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Azerbaijan

Azeri Author Sends Unpopular Message To Armenians: 'We Can Live Together'

"There are people who have made a fortune out of the sufferings of two people," says author Akram Aylisli.
"There are people who have made a fortune out of the sufferings of two people," says author Akram Aylisli.

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By RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service
BAKU -- Political protests have become a frequent phenomenon in Azerbaijan. Literary protests, not so much.

But a new novel by a respected Azerbaijani writer prompted angry demonstrations this week, with angry crowds gathering outside a Baku apartment block shouting "Shame!" and setting photos of the author, Akram Aylisli, alight.

The protesters' complaints were hardly aesthetic. Few, in fact, appeared to have read the book, "Stone Dreams," which has not been published in Azerbaijan and only recently appeared, in translated form, in the Russian literary journal "Druzhba narodov" (Friendship of the Peoples).

Instead, it's the subject matter of the novel that's raising tempers.

RELATED: Sarkisian On Upcoming Vote, Turkish Relations, Nagorno-Karabakh

Aylisli's novel, which looks at the South Caucasus's bitterly fractious history, casts a sympathetic light not on his native Azerbaijan but its traditional rival, Armenia.

In particular, "Stone Dreams" looks at the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. The Armenian-majority separatist region, located within Azerbaijani territory, was the source of a brutal six-year war in the 1980s and '90s and remains the subject of simmering tension between Baku and Yerevan.

'A Kind Of Message'

Azerbaijan and Armenia see the conflict in vastly different terms, with each side blaming the other for the bulk of the atrocities.

"Stone Dreams" turns that equation on its head, with Aylisli portraying brutal campaigns by his fellow Azerbaijanis against Armenians -- including the notorious January 1990 pogrom in Baku in which Armenians were beaten, murdered by the dozens, and expelled from the city.
I knew that those people would react angrily to my novel. Because they see this novel as something that speaks against them. They would never say that they were wrong in inflaming this war and causing the suffering of these people.

At the same time, Aylisli avoids portraying Armenians as aggressors and Azerbaijanis the victims -- skipping the February 1992 Khojaly massacre, which is considered by some to be one of the worst atrocities of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. (A second anti-Aylisli protest on February 1 was held at Baku's Khojaly monument.)

Aylisli, speaking to RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service on January 31, defended "Stone Dreams," saying he felt it was his responsibility, as an Azerbaijani, to acknowledge his country's role in the conflict.

"This novel is a kind of message to Armenians living in Karabakh; in other words, to the Armenian citizens of Azerbaijan," Aylisli said. "The message is this: Don't think that we've forgotten all the bad things we've done to you. We accept that. You have also done bad things to us. It's the job of Armenian writers to write about those bad things, about the Khojaly massacre.

"Maybe they've written about it already, maybe they will write about it in the future. I don't know. Because it's not possible for any people to commit such cruelties and not write about it. Don't politicize these things. If Armenians continue to live in the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan, we have to live side by side. This novel is a message to them. Don't be afraid. It's not the end. We can live together."

Stiff Opposition

While Aylisli has voiced such sentiments informally in the past, "Stone Dreams" marks the first time the author has expressed his political views in his fiction writing.

A protest in front of author Akram Aylisli's home in Baku on January 31
A protest in front of author Akram Aylisli's home in Baku on January 31
A former lawmaker, Aylisli has also been a staunch critic of the ruling regime. "Stone Dreams" makes thinly veiled, and deeply negative, references to Heydar Aliyev, the former president and father of the current leader, Ilham Aliyev.

Not surprisingly, "Stone Dreams" and the conciliatory tone of its author toward Armenia have met with stiff opposition among Azerbaijani authorities.

Ali Akhmedov, the executive secretary of the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party, said Aylisli had dealt a "moral blow" to the country and even accused the writer of secretly being Armenian.

Azerbaijani lawmakers meeting on February 1 in parliament went so far as to call for a DNA test to determine Aylisli's ethnic heritage. Others called for him to be stripped of his status as a state writer and even his citizenship.

Other critics have compared Aylisli to the Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk, the internationally celebrated author who has come under fire at home for comments related to the Ottoman-era massacre of ethnic Armenians, a taboo subject in Turkey.

'Distorting' History

Mubariz Gurbanli, a ruling party lawmaker, this week queried Aylisli's motivations in writing "Stone Dreams."

"Perhaps he wants to win a Nobel Prize as Orhan Pamuk?" he said. "He wants to please somebody by distorting the history of his people?"

