Speech of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev at the meeting with the members of the newly elected board of the Union of Cinematographers - Presidential Residence, December 16, 1995

When I heard that you had an intention to meet me I asked for the organization of a meeting. I also wanted to meet you. However, now, I have come here to listen to you and think that there are two things: when you do not know what the problem is, you feel comfortable, but if you know the problem and cannot find a solution for it, then it is very difficult. That’s why, I am listening to you, and I am asking myself whether I had to come here or not. If I did not come I would think that I did not know most of the problems, and I was not responsible for them. However, when I know it, I begin to think of them, undoubtedly, you hope and wait for a solution, all these make me think more than ever.

Nevertheless, I am very happy that we have come together. If we are not able to solve any problem, anyway, still we understand each other and share each other’s views, it consoles us.  If you have a problem, and you cannot share it with anyone, it will grieve you. However, when you tell your problem to someone, you feel relieved because you shared it with someone. It is not important whether it is solved or not. That’s why, I think that our meeting is very good and I understand your problems very well.

Firstly, I want to say that the history of our cinema and achievements in this field are our national wealth and cultural treasure, we must protect them. I know that next year it will be the 80th anniversary of the Azerbaijani cinema and 100th anniversary of the world cinema.

That’s why, we will take necessary measures for celebrating the 80th anniversary of the Azerbaijani cinema. The decree for the organization of the anniversary is ready, I will sign it. I hope that as a result of these events we will be able to increase the interest in the society and among the people towards the cinema, and undoubtedly, we will be able to increase care for it.

Secondly, the 80 year history of the Azerbaijani cinema is the annals of our people, we are always proud of our history. We must protect our history as well. If the Azerbaijani npeople, an oriental nation, lagged behind the Western countries in this field, but was able to create and develop the cinema 80 years ago, then it demonstrates the richness of the culture of the nation. We must be proud of it and we have a reason for it.

The Azerbaijani cinema h created very valuable pieces in these 80 years and it is impossible to forget them. Most of the generations of the Azerbaijani people grew up under the influence of cinema, developed and joined the culture. In the past there was a saying, perhaps today someone will think of it differently, anyway, it says that the most important branch of art is cinema.  This phrase is very valuable. We have witnessed it in our lives. For example, let’s take our youth, now here is a representative of the old generation - Tofig Taghizade, as well as me. However, there are young people here, too. Then there was nothing except cinema, neither television, nor radio had such a great influence on the people. Theatre influenced us greatly; however, it was also not popular. If theatre  existed only in Baku and in other cities, it was necessary particularly to go for theatre, however, cinema was spread, and it was demonstrated in the villages, too.

I remember, during the World War II and the Great Patriotic war films were demonstrated with mobile cinema instruments in villages and people watched them willingly. I personally witnessed it. People were suffered hardship, they lived in worse conditions than today, there was a great war, and people were killed. Nevertheless, cinema created patriotic feelings in people on the one hand, and affected their cultural formation, on the other hand.

That’s why, taken wholes, cinema has a great role in the world. However, in the development of our people the service of the Azerbaijani cinema is matchless. Using this opportunity today, I want to disclose my opinion that you have been working in such a field which benefits thepeople. Despite the hardness of your lives, in general, our life is very hard, still you always say proudly that you are selfless members of this field and you have not retired of your profession even in these hard days, you have not forgotten it and continue.

All the films produced in Azerbaijan in the past 80 years are valuable. Perhaps, history changes, some think that now cinema is different in comparison with the past. You know, of course, each period has its own demands. Society shapes itself according to the conditions of each period. However, let’s take the films produced before the World War II. How our people loved them! In my youth I willingly watched the films “Bakililar”, “Kendliler”. Or, let’s talk openly, the film “Chapayev” traveled all over the world, influenced our youth. I mentioned “Chapayev”, because, everywhere it was received with sympathy.

Let’s take the Azerbaijani films produced before and after the World War II, for example, “The Cloth Paddler” (“Arşın mal Alan”). It is created by genius Uzeyir Hajibeyov, it occupies a significant place in our culture. However, if this film had not been shot, the world would have not known “The Cloth Paddler”. They would have known neither Uzeyir Hajibeyov, nor Rashid Behbudov. You see, how many issues were solved with one film. Let’s take films produced after it, or your productions, they are very beautiful. For example, I highly appreciate the films which reflect our history. I remember the film “Sabuhi” was dedicated to Mirza Fatali Akhundov. Today our literary critics might criticize it. However, it was a great film in that period. We watched it with joy, and derived lessons for us.

