Period in Azerbaijan
At the turn of the last
century, Baku supplied more than 50 percent of the world's supply
of oil. Proof of its concentrated wealth can still be seen in
the lavish architecture of the period which dominates downtown
Baku. The Oil Boom era was strongly influenced by Europe and
the spirit of entrepreneurship. Writers concentrated on the deep
social problems and the vast contradictions of the period-most
of which are still issues today-national identity, the need for
amicable relations with Armenians, social welfare and problems
deriving from modernization.
Right: Political cartoon from
the journal, Molla Nasraddin, published 1922, showing how countries
were trying to "court" Azerbaijan (the attractive lady)
for its oil.
story was published in "Molla Nasraddin," a magazine of
social satire, on November 27, 1917 ( Vol. 24). Jalil Mammadguluzade
was editor of this journal for 25 years [1906-1931].
Left: Jalil Mammadguluzade,
editor of the journal, Molla Nasraddin.
[pronounced mam-mad-gu-lu-ZAH-deh] points out the ambiguity of
the word "Azerbaijan" , which still exists today just
as it did a century ago. When people say "Azerbaijan,"
are they including the southern part of historical Azerbaijan
that is located in Iran? Or is it just the northern part which
was under the control of the Russian Empire, the Soviet Union
and finally gained its independence in 1991?
Accordingly, the concept of a "Motherland" seems fuzzy
when its official borders have changed. Mammadguluzade suggests
that the elusive Azerbaijan will only be found once all of its
people, not just its foreign-educated leaders, participate in
my forgotten Motherland!
Oh, poor Motherland!
The world shook; the globe turned upside down, its orbit confused.
The nations woke up and opened their eyes. Finding their native
brothers scattered all over the world, they began to rebuild
their destroyed houses.
But you, poor unlucky Motherland, what happened to you?
The world has changed, concepts have taken on new significances-that
is to say, things that had lost their true meanings have now
regained them. Everyone has achieved an understanding of Motherland,
Language and Nation! There is no other way of salvation for the
human being outside this circle.
Everything has been discussed. Every topic, exhausted. All our
heroes have manifested their deeds! Still there is one concept
that frustrates me. This word is connected with my Motherland-Azerbaijan.
Sometimes I place my hat in front of me and ask: "Who is
I answer: "My mother was the late Zohrabanu."
"What is my language?"
"My language is Azerbaijani."
"So, where is my motherland?"
"My motherland is Azerbaijan."
"But where is Azerbaijan?"
"Most of Azerbaijan is located in Iran1 with its center in Tabriz.
The other part of Azerbaijan starts from Gilan2 and lies within the
states of Russia and the Ottoman Empire, within the Caucasus
and Ottoman Kurdistan and Bayazed."3
Guess why I remembered this conversation. The other week there
was a discussion of an issue at the National Committee of Muslims
in Tiflis [Tbilisi]. Disputes arose as to which language should
Some said Russian. Some, Ottoman. Some, Armenian. Then they decided
that since the majority of Azeri teachers could not speak Azerbaijani,
they should be allowed to speak Russian. As for the members who
were graduates of Russian universities, they were also allowed
to speak Russian. Indeed, if I had spent years studying among
giaour4, shaking hands with
them, would it have been fair for me to hide my knowledge and
not speak Russian now? Never mind that many individuals represented
at the meeting, including the akhunds,5 did not understand
Russian - so what?
Oh, my beautiful Motherland - Azerbaijan!
Where are you? You, my brothers from Tabriz who eat moldy bread;
you, my selt-cap6 brothers from Khoy,
Meshgin, Sarab, Gorus and Morus; you, my wretched brothers from
Ardabil and Khalkhal7, come and show us the right way! I have lost
my head. Everything has changed! Every concept has gained its
true meaning. Let's sit down, with our selt hats in front of
us, and find out where our Motherland has gone.
Come on, you poor, ragged sons of the forgotten Motherland! Come
and let's see how the heads of the nations will set the course
of our future-these leaders who have been raised on the milk
of strangers, and who have become alienated from our native land
and unaware of the spirit of the nation.
Why are you
silent-you, my ragged, barefoot brothers?!
1 The area originally known as Azerbaijan and populated
by Azeri-speaking people was divided between Russia and Iran
in 1813 and 1828. The population of Azerbaijanis living in Southern
Azerbaijan [Iran] is estimated to be at least three times that
of the Azerbaijan Republic, which has a population of 7.9 million
- a province in Iran.
- a town in Turkey.
- atheist or non-Muslim, meaning Russians here.
- a high Muslim title, similar to a bishop.
- Selt is a cheap material made of goat's wool. It symbolizes
cities of Ardabil, Khalkhal, Khoy, Meshgin, Sarab and Gorus are
now located in Iran. "Morus" is a non-sensical word-play
crated to rhyme with "Gorus".
by Jala Garibova
(7.1) Spring 1999.
© Azerbaijan International 1999. All rights reserved.
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AI 7.1 (Spring 99)
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