Azerbaijan International

Winter 1999 (7.4)
Pages 32-33

Famous People: Then and Now
Rasim Balayev
Actor (1948-)

Rasim Balayev as a boy 

Rasim (right)
six years old in Aghsu, 1954

Rasim Balayev 

Rasim Balayev

Rasim Balayev has performed some of the major roles in more than 50 movies, including "Nasimi" (1974) and "Babak" (1979).

What experiences and interests in childhood would you say shaped your life and career?

I grew up in the Aghsu region. We didn't have TV when I was a child. Television didn't come to Baku until 1956, or the outlying regions until around 1960-1962, when I was attending secondary school. So the only access I had to the world of cinema was through the films shown at our youth club. Whenever I watched movies, especially those made for kids, I used to imagine that I was one of the actors. I didn't tell anybody about it. It was my secret.

Rasim Balayev as NasimiPhotos: Rasim Balayev in scenes while playing the lead character in the film, "Nasimi"

My interest in cinema emerged gradually-not all of a sudden. I could read and recite well, and my literature teacher always asked me to read the new lesson aloud. It wasn't until I was 15 or 16 that I started getting involved in dramatic performances. The late actor Samandar Rezayev played an important role by encouraging me to think seriously about becoming an actor; before that, I thought of it only as a hobby. My family wanted me to choose some other profession as no one else in my family was a movie star. But to their credit, they didn't stop me.

So I began immersing myself in the humanities-subjects like literature and history-because I knew I would be tested in these areas when I applied to the Institute of Arts (Institute of Theater at that time). I studied hard and succeeded.

How was your own childhood different from that of kids growing up today?

Rasim Balayev as NasimiThere are many differences between our childhood and that of kids growing up today. First of all, we were Soviet children. We became Octobrists, Pioneers and eventually Party members. Today's atmosphere is totally different.

To tell the truth, I don't envy today's youth. I see that there is a strange chaos among them. I don't want to say that we-the Soviet youth-were perfect. Of course we had our own deficiencies as well. But we did believe in the future. We were constantly striving to learn more and more. Bright children knew that they were going to have a bright future.

But I don't see this happening today. Perhaps it's because today's youth see that educated people are living under such bad conditions. That's why there's a lack of faith.

Perhaps this lack of faith is a result of the transitional period that we are living in, since there's so much uncertainty. The Chinese have a curse: "May you live in a transitional period." So, living in transitional times is difficult no matter where you grow up.

There are also many differences in terms of the opportunities that are available because of technology and information. Today, kids can sit at home and be in touch with any part of the world via computers. We didn't have such an opportunity. We never dreamed of such things.

When I compare today with the past, I see that there is less respect for adults. Perhaps I'm a person of old traditions, but I don't like this trend. There are unwritten laws of society that should be followed.

During the Soviet period, there were people who cared about the development of children and youth. These days, youth of 13-14 are selling things and washing cars in the street instead of going to school. There are more than a million refugees, whose children are growing up under very difficult conditions. I'm not a sociologist, so I can't analyze the impact this is having on today's youth, but what I see is not encouraging at all.

In the past, if a child didn't go to school, even for a single day, his teachers and schoolmates would start worrying about him. They would go to his home, talk to his parents and even appeal to the police department if they had no news for a few days. If children were selling something or idling around on the streets, they would be taken to the police, their parents would be reprimanded and those children would be made to attend school.

But today is much different. It's as though the kids are told: "Go and do whatever you can." If a kid starts washing cars when he is 13 or 14, tomorrow when he grows up, he won't do it because he'll be ashamed. So what will he do then, since he won't have an education?

So we're living in a society where everything has been messed up. That's why when speaking about the majority, I can't see a bright future for today's youth. On the other hand, there are young people going abroad, studying and working and trying to do something for their Motherland's sake. I appreciate what they're doing. But we can't forget the general situation as well.

Also there are differences between the educational system. Today there isn't the kind of intellectual competition that we experienced as kids. We competed by reading books. Kids who read a lot used to boast about it. But today's youth try to compete with each other by buying expensive clothes and cars. They aren't competing by reading and gaining knowledge.

What advice would you give to young people as they enter the 21st century?

Each person follows his own destiny in life. I would advise today's youth to become as educated as possible no matter what profession they pursue. Our youth have to be intelligent. They have to be aware of world affairs. They should focus on science. Today's youth are our future.

I'm sure that our society is going to develop, thanks to intelligent, educated young people who are full of energy. Educated people will live well and they will be respected in the society. I don't know how soon it's going to happen, but eventually it will happen.

Today our nation is suffering from the problems that were created both by our own faults as well as by problems that had nothing to do with us. For example, nearly 20 percent of our lands are being occupied by Armenians. I don't want to say that today's youth are responsible for setting them free, since this situation took place because of the adults. But let the youth also do their best to free these lands. It's such a shame for our nation. Let's try to release these lands so that future generations won't curse us. I don't know how this will be done, perhaps by peace, by policy or by something else. But we must do our best. We have to do it.

If we want Azerbaijan to prosper, first of all, we must build its economic system. We need clever youth to ensure a bright future. Let them try to take advantage of these rich resources because our nation also has the right to live well.

What would you say is your greatest achievement in life? What do you want to be remembered for most?

I don't think that I'm an extraordinary person to be distinguished from other people. I'm an ordinary Azerbaijani. If I've starred in more than 50 films, and if these films have become part of Azerbaijan's history, then I will also be remembered when these films are remembered. I would be happy to be remembered that way.

As for my greatest achievement, I am proud to say that I have a profession that I love with all my heart and for which I am ready to suffer any difficulty. Everyone should love the profession he chooses. If you marry and then don't get along with your spouse, you can get divorced and that's it. But it's hard to change your profession or give it up. So if you choose a profession you love, you'll be relatively happy. At least, I can say that I am.

Rasim Balayev
was interviewed by Aynur Hajiyeva in November 1999.

Azerbaijan International (7.4) Winter 1999.
© Azerbaijan International 1999. All rights reserved.

Back to Index AI 7.4 (Winter 1999)
AI Home
| Magazine Choice | Topics | Store | Contact us