Author: Nigar ALIYEVA
The beauty and splendor of Azerbaijan has always been a source of inspiration for artists, musicians and poets. Almost every region of our country is reflected in the works of recognized masters who glorified its rich culture all over the world. Today, when we experience unimaginable happiness with the liberation of Shusha and all of Karabakh after the 28-year occupation, we want to remember our artists who have addressed the topic of Karabakh in their works.
Prominent artist Nadir Abdurahmanov dedicated numerous of his works to Karabakh. As a man of amazing fate and great talent, Nadir-muallim captured in his works the Karabakh, including Lachin, Shusha and Zangilan, which he remembered from childhood, the one that seemed we lost...
Unfortunately, Nadir Abdurahmanov, who was born in 1925 in Lachin and survived the occupation of his small homeland, will not be able to see it liberated. He passed away in 2008. We interviewed his sons – Arif Abdurahmanov (theatrical artist, head of one of the workshops of the Academy of Arts of Azerbaijan) and Mikayil Abdurahmanov (painter) – about the life of the outstanding artist.
AA: “My grandfather was born in Shusha, my father - in Lachin. He spent his entire childhood in Lachin. As a true patriot, the loss of Shusha was a real tragedy. He really was a patriot, even in his works. Dad has visited almost all the regions of Karabakh. These were not only trips made by an artist, but also as a member of parliament. He felt at home there.”
“There are many natives of Karabakh, who live in Baku now. But their children, unfortunately, have never seen Shusha or Khankendi...”
AA: “I often visited Shusha and Lachin. After graduating from the Surikov Institute in Moscow back in 1975, I was invited by the first secretary of the Komsomol Central Committee of Lachin to decorate the city with posters glorifying the labor, the CPSU. I lived there for six months. I have been to Shusha several times. By the way, a very interesting story happened there. In Shusha, there was a mansion of the Russian imperial general Samad-bey Mehmandarov. My father wished to have one of the rooms of the mansion as his workshop. The thing is there was a stunning mural inscription in the room. I remember it very well. The city’s party committee even made a decision to provide my father with premises in the mansion. But when we arrived in Shusha some time later, we saw that the house had been renovated, the walls had been painted with the inscription lost forever. My father refused the room. It was in the end of the 70s.”
“You often visited Shusha before the war. Was it possible to say that the city could have belonged to another culture than Azerbaijani?”
AA: “Not at all! It was an exclusively Azerbaijani city both in terms of its architecture and the population. For example, my grandmother had not said the word "Armenian" until her death. At the turn of the previous century, she became a witness of the massacres that the Armenians committed in Shusha. The word “Armenian” had been a taboo since then. In general, I have not seen a large number of Armenians in Shusha. Of course, they lived there, but I did not see them in the number that I often hear about from all kinds of television programs. Shusha was an Azerbaijani city. But I have heard about such cases. My friend, who at that time was the first secretary of the Central Committee of the Komsomol in Lachin, once told me that the children of high-ranking Armenian officials of Khankendi (Stepanakert) decided to organize a sabotage in Aghdam. They collected money and bought a tank of gasoline for arson. In addition, there were some rather curious attacks from the Armenian population. I remember an incident. Once one of the instructors of the Central Committee of the region took me for a walk in one of the villages to admire the famous Alpine views of the area. We stumbled upon a flock of sheep. Suddenly an angry shepherd approached us and began to complain in a strong Armenian accent. He told the instructor that someone named Comrade Petrosov did not allow ‘outsiders’ to graze their sheep here. Of course, we were outraged. The instructor answered that there was a lot of space, which is enough to graze both flocks. And there were many such moments. It turned out that all this time Armenians were collecting funds for the occupation of our lands in the future. Before the so-called miatsum, the Karabakhi Armenians lived very well. I have been to Khankendi and was always surprised at their wealthy life. Of course, I did not have a chance to go there after the well-known events, but I am sure that when they lost us, they lost everything. They had no objective reasons to be dissatisfied, the Azerbaijanis treated them perfectly. Moreover, we did not interfere in their internal affairs. But we ought to! After all, these tanks of fuel, the collection of money and persons such as Petrosov are the product of powerful propaganda.”
