World Abaza Congress

21 July 2024
Sukhum heritage of Joachim Aloisi
This year marks the 165th anniversary of the birth of the industrialist, merchant and silkworm maker, philanthropist Joachim Aloisi, who built several luxurious buildings in Sukhum in the early 20th century. One of them has been preserved and is considered a monument of historical and cultural heritage of the Republic of Abkhazia.
Residents of the Sukhum have heard about Aloisi, since there is an Aloisi villa in the town, and many remember the Aloisi theater, but not everyone knows about the person who is behind all this. The industrialist, silkworm maker, merchant of the first guild, philanthropist Joachim Mikhailovich Aloisi was born in the city of Kiev in 1854. He was a French citizen and adherent of the Roman Catholic Church. However, Aloisi considered himself a Greek and even was part of the so-called Sukhum Hellenic (Greek) society, which existed in Sukhum at the beginning of the 20th century
In 1901, Joachim Aloisi, together with his family - wife Nina Evseevna Sulkhanova and sons Mikhail and Georgy - came to live in Sukhum. At first, they did not have their own housing in the town, but soon it was the merchant Aloisi who became the customer for the construction of exceptionally beautiful buildings in Sukhum. In the same 1901, Aloisi bought a piece of land on the seashore, on Mikhailovskaya Embankment (now Makhadzhirs' Embankment - ed.) and built two buildings that housed the "best hairdressing salon Zhanna" and the restaurant "Birzha". Later, in 1911, next to the Aloisi hairdressing salon, he built a two-story confectionery "Holland". These buildings have not survived to this day: the hairdressing salon and the restaurant were demolished during the construction of the "San Remo" Hotel in 1914 (now the Hotel "Ritsa" - ed.), and later, in the early 60s, the confectionery was demolished too.
Panorama of Sukhum at the beginning of the twentieth century © Anzor Agumaa's archive
It is worth noting that the appearance of the town of Sukhum was created exactly this way. It consisted of buildings - houses, cottages and villas, which were erected by famous rich people and representatives of the intelligentsia.
"If the scheme of the initial master plan was largely unsuccessful (it simply did not contain any meaningful scheme of traffic, the decision of the administrative center of the city, etc.), the appearance of the town was "saved" by the developers, among which there were many Europeanized Greek businessmen, as well as Russian intelligentsia (doctors, journalists, lawyers, military and civil servants). Luxurious Art Nouveau villas and shops were built in the town."
Anzor Agumaa, "Old Sukhum"
In 1901, the merchant Aloisi bought back a two-story house at the corner of Zavadskaya and Baryatinskaya streets (now Gulia and Shotlandskaya streets - ed.) from the widow of the deputy chief of Sukhum District, Colonel De Simon. The house was built in 1896. Its very location was very advantageous, as it provided an excellent view from above of the town and the Sukhum Bay. In 1904, Aloisi entrusted the reconstruction of this house to one of the most famous architects then working in the town - Alexander Sinitsyn.
"In 1900, engineer-architect Alexander Vasilyevich Sinitsyn, a graduate of the Moscow Technical Railway School, who managed to work in various district departments, moved to Sukhum. In particular, he worked at the Tambov Provincial Council in the "Nobel Company Partnership" and the "Baku Oil Company".
Georgy Baronin, article "Environment of memory"
from the book "Russians in Abkhazia"
Reconstruction according to the project of Alexander Sinitsyn turned the house of Colonel De Simon into Aloisi villa - a luxurious building that incorporates many styles and directions of architecture: this is both romantic modernism with neo-Gothic elements, and the eclecticism of the Moorish and pseudo-Russian styles. Domes, arched vaults of windows, rich decor, lions on columns, a courtyard with a fountain, the general scale and the location of the villa have always caught people's eyes.
