Oil and cartoon, Bayram Hajizadeh

Oil and cartoon, Bayram Hajizadeh

At the beginning of the XX century, in Azerbaijan where the capitalism was developing rapidly, there was very fertile condition for the formation of the cartoon as an independent genre. The region, in which the interests of big countries were conflicted, the development of nation’s national and cultural consciousness, formation of strong bourgeois class, injustice, existing in the society, protests among the masses against the powering circles and other similar cases can be considered as the stimulating factors for the development of the satirical drawing. As we know in all times either power circles or opposite side used cartooning as an ideological weapon in the class and political struggles.

Such facts as winds of freedom which were blowing from Russia, raised revolutionary spirit, some freedom given to press by the tsar government were observed with the creation of numerous press organizations with democratic spirit in Baku. The workers’ organizations, revolutionary committees and secret organizations formed at the beginning of the XX century in Baku – in the city which already became oil and industrial centre, were actively working. In the meetings and strikes held by the workers at the oil fields of Baku, the people skillfully used cartoons and critical satiric drawings to declare their protests and discontents to oil mine owners, state officials and power circles. Thus, on May 01, 1903 in Baku at the protest meeting in which more than 20 thousand people gathered near the G.Z.Tagiyev theatre, the workers kept in their hands the cartoons in which the entrepreneurs, state officials and even tsar himself were criticized. The demonstrators singing revolutionary songs were declaring their protests to the authorities in this way. Of course, this event and similar events prove that the caricature was hotly welcomed among the people and it had strong influential power to the minds and views of the people.

If we apply to the history we can see that, Azerbaijan because of its natural wealth’s and especially of oil, within the centuries was inside the interest circle of big and strong countries as a fatty piece, was passed from hand to hand and was exposed to exploitation. Perhaps because of this reason, in the history, literature, publicism and of course in the descriptive art of Azerbaijan, the oil theme was touched upon in all times. From this point of view, the artists working in the field of cartoon, the field, which is an inseparable part of descriptive art, didn’t pass aside from the oil theme. In cartoons and satirical drawings created by our artists, foreign occupiers who tried to own Azerbaijan’s oil and other natural wealth, were criticized and the invasion and hegemonic policy pursued by the strong states were exposed. Already at the beginning of the XX century, such negative events as changing positions of the foreign oil magnates and giant oil companies in order to appropriate Azerbaijan’s oil, the use by them all dirty games in order to reach their targets were discovered in the works of our cartoonists and in the pages of press with all bareness.

In order to observe historical events taking place in Azerbaijan and in the whole region and in order to look through the political events taking place in international arena in chronological order, it’s enough to look at the drawings of our cartoonists-artists. When we investigate and explore these works, it becomes clear that oil subject takes special place in the political cartoons of Azerbaijan. This situation is felt clearly in the cartoons published in either tsar Russia period or in soviet period, as well as in the period of our independence.

We can meet oil subject not only in political cartoons, but also in the cartoons with daily problems content lightening everyday events of our life. If in the prerevolutionary period (the period till 1920s), the objects of criticism were the oil entrepreneurs who were braking rights of workers in the oil fields and oil millionaires who spent their days in carousals and were indifferent to the nation’s destiny, within the next years the target of our artists was changed. Thus, after 1920-s, in the years (1920-1991) which we call the soviet period, in the drawings devoted to oil subject and created by our cartoonists, mostly exposed subjects were: shortcomings in the fields of oil industry, anarchy prevailed in offices and organizations, office heads and directors who didn’t follow taken promises and obligations, irresponsible state officials and directors of oil wells, who approached to their commitments indifferently.

When speaking about cartoons and satiric drawings devoted to oil subject at the beginning of the XX century, we have to mention the importance of satirical newspapers and magazines published in Baku in those years. And namely, the cartoons published in the pages of satirical press brought in very easy way to every reader and to all people about the international and political events happening in the world, problems encountered in everyday life and society. These cartoons, drawn in easy and laconic way, gave the chance to pursue events allusively and distantly, to chuckle and think. Certainly, by means of these magazines, the wide masses of readers and especially illiterate part of the population were getting an opportunity to get acquainted closely with the cartoon genre. The important and irreplaceable role of satirical press in bringing the meaning of cartoons and satirical drawings to the people in such a way which can be understood very easily cannot be denied. Speaking about the importance of satirical magazines published in Azerbaijan, of course, first of all we must remember first published satirical magazine in all Moslem East, i.e., “Molla Nasreddin”, the first issue of which was published on 07 April, 1906 and we must remember its creator, publisher and editor, great literary man Jalil Mammedguluzadeh. The appearance of cartooning in Azerbaijan and its growth as an independent genre is directly closed with the name of “Molla Nasreddin”. As Jalil Mammedguluzadeh said the life itself created this magazine which played an important role in the cultural consciousness and social mind of the people of Azerbaijan. The life full of social contradictions was putting new duties in front of both literature and art. That period demanded new social contents, new artistic shape and new expressive means. Appearance of strong democratic ideas in Azerbaijan literature and journalism strongly influenced the development of Azerbaijan graphic art, especially the satirical graphics. Namely as a result of ideological- artistic influence of “Molla Nasreddin” magazine, at the beginning of the XX century, many satirical magazines were published in Azerbaijan, such as “Bahlul” (1907), “Jigit” (1907-1918), “Vay-Vay” (1908), “Bakinskoe qore” (1908-1909), “Zanbur” (1909-1910), “Bich” (1909-1915), “Adskaya pochta” (1909-1910), “Mirat” (1910), “Bakinskie streli” (1910), “Ari” (1910-1911), “Kalniyyat” (1912-1913), “Baraban” (1912-1913), “Lak-lak” (1914), “Tuti” (1914-1917), “Mazali” (1914-1915), “Babayi-Amir” (1915-1916), “Tartan-Partan” (1918), “Sheypur” (1918-1919), “Zanbur” (1919), “Mashal” (1919-1920) and others in Azerbaijani and Russian languages. Satirical magazine “Molla Nasreddin”, besides influen-cing the formation of satirical press and satirical graphics, penetrated to the satire of Middle Asia, Near East, Tataristan, Dagestan, the Crimea, people living along the Volga, and other neighbor countries and played extraordinary role in the formation and development of the satirical graphics of Iran.

