Äkinji and Azerbaijani Self-Definition

Note: This article was originally published in Michael Ursinus, Christoph Herzog, & Raoul Motika (ed.), Heidelberger Studien zur Geschichte und Kultur des modernen Vorderen Orients, vol. 27 (Frankfurt am Main, etc.: Peter Lang, 2001). The author would appreciate any comments; these can be sent to his email address, Evan_J_Siegel@yahoo.com.

Äkinji, or the Farmer, was published between 1875 and 1877 in Baku by Häsän bey Zärdabi, a Caucasian Muslim born in 1842 into an enlightened Sunni Muslim notable's family. Ziyyadin Göyüshov, "Häsän bay Mälikov Zärdabi," Häsän bay Zärdabi: Sächilmish Äsärläri (Azärbayjan Dowlät Näshriyyäti, Baku, 1960), p. 8, which refers to an apparently unpublished memoir of him by his widow, Hänifä Khanim. We are told that he was Sunni in Tad Swietochowski's "Äkinji, 1875-1877. The Rise of the Azerbaijani Press and Public Debates in the Readers' Correspondence," Herzog, Motika, Pistor-Hatam (ed.), Presse und Offentlichtkeit im Nahen Osten (Heidelberg, Heidelberger Orientverl., 1995), p. 179.

He studied first in the newly-opened Russian school in Shamakhi, where his brilliance impressed the headmaster who had him sent on a government scholarship to Tbilisi. Having completed his course of studies there, he was accepted the age of 18 into the mathematics and physics department of Moscow University, where he distinguished himself. He returned to the Caucasus, serving as an administrator in the Land Survey Administration in Tbilisi and then in the judiciary in Kuba. He left this service in 1868 and served as a science teacher in a gymnasium in Baku. In 1873, he began to organize Benevolent Societies which raised money for Muslim children to study in the new Russian schools. It was also around this time that Häsän bey decided to found a gazette which would spread enlightenment among the Caucasian Muslims.

Founding a newspaper proved to be a very difficult task: the government had to find a censor who could read Turkish, Arabic typeface had to be imported from the Ottomans or otherwise obtained, money had to be raised from Muslim men of means for an enterprise the point of which they either did not understand or were unsympathetic towards and who, in any case, had no tradition of philanthropy. After three years of effort, the gazette was set up, thanks largely to the intervention of the new Baku governor, General Staroselsky. Häsän bey tells us in an article published thirty years after Äkinji foldedHäyat, December 28, 1905 and January 3, 1906, I:129 and II:2. I have taken the quotations from Häyat from the Cyrillic edition of published in Z. B. Goyushov, Häsän bay Zärdabi: Sächilmish Äsärläri.

that this governor had some sympathies with the Caucasian peoples, having married a Georgian.

While it lasted, Äkinji attracted the energies of the other giants of Azerbaijani modernism, Fath `Äli Äkhundov, the enlightenment poet Sayyed `Äzim Shirvani, and the playwrite Näjäf bey Väzirof.

The new gazette had to define itself in relation to the forces which dominated the universe it found itself in: politically, the Russian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and Iran, culturally, Iranian and Turkish influence, and religiously, Sunni and Shi`ite Islam. And behind all this was the pull between modernity and tradition.

Äkinji and the Russians

Häsän bey was loyal to the Tsar, if not effusively so. The Russian conquest of the Caucasus, which was still in progress during Häsän bey's youth,seems to have been appreciated for its effect on education, an issue so close to Häsän bey's heart:Äkinji, March 17, 1877, III:6, "Dakheliyyä" (roughly, editorial). All dates in the citations are from the old Russian calander. All quotations from Äkinji are taken from the Cyrillic edition published in Turan Häsänzada and `Äziz Mirähmädov, Äkinji (1875-55) (Azärnäshr, Baku, 1979).