"The dome crowning the building at first creates a deceptive impression of a social structure, but later you come to the conclusion that it's a private property. There was an observation deck under the dome. The lancet view of the window openings, the eastern character of arches, towers with helmet-shaped domes, arcature booms, stucco molding with fragments of animals, architectural stalactites and the castle character of the whole volume evoke daydreams. Perhaps the image of animals makes some sense, maybe even sacred. And all this against the backdrop of lush southern vegetation."
Georgy Baronin, article "Environment of memory"
from the book "Russians in Abkhazia"
Here once lived the merchant Aloisi himself with his family. A small servant house was built next to the villa. Moreover, for the sisters of his wife, Maria and Daria Sulkhanovs, the rich man built two separate houses a little further away (now these are houses No. 6 and No. 8 along Lasuria Street - ed.). Joachim Aloisi was involved in charity work and helped those in need. So, an overnight shelter was built with his money in the town.
Already owning this luxurious villa, the merchant Aloisi set himself an even more ambitious goal: to build his own theater and hotel by the sea.
"In 1907, on the corner of Olginskaya Street and Mikhailovskaya Embankment, the famous Sukhum rich man, silkman Joachim Mikhailovich Aloisi, began construction of the complex of buildings of the "Grand Hotel", the Aloisi Theater and the "Olympia" Cinema. The work was carried out according to the project of the famous Tiflis architect-artist and decorator Sarkisov. By 1912, construction was completed. In the three-story "Grand Hotel", there were thirty-five comfortable rooms starting at 1 ruble 50 kopecks, eight balconies, two of which overlooked the embankment. The hotel had a first-class restaurant, a car garage, a casino and two shops. In 1925, the "Grand Hotel" was renamed into the "Resort" Hotel, and later, in 1927, the "Bzyb" Hotel.
Anzor Agumaa, "Old Sukhum"
The Aloisi Theater was exactly on the spot where the Samson Chanba Abkhaz Drama Theater now stands. It was designed for 670 seats. Opposite the theater, a square with a roller skating platform was constructed. The "Grand Hotel", the Aloisi Theater and the "Olympia" Cinema were interconnected and constituted a single building complex on the corner of Olginskaya Street and Mikhailovskaya Embankment (now Pushkin Street and Makhadzhirs' Embankment - ed.). In 1921, after the establishment of Soviet power in Abkhazia, the Aloisi Theater was municipalized and turned into the first State Theater of the SSR of Abkhazia.
The buildings of the Grand Hotel and the Aloisi Theater were not preserved in their previous form: they were destroyed by a fire in 1949. About how they looked, we know only from extant old photographs. After the fire in 1949-1952, the buildings were reconstructed and the architectural style was completely changed. The hotel ceased to exist: it was included in the new, rebuilt theater. Now it is the Samson Chanba Abkhaz Drama Theater.
During the establishment of Soviet power, the merchant Aloisi, like many rich people, lost his property, magnificent buildings and villas built with his money. Luxury villa is no exception. It was municipalized and turned into a house, divided into large apartments. Aloisi himself and his wife lived in one of these apartments until his death in 1925. By the way, one of the residents of the villa from 1925 to 1937 was also a well-known public figure, playwright Samson Chanba.
It is known that both sons of Aloisi - Georgy and Mikhail - after graduating from the Sukhum real school, entered the Warsaw Polytechnic Institute. They did not return to Sukhum anymore. After the death of the Aloisi couple, Nina Evseevna's sisters - Daria, Maria and Elena lived in their former villa for a long time.
The magnificent building of the former Aloisi villa was significantly damaged during the Patriotic War of the people of Abkhazia 1992-1993. It was severely destroyed and continued to crumble in front of the townspeople. Aloisi villa is in private hands for several years already and restoration work is underway in it. According to media reports, the owners of the building promise that this architectural monument - and the villa is included in the official register of architectural monuments of the town - will be restored to its original shape and will continue to delight citizens and guests of Sukhum with its former splendor and beauty.

Text by – Arifa Kapba, bild editor – Naala Avidzba, editor Olga Soldatenkova, editor-in-chief – Amina Lazba