Winter 2005 (13.4)
Articles Related to Stalin in Azerbaijan International
Compiled by Betty Blair, Editor
Very few articles are available in the
Western press in English, which describe the impact that Stalin's
purges had on Azerbaijan though there are quite extensive resources
discussing the Russian perspective. However, in the process of
preparing this issue, "Remembering Stalin", we were
amazed at the number of articles that we had published since
1993 that touched upon the subject. Therefore, we have put together
a descriptive bibliography for those who are interested in an
introduction and overview of the problems. All articles are available.
Arabic Script Books
for Kids: The Day They Burned Our Books" by Asaf
Rustamov. AI 7.3 (Autumn 1999)
Rustamov draws on childhood memories during Stalin's era and
describes how in 1928 officials arrived on horseback to his village
of Lahij, high in the Caucasus Mountains. They demanded that
the villagers gather all their books and make a bonfire and burn
their books. At that time, the books were all written in Arabic
script, which was closely associated with Islam. It was a frightening
experience that he never forgot. Rustamov, a medical historian,
mourns the tragic loss of the burning of these Arabic texts.
Not only religious texts, but much of the medical knowledge that
had been written up to that time spanning many centuries was
targeted and destroyed by the Bolsheviks.
or Latin Script? Reform for the Price of a Battleship: Debates
at the First Turkology Congress hosted by Baku in 1926"
by Jala Garibova and Betty Blair. AI 8.1 (Spring
In 1926, Baku hosted the First
Turkology Congress, which brought together representatives from
Turkey and the Turkic-speaking peoples of the Soviet Union [Turkmen,
Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Uzbeks, Azerbaijanis and Tatars] as well as
representatives from "minor" Turkic-speaking groups
living inside Russia, including the Chuvashis, Sakhas (Yakuts),
Khakases and Balkars. This conference resulted in Azerbaijan
officially adopting a Latin-modified script even before Turkey
did. The script was hardly in use for a decade before Stalin
imposed the Russian Cyrillic script on Turkic-speaking Soviet
people. Only after independence in 1991 have these nations reverted
back to decisions made early in the 20th century.
In Defense of Azeri
Speak out on Azeri: Rasul Reza, Mirza Ibrahimov, Samad Vurghun".
AI 8.1 (Spring 2000)
In 1939, Stalin ordered Azerbaijan and the other nations of Turkic
- related languages to adopt Cyrillic as their standard alphabet.
At that time, Azerbaijan was using a modified Latin script, which
they had officially adopted in 1923, after using the Arabic script
for centuries. Stalin feared that the Latin alphabet could become
a unifying force between Turkey and the Soviet Muslim Turkic
nations (Azerbaijan, Turkistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan).
As his decision was imposed during the height of Stalinist Repression
when tens of thousands of ordinary citizens were being arrested,
shot or sent to labor camps, no one dared protest this ultimatum.
Reflections on the History of Alphabet Reform in Azerbaijan"
by Anar. AI 8.1 (Spring 2000)
Anar's mother, the poet Nigar Rafibeyli, recalled how one day
her husband Rasul Reza brought poet Samad Vurghun home. She was
right in suspecting something was dreadfully wrong. Mirjafar
Baghirov, First Secretary of the Communist Party and Stalin's
right-hand man in Azerbaijan, had ordered Vurghun and Reza to
publicly raise the issue of transitioning from what is called
the Early Latin Azeri script to the Russian alphabet - Cyrillic.
It was a major step in strengthening the use of Russian as the
prestigious language in the country and relegating Azeri to an
inferior status - all part of Stalin's strategy for the region.
Scorching Sun and the Nature of Totalitarian Systems: Interview
with Azerbaijani Screenwriter, Rustam Ibrahimbeyov"
by Betty Blair. AI 3.2 (Summer 1995)
In 1995, the U.S. Film Academy's Oscar for "Best Foreign
Film" went to "Burnt by the Sun" produced and
directed by the well-known Russian director, Nikita Mikhalkov.
Rustam Ibrahimbeyov as screenwriter describes how the film was
an exploration of the impact of Stalinist purges. Totalitarian
systems are "governable" or manageable only up to a
certain point. Afterwards, they take on a life of their own,
destroying not only those whom they were originally intended
to destroy, but their creators as well.