MA: “In the second half of the 1980s, it was already hard for everyone, not only for the Armenians. In 1985, I lived for a month in the village of Ahmedli in Karabakh painting portraits and landscapes. The inhabitants of this village lived poorly and had difficult times. But this was the case everywhere. And it was not so much a political as an economic disaster.”
AA: “For ten years, my father headed the Union of Artists of Azerbaijan, taught at the Azerbaijan Institute of Arts and was elected a deputy of the Supreme Soviet of the republic from the Lachin region. As an MP, he often visited Karabakh. In 1981, he once again went to Khankendi to select talented young people for our university, but he was politely told that the authorities of the city were going to send the guys to study in Yerevan.”
“How did Nadir muallim survive the news of the first refugees from Karabakh and Armenia?”
AA: “He was very emotional. He wondered how this could happen, because the Armenians in Karabakh were always well treated.”
“Perhaps, like all of us, you have watched the video footage of the Defense Ministry from the combat zone. Can you recognize the Karabakh you visited before the 80s?”
MA: “No, I cannot. They destroyed it. And this was done deliberately to destroy everything related to Azerbaijan, our culture. Shusha is generally a cultural code, the city of Natavan, Vagif, Hajibeyov, Niyazi... I perfectly remember our beautiful mosque with stunning minarets, which suddenly was called Iranian or Persian by Armenians. It was the first time I saw how a people could feed on foreign culture due to its own historical failure. There is a huge amount of remakes, which is presented as antiquity.”
“Nadir Abdurahmanov left a great legacy, including the works about Korea, Bulgaria, Italy, France and other countries that he visited. Is it possible to say that Karabakh had a special meaning in all his works?”
AA: “Absolutely. I can name you some of his pictures based on Karabakhi motives: Shusha, Evening in the Lachin mountains, On the bank of the Gara-Göl Լake, Turshsu, Minkend, Spring in the mountains, Winter landscape, Karabakhi carpets... These paintings were exhibited with great success at personal exhibitions. In 1985, for a series of works dedicated to the people of Karabakh, Nadir Abdurahmanov was awarded the State Prize of Azerbaijan.”
“Where do you keep your father's paintings?”
AA: “In our Museum of Fine Arts, the Ministry of Culture of Azerbaijan, the Tretyakov Gallery and the State Museum of Orient in Moscow, the Museum of Arts of the DPRK, museums of Kazakhstan and Turkey, private collections. Before the occupation, Lachin had a wonderful museum of local lore, to which my father presented several of his works. Perhaps, the museum does not exist anymore...”
MA: “In 1964, my father was involved in Tofig Taghizade's film Arshin Mal Alan. He was responsible for costumes for the film. This is also his contribution, albeit indirectly, to the art of Karabakh.”
“Is it true that Nadir-muallim was a doctor by his first education?”
AA: “My grandfather, Gambar Abdurahmanov wished to see his children as doctors, as he was a health care specialist in Lachin. He then used to work in Baku as the head of a pharmacy department. My father graduated from a medical school, but had never worked as a doctor. He immediately went to Leningrad to get admitted to the Ilya Repin Art Academy. It's funny but his artist friends used to call him by his nickname – the Doctor.”
“As if the works of Nadir-muallim lack temporal dimension, free of the touch of the Soviet period or ideological bloat. Absolutely pure poetic images, timeless eternal themes.”
MA: “My father was very fond of watching people doing some kind of work, interacting with nature. They are the main characters in his Talysh women, Morning in the mountains, Favorite patterns, An Afghani and so on. Each artist has his own theme, a goal in art. Time has passed, but the glorification of the beauty of man and nature, the spiritual harmony Nadir Abdurahmanov’s paintings have a strong impression even today.”
“Since childhood, I traveled with my father in the mountainous regions around Lachin... I also loved to travel to these areas during my holidays as a student. I watched the life of people on the yaylaghs (summer pastures), their work, rest... Several years passed, and I decided to reproduce my childhood and adolescence impressions on a large canvas." (from the diaries of N. Abdurahmanov)
“Once I visited my friend in Lerik to have a tea with him. I saw a girl walking around the yard between the colorful rolls of yarn used to weave carpets here... It was such a beautiful image that I wanted to make a picture of it." (from the diaries of N. Abdurahmanov)
May your soul rejoice, dear Artist of Karabakh. Your dream has come true. Karabakh is free!