Mirza Fatali Akhundov was an Azerbaijani writer, philosopher, and modern literary critic. He rose to prominence as a writer of European-inspired plays in the Azeri Turkic language. Mirza was born into a household that was experiencing financial difficulties. His mother left his father when he was six years old and moved in with her uncle, a highly intelligent and well-read cleric. Mirza was up under the guidance of his maternal uncle and quickly learned the canons of Islamic philosophy and literature. Mirza dropped out of theological school to pursue poetry and Western literature instead of following in his uncle’s footsteps and becoming a priest. He subsequently began to create his own literary masterpieces, such as comedies and brilliantly sarcastic novels. His poetic usage of Persian and descriptions of Persian culture inspired a generation of Iranian leaders. His debunking of corrupt and illogical Muslim rituals made him an early proponent of scientific atheism, which the Soviet Union extensively promoted decades after his death. Mirza has risen to the stature of a giant in the annals of great Persian, Azerbaijani, and Russian writers thanks to his immense production of work ranging from literary critique to volumes of poetry.
Childhood and Adolescence
Mirza Fatali Akhundov was born in Azerbaijan’s Nukha, now Shakhi, on July 12, 1812. Mirza’s father, Mirza Mammadtaghi, was a native of Nukha and his mother, Nana Khanim, was an ethnic Iranian from Tabriz Province in Azerbaijan.
Mirza’s parents split when he was six years old, and he and his mother relocated to Qaradagh Province, Azerbaijan, to live with his uncle, Akhund Haji Alasgar, one of the region’s most well-known Muslim clerics.
Akhund was a well-educated man who taught his nephew Mirza how to speak and read Arabic and Persian, as well as introducing him to important works of literature from the region.
A Career of Mirza Fatali Akhundov
Mirza’s uncle Akhund accompanied Mirza to Ganja in 1832 to enroll his nephew at the Shah Abbas Mosque’s madrassa. Mirza was to study logic and Islamic religion, according to him.
Mirza learned calligraphy from famed Azerbaijani poet Mirza Shafi Vazeh while at school. Mirza’s religious studies were discouraged by Shafi Vazeh, who urged him to study modern sciences. Mirza abandoned his religious and clerical studies and began studying Russian in order to gain a better understanding of Russian and European culture.
When uncle Akhund found out that Mirza had dropped out of school, he astonished the family by expressing his support for his nephew’s decision. Mirza traveled to Tbilisi, Georgia, in 1834 to work as a translator for the government after his uncle Akhund utilized his considerable connections to get his nephew a job.
Akhundov became an Azerbaijani language instructor in 1836, a position he would retain for the following 13 years.
Mirza’s first important Persian poetry, ‘The Oriental Poem,’ was published in 1837, and it was about the death of the great Russian poet Alexander Pushkin. ‘The Oriental Poem’ was translated into Russian by Akhundov, and it was quickly read by the intellectual elite of Russia.
For the first time in the region, Russian theater arrived in Tbilisi in 1845, bringing both Russian and Western plays to the stage.
‘The Tale of Monsieur Jordan the Botanist and the Celebrated Sorcerer, Dervish Mastali Shah,’ was Akhundov’s first play, written in 1850. The satirical farce was a huge hit, with sold-out performances in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Tbilisi.
‘Molla Ibragim Khalil, Alchemist, Possessor of the Philosopher’s Stone,’ was Mirza’s second smash comedy. He also wrote ‘The Vizier of the Lenkoran Khanate’ in the same year.
He composed and performed his play ‘The Miser’s Adventure’ in 1852. Mirza also authored the play ‘The Defenders of Right in the City of Tebriz,’ which was first performed in 1855.
Akhundov’s first book of prose, ‘The Deceived Stars,’ was released in 1857, and it single-handedly reinvented the genre of Azerbaijani historical writing.
Akhundov went on to write six books about literary criticism, studying the works of Arabic and Persian literary masters. ‘The Sayings of Dr. Sismond’ and ‘Response to the Philosopher Hume’ are two philosophical writings written by Akhundov.
Mirza had created a new alphabet that was easier to learn and better mirrored the sounds of Azerbaijani Turkish. He transmitted the alphabet to Iran’s linguists and the Ottoman Empire’s leaders of state.
He traveled to Istanbul in 1863 as part of his alphabet campaign to meet with Ottoman Prime Minister Faud Pasha. The issue was debated at the Ottoman Society of Science, and Miza’s initiative was lauded. The introduction of the new alphabet was blocked by Iran’s main diplomat to the Ottoman courts, Mirza Huseyn Khan.
Akhundov again petitioned the Turkish authorities to change the alphabet, but he was turned down. When he returned home, he penned a satirical work called “Three Letters of the Indian Prince Kemal-ud-Doula to the Persian Prince Jalal-ud-Doula,” which criticized the Ottoman Empire.
Major Projects of Mirza Fatali Akhundov
In 1837, Mirza’s poignant response to Alexander Pushkin’s death, ‘The Oriental Poem,’ was translated into Russian, bringing him worldwide prominence.
‘The Tale of Monsieur Jordan the Botanist and the Celebrated Sorcerer, Dervish Mastali Shah,’ his bitingly sarcastic drama, is still performed to full houses in Azerbaijan.
Mirza Akhundov’s writings form the backbone of Azerbaijani literature today, with over 50 publications on philosophy, theological and literary criticism, as well as his dramatic plays.
Achievements & Awards
Mirza Fatali Akhundov was named the Year of Turkic Culture by the International Organization of Turkic Culture in 2012.
Personal History and Legacy
He died in Tbilisi on March 9, 1878, at the age of 65.
Mirza’s commitment to the Azerbaijani language resulted in the adoption of a new script, which resulted in a significant increase in literacy and national knowledge of Azerbaijani culture.
Mirza’s moniker was ‘Moliere of the Orient,’ according to legend.
Mirza Akhundov created the script that the present Azerbaijani language is written in.
During the Crimean War, between 1853 and 1856, Akhundov lobbied for his people to join Russia and fight Turkey.
Mirza was referred to as ‘Akhund’s son’ or Akhundzadeh in Azerbaijani. Today, he is known as Mirza Akhundzade in Azerbaijan. The closest Russian translation of Akhundzade was Akhundov, which is how most people today know him.
Estimated net worth
Estimated net worth of Mirza Fatali Akhundov is unknown.