Naming - Influences
History in a Nutshell: 20th Century Personal Naming Practices
in Azerbaijan" by Jala Garibova and Betty
Blair. AI 4.3 (Autumn 1996)
Names are the DNA of the social organism we call community. One
tiny strand of letters carries an incredible amount of vital
information in terms of a person's social heredity. From a single
word, it is often possible to determine a person's gender, education
level, social and economic status, language, religious preference,
sense of aesthetics and values, political inclinations, nationality,
age (in terms of historic period), and sometimes even birth sequence.
The article shows the influence of the political system on the
naming system and how Azerbaijani names, during the Soviet period
imitated characteristics of Russian names, within the framework
of the Azeri language.
as Hero: Legends and the Soviet Period. Manipulating the Text"
by Vagif Samadogh lu. AI 6.3 (Autumn 1998).
The author believes that people are psychologically incapable
of living with feelings or emotions of fear over an extended
length of time. Eventually, they transform negative emotions
into love and belief. Legends about dictators such as Hitler,
Mussolini and Stalin are examples. Sometimes stories that grew
up around such personalities were based on real situations; sometimes
they were entirely contrived.
Vagif writes that when Stalin died in 1953, many Azerbaijanis
viewed his death as a real tragedy. They thought that the experiment
known as the USSR was finished. They loved Stalin and believed
in him, and many worshipped him. He was their hero despite the
fact that he had caused the death of millions of people. Their
devotion to him, according to Vagif, was based on fear. The fact
that Stalin had won the war against Fascist Germany and brought
modernization and industrialization to the largest nation on
earth was enough to make him a hero in their eyes. Never mind
how he did it.
Search of Truth? Look No Further than Jokes and Anecdotes"
by Anar. AI 7.3 (Autumn 1999)
Anar, one of Azerbaijan's most prolific and distinguished writers,
describes how truth is often more evident in jokes and anecdotes,
especially in societies and situations which are ruled by force.
He tells how Stalin was sitting in the audience for the performance
of the opera Koroghlu at the 1938 "Decade of Azerbaijani
Art" in Moscow.
Stalin was pleased and wished
that the composer Uzeyir Hajibeyov would write more operas like
Koroghlu with its theme of the masses rising up against landowners
and khans. Historians and Musicologists are convinced that this
specific opera was vital to saving the composer's life since
they could have accused him of many "crimes".
Singing My Song in the Language of Art". AI 7.2 (Summer
The artist Hamza Abdullayev (1946) describes how restrictive
the school of "Socialist Realism" was and how their
works were not allowed to be displayed at exhibitions, nor did
they receive government orders and commissions. Such artists
had to work in secret and keep their works hidden.
Quest for the Light". AI 7.2 (Summer 1999)
Artist Kamal (1940-1994) started working during the period when
Socialist Realism was at its peak, but he refused to paint things
as they appeared to the eye. He always felt that the artist was
responsible for interpreting social issues. "Every canvas
should show a problem, every painting should expose a problem."
So passionate and intense was he about art that he once said,
"If it wasn't for the fact that it would kill me, I would
paint with my own blood."
Babayev: The World of Divs and Angels". AI 7.2 (Summer
Rasim Babayev (1927-2007) describes
painting as life, and life as always being a struggle. The artist
spent a lifetime struggling against the system. Rasim's troubles
began in 1949 when he was studying art in Moscow. One day he
walked into the Pushkin Museum only to find that all the exhibitions
had been replaced with a display of all the gifts that had been
presented to Stalin. Rasim said, "For the first time in
my life, I felt such an incredible resistance well up within
me against the State and from that day onward my troubles began."
Above: During Stalin's rule, artists were
required to paint in a style called "Socialist Realism".
But it was far from realistic in its depiction of life. Artists
were not permitted to depict the sadness, sorrow and pain that
the nation was experiencing, especially at a time when millions
of Soviets, including Azerbaijanis, were being executed, imprisoned,
and sentenced to Siberian labor camps.
Here Azerbaijani artist Rasim Babayev satirizes the absurdity
of such artistic notions in his work called "Happy Wanderer".
