(in Soviet usage, AKHUNDOV), Azerbaijani playwright and propagator of alphabet reform (1812-78).


ĀḴŪNDZĀDA (in Soviet usage, AKHUNDOV), MĪRZĀ FATḤ-ʿALĪ (1812-78), Azerbaijani playwright and propagator of alphabet reform; also, one of the earliest and most outspoken atheists to appear in the Islamic world. According to his own autobiographical account (first published in Kaškūl, Baku, 1887, nos. 43-45, and reprinted in M. F. Akhundov, Alefbā-ye ǰadīd va maktūbāt, ed. H. Moḥammadzāda and Ḥ. Ārāslī, Baku, 1963, pp. 349-55), Āḵūndzāda was born in 1812 (other documents give 1811 and 1814) in the town of Nūḵa, in the part of Azerbaijan that was annexed by Russia in 1828. His father, Mīrzā Moḥammad-Taqī, had been kadḵodā of Ḵāmena, a small town about fifty kilometers to the west of Tabrīz, but he later turned to trade and, crossing the Aras river, settled in Nūḵa, where in 1811 he took a second wife. One year later, she gave birth to Mīrzā Fatḥ-ʿAlī. Āḵūndzāda’s mother was descended from an African who had been in the service of Nāder Shah, and consciousness of this African element in his ancestry served to give Āḵūndzāda a feeling of affinity with his great Russian contemporary, Pushkin.

In 1814, Āḵūndzāda accompanied his parents to Ḵāmena, but friction between Mīrzā Moḥammad-Taqī’s first and second wives caused Āḵūndzāda’s mother to leave the family home, taking her son with her to the house of her uncle, Āḵūnd Ḥāǰǰī ʿAskar, in Horand. Āḵūndzāda now became in effect the adopted son of Āḵūnd Ḥāǰǰī ʿAskar, who supervised his early education, first in various towns of the Qarāǰadāḡ region, and then in Ganǰa and Nūḵa. His education began in traditional fashion with memorization of the Koran and the study of feqh, as well as Arabic and Persian grammar, and he showed such talent that his guardian began to hope he would become a mollā. He was deflected from this career by an encounter in Ganǰa with the celebrated Azerbaijani poet, Mīrzā Šafīʿ Wāżeḥ, who not only taught him calligraphy but also dissuaded him from pursuing his religious studies and introduced him instead to modern learning. His new interests were opposed by his uncle, who removed him from Ganǰa to Nūḵa, but nonetheless consented to his enrolling there in the newly-opened Russian school. Soon after, he moved to Tiflis, accompanied by his uncle, where he continued studying Russian privately and swiftly gained such competence in the language that in November 1834 he was appointed apprentice translator in the office of the Russian viceroy of the Caucasus.

With the exception of a mission to Tehran in 1848 and a journey to Istanbul in 1863, as well as several trips on official business within the Caucasus, Āḵūndzāda was to spend the rest of his life in Tiflis. His subsequent intellectual development was determined by the various contacts he made in that cosmopolitan city. In the mid-nineteenth century, Tiflis was not only the seat of the viceroy of the Caucasus, but also a lively cultural center, with its own theater, schools and academies, and printing houses that published works in Russian, Armenian and Georgian. Among Āḵūndzāda’s acquaintances in Tiflis were the Georgian litterateurs Aleksandr Chavchavadze, Grigoriy Orbeliani, and Georgiy Tsereteli (see D. Alieva, Iz istorii azerbaĭdzhansko-gruzinskikh literaturnykh svyazeĭ, Baku, 1958, pp. 84-85). In 1836, he began teaching Azeri Turkish at the Tiflis gimnaziya, the director of which was the Armenian writer and publicist, Khachatur Abovian. Abovian’s views on the need for a simplification of the Armenian literary language and the cultural as well as political subordination of the Caucasian peoples to Russia exercised a strong influence on Āḵūndzāda. Following Abovian’s example, he strove to create a new literary idiom in Azeri Turkish with his celebrated comedies written in the simple language of everyday speech, and like him he unreservedly espoused imitation by the subject peoples of the more vital and advanced culture of Russia.

