Molla Panah Vagif

Molla Panah Vagif

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Molla Panah Vagif was an 18th-century poet
A poet is a person who writes poetry. A poet's work can be literal, meaning that his work is derived from a specific event, or metaphorical, meaning that his work can take on many meanings and forms. Poets have existed since antiquity, in nearly all languages, and have produced works that vary...

, the founder of the realism genre in the Azerbaijani poetry
Azerbaijani literature
Azerbaijani literature refers to the literature written in Azerbaijani, which currently is the official state language of the Republic of Azerbaijan and is widely spoken in northwestern Iran and eastern Turkey...

 and also a prominent statesman and diplomat, vizier
A vizier or in Arabic script ; ; sometimes spelled vazir, vizir, vasir, wazir, vesir, or vezir) is a high-ranking political advisor or minister in a Muslim government....

– the minister of foreign affairs in the Karabakh khanate
Karabakh khanate
The Karabakh khanate was a semi-independent khanate on the territories of modern Azerbaijan and Armenia established in about 1750 under Persian suzerainty in Karabakh and adjacent areas. The Karabakh khanate existed until 1805, when the Russian Empire gained control over it from Persia...



Vagif was born in 1717 in the village of Salahly in the Qazakh
Qazakh is a rayon of Azerbaijan. It has two exclaves inside Armenia, Yukhari Askipara and Barkhudarli, both of which came under Armenian control during the Nagorno-Karabakh War.- History :In antiquity, this rayon was part of the province of Utik...

, but spent most part of his life in Karabakh
Nagorno-Karabakh is a landlocked region in the South Caucasus, lying between Lower Karabakh and Zangezur and covering the southeastern range of the Lesser Caucasus mountains...

. Soon after coming to Shusha
Shusha , also known as Shushi is a town in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh in the South Caucasus. It has been under the control of the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic since its capture in 1992 during the Nagorno-Karabakh War...

, the capital of the Karabakh khanate
Karabakh khanate
The Karabakh khanate was a semi-independent khanate on the territories of modern Azerbaijan and Armenia established in about 1750 under Persian suzerainty in Karabakh and adjacent areas. The Karabakh khanate existed until 1805, when the Russian Empire gained control over it from Persia...

 at the time, Vagif became popular and beloved among the people due to his knowledge and talents. There was even a saying: "Not every literate person can be Vagif".

As vizier, Vagif did much for the prosperity and political growth of the Karabakh khanate. Also, he played an important role in organizing the defense of Shusha during the incursions of Aga Muhammad shah Qajar of Persia in 1795 and 1797.

Siege of 1795

The historian Mirza Adigezal bey records the following possibly apocryphal tale: during the 1795 siege of Shusha, which resisted stubbornly despite the overwhelming numbers of Aga Muhammad's army, the shah had the following couplet by Urfi, the Persian-Indian poet, attached to an arrow and shot behind the walls of the city:

The shah was playing on the meaning of Shusha: "glass" in Persian
Persian language
Persian is an Iranian language within the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages. It is primarily spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and countries which historically came under Persian influence...

(and Azeri). When the message was delivered to Ibrahim-Khalil khan, the ruler of Shusha, he called upon Vagif, his vizier, who immediately wrote the following response on the reverse of the message:

Receiving the letter with this poem, shah Aga-Muhhamed went into a rage and renewed the cannon attack on Shusha. However, after 33 days, the shah lifted the siege and headed to Georgia.

Conquest of Shusha and death - 1797

Shah Qajar invaded Karabakh a second time in 1797, after the Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

n armies that briefly occupied the Caucasus were withdrawn on the death of Catherine II. This time, Karabakh was undergoing a drought and was incapable of resisting. Ibrahim-Khalil khan escaped Shusha and the city fell quickly. Vagif was imprisoned and awaited death the following morning, but was saved when the shah was assassinated that very night under mysterious circumstances.

The reprieve did not last long. The nephew of Ibrahim-Khalil khan, Muhammed bey Javanshir, came to power after the now shah-less Persian army returned to Iran. Seeing in Vagif a loyal follower of his uncle, he had Vagif and his son executed. At the time of his death his house was plundered and many of his verses were lost.

Vagif's remains were kept in Shusha, where a mausoleum in his name was built during the Soviet era in the 1970s. This mausoleum was destroyed in 1992 during the Nagorno-Karabakh War
Nagorno-Karabakh War
The Nagorno-Karabakh War was an armed conflict that took place from February 1988 to May 1994, in the small enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh in southwestern Azerbaijan, between the majority ethnic Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh backed by the Republic of Armenia, and the Republic of Azerbaijan...

. The fate of Vagif's remains is unknown.


Despite the circumstances of his death, Vagif's poetry has persevered. His verses were collected for the first time in 1856 and published by Mirza Yousif Nersesov. Soon afterwards, his verses were published by Adolph Berge in Leipzig
Leipzig Leipzig has always been a trade city, situated during the time of the Holy Roman Empire at the intersection of the Via Regia and Via Imperii, two important trade routes. At one time, Leipzig was one of the major European centres of learning and culture in fields such as music and publishing...

 in 1867 with the assistance of M.F. Akhundov, a prominent 19th century Azeri playwright, .

Vagif's works herald a new era in Azeri poetry, treating more mundane feelings and desires rather than the abstract and religious themes prevalent in the Sufi-leaning poetry of the time. This was the main characteristic that distinguished Vagif from his predecessors and made him the founder of the realism genre in the Azeri poetry.

The language of Vagif's poems was qualitatively innovative as well: vivid, simple, and closely approaching the Azeri
Azerbaijani language
Azerbaijani or Azeri or Torki is a language belonging to the Turkic language family, spoken in southwestern Asia by the Azerbaijani people, primarily in Azerbaijan and northwestern Iran...

 vernacular. Vagif's poems have had a great influence on Azeri folklore and many of them are repeatedly used in the folk music of ashugs (wandering minstrels).

An example:
Bayram oldu, heç bilmirəm neyləyim
Bizim evdə dolu çuval da yoxdur
Dügiylə yağ hamı çoxdan tükənmiş
Ət heç ələ düşməz, motal da yoxdur

Bizim bu dünyada nə malımız var
Nə də evdə sahibcamalımız da var
Vaqif, öyünmə ki, kamalımız var
Allaha şükür ki, kamal da yoxdur

It is a holiday, don't know what to do
All sacks are empty in household of ours
Rice long gone, butter exhausted too
No meat we have, nor cheese that's ours

In this world we own nothing that's ours
Nor does happiness grace our homes
Vagif, don't pin your hopes on brains of ours
Glory to God, our brains somewhere roam

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