Azerbaijan International

Winter 2005 (13.4)

Impact on Azerbaijan
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 Burned

1. "Just 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.

Alphabet Debate
2. "Arabic 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 2000)

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
3. "Writers 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.

4. "Personal 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.


5. "The 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 from Russian
6. "Names. 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.

Personality Cult
7. "Stalin 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.

8. "In 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".

Hamza Abdullayev

9. "Hamza: Singing My Song in the Language of Art". AI 7.2 (Summer 1999)

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.

Kamal Ahmad
10. "Kamal: 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."

Rasim Babayev
11. "Rasim Babayev: The World of Divs and Angels". AI 7.2 (Summer 1999)

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

Javid Mirjavad

12. "Javad 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.

Fazil Najafov
13. "Fazil Najafov: The Expressive Magnificence of Stone". AI 7.2 (Summer 1999)

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.

Togrul Narimanbeyov
14. "Togrul 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."

Alakbar Rezaguliyev
15. "Street Scenes from Yesteryear: The Prints of Alakbar Rezaguliyev". AI 8.2 (Summer 2000)

16. "Art 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.

Ismikhan Rahimov

17. "To Siberia and Back: Life as Political Prisoner SH-971" by Ismikhan Rahimov. AI 7.3 (Autumn 1999)

18. "Tribute: 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 the exceptions.

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
19. "Exile 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.

Meskheti Turks
20. "Exile 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.

21. "Wine 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)

22. "Ali 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 (Iran).

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.

23. "Ali Salimi, Composer of the Song 'Ayrilig' Dies". AI 5.2 (Summer 1997)

Vagif Mustafazade
24. "Emergence of Jazz in Azerbaijan: Vagif Mustafazade: Fusing Jazz with Mugam" by Vagif Samadoghlu. AI 5.4 (Winter 1997)

25. "Mugham 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 Blind Man
26. "The Other 'Koroghlu': Tbilisi Manuscript Sheds Light on Medieval Azerbaijani Hero" by Farid Alakbarli. AI 10.1 (Spring 2002)

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 political agenda.

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.

27. "Koroghlu" (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

28. "Stalin's 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.

Stalin's Funeral
29. "Poet 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 Rasulzade
30. "Mammad 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
31. "The 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
32. Recent 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 II
33. "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.

34. "World 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

35. "Behind 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
36. "The Legend of the Bibi-Heybat Mosque: When Legends Shape Reality Decades Later" by Azad Sharifov. AI 6.3 (Autumn 1998).



Above Left: 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
37. "Media 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 sq km.

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 1990s.

Victims of Stalin's Repressions
ADR Parliament

38. "The 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 members.
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
39. "Secrets - 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
40. "Reviving 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
41. "Husein Javid: The Night Father Was Arrested" by his daughter, Turan Javid. AI 4.1 (Spring 1996)

42. "Husein Javid: Aliyev Memorializes a Literary Giant". AI 4.4 (Winter 1996)

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 1996.

Haji Khanmammadov, Composer
43. "Famous People: Then & Now: Haji Khanmammadov". AI 7.4 (Winter 1999)

44. "Tribute: Haji Khanmammadov: Composed the First Concerto for Tar and Symphony" by Matt O'Brien. AI 13.2 (Summer 2005)

45. "Tribute: 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.

Kirov, Bolshevik Leader
46. "Best 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.

Novruz Holiday

47. "Novruz...Celebration 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.

Above: 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

48. "Reviving 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
49. "KGB 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, Actor
50. "Reviving 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 preserved.

Lotfi Zadeh, Scientist - Creator of Fuzzy Logic
51. "Lotfi 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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