Azerbaijan International

Spring 2004 (12.1)
Pages 100-105

Poet Samad Vurghun as Father
Reminisces by his Daughter, Aybaniz
by Aybaniz Vurghungizi

Here, the only daughter of Samad Vurghun (1906-1956) shares her vivid memories of what it was like to grow up with a very famous father who was a nationally recognized poet-not only in Azerbaijan but also throughout the Soviet Union. Her memoirs reveal a very talented writer and caring father. Vurghun died at the young age of 50. Undoubtedly, the troublesome times in which he lived-the repressive era of Stalin (mid-1920s to 1953)-dramatically contributed to shortening his life.

Aybaniz Vurghungizi (born 1937) is President of the Samad Vurghun Foundation and Chief Curator of Samad Vurghun House Muesum. She also is a professor of Literature.

Her brother Vagif (born 1939) was named National Poet of Azerbaijan in 2000 and is a Member of Parliament and one of the six Parliament representatives from Azerbaijan to the Council of Europe. Her older brother Yusif (1935-1998) was also a novelist, short story writer and Member of Parliament. Both Vagif's and Yusif's works are translated in this issue. Also SEARCH at Vurghun's wife Khavar still lives.

This article was prepared by Vurghun's daughter Aybaniz and translated by Aytan Aliyeva.

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Below: The Samad Vurghun Home Museum is located in downtown Baku at 4 Aliyarbeyov Street on the third floor. The poet lived there from 1956 until he passed away two years later. It was memorialized as a home museum in October 1975. Photo: Blair, 2004

Each time that I come to the home museum1, which celebrates the life and works of my father, the poet Samad Vurghun, I have these very strange, mixed feelings. It's 28 years now since this apartment has been converted into a museum. That's quite a long time. I have so many memories connected with this place that it's hard for me to realize that this house is really a museum. I can neither incorporate them into the tour, nor turn them into an exhibit. But these memories are so vibrant and so dear to me; they'll live within my heart until the day I die.

We moved into this apartment back in February 1954. I was 17 years old at the time. Stalin had died just the year before. My father had chosen this place because he liked it so much. To tell you the truth, Mother didn't want to move here because it was so big; it contained six large rooms plus two long corridors. Such space was extremely unusual during the Soviet period when many families lived in the confined space of one or two rooms.

When mother complained, Father replied, "Eh, Khavar, don't blame me. I've suffered so much from being cramped into such small spaces all my life. Now I want space"

World War II
My first childhood memories date back to the beginning of World War II.
3 One day someone came to our place and suddenly announced that the war had begun. I was only four years old at the time. But from the way the adults were carrying on, I figured out that war was something terrible. The horror became more tangible when I heard my parents talking to each other in hushed, sad tones. Father would hug us and quickly head off somewhere. Every time the sirens went off in the middle of the night, Mother would wake us up and rush us down to the basement-sleepy me holding my dolly. Others from the apartment were always already nervously gathered there.

Usually during those years, Mother made us go to bed and sleep in our regular clothes in case there was such an emergency. I'll never forget once when my little brother Vagif wriggled out of Mother's grasp and ran to the window and pointed his toy pistol to the sky and shouted, "I'll shoot that fascist plane!"

At that time, I didn't even know that my father was a poet. I wasn't aware at that age that my father was the famous Samad Vurghun. Nor did I have any idea that the very day the war started, my father had written his first poem about the war. I didn't know that many times when he left home, he was not going to work, but rather he was heading out to hospitals, to the radio station or to public forums to give speeches. Nor did I know that my father would go on to write a famous poem called Ukrainian Guerillas, which was printed on leaflets that were dropped by planes and scattered over the Ukrainian forests in order to rally some of the guerilla fighters...

Left: Aybaniz with her father,the poet Samad Vurghun. Courtesy: Samad Vurghun Home Museum.

