History, Art and Culture of Azerbaijan
- 22-08-2016 —
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History, Art and Culture of Azerbaijan
The Culture of Azerbaijan has absorbed the best traditions of the East and the West. The immense impact on the cultural development of Azerbaijan has had the Persian and Turkic states, which at the time comprised the territory of the modern state. This is particularly evident in literature and music.
The written Azerbaijani literature sprang up in the early 19th century. Its founder Mirza Fatali Akhundov is also the ancestor of Azerbaijani drama, which was further developed in the creation of Najaf-beka Vezirov and Abdurragim Ahverdov. Literature, the central part of which belongs to folklore, holds a special place in Azerbaijani culture.
Apart from dastans, other genres such as songs, legends, fairy tales, anecdotes, proverbs, riddles exist in Azerbaijani folklore.
In the Middle Ages an Azerbaijani poet named Nizami wrote his world famous "Khamsa", and a prose writer Fizuli was recognized both at home and abroad. His work "Layla and Majnun" is considered to be the jewel of literature.
The distinctive feature of Azerbaijani literature were singers-ashugs who were creators and performers. These were wandering poets-storytellers, folk singers who accompanied themselves on the traditional stringed instrument called saz.
Mugams are considered to be the base of Azerbaijani national music. A mugam is a complex art form, performed in a passionate manner, combining classical poetry and musical improvisation in a special national manner. The International Mugam Center has been opened in Baku and it regularly hosts the International Festival "World of Mugam". A modern form of mugam - jazz mugam was created by a pianist and a composer Vagif Mustafazade. The International Jazz Festival in Baku includes the leading musicians of the world. In 2003 UNESCO recognized the Azerbaijani mugam masterpiece as an oral and intangible heritage of humanity.
Azerbaijan is the land of bright, unique and original dance which came to us from antiquity. All the dance types differ from each other by birthplace, music rhythms, forms of movement and poetic themes. In the same manner as folk songs, dance reflects the character, thoughts and feelings, the temperament of its creators. However, in contrast to songs, a lot in the specificity of artistic dance is determined by sex and age.
The main direction of folk dance is solo - both male and female but there are also paired and group dance. Mostly, dance that is performed only by women or only men prevail. The dancing of women is restrained, plastic, it is different because of its soft lyrical gracefully smooth motion. In addition, collective dance is very popular. This type of differently emotionally built choral dance is often performed by only men. Though, dancing of the same form "Halay" is executable only by female group. Joint teams of men and women perform the dance “Jordi Jordi" - "Who's going to be weary first." Another collective dance is called "Jangi". In the past, it was usually performed by warriors. In slow dancing folk artists often use a distinctive choreographic technique - dancing on their toes. Frequently, some other nifty tricks are used, for instance, "syuzme" ("slipping", "smooth motion").
Theatre appeared in Azerbaijan only in the middle of the 19th century. The first professional theater production in the Azeri language was shown in 1873. Dramatic writing is widely represented in the works of the founder of modern Azerbaijani literature Mirza Fatali Akhundov. Popularity of the theater with people and the development of Azerbaijani folk instruments contributed a lot to the formation of new forms of theater - musical theater. January 12, 1908 the first national opera was placed in Baku. The history of Azerbaijani professional musical theater originates from this date. Puppet theater "Kilim-Aras" ("Because of the carpet") refers to the ancient types of theatrical culture of Azerbaijan. The views of this puppet theatre ridiculed ugly phenomena of life, social inequality and injustice. Along with this, the repertoire included dramatizations of classical literature. Elements of theatrical action are represented in many types of Azerbaijani folk art - in games, playing songs, wedding ceremonies and calendar holidays.
Azerbaijani cinema originated in 1898, just three years after the brothers Lumiere showed their first movie. Since then, the cinema has emerged as an art form. The strongest point of Azerbaijani cinematography is documentary. An Azerbaijani film director, screenwriter and cameraman Rustam Ibrahimbeyov received "Oscar" award for the screenplay of the film "Burnt by the Sun“. Also, a film "The Bat" by Ayaz Salayev was awarded the Grand Prix at the International Film Festival in the French city of Angers. An Azerbaijani producer Vagif Mustafayev has been elected as a member of the European Film Academy and Television.
There are many religious buildings in Azerbaijan - temples, monasteries and churches which were built in different periods of history. Powerful towers, castles, palaces and other buildings in the XII-XV are included into the golden fund of Shirvan’s monuments. The Ensemble of Shirvanshakhs Palace in Baku is considered to be the pearl of palace structures in Azerbaijan. Currently, it is the national reserve-museum.
