Uzeyir Hajibeyov and the Pressures of the Stalin Regime (1924-1953]

Interview with Atakhan Pashayev, Director of the Azerbaijan National Archives
Date: April 10, 2002
Conducted by Betty Blair, Editor of Azerbaijan International Magazine
Translated by Aynura Huseinova

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There's a joke that people tell about Molla Nasraddin [comic sage of the Middle Ages in Azerbaijan and the region]. It goes like this: Teymur [Tamerlane] presents one sheep to a peasant and orders him to bring it back after a year. But during this period he insists that the sheep must neither gain nor lose a single kilo. The poor peasant puzzles about what to do. While thinking, he bumps intothe Molla. The Molla sees that the peasant is in a very bad mood and asks him what has happened. The peasant explains and adds that he doesn't know what to do. The Molla says: "Feed the sheep as much as you want, but show it to a wolf once a day."

That's the way it was with our intellectuals. Uzeyir Hajibeyov lived in fear all his life because he knew that his brother Jeyhun living in France was constantly writing against the Soviet Union.

[Note: Jeyhun Hajibeyli (1991-1962), Uzeyir's younger brother, was a member of the Musavat Party that held office from 1918-1920 as the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic office (ADR). In 1919, Jeyhun, aged 28, had gone to Paris as a journalist and translator with representatives of the ADR to sign the Versailles Treaty. Bolsheviks took Baku on April 28, 1920, and fearing for his life, Jeyhun dared not return. So he spent the rest of his years in exile separated from the rest of they Hajibeyov family.

When the Soviets took Azerbaijan, Uzeyir was on the list of people who were supposed to be executed first. But he was lucky. The first time Hajibeyov's life was spared was due to Nariman Narimanov, head of the Revolution Committee. At the time, Hajibeyov was the Founder of the Music Conservatory and Director of the Music Department of the Art department of the State Education Commissariat.

But even though Hajibeyov had created the Conservatory, they dismissed him from the conservatory and assigned him as a principal at a music school. After a while he was dismissed from there, too. They claimed that his earlier pieces didn't meet the demands of time. They were outdated, so they needed someone else to replace him. So they invited Gliere from Moscow and brought him to Azerbaijan to compose modern music.

When Gliere (1875-1956) and Korogichiev composed 10 pieces of Azeri music, the Azerbaijan Commissariat for National Education deemed it a great success. But Muslim Magomayev (1885-1937) said: "What Gliere and Korogichiev have done for Azeri music today, Uzeyir Hajibeyov did 15 years ago." [Gliere wrote the opera "Shah Sanan" in Baku in 1934]. Azerbaijani composers like Gara Garayev [1918-1982], Fikrat Amirov (1922-1984), and Tofig Guliyev (1917-2000) ended up following Hajibeyov's style of Azerbaijani music.

During the years of the Stalinist Repression (the 1930s), Uzeyir was also one of the intended victims. It was 1937, and the "Decade of Azerbaijan Art" was to be held the following year in Moscow. Mir Jafar Baghirov, Stalin's right hand man in Azerbaijan, wanted to take something to the Decade, but they couldn't find anything. Hajibeyov had just finished writing his opera "Koroghlu" (1932-1937). While discussing the program, Stalin said that he would like to watch the "Auntie" by which he meant the aunt in "Arshin Mal Alan" (the Music Comedy, The Cloth Peddler), which he had seen before and liked very much. The character of the aunt (Askar's aunt) had stuck in his mind.

When Stalin saw "Koroghlu" at the Decade concert in Moscow, he was so impressed that he awarded Hajibeyov with the order of "Soviet People's Artist" as well as "The Lenin Order" which was the highest honor to which any musician could aspire. When Hajibeyov was asked if he were a member of the Communist Party, he answered, no. Then Stalin ordered that he should be admitted to the Party automatically. This made Hajibeyov the first person to be admitted to the Party under the orders of Stalin without having to go through the pre-membership procedures. It seems that God helped him and, therefore, Mir Jafar Baghirov couldn't do anything to him during the Repression. So this was the second time that Hajibeyov was spared.

Here at the National Archives in Baku, we have a lot of anonymous letters written by Armenians against Hajibeyov. They were directed to Baghirov. Their argued that Hajibeyov had been editor of the newspaper "Azerbaijan" and had written a lot of articles against the Soviet system in his newspaper. But when they discussed it, Baghirov completely objected .

Today Azerbaijan owes so much to Hajibeyov for the nation's musical success, since it was he who laid the foundation for Azerbaijani music. We especially owe him for the work he did on the theory of music. He prepared the theoretical essentials of Azerbaijani music in his book, "The Principles of Azerbaijan Folk Music," 1945.

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