Prof. Dr. Eynulla Madatli
Although centuries have passed in Azerbaijan, as well as in various countries around the world, interest in the heritage of Nizami Ganjavi (1141-1209) is constantly growing. The decision “On measures to further improve the study, publication, and promotion of the heritage of the great Azerbaijani poet and thinker Nizami Ganjavi” adopted on January 6, 1979, on the initiative of Soviet Azerbaijan’s leader Heydar Aliyev has already turned this natural interest into a purposeful state policy.
Following this, the order issued in August 1981 on the 840th anniversary of the birth of Nizami Ganjavi gave a new impetus to the development of Nizami studies in our country. President Ilham Aliyev’s decree on the 880th anniversary of Nizami and the announcement of 2021 as the year of Nizami is a manifestation of the endless attention paid to this rich heritage.
It is an undeniable fact that the rich heritage of Nizami has become a spiritual treasure not only of Azerbaijani literature and philosophical thought but also of the peoples of all Eastern and Western countries since the 12th century. Nizami inspired dozens and hundreds of poets in the East and shed light on their creative path.
In short, the creativity of Nizami is a major world-scale literary event. People’s writer, prominent thinker of our time Anar writes: “Azerbaijan literature, as well as the literature of Iran and other countries of the East, cannot be imagined without Nizami. The world of culture would look very poor without him”. (Anar. Literatura, İskusstvo, Kultura Azerbaydjana-I, Baku, 2010, p.54).
Pan-Iranism, founded in Iran at the time of the fictitious Pehlevi dynasty (1925-1979), which began with the coming to power of Reza Khan in 1925 and, unfortunately, continued after the fall of the shah regime has left its negative mark on a common language and a single national policy in the field of history, literature, ethnography and humanitarian other sciences.
It became an official policy to consider a number of non-Persian poets and philosophers, known throughout the world, great figures of science and literature of the medieval ages, as “Iranian”. Ibn Sina (often known in the West as Avicenna), Abu Reyhan Biruni, Mevlânâ Jalāl ad-Dīn Rūmī, Nizami Ganjavi, Khagani Shirvani, Shah Ismail Khatai and others were presented as Iranian poets, and in secondary and high school textbooks their names were mentioned as Iranian.
Even the prominent philosopher-poet Imadeddin Nasimi, who wrote in Azerbaijani Turkish, was presented as “Iranian”. Of course, it is regretful that these baseless allegations have continued for 40 years since the overthrow of the shah regime in Iran.
For centuries, Nizami has been a source of national pride for all the people of Azerbaijan, both in the North and South. Several generations of our people have grown and enriched with the spirit of Nizami.
Nevertheless, Iranian literary criticism, which continues to present Nizami as an Iranian poet, still does not give up its intention to appropriate this rich spiritual and literary heritage.
However, despite this claim, the great Nizami is not considered at the level of Abulgasim Firdovsi, Sadi Shirazi, Hafiz Shirazi, Attar Nishapuri and Omar Khayyam of Persian literature of Persian origin.
Thus, although Iranian researchers have done a lot of research on Nizami, he is not given as much space in textbooks or works on the history of literature, in general, on the history of Iran.
For example, in the book of Hussein Farifar, one of the experts on the history of literature of Iran we see this attitude. It should be noted that only half a page is given to the great Nizami Ganjavi in this textbook, although Attar and Khayyam have been given space more than once. (Fərifər Hüseyn. Tarix-e ədəbiyyat-e İran və tarix-e şüara (bəraye doureye dovvome motəvəssəte), çape həftom, 1338, s.170). It should be noted that world orientalists have always shown interest in Nizami’s heritage, and this attitude was not often met unequivocally in Iran.
Ahmad Kasravi of Tabriz (1890-1946), the author of a number of valuable researches in the field of history, philosophy, literature, language, law, and other sciences in Iran, who played a special role in directing Iranian socio-political thought during the shah regime, in his book “On Literature” writes:
“What did Nizami do? What good deeds did he do for mankind? How can the Soviet state celebrate a holiday in his name?
Regretfully that a number of other wrong and biased provisions of Kasravi have led to the formation of anti-Turkish (Azerbaijani) mood in Iranian scientific and literary thought beginning from the first half of the 12th century to the present day.
And now, let us overview some examples of Iranian literature on the heritage of Nizami. Well-known historian Parviz Varjavend in his book “Iran and the Caucasus” writes: “Nizami is of Iranian descent (iraninejad), his mother was a Kurd of Aryan and Iranian origin, but this great poet is one of the few leading poets of Persian literature.
He was born, lived and died in Ganja, now is called the representative of the history of Azerbaijan (of course, of the so-called Shourevi (Soviet) Azerbaijan) literature!” İran və Qəfqaz.(Əran və Şirvan). Neveşte, gerdavəri və tənzim Dr. Pərviz Vərcavənd. Tehran, nəşre Qətre, 1378, s.280.
Unlike Iran, world orientalists, as well as Russian researchers, have always valued Nizami’s heritage, and have always been given due prominence to the heritage of Nizami in literary studies.