In the Western European sources, there are number of known works about the satirical press of the XX century. In the articles published in England and France about “Molla Nasreddin”, firstly it was commented the issue of influence of the magazine on political satire of Iran, as well as on satirical press of other neighbor nations. There are important and significant thoughts of French scientists A.Benniksen, S.Kelkeje, Poland scientist V.Zayanchkovski, English scientist E.Brown, German researcher V.Bands and other Western European specialists about the XX century Azerbaijani satirical press and literature.

Magazines that started to be published in Azerbaijan, Iran, Middle Asia, the Crimea, and other countries under the influence of “Molla Nasreddin” magazine, regrettably did not survive for a long time. Among them the most long-lived was “Molla Nasreddin” itself, as with the different time intervals this magazine was published exactly during 25 years.

In “Molla Nasreddin” satirical magazine, parallel with the cartoons of different topics which could lighten actual problems of the period and which were considered for the broad contingent of readers of soviet time as well as of tsar Russia time, number of cartoons devoted to oil subject were published as well.

In the years called prerevolutionary period, on the pages of “Molla Nasreddin” were being lightened the events with all their bareness happening on the Baku oil fields in the beginning of the 20th century, such as widespread violence and injustice, an infringement of workers’ rights and other similar negative situations. To say exactly, in these cartoons were criticized such facts as the exploitation of workers by the owners, unfair firing cases without any grounds, the delay in salaries or non giving of salaries altogether, also were exposed how the hired assassins and even policemen and gendarmes were illegally supporting oil owners and bureau heads in this matters. For example, one cartoon work published in 1906, in the 11th issue of the magazine “Molla Nasraddin” attracts an attention. In this cartoon, authored by O.Shmerling, it was described the scene where the workers which came from Iran to Baku for earnings try to receive their salaries, but were insulted and dispelled by oil entrepreneur. To the workers who are asking for their salaries, Hasan khan says: “Who is a countryman and what a salary is? I am myself a khan and next to me you see my soldier, you will see what I will do with you”. If we investigate attentively this event introduced in this drawing, also entrepreneur’s words and generally entrepreneur –worker relations, we will become the eyewitnesses of the workers’ miserable conditions, injustice, wide spread lack of restraint in the oil wells in those years (1).

Cartoon with the same content, we meet in the 4-th issue (1908) of the magazine. In this cartoon work authored by I.Rotter the fired workers were described. On the first plan of this cartoon was demonstrated a wrestler trying to prove his healthiness. The worker, strong and capable to work is attempting to ask from oil well owner the reason of fire. The owner, not caring of the protests of unfairly fired workers and their attempts to proof their healthiness, is saying indifferently: -“In any way you will not get back to work”. This drawing, accompanied with the heading “Jobless workers in the oil wells of Baku”, is discerned with for its actuality for that period and of course for being a work of a professional artist (2).

In other issues of the magazine, we can see plenty of pictures, topical satires, critical remarks and poems, all devoted to these themes. The extract in one of the poems written by M.A.Sabir, the follower of “Molla Nasreddin” magazine says the following: “-Hey you worker, you think that you are a human being as well?”

As you see in these lines, unrestrained attitude of the owner to the worker is discovered with all its bareness. A worker, who didn’t have any rights, and whose labor rights weren’t defended by the state officials, was supported only by the magazine “Molla Nasreddin” and by its followers.

In such conditions, where the religious fanaticism and censorship of tsar Russia was very strong, the positive characteristics such as great dearness and maybe heroism were demanded from the cartoonists and of course from the head editor in order to criticize all distortions and negative cases prevailed all around. Such negative elements characteristic for Baku life of that period, as: knavish religious men, Hajis, greedy tradesmen, gendarmes, which were going outside of their competence, owners, who were indifferent to pity life of the nation, state officials, who didn’t fulfill their commitments and just receiving their salaries for nothing, members of duma (parliament), false intelligentsia members and other occupation possessors were being targets of our cartoonists. In the cartoons of these artists, targets were: Baku millionaires and oil entrepreneurs who preferred their personal interests to the interests of the nation and who didn’t wish allocate finance for the education and enlightenment of the people and for the creation of new schools, charity organizations, and hospitals. They considered such type expenses as a burden for them. In this meaning, the cartoon work containing 3 parts, published in the 52-nd issue of the magazine “Molla Nasreddin” (1908) and drawn by the cartoonist – I. Rotter, successor of “Molla Nasreddin”, draws an attention. In the first part of the cartoon were depicted the millionaires of Baku, who were carrying on their shoulders newly built school. Under this picture we can read the following words: “Oh, guys, this is very heavy, we are about to die”. In the 2nd part of this cartoon, we can see how they are throwing down this school. And at last in the 3rd part of the cartoon it was depicted how these “weak and slight” millionaires, who couldn’t carry the school, entered under the light load. This light load was an oil well, which brought millions of money and which would fill in their pockets. Under the 3-rd cartoon, we read the following: “Oh, yes, this will do for us”. Of course, in this cartoon, discerned with its strong satire, were exposed the millionaires, who didn’t suffer for somewhat school or charity organization, and who didn’t want to spend money for charity and preferred to increase the number of oil wells and with this to fill in their pockets. Negative influence of oil, exactly saying of big amounts of incoming money from oil to morality and spirit of human being is shown in this cartoon in open way and real faces of the criticized persons were discovered (3).

In other cartoon work, authored by I. Rotter and published in the 29-th issue (1908) of the magazine “Molla Nasreddin”, it is mentioned about danger of oil for our humanity. In this picture, fearful and ugly animals which live in the lower layers of the soil, devils and demons, even the fire of hell are compared with the oil. In this cartoon, upper surface of the soil is described as a place where human beings live, lower layers of the soil, which is called 2-nd layer is described as a place where hell is located, which human beings are always afraid of and where fearful and ugly animals live. The layer, where demons and devils live is described as the 3-rd layer.

The thing which is interesting and causes to think, is that among the dangerous layers for human beings, oil layer is shown as a fearful layer as well. If we investigate this picture attentively we can see that, the artist could manage to bring to the readers very clearly and in comparative mode that oil is a source of danger (4).