Of course, such beys would not give any thoughts to the well-being of the people. They needed money to busy themselves with pleasures and the people, for their part, had to be like animals to be ruled over for the sake of their rule. Since learning was bitter to these fellows, the only thing they got out of these schools was to change their customs, i.e., their way of eating, drinking, dressing, etc., into the ways of foreigners, and remained completely ignorant of learning.
After the Russian monarchy seized our province, since we Caucasian Muslims, in our simplicity [???????], did not know of anything in the world better than the beys' rule, we thought that the government's building of schools to teach them was simply for the beys to learn, i.e., to have the power to crush and rend.

The Muslims, in short, should have appreciated this gift from the Russians. Indeed, when his loyalty was put to the test as the Russian and Ottoman empires drifted towards war in 1877, Häsän bey had Äkinji refer to "our Russian" troops, while the Ottoman troops were refered to as "the enemy." See the news column in Äkinji, January 18, 1877, III:2 and after. See also the editorial in July 21, 1877, III:15.

His references to the Tsar himself were always correct, using the obligatory Ä`la Häzrät (His Highness), although he never went out of his way to praise him. Given the pressures he was under, it is unclear how much compulsion was involved in these declarations of loyalty; however, it seems likely that he and his audience of enlightened Caucasian Muslims felt that their fate lay with the Russian Empire which, for all its discontents, offered them more than the old khans or their brothers in faith in the Ottoman realms.

Even after the 1905 revolution, when it was not obligatory for a newspaper to salute the Tsar, Häsän bey, after discussing the obstacles put in the way of Muslims interested in providing an education to their people in their own language, says of Tsar Alexander II,Häyat, January 6, 1906, II:5.

God be thanked that in years gone by, our late graced emperor commanded that the peoples subject to Russia teach their children in their own schools and in their own languages, and that even in the Tsar's schools, they should learn in their own language and in accordance with their own culture and religion.

In this context, the reader should recall the warm relationship which existed between Häsän bey and the Tsar's governor of Baku. For example, Häsän bey recalled in his memoirs of Äkinji that it was the general who recommended the newspaper's name, so that his superiors would believe that it was an inoffensive journal concerned with spreading agricultural technique, and helped arrange for the setting up of the printing shop it was to be produced in. Äkinji was born with this governor's arrival and went into its final decline with his departure. Moreover, Häsän bey had chummy relations with the general's underlings. Even after the general departed and the new governor permitted Häsän bey's enemies to raise their heads, the editor would play an hour or two of billiards with the governor's men every night at the local club.Häyat, December 28, 1905 and January 3, 1906, I:129 and II:2.

This is not to say that Häsän bey had no problem with Tsarist administration over the Caucasus. The use of Russian, a language almost all the Caucasian Muslims were ignorant of,as the sole language of administration led to numerous opportunities for abuse and corruption by the Tsarist officials and the translators who served as their intermediaries.Häyat, December 10, 1905, I:116.

In addition bribery was rife; although the Tsarist officials were not allowed to take money from their charges, they did accept services and goods, some of which they would subsequently sell for money, thus getting around the law.Häyat, December 21 and 23, 1905, I:123 and 125.

One Äkinji regular who did express loyalty to (the relatively liberal) Tsar Alexander II in terms which went beyond the obligatory was Sayyid `Äzim Shirvani. In a poem satirizing a conservative brother in faith, he declared, May 12, 1877, III:10. See also his poem of June 11, 1876, II:11.

Thanks to our King of the Land of the Russians
As soon as he ascended to the Throne of Justice,
We have had no cause to despair for education.
He has filled the world with fairness and justice....

In another poem, June 23, 1878, III:13.

he states that
Before the King, seated on the Throne of Fate
Had conquered this land,
We were all in the clutches of the khans
Suffering injustice.
There was no refuge for our property and wealth,
Our honor was torn from us in broad daylight.
The khan sold us for the price of a dog,
The farmer could not obtain a cow.
Our huts were built of reeds,
Now that our mouths are filled with bread,
It would be a shame for our name to be tarnished.
Because of this lofty king's rule,
We know no suffering in this age.
Thank God we are freed from grief
And are relieved from the suffering of the world.
Sayyed! Ultimate of poets!
Pray for good things for the Emperor!
May the True One give him long life
And may victory This was written after the outbreak of the Russo-Turkish war. make his mind glad.