Rasim pushes the limits. If authorities wanted paintings of everybody
being happy, he would depict a circus clown with a smile permanently
painted on his face. See more of Rasim's work at AZgallery.org.
Mirjavad: Emblazoned by the Sun". AI 7.2 (Summer 1999)
Javad Mirjavad (1923-1992) describes how because of the emphasis
in art schools on Socialist Realism, that even the great Impressionists,
such as Cezanne were not on display in the museums of the Soviet
Union. Once while in Leningrad, he went to the Director of the
Hermitage Museum and threatened that if he didn't allow him to
see Cezanne's works that were kept in storage, he would kill
him. And so he was shown the works.
Javad returned to Baku. Destroyed every single painting of his
own. Not a single canvas was left. And started all over again
to create a very expressive style all of his own.
Najafov: The Expressive Magnificence of Stone". AI 7.2
Artist Fazil Najafov (1935- ) studied art in Moscow and for his
final art project in 1961, he made a clay sculpture depicting
an exhausted oil worker leaning his tired body against a steel
pipeline. His project was rejected and Fazil returned to Baku
without his degree. His work was too controversial - Soviet workers
weren't supposed to look fatigued. Labor was to be glorified;
workers to be romanticized. The authorities thought that Fazil's
tired workers looked more like convicts than contented workers.
Narimanbeyov: The Enchanting World of Dreams & Color"
by Gunduz Alizade. AI 7.2 (Summer 1999)
The author studied art under
Togrul Narimanbeyov (1930-), who suffered from Stalin's purges
when his father was killed and mother exiled to Central Asia.
"It's love. Love is lacking in your work," he told
me earnestly. "You have to love this canvas and these colors
with passion and intensity, just as you would love that woman.
Only then can you create a real work of art."
Scenes from Yesteryear: The Prints of Alakbar Rezaguliyev".
AI 8.2 (Summer 2000)
As Memory: Alakbar Rezaguliyev's Prints of Azerbaijan"
by Jean Patterson. AI 10.3 (Autumn 2002)
Life - more precisely, life under the Soviet system - was not
kind to artist Alakbar Rezaguliyev (1903-1974). During the Stalinist
repressions, Rezaguliyev was arrested three times for supposedly
spreading pan-Turkist ideas. Suffering the fate of thousands
of other intellectuals and creative geniuses, he spent the majority
of his adult life in prison and exile, nearly 25 years. Despite
the odds, Rezaguliyev worked tenaciously to develop his talent
and make a name for himself. He became well known for his art,
especially for his remarkable series of black-and-white linoleum
prints depicting scenes from turn-of-the-century Baku.
Affected by the blinding white snow of frigid Arctic winters,
the artist was no longer able to distinguish fine nuance of color
and turned to a medium that allowed him to work in black and
white. Many of his linoleum prints of early Baku reflect Pre-Revolutionary
period, prior to the Bolshevik takeover of Azerbaijan in 1920.
Siberia and Back: Life as Political Prisoner SH-971"
by Ismikhan Rahimov. AI 7.3 (Autumn 1999)
Ismikhan Rahimov: In Defense of My Mother Tongue" by
Betty Blair. AI 12.4 (Winter 2004)
Many Azerbaijanis who were exiled to Siberia during Stalin's
rule never returned. Ismikhan Rahimov (1925-2004) was one of
After suffering seven years in brutal labor camps, Rahimov was
freed (1955) and eventually officially "rehabilitated"
(1956) which cleared his reputation. The only "crime"
of Ismikhan and the other members of the student group Ildirim
in the mid-1940s (see also this issue) was to advocate for the
wider official use of their mother tongue - Azeri.
Nakhchivan to Kazakhstan
to Kazakhstan: Stalin's Repression of 1937" by Murtuz
Sadikhli. AI 7.3 (Autumn 1999)
When Murtuz Sadikhli (1929-1997) was eight years old, his family
and many neighbors living in Nakhchivan were rounded up and exiled
to Kazakhstan. Their crime? Nothing really. That year - 1937
- is often referred to as "Stalin's Repression" or
"Stalin's Purge". Sadikhli recalls the horrors and
uncertainty of that 40-day train ride to Kazakhstan.
of the Meskheti Turks: Still Homesick Half a Century Later"
by Caleb Daniloff. AI 5.1 (Spring 1997)
Stalin moved Meskheti Turks en masse from Georgia to Kazakhstan,
Kyrgyztan and Uzbekistan in 1944. In 1994, many of them resettled
in Azerbaijan. But they still would like to go home to the place
from where they were originally exiled by Stalin.
