Saadat Shikhieva: "Nasimi's execution was a politically motivated murder"
President Ilham Aliyev declared 2019 the Year of Nasimi in Azerbaijan. Doctor of Philosophy in Philology, leading researcher of the ANAS Institute of Oriental Studies of Azerbaijan, Saadat Shikhieva, discussed works and personality of great Azerbaijani poet and thinker, Imadaddin Nasimi, in an interview with Vestnik Kavkaza.
- How will the Year of Nasimi in Azerbaijan affect researches of his heritage?
- The Year of Nasimi is significant from many points of view. Unfortunately, in some countries, connection of Nasimi’s heritage (as well as many Azerbaijani classics) directly to Azerbaijan is sometimes disputed. Turkmenistan claims that its the closest to Nasimi, because they're sure that he was of Iraqi Turkomans heritage. There's also Iran, which believes Nasimi was from Shiraz, as well as Turkey, which says he was born in Diyarbakir. Considering all of this, announcement of 2019 as the Year of Nasimi opens new opportunities for more detailed study of the great poet's heritage. Nasimi played a prominent role in literature, in history, and in philosophy of Azerbaijan. This presidential decree is unique because Nasimi's heritage will become object of global study of historians, writers and theologians. Action plan has already been agreed on, it's known that seminars and conferences will be organized, monographs and studies published, including by foreign authors.
- What problems do those who study Nasimi face?
- I've been studying life and works of Nasimi for 30 years, and I can say that today there's a need for comprehensive study of his heritage. It should be noted that first collection of his poems was published on the eve of Nasimi's 600th anniversary in 1973. But it's no longer as relevant for today's science, since new samples of Nasimi's manuscripts in his native language have been found. Today it's necessary to prepare another collection, using existing capabilities to gather sources and manuscripts stored in foreign libraries. Compared to Soviet era, we now have access to libraries of Iran, Turkey, and European countries and can prepare scientific and critical analysis of Nasimi's heritage on their basis.
One of the problems associated with the study of Nasimi's heritage concerns study of his prose. Everyone knows him as great thinker, poet and martyr, but almost no one knows that he was also prose writer. Azerbaijani scientific community had no idea that he was prose writer. Now we have introduced this fact into research work of our institute and are actively studying this part of his work. I'm currently working on transliteration of his prose, which Nasimi wrote in his native language. It was published in Turkey and in Germany, we have those texts. Recently, a manuscript of one of his works was found in Iran. It can also be considered unique, since it was written both in prose and in poem. Right now we're planning to prepare this work for printing.
Another of problems of namimivaniya is lack of phased, philological translation of Nasimi’s Divan into Farsi. Right now we're working on translation of this collection. Overall, it's necessary to publish serious scientific monographs on the poet’s works, and I think this year will be very fruitful in this regard, since it will open up opportunities for more detailed study and will allow us to fill current gaps in the study of Nasimi’s works.
- How did Nasimi’s works influence Azerbaijani literature?
- I have studied Nasimi's work for years, researched his life and works of those who were inspired by heritage of this great Azerbaijani poet. I can say that it's not limited to Azerbaijan, but extends to Europe, Asia and countries of the African continent. You can see traces of Nasimi’s influence on many poets, writers and philosophers from many regions - from the Balkans to India. Almost all poets and ashugs of Azerbaijan up to the 20th century were influenced by Nasimi to some degree. It's especially true for Jahanshah Kara Koyunlu and Shah Ismail Khatai.
Jahanshah, ruler of the Kara-Koyunlu monarchy from 1435 to 1467, wrote lyric poems in Azerbaijani language under pseudonym Khakiki. His works were heavily influenced by Nasimi, sometimes his poems resembled Nasimi’s poems so closely that some medieval researches thought Jahanshah’s poems were a part of Nasimi’s Divan. That's why Nasimi is so unique: his poems inspired masters, although he was never palace poet.
Shah Ismail Khatai, who ruled Azerbaijan and Iran from 1501 to 1524 and was a founder of the Safavid dynasty, is associated with Nasimi very closely. We can see great respect and love for Nasimi's personality in his works. In several of his poems mention Nasimi as Sayyid Nasimi or Husseini, thus paying tribute to the memory of great thinker.
Overall, up to Mirza Alakbar Sabir (1862-1911), Azerbaijan had poets whose works are closely associated with Nasimi's heritage. Nasimi’s influence can be felt even in works of such ashugs as Ashug Alesker and Molla Juma. I would also like to mention prominent Sufi poet of the XIX century, Mir Khamzu Seyyid Nigari, whose works had a lot of common with Nasimi.
We can see Nasimi's influence on Sufi poets of Europe, mainly subjects of the Ottoman Empire. There was a poet in the territory of Hungary in the Middle Ages, whose name was Misali, his tomb, still revered as a shrine, is better known as Gulbaba. You can see a lot of reverences to Nasimi's works in Misali's Divans. Moreover, Nasimi’s influence can be seen in works of Vehdeti Dimotiksky, who lived in the territory of modern Greece and mentioned Nasimi's name in his works. I belive you can find a lot of other traces of influence of Nasimi in Greece, since Rafia, one of his pupils, carried out missionary work in Greece.