Azerbaijan International

Autumn 2004 (12.3)


This past summer, Ramiz Abutalibov brought his own personal copy of the 1943 Italian edition of "Ali and Nino" to our office in Baku. Like many other Azerbaijanis, Ramiz was concerned about the true identity of the author who goes by the penname Kurban Said. Ramiz' genuine interest in all things cultural started the wheels rolling and via the Internet, we soon began a fascinating journey that led us to discover that the book had been published much more widely than we could ever have dreamed - at least, 21[now 29] languages with more than 100 editions or reprints. Page 54 and following.

Veteran librarian Diane Childs of UCLA (University of California at Los Angeles), who has been on faculty exchanges twice to Azerbaijan, assisted in the tedious research on the Internet and UCLA data bases to find editions of "Ali & Nino" by Kurban Said [Gurban Sayid] that are published throughout the world. Her expertise in combing the databases and understanding the intricacies of numbering system of the ISBN (International Standardized Book Number) helped us to identify 21 [now 29] languages [update: June 2005, 21 languages], making this book, undoubtedly, the most widely published work in the history of Azerbaijan. Page 56. (Coming soon)

Politically concerned artist Mir Teymur claims that his own ancestors have lived in Ichari Shahar (Baku's Old City) for the past 800 years. Maybe that's why he's so committed to the preservation of its architectural integrity, and to development that preserves, not destroys, its picturesque character. He's the one who made us realize that the Old City is more than buildings; it's a living, vibrant community. For ceramics, watercolor and pen graphics related to the Old City, contact Mir Teymur: (994-12) 492-8805, Mobile: (994-55) 777-3738. See Page 32.

Farid Alakbarov is a medical historian who grew up in the Old City in the 1960s. It was his grandmother featured in this issue - Khadija Aghabeyli - who got him curious about the Arabic script, which was the official alphabet in Baku in her day. Farid, who now does research at Baku's Manuscript Institute found the 14th century manuscript by the scholar Bakuvi, describing what Baku was like 500 years ago. Page 46. He also shares segments of his grandmother's diary, which give us a flavor of the Old City just prior to the Bolshevik occupation in 1920. Page 48.

Is there any artist in Baku who has never painted scenes from the Old City? We doubt it. But we were particularly attracted to Mahmud Mahmudzade's watercolor for the front cover. He chose shades of autumn brown juxtaposed with the eternal green of cypress trees to embody the old, ageless character of the Old City. In a dry dusty climate, with its scorching hot temperatures, Mahmud's brush captures the vitality of objects that have withstood the test of time. See his works at Contact Mahmud to visit his studio: Mobile: (994-50) 325-0208, Home: (994-12) 438-6220, Email:

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