When speaking about oil topics contained in the works of our cartoonists, we should mention that, besides the magazine “Molla Nasreddin”, we can meet cartoons with this topic on the pages of other satirical magazines as well, especially on the pages of the magazines named “Jigit” (1907-1918), “Vay-Vay” (1908), “Bakinskoe Gore” (1908-1909), “Bich” (1913-1916), “Adskaya Pochta” (1910), “Zanbur” (1919), all published in Baku in the period of 1906-1920. Of course, this case is explained with oil’s important role in the life of Baku. The interesting fact is that, among the numerous satirical magazines published in Baku those times (note: that period in Baku more than 20 satirical magazines and newspapers were published), magazines published in Russian touched this topic much more than the magazines published in Azerbaijani language. Maybe this had its own objective and subjective reasons. Perhaps, this topic was more closer to Russian speaking reader or perhaps oil topic, purchase of Baku oil stocks by foreign investors and such facts as monopolization, oppress of local oil entrepreneurs by foreign entrepreneurs were more interesting for Russian speaking Baku readers. In any way it is very hard to say an exact opinion about this matter. We can only investigate cartoons with this topic published in these magazines and then to hypothesize about.

Let’s review one cartoon work published in 1907, in the 5-th issue of the magazine “Jigit”. This cartoon is accompanied with the following words: “Catch and absorb”. On the left side of this cartoon, which was drawn by unknown artist, animal headed human beings are depicted who are occupying Baku with the arms. In the first part of the cartoon where it is written “catch”, unknown artist hints to wild and destructive masses that are appropriating natural wealth of country and thus hold their interests in higher level than the interests of Nation. In the 2-nd part of the cartoon, where the word “absorb” is written, there are already depicted two persons, who extract Baku oil from the soil and transfer it through the pipelines to outside. These two persons, depicted in very rich clothes, perhaps, were oil millionaires whose concrete addresses were known to wide public. It gets clear from this cartoon that, unknown author exposes and criticizes monopolists and oil entrepreneurs who occupy with arms the soils rich with oil and who sell this oil to abroad for nothing, i.e., very cheap (5).

If we say that the following two cartoons, the 1st one named “Nobel and Baku oil industry” (published in the 16-th issue of magazine “Jigit”, in 1910) and the 2-nd one named “Baku oil industry and Nobel” (published in the 44-th issue of magazine “Jigit”, authored by B.Telingator (Beno) complete each other and lighten general condition of those times oil industry of Baku, we will not make a mistake. In the first cartoon, one ship was depicted representing oil industry of Baku and swimming very hardly in the stormy sea. In the right side of the picture was depicted a giant fish named Nobel which is ready to swallow the ship very easily. In this picture, drawn very skillfully, artist used figurative and comparative styles and didn’t leave any need for extra comments or words under the picture (6).

In the second picture, which shows and in some meaning repeats the same situation, it was depicted oil industrialists of Baku, yoked to horse cart (phaeton) and pulling it. On their shoulders they are carrying giant and mighty Nobel. In this picture, we witness that professional cartoon master B.Telingator (Beno) showed his attitude with pity hint to the governing of Baku oil industry by a foreign investor, in this case by Nobel. The cartoonist, making use of cartooning methods in this picture, attentively worked on each character and could achieve to create a caricature gallery of almost all famous oil millionaires of those times (7).

The following cartoons are noteworthy as well: “Everything is all right” (“Vay-vay”, 1908, №3), this cartoon was warning about danger for Baku city and for its oil wells. “When oil was gushing” (“Adskaya pochta”, 1910, №3), this work criticized oil industrialists, bureau bosses and corrupted state officials which only tried to fill in their own pockets at the expense of oil which cost too much labor and pains; “New fighting methods of oil producers with each other” (“Bakinskoe qore”, 1909, №10), this work criticized oil industrialists who were ready to fight hand to hand with each other because of their personal interests. Besides these cartoons, other similar cartoons also did not stay behind of above mentioned cartoons from the view of satirical acuteness and statement of a question (8).

The cartoon named “Baku streets” (“Jigit”, 1908, №35), authored by R. Goriech, which is accompanied with slight satire, exactly to say with humor, the cartoons “In theater” (“Jigit”, 1908, №41) and “Fire in Surakhani” (“Jigit, 1911, №31) both authored by unknown artist, all are indeed easy understandable even without comments under the picture. In these pictures, to bring the meaning to the mind of the readers without comments demanded from the cartoonists high professionalism and modern approach (9).

In one of the most long-lived satirical magazines named “Bich” and published in Baku (note: the magazine published in 1909-1916 with some time intervals), on the cartoon where was lightened an actual topic for the elite sections of community of those times –a charity activity of Baku millionaires, the artist used cartoon making methods very successfully (“Bich, 1913, №31). In other cartoon work published in magazine “Jigit”, in 1917 and worked out also in this style, it was criticized double-faced policy of foreign general who changed his military uniform with civil garment in the period of revolution and had hidden his military uniform till better time. In this picture, exposing and angry glares of Bakuvian oil millionaire Aga Musa Nagiyev (he was presented as a positive hero), directed to foxy general were worked out very skillfully. This was witnessing to professionalism and objective attitude of our cartoonists to those times’ frequently changing political events (10).

Generally, in the pages of satirical press of prerevolutionary period, we encounter with friendly caricatures of those times’ well-known people, intelligentsia, public men and among these caricatures, the ones about Bakuvian millionaires and oil entrepreneurs draw much more attention. In the magazines “Molla Nasredddin”, “Jigit”, “Adskaya pochta”, “Baraban”, “Bich” and in other satirical magazines, friendly caricatures of oil millionaires, especially of H.Z.Tagiyev, A.M.Nagiyev, Nobel and others were the majority.

Till 1920 one of the last satirical weekly magazines published in Baku was “Zenbur” (1919). The head artist of the magazine, published in very complicated political situation, was A.Azimzadeh. In the cartoons of the artist published in this magazine, the policy pursued by the European countries, especially by England was denounced, White Guard generals were mocked, the ministers of Musavat party, which were on the power that time were criticized openly. In these cartoons, drawn in a way to be easily understood by the masses, false imitation of English imperialists, their numerous and foxy attempts to appropriate the wealth’s of Azerbaijan were exposed. One of the cartoons depicted a milky cow representing Azerbaijan, the satirical pictures of Englishman who is milking the cow and the Frenchman, American, Italian, German man and others waiting in the queue to milk the cow (“Zenbur”, 1919, №14). A few weeks later, as the continuation of this first cartoon drawn in “Zenbur”, second one was published in the same magazine. In this cartoon, published in 1919, in the 21-th issue of the magazine, it was depicted the sated cow kicking Englishman down and escaping, leaving waiting “milkers” in the queue with empty pails in their hands. This cartoon, reflecting public-political events of those years, creates an idea in the readers about professional cartoonist’s work, exactly to say about the ideological-pictorial position of the artist (11).

