When I first started working at Vyshka, a tall woman in a black dress and very beautiful thick hair often came to our editorial office. She always held a black purse full of various documents and papers. She went to the editorial offices and begged the journalists: "Write about my father. Why can not you write about him, don't you think my father has done enough for Azerbaijan? Tretyakov's name was gave to an art gallery in Moscow. Is there nothing to be done to give my father's name to at least one of the objects he built?"

Sara did not doubt for a moment that she will clear her father's name. She not only went places and asked people, she created a whole scientific base, which allowed to prove her rightness and rehabilitate Taghiyev.

In 1966, Sara Sarayeva presented her scientific work on the application of philosophical knowledge regarding the approach to the events of Azerbaijani history related to Taghiyev’s activities to the Institute of Philosophy of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR and the Institute of the Peoples of Asia and Africa. Only after three years of long disputes, the Academy of Sciences of the Azerbaijan SSR agreed with the conclusions made by the patron’s daughter.

Sara died in Baku at the age of 92. Shortly before, in 1991, her daughter, the philanthropist's granddaughter Safia Taghiyeva, returned from Ashgabat to her homeland after half a century of exile. "My grandfather was a very lucky man. Wherever he dug, there was oil. With the same generosity that Azerbaijani land lavished him, Taghiyev spent these oil money on doing good... He always gave people a helping hand. That's why it is impossible to forget him ... We must live in this world and help people, so that a person's name and actions are not forgotten even after death," Safia said. In 1992, fulfilling the covenant of her famous grandfather, she created the Sara Taghiyeva Social Charity Foundation of Azerbaijani Citizens, which provided material assistance to the needy and refugees.

Today, the National Museum of History of Azerbaijan is located in Taghiyev's former mansion. And the fact that Haji Zeynalabdin Taghiyev took a worthy place in the history of the country and in the hearts of the people, undoubtedly, is the great merit of his daughter.