Summer 2002 (10.2)
Thanks for your new site - HAJIBEYOV.com
- "Celebrating the Legacy of Azerbaijan's Great Composer
Uzeyir Hajibeyov". It has recently stimulated considerable
discussion about the political circumstances under which Hajibeyov
(1885-1948) carried out his creative activities, especially as
new anecdotal evidence has come to light about political threats
to his life.
As it turns out, Hajibeyov's life during the Stalinist years
(1924-1953) was not as rosy as one might imagine, even though
he was later appointed as a member of the All-Union Congress
to represent Azerbaijanis in Moscow. It's known now that on at
least two occasions, Hajibeyov was at serious risk of being arrested.
People say that Uzeyir even used to sleep in his day clothes,
fearing that a dreadful knock at the door would come in the middle
of the night; his was a common fear that characterized the years
of Stalin's repression.
It shows us how difficult and tragic Uzeyir Hajibeyov's life
really was. But this tragedy was not experienced by him alone.
It was shared by all of the educated people in the USSR. During
Stalin's rule, no Azerbaijani intellectual could sleep soundly
at night. The official Soviet ideology considered intellectuals
as "class enemies," just like capitalists. The expression
"rotting intelligentsia" and slogans like "The
intelligentsia are servants of capitalists," were widespread.
Members of the intelligentsia could never be sure that they wouldn't
be arrested and executed, even if they were numbered among the
most vocal and loyal communists.
Hajibeyov, like many other Azerbaijani intellectuals, came from
a family of "beys" - landowners. This title alone was
enough to categorize him as a "class enemy". In addition,
his younger brother Jeyhun (1891-1962) had gone to Paris as an
interpreter and journalist with government representatives of
the newly organized, independent, short-lived Azerbaijan Democratic
Republic (1918-1920). Jeyhun had justifiably been afraid to return
home when the Bolsheviks captured Baku in 1920. He settled in
France for the rest of his life, separated from his home country.
So when Jeyhun was stuck in France, he used every possible media
outlet he could to expose the evils of the Soviet system. This
hung like a terrible threat over Uzeyir, no matter how sympathetic
he might have been to his brother's activities.
During this period, hundreds of Azerbaijanis were arrested, exiled
or executed as "foreign spies" simply because they
had relatives living abroad. The old Soviet "ankat"
(job application) used to ask: "Do you have relatives living
abroad?" Soviet people feared to write: "Yes".
Sometimes I marvel that Uzeyir managed to survive. How was it
that he somehow escaped arrest in 1937 at the height of Stalin's
Repression? The mere presence of Jeyhun in France was enough
to have had him shot at any time! It's a real wonder that he
I'm afraid that we as young people will never truly be able to
comprehend Hajibeyov or other Soviet intellectuals of this period.
Perhaps they didn't even understand who they were themselves
or what they believed. The crushing Soviet System influenced
and changed their psychology completely and turned even the most
brilliant among them from "Homo Sapiens" to "Homo
Sovieticus". The permanent fear and horror, dictatorship
and control in all spheres of life forced people to live constant
lies. They had to lie if they were to survive. So, the lie became
the norm in Stalin's Soviet Union. Words and thoughts did not
coincide with deeds. They were afraid to admit the truth about
the Soviet system, even to themselves in their hearts. Under
strong pressure of Soviet propaganda, they were so confused that
they did not know anymore what to think or what to believe.
I believe that Hajibeyov was able to withstand this pressure,
but to some extent he also became "Homo Sovieticus"
like nearly every other Azerbaijani intellectual who lived during
those 70 years of Soviet rule. Why? Because, if anyone wanted
to survive, they were forced to declare every day: "Long
live the Communist Party! Lenin is our dear leader!" How
could such a person not turn into Homo Sovieticus in the end?
So, we see what great psychological and moral harm the Stalinist
system caused the Azerbaijani people. Fear, lies, corruption
and intrigue penetrated into every sphere of life. Soviet authorities
encouraged people to betray and spy on their friends, colleagues
and relatives. Many people could not distinguish between "good"
and "evil" in their lives.
Unfortunately, this tragic legacy of the Soviet system has not
disappeared from modern Azerbaijan completely. The older generation
- of whom there are hundreds of thousands - have still not forgotten
the horrors of Stalin's days. The Stalinist and Soviet habits
and customs and way of thinking have not disappeared. Many people
still are not accustomed to speaking the truth and thinking freely.
And so it is that we the Azerbaijani people and all other peoples
of the former USSR must pass through a long period of time until
we are able to rid ourselves of this legacy of the past. It won't
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