Cottage on Absheron
In the springtime, we used to go to live out at our cottage at Shuvalan on the Absheron Peninsula near the sea. My father would organize for a truck, and we would load up our bedding and things. We three children
4 -Yusif (1935-1998), Vagif (born 1939) and me (born 1937)- would climb up in the truck, too. We were so happy. Grandmother (my mother's mom), Father and Mother would follow us by car. On the way, when their car would pass our truck and take the lead, Father would wave to us, motioning at us to be quiet.

As soon as we would reach the cottage, Father would organize to get water from the well and carry it to the house. He would assign us as his "assistants" to carry water in small pots. During the evenings, we would have long conversations, sitting around the samovar. Our days in the cottage would pass happily. When my father was at the cottage, we were able to see him a lot. I remember how often he joked with us.

Once, I remember that during dinner Father took a bone with meat from his plate and got up and went towards the yard. I said: "Daddy, give it to me."

But he replied: "No, this is for Rex." I got so upset and complained: "Eh, you love that dog more than us!" Then he became more serious, "Don't talk nonsense. I love you all-equally."

Everybody laughed. My father was fond of telling such anecdotes that took place at our cottage.

He loved working in the garden. Along with our gardener, he would plant potatoes, onions, tomatoes and eggplants and then brag about his efforts to his friends and relatives who would come to visit. Mustafa Topchubashov
5 would praise my father's "garden" activity the most. "Samad," he would say, "your talent proves itself in this area, too. I've never eaten such tasty potatoes in my life!"

Writer Mehdi Husein
During the hot summers we used to go to Kyslovodsk.
6 I remember our first trip there in 1946. We went there along with the family of Mehdi Husein7, my father's closest friend. My father loved Mehdi like his own brother. We would rent an apartment in the same building on the same floor.

Naturally, the devastation of the war could still be felt throughout the city. There were so many buildings that had been destroyed, and the streets had not yet been rebuilt. As strange as it sounds, the hostess of the house appeared to be fat but it was because of hunger
8. Her daughters and grandchildren were thin and sickly. My father asked my mother to treat them as members of our family-to take care about their food and clothes.

Those years writers and scientists along with their families would go to Kyslovodsk. I remember such holidays with Suleyman Rustam, Sabit Rahman, Mammad Arif, Mir Jalal [Pashayev], Ali Sultanli, Hamid Arasli, and Jafar Khandan. Sometimes, we even arranged so that we would all travel there together on the same train. All the families tried to rent apartments close to one another. In the evenings, we would gather and take walks in the parks, or go to the theater, cinema and concert. Because our parents were friends, we children became friends as well. Some of us have remained so.

Left: Poet Samad Vurghun in the 1950s. Courtesy: Samad Vurghun Home Museum.

One time, I remember, we all decided to go to the cinema together, but it turned out that there were no tickets. Uncle Mehdi showed the director his card, which identified him as a recipient of the Stalin Prize
9 but his plan didn't work this time. Then my father said: "Don't worry. I'll find a way to get tickets."

Suddenly, I saw my father coming towards us, waving the tickets in his hand. Everybody was surprised. My father turned to Uncle Mehdi and said: "I introduced myself, not as a Stalin Prize Winner, but simply as 'Samad Vurghun', and they gave me the tickets. Well, Mehdi, 1-0. You owe me one!"

They were always together-Father and Mehdi-in the city, at the cottage, or in Kyslovodsk. But one day my father came home very disappointed from the Writers' Union and told my mother: "Khavar, Mehdi is being critical. I'm not going to be friends with him any more."

That evening my father suggested that we go out to get some fresh air. When we were getting dressed, Mother said: "You'll see, your father will go and reconcile himself with Uncle Mehdi." Suddenly, we realized that Father was not heading in the direction of seaside, but on the route to Uncle Mehdi's. Mother joked: "Samad, how will we get any fresh air in that direction?"

Father didn't say anything but continued on his wayUncle Mehdi opened the door himself. At first, they just looked at each other rather coldly. But after we entered his apartment and sat down, they cheered up and smiled, and began talking together as if nothing had happened.

