Azerbaijan International

Autumn 2005 (13.3)
Pages 62-63

Nature of Man

Uzeyir Hajibeyov - Composer (1885-1948)

Uzeyir HajibeyovDuring 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 basis.

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 in Azerbaijan.

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.

What Next?
"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."

Unwarranted Intrusion
"When is a person like a guest in his own house?"
"When the police search it."

Be Foxy
"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 you."

Self Reliance
"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..."

The Blind
"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 them?!"

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 them."

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