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Azerbaijani literature (Azerbaijani: Azərbaycan ədəbiyyatı) refers to the literature written in Azerbaijani, which currently is the official state language of the Republic of Azerbaijan and is widely spoken in north-western Iran and eastern Turkey. Azeri is a dialect of Oghuz branch of Turkic languages, and as such, is mutually intelligible with other Oghuz dialects spoken in Turkey, Iran, Turkmenistan, Georgia, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Russia, the Balkans and the Middle East.


Classical Era

Apart from the Epic of Dede Korkut, which may date to 9th century A.D.[1] and was first transcribed by 14th century[1], the earliest known figure in Azeri literature was Hasanoghlu or Pur Hasan Asfaraini, who composed a divan consisting of Persian and Turkic ghazals[2][3]. In Persian ghazals he used his pen-name, while his Turkic ghazals were composed under his own name of Hasanoghlu[2].

Nizami Ganjavi Museum of Literature at night in Baku, Azerbaijan.
Khurshidbanu Natavan was the daughter of Mehdi Gulu-khan, the last ruler of the Karabakh khanate (1748–1822), she is considered one of the best lyrical poets of Azerbaijan.

In 14th century, Azerbaijan was under the control of Qara Qoyunlu and Aq Qoyunlu Turkic tribal confederacies. Among the poets of this period were Gazi Burhanaddin, Haqiqi (pen-name of Jahan-shah Qara Qoyunlu), and Habibi[4]. The end of 14th century was also the period of starting literary activity of Imadaddin Nesimi[5], one of the greatest Turkic[6][7][8] Hurufi mystical poets of the late 14th and early 15th centuries[9] and one of the most prominent early Divan masters in Turkic literary history[9], who also composed poetry in Persian[10][7] and Arabic[9].

The Divan and Ghazal styles, introduced by Nesimi in Azeri poetry in 15th century, were further developed by poets Qasim al-Anvar, Fuzuli and Khatai (pen-name of Safavid Shah Ismail I). The 16th century poet, Muhammed Fuzuli produced his timeless philosophical and lyrical Qazals in Arabic, Persian, and Azeri. Benefiting immensely from the fine literary traditions of his environment, and building upon the legacy of his predecessors, Fizuli was destined to become the leading literary figure of his society. His major works include The Divan of Ghazals and The Qasidas.

In the 16th century, Azeri literature further flourished with the development of Ashik (Azerbaijani: Aşıq) poetic genre of bards. During the same period, under the pen-name of Khatāī (Arabic: خطائی‎ for sinner) Shah Ismail I wrote about 1400 verses in Azeri[11], which were later published as his Divan. A unique literary style known as qoshma (Azerbaijani: qoşma for improvisation) was introduced in this period, and developed by Shah Ismail and later by his son and successor, Shah Tahmasp.

In the span of the 17th century and 18th century, Fizuli's unique genres as well Ashik poetry were taken up by prominent poets and writers such as Qovsi of Tabriz, Shah Abbas Sani, Agha Mesih Shirvani, Nishat, Molla Vali Vidadi, Molla Panah Vagif, Amani, Zafar and others.

Along with Turks, Turkmens and Uzbeks, Azeris also celebrate the epic of Koroglu (from Azerbaijani: kor oğlu for blind man's son), a legendary hero or a noble bandit of the Robin Hood type[12]. Several documented versions of Koroglu epic remain at the Institute for Manuscripts of the National Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan[3].

The 19th Century onward


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Azeri literature of the 19th century was profoundly influenced by the Russian conquest of the territory of present-day Republic of Azerbaijan, as a result of Russo-Persian Wars.


Soviet Azerbaijani Literature

A Bust of Dada Gorgud in Baku.

Under the Soviet rule, particularly during Joseph Stalin's reign, Azeri writers who did not conform to the party line were persecuted. Bolsheviks sought to destroy the nationalist intellectual elite established during the short-lived Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, and in 1930s, many writers and intellectuals were essentially turned into mouthpieces of Soviet propaganda.

