Social Studies

Jalil Mammadguluzade and “Mullah Nasraddin” Magazine

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Jalil Mammadguluzade, also known as Mirza Jalil is an eminent Azerbaijani journalist and writer. He started his career as a teacher after he graduated from teachers’ training school in Gori, Georgia. He later became well known as the founder and the editor-in-chief of a widely read magazine in Azerbaijan and all through the Far East.

Jalil Mammadguluzade is considered one of the distinguished figures in our national literature. He is the founder of the “Mullah Nasraddin” magazine, which was founded on 7th of April in 1906. The magazine was enjoyed in the entire Near East. Being the writer of the magazine, he had managed to gather enlightened writers around the magazine and thus established the “Mullah Nasraddinist” literary movement. This is why he had also adopted the “Mullah Nasraddin” penname.

Mullah Nasraddin is the first prominent satirical columnist and started a new stage in Azerbaijani prose. He has made exceptional contributions into the revival and development of the national public conscience. He is one of the geniuses behind journalism in the country. He has embodied the endless capacities of Azerbaijani in his novellas, stories and satiric articles on various topics. He has skillfully painted the social life and typical character of Azerbaijani villages of the 19th and 20th centuries. He was the forerunner of realist fiction in the last century.

Jalil Mammadguluzade is the first satirical writer in Azerbaijan. He dedicated the wit of his talent as a writer, and later as a dramatist, to inspire interest towards the happenings in the society, which he believed to retard the development of independent and educated personalities, who knew how to define their place in life. One of the crucial topics our 19th and 20th century writers developed in their works was the significance of education in the formation of identities of a new kind, which was free from religious prejudice and traditional views on people’s lives. And this is what made them historically important figures for our people.

The first ever issue of the “Mullah Nasraddin” came out on 7th of April, 1906 in Tiflis. It was published in Tiflis until 1918, in Tabriz until 1921 and in Baku from 1922 to 1931.

Published in Azerbaijani, the “Mullah Nasraddin” magazine became the only satirical magazine in the entire Muslim world and Near East. The magazine took its name from the folkloric character Mullah Nasraddin, also known as the Hoja Nasraddin. He is the main hero of numerous satirical stories and anecdotes.

The cover of the first issue of the “Mulla Nasraddin” depicted the “awakening nation of the East”. In the following twenty years, the magazine earned a reputation by showing the world to its readers through cartoons and quality text. The magazine was published in Azerbaijani. It was initially in Arabic alphabet, but later in Latin, as the Bolsheviks seized power. At times, the magazine was also issued in Russian.

The audience looked forward to every issue of the magazine, but those who became the object of satire hated it wholeheartedly. At the times of Jalil Mammadguluzade, ridiculing the clergymen and fighting for women’s rights was absolutely a risky endeavor. Some religious figures published leaflets, which subjected Mammadguluzade to anathema and wanted his death. The magazine’s editorial office in Tiflis was searched numerous times.

The magazine also included articles, dedicated to the development of literature. The authors especially wrote about folklore and attached great importance to it, as they saw folklore as the source of the mother tongue. The magazine turned into a creative laboratory of sorts, which coined a new style of Azerbaijani prose and poetry, which was available for the wide audience. Later, in the 20th century, the style of the magazine’s authors was called “democratic”. Writers-democrats Mammadguluzade and Sabir looked for and found new forms and means, which emphasized availability and expression of their native language.

In 1918, “Mullah Nasraddin” supported the establishment of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, as it published articles, which glorified the idea of independence and democracy. In 1919, Azerbaijani women received a right to vote. The magazine also played a role in that. It was published until 1931 with some intervals. As the soviet government took hold of Azerbaijan, the magazine was continuously attacked and criticized by the government, as it managed to preserve its democratic and urgent-social character. As a result, it had to shut down due to many reasons.

The old issues of the magazine are still preserved at the Mirza Fatali Akhundzade National Library of Azerbaijan. The history of its establishment and publication is taught in literature classes in local and international schools in Azerbaijan.

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