Towards the end of Zergerpalan Street, tucked behind 5 Mertebe, was an unassuming apartment. The outside was ornate, yes, but no more so than the rest of the buildings in this part of Sovetski. The only thing setting it apart was a small plaque written in Cyrillic; "The Ali Bayramov Women's Club was first organized here on April 30th, 1920."
This is a 360 video. Click and drag on it to change the angle and view. Turn to your right, down past the white van is the Ali Bayramov Women's Club.
The building was the home of the Club founder Jeyran Bayramova, and served as the Club headquarters until 1922, when they relocated to a larger location. Dr Farideh Heyat writes about the history of the Club and its role in Azerbaijani women's rights in her book "Azeri Women in Transition: Women in Soviet and Post-Soviet Azerbaijan":
"The Club had originally been established in May 1920 as a literacy and sewing circle through the initiative of Jeyran Bayramova (1896-1987), with the aim of enlightening Azeri women. It owed much of its early impetus to the dynamism and dedication of its founder, the daughter of a baker's family in Baku, who had endured the prejudice and restrictions that stifled the lives of working class Azeri women in the pre-revolutionary era."
Jeyran named the club for her late husband, Ali Bayramov, who encouraged her education and activism. Until its closure in 1937, the Club grew and spread, attracting thousands of members and encouraging the opening of many more women's clubs in the country.
Ali Bayramov Women's Club members in the 1920s. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
The Club was targeted strictly at working class women, and went as far as to exclude upper class women. Dr. Heyat quotes the daughter of an oil millionaire as saying:
"We were not called upon to participate in [women's emancipation] campaigns or to work among women. They didn't believe in us because we were daughters of a rich man. We weren't invited to participate in the women's clubs and things like that. They often did propaganda work among young married women whose husbands didn't give them any freedom or let them go out."
Classes and training covering a broad range of topics were offered to these working class women, including accounting, literacy courses, and nursing. Theater, gaming, and cinema were also offered at the club, giving women from all over the city a place and time to socialize they would not have had otherwise. Another quote from Dr. Heyat:
"...What was important about the Club was that it did not just give them skills and trainings; this was a place that transformed the women's worldview. Before that, women only stayed at home, cooking and looking after the children, but at the Club they met other women with different experiences with whom they exchanged views and their knowledge. There were Russian, Jewish, Armenian, and women of other ethnic groups who worked there as instructors, and those that had been brought up in Azerbaijan all spoke Azeri so that they could communicate with their trainees. I think the Ali Bayramov Club in the 1920s played the greatest part in the development of Azeri women, and their progress."
The Ali Bayramov Women's Club in March of 2016. Photo courtesy of dejure.az
In spring of 2016, you'd be hard pressed to tell Jeyran's apartment had played such a major role in Azerbaijani women's emancipation. Outside of the plaque there was nothing to mark the building, and the interior had been emptied out in preparation for its demolition.
Inside the Ali Bayramov Women's Club. Video shot in Spring 2016.
In summer of 2016, the apartment was torn down along with twenty other historical buildings as part of the Sovetski re-development project. To learn more about the Ali Bayramov Women's Club and the history of women's emancipation in Azerbaijan, we recommend reading Dr. Farideh Heyat's book "Azeri Women in Transition: Women in Soviet and Post-Soviet Azerbaijan". If you have any photos, videos, or stories of the Club, please send them our way by contacting us here.