Aylisli told RFE/RL he dismissed such criticism and accused Azerbaijani officials of exploiting the Azerbaijani-Armenian impasse for their own political gain.

"There are people who have made a fortune out of the sufferings of two people -- Azerbaijanis and Armenians," he said. "They've built careers, gotten rich, gotten good jobs [in the government]. I knew that those people would react angrily to my novel. Because they see this novel as something that speaks against them. They would never say that they were wrong in inflaming this war and causing the suffering of these people. They don't want this conflict to be solved. They want to continue their luxurious lives, live in their villas, and let common people continue to suffer."

Aylisli, 75, graduated from the prestigious Gorky Literature Institute in Moscow. He won appreciation for his focus on rural and provincial life, basing his pen name -- Aylisli -- on the name of his native village in Azerbaijan's Ordubad region.

His most famous works include the 1963 "When the Mist Rolls Over the Mountains," and "What the Cherry Blossom Said," published in 1983.

He has won numerous awards during both the Soviet and post-Soviet periods, including the Lenin Komsomol Award in 1968 and the Independence Award in 2002, the highest order in post-Soviet Azerbaijan.

Written in Prague by Daisy Sindelar, based on reporting in Prague and Baku by Darab Gajar, Rovshan Gambarov, Shahnaz Beylergizi, and Turkhan Kerimov
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by: Camel Anaturk from: Kurdistan
February 01, 2013 22:25
Of course the armenians ,azeris and all other people of the region can live together-they`ve lived together for centuries and if it wasnt for their overlords and politicians they can live together perfectly.The main divisions are not those of nationality,but of classes.Unfortunately pseudo-nationalism -the last refuge of the political scoundrels and professional patriots will raise its ugly head and make the peaceful coexistence impossible.There is no easy way out of it.
In Response

by: www.sumgait.info from: Utik
February 02, 2013 18:02

What are you talking about? What centuries? "Azeris" of the Baku Republic live in the first century since their artificial creation by Stalin "the father of all peoples"!

Before that there were no "azeris" in the territories now occupied by the Baku regime. There were native peoples (Lezgi, Tolysh, Tat, Udin, etc.) living on their ancestral lands and there were nomadic turkic tribes moving around and attacking and robbing everybody.

Each of these native peoples has centuries of history living with others. Sometimes they were friends and sometimes they feuded but they managed to survive and preserve their languages and culture over the centuries.

Things changed dramatically when nomadic turkic speaking tribes came from Ergenekon (between Altai and Mongolia) via Central Asian steppes. They started killing and forcefully assimilating all native peoples. If they had centuries of history "of living together in peace" where are their neighbors? The answer is - they killed and assimilated them. This is not called "living together" this is called bloody genocide. And it happened very recently - not centuries ago.
In Response

by: Camel Anaturk from: Kurdistan
February 03, 2013 12:50
You are basically right,man,but can you offer any solution to the present crisis? I havent written peaceful coexistence anywhere in my post-its just an alternative to the present bickering b/n the 2 countries-they are just pawns in the game between the super-duper powers.They should try to understand each other and find a peaceful solution to their problems.Yes,this is very unpopular viewand anybody expressing it will be branded a traitor by both sides.

by: James from: CA
February 01, 2013 22:51
The anti-Armenic racism in Azerbaijan is astonishing. The government accuses him of being a "secret Armenian." The success of the dictatorship of the Sultanate of Azerbaijan is very evident when you have such vehement protests to a man who dared speak a viewpoint that was still very biased towards the Azerbaijani position but simply not an extremist one.
In Response

by: Yakov from: NY
February 04, 2013 05:45
The anti-Turkic and anti-Azerbaijan racism not just in "Armenia" but also in "armenian" diasporas living abroad has been there for at least the last 100 plus years. I don't understand how on earth a people group who call themselves HAIs and the country of "Armenia" HAIASTAN, which was created by the Russians 100 plus years ago on the Azerbaijani khanate of Irevan, which have nothing to do with the ancient land of Armenia, by the way which was in what is modern Turkey and NOT Caucasus, (HAIs) claim being more antique than Azeris? And by your logic, the indigenous peoples in our country of US should drive away all the other races! You guys breath racism. And by the way "Armenia" is a rare country where today 99.99 percent of population are only HAIs. you drove away thousands of Azeris, russians, georgians, kurds, greeks, and so on from these territories within the last 100 years.
In Response