When we review these above mentioned cartoons and pictures, we get a chance to meet with the 100 years before real condition of Baku oil industry and at the same time we turn to the alive witnesses of those times’ public-political atmosphere and the events happening in the oil fields of Baku.

After the establishment of the soviet authority in Baku in 1920, new processes started in the county and this was felt very clearly firstly in the press and then in creative works of our artists. In the first years of the soviet ruling, the periodical press published in the county, especially the satirical press was used as an ideological weapon. In these years, actual and important matter of that period, such as fostering of new man, propaganda of soviet communal life style, fighting with religion and old traditions, abolition of illiteracy were put as the main duties in front of the cartoonists and press employees.

In the first years of the soviet period, in Azerbaijan, as in the whole country (Soviet Union), publication of different satirical magazines which were serving the interests of the soviet ideology was started. So, publication of “Molla Nasreddin” satirical magazine was restored in Baku in 1922 and for the first time the magazine started to be published at the State expense. Such satirical magazines as “Egreb” and “The mirror of our office” both published in 1923, “Tikan” and “Damqa” both published in 1924, “Godless” published in 1931, “Mezeli” published in 1939 and others of such a satirical type, representing communist ideology and adapting to the demands of that period, were serving to the new political system. In these magazines, cartoons and satirical pictures were published with new content, which were reflecting soviet principles and lightening actual issues of that period. Satirical directions of these magazines also were developed on the basis of the most advanced traditions of that period and turning essentially to the innovator tribune, acted as the active ideological instruments fighting for common interests.

A satirical magazine “Molla Nasreddin”, published in a new content, differed much more from its prerevolutionary period (1906-1917) editions. The cartoons presented in the magazine, particularly the cartoons with religious content were discerned with their satirical acuteness and severity. In the magazine (especially on its cover page) pages were periodically devoted to propaganda and agitation placards, also to political cartoons.

It isn’t accidental that, related namely with the restoration of the magazine’s publication in the autumn of 1922 (it was already the soviet period), J. Mammadguluzadeh, addressing to the nation from the pages of the magazine, demonstrated his unchangeable position with the following writings: “Molla Nasreddin” always was friend of simple and poor people. As early as in 1906, 16 years ago, in the 9-th issue of the magazine, we drew a figure of carefree villager and wrote these words down: “Don’t be sad”. If it is so, as it’s written, then we don’t have any grounds now not to love this villager and we don’t have any grounds not to support his interests. 16 years ago, as it’s now, we were the friends of workers and villagers” (“Molla Nasreddin”, 1922). It gets clear from these writings that, the objectives and wishes of the magazine were: to defend the interests of people who didn’t know their rights, to defend freedom of women, to fight against religious fanaticism, illiteracy and bureaucracy of state officials.

Along with the different content cartoons and satirical pictures published in “Molla Nasred-din”, of course, oil topic held one of the main places. It is not accidental that, on the cover page of the first edition of the magazine, an interesting cartoon drawing attention with its original solution and devoted namely to this topic was published. In this cartoon created by B.Telingator and named “Fighting for “Azneft”” (“Molla Nasreddin”, 1922, №1), in the first plan it was depicted a cow (i.e., “Azneft”) milked by different organizations and bodies. In this cartoon, reflecting ongoing fighting for the newly created “Azneft” (Azerbaijan Oil Company), objects of criticism were the emerged tension between the ministries and state bodies, their wish to master new organization which is capable to bring much more profits, exactly saying their temptation (12). We already witnessed repeatedly in the prerevolutionary satirical press where Azerbaijan was described as a milky cow.

We can almost say that, picture with the same content was published in the 2-nd issue of “Molla Nasreddin” magazine, in 1922, on the cover page of it. In the drawing “Azerbeyim” authored by A.Azimzadeh, acutely exposed were the foreign monopolists which had a desire to appropriate again the wealth of Azerbaijan and especially oil of Baku. In this cartoon, comprehensible without any words, picture of Azerbaijani girl in national clothes, draws attention. In the background, there are four men (American, Englishman, French-man and Italian), looking at and expressing their “love” to this girl. These four men are the hints to foreign oil magnates. Against the alien “lovers”, the artist depicted the workers-villagers who are demonstrating support to Azerbeyim and showing their fists to the monopolists. The restrained looks of Azerbaijani girl, her at last achieved opportunity to decide her own destiny, and her support by workers-villagers against alien provokers were depicted expressively by the artist. In this drawing, which is rich in the content from composition view and carries serious political content, A. Azimzadeh touched an issue which has great meaning load. The author didn’t give the comment under this drawing. Of course, the reader who got this magazine in his or her hands, comprehended clearly to what the artist hinted (13).

A plot line of the cartoon “Azerbeyim” was repeated in other cartoons published in “Molla Nasreddin”. As the oil topic, touched upon regularly on the pages of the magazine was a cornerstone of the political cartoons, here the leading idea was the high temptation of foreign states to the wealth (oil) of Azerbaijan. Our cartoonists were giving apt responses on behalf of our Bakuvian worker to the imperialists who wanted to become owners of Azerbaijani oil. The cartoon works “Our oil is not sold!” created by A.Azimzadeh (“Molla Nasreddin”, 1928, №15) or “If you see Baku oil, you will see bottom of your ear” also authored by A.Azimzadeh (“Molla Nasreddin”, 1930, №3), “This oil-gusher mustn’t be covered with falsified documents’ gush” authored by K.Dorsh (“Molla Nasreddin”, 1927, №36), “Baku oil is slippery” authored also by K.Dorsh (“Molla Nasreddin”, 1927, №40) and each of the other such cartoons which were carrying political load together with turning to the political chronology of those times, simultaneously were drawing attention as a work of highly professional artist (14).

