Azerbaijan Arts and Literature


In Azerbaijan there is a rich oral tradition of folk songs and heroic epics that were developed long before the entry of Islamic culture into the area. Since the 17th century, a native variant of the poem “Köroǵlu”, widely distributed in the Orient, has existed, praising the unrighteous ruler figure. Among the highlights of medieval literature are Nezami’s Persian written poems “Treasury of Secrets” and “Lejli and Medzjun”, both from the late 1100’s.

In the following centuries, word art was developed both in the oral tradition and by a number of skalders at furstehoven. by Vagif (1717-97). It also inspired one of the modern classics of Azerbaijani literature, Samed Vargun (1906-56), whose adherence to Soviet rule never prevented him from portraying the distinctive nature of his home country in exquisite images. Great popularity, also among Russian readers, reached Rasul Rza (1910-81) with his internationally engaging authorship.

Azerbaijan Population Pyramid

  • Countryaah: Population and demographics of Azerbaijan, including population pyramid, density map, projection, data, and distribution.


The film in Azerbaijan has a pre-revolutionary past: the first feature film, “A Source Created by God,” was made in 1916. It was a melodrama set during the oil rush and the clone-diving mood that prevailed in the then Tsarist general Baku. The theme of the modern Soviet-Azerbaijani film was the increasing urbanization and its social effects as well as generational contradictions. The most successful Azerbaijan film ever in public is “Babek” (1982), a historical adventure film about a medieval folk hero, directed by Eldar Kulijev. During the 1980’s, approximately four feature films for cinema distribution, approximately 30 short and documentary films, and approximately 12 children’s and youth films were produced at the Baku film studios annually.

Since independence, production has decreased.

Arts and crafts

The great political upheavals that hit ancient and medieval Azerbaijan have left traces in visual arts, architecture, crafts and folk art. During the Akemenid dynasty, local traditions were assimilated with Persian cultural patterns, which later, under Alexander the Great’s rule, were mixed up with impulses from Greek culture. Over time, the influence of Islamic culture also followed. All this, together with ancient local traditions, has developed into a distinctive geometric imagery.

Particularly prominent is the specific Azerbaijani pattern language in hand-knotted rugs, where Azerbaijan has long been one of the leading manufacturers in the world market. Well-known product names are e.g. akstafa, chila, lenkoran, mugan, sirvana and waist mats. Compare Caucasian rugs.

The contemporary art life in Azerbaijan is strongly linked to the craftsmanship production of various kinds, as well as to the pure folk art with deep roots in the country’s cultural history.

Music and dance

The music in Azerbaijan has emerged from the interaction between a rural culture, originating from the influence of Turkish nomadic tribes on a multi-ethnic Transcaucasian civilization, and an urban culture of Persian-Arab origin, influenced in the 20th century by strong Russian and Soviet influences. The rural folk music in Azerbaijan is, like most Turkish people, mainly vocal, unanimous and soloist. The melody lines are often falling and the performance highly improvisatory, with long richly ornamented melisms (a sequence of tones sung to the same syllable in the text). An important role has professional poets, singers and storytellers, aşiqlar (asjuglar), who performs epic, fairy tales, classical and own poetry for accompaniment on the long-necked saz. The number of genres and styles is large. Many songs are free-rhythmic with others as well as most instrumental dance music is based on a characteristic Caucasian combination of two- and three-part rhythms (2/4, 4/4 and 3/4, 6/8). Ring and chain dances are common. yalli, halay, djangi, uzundara and terekeme. In addition, there is a highly developed soloist dance art, both for men and women. Common instruments are the long neck seals and saz, the flute no, the fiddle chemantja, the scallops zurna and balaman as well as the drums nagara anddef.

Under the strong influence of Persian-Arab art music developed during the Middle Ages in the rich hoof in cities such as Ganja, Nachichevan and Tabriz an artful urban music tradition, mugham (compare shahsmakam in Uzbekistan), systematized during the first half of the 1400’s by the Azerbaijani musician and music theorist Abdolqadir ibn Gheibi al-Maraghi (d. 1435). Mugam, a term that stands for both mode and genre as well as for a specific musical form, consists of cyclic compositions of contrasting vocal and instrumental parts made by professional ensembles with singers (xanende) and instrumentalists on tar, chemistry and def. Famous mugam musicians of an older generation include star player Mirza Sadix Asadoğli, in the younger singer Alim Gasimov (born 1957) and his daughter Fergana Gasimova (born 1979).

At the end of the 19th century, western art music and ballet were introduced through Russian mediation, and in the cosmopolitan Baku a symphony orchestra, opera society, jazz groups and concert system emerged during the first decades of the 20th century, but only in the 1930’s became more solid. A nationally colored art music and dance was created through the unification of domestic and western forms, such as in the Uzeir Gadzhibekov’s (1885-1948) mugam opera “Lejli and Mecnun” (1908) and the opera “Arsjin mal alan” (1913), Fikret Amirov’s (1922-84)) orchestral music based on the mugam tradition, and Kara Karajev’s (1918-82) ballets and many symphonic works.

With the Soviet era, from the 1920’s, the establishment of several higher music schools, choirs, opera and ballet theater followed, in the 1930’s several symphony orchestras and folk instrument orchestras. In accordance with Soviet cultural policy, preference was given to folk music, the aşiq art and shorter instrumental forms of mugam, while Western popular music such as jazz was banned. High reputation in Azerbaijan and surrounding countries reached folk singers Sjokat Alakbarova (1922-93) and Zeynep Chanlarova (born 1936).

From the 1950’s a vibrant popular music emerged in the cities through the unification of Caucasian, Oriental and Western forms and styles. In Baku, Vagim Mustafazade (1940-79) and Rafig Babayev (1936-94) created jazz with elements of traditional improvisational practice, ※mugam jazz§. After the Soviet era, traditional music has gained a boost, including with a new mugam conservatory, while a range of new genres and styles, including pop, rock and hip hop, has gained great popularity. Since 2008, Azerbaijan has successfully participated in the Eurovision Song Contest; In 2011, the grant “Running Scared” won by the duo Ell / Nikki.

Azerbaijan Arts and Literature