Meeting Hajibeyov
Once in 1947 when we were in Kyslovodsk, my father took us to Yesentuki, where our great composer Uzeyir Hajibeyov
10 was convalescing. When we arrived at the sanatorium, my father asked us to kiss Uzeyir's hand. First Yusif, then me, and then Vagif. We followed obediently. I remember that Uzeyir bey smiled and ran his fingers through Vagif's curly hair.11

Uzeyir bey was sitting in an armchair. Though there were empty chairs next to him, my father didn't sit as he wanted to show his great respect to the composer. He stood talking for 10 or 15 minutes. Then he asked us to come near. We said "goodbye" and left.

Now when I think back to that scene, I'm sorry that I didn't pay attention to what they were saying to each other. Of course, I was only 10 years old at that time so I probably would not have understood anyway. Today, I can't tell you what they talked about, but I'm proud because I saw them express their love for each other just as a father and son would. They say that later on, my father fell on his knees near sick Uzeyir bey's bed with tears in his eyes and Uzeyir told him: "I'm leaving you, poet, but you live on" The day when Uzeyir bey passed away
12, was the first time I ever saw my father crying as he sat at his writing table. He wrote:

"May Death not rejoice
The ones who loved their land more than their own lives,
Didn't waste their lives for nothing.
The ones who lived loving and who died being loved
Will remain as a sweet memory in this world."

That day when my father wrote these lines, when he comforted his nation along with himself with his poet's pencil, I saw him grow older right in front of my eyes...

Touring Azerbaijan
I recall some trips that we made in 1953 together with my father. In February, he took me to Guba region to a meeting with some voters. It was during this trip that I saw for the first time how much my father was loved. I became so proud.
On the return trip, my father said: "Abigiz, (he often called me that way), you've grown up. If your mother permits, I'll take you hunting."

I was beside myself with happiness because I knew that my father was a good hunter and I dreamed of going hunting with him. When he used to get ready to go hunting, it was always a big event in our house. He would grease the ramrod of his rifle with such great enthusiasm, place the bullets into his cartridge belt, and gather his hunting clothes and tall hunting boots. We kids would gather around, waiting to do something for him.

When he returned, he would be very tired. He would sit in the corridor and when he said, "Well kids, who's going to take off my boots?" We would start quarreling with each other for the chance to help. We would grab hold of his boots and push the others away. And he would look at us through tired eyes and smile.

Stalin's Funeral
In March of the same year, my father took me to Moscow on the occasion of Stalin's death [March 5, 1953]. He was a member of the Supreme Soviet as a representative from Azerbaijan.
13 It was the first time I had ever been on a plane, so he paid a lot of attention to me during the flight. He often put his hand on my shoulders and expressed his concerns over and over: "How do you feel? Aren't your ears going deaf [from the loud engine noise], my mother, my sister, my only daughter?14"

On the way from the airport to the city, I experienced a real Moscow winter for the first time. My father sensed my awe and told the driver: "This is the first time that my daughter has ever seen snow. Stop and let her get out and put her feet on the ground." And then he covered me with snow as if he were still a kid himself.

Then we continued our way. The driver told us that because of Stalin's funeral, the car would not be permitted into the center of the city. He would have to drop us off near a Metro station. So then we continued for two or three stations by Metro only to discover that the escalator going up to the Moscow Hotel had been closed. Two soldiers were standing guard downstairs. My father showed his Deputy card and they opened the escalator and both of us went up.

It was already dark when we came out on the street. My father said surprisingly: "My daughter, I've never seen Moscow's streets so empty."

And it was true; there were neither people nor cars in Akhotni Ryad Street. It was as if we were in some mythical place. A few steps further and we entered the hotel. My father dropped off his little suitcase in our room, and then we quickly headed for a restaurant. Many people, sitting at other tables in the restaurant, came up to greet him and so he introduced me to famous writers such as Alexander Korneychuk, Vanda Vasilevskaya and the well-known woman tractor driver Pasha Angelina. Later we went to the Writers' Union. Everywhere was covered with snow. My father was holding onto me tightly so that I wouldn't fall down.

