Mirza Fatali Akhundov

Mirza Fatali Akhundov (Azerbaijani: Mirzə Fətəli Axundov; Persian: میرزا فتحعلی آخوندزاده‎), also known as Mirza Fatali Akhundzade, or Mirza Fath-Ali Akhundzadeh (12 July 1812 – 9 March 1878), was a celebrated Iranian Azerbaijani[1] author, playwright, ultra-nationalist, philosopher, and founder of Azerbaijani modern literary criticism,[2] "who acquired fame primarily as the writer of European-inspired plays in the Azeri Turkic language".[3]

Mirza Fatali Akhundov
Mirzə Fətəli Axundov.jpg
Born(1812-07-12)12 July 1812
Nukha, Shaki Khanate, Qajar Iran
Died9 March 1878(1878-03-09) (aged 65)
Tiflis, Tiflis Governorate, Russian Empire
OccupationPlaywright, philosopher

Akhundzade singlehandedly opened a new stage of development of Azerbaijani literature. He was also the founder of the materialism and atheism movement in the Republic of Azerbaijan[4] and one of forerunners of modern Iranian nationalism.[5] He wrote in Azerbaijani, Persian and Russian.[6] According to the historian and political scientist Zaur Gasimov, the entirety of Akhundzadeh's intellectual landscape was "densely entangled with Persian thought".[7] Akhundzadeh defined his kinsmen as Turki but at the same time considered Iran his fatherland.[8]

LifeEdit

Akhundzade was born in 1812 in Nukha (present-day Shaki, Azerbaijan) to a wealthy landowning family from Iranian Azerbaijan. He was ethnically an Azerbaijani.[9][10] 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, Akhundzade came into contact with the poet Mirza Shafi Vazeh, who introduced him to Western secular thought and discouraged him from pursuing a religious career.[11] Later in 1834 Akhundzade moved to Tiflis (present-day Tbilisi, Georgia), and spent the rest of his life working as a translator of Oriental languages in the service of the Russian Empire's Viceroyalty. Concurrently, from 1837 onwards 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 Odoyevsky, poet Yakov Polonsky, Armenian writers Khachatur Abovian,[2] Gabriel Sundukyan and others played some part in the formation of Akhundzade's Europeanized outlook.

Akhundzade'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 Akhundzade's literary activity comes in the 1850s. In the first half of the 1850s, Akhundzade wrote six comedies – the first comedies in Azerbaijani literature as well as the first samples of the national dramaturgy. The comedies by Akhundzade 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 Akhundzade "dramatic genius", "the Azerbaijani Molière" 1. Akhundzade's sharp pen was directed against everything that he believed hindered the advance of the Russian Empire, which for Akhundzadeh was a force for modernisation, in spite of the atrocities it committed in its southern advance against Akhundzadeh's own kin.[12] According to Walter Kolarz:

The greatest Azerbaidzhani poet of the nineteenth century, Mirza Fathali Akhundov (1812-78), who is called the "Molière of the Orient", was so completely devoted to the Russian cause that he urged his compatriots to fight Turkey during the Crimean War.[13]

In 1859 Akhundzade 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. Through his comedies and dramas, Akhundzade established realism as the leading trend in Azerbaijani literature.

According to Ronald Grigor Suny:

Turkish nationalism, which developed in part as a reaction to the nationalism of the Christian minorities [of the Ottoman Empire], was, like Armenian nationalism, heavily influenced by thinkers who lived and were educated in the Russian Empire. The Crimean Tatar Ismail Bey Gasprinski and the Azerbaijani writer Mirza Fath Ali Akhundzade inspired Turkish intellectuals in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.[14]

According to Tadeusz Swietochowski:

In his glorification of the pre-Islamic greatness of Iran, before it was destroyed at the hands of the "hungry, naked and savage Arabs, "Akhundzada was one of the forerunners of modern Iranian nationalism, and of its militant manifestations at that. Nor was he devoid of anti-Ottoman sentiments, and in his spirit of the age-long Iranian Ottoman confrontation, he ventured into his writing on the victory of Shah Abbas I over the Turks at Baghdad. Akhundzade is counted as one of the founders of modern Iranian literature, and his formative influence is visible in such major Persian-language writers as Malkum Khan, Mirza Agha Khan and Mirza Abdul-Rahim Talibov Tabrizi. All of them were advocates of reforms in Iran. If Akhundzade had no doubt that his spiritual homeland was Iran, Azerbaijan was the land he grew up and whose language was his native tongue. His lyrical poetry was written in Persian, but his work carries messages of social importance as written in the language of the people of his native land, Azari. With no indication of split-personality, he combined larger Iranian identity with Azerbaijani – he used the term vatan (fatherland) in reference to both.[5]