Äkinji and the Ottomans

The Ottoman Empire receives broadly sympathetic attention in the pages of Äkinji, and it closely followed the court intrigues, the promises of reform, the fighting in the provinces, etc. It was published during the height of the Tanzimat period and showed a keen interest in the agitation accompanying the reforms of that time. For instance, a telegram in the news section reported May 27, 1876, II:10.

on the popular agitation for a national assembly, which is described as "a bureau [?????????] whose members are elected by the people and which bureau supervises governmental affairs. This National Assembly would fix a stipend for His Highness the Sultan more than which he cannot spend." A further telegram stated that the reforms were to include a constitution on the European model. November 6, 1876, II:21. The conservative opposition was also reported on; for example, the Ottoman Sheikh ol-Eslam's declaration that the reforms violated the shariat. July 25, 1876, II:14. See also November 6, 1876, II:21.

The touchy subject of Ottoman resistance to Western imperialism receives relatively short shrift. This is easy to understand once we recall that the Christian power on the most direct collision course with the Ottomans was the Russian Empire. What coverage there was was highly colored by the pro-Christian attitude which governed the international media of that age. The following exerpt from the news section is an example of this:

450 years ago, the Ottoman Turks entered Europe and took the Byzantine [???] city of Constantinople, renaming it Islambul [sic]... and seized the surrounding Christian [???????=cross-worshipper, the usual way of refering to Christians] provinces as well. A few years ago, some of provinces, such as Serbia and Montenegro... went to war against the Ottoman sultanate to escape from under its domination [??????]. Now, they pay the Ottoman sultanate a fixed amount but have internal autonomy.

Now the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina have gone to war against the Ottoman sultanate with the same aim, i.e., to have the same status as the other two provinces. The people of Serbia and Montenegro intend by helping Bosnia to avoid paying any taxes to the Ottomans.

Since it became known that the people of Serbia and Montenegro are helping Bosnia, and... the Ottoman sultanate wishes to seize Serbia and Montenegro, it is said that the European powers wish to get involved in the fighting. But recent telegrams report that Ottoman troops are not passing the frontiers of these provinces and will not do so.

On the other hand, Äkinji was under the supervision of the censors, a scrutiny which became heightened with the outbreak of war. It was forbidden to print political news from other newspapers.Häyat, December 28, 1905 and January 3, 1906, I:129 and II:2.

For reasons about which one can only speculate, it was long forbidded to publish even the Tsarist government's own telegramed dispatches from the front. War broke out April 12; permission to print these telegrams was announced in an editorial, August 18, 1877, III:17. The outbreak of war exacerbated this problem; to make matters worse, the fighting broke out after General Staroselsky was replaced as governor of Baku; with his benefactor gone, "the Muslims' enemies" began a campaign of harrassment against its editor which led to the closing of his gazette.Häyat, loc. cit.

Äkinji and the Armenian Question

A related issue is the Armenian question. Elements of the Ottoman Armenian millet hadbegun to press political claims. Discussion of this was again restricted to the news column and often took the form of reports from the armenophillic Western press. See, e.g., October 8, 1876, II:19.

The exception is the paper's occasional tangles with the truculent Armenian journal Mshak, published in Tbilisi. Its report July 25, 1876, II:14. that the editor of Mshak had expressed regret that the Ottoman Armenians lacked the weapons to fight the central government the way the other Christian minorities were could hardly have been without ulterior motive; nor could the report November 20, 1876, II:22. that an Armenian priest had called on his people to gather money to help their brethren in Anatolia just as the Russians were supporting their Serbian fellow Slavs. Elsewhere, March 17, 1877, III:6. it published a Russians customs report denying Mshak's claims that Ottoman Armenian refugees were swarming into Russian territory. In that same issue, it carried the following letter:
Mshak's editor is being very hasty in calling for the expulsion of Muslims from [certain] provinces, yet calls itself wise and learned. The wise and the learned never act in extreme haste, but look out for the consequences of their deeds. Althought the Armenians have made great strides in learning, the expulsion of the Muslims from these provinces will be difficult if not impossible. "Such hopes which will become ashes." In Persian.

