Autumn 2005 (13.3)
Nature of Man
Uzeyir Hajibeyov - Composer (1885-1948)
the course of our research about Uzeyir Hajibeyov whose 120th
Jubilee was celebrated this past September, we came across some
quotes which provide insight into the composer's character.
Left: Uzeyir Hajibeyov.
Keep in mind that Hajibeyov's life (1885-1948) spanned an extremely
turbulent period of history in that part of the world. Hajibeyov
was born during the Russian czarist period when Azerbaijan was
part of the Russian Empire. He became an activist who intellectually
sought Azerbaijan's independence principally by writing numerous
articles in the newspapers under various pseudonyms. Eventually,
the czar was overthrown in Russia, and the Azerbaijan Democratic
Republic (ADR) declared its independence in 1918.
Unfortunately, the young government barely succeeded in getting
organized before the Bolsheviks took control of Baku in 1920.
This led to the complete reversal of the political system with
the establishment of the Soviet system, which seized control
of the economy and later ended up intruding into most aspects
of social life.
During the decades of 1930 and 1940, Hajibeyov witnessed Stalin's
purges when tens of thousands of Azerbaijanis (and millions of
Soviets) were killed, or imprisoned or exiled to labor camps
in remote territories of the Soviet Union. World War II followed
and though Azerbaijan was never directly attacked itself, this
small country lost an estimated 400,000 soldiers in combat.
Despite the turmoil and political upheavals which were marked
by enormous fear of repression and death that characterized the
period, Hajibeyov concentrated on music and in creating an infrastructure
for others to study and fill their lives with music. One can
only imagine what his creativity might have been like had he
not had to cope with these horrific challenges on a day-to-day
Hajibeyov died of diabetes (a disease known to be aggravated
by stress) at the premature age of 63. He is buried in Fakhri
Khiyaban (Cemetery of the Honored Ones) in Baku. Many claim that
his death was marked by the largest funeral of the Soviet period
Here are some of Hajibeyov's thoughts on the nature of man as
seen under the microscope of the harsh political situation in
which he lived.
"Once they told us to forget our native language and speak
only Russian. Now they tell us that they are going to change
our ABC books and create an alphabet based on Russian letters
(Cyrillic instead of Latin alphabet). And that's not the end
of it! I'm afraid that next time they'll come and tell us that
we should eat centipede soup instead of eggplant dolma. How will
it be then?!"
"If dying is death, it's better to die a hero than to live
as a slave."
"When is a person like a guest in his own house?"
"When the police search it."
"Whoever is an old fox in this life is happy. You can wiggle
through every difficult situation by being an old fox. For example,
let's say that if today you don't call yourself a Nationalist,
then you won't be able to earn money. Well, what does it matter?
Become a fox and say that you are a Nationalist!
Then you'll have to be a Socialist! Again, become an old fox
and say that you're a Socialist! Or when you're in a place where
you have to side with Russians, become an old fox and tell them
you would do anything for them. And if anybody asks you why you
have so many faces, become an old fox and ask him not to expose
"Everybody in this life has some way to protect himself.
By this means he defeats his enemies. The protection of true
writers is the pen. The protection of deceitful writers is swearing.
The protection of the rich is money. However: A pen can bring
one into disgrace, swearing can bring condemnation, and money
can send one to Siberia..."
"Who is the unfortunate one? Is it the blind person or the
person who can see? Of course, the blind person. The rich are
blind, the poor have eyes. Money makes the rich blind. The rich
need the poor, just as blind people need those who have eyes.
If people who have eyes so desire, they can hurl those who are
blind into a deep well. Likewise, if the poor so wish, they can
cast the rich into a chasm of misfortune..."
"Everybody hates snobs, but everybody always makes way for
Nurturing a Nation
"A gardener who wants to have a beautiful garden searches
for a tree of a good species. In the same way, those who want
their nation to develop should look for good and capable people.
Like a gardener who carefully tends those trees after identifying
them, they should take care of those good people after they find
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