Author: Samira KAZIMOVA
Georgy Zapletin has lived in Baku since his birth. “Azerbaijan is my homeland and soul,” admits Georgy Pavlovich. All of his books are about the glorious sons of Azerbaijan, whose names must remain forever in national memory. It is a good reason to talk to the member of the Writers' Union of Azerbaijan, the winner of the Grand Prince Yuri Dolgorukiy International Prize, the fellow of the Organization of War, Labor and Armed Forces Veterans, the Karabakh War veteran and retired colonel Georgy Zapletin just before the International Solidarity Day of Azerbaijanis.
Georgy Pavlovich, tell us about your latest book David Pashayev: Unclassified. How did you collect information about the life of the outstanding son of Azerbaijan, who is barely known in his homeland?
I have always been interested to know the fate of my compatriots. David Pashayev was a top-secret person, like Kerim Kerimov, who was one of the founders of the Soviet space program. He was a general director of the largest nuclear submarine center in Russia, Sevmash. Later, he was the general director of the State Russian Nuclear Shipbuilding Center under Sevmash. Since 2004, he has been promoted to the presidency at the same Center. David Pashayev is known as the father of nuclear underwater shipbuilding. The father, grandfather and great-grandfather of David Huseynovich are from the village of Dashsalahli in Gazakh region of Azerbaijan. Huseyn Pashayev could not escape the fate of the thousands of innocently repressed Soviet citizens. He was arrested and exiled to the Solovetsky Islands. However, he was released and subsequently rehabilitated.
Many years ago, I found the book “Azerbaijanis in Russia” at the M. F. Akhundov Library and read a short essay about David Pashayev on page 358. Interested to explore his extraordinary personality, I began looking for his relatives. David’s brother, Kazim Pashayev, whose address I was able to find through my friends, was no longer alive at that time. By pure accident, I learned that he had a niece, the national actress of Azerbaijan, ballerina Medina Aliyeva. So, I had a clue. I found Medina and the sisters of David, Peri and Nina, and began collecting bits of data for my future book. Peri-khanim gave me a book with an amazing title, The Age of David Pashayev. The foreword to the book was written by the Russian president Vladimir Putin, where he described indispensable merits of David Huseynovich and his personal qualities. Can you imagine how valuable was our fellow in Russia? Then, I decided that I should definitely tell about David Pashayev in Azerbaijan as well. My book David Pashayev: Unclassified was published a year later. I do wish that young generations would know and remember those who have done so much for their country and society. It is very important to preserve the memory of our fellow compatriots.
Can you tell us about yourself, and how you started writing books?
I am a native of Baku. I was born in Icherishahar. My mother, Alla Mikayilovna Gurbanova, was half Azerbaijani and half Russian. My father, Pavel Vasilyevich Zapletin, was born in Penza, Russia. He has served in the Caspian flotilla, and my mother has worked at the Caspar Hospital (Central Hospital for Seamen). But they did not live together long. The Great Patriotic War began, and my father went to the front, where he was killed in 1942. He was only 30 years old. I was a one-year-old toddler at that time. Dad did not even see me, but he knew that he had a son. Mom also died early, when she was just forty years old. I was raised by my grandmother.
When I turned fifty, I fulfilled my filial duty by committing “Hajj” to the island of Rybachiy, where my father is buried and which is a holy place for me. Of course, Russia is the historical homeland of my father, but Azerbaijan is my homeland. My mother was born here, I am married to an Azerbaijani; my son and daughter are married to Azerbaijanis too. I have three grandchildren: Leila, Samir, and Zuleikha. So, you tell me who I am. I am a son of this land. I am a native of Baku.
I studied at the oil technical school and became an operator for oil production and exploitation wells. I have worked as an operator and assistant driller at the Bibiheybat field. Then, my life changed dramatically. Once in 1964, the then first secretary of the Central Committee of the Komsomol, the late Masud Alizadeh arrived to our field. He had traveled through various fields, factories, and plants looking for the active Komsomol members. Two months after his visit, I have started working at one of the district committees of the Komsomol. I was twenty-three years old. I became a secretary of the Komsomol Committee at the Oil Rocks. Then, I was admitted to the Baku Higher Party School and appointed to the Azizbayov District Party Committee after the graduation, where I have worked for only four months. Thanks to my late teacher Mammad Sadikhzadeh, who had a great reputation in the Central Committee of the party, I was promoted to the central office of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan, to the propaganda and agitation department. Four years later, I was elected a secretary of the Shamakhi District Party Committee on ideological issues. Two years later, I was recommended to the Ministry of Internal Affairs as the head of the department for political and educational work. Then, I was the deputy head of the Department of Correctional Labor Institutions and deputy head of the Department of Interethnic Relations under the ministry. I have worked there for four years. Then, the Popular Front took the power in Azerbaijan, and like many other fellows much better than I am, I became a victim of the new rulers. I retired as a colonel when I was a fifty-one. I had plenty of time, and I started writing books. Initially, I wrote articles for the newspaper Panorama, whose editor-in-chief was a good friend of mine, Agshin Kazimzadeh. Actually, he has done a lot to encourage me as a writer. I later published The History of the Azerbaijani Police in two volumes, which is a result of many hours that I have spent in the archives.