On the other hand, it printed September 22, 1876, II:18.

as straight news a reports in Mshak of attacks on individual Iranian Armenians by Muslims in events in Ardebil and Rasht, prompting an angry and lengthy denial By Äkinji regular Ähsän ül-Qäva'ed, November 20, 1876, II:22. from an Äkinji regular who was visiting Rasht.

Äkinji took a positively benign position towards the Armenians of the Caucasus. They are repeatedly held up as a model for the Muslims to emulate in their commitment to their brethren, their interest in learning, their industriousness, etc. To illustrate their interest in education, Äkinji reports May 13, 1876, III:9.

that the Baku Armenians staged a play to raise money to send their poor to study in Petersburg and opened a society which raised up to seven thousand rubles to open schools and print scientific books to be given to the children of the Armenian poor, urged on by the Armenian clergy. Letter, February 1877 (no date), III:3. Letter, May 26, 1877, III:11. They have gymnasiums in every city and an academy in Yerevan.27 Their interest in reading enables them to publish ten gazettes and three journals while the Muslims can barely sustain one fortnightly. Editorial, July 25, 1876, II:14. It should be noted that the Armenians are refered to as hamchesm, which can mean "rival." A letter from Äkinji regular Äsgär Gorani on the same theme says that the Caucasian Armenians have four gazettes and four journals. (December 22, 1876, II:24.)

These articles were written under conditions of relatively low tension between Armenian and Muslim. It seems to have survived the communal slaughter of 1905; he favorably compares Armenian didactic and patriotic poetry with the poetry of their Muslim neighbors.

This was in stark contrast to the lack of philanthropy among the Muslim rich and interest in secular education among the Muslim clergy. See below.

It would seem appropriate to mention that two of Häsän bey's first collaborators in physically producing the newspaper were Armenians, an uncle and nephew team.Häyat, December 28, 1905 and January 3, 1906, I:129 and II:2.

Äkinji and Iran

Iran seems to have attracted rather less of Äkinji's interest than the Ottoman Empire, at least in part because it was not then an international hot spot in the throes of domestic upheaval. But the gazette was being published during the highpoint of the Sepahsalar era, the decade in which the Western-educated Mirza Hosein Khan, on the invitation of Naser od-Din Shah, was working to modernize his country. There are a few expressions See the news item in December 22, 1876, II:24.

of hope that the Shah's visit to Europe would lead to the rule of law and, for example, curb the rapaciousnous of the governors. But the only report of institutional reform is that of a council headed by the famous reformer Mirza Yusof Khan Mostashar od-Dawle in Tabriz and including the leading merchants and clerics. February 15, 1876, II:3.

The feeling seems to be that the Iranians by nature were not ready to live under the rule of law. "If you tell the people that without law, there will be no comfort or progress, they will say, 'What law is better that the shariat?'" See the letter from Rasht in July 17, 1877, III:14.

Indeed, Äkinji seems to have begun what would become a tradition among Caucasian Muslim progressives, satirizing efforts at reform in Iran. Thus, a letter published in July 1876 July 25, 1876, II:14. See also the letter by a "Friend of Iran" which appeared in the issue of August 23, 1876, II:16, which elaborates on this satire.

These pomposities, extreme even by contemporary Iranian standards, were clearly meant to be satirical. reports on the latest reforms in Iran as follows:
A letter from Tabriz reports that His Majesty the Shahenshah of Iran (May God immortalize his rule!) has sternly commanded the implementation of some new laws in Iran and had them printed in a booklet. Upon said booklet being brought from Tehran to Tabriz by His Excellency the Magnificent Master of the Age, His Excellency the Saheb-e Divan, Governor of Tabriz,35 he commanded that they be implemented. This booklet has five articles which may be summarized as follows:
  1. It is incumbant upon all the governors to honor the noble clergy.
  2. Sanctuary is suspended, no matter where.
  3. All matters are to be executed in accordance with the shariat. If a clergyman [?????] issues a statement contrary to the shariat, upon confirmation of this deed, he shall be exiled to Ardabil and imprisoned.
  4. Foreign subjects are forbidden from participating in any sort of buying or selling and are not to make clothes. Clothes are all to be made by Iranian subjects.
These commandments are to be communicated to the clergy by His Absolutist Eminence [???? ?????, instead of ???? ??????, His Esteemed Eminence], His Eminence Nezam ol-`Olema (May the Lofty One's peace be upon him!) and they are to issue a document confirming that they accept it....

