First independent newspaper published in Soviet period
BAKU, Azerbaijan, July 14
“Let us see to it that our offshoot Sharg Gapisi turns into a branchy plane tree. Let the young leaves of this plane tree sing dismal and touchy songs to our Northern and Southern Azerbaijan. The songs of independence and unity”…
The newspaper Sharg Gapisi, 26 January 1990
Media is part of every country, the mirror of every kingdom, as expressed by Hassan bey Zardabi. No matter how fast time flies, the easiest, also unchangeable way of rolling history back is following it through the pages of media.
Media was considered the basic means of ideological advocacy in the 15 republics including Azerbaijan, which were long kept in bondage by the communist-totalitarian regime. From this point of view, one can consider the politicized media also as a mechanism that governed the republics within the former USSR, guiding the people’s will-power and consciousness in the frames of state interests.
Rising in Azerbaijan since 1988, the liberation movement conquered its highest peak of liberty attainable through bloodshed. The bloody January incidents committed by the Russian-Armenian troops in Baku did not result only in the bloodshed of hundreds of our compatriots. The plan developed in Moscow under the leadership of the pro -Armenian M.S.Gorbachov also included the invasion of Nakhchivan by Armenia. The prevention of the Armenian invasion of our land by the honorable brave sons of Nakhchivan, who built a shield against the enemy with their body, turned this small land living under the conditions of the blockade in that period into the center of the struggle for liberty and into the governing force further.
By the demand of the people, who couldn’t stand oppression, servitude, and injustice anymore, on 20 January 1990, the Supreme Soviet of the Autonomous Republic of Nakhchivan declared about Nakhchivan’s split from the USSR. The declaration was broadcast to the international community in five languages on the radio medium wave owing to the opportunity created by the TV and communication staff members. Making good use of the opportunity caused by the chaos, a group of Nakhchivan intellects, who wanted to deliver the information about the developments objectively to the public, decided to publish the official state newspaper Sharg Gapisi independently. The editor of the newspaper, which was the main periodical of the state, and many of its staff members stated about the impossibility of publishing the newspaper independently without the permission of the authority in the confused political situation.
However, a group of journalists, who were reluctant to foresee the consequences and strived to realize the idea of becoming independent and living freely, agreed to carry this burden on their shoulders.
In the issue (#008 (16100) of the newspaper Sharg Gapisi dating 19 January 1992 Telman Guliyev, the deputy of the Autonomous Republic shared with the readers his memories about the necessity in the publication of an independent newspaper. The author pointed out that all the developments started with the appearance of the Order of the Supreme Soviet of the Nakhchivan Soviet Socialist Autonomous Republic on the Nakhchivan Soviet Socialist Autonomous Republic’s disunion from the USSR in the 20th January issue of the newspaper Sharg Gapisi, “In the foyer of the Supreme Soviet I asked the TV and Printing house staff members to go to their workplaces to announce this important decision to the people and to the world… I went to the printing house. Latafat Khanum, the designer of pages, was standing alone at the door of the printing house. An hour later the staff members of the printing house were at their workplaces with Latafat Khanum's help. The Order of the Supreme Soviet was translated into Russian by Namig Jalilov, Yashar Seyidov, Rafael Ilyasov, Tofig Seyidov. We decided to present only the Order of the Supreme Soviet and the materials previously planned. Those materials included M.S.Gorbachov’s speech as well. Not being satisfied with that, together with Executive Secretary Afig Hagverdiyev we decided to release a newspaper in small format. The first page was designed, and we cut out the Order of Honour emblem next to the title, and the appropriate material was placed on the following pages. Thus, appeared the first issue of the first newspaper Sharg Gapisi of the Independent Republic of Nakhchivan."
