Lankaran: Stalin, the vegetable market and house of the Khan

Lankaran is quiet town on the Caspian. A centre of the local green-tea industry, it was once famed for its fishing, its native “Iron-wood” [a species of bog-oak that sinks in water] and for the former prison that once held captive Joseph Stalin, when he was causing trouble amongst the oil workers of Baku in 1905.

18th century fort used as a prison to house Stalin in the early 1900's

The prison is currently undergoing restoration into a Stalin-themed cafe. Oh yes and before I get into the post proper, just outside the town you can find a mini-resort dedicated to the dreaded Teapot Cult. By the way, the symbol of the town is the image of a woman holding a sword in one hand and a teacup in the other. What further evidence do you require?

The Lankaran Chapter of the Teapot Cult

 We spent a happy hour or two wandering about the tree-lined streets, walking through the bustling fruit and vegetable market, full of pomegranates, apples, pears and lemons that are the local specialities at this time of the year.

Lankaran market

Women in colourful dresses and headscarves invited us to try their wares as we wove our way between the stalls.

An elderly village lady

Then we headed for the historical museum based in the home of the former Khan of Lankaran. A dapper man of liberal view whos mansion was nonetheless confiscated by the Soviets in 1920.

The former Khan of Lankaran

It was full of the usual collection of crumbling stuffed animals, medieval pottery and examples of the local weaving style. We were steered away from two rooms full of Soviet era exhibits but we still got a good look at the pictures of sturdy looking women and examples of identity cards from the time of the Great Patriotic War.

Lankaran Museum, home of the former Khan

We stayed at the grand but utterly deserted Qala Hotel in the middle of town. A modern post-soviet hotel with about 30 rooms with good bathrooms and comfortable beds but the restaurant remained closed apart from breakfast [bread and butter] and the bar which remained open, having copious amounts of gin but no tonic.

Lankaran Mosque

  To be honest, we were taken by the place. It was friendly, welcoming and quirky. Oh yes, here is an example of local wedding “style”…


About stevehollier

Steve Hollier is the editor of AZ Magazine, an English language lifestyle magazine based in Baku, Azerbaijan. He began his career working for a firm of stockbrokers in the City of London then went on to attend the University of Essex where he was awarded an MA in Sociology in 1984. After a career in arts and cultural development work, he became a freelance arts consultant, writer and photographer.
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4 Responses to Lankaran: Stalin, the vegetable market and house of the Khan

  1. magsx2 says:

    Hi Steve,
    Looks fabulous, what an unusual place, by your description, it seems very quiet as far as tourist go, which is always great, no line ups to see anything. Sounds like your having a great time.

  2. Julia Hawkes-Moore says:

    Interesting buildings, with a strong flavour of Gaudi detailing. I’d like to know the dates of the Palace and Mosque. Did Gaudi visit Baku, perhaps via the Stalin connection, or did the Baku wealthy visit the new Park Guell in Barcelona for the inspiration?

    • stevehollier says:

      Hi Julia,
      The Khan’s house was finished in 1913 but the mosque is very new, perhaps the mid 1990’s. The Khan [Mir Amhad] was an urbane and well travelled man, dying in France in 1916. It is quite possible he did visit Barcelona and the dates fit in quite well as I read that the Palau Guell was completed in 1889. Actually, the building reminded me of a rather comforable municipal library rather than a private home.

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