Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Baku

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Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Baku

The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral (Russian: Александро-Невский Собор; Azeri: Aleksandr Nevski Başkilsəsi, often referred to as Qızıllı kilsə – "The Gilt Church") was the main Russian Orthodox cathedral in Baku, Azerbaijan from 1898, when it was built until its destruction in 1936 during the Joseph Stalin era. The cathedral is also known as the biggest Russian Orthodox structure ever built in the South Caucasus.


1908 cartoon published in the Azeri magazine Molla Nasraddin depicting Baku Muslims being forced to abandon their cemetery in favour of construction. The title in Azeri reads: "A Muslim cemetery in Baku."

In 1878, the governor of then Russian-controlled Baku, Valerian Pozen expressed his concern about the growing shortage of praying space for Baku's Russian Orthodox community. The Most Holy Synod supported his idea of building a new cathedral and suggested that it should be erected on Persidskaya St. (present-day Mukhtarov St.), on a vast piece of land, which would have been formed after demolishing an old Muslim cemetery. This led to a ten-year debate between the authorities and the Muslim community of Baku. All proposed alternatives were turned down and at the end Muslims gave in.[1] On 8 October 1888, Emperor Alexander III and his family (including his elder son, future Emperor Nicholas II) visited Baku for the ceremony of laying the first stone.[2][3] The ceremony was attended by Baku's Christian, Muslim and Jewish elite.

The cathedral was one of a series built across the Russian Empire in honour of St. Alexander Nevsky. It was designed by the German-born architect Robert Marfeld and his apprentice, Polish-born architect Józef Gosławski. The Saint Basil's Cathedral and the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour were used as models for the exterior and the interior of the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral respectively.[2] However, the funding provided by the emperor was not enough to finish the construction. Donations worth 200,000 roubles collected from the residents of Baku made it possible for the construction to continue. It is noteworthy, that despite previous disagreements, about 75% of that money was donated by Muslims,[2] including 10,000 roubles paid in by Zeynalabdin Taghiyev. Another 10,000 roubles were provided by the Jewish community of Baku.[1] The building of the cathedral was finally completed in 1898. Its domes, crosses and the main arch were made of pure gold. 85 meters long, 55 meters long and 44 meters wide, it was the largest Russian Orthodox place of worship in the entire Caucasus at the time.[1]

Later years[edit]

The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral remained the primary centre of Eastern Orthodox life in Azerbaijan in the early Soviet era, much to the Soviet government's displeasure. In 1936, the cathedral was ordered to be blown up with dynamite along with St. Bartholomew's Chapel. Located not far from City Hall, the site where the Nevsky Cathedral once stood is now occupied by the Bulbul School of Music.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c (Russian) Eastern Orthodox Temples of Old Baku by Anvar Pashazadeh. Azerbaijan-IRS Magazine. 15 November 2003. Retrieved 23 December 2006
  2. ^ a b c (Russian) Alexander Nevsky Cathedral by Manaf Suleymanov. The Past Days. 1990. Retrieved 23 December 2006
  3. ^ (Russian) Baku and the Germans by Tamara Humbatova. Ch. 9. 2004. Retrieved 23 December 2006

Coordinates: 40°25′N 49°53′E / 40.417°N 49.883°E / 40.417; 49.883