Āḵūndzāda’s chief Russian acquaintance during his early years in Tiflis was the Dekabrist exile, A. A. Bestuzhev (Marlinskiĭ), who taught him Russian literature in exchange for lessons in Azeri Turkish. Through the instruction of Bestuzhev, Āḵūndzāda conceived a particular admiration for Pushkin, and when the poet was killed in a duel in January, 1837, he composed an elegy in Persian that was his first published work—Poema-ye šarq dar wafāt-e Pūškīn. Āḵūndzāda prepared a Russian prose translation of his poem, and his friend Bestuzhev a versified one, which through the good offices of I. I. Klement’ev, a Russian writer living in Tiflis, was published in the journal Moskovskiĭ Nablyudatel’, with an editorial note welcoming the poem as a tribute not merely to Pushkin but to Russian culture as a whole.

Āḵūndzāda’s loyalty was, indeed, not only to Russian culture, but also to the Russian state. He had, it is true, contacts with Bestuzhev and other Dekabrists, and translated parts of Chernyshevskiĭ’s celebrated Chto Delat’? into Azeri Turkish, but he appears to have taken no active interest in Russian revolutionary politics. He not only served faithfully as translator in the viceroy’s office until his death, but also acquired military rank in 1864, and was promoted to colonel in 1873. His loyal concern with the destinies of Russia is strikingly expressed in a Persian poem written in 1854 in which he celebrates the feats of Russian arms during the Crimean War. His reformist energies were devoted entirely to the assimilation of Western, primarily Russian, culture by his countrymen in the Caucasus, and to the extirpation of traditional beliefs in the Islamic world beyond, particularly Iran.

His first and in many ways most important effort in this direction came with the composition in Azeri Turkish of six satirical comedies, written between 1850 and 1855. In a number of letters to close friends, as well as his preface to the plays, Āḵūndzāda made it clear that his purpose as a playwright was social and didactic: Through exposing corrupt, ignorant, and superstitious figures to ridicule on the stage, he hoped that his audience would draw the obvious conclusions and gradually acquire what he regarded as a progressive and enlightened outlook. Each comedy has a number of easily identifiable villains, contrasted with one or more positive figures; their conflicts represent the clash of backwardness and progress personified. The technique and structure of the comedies is of course derived from European models; Āḵūndzāda is known to have been acquainted with the plays of Griboyedov and Gogol, as well as those of Shakespeare and Molière in Russian translation. But he successfully applied the methods he had borrowed to the creation of vivid and original characters drawn from the local milieu, and he may be regarded as not only the first but also one of the most successful playwrights of the Islamic world in the nineteenth century.

Āḵūndzāda’s first play was Ḥekāyat-e Mollā Ebrāhīm Ḵalīl kīmīāgar, ridiculing not only the practice of alchemy but also the credulity and ignorance of those who allowed themselves to be exploited by the alchemist. Secondary targets of satire are a dervish and a mollā, and Āḵūndzāda makes it plain in this play that he regards religion as equivalent to superstition. Struggling in isolation against these three figures of darkness is a single hero, the poet Ḥāǰǰī Nūrī, whose character may have been partially modeled on that of Mīrzā Šafīʿ Wāżeḥ. The second play, Ḥekāyat-e Mosyū Žūrdān ḥakīm-e nabātāt va Darvīš Mast-ʿAlīšāh ǰādūkon-e mašhūr, is similar in content and purpose to the first. Here the target is magic and the superstitious women that have recourse to it. Personifying enlightenment and progress are Monsieur Jourdain, a French botanist impelled by scientific curiosity to travel to the Caucasus for the study of its flora, and a young nobleman, Šahbāz Bey, whose dream of going to Paris and learning French is frustrated by the joint opposition of his fiancée and his uncle. The third comedy, Sargoḏašt-e wazīr-e Lankarān, written in 1851, satirizes corrupt and tyrannical rulers, and is set in the period of the Azerbaijani khanates, on the eve of Russian rule. Mīrzā Ḥabīb, the vizier of the title, a tyrant to all outside his home, except the ruler in front of whom he abases himself, is humiliated and deceived by his own womenfolk; he is not merely odious, but despicable. In the same year, Āḵūndzāda wrote his fourth play, Ḥekāyat-e ḵers-e qoldorbāṣān, which is distinguished from his other dramatic works through the subordination of socio-critical themes to a romantic tale—the love of Bayrām for Parzād. The two young lovers defeat the intrigues of Parzād’s villainous cousin, Tarverdī, and are united in marriage through the intervention of the dīvānbēgī, benevolent representative of Russian power. Āḵūndzāda’s next play, Sargoḏašt-e mard-e ḵasīs, written in 1852, is regarded by some critics as his best. Drawing on personal reminiscences of a journey to the Russo-Iranian frontier to investigate smuggling, Āḵūndzāda tells of a miserly tradesman, Ḥāǰǰī Qara, who turns to smuggling to increase his already considerable wealth, in collaboration with Ḥaydar Bey, an impoverished nobleman. The contrasting figures of honesty and good sense are Ḥāǰǰī Qara’s wife and Karam-ʿAlī, Ḥaydar Bey’s servant. Āḵūndzāda’s productivity as playwright was interrupted by the Crimean War and the increased official duties it brought him, and it was not until 1855 that he wrote his sixth and last play, Mürafäʿä Väkillärinin Hikayäti. Set in Tabrīz, it describes the efforts of Āḡā Ḥasan to marry a rich orphan, Sakīna Ḵānom, and, when rebuffed by her, to cheat her of her inheritance. The main villain in the piece is not so much Āḡā Ḥasan as the corrupt judges and advocates that lend themselves to his purposes.