Similarly, the newspaper Iran is derided. Upon receiving an issue, Häsän bey describes it as follows:

Telegrams are printed from Azerbaijan, Khorasan, Esfahan, and other Iranian provinces as if there were no Paris or London or Petersburg or other European cities. And the telegrams all read like the following: It rained in such and such a place, the first crops were good, the people are living in comfort, busily praying for His Imperial Majesty's Blessed Person's well-being. This, at a time of massive crop failures and apalling suffering in northern Iran.

In Persian. Then His Excellency the General President of the House of Printing and the House of Translation of the Protected Realms of Iran, Sani` od-Dawle Mohammad Häsän Khan [Iran mentions both his name and his title—Äkinji], says a few words about Iranians making the pilgrimage to Medina praying along with Ottomans and Arabs. The rest of the newspaper is taken up with... the history of Tehran.

Oh Sani` od-Dawle, may I be your sacrifice!37 What has your newspaper to do with history? Is there no other news in the world?...

My dear, awaken from your sleep of negligence and look towards Europe....

In sharp contrast to this was Äkinji's keen interest in the progress of Akhtar, the modernizing Iranian journal published in the Ottoman Empire. Its existence is first announced in an editorial in March 1876, March 15, 1876, II:5.

which published a statement by its editor, Mohammad Taher, in the original Persian, recommending that those who were interested in the magazine should contact a merchant named Haji Rahim in Tbilisi or subscribe directly; it promised to set up a network of distributers in other cities of the Caucasus as well. Häsän bey added that many journals had been published in Istanbul for the Muslims, "but since they are written in Ottoman, they are not pleasant for us to read; but since Akhtar is written in Persian and Persian is widely used in [our] provinces, we hope that many copies of it come here." A later article January 18, 1877, III:2. mentions that Akhtar had found itself in debt by two thousand rubles, but the Iranian government promised to send a thousand tumans to the company founded to support it.

In fact, the big story for Äkinji was how Iran related to the Ottoman Empire, particularly the border dispute between the two empires July 22, 1875, I:1,

and raids on each others territory. Letter, October 5, 1875, I:6, letter, November 18, , I:9, October 22, 1876, II:20, citing Pravitelstvenni Vestnik, citing the London Times. This rivalry takes on a more ominous tone as the tensions between the Ottoman and Russian empires erupted into open warfare. Äkinji repeatedly reported suspicions that the Iranians were in cahoots with the Tsar and were waiting for the chance to seize part of Ottoman territory as soon as the opportunity arose:

A telegram42 from Tehran reports that Iran intends to send troops to the Ottoman border to further Russia's interests.

An article from the Russian press November 20, 1876, II:22, citing Birzhevoi Vedomosti.

stating the Iran was sending troops to the Ottoman border and that it will not side with the Ottomans for either political or religious reasons.

A Russian newspaper December 22, 1876, II:24, citing Peterburgski Vedomosti.On the other hand, a dispatch from Tehran reports that the Iranian government is following Ottoman affairs very closely but in the event of war, it has no intentions of seizing Baghdad. (January 4, 1877, III:1) At the very least, such a denial points to the existence of widespread suspicions of Iran's intentions.

September 1, 1877, III:18. reports that the Shah of Iran sent an emmissary to Petersburg to say which side Iran would take in the event of war between Russia and the Ottomans.

