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Azerbaijan Literature and Music
Sources: The Library of Congress Country Studies; CIA World Factbook
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    Azerbaijanis have sought to protect their cultural identity from long-standing outside influences by fostering indigenous forms of artistic and intellectual expression. They proudly point to a number of scientists, philosophers, and literary figures who have built their centuries-old cultural tradition.

    Literature and Music


    Man and woman in traditional costume
    Courtesy Embassy of Azerbaijan, Washington

    Before the eleventh century, literary influences included the Zoroastrian sacred text Avesta, Turkish prose-poetry, and oral history recitations (called dastans), such as The Book of Dede Korkut and Koroglu, which contain preIslamic elements. Among the classics of medieval times are the Astronomy of Abul Hasan Shirvani (written in the eleventh or twelfth century) and Khamseh, a collection of five long romantic poems written in Persian by the twelfth-century poet Nezami Ganjavi. Fuzuli (1494-1556) wrote poetry and prose in Turkish, most notably the poem Laila and Majnun, the satire A Book of Complaints, and the treatise To the Heights of Conviction. Fuzuli's works influenced dramatic and operatic productions in the early twentieth century. Shah Ismail I, who was also the first Safavid shah, wrote court poems in Turkish. Fuzuli and Ismail are still read in their original Turkish dialects, which are very similar to the modern literary Azerbaijani.

    In music an ancient tradition was carried into modern times by ashugs, poet-singers who presented ancient songs or verses or improvised new ones, accompanied by a stringed instrument called the kobuz. Another early musical form was the mugam, a composition of alternating vocal and instrumental segments most strongly associated with the ancient town of Shusha in Nagorno-Karabakh.

    Data as of March 1994

    NOTE: The information regarding Azerbaijan on this page is re-published from The Library of Congress Country Studies and the CIA World Factbook. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Azerbaijan Literature and Music information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Azerbaijan Literature and Music should be addressed to the Library of Congress and the CIA.

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Revised 10-Nov-04
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