After 1855, Āḵūndzāda abandoned the drama for other genres, possibly because of the rarity of theaters in the Caucasus, especially Azerbaijan. Two of his plays were, however, performed in his lifetime: Ḥekāyat-e ḵers-e qoldorbāṣān in Tiflis in January 1852, in Āḵūndzāda’s own Russian version, revised by N. A. Sollogub, and Sargoḏašt-e mard-e ḵasīs in Baku in 1873, in Azeri Turkish, under the auspices of Ḥasan Zardābī, editor of the newspaper Äkinji, to which Āḵūndzāda occasionally contributed under the sobriquet of wakīl-e mellat-e nāmaʿlūm. The plays exercised, moreover, an important influence on the Azerbaijani theater in the two decades following Āḵūndzāda’s death; playwrights such as ʿAbd-al-Raḥīm Haqqverdiev, Solaymān Ṯānī Akhundov and Naǰaf Vazirov all wrote in imitation of him. The predominance of social criticism and satire in other genres of Azerbaijani literature in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century is also to be traced to the impact of Āḵūndzāda’s example.

The renown of his plays was not restricted to the Caucasus. Certain of his plays, including Ḥekāyat-e ḵers-e qoldorbāṣān, were first published in Russian in the Tiflis newspaper Kavkaz and then, in 1853, in book form; the first Azeri Turkish edition, dedicated to Marshal Baratynskiĭ, did not appear until 1859. They thus achieved a certain fame in Russia, and were even noticed in Germany as early as 1852 (see the passage from Archiv für wissenschaftliche Kunde von Russland quoted by A. Sharif in his introduction to Izbrannoe, Moscow, 1956, p. 9). It was, however, the Persian translation of the plays that achieved the widest renown, eclipsing even the Azeri Turkish original. The Persian version was of great importance in the genesis of the modern Iranian theater, and furnished also the basis for a whole series of translations in western languages (for a partial list see Rypka, Iran. Lit., p. 593).

Āḵūndzāda himself found the Persian translator for his plays with the help of one of his correspondents in Tehran, Jalāl-al-dīn Mīrzā. In 1870 he wrote to him asking him to find an appropriate translator, who could thus render “a great service to his people” (Alefbā, p. 182); the translator was found in Mīrzā Jaʿfar Qarāǰadāḡī, Jalāl-al-dīn Mīrzā’s secretary. He completed the task within a year, to the full satisfaction of Āḵūndzāda, as is evident from a letter dated 12 Moḥarram 1287/25 March 1871 (ibid., pp. 204-10). Three plays were published separately: Ḥekāyat-e Mollā Ebrāhīm kīmīāgar in 1288/1871, Ḥekāyat-e Mosyū Žūrdān in 1289/1872, and Ḵers-e qoldorbāṣān in 1290/1873. In 1291/1874, the entire collection appeared under the title of Tamṯīlāt, together with the Persian version of Āḵūndzāda’s historical novelette, Aldanmĭš kävakib. The book contained two prefaces, one by Qarāǰadāḡī and the other by Āḵūndzāda. Qarāǰadāḡī was well aware of the novelty of the genre he was presenting to the Persian reader, and he began his preface by describing the structure and appearance of a theater. The purpose of drama, he wrote, following the example of Āḵūndzāda, was the improvement of morals (tahḏīb-e aḵlāq), not mere entertainment, and if fictitious characters were exposed to ridicule, this was for the sake of a lofty purpose. The vivid and immediate presentation of corrupt types in mocking fashion was more effective than homilies on vice in the abstract. The plays were intended in addition to contribute to the simplification of the language, and the reduction of the vast difference existing between its spoken and literary forms. Qarāǰadāḡī gave, in fact, explicit instructions that certain words were to be given their colloquial, not their written value: vardār instead of bardār, vāsa instead of vāseṭa, etc. Āḵūndzāda restricts himself in his preface to emphasizing again the didactic purpose of the theater, and to criticizing the dramaturgical shortcomings of the taʿzīa—the Shiʿite “passion play”—in which the actors read their parts instead of memorizing them (see new edition of Tamṯīlāt, ed. ʿA. R. Ḥaydarī, Tehran, 1349 Š./1970, pp. 21-30).

