Following their ambigous geographic
location, Azeri’s have their feet in both Islamic and European cultures,
the latter mostly Russian and Turkish, struggling with deep divisions
between the old and the new. About 90% of the population is ethnic
Azeri, with a smattering of Dagestanis, Russians, Armenians, Jews and
other groups. Most Azeri’s speak Azeri, a close cousin of Turkish,
though many also speak Russian. The younger generation is now very keen
to learn English. Even more than with Turkey, the 7 million Azeri’s
living in the Republic of Azerbaijan feel closer to the 10 million (more
Islamicized) Azeri’s living in Iran, in what is usually called "South
Azerbaijan". Although at state level there is no conflict, there are
important movements in civil society on both sides of the border,
advocating a united Azerbaijan.
Literature of "longing" for
reunification has also developed during the last half century (e.g the
works by Mirza Ibrahimov, Balash Azeroghlu or by Suleyman Rustam), with
a folklore based in recent heroes, such as Semed Behrangi and Jafar
Pishevari. Despite years of Soviet attempts to wipe it out, Islam
remains the most popular religion with the Azeri’s, followed distantly
by various Orthodox Christian branches. Like in Iran, the majority of
Azeri’s are Shia Muslims (70%), whereas Sunni Muslims make up most of
the Islamic population of the rest of the former Soviet Union.
Sunnis, the more secular branch,
practice leadership by consensus, whereas Shia leadership derives its
authority by divine right. In spite of the divisions elsewhere, in a
spirit of tolerance, the mosques in Baku serve both the Shia and the
Sunni communities. The Azeri Shia community practices the Jafarite rite.
Azerbaijan is one of the most liberal
Muslim-majority states, although arranged marriages are common among the
urban population, and marriage via kidnapping is not rare in the country
side. There is an attempt by foreigners (Iranians, Pakistanis, Saudis,
...) to introduce Islamic fundamentalism.
The country's musical traditions are
preserved by ashugs, or poet-singers, who often strum the kobuz (a
stringed instrument) while singing of the deeds of ancient heroes.
Another popular form of music in Azerbaijan is mugham, which is
improvised by voice and wind and stringed instruments and is often
compared to jazz.
The country has a healthy literary
heritage, much of which derives from an oral tradition of poems and
ancient epics (e.g. by Nizami). Mirza Fath Ali Akhundzada was a literary
light in the 19th century, helping to develop a modern literature,
especially in drama. During Stalin's reign, many of the country's
writers and artists were victims of the purge.
Azeri architecture went through many different stages over the centuries
but the lasting legacies belong to the medieval period, especially the
Maiden Tower and the palace of the Shirvan shahs in Baku. The capitals
ornately decorated subway stations are its most recent architectural
Azerbaijan is famous for its
carpets, but also for its embroidered textiles. Artists use
colourful threads (sometimes made of gold or silver) and
beads to create
geometric patterns on a thin wool fabric called tirme. The country's
many bright-plumed birds and other animals have also featured in
designs. Other popular Azerbaijani textiles include rugs, veils, shawls
Azeris are good fans of the 7th art,
and cinema made at the Azerbaijan Studios in Baku reached international
prominence during the Soviet period, however difficulties after
independence reduced significantly the number of Azeri feature films.
Azerbaijan is a country where national traditions are well
preserved. In Azerbaijan where are a lot of traditions. The holidays on
Moon calendar, "Gurban bayram" (the Feast of Sacrifice), "Ramazan"
holiday (holiday after fasting) are marked as before. "Novruz" holiday (novruz
is translated as "a new day") is the most ancient and cherished holiday
New Year and spring. It is celebrated on the day of vernal equinox
- March 21-22. Novruz is the symbol of nature renewal and fertility.