After Stalin died in 1953, his successor Nikita Khrushchev allowed
the return of many ethnic groups, which had been exiled to Central
Asia. The Chechens made their way back to the north Caucasus
as did the Ingush and the Tartars. The Meskheti Turks, however,
were never able to return to Georgia (because Armenians occupied
their homes and communities which had belonged originally to
them), and so many Meskhetis settled in exile in Azerbaijan.
They still want to go home more than 50 years after Stalin deported
them to Central Asia.
and Wagons. Helenendorf: Azerbaijan's First German Settlement"
by Jacqueline Grewlich-Suchet. AI 12.2 (Summer 2004)
The Germans settled in Helenendorf (now Khanlar) in western Azerbaijan
as a result of Napoleonic wars and developed vineyards and other
industries. However, when World War II broke out, Stalin confiscated
all their property and sent the entire community into exile in
Kazakhstan. The article explores evidence that exists today of
what was once a vibrant German settlement. The Germans never
returned to Khanlar.
Ali Salimi - Ayrilig (Separation)
Salimi, Composer: Putting Memories to Music" by Pirouz
Khanlou. AI 2.4 (Winter 1994)
Salimi was born in Baku in 1922.
In 1938, just prior to World War II, Stalin ousted all non-citizens
from the Soviet Union. Salimi's father returned home to Iran
and his mother, who did not want to be separated from him, lied
to the officials claiming that she, too, was a native of Ardabil
She, thereby, succeeded in getting herself and her children eligible
to join the crowds of refugees heading south across the border.
On his journey to the other side of the border, the 16-year-old
Salimi carried only his tar. This traumatic experience later
led to the creation of Salimi's most famous song, "Ayrilig"
(Separation), which is still extremely popular to this day.
Salimi, Composer of the Song 'Ayrilig' Dies". AI 5.2
of Jazz in Azerbaijan: Vagif Mustafazade: Fusing Jazz with Mugam"
by Vagif Samadoghlu. AI 5.4 (Winter 1997)
Jazz: Vagif Mustafazade - Musical Roots in Baku's Old City"
by Betty Blair. AI 12.3 (Autumn 2004)
At the end of World War II, Stalin decided to prohibit jazz throughout
the Soviet Union, by labeling it as "music of the capitalists."
Jazz had already been banned by Hitler in Germany in 1933 on
the grounds that it was "the music of blacks."
Despite these prohibitions, a new jazz movement began to emerge
in Azerbaijan by the 1950s, which came to be known as "mugham
jazz". Its origins were in Baku; its brainchild, Vagif Mustafazade.
Blair's article interviews several of Vagif's contemporaries
who reflect 25 years later on the tough pressure that Vagif faced
to express himself in this genre.
Koroghlu - Son of a
Other 'Koroghlu': Tbilisi Manuscript Sheds Light on Medieval
Azerbaijani Hero" by Farid Alakbarli. AI 10.1
An alternate Azeri manuscript of the Koroghlu epic, housed at
the Tbilisi Institute of Manuscripts in the Republic of Georgia,
gives scholars a great deal of evidence about who the historical
legendary figure Koroghlu may have been.
During the 20th century, the Koroghlu epic was manipulated by
Stalin. The epic - with its theme of poor, oppressed villagers
rising up against rich khans and land owners - suited Stalin's
Not only did Koroghlu fight against Turks and Iranians, but he
also drank wine and behaved as he wanted, not as a Muslim would.
Therefore, Soviet propaganda portrayed Koroghlu as an early revolutionary
and patriot who had struggled against rich landowners, Muslim
priests and cruel Turkish and Iranian conquerors.
(Son of a Blind Man). Background of Uzeyir Hajibeyov's opera,
which is part of a new CDs set produced by Azerbaijan International.