Histories of the Persian theater give no indication that Āḵūndzāda’s plays were performed in Iran during the nineteenth century, but there can be little doubt that they were widely read and, together with other examples of simple and realistic writing, contributed to the emergence of a new prose style in Persian (see the estimate of B. Alavi, Moderne persische Literatur, Berlin, 1964, pp. 29-30). It is established, moreover, that the first plays written in Persian—other than taʿzīa scripts and early translations from Molière—were composed in conscious imitation of Āḵūndzāda’s work. These are the four plays long erroneously attributed to Mīrzā Malkom Khan but in fact written by Mīrzā Āqā Tabrīzī (see A. E. Ibrahimov and H. Mämmädzadä, “Mirzä Malkum Khana Aid Hesab Ädilän Pyeslarin Äsl Müällifi Hagġĭnda,” Nizami Aḍĭna Ädäbiyat vä Dil Institutunun Äsärläri (Ädäbiyat Seriyasĭ) 19, 1956, pp. 161-69; H. Algar, Mīrzā Malkum Khān: A Study in the History of Iranian Modernism, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1973, pp. 264-77; and M. B. Moʾmenī, introduction to Mīrzā Āqā Tabrīzī, Čahār teʾātr, Tabrīz, n.d., pp. vi-xxvii). In a letter accompanying a copy of the plays he sent to Āḵūndzāda in Rabīʿ II, 1288/June, 1871, Mīrzā Āqā writes that he chanced to hear Āḵūndzāda’s plays read in a gathering at a friend’s house, and judging them to be “a means for the education of the people and for guiding them on the path of progress,” he decided to “imitate their style” (Alefbā, p. 168). The plays of Mīrzā Āqā Tabrīzī—Sargoḏašt-e Ašraf Ḵān, Ḥokūmat-e Zamān Ḵān, Karbalā raftan-e Šāh-qolī Ḵān and ʿEšqbāzī-e Āqā-ye Hāšem Ḵalḵālī—are decidedly inferior to those of Āḵūndzāda. Āḵūndzāda wrote satire, and his imitator wrote farce. Mīrzā Āqā Tabrīzī’s plays contain numerous crude episodes and events impossible to depict on stage. He seems to have had no acquaintance with the structure of a theater, and to have conceived of the drama as another genre of written literature. Āḵūndzāda read the plays with care, and sent Mīrzā Āqā Tabrīzī a frank critique, even advising him to burn Sargoḏašt-e Šāh-qolī Mīrzā, since it was “bad from start to finish.” He also thought it useful to describe the appearance of a theater, and to stress the noble and didactic function of serious playwrighting (Persian original of his critique in Akhundov, Äsärläri, Baku, 1961, II, pp. 356-73; Russian translation in Akhundov, Izbrannoe, pp. 254-65).

