Author: Valentina REZNIKOVA
He passed right in the midst of the novel coronavirus pandemic. He left us in the same way he has always lived: without too much fuss and declamatory lifestyle. Only relatives and friends came to say goodbye. The rest were friends, colleagues, students, just acquaintances, who came to say goodbye to the People's Artist of Azerbaijan Rafig Aliyev, being in self-isolation. Instead of farewell applause, the pages on social networks literally exploded with emotional responses to the sad news: everyone wanted to tell about him what, in their opinion, was the main thing in this person. And the main thing in the life of a humble artist and man Rafig Aliyev was everything: kindness, responsiveness, friendliness, ability to listen, willingness to help, skill, love and devotion to the profession, faith in the highest idea of Art, faith in humanity and man. They wanted the world to know what kind of person goes beyond it. They wanted the words of love, grief, regret and pain to be “heard” by the departing soul. He left us on 15th, and on April 16, 2020, was buried in the cemetery of the Baku village of Mashtaga.
From an ordinary boy to Rafik Aliyev
He was born in 1949 in the village of Merdinli of the Karyaginsky (now Fizuli) region of Azerbaijan, currently occupied by Armenia. He went to school in Baku. He grew up, like all boys in Baku - playing football, scouting, reading books, and never missing the latest movies. In a word, the Soviet childhood formed in him the qualities inherent in the people of the sixties. When he had to choose a profession, he already knew that he wanted to do theatre art. Parents who wanted to see their son as a lawyer or a doctor, although they were not enthusiastic about the choice of the son. As soon as the school was over, Rafig immediately started looking for the only university that could realize his dreams. After passing the final exams at school, Rafig eventually entered the N. Krupsky Leningrad Institute of Culture. In 1968, he became a student of the directing department for television, which a year later was transformed into a department of cultural and educational work. Then he was drafted to the Soviet army. Zemfira Baghirzade tells about this interesting period of his life and the fact that before leaving for the army, he still worked as an actor in the Vyborg Theatre, then served in the Black Sea Fleet, as well as many other interesting biographical facts of Rafig Aliyev in her book Together (Baku, 2018). After demobilization, Rafig returned to Baku and entered the M. Aliyev Institute of Arts. In 1976, his stage speech teacher, Hasan Abluj, offered a promising student to try himself in the Youth Theatre as the main character that the honored artist Anton Dobronevsky already played in the play Escape based on Rustam Ibrahimbeyov’s eponymous play. Needless to say, it was a real excitement and trepidation for the 26-year-old student. Probably, the test with the stage was successful, because it was noticed by director Azerpasha Neymatov, who offered the aspiring actor the role of Bumbarash in an eponymous musical performance. After the screening of the film by Nikolai Rasheev with Valery Zolotukhin in the title role, it was an impertinence and an incredible risk! Both were at risk. But it was this role that turned the student Rafig into an actor Rafig Aliyev. As if he woke up. He soon became famous, was recognized on the street. And from that moment on, his destiny began to take shape quite differently.
Each one has his own Rafig Aliyev
It’s not easy to talk about him. Almost impossible. Because any spoken or written word will sound half true. Indeed, each of us who knew him, loved him, was friends or was not friends with him had his own Rafig Aliyev: a national artist cast in films and on the stage of the Youth Theatre, the Ibrus Theatre, Pro-Cent Centre; a winner of the Golden Dervish Huma awards; a director who staged performances in the Youth Theatre, Ibrus Theater, and the National Academic Drama Theatre, and made the films The Simplest Surname and A Lesson about children; a producer; deputy chairman of the Union of Theater Workers of Azerbaijan, who also led five creative laboratories; a teacher at the Baku University of Culture and Arts; in the mid-90s, the artistic director of the Merdinli Studio under the Youth Theatre. Rafig Aliyev starred in more than 20 films, including The Last Night of the Year, Grandfather of Our Grandfather’s Grandfather, Gazelkhan, Chords of a Long Life, Ambassador of Dawn, and many more. His last work in cinema was the role of a doctor in Goodbye, Schmidt! released in 2019.