Celebration of the 800th anniversary of Nizami’s birth in Leningrad (St. Petersburg) during the most difficult period of the Second World War for the USSR, during the long siege of the Nazis, the publication of his works, and then the perpetuation of his name, the erection of a monument in the center of Baku, and other t measures, of course, were not unequivocally met in Iran.
Since then, in the scientific literature, political circles and the media began to increase the number of those who claimed that Nizami belonged to Iran as an “Iranian-speaking (Persian) and Iranian spirit” poet. Generally, there have always been attempts in Iran to consider Azerbaijanis (Azerbaijani Turks) of Iranian-Persian origin, and now various researchers continue to think and write so.
A number of well-known researchers in Iran have responded to such baseless allegations. For example, philologist Mohammad Reza Bigdeli writes: “The modern Azerbaijani language belongs to the Turkic group of Altai languages in terms of origin and historical connection.
In ancient times, they lived in the vast steppes of Central Asia, on the banks of the Yenisei, and then for centuries as a result of migration, Turkic-speaking peoples and tribes spread from there to Syria and the Balkans, inhabited there, and the Turkish language as a spoken and written language was widely spread among different peoples.” Məhəmməd Rza Biqdeli. Elsevənhayi (Şahsevən) İran. Tehran, Enteşarat-e Pasarqad, 1384 (1995), s.300
It should be noted here that a number of Iranian researchers present not only individual prominent thinkers of the Azerbaijani people, but also the entire Azerbaijani people (Iranian Azerbaijan E.M.) as an integral part of the Iranian people. For example, Enayatullah Reza (1920-2010) writes without any evidence, historical-scientific literature that Azerbaijan was a part of Iran, separate from Caucasian Albania. The Azerbaijani people are of Iranian origin and race. (Rza Enayətullah. Azərbaycan və Arran-əz kohəntərin əyyam ta emruz. Tehran, Entesarat-e Mərd-e emruz, çap-e dovvom, xordad 1367 (1988).
The groundlessness of E.Rza’s claims is confirmed by the above-mentioned Iranian author’s views. On the other hand, as he said, if Caucasian Albania (North Azerbaijan-E.M.) has nothing to do with Iranian Azerbaijan, how can Nizami, who was born and lived in North Azerbaijan, in Ganja, be considered an Iranian poet?
It should be noted that during the presidency of Mohammad Khatami in the Islamic Republic of Iran (1997-2005) the revival of a number of Azerbaijani (Turkish) language media in Iran, appeals to the works of prominent Azerbaijani poets, writers, and thinkers, including the heritage of Nizami Ganjavi were faced open opposition from researchers belonging to the nationalist-chauvinist circle. The open letter of the above-mentioned Parviz Varjavend to the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran M.Khatami is of this kind. Nəvid-e Azərbaycan” qəzeti, şomareye 137, şənbe, 13 esfənd, 1379, (2000). səh.8 )
In a letter written on the basis of Persian-Iranian nationalism and modernized Aryanism, with obvious hostility to Azerbaijani Turks, their language and literature, history and culture the author drawing attention to that “Varlyg”, “Chichek”, “Nevid-e Azerbaijan”, “Omid-e Zanjan”, “Shams-e Tabriz” and other similar magazines and newspapers published articles that damage the unity of Iran and demands to close few Turkish-language or mixed Turkish-Persian media: “We have Turkish-speakings in Iran, not Turks”.
Prof. Dr. Javad Heyat in an extensive article published in “Varlyg” magazine, reminds P.Varjavend and other extremist nationalists that the chauvinist fascist nationalism of the Pahlavi regime is a thing of the past. Both the Basic Law of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Holy Quran recognizes the language and ethnic differences of peoples and it must be respected. (“Varlıq”, Özəl sayı, 28-ci il, payız , Tehran, 1375 (1996), sayı 142, səh. 42)
It should be noted that during the Soviet era, the heads and diplomats of Iranian diplomatic missions in foreign countries, as a rule, voted for such unscientific claims of Iranian scientific circles concerned about the celebration of Nizami Ganjavi’s anniversaries.
For example, Teymuras Adamiyyat, a senior diplomat at the Iranian embassy in Moscow and later Iran’s ambassador to the USSR, in his book “Journey to the Past” writes: “On the occasion of the 750th anniversary of Nizami’s death, Bertels, a well-known orientalist of the USSR, published an article about Nizami Ganjavi in the “Literaturnaya Gazeta” in December 1953.
This article, as well as other articles published at that time, claimed that the Iranian poet belonged to another nation. I wrote a letter to the editor of the newspaper asking him to explain to me on what grounds he considers Nizami an Azerbaijani poet”.
It should be noted that on December 17, 1953, T.Adamiyyat sent a letter of protest to the editor of the newspaper “Pravda” to the article of the corresponding member of the USSR Academy of Sciences E.Bertels “The Great Creation of Nizami” and asked similar questions. (Adəmiyyət- s.245).