Äkinji took notice of the growing Iranian community in the Caucasus. For the gazette's writers, they were a byword for poverty and exploitation and its sympathy for them could only have been genuine. They were also held up to the Caucasian Muslims as an example of the shame and degradation ignorance would bring upon them. In discussing an article in Akhtar exhorting the Muslims to become educated, an Äkinji correspondent, using the pseudonym Haraychi Qardash, wrote from Moscow45 that he had once seen an Iranian roaming the streets of that city dragging along a cross. Upon being asked what he was doing, the Iranian replied "God has punished Iran, there is no bread to be found." The author continues, "Brothers, isn't it because of ignorance that there is no bread to be found in our beautiful country and our people have to wander from land to land and abandon their work, their people, their faith, and die like flies...."

The gazette also made mention of the comings and goings of the Iranian consuls in Tbilisi, such as the arrival of the new consul, Mirza Mahmud Khan Sartip, at his post in Tbilisi. It reports that he was greeted by a crowd of 2000 Iranian subjects "and other merchants" who prepared to sacrifice dozens of sheep beneath his feet. Mirza Mahmud objected to these sacrifices, and the people were pleasantly surprised by such concern and kindness. April 14, 1877, III:8. It should be noted that this was the consul whom Zein ol-`Abedin Maraghe'i would excoriate in his Seyahatnameye Ebrahim Bey.

Shi'ism and Sunnism

[To be written later.

Education and Language

The education of the Caucasian Muslims was at the core of Äkinji's program for their uplift and advancement. At the core of this issue was the question of what language they were to be educated in. Although Häsän bey was impressed by the Ottoman efforts to print books useful to the practical education of its subjects, he felt that Ottoman Turkish was simply too difficult for the Caucasian Muslims to be a vehicle of education for them Editorial, March 29, 1876, II:6.

and suggested that they set up their own society to print adaptations [??? ???] of these books suitable for the Caucasian Muslim public. The need to translate from Ottoman was disputed in a letter signed with a number which, the editor of the Cyrillic edition of Äkinji pointed out, was an encyphered form of Häsän bey's name. In this letter, Häsän bey argues that although "Ottoman does not match our language, it is not sufficiently different from it that it require translation, although reading books in Ottoman requires some care, since it contains many words in Arabic and Persian and other languages and this makes it difficult to understand." He demonstrates this with a sample from an Ottoman book on natural science. He concludes by recommending that Caucasian Muslims passing through Istanbul to perform the haj might each bring back with them some useful Ottoman books and by this means, many libraries could be filled.

In another editorial, Häsän bey raises the following problem: The Russians permit schools to be opened in which teaching is to be done in Russian and other schools in whichteaching is to be done in the national languages. The problem is that the teachers must pass a test adminstered by the government and, according to Häsän bey, unlike their Armenian neighbors, the Muslims did not have learned people or even schools in which the people could study in their own language. And so if a school is opened by the Muslims, the language of instruction had to be in Russian, but the ultimate goal had to be to develop a cadre of instructors who could go on to set up schools in the language of the Muslims themselves.

Studying in Russian was particularly favored by Sayyed `Azim Shirvani, whose sympathetic view of Russian rule we have already seen. His cosmopolitanism, or lack of interest in national particularism, led him to declare, in a poem June 11, 1876, II:11. Säyyid `Äzim's indifference to the difference between Muslim and Russian was too much for the editor, who, while complimenting him on his eloquence, added that "Man must acquire learning to be a human and accept Islamic qualities."

addressed to his son,
I don't say be a Russian or a Muslim,
Whatever you be, be a man of learning.
Light of my eyes, gift of God,
You have been raised in Shirvan.
Praise God, the land of Shirvan
Has now become a second Isfahan....
In every corner are a hundred perfected beings
Each one of which is an eloquent scholar.
Especially since our King of the Land of the Russians
As soon as he ascended to the Throne of Justice,
Educated the perfected beings,
Bringing learning to all areas.
He has opened a school in every province,
The notables [??? ????] received meritorious qualities....
Dear as my eyes, be enthusiastic no matter what the language,
Especially if it is in Russian, it is obligatory upon us.
We need them [languages] very much,
If we don't know languages, there is no cure for our ills.