AI 9.3 (Autumn 2001)
The article provides the context in
which Uzeyir Hajibeyov's opera, Koroghlu was composed during
Stalin's repressive years of the 1930s when intellectuals were
being arrested, executed or sent into exile.
The creation of the opera Koroghlu, which was performed in Stalin's
presence in Moscow at the "Decade of Azerbaijani Art"
in 1938, may very well have saved the composer's life. The opera
is based on typical Soviet theme of workers and peasants rising
up to overthrow rulers and landowners.
Left: Soviet Stamp commemorating Koroghlu
opera by Azerbaijani Composer Uzeyir Hajibeyov. 1989.
Despite how Stalin used
the story for his own political agenda, in the late 1980s, the
Koroghlu overture became the rallying cry for the tens of thousands
of demonstrators who wanted Azerbaijan to be independent from
the Soviet Union - to throw off their contemporary rulers and
landowners. For Azerbaijanis, Koroghlu symbolized the universal
quest for freedom and independence.
Personality Cult: Three Times I Changed My Mind" by
Vagif Samadoghlu. AI 7.3 (Autumn 1999)
Vagif Samadoghlu recalls childhood memories of how he fluctuated
between loving Stalin and hating him. As a child, he was jealous
that Stalin was more popular than his own father, the well-known
poet Vurghun. But then he met Stalin for the first time at a
Christmas party where all the kids were piled high with gifts.
Vagif's opinion changed for the third time and final time as
a youth of 18 when he started writing poetry and realized that
he was a slave "we couldn't write anything that was critical,
sad or depressing," he confesses.
Samad Vurghun as Father: Reminisces by his Daughter, Aybaniz
Vurghungizi." AI 12.1 (Spring 2004).
Vurghun's daughter remembers going with her father to Moscow
to attend Stalin's Funeral [March 1953].
Stalin and Mammad Amin
Amin Rasulzade: Founding Father of the First Republic"
by Rais Rasulzade, his grandson. AI 7.3 (Autumn 1999).
Rasulzade and Stalin met in Baku in 1907 for the first time when
they were both in their 20s. Rasulzade employed as a journalist,
writing articles for various opposition magazines and working
with the Musavat Azerbaijani National Party. Stalin, a Georgian,
was in Baku organizing the oil worker strikes against the authorities
and the Czar. When officials tried to arrest Stalin, Rasulzade
saved him by hiding him in his apartment.
The tables were turned after the Bolsheviks came, and Rasulzade
fled for his life to the countryside. But he was found. After
a brief visit with his family, Rasulzade left with Stalin. In
Moscow, Stalin offered Rasulzade several positions but he refused.
Instead, he found a way to flee to Europe and eventually settled
in Turkey, never to return to Azerbaijan. Rasulzade's family
members, which he had left behind, were exiled to Kazakhstan.
Stalin and Science
Science of Genetics Under Stalin" by Dr. Farid Alakbarli.
AI 13.1 (Spring 2005).
Basically, Stalin had a deep quarrel with geneticists. As a result,
many of them were imprisoned, exiled or even executed. According
to Communist ideology, there was no such thing as superior genes.
Stalin and Cold War
Dissertations About Azerbaijan: "Stalin, Baghirov and Soviet
Policies in Iran, 1939-1946" by Fernande Beatrice
Scheid Raine, Ph.D., Yale, 2000. AI 10.1 (Spring 2000)
Historians have often pointed to the Iran Crisis of 1945-1946
as the beginning of the Cold War. Seen from the point of view
of Washington, this was a good starting point from which to trace
patterns of Soviet expansion and interference in other countries'
domestic affairs. It was not known, however, what this Crisis
looked like from Moscow, or how Soviet policies in Iran developed
during the preceding years.
Raine's research suggests that Stalin was not following a master
plan of world expansion. His bid for northern Iran in 1945-46
was a trial balloon - a testing of limits - much like what other
historians have found in the newly accessible archival resources
regarding Soviet policy in Europe and Asia.
Stalin and World War
and its Legacy: Memories of World War II" by Husein Abbaszade.
