Author: Natavan FAIQ Baku
This is how the special ceremony to mark the 40th anniversary of Museum of the Poet Samad Vurgun began with the voice of Azerbaijan's [late] national leader Heydar Aliyev. With a quivering voice, reading these lines from Vurgun which are dear to every one of us. "…I am all yours… always… a son to you… Azerbaijan…" Thus, recited in this recognisable fashion, he could not hold back the tears when uttering these words. How could anyone, for these verses are like an oath…
"Can the soul be stolen
from the heart? No way!
You are my very breath -
my bread and water
Your towns have opened up to me
All of me is yours. I will
always pay tribute to you
as your son.
El bilir ki, sən mənimsən,
Yurdum, yuvam, məskənimsən,
Anam doğma vətənimsən!
Ayrılarmı könül candan?
The family tree
Milli Maclis deputies, cultural figures and representatives of the public came on that day to familiarise themselves with the museum's exhibition, although the verb "familiarise" is probably not appropriate. Many people had been here more than once. There are places that have their own kind of aura, which attract one throughout one's life. It is constantly interesting to examine the objects in the simple interior, which allow us to peep into the poet's creative laboratory, albeit just for a wee bit. Moreover, besides the well-known exhibits there were also new things that the regular visitors to the museum spotted straightaway. The panel right by the entrance which covered the entire wall had already drawn an unusual amount of attention.
The family tree (compiled by Ismayil Umudlu) was painted in water colours on canvas (by Afaq Karimova). You could not help but stop and look at it for this was no joking matter, with the Vakilov roots going back almost 600 years! The written chronicle begins in the 16th century. The late Vaqif Samadoglu recounted hat the family tree was compiled by his great uncle once removed, General Ibrahim aga Vakilov, the same person who created the military topographical map of Turkey at the request of Ataturk himself. What is interesting is that, if we talk about the "main line", the predecessors' main branches of activity, there are three of them, namely military, literary (poetry) and diplomatic.
The house-museum of Samad Vurgun, the Azerbaijani poet, playwright and public figure, consists of six rooms. The study, the sitting room, and the bedrooms have retained their interiors as they were when he was alive. You can hardly believe your eyes. There is the desk where he used to sit… There is the bookshelf with his favourite editions. You stand in the sitting room and you "see in your mind's eye" the people, the regular visitors there. Samad was known to be a sociable person, a hospitable person, who enjoyed having lively company around the table. All kinds of people would come there! Pavel Antokolsky, Alexander Fadeyev and Nikolai Tikhonov, Vladimir Lugovskoy and Konstantin Simonov… Composers, writers and playwrights. Here there also hangs a landscape by [Azerbaijani artist] Sattar Bahlulzada.
There is the book-case given was donated by the family of [Azerbaijani writer] Abdulla Saiq. The museum's exposition was created on the basis of an enormous wealth of objects donated by the poet's wife, Xavar Vakilova, who was the museum's first curator.
The clock stands opposite, but doesn't work anymore, since that day when merciless death stopped the heart of Samad for ever. The hands were stopped by Xavar xanim [mark of respect when addressing an Azerbaijani woman] at 7.30 pm on 27 May 1956, when the poet closed his eyes for ever…
…And Uzeyirbay [Hacibayov] played on that grand piano himself, and later on [other Azerbaijani composers like] Qara Qarayev, Fikrat Amirov and Suleyman Alasqarov… The grand piano, the piano and even [Iranian stringed musical instrument] the saz… Who hadn't managed to play on them - all Azerbaijan's classics. And all the members of the household as well. The eldest son Yusif was a splendid violinist; Vaqif became a professional pianist, and even the daughter Aybaniz xanim who had to take up this "baton of sacred fire", became the curator of the museum after Xavar xanim left. And then, after her, Aybaniz's daughter Aygun, Samad Vurgun's grand-daughter who left this world so early, while she was still very, very young…
Obsessed by the museum
The curator of the museum is always obsessed by it… But it can happen that this is a feat in life…
The house-museum has long been turned into a hive of intellectual activity - since it opened, numerous exhibitions, scientific sessions and culture-related events have held there.