Āḵūndzāda’s second major literary venture was undertaken in 1865. It consisted of a series of fictitious letters exchanged between two imaginary princes, in which he set out his materialist view of the world and subjected Islam to harsh and hostile criticism. To protect himself against the indignation this work was liable to arouse, he claimed that he was not its author, but merely the translator from Persian to Turkish of the correspondence of “the Indian prince, Kamāl-al-dawla, with the Persian prince, Jalāl-al-dawla,” and that his purpose in making the translation was to expose and refute their heretical views (see Āḵūndzāda’s letter to Mīrzā ʿAbd-al-Wahhāb in Alefbā, pp. 88-91). In reality, the work was entirely Āḵūndzāda’s, and the materialist views he sets forth in it are adumbrated in correspondence with trusted friends (see, for example, his letter to the Šayḵ-al-Eslām of Tiflis dated 8 July 1876, in which he grotesquely depicts Rūmī as a fellow believer in the eternity of matter and the nullity of all teachings of an afterlife [Äsärläri II, pp. 204-09]).

Āḵūndzāda declares through his fictitious prince, Kamāl-al-dawla, that “The world exists of itself, according to its own laws and within itself” (Kamāl-al-dawle Maktublaṛĭ in Äsärläri II, p. 65). What is not perceptible to the senses is of necessity non-existent; subtle beings such as jinn and angels are products of the imagination (ibid., II, p. 73). In addition to this declaration of materialism, the letters also contain bitter criticism of Islam and its Prophet. Āḵūndzāda made his own many of the objections traditional in the Western view of Islam; he criticizes, for example, the Prophet’s practice of polygamy, Koranic legislation concerning women, and the institution of ǰehād. He pours particular scorn on the texts he had been required to study in his youth—the Ḥaqq al-yaqīn and Maṣāʾeb al-abrār of Moḥammad-Bāqer Maǰlesī—and makes the Šayḵī school of thought a target of venomous denunciation.

Āḵūndzāda regarded himself as the heir to a hidden tradition of materialism in the Islamic world. He saw predecessors not only in Rūmī, but also in the Ismaʿili Imam Ḥasan ʿAlā-ḍekrehe’l-salām, who allegedly imbibed materialism from Hindu sources, and all the Hellenizing philosophers. His predecessors had not dared to speak out, but now Āḵūndzāda had produced, in his own estimation, “a work the like of which has not yet been written in the clarity of its proofs against Islam” (quoted in F. Gasĭmzadä, XIX Äsr Azärbayjan Ädäbiyati Tarikhi, Baku, 1966, p. 331), and which, once disseminated, would be “more effective than an army of a hundred thousand men in shaking the foundations of Islam” (Äsärläri III, p. 297).

Just as Āḵūndzāda arranged for the translation of his plays into Persian, so too he attempted the more delicate task of providing for the distribution of the letters of Kamāl-al-dawla, both in their Azeri Turkish original and in a Persian translation made in cooperation with the Iranian diplomat and writer, Mīrzā Yūsof Khan Mostašār-al-dawla. His intention was to have the letters published in both languages in Paris, with the help of Mīrzā Yūsof Khan; the Turkish edition was to be distributed in Turkey and Egypt, and the Persian, in Iran, Central Asia and India. The plan was never executed, and the Russian translation of the letters, made in 1874 by the Orientalist Adolf Berge, was rejected by all the publishers to whom it was sent in St. Petersburg. The fame of the letters seems to have been restricted in the lifetime of their author to those individuals, chiefly in Iran, to whom he sent handwritten copies.

Closely associated in Āḵūndzāda’s mind with the dissemination of the letters was a project that occupied him for more than a decade—the reform of the Arabic alphabet in its application to Turkish and Persian. Although the arguments he advanced publicly in favor of reform were mostly linguistic in nature, his chief purpose seems to have been the expunging of a major sign of Muslim cultural identity. Writing to a trusted correspondent, Mīrzā Malkom Khan, Āḵūndzāda predicted that the cause of Islam would be lost after the printing and diffusion of the letters of Kamāl-al-dawla, and that his reformed alphabet would then automatically be accepted (letter dated 2 June 1871, in Alefbā, pp. 234-35). In 1863, Āḵūndzāda wrote a treatise in which he attributed the high rate of illiteracy prevailing in Muslim countries to deficiencies in the Arabic script—the customary omission of vowel signs, the lack of signs to convey certain Turkish vowel sounds, the ambiguity of the letter kāf in Turkish, and the inconvenience of using dots—and set forth a number of proposals for change, including the substitution of additional strokes for dots serving to differentiate letters of identical formation, and the invention of letters for short vowels (“Alefbā-ye ǰadīd,” Alefbā, pp. 3-39). In July of the same year, Āḵūndzāda traveled to Istanbul to present his proposals, which were considered at two meetings of the Ottoman Scientific Society under the chairmanship of Münif Paşa, himself the author of a similar project. Āḵūndzāda’s plans received a polite hearing, but not the immediate and unqualified support he had evidently hoped for. His plea for even partial and experimental use of the modified script was rejected. Attributing this failure to the hostility of the Iranian minister in Istanbul, Mīrzā Ḥosayn Khan, Āḵūndzāda returned to Tiflis, where he continued to propagate the cause of alphabet reform by means of correspondence with a wide variety of persons—members of the Russian administration in the Caucasus, Orientalists in St. Petersburg and Paris, and a number of prominent figures in Iran. Although no sign of official interest in alphabet reform was forthcoming from either Istanbul or Tehran, Āḵūndzāda persisted in refining his proposals, and ultimately suggested a total replacement of the Arabic script by a mixture of Roman and Cyrillic, thus anticipating the measures that were to be taken in the twentieth century in both Turkey and the Muslim lands ruled by Russia.