An important place among the architectural monuments of Azerbaijan is occupied by bridges. The durability of still existing bridges shows high skills of Azerbaijani architects. In the XVII - XVIII centuries, due to the development of trade the construction of various buildings was expanded. During this period, the building of baths was widespread in Azerbaijan. Askeran fortress built in the XVIII century by Karabakh Panah-Ali khan (later expanded by Ibrahim Khan) was the largest defensive structure at that time. Islamic architectural monuments include mosques, minarets, mausoleums, caravanserais (inns) and madrasas (Islamic schools), as well as the fortresses.
Azerbaijan is a country that faithfully complies their national traditions. A lot in the country conforms to ancient customs and traditional Islamic norms. Traditions have accompanied Azerbaijani people from birth and throughout their life: courtship, births, holidays, harvesting and much more. In addition, many of the traditions are embodied in the Azerbaijani hospitality of these people, their culture, folk beliefs, national dress, national holidays and things they like to do.
The Azerbaijani hospitality is widely known. In this, generally not very rich, country, guests can be received with true Caucasian hospitality and scope. The rejection of the invitation to visit can be regarded as a personal insult. Local women, especially in rural areas, usually do not interfere the conversation of the host and his guests, even if there are also some women. They will lay the table and serve, but will surely refuse to share a meal with foreign guests, so insisting on their taking part is not worth it. An increased an attention to the mistress of the house, or an attempt to engage her into a conversation, can also be perceived disapprovingly.
Before entering the house, be sure to remove your shoes and follow the instructions of the owner. Usually, first at all tea is served on the table, and then main dishes, greens and fresh vegetables, and finally - sweets or dovga. Taking food with your left hand is not accepted. For some dishes it is considered usual to take them with a hand or with a piece of bread. Azerbaijan complies its customs and it is necessary to follow certain rules of behavior. In public places, women should avoid too open or tight clothes and mini-skirts, and men - shorts or sleeveless shirts. Undoubtedly, the neatness of dress here is very much appreciated, and no restrictions on wearing European or sportswear in daily life exist.
Azerbaijani cuisine is considered to be one of the most delicious in Caucasia and in Europe. Fertile lands and the Caspian Sea offer a wide variety of meat, fish, fruit and vegetables. The Caspian Sea caviar is recognized as a delicacy and is in demand all over the world. Azerbaijani cuisine has more than 30 kinds of soups, and its most famous dish is pilaf. On special celebrations many kinds of kebabs, made with lamb, beef, chicken and fish are served. Dried fruit and walnuts are widely used. Azerbaijani cuisine is famous for the fact that it uses a variety of seasonal vegetables and various spices. Exclusive Azerbaijani dishes – dolma, bozbash, bozartma, chykhyrtma, khashil, shashlik, pilaf, govurma are included in the national menu of numerous peoples of the Caucasus. "Nuş olsun" - "Bon Appetit!" - you will hear this phrase in every corner of Azerbaijan, inviting you to a hearty feast or a truly feast of taste. These wishes you will hear constantly from a variety of people.
Azerbaijan is also one of the unique regions where the best world carpets are created. Here the perfection of art masters who created the best samples of carpets and rugs, starting with the simplest - Palacio, and ending with the highest complexity pile carpet – khalcha has been worked out for centuries. Many ceramic products are made with consummate skills and subtle elegance, and are true pearls of applied art of Azerbaijan.
In the XVI-XVII centuries, weapons and armor made by Azerbaijani masters became widely famous. In the XVIII century Sheki also held a prominent place in the manufacture of metal household appliances and decorations. The most common adornment of Azerbaijani women of that time were ornaments for the neck. These ornaments were a bib, necklace, chyachik and others. The belts for men and women of that time surely show the loyalty of jewelry to the ancient traditions. Those days, a belt was an inherent part of women's and men's clothing. Studies show that a belt could determine a position, consistency, commitment to religion, ethnic background, and even the age of the host. Women's belts traditionally were wide and men’s narrow. In those centuries, belts were composed of curved and painted bronze, silver and gold pieces. The most beautiful part was the buckle, which often included a wide quadrangular metal plate, jeweled with precious stones and a network or painted pattern.
All in all, Azerbaijan is a beautiful country that is rich in its cultural heritage and the arts. This country also displays its mark on other countries. We can come to the conclusion that the life of the Azerbaijani people, anciently connecting the East with the West, is reflected in the development of visual arts and culture of Azerbaijan.