When we reached the Union House, soldiers were standing in a row and an endless flow of humanity was heading in that direction. My father went up to one door and we were allowed to enter. It took us to the back stage of Column Hall. My father took off his coat, tied a black funeral band around his arm and joined several deputies on stage as part of the honor guard. I remained back stage.

Suddenly, the door opened. Several boys and girls from Georgia entered. They tied black strips around their arms as well. One officer told me: "If you want, go with them." They tied a black band around my arm, too, and I went on stage and stood guard, as well. I don't know how much time passed. Suddenly, when they brought the coffin into the Hall, I began to cry. At that moment, someone behind me, said: "You girl, you can't cry here. Come here, right away." Another girl was sent in to replace me.

I waited for my father back stage. Finally, he came. We took our coats and headed for the street. With great excitement I told my father that I had been part of the honor guard. He joked: "They thought you were older. If they had known you were just in the ninth grade, they wouldn't have let you."

The next morning, my father as a Deputy took part in the funeral ceremony. I watched this process unfolding in Red Square from the window of the hotel.

In the evening we were guests of one of my father's friends-Pavel Antolosky. Also present were Mikola Bajan (Ukraine), Simon Chikovani (Georgia), and poets Konstantin Simonov, Michael Lukonin, and Alexander Mejirov (all from Moscow). I sat next to Pavel Antoloski's wife, Aunt Zoya.

First the poets read some of their new poems. Then my father led the party. He began to talk about the problem of the romantic hero in literature. He was talking with such sincerity, analysis and humor. The Party people were listening attentively. Aunt Zoya was looking with amazement at my father. Suddenly, she jumped up from her place and said: "Pavel, even if you kill me, I'm going to kiss Samad."

Then everybody joined Aunt Zoya and stood up and hugged and kissed my father. I was beside myself with joy. I wish I had made a note of what my father said that nightWhat is to be doneYouth doesn't believe in death, nor does a son or daughter ever imagine the death of their father"

Once Rasul Reza
15 came to our room. He invited my father and me for lunch. My father and Uncle Rasul were talking about music and poetry. From time to time, they were arguing. Later, they began to talk about their children. Uncle Rasul was praising Yusif [Vurghun's son], but my father was praising Anar [Rasul Reza's son]. Then Uncle Rasul looked at me and said: "Samad, Aybaniz looks so much like you. Probably, that's the reason you love her so much. If I were an artist, I would paint her portrait. She's a real Azeri girl."

And my father answered: "You're right. She looks more like my mother, than me. So I love her more than myself."
As soon as the special session of the USSR Supreme Soviet was adjourned, we returned to Baku. In April, my father went to Sochi (Russia) with Uncle Mehdi.

A little later on, they began to criticize and attack my father. In general, my father's life was not always smooth. According to the press, he was strongly criticized in the 1930s as well. In those years, he could escape all of these troubles because of his creative activity and with some luck. When he was accused of being nationalistic, he wrote more than hundred works about the history of the nation. In the 1930s, the KGB opened a file on him, too. Up through 1937
16, they arrested the ones they wanted and left the others alone. Samad Vurghun was the only art person whose file was kept open and they continued to hold him under suspicion until Mir Jafar Baghirov was dismissed in 1953.17 When the last attack began against my father, my mother called him in Sochi, warning him and begging him to come back. During their phone conversation, Father spoke against Baghirov. Mother got scared and hung up the phone.
My father understood the situation very well and did not return to Baku right away. Instead, he went from Sochi to Georgia to be with relatives and friends.

When my father was in Sochi, I wrote him a letter, telling him how I was doing at school. He sent me back a telegram: "Received your letter. I kiss you, my dear swallow. Let me know the results of your exams. Kiss your Mom, Yusif and Vagif for me."