The films which were created later and covered our history, for example, “Nesimi”, “Babek”, “Dede Korkut”, “Nizami” are wonderful films. You remember, then I talked to some of you repeatedly that description of different periods of our history in cinema is very important for our present and future. For example, I had repeatedly said that it is necessary to revive the activities of the Azerbaijani oilmen during the World War II in cinema. Unfortunately, we could not do it. However, I hope that time will come and we will do it. This year the world celebrated the 50th anniversary of the victory over the fascism.  The entire world, London, Paris, and Moscow celebrated it. I attended the ceremonies held in London, Paris and Moscow. All the leaders of the world gathered for the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the victory.

When I attended those ceremonies and listened to the speeches, I always thought and it was mentioned several times that if the Azerbaijani oil had not been, perhaps, the victory over the fascism would have been impossible, perhaps, fascism would have destroyed the whole world. This victory is the great service of Azerbaijan. You know, recently, I was in France, I talked in the World Bank, I also repeated it there. In the 50th anniversary of the victory it was mentioned in Moscow and other countries. However, it did not mean that the Azerbaijani oil itself filled the tanks, planes and vehicles in the front and they destroyed the fascists. No, our people, the Azerbaijani people worked hard and sent the oil to the front. You remember, then the northern part of the Caucasus was occupied by the fascist army, the railway stopped working. Oil hardly was sent to the front through the Caspian Sea or the Central Asia. The Azerbaijani people, Azerbaijan did it. It is our historical achievement.

It is not the only case; our history has a lot of pages worth of being filmed. For example, the film of “Dede Korkut” is a very great event in our history! Why? Because, let’s talk openly, most of us do not know “Dede Korkut” well. They do not know the root of “Dede Korkut”, the root of the Azerbaijani people well. To read this epos and perceive it is very difficult, as its language is very ancient. However, when you watch the film, everything becomes clear.

Or, take the film “Nesimi”. Most people know Nesimi and his poems. We celebrated his 600th anniversary. However, Nesimi remained in the memory and heart of the people as it was demonstrated in the film.

 I repeated it several times, Vagif is our great poet and statesman. Samad Vurghun created the drama “Vagif” and it was staged on the National Theatre.  After the performances of great actors, such as Alasgar Alakbarov, Sidgi Ruhulla and others we imagined Vagif quite differently.  However, nobody knows how the appearance of Vagif was as there is neither his portrait, nor a picture of Vagif. However, Samad Vurghun wrote a drama, the national theatre and actors created a spectacle and it remained in the history. That’s why, our historical films are very valuable. Perhaps, in some of them there insufficiencies from artistic point of view; however, they are not very important. The significant point is that we turned our history into a chronicle and cinema.

Let’s mention the topics concerning our contemporary life. For example, how much fame the “On the far away shores” brought to the Azerbaijani people! I said it once, but using this opportunity I want to repeat it again that, in general, personally I contributed to the discovery of Mehdi Husein-zade. Then I was working in KGB, it was the beginnings of the 50s. We were mostly engaged in studying the issues who served the fascists, who betrayed his country and who displayed bravery. To be honest, then we had the task to find out who served our enemies. Such issues were on the agenda. While I was engaged in these tasks I saw materials about Mehdi Husein-zade. First he was presented as a captive as others and served the fascists. Such an idea was formed about Mehdi Husein-zade on the basis of the first information and materials.

However, fortunately, we studied the issue deeply. Perhaps, I tell it for the first time, but personally, I studied it in detail. We saw that indeed he was captivated and served among the fascists. However, what about his services? We raised these issues. I remember, approximately it was in 1956-57, they did not want to accept them. I repeat again, the task was to discover the enemies and determine which of them served the fascists, who did not. No one was looking for the people, who demonstrated bravery. Additionally, heroes in the rear of the enemy later appeared. When film “The 17 Instants of the Spring” and others were shot? However, when did we shot “On the far away shores”? You see, then we raised these materials and gave them. When these materials came to the stage, we thought about writing a sketch on this issue. We gave the materials to our employees and asked them to write it. They began to write it, however, nothing turned out as they were not professional. That’s why, we appealed to the Central Committee of the Communist Party and gave them a long material about Mehdi Husein-zade. We appealed them for help in order to create it as an essay.

It took too long to get the title of the Hero of the Soviet Union for  Mehdi Husein-zade. They did not want to do it, because they did not believe it in Moscow. Then I was working in KGB. Later, we gave this material to the Central Committee of the Young Communist League. The late Imran Gasimov and Hasan Seyidbayli were young in this field yet and they took the material immediately. We also helped them, and gave all the materials. They wrote the scripts, then the film was shot. I gave you some historical information. After the production of the film, the title of the Hero of the Soviet Union was granted to Mehdi Husein-zade. After granting the name it was my fate that we erected a great monument to Mehdi Husein-zade, and I remember that, probably in 1973 we unveiled it. Later it became one of the frequently visited places on May 9.