In the first years of the soviet period, the oil topic, align with usage in the political cartoons, simultaneously and regularly was used in the cartoons with daily topic, as these works could lighten negative events happening in everyday life. Particularly, numerous cartoons, which were exposing bureaucratic arbitrariness, useless attitude to the work, bureaucracy, unfulfilled production plans and other negative cases happing in oil industry, mines, state organs and organizations, were discerned with their sharpness and acuity. Among the cartoons lightening existing condition in oil fields, life of oilmen and irresponsible activity of so called responsible official persons who ought to manage these people, the caricature named “ Who is a worker that he should own a car?” published in the 26-th issue of “Molla Nasreddin” in 1923 reflects real events of those years. In this cartoon, newly appointed, boastful and of course uneducated director who is a glory lover as well is criticized sharply. In this cartoon authored by A. Azimzadeh, internal world of soviet official who manages oil industry, his attitude to work and to the people come out easily (15).

With the character of lazy, uneducated, merry-maker and irresponsible director, presented by the cartoonist to the readers of the magazine, we meet in the cartoon named “Vishka!!!” published in the 41-st issue of “Molla Nasreddin” magazine in 1928. In this cartoon work, a director, who does not deserve his position and sleeps all working time, is depicted when he just woken up, is looking out surprisingly from the window to already built oil well. In this very professionally worked out drawing, the cartoonist achieved to create a character of director who appears only when everything is done (16).

We can meet such character of foxy director, who deceives both his nation and State with false promises and exaggerated figures on the pages of the magazine “Idaramizin guzgusu” (this name means “The mirror of our organization”), publication of which was started in 1923. In this caricature, author – B. Telingator making use of cartooning styles, achieved to create a character of typical corrupted official who is very stout as ate the property of the people and who was dealing only with telling lies to all people (17).

In the propaganda and agitation placards and political cartoons mostly presented to the readers in the press published in the first years of soviet period, political and economical successes and achievements in the cultural, educational, health and social spheres of the newly built state were propagandized. In these published satirical drawings and cartoons, sharply exposed were the parasite elements, which created obstacles for development. And besides, the cartoonist, speaking from the point of view “who does not work, does not eat”, exposed the officials who regardless their working ability were escaping from working and finding hot places in local organizations and dealing only with bureaucracy, harmfulness and bribery.

The Soviet government was aware about the high reputation of satirical pictures among the people and comprehended importance of this reputation from ideological aspect. That is why, when this government started to issue the magazine named “Allahsiz” (note: it means “godless”) in 1931, it was not an accidental event. In this magazine, mostly were depicted the portraits of the political figures and labor heroes, placards, photos and of course caricatures (18). This magazine, which was issued with the direct instruction of the communist party in 1931-1933s and which was financed by the government, could not manage to immortalize the traditions of “Molla Nasreddin” and did not achieve reputation among the masses. We have to mention with great regret that, after the magazine “Molla Nasreddin” halted its issuance in 1931 related with the death of its editor J.Mammad-guluzadeh, there was not issued any other satirical magazine which could continue these traditions and immortalize this school. Regrettably, the attempts taken in this direction and the magazines rarely issued could not reach the level of “Molla Nasreddin “.

In spite of some steps made by Azerbaijani intelligentsia in this field, the rising of political tension in the country did not allow to realize this desire. In 1930-s, the generally observed stagnation in the field of magazine’s graphics was felt more obviously in the field of cartooning. That time, cartooning was considered as a striving genre of the fine arts.

If we consider that after 1930-s there weren’t issued almost any magazines in Azerbaijan, start of the publication of magazine named “Kirpi” in 1952 in Baku was an important event for all community of Azerbaijan. From its first issue, this magazine attempted to immortalize the traditions of “Molla Nasreddin”. It was calling all the people to be irreconcilable with negative events, to take merciless position against all negative elements which created barriers for the intensive development of the society, against all powers which were instigating to wars in our world and against capitalism which exploited laborers. This magazine, consisting of colored cartoons and holding the position of criticism, exposure and reproof of all actual problems, based on the principle of “Cartoon is a type of important and useful art”.

The publication of “Kirpi” magazine turned to be a very important event in Azerbaijan. Undoubtfully, our artists played a great role in the gaining of popularity of this magazine, as this magazine was read almost in every home with joyfulness and its next issue was waited with great impatience. Parallel with such cartoon masters as Gazanfar Khaligov, Ismayil Akhundov, Huseyn Aliyev and Amir Hajiyev who worked together with such great persons as J.Mammadguluzadeh and A. Azimzadeh, who had gathered already big experience in the satirical magazines issued till revolution, our famous caricature masters such as Najafgulu Ismayilov (head artist), Sadig Sharifzadeh, Vsevolod Ternavski, Ziya Kerimbeyli, Rizvan Guliyev, Adil Guliyev (Adil Elchin), Pyotr Shandin, Hasan Hagverdiyev, Rahib Gadimov, Alakbar Zeynalov, Arif Alasgerov, Eduard Abdullayev, Viktor Tatarinsev and others were participating with different content literary works on the pages of the magazine.

Among the topics with different content issued in the magazine “Kirpi”, oil topic was holding one of the important places. This topic reflected itself in political cartoons, as well as in the cartoons which could uncover shortcomings in oil industry, and which exposed non responsibility, squandering and other negative events observed in the oil fields and criticized irresponsible officials who did not execute their commitments. Oil topic was one of the topics which touched upon very oftenly by our artists in 50-60s. It is not accidental that, on the cover page of the first edition of “Kirpi” magazine, namely oil wells of Baku were described on the background of the figure of thorny hedgehog “armed“ with pen and photo camera (19). I think that this compact satirical picture was passing the purpose of the magazine to the readers very clearly and exactly. (We should note that, a competition was announced for the best picture of hedgehog which ought to determine the image of the magazine and which was to be published on the cover page of the magazine. And related with this competition, more than 200 pictures and sketches had entered to publish office by the artists. This picture, the author of which was Great Artist – Najafgulu Ismayilov, was considered most successful one among the other pictures and was printed on the cover page of the first edition of the magazine).