In all his literary activity, Āḵūndzāda showed a special interest in Iran, and he corresponded with several prominent Iranians by means of whom he hoped to influence the cultural and intellectual life of the country. Indeed, despite his loyalty to Russia and the fact that he wrote all his major works first in Azeri Turkish, not in Persian, he claimed on occasion to regard himself as an Iranian, for his father’s ancestors had been Persian, not Turkish, the family’s connection with Azerbaijan beginning only with his grandfather’s migration there from Rašt (autobiography, Alefbā, p. 349). This sense of Iranian identity along with his hostility to Islam produced in him a hatred for the Arabs and a nostalgia for pre-Islamic Iran that led him to exclude Zoroastrianism from his general strictures on religion. Among his correspondents in Tehran was Manak Limji Antaria, emissary to Iran of the Persian Zoroastrian Amelioration Fund of Bombay. In his letters to him, Āḵūndzāda enquired about various points of Zoroastrian teaching, urged the Zoroastrians to stand firm in the face of pressures for conversion, and expressed the hope that “our homeland will be purged of the followers of the alien faith [= Islam] and again become a rosegarden, with the justice of yore prevailing anew” (letter dated January 1876, Alefbā, pp. 336-38). Similar themes dominated his correspondence with Jalāl-al-dīn Mīrzā, a Qajar prince who had written a versified history of his family in “pure” Persian, i.e., emptied of all Arabic loanwords. Āḵūndzāda congratulated him on his achievement and referred to his own efforts in alphabet reform. “Would that someone else might join us to free our people from the bondage of the disgusting customs of those Arabs who destroyed our thousand-year-old monarchy of justice and high renown” (letter dated 15 June 1870, Alefbā, p. 172).

Chief among Āḵūndzāda’s Iranian correspondents was the Perso-Armenian diplomat, essayist, and journalist, Mīrzā Malkom Khan, whom he first met on his journey to Istanbul in 1863. They corresponded for a decade on a variety of matters of common interest, above all alphabet reform and the subversion of religion in the Islamic world. The two men differed in their choice of tactics for the attainment of these aims. While not totally averse to dissimulation, Āḵūndzāda was generally explicit in his hostility to religion; Malkom, by contrast, believed in the manipulation of religious sentiment as a cover for westernization (see Āḵūndzāda’s record of their discussions in Tiflis in 1872, Alefbā, pp. 286-95). Similar differences of outlook existed between Āḵūndzāda and Mīrzā Yūsof Khan Mostašār-al-dawla. When the latter wrote his treatise Yak kalema asserting the compatibility of European legal concepts with the law of Islam, Āḵūndzāda attacked him with some vehemence, repeating many of the objections to the šarīʿa he had voiced in the letters of Kamāl-al-dawla (letter to Mīrzā Yūsof Khan, dated November 1875; printed in Äsärläri II, pp. 308-16; Russian translation in Izbrannoe, pp. 266-71).

Āḵūndzāda died of heart disease on 10 March 1878. Despite his atheism, he was buried in the Muslim cemetery of Tiflis, next to his first mentor in irreligion, Mīrzā Šafīʿ Wāżeḥ. His influence on thought and letters in Azerbaijan was considerable, and he played some role, too, in the evolution of Iranian modernism, directly through his famous plays, and indirectly through correspondence with persons of more immediate significance in Iranian affairs.