All our history, literature and cinema are connected with each other. These are very important parts of our life.

Contemporary films also had a very important role. You know, it is necessary to demonstrate both our history and the contemporary life. For example, you remember the film “Istintag” (“Interrogation”). Afterwards these topics were discussed and literary works were created on the basis of these topics. However, since 1969 we started the fight against corruption, bribery, and different negative cases in Azerbaijan in the 70s. These operations firstly were launched in Azerbaijan in the Soviet Union, we were the initiators. Then we organized a struggle against this negative aspect of our society in the Soviet Union. As a result of this struggle the film “Istintag” was shot. You know, we created this film with great difficulty, there were impediments. I not only helped the production of the film, but also patronized it, because it was the reflection of my political activity and road as the leader of the republic and political figure since 1969.  That’s why I was interested in the production of this film. However, there are a lot of people which it disturbed. Moscow also did not permit. Since, then, to be honest, bribe takers, such as Shelokov and others headed the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Moscow. They said that “it is impossible. You demonstrate that we have bribe-takers in the administrative and defense bodies. It is impossible; it is not true, it is impossible to allow this film.” I fought hard against them.

However, after demonstration of this film I was called from Moscow and other republics that how brave we were, and how great job we did. We could not demonstrate such cases by other means. By the film we spread them to the world. They said that we were very courageous that we showed our negative sides, putrefaction and so on. I said that we did not only show, but also fight against them. However, we have been carrying this fight for a long time, but the film was shot in 1978. After the fight of eight years this film they saw the open struggle. Let me say openly that in the period of reconstruction negative attitudes were formed against Azerbaijan. In Uzbekistan they also disclosed something; I cannot say whether it was true, or a fake. They also started such a campaign against Azerbaijan. Then I was in the political bureau. Once at the meeting of the political bureau I recommended to Gorbachev and Ligachev, they were zealous, to watch the film “Istintag”.  When I worked in Moscow, Cinematography was under my command in the Soviet of Ministers, I headed it. I instructed Yermash to send copies of this film to the summer residences of Gorbachev and Ligachev. Then, there were cinema halls in the summer residences of the members of the political bureau; we did not watch films in the city, watched in those houses. I dispatched the film, several days passed, and asked them whether they watched it or not. They said that they did not have enough time. I asked them to watch and instructed their bodyguards to remind them. Especially Sundays they watched films, and then I also rarely watched films on Sundays. I made both of them watch the film. Later I said that this was our struggle against corruption and bribery. The level of the film was high. You know,with this film we achieved a lot.

It is not the only film, for example, I remember when the film “In one southern city” was shot I was working in KGB. This film created a sensation; they worried that this film would disgrace them. The late Jafar Jafarov informed me that there was such a problem, and he asked me to watch the film and tell my opinion. There were complaints that it disgraced our people. You remember that I came to the film studio and watched the film. Moscow again was against the film. Anyway, let me say why Shelokov prevented its demonstration in Moscow. If you remember, there is an episode in the film that one manat was given to the policeman. Shelokov said that it was impossible for the policeman to take one manat. It was impossible. He did not permit the demonstration of the film. We got permission for the film and I think that it was a great event in the history of our cinematography. Later I declared in Moscow that Shelokov was unaware of the world, if the policeman was satisfied with one manat, we would say that we lived in paradise.

Thus, I want to say that these films had very great impact. Shafiga khanum just mentioned the film “The Birthday”, you remember that film. I was unaware of the s film. One Sunday, accidentally, I watched it, it is wonderful. However, I think that our spectators could not perceive the message conveyed by the film. I remember, in one of the plenums of the party I recommended to watch this film. Only later this film became popular, and everyone tried to watch it. I remember, there was the ambassador of the Soviet Union in Iran, Vinogradov, on his way to Moscow, he came to Baku. We talked to him about that film. Later, when we were in the guest house, he watched the film. Returning to Iran he asked me from Tehran to send the film to him, he would show it there. He showed it there as well.

The films which reflect our history and separate periods of our life are very important both for the past and future. None of these films will die; I assure you that they will live.  The film “The Birthday” also will live in 30 years and more. Once I was watching a program on TV, it seems you broadcast its continuation now. I knew the actors, I knew Haji Ismayilov. He has not changed. Most people tell me that I haven’t changed, I watched, he has not changed, too. He is a very good actor and performs well.

