130th anniversary of the outstanding Azerbaijani dramatist, Huseyn Javid
“Damn all life, all the Universe,
if all the glorious world wars,
bloody battles won’t generate love in the end,
Extract from the play “Amir Timur”
The outstanding poet and playwright, Huseyn Javid, was born in 1882 in the ancient Azerbaijani city of Nakhichevan. His father was a theologian, but was also known as an expert on eastern poetry and music. After graduating from a mollakhana, an elementary school, where Javid learnt to read and write, he entered four-grade school, Mektebi-terbiye, which was founded by Mohammed Tagi Sidgi, one of famous educators at the end of the 19th Century. After leaving school, Javid wanted to continue his education, but acute eye illness compelled him to go to Tabriz for treatment, where his elder brother was living. In 1905, Javid went to Turkey where for a year he prepared himself for preliminary courses of the famous Turkish poet and philosopher, Rzy Tevfik, and then entered the literary department of Istanbul University. Although a first-year student, he also attended second year lectures. He experienced material difficulties in Turkey, pointing out in one of his letters: “I manage to live for weeks on only bread and cheese”. In letters the young student sharply criticized the regime of Sultan Abdulhamid who “fiercely smothers political freedom, and freedom of speech, thought and conscience. The word “independence” is strictly forbidden here”. In 1909, Javid returned home and began to teach Azerbaijani language and literature at schools in Tiflis (Tbilisi), Gandja, and Nakhichevan. His poems, and then his plays were published in the press at that time.
In 1918, the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic declared independence, the first such independent republic in the Muslim East. The process of national revival had begun and Javid moved to Baku. His works were published in big print runs during this period, and he was named the “Shakespeare of the Turkic World”.
In 1920, the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic was conquered by the Red Army. Javid took the liquidation of independence hard and, though his works continued to be staged and he himself was included in the structure of the Union of Writers of Azerbaijan, on principal he did not write works to propagandize Soviet power. He would be blamed for it later.
On 4th June 1937, Javid was arrested. The file of the criminal case shows that the investigation lasted almost two years, but he could not be forced to slander himself or any of his friends and acquaintances. Despite being very ill, thrown into a rough cell, and exhausted by interrogations lasting many days, he stuck to his convictions. In June 1939, a special meeting, a “troika” (a group of three people) considered his case for 25 minutes and accepted the final charge: “Huseyn Javid is accused of being a member of a counter-revolutionary, nationalist organization in Baku. In essence, Huseyn Javid did not admit his guilt under interrogation”. Javid was sentenced to a labour camp in Siberia for eight years. Javid died in Magadan on 5th December 1941, before the end of his sentence. In March 1956, the criminal case against Javid was reviewed, and, in the absence of any evidence of a crime, he was rehabilitated.
Javid’s first poem was printed in the Baku magazine “Fiyuzat” in 1906, and the first collection of his poems, “The Past Days”, was published in 1913. A new collection, “Spring Dew”, was published in 1917. Besides lyrical verses, young Javid also wrote social poems. His demands for social reform drew the attention of the imperial police, who became interested in his political orientation in 1914.
Javid become famous as a poet-humanist with his works, where motifs of philosophical lyrics, questions of humanism, and philanthropy were reflected. However, the awful events at the beginning of the 20th Century, the start of the First World War convinced Javid of the need to overcome abstract-political conclusions and representations, and, by writing dramatic works, to show people the roots of all the evil. Javid started to write play-poems, and dramatic poems, the sources of which go back to Mohammed Fizuli’s poems and William Shakespeare’s tragedies.
Javid’s dramas played a huge role in the formation of Azerbaijani literature of the 20th Century, especially its romantic direction. Javid’s first play, “Sheyda”, was written in 1913. The play showed that in Javid’s dramatical art the main “romantic theme” is one of love and passion, before which there are no barriers.
His play, “Sheikh Sanan”, was published in 1914. This was a romantic tragedy directed against racial and religious struggles, singing about people and love. The hero of the play, Sheikh Sanan, was on the boundary of two epochs, in search of spiritual and moral values which he could not find in habitual society, so he was torn into other worlds, trying to find love and hope.
Publication of the play “Iblis” (literally, Satan) in 1918 was like a bolt from the blue. The aggravated historical cataclysms of his time allowed the author to see clearly in these events originally tragic embodiments of Satanism. Heroes of this type had been created in European dramatic art before Javid’s time: Milton, Mephistopheles, and Goethe’s Satan, Byron’s Lucifer, Lermontov’s Demon. But Javid’s play was not about the casting of a Mephistophelean type of hero. Javid brought the Satan closer to life, forcing him to participate in what was unattractive in it. In the image of the Satan he pursues the aim of finding an original cause of the defects, having plunged people into their troubles: world war, hatred of one another, ruin, death, and grief. Everything is the result of the revelry of demonic forces unleashed by the malicious will of rulers. Javid’s Satan shows in what conditions crimes are born, how people themselves become demons and how these demons start to walk over the world, bearing their plans for war, cataclysms, and terror.
In addition to historical plays: “Prince”, “Siyavush”, “Topal Teymur” (“Amir Timur”) and philosophical plays: “Mother”, “Khayyam”, “Maral”, “Prophet”, “Iblis’s Revenge”, from 1910 to 1926, Javid wrote nine plays, six of which are about the pre-revolutionary period. According to his daughter, Turan Khanum, the manuscripts of the plays “Attila”, “Chingiz”, “Inspiration of a Demon”, “Shahla”, “Telli Saz”, and the scenario “Keroglu” disappeared during the arrests and searches of 1937. After the rehabilitation of her father she asked the security service to find and return these works. But it seemed that all the works had been burnt.
Scenic Life of Javid’s Works
His plays, “Iblis”, “Sheikh Sanan”, “Sheyda”, “Afet”, and “Topal Tejmur” were staged in his lifetime. The longest running plays were “Iblis” (till 1925) and “Sheikh Sanan” (till 1930). The works were a great success, and played a big role in the formation of Azerbaijani drama theatre. The huge influence of Javid’s works was also recognized by the inspectors who conducted his criminal case. It was not by chance, that in his criminal case it was recorded that: “As a skilled playwright, he influenced the youth. He has created his own “school”, in opposition to the Soviet school”.
Despite the popularity in Central Asia during the 1920s and 1930s, Javid’s works were forbidden after he had been repressed, and his plays were staged again only after his rehabilitation. His last, completed, large work, “Khayyam”, was staged for the first time in 1970.
Life after Death
A house-museum in Baku and, later, a house-museum in Nakhichevan were created for the playwright’s 100th anniversary. In 1982, thanks to the efforts of the head of Azerbaijan, Heydar Aliyev, Javid’s grave was found in a cemetery of the repressed in Siberia. His coffin was transported home and reburied in Nakhichevan. Javid’s drama, “Amir Timur”, was shown on Azerbaijani television in 1983.
Since independence, Javid’s works have often been republished in Azerbaijani and other languages, a “Theatre of Poetry of Huseyn Javid” was organized, and streets, parks, schools, and cinemas were named after him. A monument to Javid was erected in Baku in 1993.
In 1996, a mausoleum, in the style of medieval mausoleums of Azerbaijan, was built over the poet’s grave in Nakhichevan. Visitors to Nakhichevan, whether they are tourists or businessmen, should visit the tomb of the man rightly called “Shakespeare of the Turkic World” in his lifetime.