Molla Panah Vagif

Molla Panah (Azerbaijani: Molla Pənah), better known by his pen-name Vagif (Arabic: واقِف‎‎, lit.'The Learned One')[1] was an 18th-century Azerbaijani poet, the founder of the realism genre in the Azerbaijani poetry and also a prominent statesman and diplomat, vizier – the minister of foreign affairs in the Karabakh khanate.[2][3]

Molla Panah Vagif
Molla Pənah Vaqif
Stamps of Azerbaijan, 2014-1186.jpg
Azerbaijani stamp with Molla Panah Vagif
Vizier of Karabakh Khanate
In office
Appointed byIbrahim Khalil Khan
Succeeded byMirza Jamal Javanshir
Personal details
Yuxarı Salahlı, Kazakh sultanate
Died1797(1797-00-00) (aged 79–80)
Shusha, Karabakh Khanate
Resting placeVagif Mausoleum

Early lifeEdit

It is mostly accepted by researchers that he was born in 1717, in the village of Salahly, Kazakh sultanate.[4][5]However, some authors like Firudin bey Kocharli considered Hasansu as his birthplace,[6] while Salman Mumtaz argued 1733 as his correct birthdate.[7] His parents were Mehdi agha and Aghqiz khanum,[4] who sent him to study under local cleric Shafi Effendi to study Arabic and Persian languages. His family had to move to Karabakh Khanate in 1759 following disturbances between Kazakh sultanate and Kingdom of Georgia.

Life in KarabakhEdit

He moved to Shusha after a while and founded his madrasa in Saatli neighborhood of town, serving 17 families.[8] He was invited to palace by the ruler Ibrahim Khalil Khan who heard of Panah's ability to predict the time of lunar eclipse in 1769 and was appointed eshik aghasi (person in charge of foreign affairs) of the khanate after conversion to Shiism from Sunni Islam. He was described by authors such Mirza Jamal Qarabaghi as "A cautious and perfect vizier who found great fame in Iran and Rum" and by Mir Mehdi Khazani as the most trusted officer of khan.[4]

He served in this position for 27 years. It is said that he had important services in the political and social life of his khanate. He took part in the development and planning of Shusha, played an important role in establishing political relations between the Khanate and Georgia and Russia. In this context, he went to Tbilisi several times, where he befriended Prince Iulon of Georgia and dedicated a mukhammas to him.[9] The correspondence with Russia was initiated by Vagif and these letters were sent to the Catherine II.

Vagif's mausoleum in Shusha before the occupation of the town by Armenian forces

As vizier, Vagif did much for the prosperity and political growth of the Karabakh khanate. Also, he played an important role in organizing the defence of Shusha during the incursions of Aga Muhammad shah Qajar of Persia in 1795 and 1797.[10] He tried to cement an alliance of Karabakh, Georgia, Erivan Khanate and Talysh Khanate against Qajar unsuccessfully.

Siege of 1795Edit

The historian Mirza Adigozal bey records the following possibly apocryphal tale: during the 1795 siege of Shusha, which resisted stubbornly despite the overwhelming numbers of Aga Muhammad's army, the shah had the following couplet by Urfi, the Persian-Indian poet, attached to an arrow and shot behind the walls of the city:[4]

زمنجنیق فلک سنگ فتنه می بارد
تو ابلهانه گریزی به آبگینه حصار؟

Lunatic! A hail of stones descend from the Catapult of heavens,
while you await wonders in walls of glass?

The shah was playing on the meaning of Shusha: "glass" in Persian (and Azeri). When the message was delivered to Ibrahim-Khalil khan, the ruler of Shusha, he called upon Vagif, his vizier, who immediately wrote the following response on the reverse of the message:

گرنگهدار من آنست که من می دانم
شیشه را در بغل سنگ نگه میدارد

If my protector is the one that I know,
[he] would protect the glass alongside the most solid stone.

Receiving the letter with this poem, shah went into a rage and renewed the cannon attack on Shusha. However, after 33 days, the shah lifted the siege and headed to Georgia.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in front of ruined mausoleum

Conquest of Shusha and DeathEdit

Shah Qajar invaded Karabakh a second time in 1797, after the Russian armies that briefly occupied the Caucasus were withdrawn on the death of Catherine II. This time, Karabakh was undergoing a drought and was incapable of resisting. Ibrahim-Khalil khan escaped Shusha and the city fell quickly. Vagif was imprisoned and awaited death the following morning but was saved when the shah was assassinated that very night under mysterious circumstances.