by: Camel Anaturk from: Kurdistan
February 04, 2013 11:39
Jacob`s downward ladder:Dear Jacob pasha you say you dont understand-is it the bad pot,too much moonshine or you drank your boyfriend`s eau-de-cologne??? You give a new dimension to the idiom `talking turkey`!!!We all know psychiatric care in NY is not cheap and good psychopatologists are hard to find but we are willing to contribute any $$$ towards your treatment.And we can assure you that the money you make out of your inept BS BW are just not worth it.Congrats to the RFE/RL moderator allowing such wisdom on RFE pages-you really know how to make Jacks and Eugenios out of your listeners and readers!!!
In Response

by: Arthur from: London
February 04, 2013 17:19
Dear Yakov,

The reason you don't understand is because you lack a decent education. Remember, Socrates was the wisest man of Athens for recognizing when he knew nothing.

The terms "Hai" and "Haiastan" are endonyms, where as Armenians and Armenia are exonyms. A great many nations have both. Georgians call themselves Kartveli, the Japanese call themselves Nippon, etc. Are we going to use twisted Azerbaijani historian logic and claim these peoples too are not the same as the historic ones because of these endonyms?

Ancient Armenia extended from Lake Van to the Kura-Arax region. The people are the same, the language is the same, and modern Armenians ARE NOT something separate from historic Armenia as twisted pseudo-historians claim. Russia did help to create modern Armenia where the Irevan Khanate was (which by the way was part of Iran and populated by Turkic tribesman). That doesn't mean that before the arrival of Turkic tribes, the land was not Armenian. The oldest historical sites of Armenian Christianity, including the capital of the church, were on those lands. Those lands became Turkic when Shah Abbas moved the entire Armenian population to Iran. Wake up and smell reality!
In Response

by: Arturyan from: glen-den of thieves in Ca
February 04, 2013 20:52
you say I lack decent education. I have had more than enough education. However, you lack decency I guess when you think you are smart alec able to teach me of history. there never was a country called Georgia e.g. there Kolchida eg. not Georgia. NIPPON sounds similar to YAPPON or JAPAN but Armenia as far away from HAI as the Moon from the Sun. "Wake up smell the reality" is what you are saying. I am afraid soon you will smell something else. You think you can change borders by force. The same force will force you back to where you belong, however redundant it may sound to your smart alec head. :DD
In Response

by: parvenu from: US
February 07, 2013 14:18
Armenians drove away russians, georgians, kurds and greeks?? You are misinformed, son. Nobody would ever think of driving them away. Is your post based on any facts?

by: John Harduny from: Reston, VA, USA
February 02, 2013 03:21
Aylisli's novel is a breath of fresh air for Azerbaijan, where the political and social environment is dominated by hysterical and bizarre anti-Armenian racism from the Stone Age. It is a novel about the historical town of Agulis in what is now Nakhichevan in Azerbaijan - the (former) home of one of the most ancient and exotic Armenian communities, the Zoks. They were massacred in Dec. 1919 at the time when Azerbaijan willingly became Ottoman Turkey's accomplice in carrying out the Armenian Genocide. A sad story. The novel is available online, in Russian.
In Response

by: Murad Javanshir from: Baltimore, MD
February 04, 2013 05:51
Azerbaijan has fresh air, as you say. When are guys gonna have fresh air?? The air you breath is more than 100 years old. And it is called anti-turkic racism. The reason you hate Azeris is that you believe that Azeris are Turks, which they are NOT. Azeris are as much Turks as Americans English. And by the way the so-called Armenia was created in Caucasus 100 years ago by Russia as vassal state when your ancestors run away from Turkey. The sole reason why Russia has successfully divided the Caucasus (Transcaucasia) is because of this vassal state.
In Response

by: Camel Anaturk from: Kurdistan
February 04, 2013 11:47
Jacob from NY,Murad Javanshir from Baltimor,MD,aaaah,we didnt know there were so many Arshin Mal Alans in the land of the free and home of the brave!!! That is another proof that the USA was created by azeri turks who gave the land and the whole world Civilization,Culture,Demuckracy and not just the Turkish Bath,Cheap Oil and the Child Bride Harems!!! Azer Akbar !!! Ali Baba Ilham-even more akbar!!!
In Response