When turning over the pages of “Kirpi”, the negative events observed in that period at oil wells, robbery of state property, non responsibility, inexperience, mismanagement, as well as problems in labor policy were touched up. In cartoons named “Other oil wells hidden in the shade of the one well” (author: I. Akhundov), “How have you erected this platform, as I have not prepared bill of quantity yet?” (Author: I. Akhundov, “Kirpi”, 1952), “Hey master, be sure, the equipment will not come today again, – tell me your story” (Author: I. Najafgulu, “Kirpi”, 1953), “Repair and report of one road” (Author: P.Shandin, “Kirpi”, 1954), “ I can do shout, I can do everything, but why the production plan can not be reached” (Author: P. Shandin), “ Boss looked at mirror, but put his name to other” (Author: P.Shandin, “Kirpi”, 1956), “ New methods don’t go behind the meetings” (E.Nikolayev, “Kirpi”, 1955), the negative events chased in that period were exposed (20). In these cartoons, such negative facts, as late delivery of oil equipment and spare parts, bureaucracy, bad attitude to the property of the nation and other negative facts were taken as a target, also voluble and non responsible managers, who could not execute the production plans and who could not cope with their commitments, and leaders, who exaggerated the production reports were criticized openly.

In one of the cartoons, which criticized irresponsible directors who were not aware about incomes and expenses of their organization, and who just passed their time in the cabinets and demonstrated mismanagement, the described was dispatch of oil carriages from Baku to Saratov and vice-versa, cross coming and meeting of these carriages in the crossover of roads. P. Shandin’s cartoon based on the dialog between expeditors, who convoyed the carriages, is accompanied with these words:

“– What is your luggage? – As yours.

– And what is yours? – As yours too”

(“Kirpi”, 1957). (21).

Such negative facts observed in oil fields, as mismanagement, inexperience, indifferent attitude to the property of the nation were criticized in other cartoons of the artist as well. As we see from the name, in the cartoons called “Repair and report of one road” (“Kirpi”, 1954), “When promising and doing” (“Kirpi”, 1956, №6), the story line is the same (22). In these cartoons, the artist, taking as the target the irresponsible persons, whose promises and doings were different and who didn’t perform taken obligations and exaggerated data of production reports, lightened existing problems of that period.

Generally, in 1950-60-s, such a trend in satirical graphics of Azerbaijan, as to struggle against robbery of state property, against production of inferior quality products and against any non responsibility which could create barriers against development of industry and whole economy, had very strong position. Differently from other fields of the fine arts, the opportunities of satirical graphics in this field were broader. Namely because of this, cartoonists who worked in this field had a great responsibility as to struggle actively against all negative things in the society using all power of humor and satire in different directions. Our cartoonist-artists working more efficiently in these years, were taking as a target and criticizing responsible persons who did not commit their obligations duly, and who together with their inexperience and useless attitude to work damaged environment and spelt oil wastes to the sea. In 1959 in the cartoon work created by A.Zeynalov and named “Why do you spill oil to the sea?” which was differed with its healthy and unmasking laugh, it was described character of Neptune who cared about its fishes and tried to preserve sea from oil pollution (23). In other cartoon, published in 1966 and author of which was V. Ternavski, character of Neptune was used skillfully. On the contrary, in this caricature, king of the seas- Neptune built new town in the sea and he was described as if he was blessing for a diver who was working under the sea water and thus was doing very important and useful work (24). Generally, in creative works of our cartoonists we often witness using the character of Neptune who plays role of defender of sea cleanliness and environment preserver. In other cartoon presented with the word expression “If you seek better, you will find”, author of which is V.Ternavski (“Kirpi”, 1960, №21), it was advised to drillers to seek oil more attentively and to approach to their job more seriously. In this picture, oil, which is addressing to the drillers and which is hidden under the deeper layers of the earth, was described in the image of the lady (25).

If we confirm creative work of our cartoonists, we will see that, during this period, along with caricatures devoted to different topics, they prepared hundreds of friendly caricatures as well. Of course, among these friendly caricatures, there is very big caricature gallery of famous people, representatives of society and labor heroes. The productive activity of such famous caricature masters as Najafgulu, H.Hagverdiyev, R.Guliyev, A.Guliyev (Adil Elchin), in the next years G.Idrisov, Y.Asadov and others is deserving attention. These masters worked in this field very actively. Among the numerous friendly caricatures, professionally worked out by our artists, the friendly caricatures of labor heroes and of our oilmen are on top level today also. Multiform composition authored by great caricature master H.Hagverdiyev and named “Our artists from creative work” which was published in 1959 in “Kirpi” magazine, draws an attention from the view of solution of exterior appearance of characters and from the view of expressiveness of these characters. Indeed, in these friendly caricatures, the artists coming back from “Neft dashlari” (Oil fields) – (from work) were described (This friendly caricature was taken from creative work of Peoples Artist of Azerbaijan Republic – Tahir Salahov named “Our oilmen from work shift”) (26).

Today, we can say with full assurance that, in 1950-60-s, namely thanks to the magazine “Kirpi”, a cartoon could turn to indelible element of our society as a genre. One of the unbreakable basics of the soviet ideology was fostering of soviet man, following to the rules of soviet coexistence and formation of the builder of the future. With this purpose, among the demands put forward in front of the art, as well as in front of the fine arts, first place was given to fostering and of course political fostering of the builder of new society. Namely because of this, the cartoons devoted to international topics presented in the press were carrying a political load of responsibility. In spite of that the number of these cartoons which were published in “Kirpi” magazine and which were lightening events occurred in the international arena were less than the cartoons with the content of daily and economic matters, they were differed with their pictorial level and global scope of touched issues. Our cartoonists, supporting the soviet ideological platform, were giving more places to the cartoons which criticized instigating policy pursued by Western countries leader of which was the USA (of course, this was a demand of that period and was a view to the events from the prism of soviet ideology). The topics of armament, policy pursued at the power of capital, intervention and exploitation were published in the last pages of “Kirpi” magazine and in large format. In some cases they were published in inside pages of the magazine as the illustrations to political topics and comparatively in small volumes. Among these cartoons, oil topic was lightened more widely. And especially the games based on oil policy and played by the West in the Near East were criticized. Among the cartoons lightening this topic we can cite the followings: “Oil extractors and robbers in the Near East countries” (“Kirpi”, 1952, this is a joint work of Y. Agayev and V. Ternavski), “If you move a little bit aside, my business will do”, this cartoon (“Kirpi” magazine, 1954, №22), authored by G. Khaligov, was demonstrating how the USA pressed out Great Britain from the oil markets in order to gain full control on the oil of the Near and Middle East for the sake of the USA monopolies. Or we can cite the cartoon named “Solution of Iran’s oil matter” (“Kirpi” magazine, 1953, №19). In all above mentioned cartoons the severe struggles and fights of that period happening in the international arenas for oil were described (27).