AI 7.3 (Autumn 1999)
The author, who was called up for military duty one week before
World War II broke out, discusses the lies that were used as
war propaganda. Abbaszade went on later to write many short stories
and several books related to the war, especially the role of
the Azerbaijani General Hazi Aslanov whom, he insists, the Soviets
did not adequately acknowledge for his brilliant strategies in
the war simply because he wasn't Russian.
War II and Azerbaijan" by Vagif Aghayev, Fuad Akhundov, Fikrat T.
Aliyev and Mikhail Agarunov. AI 3.2 (Summer 1995)
Baku supplied the Soviet Union with oil that enabled Stalin to
fight the war against the Germans although millions of Soviets
lost their lives. The article includes very rare photos showing
Hitler and his aides carving up a cake on which was written the
words, "Caspian Sea" and "Baku". Hitler wanted
Baku's oil fields and had designated September 25, 1942 as the
day he would attack Baku. Had Hitler succeeded, the war may have
had a different conclusion.
Stalin and Space
Soviet Aeronauts: Interview with General Karim Karimov"
by Betty Blair. AI 3.3 (Autumn 1995)
The birth of rockets dates back to the end of World War II around
1945. Prior to that time, research of outer space had been forbidden
as it was considered a waste of time.
In fact, Stalin had had chief scientists, Nikolai Tupolev and
Sergei Korolyov, arrested in 1938 and imprisoned for six years.
But then Stalin changed his mind when he heard that the Germans
had produced rockets (surface-to-surface missiles) that were
used in bombing London. Churchill, himself, informed Stalin.
That's when he began to realize the potential for such technology
and he released his scientists to rush to Germany to study these
rockets. Germany had attacked England from a distance of 300
kilometers - an unprecedented feat in the history of military
warfare up to that time.
Stalin and Destruction
of Churches and Mosques
Legend of the Bibi-Heybat Mosque: When Legends Shape Reality
Decades Later" by Azad Sharifov. AI 6.3 (Autumn
The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
in Baku. Photo: January 16, 1915. This Russian Orthodox Cathedral
was destroyed in 1937. Photo credit: National Archives of Azerbaijan.
Above Right: Location of Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
in relationship to Baksovet (City Hall). Photo credit: National
Archives of Azerbaijan.
Stalin ordered the destruction
of Bibi-Heybat Mosque in 1934 in his attempt to crush religious
belief in the Soviet Union. Various legends have grown up about
how difficult the building was to destroy. These stories may
not be literally true, but they reflect the belief system of
the community, which found it abhorrent to desecrate a building
which was deemed sacred. At least mentally, legends provide people
with a tool to avenge injustices. The Bibi-Heybat Mosque was
rebuilt in 1998 after Azerbaijan gained its independence.
Stalin and Nagorno-Karabakh
Watch: Myths Related to the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict"
by Adil Baguirov. AI 6.1 (Spring 1998)
The author identifies two myths, which have their roots in Stalin's
era. Myth No.1: Stalin gave Karabakh to Azerbaijan". This
is a gross falsification; the truth is quite the opposite. After
the Soviets took over Azerbaijan in 1920, Azerbaijan began losing
territory to Armenia. Azerbaijan's territory was reduced from
114,000 sq km during ADR (1918-1920) to its present size of 86,600
The Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (NKAO) inside Azerbaijan
was created in July 1923 after years of intense debates and opposition
from the Azerbaijani people. An oblast, the Russian term for
"province," was purely an administrative division,
making NKAO totally subordinate in every aspect to the union
republic, Azerbaijan SSR.
Carving out enclaves was deliberately practiced by Stalin in
various Soviet republics to exacerbate ethnic tensions. It served
the Soviets well by distracting the republics from seeking their
own independence because they always had to be occupied with
ethnic tensions inside their own borders.
Myth No.2: Stalin gave Nakhchivan to Azerbaijan. The truth is
that Nakhchivan, just like Karabakh, is historically part of
Azerbaijan. After Soviets gained power (1920), the foundation
for Nakhchivan gaining its autonomy was laid by the Moscow and
Kars international treaties of March 16, 1921, and October 13,
1921, respectively. These treaties are still in force, stipulating
that Nakhchivan remain within Azerbaijan, a legal fact that prevented
the Soviets from giving Nakhchivan to Armenia at the time. The
status of "Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic" (ASSR),
being part of Azerbaijan SSR was established in 1924. Nakhchivan
used to be "connected" to the rest of Azerbaijan through
the Zangazur district, which was given to Armenia in December
1920. When the Soviets assigned this strip (46 km) to Armenia,
they separated Azerbaijan into two parts, effectively cutting
off Turkey from other Turkic-speaking peoples in Central Asia.