The editorial staff formed from the audacious compatriots like Fasahat Alioghlu, Ali Razi, Gahira Huseinova, Yadulla Musayev, Namig Jalilov, Afig Hagverdiyev managed to publish the first independent newspaper in the Soviet Union. Although the date of the second issue of the newspaper came together with Sunday, it was not difficult to prepare the materials to print in the newspaper. Since, these articles molded out of the feelings long choked inside the people were full of hatred, resentment against the communist regime, which had turned into the yoke of the Russian empire. As the issues followed one another, the articles became more insightful, the course of the newspaper got definitive, and the number of authors increased.
One could see different by-lines in the newspaper. This fact proves once more that the contributors of the newspapers Isa Habibbeyli, Farman Khalilov, Mukhtar Gasimzadeh, Adil Gasimov, Jafargulu Pashayev, Jeiran Khanum, Mohsun Sharifoghlu, Hamid Arzulu, Asim Yadigar, and tens of creative men, whose names we fail to mention here, turned into the forces realizing the dreams of creating and maintaining the periodical that was the standard-bearer of the struggle for independence.
The newspaper, which was guided by the motto “For unity and democracy!”, was presented to the readers as the newspaper of the Republic of Nakhchivan with the circulation of 10000 copies. The interesting point is that despite its short life, the first independent periodical turned into the rostrum of the people, who had to keep silent for 70 years, thirsty for writing.
The themes presented in the newspaper, which appeared only in 8 issues, can be divided into several groups according to their topicality: news, attitude, appeals, historical notes, pages from the world press, telegrams and so on.
Despite its small format, the main page of the second issue of the daily newspaper, which efficiently presented the developments in the front as well as in Baku in full, printed The Appeal to the World Nations in Azerbaijani and Russian. The Appeal reads, “The Azerbaijani people have been exposed to unprecedented aggression. Any moment mass destruction can break out in the Republic of Nakhchivan … The world states, all the honest people on the planet, extend your helping hand to us! Don’t let the Azerbaijani Turks’ blood be shed!”.
We see the publication of different appeals almost in each issue of the newspaper in connection with the course of developments. Among these appeals, one can cite as an example The Appeal of the Women of the Republic of Nakhchivan to the World Women, The Appeal of the Women of the City of Nakhchivan to the Wives of Military Personnel of the Nakhchivan Garrison, The Appeal of the Nakhchivan Intellects to the World Nations, The Appeal of the Board of the Elderly of the Nakhchivan Tawba Society. Most appeals emphasize the real essence of the tragedies in Azerbaijan, the crimes committed by the Armenian chauvinists, the call for peace and tranquility. All the articles, notes, even announcements given in the first independent newspaper are distinguished by their historical significance. However, several of them should be pointed out especially. The publicistic article, which is the collection of philosophical-political thoughts called The Philosophy of Treason and Cruelty presented by poet, publicist Husein Razi in the second issue of the newspaper rouses interest. Here the poet deals with the adversities aimed at the people condemned to be stifled in the turmoil of the political developments think that the foundations of the adversities are in treason and betrayal, and concludes his article in optimistic lines:
“No matter how much treason is veiled,
Even if it came down from the sky as obscurity,
The might of the Sun will split it into pieces”.
It was not a coincidence that every contributor to the newspaper referred to the facts based on the proper historical, scientific researches revealing the soul of the Armenian policy in order to form an unwavering military-patriotic spirit in people and to introduce to the citizens their foes and friends closely. Some points related to Nakhchivan jointly presented in the 7th issue of the newspaper dating 27 January by the intellects Yavuz Akhundov, Isa Habibbeyli and Arif Aliyev from M.S.Ordubadi’s work The Bloody Years were discussed in the introductory article titled The Tragedies Tuning with the Present. The authors wrote, “The Bloody Years is so far the largest and objective work on the reasons, the course and the bloody consequences of the dashnak provocation in the Transcaucasian region as a whole and in Azerbaijan in particular… That work sounds relevant and modern not only because it reflects the tragedies of 1905-1907 realistically on the basis of the historical facts, but also it harmonizes with the terrible tragedies of recent years”.