He would go to Moscow very often because of Congress, but he preferred not to go alone. In September, he took Mother and me. As always, we stayed in Moscow Hotel. Those days my father was worrying about the famous Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet. He would tell us that Nazim was ill, and he often called him to learn about his situation. Once he said: "Nazim, come to Baku. I'll take you hunting. You need a walk through the forests and mountains, then you'll recover."
But this wish never came true. Nazim Hikmet came to Baku in 1957 but my father had already passed away the year before.

My father became very busy. We rarely saw him. He worked as a Vice President of Public Affairs of the Azerbaijan Academy of Sciences. I remember when he was preparing his speech, "About Soviet Poetry", for the Second All-Union Congress of Soviet Writers. At that time, my father was very respected throughout the USSR. Therefore, he was responsible for giving the speech about "About Soviet Poetry". Azerbaijanis were proud that such an honor for making this speech had been given to one of their own.

He researched so much literature connected with that speech, often working until mid-night. He would smoke and drink tea the whole nightlong. I still remember seeing him sitting at his writing table and thinking deeply about something in the light of the lamp at midnight.

My father gave this speech in Moscow on December 16, 1954. It was a very emotional experience for him and one of the proudest moments of my life. I was so happy when I saw both Soviet and foreign poets and writers sitting in the hall, listening to him. I watched how they were so moved by his words and how they applauded so vigorously. But when I compared my father to the writers who I knew sitting there in the Presidium, I got sad. My father looked so much older than the others, even those who were older than he was.

At intermission, I went up to Father and stretched out my hand and said in Russian: "Congratulations. Very good report." And he replied: "You devil!" and patted my shoulder. Then he introduced me to some foreign writers. I was so confused so that I didn't remember their names except for Luis Aragon.

I have a photo from those days. Unfortunately, I don't recall how it was taken. I learned about it quite by accident. In 1976, the wife of one of the photographers from Kiev sent me a letter along with the list of several photos and negatives. The title of one photo took me quite by surprise: "Samad Vurghun with his daughter." I figured the woman had made a mistake.

That same autumn I went to Kiev along with my daughter Aygun. There I had a chance to look at those photos. I couldn't believe my eyes. One of them really was my father and me. I was overwhelmed with emotion. It was as if I was reliving those happy days all over again-the days I had spent with my father 20 years earlier in Moscow Hotel. It brought to mind the lines that my brother Vagif had written:

"I know the moments of my life,
That I spent with my father
Turn yellow, one by one, as leaves.
I know that the best moments of my life,
Passed where those leaves fell."

My father did so much to help others. It was Samad Vurghun who made it possible for the Sara Ashurbeyli19 and Pustakhanim Azizbeyova20 to become members of the Academy of Sciences when he worked there as a vice president. Moreover, my father helped such linguists as Vagif Aslanov21 and Turkan Afandiyeva.22 He also was involved with historian Mahal Mammadov, philosopher Jamal Mustafayev and others. He would send money to the ones who were only getting small stipends to help their families.

Saving Historical Monuments
My father also played a major role in protecting historical monuments. There is a tomb called Haji Mahmud Afandi in Vurghun's native region of Gazakh. Stalin wanted to destroy it in 1943, but my father wouldn't let them to do it. At that time a person had to have an enormous amount of courage to stand up for such things to protect a religious tomb.
In 1952-53, the government sent bulldozers to the Gobustan rocks;
23 they wanted to develop a quarry there. This is where petroglyphs had been found that date back to at least 5000 B.C. My father took a public prosecutor and went out there. And believe it or not, such a humanist as my Father grabbed the prosecutor's pistol and told the driver of the bulldozer: "If you don't get off that bulldozer right now, I'll shoot you. You're destroying thousands of years of history of our nation."

Later, my father would return with archaeologists. In short, he did his best to preserve Gobustan as a National Archeological Reserve.