Zangazur was continuously "cleansed" of its indigenous
residents. Tens of thousands of Azerbaijanis had to flee for
their lives at that time in much the same way as they have had
to flee from Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding districts in the
Victims of Stalin's
Fate of some of the ADR Parliament Members", compiled
by Nigar Afandiyeva Maxwell. AI 7.3 (Autumn 1999)
According to the terms given to Parliament, the Bolsheviks guaranteed
that the members of Azerbaijan's Parliament would not be harmed,
their homes and property would not be confiscated, and only the
highest-ranking positions would be replaced by Communist Party
Despite this guarantee, very few Parliament members actually
survived both the turbulence of the time and Stalin's Repression.
Recent scholarship now enables us to reconstruct what happened
to the 15 members of the Parliament members after the government
was dissolved. At least two-thirds of those listed here were
eventually killed or arrested.
Afandi and Aliyev
- No More: Discovering Who My Great Grandparents Were"
by Gulnar Aydamirova. AI 9.3 (Autumn 2001)
Gulnar Aydamirova belongs to the generation of Azerbaijani young
people that is barely old enough to remember the collapse of
the Soviet Union. She was only eight years old in 1991, when
Azerbaijan became independent. Recently, she has been digging
into her family background to learn more about two of her great-grandfathers
who were executed by Soviet leaders and labeled as "Enemies
of the People". She found that her family initially resisted
the Soviet system and endured severe consequences. Hers is a
story that could be told by many other Azerbaijanis.
Ahmad Javad, Poet
the Memory of Silenced Voices" by Azad Sharifov.
AI 6.1 (Spring 1998)
Azad Sharifov gained access into the KGB files and found some
of the official documents relating to the arrests, "trials",
exiles, and executions of some of Azerbaijan's intellectuals
during the Stalin's era. Ahmad Javad (1892-1937) is remembered
for writing the words of Azerbaijan National Anthem, which were
adopted during the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan (DRA) between
1918-1920. This same hymn has replaced the Soviet Azerbaijan
hymn now that Azerbaijan has gained its independence (1991).
Husein Javid, Writer
Javid: The Night Father Was Arrested" by his daughter,
Turan Javid. AI 4.1 (Spring 1996)
Javid: Aliyev Memorializes a Literary Giant". AI 4.4
Turan Javid (1923-2004) recalls childhood memories about the
night of June 4, 1937, when the NKVD (forerunner to the KGB)
took her father away. He was arrested and sent to Siberia and
sentenced to eight years of imprisonment. The conditions were
so harsh that he died in 1944, seven years later. President Heydar
Aliyev erected a mausoleum to Javid's memory in Nakhchivan in
People: Then & Now: Haji Khanmammadov". AI 7.4 (Winter
Haji Khanmammadov: Composed the First Concerto for Tar and Symphony"
by Matt O'Brien. AI 13.2 (Summer 2005)
Personal Memories of Haji Khanmammadov: Master of Tar"
by Ramiz Guliyev. AI 13.2 (Summer 2005)
Haji Khanmammadov (1918-2005) born in Darband (now part of the
Republic of Daghestan in Russia), is best known for writing the
first concertos for both tar and kamancha, Azerbaijani traditional
stringed instruments. In 1932, the boy's life was turned upside
down when his father and uncle were arrested by Stalin and exiled
to Siberia simply because they owned land. They never returned.
On the advice of neighbors, Haji, then 14, was put on a train
to Baku by his mother who was struggling to take care of six
children. She instructed him to find Uzeyir Hajibeyov (1885-1948)
whose reputation in music and personal generosity had obviously
spread beyond Azerbaijan. That was the beginning of what would
become a very illustrious career in music.
