Bakhtiyar Vahabzadeh

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Bakhtiyar Vahabzadeh
Born (1925-08-16)August 16, 1925
Died February 13, 2009(2009-02-13) (aged 83)

Bakhtiyar Vahabzadeh (Azerbaijani: Bəxtiyar Vahabzadə; Turkish: Bahtiyar Vahapzade; August 16, 1925 – February 13, 2009) was an Azerbaijani poet, dramatist, lyricist and translator as well as a college professor and politician.[1] He is often regarded as the second greatest contemporary poet of Azerbaijan, after Samed Vurgun.[citation needed]


Vahabzadeh was born in 1925 in Nukha (now Sheki) where his bust now stands on a central square. With his family he moved to Baku in 1934 and later studied philology at Azerbaijan State University. He would remain there as a professor till 1990 except during 1962-1964 when expelled for nationalist leanings. During that time he survived dire poverty by selling his wife's jewellery.[2] They had three children, Gulzar, Isfandiyar and Azer. Isfandiyar was named Azerbaijan's ambassador to Moldova.[3] Vahabzadeh died in Baku on February 13, 2009, aged 83.[4] His memorial celebration was attended by the President of Azerbaijan.[5]

Literary career[edit]

Vahabzadeh presented his doctoral thesis on the Azerbaijani poet Samed Vurgun in 1951. In 1952, afraid that his anti-Stalin sentiments and critical sentiments towards certain elements of the post WWII Soviet system would be discovered, he destroyed the majority of his early poetic works, albeit keeping just a small sample by hiding the manuscripts in his mother's prosthetic leg.[6]

Over his career he wrote on numerous themes, notably country (Azerbaijan), family, nature, language and freedom.[7] For years his articles and poems appeared in the review Türk Edebiyatı having gained acclaim in Turkey for Yel Kaya'dan Ne Aparır? (What Does the Wind Steal from the Stone?), an article published in Varlık that set out to answer critics of the medieval poet Fuzûlî.

Vahabzadeh won the Azerbaijan SSR state prize as honoured arts worker in 1974, won the state award for the whole USSR in 1984 and was named People's Poet a year later.[8] In 2002, Vahabzadeh received the Commodore Medal from the Romanian Ministry of Culture for his poetry book titled Benim Garibim (My Poor).

Poetry and Long Verse[edit]

Among his best known long verses, Yollar-Oğullar (Roads-Sons) was dedicated to the Algerian Independence Movement, and the Mugam celebrated Azerbaijan's best known composer Üzeyir Hacıbeyli. Many of Vahabzade's works had a political edge that purported to criticise inadequacies of the USSR's Western enemies while in fact having underlying resonances with problems back home. Thus Latin Dili (Latin Language, 1967), written in reaction to a visit to Morocco noted how local people, like Azeris in the USSR, were forced to use a non-native language (i.e. French rather than Arabic). Latin Dili thereupon highlights the irony that elsewhere there's a language (Latin) that remains widely used despite no longer belonging to any living culture. This nearly got Vahabzadeh in trouble with the KGB but it could not be proven that the poem's subtext was Azerbaijan not Morocco as he claimed.[9] In a similar vein, the 1972 poem Dawn examined the USA's McCarthy-era attacks on pacifist scientist Linus Pauling[10] while unspokenly reflecting a similar sense of political paranoia in the Soviet Union.

Other well-known poetic works and collections include:

  • Menim Dostlarım (My Friends, 1949)
  • Bahar (Spring, 1950)
  • Dostlug Nağmesi (Book of Friendship, 1953)
  • Ebedî Heykel (Eternal Statue, 1954)
  • Çınar (Plane Tree, 1956)
  • Sade Adamlar (Plain Men, 1956)
  • Ceyran (Currency, 1957)
  • Aylı Geceler (Nights at Moon, 1958)
  • Şairin Kitaphanası (Library of a Poet, 1961)
  • E'tiraf (Confession, 1962)
  • İnsan ve Zaman (Man and Time, 1964)
  • Seçilmiş Eserler (Selected Works, 1967)
  • Kökler-Budağlar (Roots and Branches, 1968)
  • Deniz-Sahil (Sea-Coast, 1969)
  • Bindörtyüzonaltı (Fourteen sixteen, 1970)
  • Dam Yeri (On the Roof, 1974)
  • Seçilmiş Eserleri (Selected Works, 2 volumes, 1975)
  • Yücelikte Tenhalık (Tranquility in Eminence, 1998)
  • Benim Garibim (My Strange, 2002)


His best known plays include İkinci Ses (The Second Sound, 1991), Yağışdan Sonra (After the Rain), Artığ Adam (Waste Man) and Vicdan (Conscience).

