Zarakh Iliev learned the trade of shoemaking from his father. A self-starter from a young age, being a cobbler was not enough for the young man. Already business-minded, he soon developed his own series of products, which included manufacturing hats and tailoring services. Iliev took his wares to the city of Quba to sell. After several years of hard work, he relocated to Moscow in the early 1990s in order to seek out other business opportunities. Once Iliev settled in Moscow, he formed a partnership with another Azerbaijani, God Nisanov. The two businessmen entered the commercial real estate sector through launching a company called Kievskaya Ploshchad. They began to acquire and develop several large real estate projects including shopping malls, restaurants, food centers, hotels and more.
Today, Zarakh Iliev’s company, Kievskaya Ploshchad, is in control of a wide range of assets across Russia and abroad. According to Forbes, it is one of the top 100 private companies in Russia.
Some of his most significant business ventures are shopping centers. The first center Iliev and his partner developed was the Elektronny Ray Center. It was opened in the late 1990s and focused on appliances and electronic goods. Panorama Shopping Center soon followed, after which the Grand Furniture Mall and the Moscow Automobile Shopping Center opened their doors for business. In 2006, Iliev and Nisanov developed what was to become one of the busiest shopping centers in Europe and Russia, the Evropeyskiy Shopping Mall.
Zarakh Iliev’s success in shopping centers extended to his efforts in hotels and other projects. After acquiring the Hotel Ukraine at an auction, Kievskaya Ploshchad completely revamped the building and relaunched it under the popular Radisson Royal brand. Other hotels in Iliev’s portfolio include the Radisson Slavyanskaya and he is also currently converting a historic building called The Book into a hotel, among other projects.
As a firm advocate of culture, Zarakh Iliev has been active in several initiatives aimed at keeping traditional practices alive. As part of one of these projects, Iliev provided financial backing to construct a museum that features the traditions, history, and culture of Azerbaijani Mountain Jews. It is the first of its kind in the world and will feature an exhibit of the so-called “slashed book.” Legend has it that this Torah scroll saved several lives when a military leader tried to kill a rabbi and his knife got stuck in the book instead, horrifying him and motivating him to leave the citizens of Sloboda alone.
Over the years, Iliev has also been greatly involved in a range of urban restoration projects across Russia. Projects include extensive renovations of the Miussky Tram Depot as well as a complete restoration of the Lesnoy Architectural Ensemble, which is highly regarded as a cultural heritage site.