by: harduni marduni from: huyastan
February 04, 2013 18:24
I can see that you are a camel, harduni, and etc. But it does not change the essence. Wherever you are and whatever names you are hiding behind will not help you. Just like when your armenian criminals stole millions of US money under fake medical system (anyone can google: armenians stole millions in US) and the feds busted them, so all of your lies about the history will be buried soon, and the whole world will find out how you have stolen our history, music, food, and even carpets (in Geneva I saw Azerbaijan carpets sold in a central store as Armenian - how stupid!).
In Response

by: sergey from: australia
February 12, 2013 02:39
Murad,
Armenia and our history is documented by the Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, Romans since 1500BC. On the Behistun Inscription in Iran dated 600BC, Darius the Great in 3 languages writes about Armenia, and other nations he conqured.
Suprisingly Azerbajian was not there nor was Turkey. Wzeris themslvs proudly call them selves Turks, so dont blame us if you people till now have not worked out if your Turks, Tartars,Caucasian or Iranian. You are as fake as your latin alphabet, where as our alphabet is 1600 years old, and our language recorded since 1500BC..

by: Gharapaghtsi Hrair from: Nagorno Karabakh, Armenia
February 02, 2013 05:38
We, Karabakh Armenians, have been forced to live under Azerbaijani occupation for more than seventy years, that's why we don't want to have anything to do with them. Azerbaijanis are not welcome in Nagorno Karabakh.

by: Ben
February 02, 2013 11:18
What a pity he is not the Palestinian Arab! He would be burned elive for his proposals to live in peace with the bloody Zionists!And the author of the post would apologize till the end of his carier!

by: Anonymous
February 02, 2013 14:30
great to know that at least some people in azerbaijan can think in positive and constructive terms.
unfortunately, not many.

this writer might end up (ironically) as hrant dink in turkey, killed by turkish-azeri radicals who have a problem with reconciliation and history.

where is the police ? demonstrations against the killing of soldiers are banned. inciting hatred against a writer who wants to raise awareness of an important in armenian-azeri history is possible.

azerbaijan, a nation without history? ohh, sorry... the nation with a "pseudo-heroic-aliyev-the-azeri-turks-are-the-best-in-the-world-history...-and-you-know-the-armenians-and-the-azeri-traitors-are-the-bad-guys."
(absurd and sad situation! at the same time)

by: Gregory from: Stepanakert, NKR
February 05, 2013 06:14
It is the third decade that people of Karabakh live in its own independent Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, and in peace with themselves and their history. And we wish you the same in your country.

Be relevant. Throw off an inveterate Aliev's propaganda and come to the consciousness that it is 2013 outdoors and there is no Soviet Azerbaijan already. You live in your independent Azerbaijan state, where neither Karabakh nor Karabakh conflict exists actually.


by: RD
February 05, 2013 16:01
I stand with Akram Aylisli. It does not matter who lived in Karabakh first (i.e. Armenians, Azeris etc.). Residents of the region should all be able to return back to their homes and live in peace, together. Having said this, what else is Azerbaijan's leadership going to do to top their insolence? The Azeris who voted for Armenia during Eurovision were arrested for questioning and called terrorists. Now, this author undergoing DNA testing and may be stripped of his status as a national figure just because he spoke his mind. How many more ridiculous things can Ilham Aliyev come up with? He threatens to shoot down any airplane landing in Stepanakert, embarasses himself and then has to retract his comments amidst international condemnation.

by: David from: Armenia
February 06, 2013 16:27
Dear Sirs,
I'd like to remind you, that together can live only civilized and democratic countries. I don't say that Armenia is one of the best examples of democracy but we all know the huge difference of the levels of democracy between Armenia and Azerbaijan. We all know what a corrupt country is Azerbaijan. We all know how low is the level of tolerance in Azerbaijan. So, if the situation will not change in Azerbaijan we will not be able to find a compromise and we will not be able to live together.
Kind Regards,
David from Armenia.