Georgy Pavlovich, you took part in the filming of The Black Volga presented as part of the popular NTV documentary series Investigation held by... with Leonid Kanevsky. It was based on the famous gang of Panjali Aslan and the real events that took place in Baku in the late 60s. You have even explored information about this sensational case...
That is true. This was one of the most complicated trials of those days. Before the trial of Panjali Aslan, only the driver of the black Volga, Arif Aliyev, knew that the gang leader was actually a woman. I managed to meet with Arif when he was serving his sentence. He told me that once Rafig (Panjali Aslan’s another nickname) spent the night at his home. In the morning, when Arif went to wake up his guest, he was shocked to see a woman sleeping in the bed. Arif quickly left the room, and five minutes later, a young chap with a mustache came out of the bedroom and greeted him. Arif did not tell anyone about that incident. Even his accomplices did not know that the leader of one of the most dangerous and violent gangs was a young woman. Little is known about Panjali Aslan. We only know that she was born in Nardaran in a big family of five or six girls. Her father promised himself that if he had a girl again, he would raise her as a boy. Panjali Aslan was caught and sentenced to capital punishment. But in Soviet times, the women criminals were sentenced to long terms and exiled to very distant settlements. Nothing is known about what has happened to her in the prison. I met one of the gang members, Klara (Klara Yusifzade), shortly before her death, and she told me that Panjali Aslan has allegedly lived in Lokbatan. Klara did not know anything else about the gang leader. I tried to find at least some clues leading to Panjali Aslan, but to no avail, unfortunately... She has vanished without a trace.
Have you tried writing detective stories? You would surely have succeeded...
I am not interested. I like working with documents, studying and collecting information in archives, finding friends and relatives of my heroes. Several years ago, I wrote a book called Guvara. Life is like a torch. This is a story of another fellow compatriot barely known in Azerbaijan. Guvara Nuriyeva is the first woman mining engineer in the USSR. Her bright yet very short life path has so impressed me that I decided to write a book about this graduate of the Leningrad Polytechnic Institute, the mining engineer of the Kirov (formerly Putilov) plant in Sankt Petersburg.
Before that, I wrote By His Majesty Et Agha (Ya Ətağa Cəddi) in 1999 dedicated to the life of one of the most revered Azerbaijanis with superpowers, Mir Movsum Agha. I was born and raised in Icherishahar and used to pass by his house during my childhood. I was nine years old when Agha died, and I remember how people who came to pay his last tribute were crying and mourning. As a child, we often swore in something very important by his name: “Ətağa Cəddi!” (I swear by the name of Et Agha, R+). And no one would dare lie; it was like a big sin. Everyone revered and loved Mir Movsum Agha. His unique personality and divine powers has always interested me. I wanted to write a book about this amazing person, but I felt a certain lack of confidence. I have always wondered if a Russian inside me could convey the soul of a Muslim?
Your Azerbaijani is perfect. What does Azerbaijan mean for you?
It is my soul. I am seventy-six years old and I have seen only good things from the Azerbaijani people. Believe me, what I say is true. I am grateful to this land and this people. I have never felt here as a stranger. I am a part of this people. I was born on this land, grew up, studied, built a family, raised children, and now I am going to finish my life here in Baku as well. This is my native land. I want to congratulate my people on the International Solidarity Day of Azerbaijanis. This is the people who deserve the best. We must be together, united, wherever we live, in whatever language we speak. We all must remember that our historical homeland is Azerbaijan. I wish my people happiness and prosperity in the coming year.
What are you working on now?
I found a lot of evidence of participation of Azerbaijani soldiers in the partisan movement in Belarus. It is worth telling about them. I had an idea to write a book about the Azerbaijani heroes, who have sacrificed their lives for their homeland. It is called Azerbaijan during the Great Patriotic War. What heroes were they! Azerbaijan has paid a high price for the victory over fascism: more than half of 680,000 soldiers who fought with the enemy were killed; many were awarded the highest awards for military merit. 75-80% of the Soviet combat vehicles were driven thanks to the valiant labor of the Baku people. Their work has largely influenced the outcome of the war. Yet Baku still does not have a monument dedicated to the Azerbaijani oilmen, who have made an invaluable contribution to the victory over fascism. Why? This is unfair to our heroes. Believe me, it is very important to remember the past in order to face the future challenges boldly.