Reza Zia-Ebrahimi too considers Akhundzade as the founding father of what he calls 'dislocative nationalism' in Iran. According to Zia-Ebrahimi, Akhundzade found inspiration in Orientalist templates to construct a vision of ancient Iran, which offered intellectuals disgruntled with the pace of modernist reform in Iran, a self-serving narrative where all of Iran's shortcomings are blamed on a monolithic and otherized 'other': the Arab. For Zia-Ebrahimi, Akhundzade must be credit with the introduction of ethno-racial ideas, particularly the opposition between the Iranian Aryan and the Arab Semite, into Iran's intellectual debates. Zia-Ebrahimi disputes that Akhundzade had any influence on modernist intellectuals such as Malkum Khan (beyond a common project to reform the Alphabet used to write Persian) or Talibov Tabrizi. His real heir was Kermani, and these two intellectuals' legacy is to be found in the ethnic nationalism of the Pahlavi state, rather than the civic nationalism of the Constitutional movement.[15]

Whilst Akundzadeh is said to have been atheist, but he was very sympathetic to the Zoroastrian religion and was in correspondence with Manekji Limji Hataria.[16][17]

"Although I am apparently a Turk’, Akhundzadeh stated in a letter to Maneckji, a leader of Zoroastrians in Tehran, ‘I am a Persian by race."

At that time the Qajar dynasty was in great crisis as a consequence of their failures against the Russian empire and the British, and their corruption and mismanagement.[16] This gave rise to the Constitutional movement. According to these intellectuals Iran needed political change to a constitutional parliamentarian model of governance. But for some intellectuals like Akhundzadeh this was not enough.[16]

He argued that the Arabs and Islam were responsible for the downturn of the Iranian civilization and argued that Iranians should look back to their glorious pre-islamic civilization. In the Maktubàt-e Kamàl od-Dowleh beh Shàhzadeh Jamàl od-Dowleh (Letters from Kamal od-Dowleh to Prince Jalal od-Dowleh, 1860, hereafter Maktubàt) his vision on the glorious pre-islamic past is portrayed. Just like Jalal ed-Din Mirza Qajar, with who corresponded, he argued that Arabic loanwords, alphabet and islam should be removed. If this is accomplished, then according to him Iran can return to its glorious state. He was the first to compilation these ideas into a coherent nationalist ideology, which makes him the father of Iranian nationalism. Akhundzadeh was also an atheist, but he made an exception for Zoroastrianism, which he saw as a great religion and the true Iranian religion. He hoped that it would one day replace Islam again and so tried to promote it with his Maktubàt.[16]

"The ‘Sultans of Islam’ will be ‘kinder to your kin than to their own brother and father’. They ‘will deplore the fact that they did not know you until today and that throughout the history of Islam they have supported and admired Arabs, who are their enemies ... who destroyed their country’, rather than Zoroastrians who are ‘their brothers, who speak the same language [sic], their compatriots, the living memory of their glorious forefathers, and their guardian angels".[16]

Akhundzadeh was under the spell of what seems to be Manekji’s archaistic charisma, a sort of magnetism stemming from the special knowledge of the glorious past that he was perceived to possess. Akhundzadeh put him on a pedestal because he saw him as an emissary of this Golden Age for which he and Jalal ed-Din Mirza longed, as if Manekji had just walked out of a time machine. In another letter, this admiration of Manekji becomes more evident: ‘my wish is that . . .Iranians knew that we are the children of the Parsis, that our home is Iran, that zeal, honour, idealism and our celestial aspirations demand that we favour our kin. . . rather than alien bloodthirsty bandits’ (Akhundzadeh to Manekji, 29 July1871, in Mohammadzadeh and Arasli 1963:249, emphasis added). It is very revealing that Akhundzadeh called Iranians the ‘children’ of the Parsis. He accorded Parsis a genealogical ascendancy that can only be explained by the fact that he considered them as a kind of pure Iranians uncontaminated by Arabs and Islam, who should be ‘followed’ by the contemporary debased Muslim lot. He then added that ‘my appearance is that of a Turk, but I am of the Parsis’ race’.[16]

