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The Palace of Happiness

This was the home of the millionaire Muxtarov who built it as a surprise Valentine gift for his (second) wife. She is supposed to have adored a similar building she'd seen while doing the 'grand tour' in Italy, so Muxtarov simply paid the renowned Qasumov brothers to build a copy. This was the topping to a relationship which reads straight from the pages of fairy-tale legend. Lowly-born Muxtarov, son of a Mardakan carter, was a self-educated technician who became a major supplier of support equipment to the burgeoning oil industry. He fell in love with the daughter of his Ossetian aristocrat host while on business in Vladikavkaz, but his lack of pedigree resulted in the blank refusal of his petitions to marry her.

Realizing that even with his immense wealth, straightforward bribery couldn't buy him the woman of his dreams he adopted lateral thinking and funded instead the construction of two beautiful mosques (one in Amircan on the Absheron, the other more tactically in Vladikavkaz - both still stand). Won over by his apparent piety, her father changed his mind and sanctioned the marriage. Mrs Muxtarov's education and cultured upbringing brought a strong new element to the Baku social scene. The new mansion became the venue for daily receptions and fundraisers for good deeds with orphans and the Muslim Women's Philanthropic Association. Curiously Muxtarov's spurned first wife is generally omitted from the whole jolly tale.

Muxtarov, as a ruthless industrialist, despised the Bolshevik troublemakers who led damaging strikes during much of the period. He is said to have personally threatened Stalin with 'a whipping or worse' if he came near any of Muxtarov's factories. Yet the old man was too stubborn to flee during 1920 when the Red Army was marching to overthrow the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, convinced that no 'worker' would dare cross the threshold of his palace. However, two Bolshevik horsemen rode straight in. Without dismounting they demanded his surrender to the new communist authorities. 'Get off my bloody carpet' bawled Muxtarov and shot them dead. He shot himself straight after, though his wife somehow escaped out the back door.

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