As a father, Samad Vurghun was very kind and caring. He was very gentle at home. He never pressured us. When we made mistakes, he tried to let us discover it ourselves. He treated us as his closest friends. In short, he was a very democratic person. As his daughter, I pen these words with great pride.

I recall when I graduated from high school; we had a big party at home. My teachers and many of my friends came. Next morning, I told my father that my girlfriend's mother was also having a party. He asked about her father. I told him that he had died in the war.

When I was at my friend's party, I suddenly heard my father's voice: "Hey hostess, hey hostess. "Everybody rose to greet him. My father came in and passed me by, not paying any attention to me. He kissed my friend on the cheek, sat down at the table and took the initiative of party. When we got home, I asked him why he had come to the party. He told me: "My child, when you told me that your friend had no father, I was very touched and decided to go to this party so that your friend wouldn't feel that she had no father."

Touring Azerbaijan
In the summer of 1955, my father told my mother that we wouldn't be going to Kyslovodsk any more. He felt that his children didn't know Azerbaijan well, and he decided to take some sightseeing trips throughout Azerbaijan and rest there. That summer we went to Shamkir, Ganja, Gazakh, Aghdam, Barda, Shusha and Kalbajar. Whenever he would see a beautiful place, he would stop the car: "Kids, come on, get out of the car. One should never pass beauty by. One must stop and say 'hello' to it."

Those were moments that my father would joke with us, tell us the names of the plants, flowers and trees, speak to us about their characteristics...

He used to meet so many of his friends and relatives on such trips. He was always so friendly with them. He would speak with each person and show interest in their problems and lives.

Sometimes, I would notice my father alone leaning up against a tree, or sitting on a mossy tree stump or some stone, thinking about something. I didn't like to see him so sad. I would run up to him, hug him tightly and ask: "Daddy, why are you so pensive?"

At that time, I thought that Father was getting ideas to write something, and that later, in five or 10 days, he would gather us and read some new poems to us. But as the years passed, I realized that this person so lonely who was leaning up against a tree and looking at the distant tall mountains was Samad Vurghun, who was saying "goodbye" to Azerbaijan
After we returned, my parents went to Tbilisi to attend the jubilee of David Guramshvili.
24 My father was feeling good then. Even when they returned, he said proudly that he had succeeding in tiring out five young Georgian boys while dancing.25

In October, my father was invited him to Moscow to join a delegation of Supreme Soviet representatives touring Vietnam. Those days my father caught cold, he was coughing a lot. In the evening, we saw my father off. At midnight, I heard Father returning as the flight had been delayed and rescheduled for early morning. When my father came back, he said he sensed that this trip would not be so fortunate.

My father sent such a letter from distant China: "My dear, light-of-my-eyes Khavar. We arrived in Peking, the capital of China, by plane on October 28. Regardless of the change in climate, I began having difficulty in breathing. Vietnam is even further south and it rains more there so the doctors have advised against my going. Therefore, I will stay in China until November 10, then return to Moscow by train (an eight-day journey).

Tonight, I had bad dreams. Aybaniz was crying bitterly because she thinks I'm ill. It seems you miss me. I must say that I have never remembered more in my lifetime than now. Don't think about bad things. I feel good. I will return with rich memories from China. Probably, I will be inspired when I come back. It's very difficult to send letters or telegrams from here. I kiss you, Mehdikhan (Vurghun's brother) and children. My greetings to everybody!"
Yours, S. Vurghun

"Aybaniz! As soon as I come back, I'll kiss you for one hour. I order Vagif not to be jealous, I'll kiss him one hour, too. I beg you, don't trouble your mother, and pay attention to your lessons."
May 31, 1955, Peking

That was the last letter my father ever wrote us. Vurghun returned to Baku from China in November 1955. He had had a medical check up here, and then he went to Moscow to the Kremlin Hospital where Academician Petrovski carried out surgery. During the surgery when the doctor examined Vurghun's liver, he realized that it had metastasized. So, he didn't proceed with the surgery and Father returned to Baku in January. Until his death the following May, he mostly stayed in bed.