If Häsän bey's later statement on the issue of language and education are any indication of his thinking on the matter in the 1870's, he did not share this universalist perspective. In an article published in 1906, speaking of the schools opened before Tsar Alexander II stepped in, he wrote,Häyat, January 6, 1906, II:5.

Editorial, June 11, 1876, II:11.
[W]e did not have our own school for our people to study in our own language and in accordance with our own religion. In the schools set up by the government, the priests, inorder to carry out missionary work, banned our language and our culture and shariat. And so very few Muslims went to those schools.

Education and Tradition

Another aspect of this problem was that the common people were deeply suspicious of the new education. The author warned50 that, although his fellow-Muslims recognized that education was a necessity,

[i]f a people's customs and behavior is not consistent with learning, that people will never learn. While for some time we have been saying that learning is obligatory upon us Muslims, we have said that our customs are an obstacle to this.

.... For example, wearing boots is no sin, and anyone who thinks about it will not consider someone who wears boots a renegade from Islam. But if someone puts on boots instead of our inappropriate shoes, the poets will mock him and the mullahs will curse him from the pulpit and the common people will not return his greetings.In short, all of us will unite and consider him an infidel and we will give him such a hard time that the poor fellow will be forced to abandon his people and go abroad....

... [B]ut it is not right for the sake of these five days of worldly pleasure that you abandon your people, your brothers, to wanter blindly. Do not sell out for the pleasures of this world, but perform good works for your brothers and let the poets mock you, the mullahs curse you, the rabble stone you, you are toiling for your people and, no doubt, in the future, the people's eyes will open and consider you a martyr and call down divine mercy upon you.

Towards the end of his life, Häsän bey wrote that even now, only a few sons of notables were attending the Russian gymnasium in Baku, and they were afraid to wear Russian-style shoes, much less their school uniforms, in public, lest they be considered unbelievers and renegades from the Faith.Häyat, December 13, 1905, I:117.

In his memoirs of his efforts if the 1870s, published after the 1905 revolution, Häsän bey recalls the obstacles he faced in persuading the Muslim notables to public-spiritedness.Häyat, November 25 and December 8, 1905, I:107 and 115.

After noting that philanthropists are hard to come by, he added that this was particularly the case among "us Muslims." This was "because philanthropic work requires refinement and learning, and there is, alas, little of this among us Muslims." Instead, vast sums of money are given to the mariyekhans (the professional mourners of the martyrdom of Imam Hosein) who do no good and in fact do much harm. He compares this situation with that of the Armenians who had

founded Benevolent Associations forty years ago. In those days, there were very few Armenians in Baku, no more than a few hundred. The Armenians native to Baku were about ten or fifteen families. Later, Armenians came as civil servants or as merchants. Even in those days they were more literate than we. Some of them had graduated from universities. One of them, Dr. Rostamyan, drafted a constition for a Benevolent Society and, with a few others, presented a petition to found one, which was granted. They then founded the society and invited all the Armenians in Baku, opened an accounting book, and gathered money.... Everyone was to bring a certain sum and no one said that he would not pay it or was not able to afford it....

In those days, there were three Qarabagh Armenian milkmen in Baku.... Two of them went on to become millionaires. The third, Karapat, was a zealous, patriotic man and died a milkman.

When the meeting to found the Benevolent Association was convened, this Karapet heard about it and came and tied his cow to the door and they brought a seat for him. They made way for him, stepping back. He asked Rostamyan what they were going to do with this money. He [They?] replied that they wanted to open schools for poor and orphan Armenians to study in.

The Armenian milkman became very agitated, removed a leather purse from his clothes, and declared to Rustmyan that "I consider all Armenian children to be my own and very much want them to learn to read. In the morning, when I milk my cow, I see them going to school with their books under their arms and am very glad. So the money I have been saving in my leather purse for some years I am donating to this Benevolent Society," a sum which amounted to a thousand rubles. The assembled Armenians called God to grace this milkman, but prayed that houses of his millionaire former colleagues would be destroyed.

