Mirza Fatali Akhundov

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Mirza Fatali Akhundov
Born (1812-07-12)12 July 1812
Nukha, Shaki Khanate
Died 9 March 1878(1878-03-09) (aged 65)
Tiflis, Tiflis Governorate
Occupation Playwright, philosopher

Mirza Fatali Akhundov (Azerbaijani: Mirzə Fətəli Axundov), formerly Akhundzade (12 July 1812, Nukha – 9 March 1878, Tiflis), was a celebrated Azerbaijani author, playwright, philosopher, and founder of modern literary criticism,[1] "who acquired fame primarily as the writer of European-inspired plays in the Azeri Turkic language".[2] Akhundov singlehandedly opened a new stage of development of Azerbaijani literature and is also considered one of the founders of modern Iranian literature. He was also the founder of materialism and atheism movement in Azerbaijan[3] and one of forerunners of modern Iranian nationalism.[4]


Akhundov was born in 1812 in Nukha (present-day Shaki, Azerbaijan) to a wealthy land owning family from Iranian Azerbaijan. His parents, and especially his uncle Haji Alaskar, who was Fatali's first teacher, prepared young Fatali for a career in Shi'a clergy, but the young man was attracted to the literature. In 1832, while in Ganja, Akhundov came into contact with the poet Mirza Shafi Vazeh, who introduced him to a Western secular thought and discouraged him from pursuing a religious career.[5] Later in 1834 Akhunddov moved to Tiflis (present-day Tbilisi, Georgia), where he worked as a translator of Oriental languages. Since 1837 he worked as a teacher in Tbilisi uezd Armenian school, then in Nersisyan school[1]. In Tiflis his acquaintance and friendship with the exiled Russian Decembrists Alexander Bestuzhev-Marlinsky, Vladimir Odoevsky, poet Yakov Polonsky, Armenian writers Khachatur Abovian[2], Gabriel Sundukyan and others played some part in formation of Akhundov's Europeanized outlook.

Grave monument of Akhundov in Tbilisi

Akhundov's first published work was The Oriental Poem (1837) written to lament the death of the great Russian poet Alexander Pushkin. But the rise of Akhundov's literary activity comes in the 1850s. In the first half of the 1850s, Akhundov wrote six comedies – the first comedies in Azerbaijani literature as well as the first samples of the national dramaturgy. The comedies by Akhundov are unique in their critical pathos, analysis of the realities in Azerbaijan of the first half of the 19th century. These comedies found numerous responses in the Russian other foreign periodical press. The German Magazine of Foreign Literature called Akhundov "dramatic genius", "the Azerbaijani Molière" 1. Akhundov's sharp pen was directed against everything that hindered the way of progress, freedom and enlightement, and at the same time his comedies were imbued with the feeling of faith in the bright future of the Azerbaijani people.

In 1859 Akhundov published his short but famous novel The Deceived Stars. In this novel he laid the foundation of Azerbaijani realistic historical prose, giving the models of a new genre in Azerbaijani literature. By his comedies and dramas Akhundov established realism as the leading trend in Azerbaijani literature.

In the 1920s, the Azerbaijan State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre was named after Akhundov.

According to Professor Ronald Grigor Suny:

According to Professor Tadeusz Swietochowski:

Akhundov also supported the Russian empire. According to Walter Kolarz:

Iranian nationalism[edit]

Akhundzadeh, Mirza Aqa Khan Kermani and Jalal al Din Mirza Qajar are the forerunners of intellectual romantic Iranian nationalism.[8] Akhundzadeh proudly identified himself as being of Persian stock (nežād-e Irāni), belonging to the nation of Iran (mellat-e Irān) and to the Iranian homeland ( waṭan ). He influenced Jālāl-al-Din Mirzā (a son of Bahman Mirza Qajar) through friendship and correspondence as well as Mirza Aqa Khan Kermani. Jalāl al-Dīn Mirza (1826–70), a Qajar prince, initiated the reconstruction of Iranian national history in his Nāma-ye Khosravan (Book of the Monarchs), the first history textbook for Dar ul-Funun in simple Persian, purified of Arabic words.Mirza Aqa Khan Kermani (1854–96) followed Jalāl-al-Din Mirzā in producing a national history of Iran, Āʾina-ye sekandari, extending from the mythological past to the Qajar era, to compare and contrast Iran’s glorious past with its present plight.[8]

