Author: Natig MAMMADZADEH
Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan (ADR) has made significant achievements in the development of education, national culture, literature, and art. During 23 months, the government conducted a truly titanic work to develop the cultural heritage of the nation.
Education: Priority No.1
The ADR government took decisive measures to restore the system of school education destroyed due to wars and internal disorders and public education in general. At the same time, the priority was the nationalization of educational institutions, bringing education and enlightenment in line with national ideals, interests of Azerbaijani statehood.
One of the first measures of the ADR government was the nationalization of educational institutions. On August 28, 1918, the Council of Ministers issued a decree, which allowed education in the native language of students in all primary schools with the Azerbaijani (Turkic) language announced compulsory on June 27 of the same year. In primary and secondary schools, teaching was conducted in the official language of the state while all preparatory classes teaching in languages other than the official language were closed.
Circular of the Ministry of National Education issued on September 7, 1919 instructed the heads of secondary schools to admit Azerbaijani children only to nationalized elementary, preparatory and first classes. Admission to classes where the teaching was in Russian language was allowed only in exceptional cases with the permission of the Minister.
During the same period, the share of Azerbaijanis among the total number of students has increased. In 1914-15, out of 9,443 students in secondary schools, with the exception of teachers' seminaries, only 1,137 were Azerbaijanis, but in the 1919-20 academic year, 3,115 of 3,611 students were Azerbaijanis.
In order to restore the school network, the government allocated funds for the repair of old school buildings and the construction of new ones (such as the ones opened in Zagatala, Goychay, and Shusha).
Special attention was paid to women's education. The number of Azerbaijani women in secondary schools has increased. So, if in Ganja gymnasium in the 1918-19 school year 4 Azerbaijanis were trained, in the 1919-20 academic year there were already 296 female students.
The state took measures to improve the material support of educators. In September 1919, the parliament passed a law on increasing the salaries of employees of the Republic of Azerbaijan, according to which significant benefits were granted to teachers.
The government attached paramount importance to the training of teachers. To meet the demand, Ministry of Education planned to open four seminaries every year. The Muslim branch of the Gori seminary was transferred to Gazakh and became an independent seminary. In September 1919, a seminary for men was opened in Baku. According to the law adopted by the parliament on July 19, 1919, two-month pedagogical courses were opened in Gazakh, Nukha (Sheki), Shusha, Guba, Zagatala, Salyan, Baku, and Ganja. For these purposes, 2 million 390 thousand rubles were allocated from the state treasury.
One of the most important cultural events in ADR was the establishment of the Baku State University. The corresponding law was adopted by the parliament on September 1, 1919. Almost 11 million rubles were allocated for the maintenance of the personnel and the expenses of the university.
The ADR government carried out such a noble mission as sending gifted young people to the best educational institutions in the world for study. Thus, 100 students entered various foreign educational institutions. To implement this task, the Ministry of Public Education allocated 7 million rubles.
One of the important initiatives of the Azerbaijani government was the reform of the alphabet, which also contributed to setting up a proper educational framework. In May 1919, a special commission on the reform of the alphabet was set up under the chairmanship of Khudadat-bey Melik-Aslanov.
Carriers of national spirit
The development of the national theatre was yet another milestone achievement of the ADR government.
Thanks to educational societies Nijat and Safa, the Muslim Acting Society caring for cultural and creative development of Azerbaijani actors was established. In October 1918 in Baku, the directorate of the theatrical group of the Hajibeyov brothers organized a new theatre troupe, which included figures of Azerbaijani stage art.
The government decided to take the Muslim theatre group under its protection. Later, Council of Ministers approved a law envisaging the establishment of the State Turkic Opera and Drama Theatre. The repertoire of the theatre included outstanding pieces of Azerbaijani writers and poets such as Nadir Shah by Nariman Narimanov, Unfortunate youth by Abdurrahim-bey Hagverdiyev, From the pan into the fire, If Not That One, Then This One, Arshin mal alan by Uzeyir Hajibeyov, 50-year-old boy, 11-year-old bride by Zulfugar Hajibeyov.
The Azerbaijan newspaper, one of the main editors of which was the great composer, writer and publicist Uzeyir-bey Hajibeyov, often featured ads about theatre performances in favor of families of fallen soldiers of the National Army. So, the money (22,292 rubles. 80 kopecks) collected from the performance organized by the director of the State Theatre Zulfugar Hajibeyov was transferred to the families of the deceased soldiers of the Azerbaijani army. In March 1919, thanks to the performance of the students of the Gazakh seminary Nadir Shah collected 4,485 rubles, which were used for the poor students of the seminary. On significant dates, the theatre performed War for Baku by Mirza Bala Mammadzadeh, Baku War by Jafar Jabbarli, Azerbaijan by Isa-bey Ashurbeyov and other works written in patriotic spirit.
On September 15, 1919, the construction of an architectural complex to honour the Turkish and Azerbaijani soldiers fallen during the liberation of Baku. The construction was planned to be completed by September 15, 1920, to the two-year anniversary of the liberation of the Azerbaijani capital.
In 1918-1920, cinematographic began to develop in Azerbaijan. In Baku, there were 16 cinemas. In 1918, Uzeyir Hajibeyov’s operetta If Not That One, Then This One was screened.
