Winter 2001 (9.4)
that on the new Web site HAJIBEYOV.com there has been some
recent discussion about who Uzeyir Hajibeyov really was. This
becomes an especially interesting question when you realize that
he was politically active writing in newspapers under pseudonyms
attacking both systems - the czar and later the Bolsheviks. But
later, after the Soviet system was established in Azerbaijan,
he went on to become a member of the Politburo and his compositions
were honored with both Lenin and Stalin Orders. Stalin himself
gave the order for his musical comedy "Arshin Mal Alan"
to be made into a movie. So was Hajibeyov a "good"
communist? Or was he just a prolific musician minding his own
It's a very complicated question! Perhaps we should ask: Who
are any of us? And who might any of us have been if we had been
living in the Stalinist Azerbaijan of the 1930s? It's easy for
us to talk about human rights today and criticize others from
our vantage point of comfort in this period of independence.
Somehow, I feel sympathetic to Hajibeyov because I have known
many people of his generation - my teachers, my grandfathers,
my grandmothers and their friends. It's true that after the Bolsheviks
came, Hajibeyov was not an active dissident, but neither was
he what could be defined as a "good communist". I believe
that Hajibeyov was a wise person who understood that the value
of his own genius was to carry out a different mission. Stalin
was short-lived, Communists and capitalists are also temporal,
but music is eternal.
To me, the worst thing that Hajibeyov could have done was to
have become a political dissident during the Soviet period. Had
he done that, I think he would have been shot or sent into exile
in Siberia. And what would the Azerbaijani people have gained?
Nothing. We probably would never have had great operas like "Koroghlu"
and "Leyli and Majnun" and musical comedies like "Arshin
Mal Alan", "Mashadi Ibad" and others.
In my opinion, reason must prevail over feelings. Emotions might
have urged Hajibeyov: "Rise against Stalin! Attack the crimes
of the Soviet system! Don't be afraid of death!" But reasoning
would have cautioned: "Don't do that. You have a much greater
mission in life. Create brilliant music. This is your strongest
weapon against Stalin and the Soviet system. They killed the
Azerbaijani people with their politics. You must renew life with
your music. Be wise and save your life for a greater cause."
As a genius, Hajibeyov was larger than politics. Consider how
many genius composers and painters have lived in the kings' courts
or under the patronage of kings and tyrants (Khagani, Nizami,
da Vinci, Mozart, and so many others. Every talented person needs
both the financial support and good conditions to work productively
and express his or her talent.
Geniuses are rare in any country - perhaps they're born only
once every century. So they must be protected and nurtured as
national treasures. They must engage only in creative work. It's
a great tragedy for them to burn out their lives in other ways
(politics, rebellions, wars, whatever). Thousands of other people
can carry out such missions.
Not all people should rebel like the Spartans did. Human civilization
needs the Aristotles and Platos, too. Each has a place in history.
So I don't blame Hajibeyov. To me, he was right when he decided
to serve Azerbaijani people through his music, not through politics.
(9.4) Winter 2001.
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