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

Iranian nationalismEdit

Akhundzade identified himself as belonging to the nation of Iran (mellat-e Irān) and to the Iranian homeland (vaṭan). He corresponded with Jālāl-al-Din Mirzā (a minor Qajar prince, son of Bahman Mirza Qajar,1826–70) and admired this latter's epic Nāmeh-ye Khosrovān ('Book of Sovereigns'), which was an attempt to offer the modern reader biography of Iran's ancient kings, real and mythical, without recourse to any Arabic loanword. The Nāmeh presented the pre-Islamic past as one of grandeur, and the advent of Islam as a radical rupture.[18]

For Zia-Ebrahimi, Akhundzade is the founder of what he refers to as 'dislocative nationalism'. Zia-Ebrahimi defines dislocative nationalism as

'an operation that takes place in the realm of the imagination, an operation whereby the Iranian nation is dislodged from its empirical reality as a majority-Muslim society situated – broadly – in the "East". Iran is presented as an Aryan nation adrift, by accident, as it were, from the rest of its fellow Aryans (read: Europeans).'[19]

Dislocative nationalism is thus predicated on more than a total distinction between supposedly Aryan Iranians and Semitic Arabs, as it is suggested that the two races are incompatible and in opposition to each other. These ideas are directly indebted to nineteenth-century racial thought, particularly the Aryan race hypothesis developed by European comparative philologists (a hypothesis that Zia-Ebrahimi discusses at length [20]). Dislocative nationalism presents the pre-Islamic past as the site of a timeless Iranian essence, dismisses the Islamic period as one of decay, and blames all of Iran's shortcomings in the nineteenth and later the twentieth century on Arabs and the adoption of Islam. The advent of Islam is thus ethnicised into an 'Arab invasion' and perceived as a case of racial contamination or miscegenation. According to Zia-Ebrahimi, dislocative nationalism does not, in itself, offer a blueprint for reforming the state beyond calls to eliminate what it arbitrarily defines as the legacy of Arabs: Islam and Arabic loanwords.

Mirza Aqa Khan Kermani (1854–96) was one of Akhundzades disciples, and three decades later will endeavour to disseminate Akhundzade's thought while also significantly strengthening its racial content (Zia-Ebrahimi argues that Kermani was the first to retrieve the idea of 'the Aryan race' from European texts and refer to it as such, the modern idea of race here being different from the various cognates of the term 'Ariya' that one finds in ancient sources). Mirza Aqa Khan Kermani also followed Jalāl-al-Din Mirzā in producing a national history of Iran, Āʾine-ye sekandari (The Alexandrian Mirror), extending from the mythological past to the Qajar era, again to contrast a mythified and fantasised pre-Islamic past with a present that falls short of nationalist expectations.[21]

Zia-Ebrahimi sees dislocative nationalism as the dominant paradigm of identity in modern Iran, as it became part and parcel of the official ideology of the Pahlavi State (1925–79) and thus disseminated through mass-schooling, propaganda, and the state's symbolic repertoire.

Alphabet reformEdit

Well ahead of his time, Akhundzade 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 Akhundzade's third version.

FamilyEdit

His parents' was Mirza Mahammad Taghi (born in Khamaneh) and Nane Khanum.[10] He married to Tubu Khanum, his mother's cousin in 1842. He had 13 children of whom only 2 (Nisa and Rashid) reached maturity. His second marriage was to Nazli Beyim, a descendant of Javad Khan, with whom he fathered Sayrabayim. He married off both Nisa and Sayrabayim to Khan Baba Mirza from Bahmani family. His grandson Fatali was purged in 1938.

LegacyEdit

Besides 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.[22] National Library of Azerbaijan and Azerbaijan State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre, as well as a couple of streets, parks, and libraries, are also named after Akhundzade in Azerbaijan. A cultural museum in Tbilisi, Georgia that focuses on Georgian-Azerbaijani cultural relations is also named after him.

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

BibliographyEdit

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")