View of the Bay: What Happened to Kirov's Statue?" by
Faig Karimov. AI 9.2 (Summer 2001)
On the crest of Baku's highest hill
there used to stand a tall, imposing statue of Sergey Kirov,
one of the most influential Bolshevik leaders.
Kirov was responsible for capturing Baku in 1920 and setting
up the early government for the Soviets. The statue no longer
stands today as it was finally dismantled in early 1992 after
Azerbaijan gained its independence a few weeks earlier.
Above: Kirov Statue. This statue used to command the
best view of Baku. Today, it is empty. Kirov was responsible
for bringing the Red Army to Baku for the Bolsheviks in April
1920. Photo credit: National
Archives of Azerbaijan.
Above: Kirov Statue being dismantled
in January 1992-a few weeks after the collapse of the Soviet
Union. Photo credit: National
Archives of Azerbaijan.
That Would Not Die". AI 2.2 (Summer 1994)
The celebration of Novruz (Spring Solstice: March 20-21) dates
back to ancient times. After being forbidden to celebrate it
for most of the 70 years of Soviet domination, Novruz was again
officially celebrated in March 1991 - a precursor, one might
suggest, to the Soviet Union's demise, which followed a few months
later. Now the holiday is once again back on the calendar as
the most loved traditional holiday in the Republic of Azerbaijan.
The celebration of the ancient
holiday of Novruz (Spring Equinox on March 20-21) went back up
on the official calendar again after Azerbaijan regained its
independence in 1991. During the Soviet period, celebrating Novruz
openly was forbidden. It was viewed as a holiday specific to
a certain region, not the Soviet Union as a whole. Photo: Roshanak.
Khudadat bey Rafibeyli, Governor
the Memory of Silenced Voices" by Azad Sharifov.
AI 6.1 (Spring 1998).
Even though Khudadat Rafibeyli (1877-1920) was once quite famous
as a physician and governor in the province of Ganja in Azerbaijan,
his name is seldom mentioned today. His story is part of the
history that was "erased" when the Soviets came to
power. Documents that recently surfaced tell of a compassionate
doctor and a prudent administrator who was summarily crushed
by the Soviet regime in 1920. His story is like that of many
Azerbaijani heroes who never appeared in Soviet history books.
Nigar Rafibeyli, Poet
Documents Reveal Poet Nearly Sent into Exile" by Anar.
AI 7.1 (Spring 1999)
Tens of thousands of Azerbaijanis suffered persecution and death
under Stalin's Repressions both prior to World War II and afterwards.
Recently discovered documents indicate that poet Nigar Rafibeyli
was also a target of Stalinist repressions.
Her crime: simply being the daughter of a physician who had owned
land and been charged with anti-communist political activity
when the Bolsheviks came to power in Azerbaijan in 1920. It didn't
matter that her father, Khudadat Rafibeyli, had been executed
that year and that she was only seven years old at the time.
Now 60 years later, Nigar's son Anar, one of Azerbaijan's most
prominent writers, reveals the accusations by the Communist Party
against his mother that were published in the newspapers and
other official documents showing that she narrowly escaped being
sent into exile herself.
Abbas Mirza Sharifzade,
the Memory of Silenced Voices" by Azad Sharifov.
AI 6.1 (Spring 1998)
Sharifzade (1893-1938) was a popular actor known for his portrayal
of Shakespearean characters on the Azeri stage. In 1937, he became
one of the first artists to be arrested by the Soviet regime
for supposed "counter-revolutionary activities."
He was executed the following year, after being forced to write
and sign a false confession. His innocence was proven in 1955,
and the memory of his talent and love for the theater is being
Lotfi Zadeh, Scientist
- Creator of Fuzzy Logic
Zadeh: Short Biographical Sketch" by Betty Blair.
AI 2.4 (Winter 1994)
Lotfi Zadeh, creator of Fuzzy Logic, was born of an Azerbaijani
father on assignment as a journalist from Iran, and a Russian
mother who was a physician. Zadeh enjoyed a privileged life during
those early years of his life in Baku.
But when Lotfi was 10 years old, Stalin introduced collectivization
of farms throughout the Soviet Union, widespread famine followed,
and the Zadeh family moved back to his father's homeland.
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