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August 16, 1925|
February 13, 2009 (aged 83)|
Bakhtiyar Vahabzadeh (Azerbaijani: Bəxtiyar Vahabzadə; Turkish: Bahtiyar Vahapzade; August 16, 1925 – February 13, 2009) was an Azerbaijani poet, dramatist, lyricist and translator as well as a college professor and politician. He is often regarded as the second greatest contemporary poet of Azerbaijan, after Samed Vurgun.
Vahabzadeh was born in 1925 in Nukha (now Sheki) where his bust now stands on a central square. With his family he moved to Baku in 1934 and later studied philology at Azerbaijan State University. He would remain there as a professor till 1990 except during 1962-1964 when expelled for nationalist leanings. During that time he survived dire poverty by selling his wife's jewellery. They had three children, Gulzar, Isfandiyar and Azer. Isfandiyar was named Azerbaijan's ambassador to Moldova. Vahabzadeh died in Baku on February 13, 2009, aged 83. His memorial celebration was attended by the President of Azerbaijan.
Vahabzadeh presented his doctoral thesis on the Azerbaijani poet Samed Vurgun in 1951. In 1952, afraid that his anti-Stalin sentiments and critical sentiments towards certain elements of the post World War II Soviet system would be discovered, he destroyed the majority of his early poetic works, albeit keeping just a small sample by hiding the manuscripts in his mother's prosthetic leg.
Over his career he wrote on numerous themes, notably country (Azerbaijan), family, nature, language and freedom. For years his articles and poems appeared in the review Türk Edebiyatı having gained acclaim in Turkey for Yel Kaya'dan Ne Aparır? (What Does the Wind Steal from the Stone?), an article published in Varlık that set out to answer critics of the medieval poet Fuzûlî.
Vahabzadeh won the Azerbaijan SSR state prize as honoured arts worker in 1974, won the state award for the whole USSR in 1984 and was named People's Poet a year later. In 2002, Vahabzadeh received the Commodore Medal from the Romanian Ministry of Culture for his poetry book titled Benim Garibim (My Poor).
Among his best known long verses, Yollar-Oğullar (Roads-Sons) was dedicated to the Algerian Independence Movement, and the Mugam celebrated Azerbaijan's best known composer Üzeyir Hacıbeyli. Many of Vahabzade's works had a political edge that purported to criticise inadequacies of the USSR's Western enemies while in fact having underlying resonances with problems back home. Thus Latin Dili (Latin Language, 1967), written in reaction to a visit to Morocco noted how local people, like Azeris in the USSR, were forced to use a non-native language (i.e. French rather than Arabic). Latin Dili thereupon highlights the irony that elsewhere there's a language (Latin) that remains widely used despite no longer belonging to any living culture. This nearly got Vahabzadeh in trouble with the KGB but it could not be proven that the poem's subtext was Azerbaijan not Morocco as he claimed. In a similar vein, the 1972 poem Dawn examined the USA's McCarthy-era attacks on pacifist scientist Linus Pauling while unspokenly reflecting a similar sense of political paranoia in the Soviet Union.
Other well-known poetic works and collections include:
His best known plays include İkinci Ses (The Second Sound, 1991), Yağışdan Sonra (After the Rain), Artığ Adam (Waste Man) and Vicdan (Conscience).
Several works including İkinci Ses have been translated into Turkish by Yavuz Bülent Bakiler. Others include:
Vahabzadeh translated into Azerbaijani as Abydos gəlini, Lord Byron's 1813 work Bride of Abydon inspired by travels in Turkey. Vahabzadeh's own poems have been translated into many languages in the Soviet Union as well as into many Turkic languages and into German, French and Persian.
For over 40 years, from 1951 till retirement in 1990, Vahabzadeh worked at Azerbaijan State University as a professor of “Contemporary Azerbaijani Literature”, albeit with two years gap. In 1980 he became both a member of the Azerbaijani Academy of Sciences and deputy of the Milli Majlis (parliament) of the Azerbaijan SSR. His rise in the political ranks of Soviet Azerbaijan was aided by penning titles such as his 1976 Leninlə Sohbet, but politically he had long been a noted nationalist, suffering a two-year expulsion from his university for publishing the 1959 poem Gulustan in which he drew attention to the division of the Azerbaijani people as a result of the 1813 Treaty of Gulistan. Vahabzadeh is cited as one of the figures of the Azerbaijani intelligentsia whose pronouncements in 1988 contributed to the rising tensions between the Azerbaijani and Armenian populations of Shamakhi District that led eventually to the Kərkənc village swap.  Having been deputy of the Supreme Soviet of the Republic of Azerbaijan since 1980, Vahabzadeh continued his parliamentary duties following independence gaining election to Azerbaijan's national parliament in 1995 and again in 2000. On 15 April 1995 Vahabzadeh was awarded with the prestigious Istiglal Order for his contributions to the national independence movement of Azerbaijan by the then President of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev.
Bəxtiyar Vahabzadə küç, a major street in Baku's Yasamal district, is named after Vahabzadeh, as is a high school in the Turkish city of Adana. and parks in both Konya and Ankara. Street in Belgrade, Serbia connecting neighborhoods of Banjica and Miljakovac is named "Ulica Bahtijara Vagabzade". It has its own eBird hotspot page.
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