Alphabet Reform[edit]

Well ahead of his time, Akhundov was a keen advocate for alphabet reform, recognizing deficiencies of Perso-Arabic script with regards to Turkic sounds. He began his work regarding alphabet reform in 1850. His first efforts focused on modifying the Perso-Arabic script so that it would more adequately satisfy the phonetic requirements of the Azerbaijani language. First, he insisted that each sound be represented by a separate symbol - no duplications or omissions. The Perso-Arabic script expresses only three vowel sounds, whereas Azeri needs to identify nine vowels. Later, he openly advocated the change from Perso-Arabic to a modified Latin alphabet. The Latin script which was used in Azerbaijan between 1922 and 1939, and the Latin script which is used now, were based on Akhundov's third version.


Azerbaijan State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre named after Akhundov

Beside of his role in Azerbaijani literature and Iranian nationalism, Akhundzadeh was also known for his harsh criticisms of religions (mainly Islam) and stays as the most iconic Azerbaijani atheist.[9] National Library of Azerbaijan and Azerbaijan State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre as well as couple of streets, parks and libraries are also named after Akhundov in Azerbaijan. A cultural museum in Tbilisi, Georgia that focuses on Georgian-Azerbaijani cultural relations is also named after him.

Punik, town in Armenia was also named in the honour of Akhundov until very recently. TURKSOY hosted a groundbreaking ceremony to declare 2012 as year of Mirza Fatali Akhundov.


He published many works on literary criticism:

  • Qirītīkah ("Criticism")
  • Risālah-i īrād ("Fault-finding treatise")
  • Fann-i kirītīkah ("Art of criticism")
  • Darbārah-i Mullā-yi Rūmī va tasnīf-i ū ("On Rumi and his work")
  • Darbārah-i nazm va nasr ("On verse and prose")
  • Fihrist-i kitāb ("Preface to the book")
  • Maktūb bih Mīrzā Āqā Tabrīzī ("Letter to Mīrzā Āqā Tabrīzī")
  • Uṣūl-i nigārish ("Principles of writing")

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Parsinejad, Iraj. A History of Literary Criticism in Iran (1866-1951). Bethesda, MD: Ibex, 2003. p. 44.
  2. ^ Millar, James R. Encyclopedia of Russian History. MacMillan Reference USA. p. 23. ISBN 0-02-865694-6. 
  3. ^ M. Iovchuk (ed.) et el. [The Philosophical and Sociological Thought of the Peoples of the USSR in the 19th Century http://www.biografia.ru/about/filosofia46.html]. Moscow: Mysl, 1971.
  4. ^ a b Tadeusz Swietochowski, Russia and Azerbaijan: A Borderland in Transition (New York: Columbia University Press), 1995, page 27-28:
  5. ^ Shissler, A. Holly (2003). Between Two Empires: Ahmet Agaoglu and the New Turkey. I.B. Tauris. p. 104. ISBN 1-86064-855-X. 
  6. ^ Ronald Grigor Suny Looking Toward Ararat: Armenia in Modern History. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana State University, 1993. page 25
  7. ^ Kolarz W. Russian and Her Colonies. London . 1953. pp 244-245
  8. ^ a b Ashraf, AHMAD. "IRANIAN IDENTITY iv. 19TH-20TH CENTURIES". Encyclopædia Iranica. Retrieved 18 September 2011. 
  9. ^ Ахундов М. Ф. - Великие люди - Атеисты

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