The reprieve did not last long. The son of Mehrali bey Javanshir, Muhammed bey Javanshir who regarded himself as rightful heir to the throne, moved into power vacuum after the now shah-less Persian army returned to Iran. Seeing in Vagif a loyal follower of his uncle, he had Vagif and his son Ali executed.[11] At the time of his death, his house was plundered and many of his verses were lost.

Vagif's remains were kept in Shusha, where a mausoleum in his name was built during the Soviet era in the 1970s. This mausoleum was destroyed in 1992 during the First Nagorno-Karabakh War.[12] The fate of Vagif's remains is unknown.[13] Another museum was opened on 20 November 1970 in Qazakh.


Despite the circumstances of his death, Vagif's poetry has persevered. His verses were collected for the first time in 1856 and published by Armenian writer Mirza Yusif Nersesov in Temir-Khan Shura[14] with a fellow Armenian poet Mirzajan Madatov.[4] Soon afterwards, his verses were published by Adolf Berge in Leipzig in 1867 with the assistance of Fatali Akhundov, a prominent 19th-century Azeri playwright.

Vagif's works herald a new era in Azeri poetry, treating more mundane feelings and desires rather than the abstract and religious themes prevalent in the Sufi-leaning poetry of the time. This was the main characteristic that distinguished Vagif from his predecessors and made him the founder of the realism genre in Azeri poetry.

The language of Vagif's poems was qualitatively innovative as well: vivid, simple, and closely approaching the Azeri vernacular. Vagif's poems have had a great influence on Azeri folklore and many of them are repeatedly used in the folk music of Ashik (wandering minstrels).

An example:

Bayram oldu, heç bilmirəm neyləyim
Bizim evdə dolu çuval da yoxdur
Dügiylə yağ hamı çoxdan tükənmiş
Ət heç ələ düşməz, motal da yoxdur

Bizim bu dünyada nə malımız var
Nə də evdə sahibcamalımız da var
Vaqif, öyünmə ki, kamalımız var
Allaha şükür ki, kamal da yoxdur

It is a holiday, don't know what to do
All sacks are empty in the household of ours
Rice long gone, butter exhausted too
No meat we have, nor cheese that's ours

In this world, we own nothing that's ours
Nor does happiness grace our homes
Vagif, don't pin your hopes on brains of ours
Glory to God, our brains somewhere roam


  1. ^ Soviet Literature. Foreign Languages Publishing House. 1969. p. 140.
  2. ^ "Molla Penah Vakıf".
  3. ^ Grant, Bruce (2007). Caucasus Paradigms: Anthropologies, Histories and the Making of a World Area. Lit. p. 110. ISBN 978-3-8258-9906-6.
  4. ^ a b c d e Dadashzadeh, Araz (1968). "Певец жизни: раздумья о Вагифе" [Singer of life: thoughts about Vagif] (in Russian). Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan SSR. Retrieved 2021-06-17.
  5. ^ Ibrahimov, Mirza; Ibraḣimov, Mirză (1969). Azerbaijanian Poetry: Classic, Modern, Traditional. Progress Publishers. p. 140.
  6. ^ Kocharli, Firudin (1903). Литература Адербейджанских татар [Literature of Azerbaijani Tatars]. Tbilisi: Georgian Electroprinting publishing house. pp. 7–8.
  7. ^ Mumtaz, Salman (1925). Молла Панах Вагиф [Molla Panah Vagif]. Baku: Communist. p. 3.
  8. ^ Mammadzada, K.M.; Sarkisyan, N.A. (1986). Shusha - Vagif's mausoleum. Baku: Elm. pp. 18–19.
  9. ^ Cäfärov, Nizami (2017). Molla Pänah Vaqif. Bakı. p. 31. ISBN 978-9952-21-048-4. OCLC 1007331237.
  10. ^ "Molla Pənah Vaqif".
  11. ^ Dadashzade, Araz (1968). Rahimov, I (ed.). Molla Panah Vagif - an outline of life and creative activity (PDF). Translated by Savchenko, A. Baku: Azerbaijan State Publishing House. p. 24.
  12. ^ "Обнаружены новые рукописи Низами Гянджеви и Моллы Панаха Вагифа".
  13. ^ S.Quliyeva, L.Əhmədova, K.Tahirov 2017, p. 8.
  14. ^ "Vagif, Molla Panah". Great Soviet Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2021-06-17.

External linksEdit