(A) Works.

The collected works of Āḵūndzāda are said to have been published for the first time in Baku in 1905.

The most recent and complete edition is that published in three volumes in Baku in 1961 under the editorship of H. Mämmädzadä (Moḥammadzāda) and H. Arasli: Mīrzā Fatali Akhundov, Äsärläri.

This edition contains not only the major works mentioned above, but also Āḵūndzāda’s essays on literary and philosophical topics, as well as the occasional verse in Azeri Turkish and Persian he composed throughout his life.

There are in addition numerous editions of his separate works, above all the plays, in both Arabic and Cyrillic script.

Mīrzā Jaʿfar Qarāǰadāḡī’s Persian translation, Tamṯīlāt, was reprinted in Tehran, 1349 Š./1970, by ʿA. R. Ḥaydarī.

A selection of Āḵūndzāda’s Persian correspondence, relating mostly to the question of alphabet reform, was printed together with his treatises on the subject under the title of Alefbā-ye ǰadīd va maktūbāt, ed. H. Moḥammadzāda and Ḥ. Ārāslī, Baku, 1963.

Selections from his work in Russian translation are given in two anthologies: Izbrannye filosofskie proizvedeniya, ed. M. Kasumov, Baku, 1953, and Izbrannoe, ed. Aziz Sharif, Moscow, 1956.

(B) Studies of his life and work.

F. Ādamīyat, Andīšahā-ye Mīrzā Fatḥ-ʿAlī Āḵūndzāda, Tehran, 1349 Š./1970.

Idem, “Nāma-ye Āḵūndzāda be Mošīr-al-dawla,” Maqālāt-e tārīḵī, Tehran, 1352 Š./1973, pp. 97-99.

H. Algar, “Malkum Khān, Āḵūndzāda and the Proposed Reform of the Arabic Alphabet,” Middle Eastern Studies 5, 1969, pp. 116-30.

Idem, Mīrzā Malkum Khān: A Study in the History of Iranian Modernism, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1973 (pp. 86-99 discuss Āḵūndzāda’s relations with Malkom).

H. Baykara, Azerbaycanʾda Yenileşme Hareketleri, Ankara, 1966, pp. 148-70.

H. W. Brands, Azerbaiğanisches Volksleben und modernistische Tendenz in den Schauspielen Mīrzā Fetḥ-ʿAlī Āḫūndzādes, Leiden, 1975.

M. Fuad Köprülü, “Azeri,” İA II, pp. 144-45 (succinctly places Āḵūndzāda in the context of nineteenth century Azeri Turkish literature).

A. Vahap Yurtsever, Mirza Ahuntzadenin Hayatt ve Eserleri, Ankara, 1950.

Soviet writing on Āḵūndzāda forms a large and distinct category, with its commendatory emphasis on his Russophilia and atheism.

Among the more useful works of this type are the following: D. Dzhafarov, M. F. Akhundov, Moscow, 1962.

F. Gasĭmzadä, XIX Äsr Azärbayjan Ädäbiyaṭĭ Tarikhi, Baku, 1966, pp. 239-354.

M. M. Kasumov, “Bor’ba M. F. Akhundova protiv religii Islama,” Trudy Instituta Istorii i Filosofii Akademii Nauk Azerbaydzhanskoĭ SSR 3, 1953, pp. 70-101.

Idem, M. F. Akhundov i russkaya revolyutsionno-demokraticheskaya estetika XIX veka, Baku, 1954 (draws parallels between the thought of Āḵūndzāda and that of Belinskiĭ, Chernyshevskiĭ and Dobrolyubov).

Idem, “Mirovozzrenie M. F. Akhundova,” Trudy Instituta Istorii i Filosofii Akademii Nauk Azerbaydzhanskoĭ SSR, 7, 1955, pp. 70-101.

M. Rafili, M. F. Akhundov, zhizn’ i tvorchestvo, Baku, 1957.

A. M. Shoitov, “Rol’ M. F. Akhundova v razvitii persidskoĭ progressivnoĭ literatury,” Kratkie Soobshcheniya Instituta Vostokovedeniya 9, 1953, pp. 58-65.


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(H. Algar)

Originally Published: December 15, 1984

Last Updated: July 29, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. I, Fasc. 7, pp. 735-740