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^
    • ĀḴŪNDZĀDA ĀḴŪNDZĀDA (in Soviet usage, AKHUNDOV), MĪRZĀ FATḤ-ʿALĪ (1812–78), Azerbaijani playwright and propagator of alphabet reform; also, one of the earliest and most outspoken atheists to appear in the Islamic world. According to his own autobiographical account (first published in Kaškūl, Baku, 1887, nos. 43–45, and reprinted in M. F. Akhundov, Alefbā-ye ǰadīd va maktūbāt, ed. H. Moḥammadzāda and Ḥ. Ārāslī, Baku, 1963, pp. 349–55), Āḵūndzāda was born in 1812 (other documents give 1811 and 1814) in the town of Nūḵa, in the part of Azerbaijan that was annexed by Russia in 1828. His father, Mīrzā Moḥammad-Taqī, had been kadḵodā of Ḵāmena, a small town about fifty kilometers to the west of Tabrīz, but he later turned to trade and, crossing the Aras river, settled in Nūḵa, where in 1811 he took a second wife. One year later, she gave birth to Mīrzā Fatḥ-ʿAlī. Āḵūndzāda’s mother was descended from an African who had been in the service of Nāder Shah, and consciousness of this African element in his ancestry served to give Āḵūndzāda a feeling of affinity with his great Russian contemporary, Pushkin.
    • "Nineteenth-century Iranian intellectuals, such as Mirza Fath Ali Akhundzadeh and Mirza Aqa Khan Kermani (...)" -- Aghaie, Kamran Scot; Marashi, Afshin (2014). Rethinking Iranian Nationalism and Modernity. University of Texas Press
    • "(...) exemplifies the centrality of the ideal of improving on existing institutions for Akhundzadeh and other nineteenth-century Iranian intellectuals. (...) As a native speaker of Azeri who published both in Persian and Azeri." -- Litvak, Meir, ed. (2017) Constructing Nationalism in Iran: From the Qajars to the Islamic Republic. Routledge. p. 43
    • Russian Azerbaijan (1905–1920): the shaping of a national identity in a Muslim community. Cambridge University Press, Boston, 1985.
    For example, Mirza Fath Ali Akhundov, the Azerbaijani best known in the West, will be referred to as Akhundzada, the form of his name that has been used for a century in publications outside of Russia.
    • "Āk̲h̲und-Zāda, mīrzā fatḥ ʿalī (1812-78) was the first writer of original plays in a Turkish idiom. The son of a trader who hailed from Persian Ād̲h̲arbayd̲j̲ān, he was born in 1811 (according to Caferoǧlu) or 1812 (according to the Soviet Encyclopaedia, 1950) in S̲h̲ēkī, the present-day Nūk̲h̲ā. -- Brands, H.W., Āk̲h̲und-Zāda, in: Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition, Edited by: P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, W.P. Heinrichs
    • "This was no doubt also the reason why Fath'ali Akhundzadeh (d. 1878), the Azerbaijani Iranian who was a subject of the Russian Empire and lived in Georgia, launched an attack on Sa'adi in his general onslaught on Persian poetry. He was perhaps the first nationalist and modernist Iranian intellectual, and he rejected virtually the whole of post-Islamic Iranian culture, romantically glorified the legacy of ancient Persia, and wished to turn Iran into a Western-European style country overnight. -- Katouzian, Homa (2006). Saʿdī: The Poet of Life, Love and Compassion. Oneworld Publications. p. 3
    • " The intellectual forerunners of romantic nationalism included Mirzā Fatḥ-ʿAli Āḵundzāda, Jalāl-al-Din Mirzā Qājār, and Mirzā Āqā Khan Kermāni (qq.v.). They introduced the basic ideals of the autonomy, the unity, and the prosperity of the Iranian nation with patriotic devotion." -- Ashraf, Ahmad (2006). IRANIAN IDENTITY iv. 19TH-20TH CENTURIES. Vol. XIII, Fasc. 5, pp. 522-530
    • Kolarz W. Russian and Her Colonies. London. 1953. pp 244–245
  2. ^ Parsinejad, Iraj. A History of Literary Criticism in Iran (1866–1951). He lived in the Russian Empire. Bethesda, MD: Ibex, 2003. p. 44.
  3. ^ Millar, James R. (2004). Encyclopedia of Russian History. MacMillan Reference USA. p. 23. ISBN 978-0-02-865694-6.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ a b Tadeusz Swietochowski, Russia and Azerbaijan: A Borderland in Transition (New York: Columbia University Press), 1995, page 27-28:
  6. ^ Heß, Michael R. (2015). "Axundzadə, Mirzə Fətəli". In Fleet, Kate; Krämer, Gudrun; Matringe, Denis; Nawas, John; Rowson, Everett (eds.). Encyclopaedia of Islam, THREE. Brill Online. doi:10.1163/1573-3912_ei3_COM_2482. ISSN 1873-9830.
  7. ^ Gasimov, Zaur (2021). "Observing Iran from Baku: Iranian Studies in Soviet and Post-Soviet Azerbaijan". Iranian Studies: 2. doi:10.1080/00210862.2020.1865136.
  8. ^ Yilmaz, Harun (2013). "The Soviet Union and the Construction of Azerbaijani National Identity in the 1930s". Iranian Studies. 46 (4): 513. doi:10.1080/00210862.2013.784521.
  9. ^ [Russian Azerbaijan (1905–1920): the shaping of a national identity in a Muslim community. Cambridge University Press, Boston, 1985. For example, Mirza Fath Ali Akhundov, the Azerbaijani best known in the West, will be referred to as Akhundzada, the form of his name that has been used for a century in publications outside of Russia.
  10. ^ a b ĀḴŪNDZĀDA ĀḴŪNDZĀDA (in Soviet usage, AKHUNDOV), MĪRZĀ FATḤ-ʿALĪ (1812–78), Azerbaijani playwright and propagator of alphabet reform; also, one of the earliest and most outspoken atheists to appear in the Islamic world. According to his own autobiographical account (first published in Kaškūl, Baku, 1887, nos. 43–45, and reprinted in M. F. Akhundov, Alefbā-ye ǰadīd va maktūbāt, ed. H. Moḥammadzāda and Ḥ. Ārāslī, Baku, 1963, pp. 349–55), Āḵūndzāda was born in 1812 (other documents give 1811 and 1814) in the town of Nūḵa, in the part of Azerbaijan that was annexed by Russia in 1828. His father, Mīrzā Moḥammad-Taqī, had been kadḵodā of Ḵāmena, a small town about fifty kilometers to the west of Tabrīz, but he later turned to trade and, crossing the Aras river, settled in Nūḵa, where in 1811 he took a second wife. One year later, she gave birth to Mīrzā Fatḥ-ʿAlī. Āḵūndzāda’s mother was descended from an African who had been in the service of Nāder Shah, and consciousness of this African element in his ancestry served to give Āḵūndzāda a feeling of affinity with his great Russian contemporary, Pushkin.
  11. ^ Shissler, A. Holly (2003). Between Two Empires: Ahmet Agaoglu and the New Turkey. I.B. Tauris. p. 104. ISBN 978-1-86064-855-7.
  12. ^ Zia-Ebrahimi, Reza (2016). The emergence of Iranian nationalism: Race and the politics of dislocation. New York: Columbia University Press. pp. 141–45. ISBN 9780231541114.
  13. ^ Kolarz W. Russian and Her Colonies. London. 1953. pp 244–245
  14. ^ Ronald Grigor Suny Looking Toward Ararat: Armenia in Modern History. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana State University, 1993. page 25
  15. ^ Zia-Ebrahimi, Reza (2016). The emergence of Iranian nationalism: Race and the politics of dislocation. New York: Columbia University Press.
  16. ^ a b c d e f Zia-Ebrahimi, Reza (2010). "An Emissary of the Golden Age: Manekji Limji Hataria and the Charisma of the Archaic in Pre-Nationalist Iran". Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism. 10 (3): 377–390. doi:10.1111/j.1754-9469.2011.01091.x. ISSN 1754-9469.
  17. ^ https://www.researchgate.net/publication/304788934_Iranian_Nationalism_and_Zoroastrian_Identity. Cite journal requires |journal= (help); Missing or empty |title= (help)
  18. ^ Zia-Ebrahimi, Reza (2016). The emergence of Iranian nationalism: Race and the politics of dislocation. New York: Columbia University Press. pp. 36–38.
  19. ^ Zia-Ebrahimi, Reza (2016). The emergence of Iranian nationalism: Race and the politics of dislocation. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 5.
  20. ^ Zia-Ebrahimi, Reza (2011). "Self-Orientalization and dislocation: The uses and abuses of the "Aryan discourse" in Iran". Iranian Studies. 44 (4): 445–472. doi:10.1080/00210862.2011.569326. S2CID 143904752.
  21. ^ Ashraf, AHMAD. "IRANIAN IDENTITY iv. 19TH-20TH CENTURIES". Encyclopædia Iranica. Retrieved 18 September 2011.
  22. ^ Ахундов М. Ф. – Великие люди – Атеисты

Further readingEdit

  • Mazinani, Mehran (2015). "Liberty in Akhundzadeh's and Kermani's Thoughts". Middle Eastern Studies. 51 (6): 883–900. doi:10.1080/00263206.2015.1026897. S2CID 143161479.
  • Rezaei, Mohammad (2020). "The Origins of the Early Iranian Enlightenment: The Case of Akhundzade's "Qirītīkā"". Contemporary Review of the Middle East. 8 (1): 9–21. doi:10.1177/2347798920976274.

External linksEdit