Today it is run by Nusaba Vakilova, the wife of Vaqif Samadoglu, an orientalist and doctor of philosophy.
"A museum is a living organism, responding to the challenges of the time," she stressed. "I have many ideas, many plans, I dream of creating a museum which corresponds to today's understanding of a museum as a process."
In her speech, Azerbaijan's Deputy Minister of Culture and Tourism Sevda Mammadaliyeva talked about the capital refurbishment carried out in accordance with the instructions of President Ilham Aliyev. Sevda xanim emphasized the state's particular, an-xious attitude to the sources of culture. This trend is linked with the name of Heydar Aliyev who is known to have thought highly of people who were artists and creative people and was more aware of their worth than anyone else.
Nowadays the museum has acquired yet another aspect, that of "being part of a family" bringing together Samad's talented sons, Yusif and Vaqif, who have become the pride of Azerbaijani culture. This has undoubtedly imparted yet another unusual characteristic to the space, an unexpected one, unreservedly overturning the contrary "axiom" that nature is sparing with genius when it comes to children… There are sometimes exceptions to the rule.
The existence of Yusif's and Vaqif's "little nooks" undoubtedly sparks interest in the museum, swelling the numbers of admirers of the works of the "triumvirate". Although they have these little corners, they really should have a room. It is no accident that it is customary to refer to the son who enjoys success as "Шah яsяri" ("the work of the shah"). What can one say when two sons have been successful…
The creative genes
The Azerbaijani writer Anar, who expressed his congratulations on the jubilee, noted that a literature museum always reflects its time, unlike the house-museums where time does not stand still. It always breathes, is joyful and sad. And the fact that students have come to this gathering today only goes to confirm what has been said. "Over these 40 years two unique artistes have become established, People's writer Yusif Samadoglu and People's Poet Vaqif Samadoglu", Anar said, recalling that it was precisely here, "in this house that Vaqif read out to him his first three poems"…
The Vakilovs have an amazing gene, continuing something that in truth does not often happen. It is something which does not necessarily connected with literature. In spite of his youthful age, Vurgun, the son of Aygun xanim, has already managed to win over the hearts of classical music fans in many countries. He has been awarded a presidential grant…
Milli Maclis deputy Elmira Axundova particularly dwelt on the need to boost cooperation with museums in other countries; this is especially true of house museums of writers and poets like that of [Soviet writer] Mikhail Sholokhov, for example. A film ought to be made about the museum. Interactive links need to be organised, which means first and foremost that state-of-the-art technology needs to be provided," the deputy stressed.
The speakers noted that these premises are not just the house-museum of Samad Vurgun, "but "a centre of poetic thinking, of inspired illumination", a source of inspiration, from which today's people of letters derive their strength. But new things embodied and still to be realised undoubtedly convince one that the museum is "on its way". The museum is moving with the times and not caught up in "the web of centuries".
Thus, as you walk from room to room, you can discover the bronze figures that have appeared here recently. These are the work of the talented young sculptor Kamran Asadov. The half-metre-high sculptures of Molla Panah Vaqif [1717-1797] (in whose honour Samad Vurgun named his "youngest") and of Shah Kajar, the main character in Samad Vurgun's play "Vaqif" and that of Kirlikir, Yusif's favourite character in the novel "Day of the Execution".
Naturally, all this is an indicator of the passionate attitude to this matter.
The emotion with which Nusaba xanim made her speech only confirmed that people are definitely interested in the museum. But this is not simply the emotion of an assiduous member of staff, it is much more than that. It is the feelings of a responsible person, a person of words and deeds, a person with a mission, if you like.