It should be noted that the extracts presented in Sharg Gapisi are of special significance because The Bloody Years printed in the old script in Baku in 1911 reappeared in the Azerbaijani press for the first time after 79 years.
Another interesting article is the letter sent from the front on 25 January 1990. Pointing out the great impatience with which the first newspaper of the Republic of Nakhchivan was expected even in the military action zone, Eynulla Madatov, the author of the letter, Candidate of Philosophical Sciences appreciated the publication of the newspaper as the first step to the unity and democracy. The author, who tried to explain the bitter consequences of the Soviet ideology through his historical and philosophical thoughts, was obliged to summarize his idea under the sounds of shooting, “The ringing sound of our air phone distracted me from this hard thought. All hurried to the defense position no sooner than they had heard our observer announce in panic, “The sounds of submachine guns are being heard from the opposite side…”.
The first independent newspaper did not, naturally, consist merely of the ontology of articles. The interesting photos were taken by Aftandil Aghalarov, the photojournalist of the newspaper, which made the newspaper more readable as well as drew attention with their captions. For instance, the captions for the photos given on the last page of the issue of the newspaper dating 26 January read, “For 30 years I have got the camera in my hand… I have had a countless variety of moments in the target… All these years my hands have never trembled even a single time when I pointed the object-glass towards the plot, the moment I was to take. Fate destined me to take the photos of those moments which break my heart and bring tears to my eyes… If the reflection of the photos does not work well, I kindly ask you to forgive me. Since their developer was in tears”.
The appeal of the editorial staff to the readers in the 6th issue of the independent newspaper dating 26 January ended with this desire, “Let us see to it that our offshoot Sharg Gapisi turn into a branchy plane tree. Let the young leaves of this plane tree sing dismal and touchy songs to our Northern and Southern Azerbaijan. The songs of independence and unity…”. The creative staff’s hopes pinned on the newspaper were cut short. The 28th of January 1990 was the last date when the first independent newspaper was published in Nakhchivan.
In this regards the recent contributor of the newspaper Namig Jalilov was writing in the newspaper Sharg Gapisi two years later, “I was instructed to monitor the 8th issue of the newspaper Sharg Gapisi. It would never occur to me that this would be the last issue of the newspaper”.
The information about the Russian soldiers’ move towards Nakhchivan did not frighten the editorial staff. Although the staff members had to stay awake the entire night, they managed to print the 8th issue of the newspaper by Ali Shamilov’s moral support.
In his memories Namig Jalilov was writing, “We managed to prepare the issue for the publication owing to the great efforts of Latafat and Matanat. The next morning there was a meeting at the editorial office where the representative from the Party Committee spoke. He said that Sharg Gapisi should be released again as the periodical of the Party and government in a big format with The Order of Honour emblem, like before. Had the printing house an opportunity, the “small” newspaper could also be published in parallel.
Certainly, the printing house did not have the opportunity. The “big newspaper” began its activity anew. And the queues before the kiosks grew down. The citizens of Nakhchivan were expecting “the small newspaper”, which had acquired the readers’ love in a short period of time”.
The further political developments not only ceased the activity of the periodical but also ended the existence of short-term independence of the Republic of Nakhchivan until great leader Heydar Aliyev returned from Moscow to Nakhchivan in July 1990.
Soon afterward the session led by Heydar Aliyev, who was chairing the Supreme Assembly (Majlis) of the Autonomous Republic of Nakhchivan, gave a legal-political appraisal to the 20th January events, our three-color banner was hoisted anew and the desires and hopes of the people wishing to live independently got realized.
However, the 8 issues of the newspaper Sharg Gapisi, which had been published as the first and last independent newspaper in the Soviet Union, turned into an indelible history as the fruit of sleepless nights, the pen writing with blood and irreplaceable effort of the self-sacrificing people… The history whose pale pages were printed with the enthusiasm of freedom.
By Sura Said