In 1956 the entire country was planning to celebrate Vurghun's 50th Jubilee.
26 For this reason the honor of National Poet was established and Vurghun became the first poet in Azerbaijan ever to receive this award.27 On May 12, his Jubilee was held in Baku's Opera and Ballet Theater. Father was not able to take part in the ceremony because of his illness, but he dictated a letter for the people that I wrote down. Vurghun's brother Mehdikhan Vakilov read it at the ceremony. He basically thanked the people who had taken part in the ceremony and wished to see them later. He also wished everybody "the dearest gift of the world-health". The letter concluded with two lines of a poem:

"Though my eyes are far from your eyes,
I see the way from my heart to yours."

Two weeks later on May 27, 1956, my Father passed away. Three days his coffin was on display at Philharmonic Hall. So many people came to bid him farewell. He was buried on May 30 in the Cemetery of the Honored Ones-Fakhri Khiyaban. People carried his coffin from there to the cemetery. People watched the procession pass from the streets, the balconies and roofs, and even from the tops of trees.


1 The Vurghun Home Museum was opened on October 6, 1975. Heydar Aliyev, as head of the Communist Party in Azerbaijan and who later became President after independence, took part in the ceremony. The museum is located at 4 T. Aliyarbeyov Street close to the sea in downtown Baku. See the bust of Vurghun on the street level at the corner of the building. The museum is located on the Third Floor. Contact: Tel: (994-12) 93-56-52;

2 Of course, it was the Soviet government that was responsible for assigning all apartments. At that time the government paid considerable attention to its artists. People of Vurghun's stature often were asked to entertain guests from abroad.

3 For the Soviets, World War II officially started on June 21, 1941.

4 Samad Vurghun's three children have all followed careers related to literature: Writer Yusif Samadoghlu (1935-1998), poet Vagif Samadoghlu (born 1939) and professor of literature Aybaniz Vurghun gizi (born 1937). See this issue for literary samples by Yusif and Vagif. Search at and for previous articles and literary works.

5 Mustafa Topchubashov (1895-1981) was one of the most distinguished surgeons during World War II. He and Vurghun were vice presidents of the Azerbaijan Academy of Sciences. See "Mustafa Topchibashov: Legendary Surgeon's 100th Jubilee" by Dr. Gahraman Gahramanov in AI 3.4 (Winter 1995). Search at

6 Kyslovodsk is a health resort in Russia on the Black Sea. During Soviet times, Azerbaijanis used to prefer spending their holidays there.

7 Writer Mehdi Husein (1901-1965) was born in the Gazakh region in northwestern Azerbaijan near the Georgian border where Vurghun also grew up. Husein was Secretary of the Azerbaijan Writers' Union from 1930-1934. Then he became First Secretary from 1934 until his death in 1965. His most famous works include the novels "Absheron", "Sahar" (Morning) and "Black Stones", which are considered to be a trilogy. An excerpt from his novel, "Underground Rivers Flow into the Sea" is published in Azerbaijan International, in the Literature issue, Spring 1999 (AI 7.1). Search at

8 It's not uncommon for people who are starving to appear fat as their bodies are swollen.

9 The Lenin Prize was established in 1925 and was the highest award of the Soviet Union, given for contributions in technology, literature and art but between 1937-1957, the Stalin Prize was the only one awarded. Both Mehdi Husein and Vurghun were Stalin Prize recipients.

10 Uzeyir Hajibeyov (1885-1948) is recognized as the Father of Composed music in Azerbaijan, meaning that he spearheaded much of the movement to commit to writing traditional music, which prior to that was played by ear and improvised. Hajibeyov is dearly loved and respected in Azerbaijan, not only for his musical compositions such as "Arshin Mal Alan" (The Cloth Peddler), O Olmasin, Bu Olsun (If Not This One, That One) and Koroghlu, but for inspiring so many individuals to enter music professionally and for his great humanitarian spirit. See the Web site,, created by Azerbaijan International, which is totally dedicated to his legacy. Hajibeyov suffered from diabetes and that's why he was convalescing in Kyslovodsk.