by: Kerim from: USA
February 06, 2013 19:39
Let's get this straight. Aylisli's message is unpopular not because he is taken to preach peace, but because he depicts us Azeris as the sole culprits, without even pretending to assign any guilt to Armenians side at all (He has said that he leaves it to an Armenian writer to do so). And That, not because he preaches peace, is what has gotten him into trouble. The country that has over 1 million refugees, the country whose 20% of internationally recognized territory is under occupation ... that country, he says, is the bad guy. No one says Azeris have not done anything wrong. They/we have. But to pretend that the other side is the sole victim ... that is what is making Azeris angry at this author, and question, quiet legitimately, whether he is just shooting for a Pamuk like award from abroad for his "independent thought". As such, he is seen as selling his nation for a quick buck. And nobody likes traitors. His extreme lack of a balanaced view on the conflict cannot help but raise questions on where his loyalties lie.
In Response

by: David from: Armenia
February 07, 2013 07:32
Dear Mr. Kerim from the USA
I'd like to ask you, how can Azerbaijan has "over 1 million refugees"? According to the last population census in USSR(in 1989) the population of Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast was about 189 000. 145 500 of them were armenians(about 76.9%), and 40 700 were azeris(about 21.5 %). So 1 million refugees are not a realistic.
Regards,
David from Armenia.
In Response

by: Nuru Pasha from: Azerbaijan
February 07, 2013 13:48
David! Because of war Armenia with the help of Russia launched against Azerbaijan 300 thousand Azerbaijanis were evicted from Armenia, and 600 thousand roughly became internally displaced persons from the 7 regions of Azerbaijan bordering Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh autonomous province of Azerbaijan and plus those (you say 40 thousand but we say much more than that) which were forced out of (not counting those massacred e.g. the whole village of unarmed people in Khodjaly) Nagorno Karabakh makes roughly 1,000,000. Excuse us for rounding up 990 thousand to one million. We are not like you who are masters in doctoring history and figures when you say 1,5 million were killed by Turks 1915 when there was not even one million living in Turkey 100 years ago. Khodjaly and Karabakh war happened only some 20 years ago.
In Response

by: Artyom from: Gyumri
February 07, 2013 15:03
Let's not play the number games gentleman. Aylisli's message is unpopular because it is a message of understanding and peace, something the profiteers of war and blind-nationalists do not want to hear. The only way the conflict can be solved is by recognizing the suffering of the other side and making a compassionate effort at reconciliation. It is a fact that there was more Azerbaijani hardship in the war, but both sides suffered tremendously. It is time that there were more Aylislis in both Azerbaijan and Armenia.

To set the numbers straight, Azerbaijani refugees were not 1 million, as the corrupt ultra-nationalists want the people to think. 1 million is the estimate figure for total refugees: Azerbaijanis, Armenians and Kurds. Most reasonable estimate Azerbaijani refugees at 600,000. Even the State Committee of Republic of Azerbaijan for Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons estimates 603,251. Armenian refugees are about 300,000. These refugees are not only from Nagorno-Karabakh, but also the surrounding territories. That's why your figures are not accurate David. Also, Armenian forces control almost 14% of Azerbaijan's recognized territory, not 20%. This has been shown numerous times and is easy to calculate. Azerbaijan is 86,600 sq. km and Armenians control 11,797 sq. km of territory.
In Response

by: Hasan from: Dashkesan
February 07, 2013 21:24
Artyom, do you believe that any Armenian writer will ever write a story or a novel where he depicts Khodajly massacre (notice: I am not saying genocide like your people loves using this word all over the place)? Will any Armenian writer write a story - in response to Orhan Pamuk - Armenian killings of thousands of Turks when the Turkey Armenians joined the ranks of Russian army invading Turkey.
In Response

by: Artyom from: Gyumri
February 09, 2013 15:28
Yes Hasan, I do believe an Armenian writer will (and should) write such a novel about the Khodjaly massacre. I myself am tempted to write it after reading about Aylisli. This was one of a number of horribly atrocities that happened in the war. I don't agree with how it's politicized, as I think you don't either by avoiding the word genocide. Armenians don't use the word "all over the place," we use it to describe events that the inventor of the word genocide, Raphael Lemkin, has used himself to describe. But that event too is also greatly politicized unfortunately.
In Response

by: Liberal Azeri from: Baku
February 14, 2013 18:42
I am happy to hear that Aylisli’s message reached one rational Armenian. I am reading comments above and it hurts my heart seeing Armenians accuse Azerbaijan of corruption when their government is also corrupt and accuse Azeris of racism when Armenians also despise Azeris.
I have an announcement, ALL of you missed the point. The point that there are TWO sides to the coin. There isn’t one absolute right and one absolute wrong. There are two wrongs and two rights, in different measures.
I salute Aylisli and I salute Artyom from Gyumri and other Armenians like him. Let Aylisli’s message be heard by rational human beings.
All the other close-minded people who like pointing fingers – there’s no hope for you. We’ll just wait for these generations to pass away and hope that the next generation that our countries will produce will be more rational.
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