Then I also liked the film “The Summer Days of the City” shot on the script of Anar. I proposed to produce a film; however, you shot it after my words. You remember, after watching the play I proposed to put it on the stage of Russian Drama Theatre, and then absolutely to shoot a film. However, I have not watched the film. Tofig Taghi-zade asked me to watch it together at a tea table. Let me tell you that since 1993, since I came here, I could not find even an hour to rest. Then when I worked here, truly, on Sundays sometimes I watched the films, particularly new films.  In Moscow also on Sundays I watched films. However, now the situation is very difficult and hard and I cannot rest even  a day or an hour. It does not mean that I will not watch your film. I am interested in your film. Now I will come to the same topic, “The Dead” and Jalil Mammadgulu-zade.

Jalil Mammadgulu-zade is a prominent writer. We celebrated his 125th anniversary, and you remember it, I made a speech there, and talked about his “The Dead”.  However, the greatness of Jalil Mammadgulu-zade is not limited only with “The Dead”, all his creative work is great. You know, in the world of literature, the works generally resemble previous works. For example, there are a lot of works about the legend of “Leyli and Majnun” .  Nizami, Fuzuli, Alishir Navai, and others have written on that topic. I remember, an Armenian composer also wrote a ballet and staged it in Bolshoy Theatre of Moscow. The late Gara Garayev has a symphonic poem “Leyli and Majnun”.

Perhaps, I am mistaken, I do not know some issues in the history, however, I think that there is not an alternative to “The Dead” in the world.  This topic is very unique. Love is existent since the beginning of humanity. People love each other, some cannot unite, some commit suicide, and some jump down from the Maiden Tower, Othello kills Desdemona and others. Or, there are works, eposes about padishahs and heroes; however, discovery of such a psychological topic shows the greatness of Jalil Mammadgulu-zade. It is matchless.

I watched to “The Dead” on the stage for the first time in Nakhchevan National Theatre when I was 13 and I am under its influence since then.  Sheikh Nasrullah, Kefli Isgandar, Sheikh Ahmad and other characters are in my memory. It is a very philosophical work, above the human philosophy, and I think that our defficiency and fault are that we could not propagate this work and present it to the world until now. Right, I remember that Tofig Kazimov staged this work and he was criticized for making changes in it. I have no information about your film, but I have heard that you have done some amendments, I do not know it. However, absolutely, I will watch it, because I think that it is our debt and the debt of the future generation to present it to the world. That’s why, I highly appreciate your approach to the “The Dead” and I will try to watch this film. You see, our conversation lasted long. There are a lot of topics that we can speak of them for hours. I am very pleased of these talks. However, I know that history and literature are important, but you are interested in the future of the cinematography. It is not good to speak to you only about history. Probably you think that Heydar Aliyev talks in order to divert your attention.

Undoubtedly, we have not the same opportunities as in the past. In the past neither you, nor we had such problems. We asked you to give new scripts and create new films; however, there was not any financial problem. I remember, in then recent years when I worked in Azerbaijan I was told that we lacked films. We collected the old films and sent them to Moscow to exchange them with new ones. Sometimes we needed German films and we were able to find them. I mean, we did it, there was not any problem, and we were able to solve all the problems. Now, our economic hardship led the situation to such a level. That’s why I cannot promise you that I will solve all the problems you raised here. However, give me your proposals, we will analyze all of them and try to help.

It is important to keep the cinema, cinematography alive. Undoubtedly, it is unacceptable to permit the dissolution of the ready collective of ten years. I know there were speeches here that it is hard to live; some are looking for different jobs. I understand all and it is impossible to reprobate someone, because, if we had an opportunity to supply everyone on a sufficient level, then we could have a right to choose jobs. Meanwhile, we must endure this hardship. I believe that these hard days will not last long. We will pass this period, I am very optimistic about the future. We will overcome the war, you see, there is not any war for 19 months, we have stopped the battles and hold negotiations. Truly, it is hard to hold these negotiations. It is very difficult to achieve our goal, because after losing the land it is very hard to return it. Of course, if then our soldiers could stand stronger, if our state had authority and not lose the lands, then we would have not be obliged to hold negotiations.

Everybody would live in his land and there would not be any negotiation. After losing the lands, i.e. occupation, it is very difficult to force the enemy liberate the occupied territories. However, we are engaged in it. We conduct economic reforms and try to find opportunities to preserve our cinema.

I wish good health to all of you. I repeat again, hold a congress, choose a new board and create new bodies in these hard days mean that you want to keep the cinema alive. Try to keep it, we will also try to help you. I wish you good health and successes. Thank you.

Historical backgrounds