Agrarian peoples of Middle East have been celebrating Novruz since
Preparations for Novruz start long
before the holiday. People do house cleaning, plant trees, make new
dresses, paint eggs, make national pastries such as shakarbura, pakhlava
and a great variety of national cuisine. Wheat is fried with kishmish
(raisins) and nuts (govurga). It is essential for every house to have "semeni"
- sprouts of wheat. As a tribute to fire-worshiping every Tuesday during
four weeks before the holiday kids jump over small bonfires and candles
are lit. On the holiday eve the graves of relatives are visited and
tended. Novruz is a family holiday. In the evening before the holiday
the whole family gathers around the holiday table laid with various
dishes to make the New Year rich. The holiday goes on for several days
and ends with festive public dancing and other entertainment of folk
bands, contests of national sports. In rural areas crop holidays are
Main museums in Baku
In the years following independence, a lot of attention has been poured
on the museums by the government, mainly as a way of weaving and
reinforcing national identity. Museums serving the Soviet ideology are
now they part of history. E.g., the Lenin museum now houses the
magnificent collection of the Museum of Carpet-Making and Folk Crafts,
previously located at the Djuma Mosque in the Old Town. Sign of the
The Azerbaijan State Museum
Historical & Architectural museum (Shirvan
Museum-Apartment of Niyazi (conductor)
Museum of Art (R.Mustafaev)
Museum-Apartment of Azim Azimzade (artist)
Nizami Museum of Azerbaijan Literature
Museum-Apartment of Abdulla Shaig (writer)
State Museum of the History of Religion
Museum of the History of Medicine
Museum of Carpet-Making and Folk Crafts
Museum of Natural History (Hassanbey
Museum of Theatre (Jafar Jabarly)
Museum of Education
Museum of Musical Culture of Azerbaijan
Memorial Museum of Nariman Narimanov
Museum of Independence
Memorial Museum of Mammad Said Ordubady
Memorial Museum of Hussein Javid (writer)
House-Museum of Uzeyir Hajibeyov (composer)
House-Museum of Samad Vurgun (poet)
House-Museum of Jafar Mammadguluzade
The great Azerbaijan poet Nizami Ganjavi is one of the most brilliant
masters of world literature. His masterpieccs are the best achievements
of artstic genius of mankind. As a poet and citizen h was the bearer of
the most advanced ideas of that epoch. These ideas found their
reflection in his famous Khamsa (Quintuple) composed of five long poems,
immortal pearls of classical Azerbaijan poetry, i. e. “Storehouse of
Mysteries”, “Seven Beauties”, “Chose and Sharing”, “Leal and Manhunt”, “Iskandername”.
By the harmonious order and distinct layout, by extraordinary
arrangement and vividncss of images each of these long poems became a
novel phenomenon not only in Azerbaijan, but in the whole of Eastern and
world literature.Nizami’s poems possess inexhaustible artistic merits,
are wound of wisdom and profount philosophical thoughts. Nizami’s poetry
is full of unbending optimist, belicf in the creative force.
This museum was originally the private residence of H. Z. Taghiyev, one
of Baku's most famous and philanthropic oil - millionaires. It's worth a
visit simply to see the decorative interior of the mansion. Many formal
receptions and state functions are still held in this museum today.
You'll also find attractively assembled exhibits covering the history of
Azerbaijan and providing insight into the social, cultural and everyday
life up to the present day. This is a "must see" even for visitors who
Carpet weaving is one of the oldest and most traditional forms of art in
Azerbaijan. You'll find two types of carpets: knotted and flat-weaved.
The skills of this art have been handed down from one generation of
artisans to another for centuries, and the motifs and the colours used
form an essential part of the culture of Azerbaijan, and seem able to
speak to Azeri’s of every background, whether simple or sophisticated.
There are three types of carpet shops operating in Azerbaijan. The first
are government-owned and operated; they are old style with unhelpful
sales staff. The second type are the consignment shops, where things
sold for their owners by the shop staff and the shop gets a commission
on each sale. The third style is the modern, western, capitalist shop.