The period of ADR was also a new stage in the development of Azerbaijani literature. Prominent writers and poets such as Ahmed Javad, Jafar Jabbarli, Uzeyir Hajibeyov, Abdulla Shaig, Aliabbas Muznib, Salman Mumtaz, Um Gulsum and others were truly the bearers of the national spirit and the idea of Azerbaijan's independence.
"Thanks God that we have history, literature, music, theatre, and other cultural achievements!"
Due to the strengthening of the national spirit in the ADR, interest in research and propaganda of the national culture, history and traditions of the country has increased.
With the participation of representatives of the Musavat Party, solemn concerts of Azerbaijani music were held under the title Turkic evenings. The famous artist Azim Azimzadeh directed artistic part of the event, while the Green Feather Society was responsible for literary and vocal performances. Mammad Emin Rasulzadeh was a responsible steward at these concerts.
The well-known public figure and writer Yusif Vezir Chemenzeminli wrote during this period: "Thanks God that we have history, literature, music, theatre and other cultural achievements! If we write about this, then we will know ourselves and give foreigners an opportunity to know us. We have many historical monuments in our homeland. We must provide detailed information about each of them."
The Ovragi-nefise ("Fine Pages") magazine published just six issues but they were enough to fulfil a mission of propaganda of Azerbaijani culture in 1919. It was the first periodical in the history of the Azerbaijani press devoted to issues of literature and art.
Meanwhile, the period of ADR was a time of rise and flowering of the Azerbaijani press as a whole. Numerous newspapers and magazines on various topics were freely published in the country, expressing the views of virtually all political forces and social groups.
The Azerbaijani government rendered great support to the development of the library business. On September 16, 1919, the parliament passed a law according to which 1,000,000 rubles were allocated to the Ministry of Public Education for the purchase of new books in the Turkic language for libraries of public schools. By April 1920, there were 11 libraries in the ADR with more than 95,000 copies of books.
Within the framework of the revival of the national self-consciousness of the Azerbaijani people, the names of historical places, cities and other settlements were restored. By the decision of the government, on June 30, 1918, the city of Yelizavetpol once again became known as Ganja, and Karyaginsky district was renamed Jabrayil. Streets and cities were given the names of outstanding personalities, in particular writers and poets.
ADR’s cultural activities considered the needs of the entire multinational population of the republic. By the decree of the Council of Ministers, the Russian National Council was allocated 500,000 rubles for the opening of new schools and the purchase of textbooks. The government regularly provided material support to Jewish schools. Since October 1, 1919, Armenian public schools in Karabakh have been taken under special control. According to the decree of the Council of Ministers, on September 7, 1918, teaching Revelations for non-Muslims was introduced in all schools of the republic.
The Baku Russian Charitable Society, the Baku Armenian Cultural Union, the Armenian Student Union and other organizations of national minorities (not only Russians and Armenians, but also Jews, Poles, Germans) functioned freely in the ADR.
Thus, the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan has done a lot for the development of culture and education. Cultural life in the country was flourishing contributing to the historical trademark of that significant era.
Great composer, founder of Azerbaijan's contemporary professional musical art, one of the outstanding public figures of the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan (ADR), Uzeyir-bey Hajibeyov was born on September 18, 1885 in the village of Aghjabadi, Shusha Uyezd. The opera Leyli and Majnun staged at the Haji Zeynalabdin Taghiyev Theatre on January 12, 1908 in Baku laid the foundation for opera art not only in Azerbaijan, but throughout the Muslim Orient. Uzeyir-bey Hajibeyov was also a talented playwright, publicist, and translator.
Uzeyir-bey Hajibeyov, who dedicated his skills and abilities to the cause of liberation and progress of his native people, happily accepted the creation of ADR. Both in his artistic work and in public activities, he preached the idea of Azerbaijan’s independence. Uzeyir-bey played an invaluable role in reviving the national spirit, raising the national self-consciousness of the Azerbaijani people by promoting its history and culture. Thus, he can be considered one of the greatest ideologists of ADR.
His publications appeared on the pages of the leading newspaper of the republic, Azerbaijan, whose editor-in-chief was originally his younger brother Jeyhun-bey Hajibeyov. Uzeyir-bey replaced his brother after he joined the Azerbaijani delegation to take part at the Paris Peace Conference. Thus, he was editor-in-chief starting with the 89th issue of the newspaper published on January 16, 1919 to the 215th issue published on June 30, 1919. He worked as the director of Azerbaijan in September 1919 - April 27, 1920, the last day of independent history of the ADR.
Uzeyir-bey Hajibeyov published over 100 of his own articles in Azerbaijan covering the issues of history, political situation, economy, and culture of our country. In these articles, he fervently defended the political line of the government and parliament of the ADR, their efforts to strengthen Azerbaijan's independence. But perhaps the most significant contribution of Uzeyir-bey to the development of national statehood was the March of Azerbaijan written in 1919 and based on the poem of the outstanding poet Ahmed Javad. Since May 27, 1992, this immortal work of Hajibeyov has become the official anthem of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
Perhaps, no one said about the role of Uzeyir-bey in the revival of the national spirit better than the first head of the ADR, Mammad Emin Rasulzadeh. While living in exile, Rasulzadeh responded to the news about the death of the great figure of Azerbaijani culture with such heartfelt words: "...Despite the fact that his coffin was surrounded by commissars that have nothing to do with the morality of Azerbaijan, no one can detach Uzeyir-bey from the culture of Azerbaijan, the history of Azerbaijani Turks. He will remain as one of the companions of the reborn Azerbaijan forever!"