In memoriam: Ziya Bunyadov. Part 1

Interview by Ramin Naziev, exclusively to VK

The famous Azerbaijani orientalist died 15 years ago: on February 21, 1997, he was murdered at the entrance to his apartment in Baku. Ziya’s father was Azerbaijani, his mother was Russia. Brilliant scholar, he also translated the works of his colleagues from English, Arab, Russian and Turkish. His own books were published I many countries. The scholar’s widow Tagira Bunyadova shared her memories of him with ‘VK’ correspondent.

- How did you meet Ziya?

- It was my destiny. It is surprising who the fate brought us together despite all distances and obstacles. My parents were from Shush, and after the Armenian-Azeri massacre of 1905 moved to Central Asia along with many other Azerbaijani refugees. I was born in Tashkent. My father was a pretty rich merchant, so after the Bolsheviks came to power our family was dispossessed as ‘kulaks’. There were seven children in our family and we had to face poverty and even starved. Despite that I went to school in Tatar school and finished it in 1942.

It was the Great Patriotic War, and everyone’s efforts were aimed at winning the battle with Nazism. As a schoolgirl I tried to help as I could, I finished nurse courses and started working in the only hospital of Tashkent. I tried – as all other residents of the city – to help the wounded soldiers by all means possible.

I was a secretary of local Young Communist League and got an opportunity to continue my education in Moscow in the Institute of oriental studies. I studied Turkish language. We, the students, suffered from frost and hunger, but still were happy to study in Moscow. The most joyful event of my student life was the long-expected Victory over Nazi Germany. After the end of the war a lot of ex-soldiers came to study (or to continue their studies) in our Institute.

After the third year I came to Tashkent for summer vacations and then received a letter from two soldiers whom I treated in the Tashkent hospital as a nurse and who became students of the same Institute.  They wrote that a new Azerbaijani student entered our Institute – his name was Ziya Bunyadov and he was a Hero of the Soviet Union. My friends promised to introduce us. Up until than I was the only Azeri student of the Institute.

When I first met Ziya, he was in the center of attention with his military stature and decorations. When I met him I was impressed and a bit confused too.

- How was he in his student years?

- He entered the Department of Arabic Studies as he already knew the language. He managed to graduate two universities in three years – the Institute of Oriental Studies and the MSU Geography Department. He was extraordinarily gifted and talented, everyone loved him.

Ziya, as all other war veteran-students, attended the lectures in his military uniform, but still he stood out of their crowd, as he was a Hero of the Soviet Union. Our Institute and we all were very proud to have him among us. And he was a very pleasant and sociable person, too. He was always an arbiter in all students’ conflicts. Even though he was injured in the war, he took up sports. He was a natural leader.

In general, he was a student like all others: he missed some lectures, he made practical jokes, he loved football… and he never showed off. Despite his military glory he was happy that the war was over. And of course all the girls loved him: he was very handsome.



Ziya Musa oglu Bunyadov was born on 24 of December 1921 in the Azeri town of Astara. He was a famous  Azerbaijani historian, academician, and Vice-President of the National Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan. As a historian, he also headed the Institute of History of the Azerbaijani Academy of Sciences for many years. Bunyadov was a World War II veteran and Hero of the Soviet Union.

To be continued


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