These sell everything imaginable, sometimes from the same display case.
There are dozens of private carpet dealers in Baku, with world-wide
connections, many are located near the carpet museum. Some of these
carpet dealers sell out of their homes, many are Jewish. Quite often one
can distinguish the carpet shops easily: an old carpet fragment is hung
on the outside of the door - an excellent form of advertisement with no
language skills required. Often the shops work as meeting places from
where you may be taken to the dealer's house to be shown better pieces,
or to be led to unofficial dealers. The value of a carpet is determined
by a complex mix of factors including quality, colour, age, fashion and
transportation but naturally very susceptible to each moment's balance
of market offer and demand. Carpet prices tend to be high throughout
Azerbaijan. Just because a carpet is in Baku it does not mean it will be
cheaper there than in the West, the noveau riche in Azerbaijan have
created a new local demand and the local dealers are well informed of
Export can be difficult due to
bureaucratic requirements, even for new carpets. Expiates often
encounter problems when moving out of Azerbaijan trying to take their
own used carpets. So if you are going to be a Baku resident have this in
mind, before starting to buy expensive carpets. The only easy way to
smuggle Azeri carpets out of the country is via train to Russia, where
it is not even checked for. From Moscow, it's simple to get carpets out
of the country. Unless you smuggle, you will find little cost advantage
to buying carpets in Baku for export, versus buying in the West.
If you want to learn more about he
carpets of Azerbaijan, the carpet museum is a good place to start, the
impressive building, still known for its original purpose as the Lenin
museum is located on 123a Neftchilar av. Its collection was enriched
with the carpets brought from Shusha carpet museum, evacuated before the
Armenian advance. Some good reference books for the prospective buyer
are: "Bennet's Oriental Rugs - Vol I - Caucasian" (1993) and Ulrich
Schurman's "Caucasian Rugs" (last reprinted in 1990).
Azerbaijan became home to such renowned
poets as Nizami, Nasimi, Khataii, Fizuli, Vagif, Sabir, Hadi, Ashug
Alesker and attracted brilliant architects such as Abubekir, Adjemi
Nakhchivani and talented artists like Sultan Mohammed.Azerbaijan gave
birth to the Eastern pioneer of writing for the theatre, Mirza Fatali
Akhundzade and subsequently the first theatre in the East was opened in
Baku 1873. The first Moslem newspaper in Russia "Ekinchi" was launched
in 1871, edited by Hasan bey Zardabi. The Azerbaijan born Djalil
Mamedguluzade published the satirical and democratic magazine "Molla
Nasreddin" in 1906 which awakened the entire Eastern region. At the
start of this century the outstanding thinkers - Ali bey Huseinzade and
Ahmed bey Agaoglu spread their doctrine of ideas concerning the unity of
Turkish peoples from Azerbaijan to Turkey and beyond. In 1908, Baku,
Uzeur Hhadjibeili, aged only 22 years old staged the first Eastern opera
"Leili and Medjnun". Azerbaijan also gave birth to a group of
politicians who struggled against the Russian starriest autocracy. This
group included Alimardan bey Topchubashov, Nariman Narimanov and Mamed
Carpets - making is one of the oldest and most popular forms of applied
are in Azerbaijan. The traditions of this art, which is so loved by the
Azerbaijan people, have been handed down from one generation of carpet -
weavers to another for many centuries. The language of this art, its
designs and colors, has always been understood by all.
Unknown masters of the past made unique carpets which continue to amaze
and please us with their artistic detection.
Magnificent carpets and carpet articles
made by Azerbaijan craftswomen are in the collections of the world's
largest museums - the Hermitage in Leningrad, the Victoria and Albert in
London, the Textile in Washington, the Louvre in Paris, the Topkapy in
Istanbul, and others.