Everyone who mourns for him today has his own memories, his own experiences, his own image, his own words and feelings. As, for example, the director of television Namig Shiralibeyov, who recalls the learning process at the directing faculty (early 80s) and speaks of Rafig Aliyev as a person who has shaped his attitude to Art and the creative process. Rafig was a teacher who taught to understand the significance of the work, which you do not forcibly, but by the command of the heart. Today Namig Shiralibeyov is a well-known television director, an independent creative person. He believes that Rafig Aliyev was one of those who played a fundamental role in his professional development, as he knew how to be strict, demanding and interesting for his students: “Our teacher had a special gift. He was a master at speaking with students. He was able to build a dialogue so that it was immediately clear: the learning process is the key to the future. If such a dialogue is possible, it is possible among the students only. Or it will never start, because you are outside this process. Rafig Aliyev was a person whom you could approach with any question or request. He always found time to listen carefully, encourage or give advice. Because he was interested in people - everyone who came to him. As long as I live, I will remember him. Always."
Social networks are full of warm words of gratitude and love for the artist, director, teacher Rafig Aliyev. He was a sociable person, always smiling and positive. Did he know how many people felt a sense of sincere affection, love and gratitude towards him? Probably not. Have you thought about this? Probably not. He just lived. Proud of his children and grandchildren. He loved life. He loved his profession. And... he wanted all the time! To create new projects in theatre and cinema, to do teaching, to communicate with friends... He wanted to stage performances, play in films and on the stage; he wanted a professional and ideological update for the theatre process in the country, to revive cinema about children and for children, daring production projects of their students. He always wanted to live and enjoy every day, he wanted to be needed - always! - by his people and profession which he served faithfully and devotedly throughout his life. He wanted and knew how to dream. Dream and believe that his dreams will come true. One of his last dreams was that his creative group of actors and directors sent by the Ministry of Culture to study at the B. Shchukin Moscow Theatre Institute will receive an official status of the State Chamber Youth Theatre upon return to Baku.
For him, this was important for several reasons: to maintain the group as a kind of integral professional structure capable of creating a new alternative theater that meets the modern requirements of theatrical art; the theatrical process in Azerbaijan needs creative and ideological renewal and the influx of new young professional people can revive the lost tradition of full houses in the theatre halls of the country.
March 17, 2020
On March 17, Rafig texted me a message with a recording of a fragment from the event dedicated to the memory of Vagif Samedoghlu, involving the graduates of the Shchukin Theatre Institute and held in March 2020 at the Moscow House of Journalists. The folks are from Baku: during four years of study in Moscow, they have gained professional experience making them on par with any established theatre group. They can do everything that drama artists should be able to do, and even more. Because their teachers in Moscow could see and develop in these students those hidden talents that they did not even have a clue about! And now, if it is necessary according to the script, they can easily become acrobats, balancers and circus jugglers, opera and jazz performers or first-class dancers. Not to mention ability to work with the Word that has not yet lost its original meaning for them. March 17th... I could not even think that this short address was his last address to the audience. We have never been friends, but for some time I worked with his Merdinli Studio, then at the Ibrus Theater and the entreprise of the Pro-Cent Centre, where our professional interests intersected. He always made an impression of a man infinitely devoted to the cause, which I respected and sympathised. Now he is gone. And it is my duty to pay a tribute to the memory of a person who always wanted to make the art of today better than it was yesterday. He was dying, yet he was thinking about the professional future of his course. Rafig really wanted me to write about this. I promised, agreeing with his logical arguments, but was postponing this for better days. I was thinking that later, when the self-isolation ends, I would visit him in his office, he would smile to me as a person who is glad to see me back, and we would talk and discuss everything. He believed that they would hear him, probably felt that he was leaving, and understood that this would be his last address to his friends and community. Knowing that he was seriously ill, I never thought that he would leave us after a month and I could not even say goodbye to a person who was eagerly willing to see reforms. He left as he lived - quietly and humbly. The creation of the Chamber Youth Theatre was his last dream and desire. He hoped that he would have time to see these guys on stage. All together. In one theatre. Now what? I don’t know…