Karabakh has historically developed as one of the biggest cultural centers of Azerbaijan.
Among the prominent representatives of science and culture, who lived in the medieval period in Karabakh were Seyid Amir Berdayi, Abubekr Berdayi, classic of the Azeri poetry Mujireddin Beylakani (all lived in X-XII cc.), a prominent philosopher, astronomer and traveler Yousif Muhammed Karabakhgi (?-1645) and others.
After establishment of the Karabakh khanate in the mid XVIII c. the Karabakh culture entered a new era of high cultural renaissance, which continued further in XIX c. with Azerbaijan’s incorporation into Russia. High level of the economic development, Karabakh’s marvelous nature and geographic situation, have all facilitated Karabakh to be a center of science, poetry and, especially, of the musical culture of Azerbaijan.
The foundation of the contemporary Azeri national poetry school was laid in Karabakh in XVIII c., mainly, due to the literary activity of a great Azeri poet Vagif (1717-1797). Another famous Karabakh poet Kasim bey Zakir (1784-1857) worthily continued and improved Vagif’s traditions further.
Beginning from the mid XIX c. the interest to the history if Karabakh increased in the Azeri literature. This fact was reflected in creation of six historical works – «Karabakh-nameh»s. The list of them is as follows:
- «Karabakh-nameh» (1845) by Mirza Adigezal bey;
- «History of Karabakh» (1847) by Jamal Javanshir Karabagi;
- «The rule of Panah khan and Ibrahim Khalil khan in Karabakh and the events of that time» (1854) by Rzakulu bey Mirza Jamal oglu;
- «Tarihi-Safi» (1856) by Mirza Yousif Karabagi;
- «History of Karabakh» (1862) by Mir Mehti Khazani;
- «The political situation of the Karabakh khanate in 1747-1805» (1884) by Ahmed bey Javanshir.
All these works are one of the most valuable documents on the history of Karabakh.
The characteristic feature of the literary environment of Karabakh was that women have always played an important role in literary activities. Among the prominent representatives of the «woman poetry» of Karabakh were Ashuk Peri, Agabeyim aga, Fatma khanum Kemine, who lived in XVII-XVIII cc., and especially Khurshid Banu Natevan (XIXc.).
The town of Shusha played the most important role in development of the Karabakh culture. Being the capital of Karabakh, Shusha consolidated the major creative and intellectual forces of Azerbaijan. Namely in Shusha, for the first time in the history of the Azeri nation, were staged first theatre performances, circus shows, European and Oriental concerts, created first scientific and educational societies, opened typographies, city library, fully secular educational institutions and a number of other cultural and educational institutions. Prominent Azeri poet S. Vurgun said: «…Shusha is called the cradle of music and poetry. Almost all the famous singers and musicians of Azerbaijan are natives of Shusha».
Another author V.D. Karganov (an Armenian by nationality) wrote: «Shusha provides the Caucasus [«Zakavkazye» in original] with musicians and singers. This is a blissful land of poetry, music and songs, it serves as a conservatoire for the Caucasus, providing new songs and motives for every season, and even for every month». A prominent Russian music historian V.S. Vinogradov expressed an analogous thought, when saying, that «here [i.e. in Shusha] there are plenty of music, here, more than in any other part of Azerbaijan, one can come across the folk songs, dances, singers and musicians. Shusha is a musical center from ancient times and is famous in the whole Caucasus as a inexhaustible spring of national musical talents. «The Shusha musicians» have created the history of the Azeri music and represented it not only in their Motherland, but also in other countries».
Yet in the end of XVIII-beginning of the XIX c. Shusha was famous with such renowned national singers as Yousif Shahsanam oglu, Mirza Husein, Kosa Muhammed bey, Mirza Ismayil and others. Beginning from the second half of XIX c. the Karabakh-Shusha school of vocal arts became even more famous by the names of wonderful folk music and mugham singers (khanendeh), among them the names of the splendid khanendehs Haji Husi, Abdulbagi, J. Karyaghdy, Meshadi Mamed Farzaliyev, Bul-bul, Seyid and Khan Shushinsky, Z. Adigezalov; musicians- Sadikhjan, Kurban Pirimov, Bagdagul oglu Ata and many others.
By the end of XIX c. the Azeri folk music went beyond the framework of the folk festive companies and found its way to the theatre and concert stages. First performances of this kind took place in 1897 in Shusha, mainly, due to the efforts of a prominent representative of the Azeri culture A. Hakverdiyev.
With the beginning of XX c. the «Karabakh spirit» embodied with a special completeness and harmonious perfection in the works of one of the greatest Azeri composers U. Hajibeyov, the author of the first Azeri opera («Leili and Majnun», 1908), and also the author of the national anthem. U.Hajibeyov’s works opened way for many other renowned composers and musicians, the majority of whom was either born in Karabakh, or were originally from there. Among them were F. Amirov, Zulfukar and Soltan Hajibeyov’s, Niyazi, S. Aleskerov, S. Aleskerov, A. Badalbeyly and many others.
Compiled based upon:
1. «Karabakh» (unpublished yet), Editor. A. Abbasov, section: «Culture of Karabakh»
2. F. Shushinsky, «Shusha» Baku 1968, 1998