In the cartoon named “Are the all employees working here the communists?” (Author – A.Zeynalov, “Kirpi” magazine, 1959, №3), which was demonstrating political views and belongings of oilmen, the influence of soviet ideological machine was felt very easily as in other placards of propaganda (28). In such satirical pictures, the border between political cartoons and placards, which was in any way very weak, is getting confused and more privileges were given to the propaganda placards which were satisfying mostly the demands of that time government and regime. From this view, in the works such as “Meeting in the sea” (Author – A.Guliyev, “Kirpi” magazine, 1952, №3), “For the honor of our new successes” (E.Vedernikov, 1953, №24), “Honored oilman” (I.Najafqulu, “Kirpi” magazine, 1960), “ Oil is our common wealth” (V.Ternavski, “Kirpi” magazine, 1965), “In the deep layers of the sea” (V.Ternavski, “Kirpi” magazine, 1966), “50 years in the labor front” (V.Ternavski, “Kirpi” magazine, 1968) and in other works of such type, it is clearly seen that our artists mostly used the placard elements than the cartoons (29).

In Azerbaijan, the country which always was famous for its oil wealth within the centuries, the oil topic was always indelible part of the life of every Azerbaijani. This case was observed in any field, such as literary and journalism, in creative works of our artists, in films and theaters, also in our everyday life. It is not accidental that, world famous cartoonist – Herluf Bidstrup who visited our Republic in the late 60-s, in his pictures described Azerbaijan as a country which has ancient historical and wealthy monuments, a country which combines the cultures of West and East, and as a rapidly developing oil country. We can cite extracts about oil fields, historical monuments, kind people and honored labor people of Baku, from his book named “What Herluf Bidstrup saw in Soviet Union”. These extracts were saying:

“Baku is a capital of Azerbaijan. The city is located at the bottom of mountains and at the shore of the Caspian Sea. Baku is an ancient city famous with its monuments of old times. Here, old architecture harmonically combines with modern architecture. In 75 kilometers from Baku, in an open sea, on steel structures was built the whole city. It is developing day by day. New roads and new drilling wells are being built. It is confirmed that, under the Caspian Sea, at the depth of 7-8 km, there is one more sea, i.e., the oil sea. Here, workers work 10 days continuously and then they go to Baku to take a rest by sea or air transport. There are only two types of transport here: helicopters and boats. Here, drilling towers and steel structures are being erected for the oil town on the Caspian Sea”.

It gets lucid from the memories and pictures painted by H. Bidstrup and describing different places of Baku that oil fields and “steel” city built on the Caspian Sea astonished him. This guest, as any other guest who visited our country, loved Azerbaijan and turned to think about this country as an oil country which has great history and traditions (30).

Of course, the developments achieved in 1970-s by Azerbaijan was forming basis of the economy of the country, which has rich history and is famous for its oil and developed industry. During these years, numerous works of art were created reflecting observed progress and development in the country in these years. Parallel to this, we know about works of art, which lightened negative cases and shortcomings observed in oil industry. And namely from this point of view, as in previous years, in 1970-s, negative cases and shortcomings occurred in oil industry were lightened by our cartoonists, also the detailed and open information about actual problems was brought by them to the broad community of the people. In 1970-s, in the cartoons published in the magazine about oil topics, the targets and objects of criticism were remained unchangeable as in the previous years. In this meaning, cartoon of P. Shandin, presented with the slogan “This flowing oil is our production plan, it is also our reward and our 13-th salary” (magazine “Kirpi”, 1972, №3) was accompanied with slight humor. In this cartoon, the artist was exposing an official man, who had wasteful attitude to produced oil, was indifferent to wasted and flowed down oil and who was thinking only about his personal interests, in this case only about his salary (31).

In general, as in all Soviet Union, the period of 1970-s in our republic can be characterized as the years of stagnation. This case, finding its reflection in political and economic life of the country was emerging with its specific and typical characteristics. Five year production plans which had been put to fantastic level, obligations-targets of socialism, execution of which had turned to difficult matter, production norms exaggerated in unreasonable level, all these things pursued a purpose to cover and mask the prevailing chaos and anarchy in the country. Specific aspects emerged as a result of occurred situation in the country in its turn was determining moral face of that period and the country was stepping forward to crisis day by day. In this situation, the state and party bodies using all ideological facilities, demanded to show sharp opinion and reaction regarding to happening events.

In 1970-s and next years, among the topics written in satirical graphics of Azerbaijan, more place was given to such problems of the stagnation period as speculation, misappropriation, bureaucracy, corruption and ecological pollution. Such negative events happening in the state bodies, industry, agriculture as mismanagement, irresponsible attitude to technical facilities, robbery of property of the nation, indifferent attitude to the state property were presented to readers in the works of our cartoonists in original mode and from interesting aspects. Published in 1972 in “Kirpi” magazine, the work of P.Shandin, named “Flowing out is our reward”, which was criticizing mismanagement happening in the local levels, in 1974 the work of V. Tatarinsev, named “Without word”, which was saying that, the oil flowed to the Sea would cause serious ecological problems in future, the work of A.Guliyev (Adil Elchin) published in 1979, named “I am here!…” which was calling drilling men to approach to their duty with more responsibility, and all other cartoons with the same topic, of course, were showing our cartoonists’ attitude to mismanagement of 1970-s (32).

This attitude was clearly showing actual problems of 1980-s as well. In the cartoon containing two parts and authored by A.Guliyev in 1983 and named “At last equipment has been delivered”, the described were the oil well workers who impatiently were waiting for the delivery of the equipment (33). The same topic was touched in other cartoon of the artist as well. In the cartoon work named “What are you looking for with lanterns in your hands daytime?” which was published on the cover page of the magazine, the described were the workers who were looking for electrical engine in order to operate the stopped oil well. Under the cartoon, which was worked out on the basis of dialogue, the following words were written:

“– What are you looking for with lanterns in your hands daytime?

