Mirza Alakbar Sabir

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Alakbar Zeynalabdin oglu Tahirzadeh
Sabir.jpg
Born 30 May
Shamakhy, Azerbaijan
Died 12 July (aged 49)
Shamakhy, Azerbaijan
Pen name Mirat, Sabir, Hop-Hop, Fasil
Nationality Azerbaijani
Period 1903-1911
Genres Lyric poetry, Satire, Literary realism

Mirza Alakbar Sabir (Azerbaijani: Mirzə Ələkbər Sabir), born Alakbar Zeynalabdin oglu Tahirzadeh (30 May 1862, Shamakhy – 12 July 1911, Shamakhy). Sabir was a public figure, philosopher, teacher and a poet-innovator. He set up an inspiring attitude to classical traditions, rejecting well-trodden ways in poetry. Never before did the people’s attitude to the world, the voice of Azeri people find so splendid and complete an embodiment, devoid of stylization, as in Sabir’s writings.

The artistic thought of the Azerbaijani people found its fullest epic completeness and perfection in Fuzûlî's works. They have been examples of the lyric to this day, and the satirical trend in Azerbaijani literature, and especially in poetry. All of this is inseparable from the name of Sabir – the true symbol of Azeri realistic poetry.

Sabir was brought up in a patriarchal-religious atmosphere. But when he was twelve years old, young Alakbar managed to enter the school of Seyid Azim Shirvani, a brilliant poet and teacher. Personal contacts with this man greatly influenced formation of Sabir as a poet.Encouraged by Seyid Azim, Sabir began translating Persian poetry and wrote poems in Azeri.

A monument of Mirza Alakbar Sabir. The statue, sculpted by J. Garyagdy, is located in a park adjacent to the walls of the Old City in Baku.

Throughout all his life poverty was Sabir’s curse. He was bound to take care of his family’s welfare, barely earning a living for himself and his household. No time was left for literary activity, the more so as the spectre of poverty took a more and more distinct shape. Sabir tried to become a merchant, but the poet’s spirit was badly suited for this job and he did not succeed. Instead, he traveled a lot about Central Asia and the Middle East. It seems that his traveling about the Moslem East strengthened his desire to write satirical works, since he saw the appalling situation of the people, their backwardness and stagnant life.

The Russian Revolution of 1905 had a powerful effect on Sabir’s writing, infusing it with a revolutionary spirit. This revolution, which was followed by the spreading of democratic trends throughout the Russian Empire, marked the beginning of a new era in Sabir’s literary activity. The shock waves of upheaval brought about a host of satirical publications. The most prominent of them was the Molla Nasraddin magazine, which was popular all over the Caucasus, Middle East and Central Asia, its publisher being a great enlightener of Jalil Mammadguluzadeh. It was with this journal that Sabir’s best, most creative mature years are associated. His pen did not miss a single political event, a single problem typical for the still the feudal-patriarchal Azerbaijani society and he embodied his ideas in stirring, thought-provoking images. Sabir’s verses were merciless. He wrote about the arbitrariness of Tsarist officials, landowners and beys ignorant to their people, the backwardness of the clergy, the down-trodden status of women and the social situation of the working people. Sabir’s poetry won him the people’s respect and tremendous popularity, at the same time, placing him in a very risky and dangerous position. He was exposed to persecution, attacks and insults of the officials, mullahs and qochus (bouncers), who threatened him with reprisals. That’s why Sabir (this pen-name means patience) had more than fifty pen-name. But even this could not help him from escape from persecution.

Poverty, overstrain, endless cares of his large family and persecution, which wore out the poet’s nerves had not passed without leaving a trace on his health. He boiled soap for a living and was often ill. In 1910 Sabir’s disease of the liver took a serious turn that turned out to be irreversible. Even when ill, Sabir continued to write. Not long before his death he said to his friends who stood at his bed-side: "I laid my flesh down for my people. But if God would give me more time, I would lay my bones down too..."

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