11 Music ended up playing a significant role for Vagif who went on to study at Baku's Conservatory (now the Music Academy). See the Short Story "Flowers" in this issue which his brother Yusif Samadoghlu dedicated to him and which describes the last days of their father-Samad Vurghun.

12 Uzeyir Hajibeyov died on November 23, 1948. His was the largest funeral that had ever taken place in Azerbaijan.

13 Vurghun was a Deputy of the USS Supreme Soviet from 1946 to 1956 (when he passed away).

14 "Mother, sister, daughter!" Affectionate terms that Azerbaijani fathers often use to address their daughters.

15 Poet Rasul Reza (1910-1981) was the father of Anar, President of the Writers' Union today. For samples of poetry by both him and his wife, Nigar Rafibeyli, see Azerbaijan International, Spring 1999 (AI 7.1). Search at or

16 The year 1937 is known as the height of Stalin's Repression throughout the Soviet Union when tens of thousands of intellectuals were arrested, exiled or executed. Quite a number of Azerbaijani writers suffered such fate as well.

17 Mir Jafar Baghirov was Stalin's right hand man in Azerbaijan as Secretary of the Central Committee of Azerbaijan Communist Party.

18 Luis Aragon (1897-1982) was a French poet, novelist, essayist and political activist for Communism.

19 Sara Ashurbeyli, daughter of Oil Baron Balabey Ashurbeyli who became ostracized during the Soviet period. After getting a chance to become a scholar, she distinguished herself as a historian and wrote several major books related to the history of Baku. See "Legacy of the Oil Barons, Part V: The Ironic Fate of the Ashurbeyli Family" by Fuad Akhundov. AI 4.1(Spring 1996). Search at

20 Pustakhanim Azizbeyova was a historian.

21 Vagif Aslanov (1928-2001), distinguished Azerbaijani linguist. For a tribute to him, see AI 9.3 (Autumn 2001). Search at

22 Turkan Afandiyeva is a philologist. She worked as a head of department of "Russian Language" In Baku State University.

23 Gobustan. See "The Ancient Petroglyphs of Gobustan by Nigar Abbaszade in AI 6.2 (Summer 1998). Search at

24 David Guramshvili, a distinguished Georgian poet (1705-1792). His 250th Jubilee was celebrated in 1955.

25 To tire someone out when dancing is some sort of tradition in the Caucasus, meaning to compete in being able to last the longest in these intense dances.

26 Vurghun was born on March 21, 1906.

27 In 2000, Vurghun's son, Vagif Samadoghlu, was declared a National Poet by President Heydar Aliyev. This was 45 years after Vurghun had been honored as the first recipient of this award.

More Works:

Other articles reflecting some of Samad Vurghun's ideas:
1. "Samad Vurghun (1906-1956) - Poet and Playwright on his 90th Jubilee," by his son Vagif Samadoghlu, AI 4.1 (Spring 1996), pp 20-23.

2. "Stalin's Personality Cult: Three Times I Changed My Mind," by Vagif Samadoghlu, AI 7.3 (Autumn 1999), pp 27-29.

3. "Reading Between the Lines: Personal Reflections on the History of Alphabet Reform in Azerbaijan" by Anar, AI 8.1 (Spring 2000), pp 54-57.

4. "Writers Speak out on Azeri" by Samad Vurghun (Though Vurghun did not want to adopt the Cyrillic alphabet in the late 1930s, because of his position, he had no choice but to embrace the concept and to persuade others to do the same). See AI 8.1 (Spring 2000), pp 57, 72.

Back to Index AI 12.1 (Spring 2004)
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