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Mirza Fatali Mammad Taghi oglu Akhundov

Born 12 July 1812(1812-07-12)
Nukha, Azerbaijan
Died 19 March 1878 (aged 65)
Tiflis, Georgia
Occupation Playwright, philosopher

Mirza Fatali Mammad Taghi oglu Akhundov (Azerbaijani: Mirzə Fətəli Axundov), earlier – Akhundzadeh (12 July 1812, Nukha – 9 March 1878, Tiflis), was a celebrated Azerbaijani author, playwright, philosopher, and founder of modern literary criticism, "who acquired fame primarily as the writer of European-inspired plays in the Azeri language".[1] Akhundov singlehandedly opened a new stage of development of Azerbaijani literature and is also considered one of the founders of modern Iranian literature. He was also one of the forerunners of modern Iranian nationalism.[2]



Akhundov was born in 1812 in Shaki to a wealthy land owning family from Iranian Azerbaijan. 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, Akhundov came into contact with the poet Mirza Shafi Vazeh, who introduced him to a Western secular thought and discouraged him from pursuing a religious career.[3] Later in 1834 Akhundov moved to Tiflis (present-day Tbilisi, Georgia), where he worked as a translator of Oriental languages. Since 1837 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 Odoevsky, poet Yakov Polonsky, Armenian writers Khachatur Abovian[2], Gabriel Sundukyan and others played a large part in formation of Akhundov's europeanized outlook.

Akhundov'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 Akhundov's literary activity comes in the 1850s. In the first half of the 1850s, Akhundov wrote six comedies – the first comedies in Azerbaijani literature as well as the first samples of the national dramaturgy. The comedies by Akhundov are unique in their critical pathos, analysis of the realities in Azerbaijan of the first half of XIX c. These comedies found numerous responses in the Russian other foreign periodical press. The German Magazine of Foreign Literature called Akhundov "dramatic genius", "the Azerbaijani Molière" 1. Akhundov's sharp pen was directed against everything that hindered the way of progress, freedom and enlightement, and at the same time his comedies were imbued with the feeling of faith in the bright future of the Azerbaijani people.

In 1859 Akhundov 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. By his comedies and dramas Akhundov established realism as the leading trend in Azerbaijani literature.

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

According to Professor 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.[4]

According to Professor 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. Akhundzadeh 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 Abd ul-Rahim Talibof. All of them were advocates of reforms in Iran. If Akhundzadeh 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 that carry messages of social importance as written in the language of the people of his native land, Turki. With no indication of split-personality, he combined larger Iranian identity with Azerbaijani - he used the term vatan (fatherland) in reference to both.[2]

Akhundov also supported the Russians. 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.[5]

Alphabet Reform

Well ahead of his time, Akhundov was a keen advocate for alphabet reform, recognizing deficiencies of Arabic script with regards to Turkic sounds. He began his work regarding alphabet reform in 1850. His first efforts focused on modifying the 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 Arabic script expresses only three vowel sounds, whereas Azeri needs to identify nine vowels. Later, he openly advocated the change from 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 Akhundov's third version.


  1. ^ Millar, James R.. Encyclopedia of Russian History. MacMillan Reference USA. p. 23. ISBN 0028656946.  
  2. ^ a b Tadeusz Swietochowski, Russia and Azerbaijan: A Borderland in Transition (New York: Columbia University Press), 1995, page 27-28:
  3. ^ Shissler, A. Holly (2003). Between Two Empires: Ahmet Agaoglu and the New Turkey. I.B. Tauris. p. 104. ISBN 186064855X.  
  4. ^ Ronald Grigor Suny Looking Toward Ararat: Armenia in Modern History. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana State University, 1993. page 25
  5. ^ Kolarz W. Russian and Her Colonies. London . 1953. pp 244-245

See also

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