In connection with Nizami Ganjavi, on December 15, 1953, Samad Vurgun’s article “Velikiy Qumanist” (“The Great Humanist”) was published in “Pravda” newspaper. In the article, S.Vurgun wrote: “The long-suffering people of Azerbaijan have gone through many trials of history. However, he did not forget the most important thing: his history, his national language, his culture, his native son and poet Nizami, who was born and lived in the ancient Azerbaijani city of Ganja”.
T.Adamiyyat reacted to Samad Vurgun’s article” The Great Humanist” in the same way and addressed a letter of protest to the editor.
A few years ago, Rezvan Anari from Iran wrote that the Persian inscription on Nizami’s mausoleum could not be written in Turkish and in the new alphabet (during the repair, restoration work). (This was reported by the Iranian news agency). He notes that the misappropriation of an Iranian poet by another people and the claim that he is a Turk, are unacceptable. He even doubts the famous verse of Nizami, claiming that it is not a valid source for confirming his being aTurk:
Pedər bər pedər məra tork bud,
Be fərzanegi hər yeki qorq bud.
Here, Nizami clearly emphasized that his ancestors were Turks and that each of them was as wakeful and brave as a qurd (wolf). http://tarikhirani.ir/fa/news
It is incomprehensible that Iranian officials, who gave a political color to the translation of Persian verses into Azerbaijani during the renovation of Nizami’s mausoleum in Ganja, reacted in a strange way to a purely internal cultural issue of Azerbaijan.
In this regard, the Iranian Ambassador to Azerbaijan and the Cultural Attaché appealed to the Azerbaijani leadership and the Minister of Culture for a meeting. Iranian Ambassador Mohsen Pakayin also said that the translation of the inscription on Nizami’s mausoleum into Turkish (Azerbaijani) was very strange and said that it was a common cultural heritage of the two countries.
By the way, the Azerbaijani poet’s writing in Persian does not indicate a common heritage, just as works written in French do not give France the right to share that heritage.
Sirajaddin Haji, a well-known researcher of Nizami’s heritage based on verses about national identity in Nizami’s “The Treasure of mysteries” in his book “The concept of prophecy in the works of Hazrat Nizami Ganjavi and Hazrat Muhammad” once again clarified the national identity of Nizami and spoke of the Turkish spirit of a number of his verses and the content of sympathy to Turk.
Sirajaddin Haji writes: “Nizami is a Turk, but not a nationalist, a poet of people and humanity. (525-ci qəzet, 17 aprel 2019)
In fact, although he wrote in Persian, the poetry of Nizami evokes love for the Turks, appreciation of Turkish beauty, and sympathy for the Turkish rulers and heroes he praised in his works. There is no doubt that the great Uzbek poet Alisher Navoi also benefited from these qualities of Nizami’s heritage. Amir Khosrow Dehlevi, a well-known Indian poet of Turkish origin, created Khamsa a hundred years after Nizami under the influence of Nizami’s poetry, and he wrote in Deri (Persian), which was considered the poetic language of the time.
Rustam Aliyev, a prominent scientist recognized by the world’s scholars of Nizami studies, decisively states that claims about Nizami’s being a Persian or Tajik poet should be rejected. Nizami is an Azerbaijani poet, because he was brought up by Azerbaijan and its ancient people. The poet himself repeatedly stated that he is Turk (Azerbaijani). In his fourth famous poem, “The Seven Beauties”, Nizami complains about his contemporaries and compatriots:
Torkiyəmra dər in həboş nəxərənd,
Lacərəm, duğbaye xoş nəxorənd.
(These Abyssinians do not appreciate my Turkishness, they offend me and do not drink my good dovga (soup with rice and herbs, in sour milk). – translation by E.M)
Rustam Aliyev writes that in saying “Turk”, Nizami meant his people – Azerbaijani Turks. He called the Turkish sultan Sanjar for wise rule and justice. According to him, if a Turkish ruler does not provide justice, he could not be a Turk, only says that he is a Turk. The following verses from Nizami’s “The Treasure of Mysteries” says:
Dovlət-e torkan ke boləndi gereft
Məmləkət əz dadresəndi gereft.
Conke to bidadgəri pərvəri
Tork neyi, hendu-ye bidadgəri.
(The country of the Turks rose and rose
Mercy reigned in the country.
You do not prevent oppression,
So you are not a Turk, you are a cruel Indian)
(Rüstəm Əliyev. Nizami Gəncəvi. Bakı, Yazıçı-1991, s.22.)
Thus, the allegations about Nizami’s national identity in Iran have no basis, and such claims are not scientific, but political. Nizami Ganjavi’s wise words and preconceived ideas, recommendations that never lose their relevance are still important today, his rich heritage belongs to the spiritual treasury of the Azerbaijani people, and at the same time is an eternal human wealth.
*The writer is Executive Director of the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences. He has also remained as Ambassador of Azerbaijan to Pakistan.
*Views expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not necessarily represent and position of the TDI and IPDS.