It is quite right that they entrusted the family business to her, to a person with an ardent and reliable mentality, with a concerned heart, and not just a "sense of duty". Arguing at work, with an unescapable creative and rare sense of commitment, Nusaba xanim is a person of the humanities, something that is very valuable. She writes poetry, essays, memoirs, and is the editor of Vaqif's collected works. At this time, she is preparing yet another unpublished item for the press…
She brought her considerate attitude inside the walls of the museum with her, these walls where memory is alive. Memory of intellectual things is vitally necessary to us today and naturally what she, Nusaba, recalls. I remember how she told me about her first meeting with Xavar xanim, with her mother-in-law, an exceptional woman who was Vurgun's muse… And there in one of the glass cases their wedding rings are on display.
The strings of Samad Vurgun's soul
The glass cases containing manuscripts, photographs of members of the poet's family, and personal effects attract one like a magnet. What appear to be domestic bits and pieces, even trifles, which have however ceased to be trifles, for they have been touched by the hand of the Maestro, things that have retained the warmth of that hand, its intention… These are trifles that have acquired an everlasting importance… Eternity is turning them into a treasure. People do not find it boring to be among these things… Everyday life with its not altogether pleasant surprises is forgotten. Here one begins to understand the silent language of things, to carefully look into their past and sympathise with their grievances…
…Then the music resounded, the romance of Sevda Ibrahimova "Bir Diyarыn Eшqinя" containing the verses of Samad Vurgun and performed by Alexandria Sultanzada von Bruesel-dorf. The composer, People's Artiste of Azerbaijan Sevda xanim, shared the memories of her youth which can be said to have been spent in this house: her father, People's Writer of Azerbaijan Mirza Ibrahimov and Samad were great friends. It was all the more gratifying to see how the ties are being maintained. She herself personally sat down at the grand piano and accompanied the singer. The heartfelt melody set the soul on fire from the very first beats, once again convincing people how necessary it is to write about one's Motherland in a sincere manner and not with pathos. Nor could it be otherwise. For Samad's patriotism is special and cannot be translated.
"Ayrыlarmы kюnцl candan?" Well, how can you translate these words! These are not words but a deep breath… or a pain - as you exhale. "Can the soul be stolen from the heart"… This melodiousness in the verse is its desperate sorrow… For the patriotism is genuine, when it is profound, it is secret. It is no accident that real poetry is said to be untranslatable…
Behind the curtain yet another surprise awaited those attending. The poet's great grandson, Vurgun Vakilov, played a prelude by [Russian compo-ser] Sergei Rachmaninoff, a family favourite. I remember how in a conversation with Vaqif, as he was departing, he kept on referring to the great Russian composer. There are surprisingly "Azerbaijani" intonations, especially in the middle part of the prelude, which organically blended into the feel of the soiree, as if they had been resounding within these walls for a century.
When watching the youthful Vurgun, listening to the everlasting sounds under his confident fingers, Vaqif Samadoglu once again recalled some memories. To the question regarding his personal contribution to the family pedigree and to its worthy continuation, he responded with the modesty characteristic of him: "Let's say, I have tried. Maybe it could have been different… You know, it is a responsible thing to pass on a family's genius. You can drown in this sea, but if you are to avoid drowning, you need great willpower and quite a lot of effort…" They have done what they could, their names going down in the history of Azerbaijani literature for ever.
…There is the poem "Azerbaijan" with Heydar Aliyev's recitation of which the soiree began… It may be surprising but even now these lines are only heard in his sensitive "interpretation", and not in any other. One wonders whether others feel the same. "Azerbaijan" is Samad's visiting card. There was a time, a terrible time, when Samad Vurgun was summoned to the Commissariat of Internal Affairs because of it, was summoned at nights and interrogated. This is what he told his brother Mehdixan Vakilov: "…They found a great many faults with my poem "Azerbaijan". They could not understand that this is the main reason in my life. Remember that I think of myself as the greatest internationalist. I wish all peoples and all nations happiness… But at the same time, for me the most sacred of lands is the land of Azerbaijan, and the people that I count as my own are the Azerbaijani people, their language and their verses. This is the voice of my conscience, it is like my own mother to me. If they call me a nationalist because of that, let them call me that. The time will come when history will reveal the truth!" History has revealed it…