Historical sources abound in references to the high level of carpet -
making in Azerbaijan and the export of these carpets to different
countries. The prominent 10th - century Arab historians, Abu - Djafar -
Mohammed Tabari and Al - Mugaddasi, noted that excellent carpets were
made in the Azerbaijan town of Barda.
The ancient folk epic "Dede Korkud"
(11th - 12th centuries) especially praised purple Azerbaijan carpets.
Colorful Azerbaijan car pets were admired by the Flemish traveler,
missionary Guillaume de Rubrouck (13th century) and the Venetian
explorer Marco Polo (13th center).
Significantly, beginning from the 15th century, Azerbaijan carpets
figured in the paintinfs of European artists, among them Hans Holden the
Younger and Hans Mumbling. Mention of gorgeous Azerbaijan carpets is
found in the notes of the English traveler Anthony Jenkinson (16th
century) and the Dutch seafarer Jan Strays (17th century). Both pile and
pieces carpets are made in Azerbaijan.
In making carpets, Azerbaijan masters
put into them all their hearts and minds, applied all their skill and
lent their works a distinct national color.
The art of carpet - making is still alive in Azerbaijan. While following
classical traditions, contemporary masters impart a new meaning to old
motifs. At the same time, new compositions are being elaborated to
reflect the present day of the people.
Baku’s most extensive carpet exhibit is now is now housed inside what
used to be the Lenin Museum. The Carpet Museum has recently been
named after the late Latif Kerimov who
was the founder of theoretical research on Azerbaijan carpets. Kerimov
was also responsible for classifying Azerbaijan carpets into 144
specific types and for writing three major volumes identifying and
illustrating thousands of individual carpet design elements found
Shusha center of Azerbaijani music
Shusha has been known since ancient times as a center of music and was
famous all across the Transcaucasus. The Russian musicologist V.
Vinogradov wrote: "Shusha's musicians created the tradition of
Azerbaijani music and presented it not only in their homeland, but also
in other countries of the East." There was lots of music here, more than
in any other region of Azerbaijan; it was possible to hear folk
performers playing different national musical instruments, such as: tar
(a stringed musical instrument played by plucking), kemancha (a string
musical instrument played with a bow), balaban (a woodwind instrument),
def (a percussion instrument), saz (a string instrument played by
plucking with a plectrum) and other types.
At the end of the 18th century the
accumulation of a tradition of professional musical performance created
the conditions for the appearance of a new musical-poetic tradition.
Thus, traditional forms of musical genre and creative art acquire
features, which later become the foundation of the concert, theatrical
and vocal styles of the 20th century. It was Shusha, the rich artistic
life of which is marked by many bright events and talents that
stimulated the rapid growth of twentieth century Azeri music.
At the close of the eighteenth and at
the beginning of the nineteenth centuries, famous Shusha singers
Shakhsanam oglu Yusif, Mirza Husryn Gasanja, Mirza Ismail widely
popularized classic mugams - a genre of professional Azerbaijan folk
music, the distinctive feature of which is the improvisation of melodic
patterns; and laid the foundation of the Khanende - singer's art, when
the singer performs mugams with perfect mastery.
There are 7 classical forms of mugam.
These are: Rast, Shur, Seygah, Chaargah, Bayati - Shiraz, Shushter,
Humayun. At the same time, each of these mugams has a fixed number of
parts. And only singers, who could perform all parts of all of the
mugams correctly, deserved the name Khanende. Later musicians, who had
previously sung solo, began to organize the so-called "Mejlises",
something like the "musical salons" of today. The organizer of the first
literary - musical mejlis in the eighteen - seventies was Kharrat Gulu
Mohammed ogli Yusifi. A religious man, Kharrat Gulu was nonetheless the
most honored music expert of his time. He had a wonderful voice, knew
classic eastern poetry very well and had an uncommonly subtle feel for
mugams, their philosophic depth and contains.