Yet, there existed a group of Romantic Azeri intellectuals who resisted the Soviet purge. Among them were Mahammad Hadi, Abbas Sahhat, Huseyn Javid, Abdulla Shaig, Jafar Jabbarly, and Mikayil Mushfig, who in their search for a means of resistance, turned to the clandestine methodologies of Sufism, which taught spiritual discipline as a way to combat temptation[13].

When Nikita Khrushchev came to power in 1953 following Stalin's death, the harsh focus on propaganda began to fade, and writers began to branch off in new directions, primarily focused on uplifting prose that would be a source of hope to Azeris living under a totalitarian regime.

Iranian Azerbaijani literature

An influential piece of post-World War II Azeri poetry, Heydar Babaya Salam (Greetings to Heydar Baba) was written by Azerbaijanian poet Mohammad Hossein Shahriar who had already established himself as a notable. This poem, published in Tabriz in 1954 and written in colloquial Azeri, became popular among Iranians and the people of Azerbaijan . In Heydar Babaya Salam, Shahriar expressed his identity as an Iranian Azeri attached to his homeland, language, and culture. Heydar Baba is a hill near Khoshknab, the native village of the poet.

Influences on Azeri Literature

Persian and Arabic literature have greatly influenced Azeri literature, especially in its classical phase. Amongst poets who have written in Persian and have influenced Azeri literature, one can mention Ferdowsi, Sanai, Hafez, Saadi, Attar, and Rumi. Arabic literature, especially the Quran and Prophetic sayings, has also played a major role in influencing Azeri literature. Amongst poets who have written in Arabic and have influenced Azeri literature, one can mention Mansūr al-Hallāj who has had a wide ranging influence in the Sufic literature of the Islamic world.

See also


  1. ^ a b Birchwood, Matthew; Dimmock, Matthew (2005). Cultural Encounters Between East and West, 1453-1699. Cambridge Scholars Press. pp. 111. ISBN 1904303412.  
  2. ^ a b Beale, Thomas William; Keene Henry George (1894). An Oriental Biographical Dictionary. W.H.Allen. pp. 311.  
  3. ^ a b A.Caferoglu, "Adhari(azeri)",in Encyclopedia of Islam, (new edition), Vol. 1, (Leiden, 1986)
  4. ^ Tyrrell, Maliheh S. (2001). Aesopian Literary Dimensions of Azerbaijani Literature of the Soviet Period, 1920-1990. Lexington Books. pp. 12. ISBN 0739101692.  
  5. ^ Průšek, Jaroslav (1974). Dictionary of Oriental Literatures. Basic Books. pp. 138.  
  6. ^ Baldick, Julian (2000). Mystical Islam: An Introduction to Sufism. I. B. Tauris. pp. 103. ISBN 186064631X.  
  7. ^ a b Burrill, Kathleen R.F. (1972). The Quatrains of Nesimi Fourteenth-Century Turkic Hurufi. Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG. ISBN 9027923280.  
  8. ^ Lambton, Ann K. S.; Holt, Peter Malcolm; Lewis, Bernard (1970). The Cambridge History of Islam. Cambridge University Press. pp. 689. ISBN 0521291380.  
  9. ^ a b c "Seyid Imadeddin Nesimi". Encyclopedia Britannica. 2008. Retrieved 01-09 2008.  
  10. ^ Babinger, Franz (2008). "Nesīmī, Seyyid ʿImād al-Dīn". Encyclopaedia of Islam. Brill Online. Retrieved 01-09 2008.  
  11. ^ Minorsky, Vladimir (1942). "The Poetry of Shah Ismail". Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London 10 (4): 1053.  
  12. ^ Samuel, Geoffrey; Gregor, Hamish; Stutchbury, Elisabeth (1994). Tantra and Popular Religion in Tibet. International Academy of Indian Culture and Aditya Prakashan. pp. 60. ISBN 8185689687.  
  13. ^ Tyrrell, Maliheh S. (2001). Aesopian Literary Dimensions of Azerbaijani Literature of the Soviet Period, 1920-1990. Lexington Books. pp. 24. ISBN 0739101692.,M1.  

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