In contrast to this, when Häsän bey tried, in 1871, to found a Benevolent Society in Baku and got permission from the authorities to have it set up, even those who petitioned the authorities would not help him. Finally, a meeting was held in the home of Mullah Jävad Akhund, the chief Islamic judge of Baku. The leading figures in Baku Muslim society were invited to the meeting to help. He reported that Zein ül-`Abidin Täqiev spoke at length about the aims of the society.

But when the word money was mentioned, the hajis became upset. One of them said, "This good deed requires a someone to pray for its wellbeing. I hope that you consider me that person," and got up and left. Another haji said he had to relieve himself and got up and left. These worthies one by one bore the honor of their presence away from us.... I went home and couldn't eat a crust of bread by day or sleep a wink at night thinking about our unhappy Muslims. Brothers, compare us with our Armenian neighbors!


As a newspaper of the Caucasian Muslims, Äkinji had many rivals for its loyalties. It declaimed its loyalty to the Tsar, even in the most difficult situation. It expressed a keen interest in the political situation in the Ottoman Empire, but not at the expense of turning against the Tsar. Its attitude towards its Armenian neighbors was generally positive, seeing them as a role model for the Muslims to follow more than a threat, although it recognized this too, on occasion. This, too, reflected the position to be taken by the budding Azerbaijani intelligentsia, although with the passage of time the latter tendency eventually predominated. Its attitude towards Iran was cooler and more skeptical than its attitude towards the Ottoman Empire, another standard in Caucasian Azerbaijani thought.


As his situation worsened, Häsän bey decided to close the newspaper at least until the war ended. But even so, the new governor of Baku wanted to force him out of town and arranged for him to be sent to teach in another city. He resigned his job,not wishing to leave Baku. But unable to find work with either the government or the Muslims, he retired to his village.Häyat, December 28, 1905 and January 3, 1906, I:129 and II:2.

The closure of Äkinji came in the context of a general decline of Azerbaijani literature, according to Azerbaijani scholars, both pre-Soviet and Soviet. Akhundov would die the next year, Sayyid `Azim Shirvani would abandon Azeri Turkish for Persian, and the writers who came after them for the next twenty years could not fill their shoes. This situation lasted a quarter of a century, during which he wrote regularly for various Russian-language journals, particularly for Kaspi; which we have not had the opportunity to study. This issue is the subject of Kheirülla Mämmädöv, Äkinjidän Mülla Näsräddinä qädär (Yäzichi, Baku, 1987). The various opinions on the matter are summarized in pp. 5-6.

After the Azerbaijani renaissance which followed the 1905 revolution, Häsän bey resumed his cultural acitivities. He was, in particular, a regular contributor to the progressive Häyat.Judging from these articles, his ideas were generally unchanged, except for a tendency towards linguistic panturkism. In an article in Häyat,Häyat, January 11, 1906, II:9.

he argued that in a world in which the Muslims would come more and more to mingle with other communities, he saw the defence of the Turkish language as the only way to protect the core of Islam. From this he concluded that the unity of the Russian Muslims was dependent on the unity of the Turkish language, and so efforts should be made to find a common language for the Russian Turks. This required a minimizing of the use of Persian, which entailed a struggle with the clergy's influence over the language, these being identified as a primary source of Persianization.The reader cannot help but not that the editor of Häsän bay Zärdabi: Sächilmish Äsärläri felt compelled to translate the title of the piece from the sonorous Perisanized Arabic Ittihad-i Lisan to Dil Birliji.Häyat, January 13, 1906, II:12.) As a subsequent articleHäyat, January 13, 1906, II:12. pointed out, it also implied the Turkification of the Muslim linguistic minorities, i.e. the speakers of Persian (Tats) and the speakers of various Caucasian languages.

Häsän bey died in 1907, a death which was met with a vast outpouring of grief from Caucasians of all religious backgrounds. Ziyyadin Göyüshov, Introduction, Häsän bay Zärdabi: Sächilmish Äsärläri, p. 27, which shows a photograph of a massive funeral procession for Häsän bey.

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