Several works including İkinci Ses have been translated into Turkish by Yavuz Bülent Bakiler. Others include:

  • Feryat (Cry, in verse)
  • Nereye Gidiyor Bu Dünya (Where is the World Going, 1991)
  • Özümüzü Kesen Kılıç-Göktürkler (The Sword on Our Way-Göktürk tribe, 1998; staged by the State Theater, Şinasi Hall, 2000–2001).
  • Reqabet


Vahabzadeh translated into Azerbaijani as Abydos gəlini, Lord Byron's 1813 work Bride of Abydon inspired by travels in Turkey. Vahabzadeh's own poems have been translated into many languages in the Soviet Union as well as into many Turkic languages and into German, French and Persian.

Political and Educational Life[edit]

For over 40 years, from 1951 till retirement in 1990, Vahabzadeh worked at Azerbaijan State University as a professor of “Contemporary Azerbaijani Literature”, albeit with two years gap. In 1980 he became both a member of the Azerbaijani Academy of Sciences and deputy of the Milli Majlis (parliament) of the Azerbaijan SSR. His rise in the political ranks of Soviet Azerbaijan was aided by penning titles such as his 1976 Leninlə Sohbet,[11] but politically he had long been a noted nationalist, suffering a two-year expulsion from his university for publishing the 1959 poem Gulustan in which he drew attention to the division of the Azerbaijani people as a result of the 1813 Treaty of Gulistan.[12][13] Vahabzadeh is cited as one of the figures of the Azerbaijani intelligentsia whose pronouncements in 1988 contributed to the rising tensions between the Azerbaijani and Armenian populations of Shamakhi District that led eventually to the Kərkənc village swap. [14] Having been deputy of the Supreme Soviet of the Republic of Azerbaijan since 1980, Vahabzadeh continued his parliamentary duties following independence gaining election to Azerbaijan's national parliament in 1995 and again in 2000. On 15 April 1995 Vahabzadeh was awarded with the prestigious Istiglal Order for his contributions to the national independence movement of Azerbaijan by the then President of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev.[15]

Bəxtiyar Vahabzadə küç, a major street in Baku's Yasamal district, is named after Vahabzadeh,[16] as is a high school in the Turkish city of Adana.[17] and parks in both Konya and Ankara.[18] Street in Belgrade, Serbia connecting neighborhoods of Banjica and Miljakovac is named "Ulica Bahtijara Vagabzade". It has its own eBird hotspot page.[19]


  1. ^ KONUR,Erdem,"Vatan,Millet ve Anadili Şairi Vahapzade",Dilimiz ve Edebiyatımız
  2. ^ Azerbaijan International Magazine interview with Vahabzadeh in the Autumn 2002 edition (10.3)
  3. ^ IB Vahabzade as ambassador to Moldova
  4. ^ Azerbaijani People’s Poet Bakhtiyar Vahabzadeh dies
  5. ^ President Ilham Aliyev at Vahabzadeh's commemoration in 2009
  6. ^ Vahabzadeh's early poems destroyed or hidden in mother's false leg
  7. ^ KONUR,Erdem,"Vatan,Millet ve Anadili Şairi Vahapzade",
  8. ^ Visions magazine article on Vahabzadeh
  9. ^ Latin Dili
  10. ^ Full text of Dawn
  11. ^ Vahabzade works
  12. ^ Visions magazine article on Vahabzada/eh
  13. ^ Vahabzade showing an original copy of the 1959 Sheki Worker newspaper in which his Gulustan poem was published
  14. ^ Huseynova, Hakobyan & Rumyantsev, BEYOND THE KARABAKH CONFLICT: The Story of Village Exchange p21 quotes the following: …writers, Vakhabzade, and another one, Anar, the Chairman of their Writers’ Union, and also Zeynab Khanlarova, People’s Artist of Armenia, were saying that Armenians were to be forced out… For instance, Vakhabzade himself was saying, 'Why do Shamakhi Armenians not want to leave? They had already taken root there.' On the same day people started to hurl stones at Armenians’ houses in Shamakhi, breaking the windows…
  15. ^ "B. M. Vahabzadənin"İstiqlal" ordeni ilə təltif edilməsi haqqında AZƏRBAYCAN RESPUBLİKASI PREZİDENTİNİN FƏRMANI" [Order of the President of Azerbaijan Republic on awarding B. Vahabzade with Istiglal Order]. Retrieved 2011-01-20. 
  16. ^ Bəxtiyar Vahabzadə küç on
  18. ^ Vahabzade Park Ankara
  19. ^

External links[edit]