Kharrat Gulu Mejlis had much in common
with "music schools" because their essence lay in the principle of
teaching religious ceremonies and learning the Koran with the use of
improvised mugams. For his school he selected musically gifted boys with
developed voice. Such distinguished Azerbaijan musicians as Haji Gusi,
Meshedi Isi, Kechachi oglu Mohammed, Jabbar Garyagdy, Mirza Sadykh Asad
oglu and Bul - Bul graduated from his school. Pupils and followers of
Kharrat Gulu's school contributed to the development of the oral
tradition in professional Azerbaijani national folk music. Among these a
special place is given the musician and innovator Mirza Sadykh Asad oglu,
who refined a musical instrument, the tar, which is widely used in
Transcaucasian republics, Middle Asia and Dagestan.
Owing to his redesign, some changes
were made in the construction of the tar that undoubtedly led to the
instrument's development. If before, the tar, that undoubtedly led to
the instrument's development. If before, the tar had been played held in
one's the lap, after this reworking it was held over the chest while
playing and that created more possibilities for the development of right
hand playing technique. Besides, to the original five strings of the tar
the musicians added six main and two resonating strings, changed the
step scale, which promoted an increase in expressive and technical
potential of the instrument, expanding the range of sound, and allowing
it to achieve a higher level of performance. The significance of the
improved tar the performance of Azerbaijan folk music and mughams, in
particular, is confirmed by the words of Afresiyab Badalbeyli, a native
of Garabagh, the author of the first ballet in the East "Giz
Galasi"("Maiden Nower"), first night of which took place in 1940:"...
after Mirza Sadykh, the essence of Azerbaijan mughams, their expressive
means, power of impact and performing methods rose to new heights. Mirza
Sadykh opened a new page in the history of Azerbaijani music".
Uzeyir Hajibeyov (1885-1948) is remembered and loved as the Founder of
Composed Music in Azerbaijan. During the tumultuous years at the
beginning of the 20th century, this musical genius refused to turn his
back on the music of his youth and his heritage. Amidst fierce
opposition and pressure, he paved the way to introduce Eastern musical
elements (folk melodies, modal scales and traditional instruments such
as tar, kamancha, zurna) into Western musical styles and forms (chorus,
opera, and symphonic music). These four works presented here rank among
Hajibeyov's finest dramatic pieces and exemplify his unique synthesis of
East and West. The original recordings (mostly from the 1970s and 1980s)
reflect a time when vinyl LP records were popular. Unfortunately, since
technology has changed, contemporary music lovers were deprived of some
of the earlier superb performances of Hajibeyov's works, including
several which were conducted by the Maestro Niyazi (1912-1984).
The decorative and applied art
Over the century-old history the Azerbaijan people have created a rich
and distinctive culture, a major part of which is decorative and applied
art. This form of art rooted in hoary antiquity is represented by a wide
range of handicrafts, such as chasing, jeweler, engraving in metal,
carving in wood, stone and bone, carpet-making, lasing, pattern weaving
and printing, knitting and embroidery. Each of these types of decorative
art, evidence of the and endowments of the Azerbaijan nation, is very
much in favor here. Many interesting facts pertaining to the development
of arts and crafts in Azerbaijan were reported by numerous merchants,
travelers and diplomats who had visited these places at different times.
The Italian traveler Marco Polo (13th century) noted the beauty of silk
wares from Shemakha and Barda. The English merchant and traveler Anthony
Jenkinson (16th century) who had visited the local ruler in his summer
residence marveled at its splendor. "The king was sitting in a rich tent
embroidered in silk and gold", he wrote, adding that the ruler's
garments were decorated white pearls and gems.
The time when the art of embroidery
began to spread in Azerbaijan can be established on the basis of
archaeological findings. The simplest ornamental elements similar to
those used in embroidery - straight and broken lines, zigzags, dots,
circles, triangles and lozenges- are found on pottery of the early
Bronze Age (dated in Azerbaijan as 3,000 B. C.).