– The electrical engine for our stopped well” (“Kirpi”, 1983, №16), (34).

From the words written under the cartoon, it gets clear that, such cases as the shortage of spare parts, non supply of workers with additional necessary materials, briefly, mismanagement and indifference were actual problems of those years and were reflecting general condition in this field.

In the cartoons named “Our shelter is not bad unless this useless platform is not dismantled” (Author C.Agayev, “Kirpi” magazine, 1985), “When your pressure will go up?” (Author A.Guliyev, “Kirpi” magazine, 1986, №21), “Before we were coming here in May to spend our holiday” (Author A.Guliyev, “Kirpi”, 1989, №9), “70 years we swept under the Earth, therefore the surface of the Earth is your duty” (Author A.Guliyev, “Kirpi”, 1990, №8), our cartoonists were lightening such serious problems as exposure of environment to “ecological catastrophe” as a result of throwing mass volumes of production wastes to the Sea and atmosphere and robbery attitude to natural wealth of our Republic (35).

When we learn creative work of our cartoonists, it gets clear that, in all years, in the cartoons devoted to ecological problems, the oil topic was touched upon very often. The damage caused to our flora and fauna by production wastes of oil, the pollution of our soils and sea, the environmental damages and other similar problems found their reflection in the works of our cartoonists.

Thus, after reviewing satirical graphics of the soviet period, we can say with full assurance that, in this period of time, our cartoonists achieved great success in the following directions such as: lightening actual problems of the period, holding merciless position against negative cases, identifying and unmasking all negative cases. In spite of the existing condition of those times, our artists, not grudging their skills and experience, and in the rigid frame of soviet regime created new and new works in the field of cartoon, the field, which is fighting and which is warlike type of the descriptive art.

The Republic of Azerbaijan, gaining independence in 1991, was exposed to unfair territorial pretensions by the side of neighbor Armenia from the first days of its independence. Announcement of fictional “Nagorno Garabag Republic”, the loyal approach of the international community and international organizations to this announcement, the occupation of more that 20% of our territories as a result of military operations of Armenia, dispelling Azerbaijanis from Armenia and Nagorno Garabag and as a result, forced refugees number of which is more than 1 million people, economical and informational blockade, all these facts were the main topics of Azerbaijani cartoonists in their creative work. In these painful years for Azerbaijan, such artists who took part on the pages of mass media were A.Guliyev (Adil Elchin), A.Alasgerov, V.Ternavski, V.Tatarinsev, R.Guliyev, K.Kerimov, Y.Asadov, R.Sharif, B.Yahyayev, E. Calilov, H.Nasiroglu, B.Hajiza-deh and others. In their cartoons, exposing Armenian aggression and double-faced political games pursued by some countries, and lightening complicated political situation in our Republic, our cartoonists raised up their citizen voices against this unjustness.

In the early 90-s, our Republic was living transitional period and unfortunately, nowadays, the discords of this period continue to live in some spheres. The Disconnection of art relations in the sphere of descriptive art, formation of market economy, application of multi-partial system (pluralism), privatization of press organizations, application of self financing system in the publishing houses, strong reduction in the number of cartoonists working in this sphere, all these factors ultimately created obstacles for the development of cartoon sphere.

After the period of independence, although the art of Azerbaijani cartoon lived its hard times, it survived and did not die. Our cartoonists regularly took part in the press of our country and gave more attention and place in their creative work to the meaningful and accusing cartoons devoted to negative cases and ongoing processes in our Republic and abroad. This period is memorable in our minds also because different satirical newspapers and magazines were created during this period. Among these different newspapers and magazines we can note such ones as: “Cheshme” (“Spring”), “Zarafat” (“Joke”), “Tek sebir” (“A sneeze”), “Sheytan” (“Satan”), “Mozalan” (“Gadfly”), “Deryaz” (“Scythe”), “Guzgu” (“Mirror”), “Biz ve karikatura” (“We and Cartoon”) and others.

Today, if we have a look to the last 100 years passed by the history of Azerbaijani cartoon, we will see that there are some topics in the cartoons that are addressed in all times and political systems. I think that the oil topic is one of them. Either in tsar Russia time, in soviet or nowadays time, our artists regularly addressed to this topic. Today, the oil topic being a part of our modern world and the reason of most wars and political games, attracts an attention of Azerbaijani cartoonists and contains the important part of their creative work. Today, in contemporary cartoon of Azerbaijan, we can see such cartoon works in the creative work of Y.Asadov, G.Alizadeh, B.Gasimov, E.Mirzayev, T.Memmedov, B.Gasimkhanli, K.Abdin, M.Memmedov, which are devoted to oil problems and which are showing damages to environment and nature caused by oil and which are also reflecting ecological problems caused by it. In the works of our artists devoted to this topic, it was described with all its bareness that, regrettably, although oil has a power to control world policy, it is not able to solve social problems of simple human being. Such topics as disasters caused by oil, catastrophes happened as a result of barbarian exploitation of “the black gold” and ecological problems faced by us are lightened in these cartoons (36).

“Our foreign friends” who tried to milk Azerbaijan as a cow and with whom we met already in the press of prerevolutionary period meet today to the target of our Azerbaijani artists as well. Our so called neighbors, who don’t feel happy with rapid prosperity and progress of Azerbaijan and who try to create obstacles to awarded oil contracts, are being exposed in these caricatures. And oil policy pursued by Azerbaijan is being supported in these caricatures (37).

This year we have celebrated in high level the 15th anniversary of signing of oil contracts, which we call “Contract of the Century”, the contract which will support light future of Azerbaijan.

Today, Azerbaijan became a real owner of its own wealth and got an opportunity to export its own oil directly to world markets through recently laid oil pipelines. In spite of the fact that more than 20% of our territories are under Armenian occupation and we have more than 1 million refugees, Azerbaijan turned to one of the strongest countries of the region thanks to intensive economic jump. In Azerbaijan, where we gain success in political, economical, social and other spheres, the cartoon genre has entered to a new stage of development. The cartoon is one of the attributes of democratic country. The propaganda of cartoon’s role in a society and development of cartoon as one of the genres, are indelible parts of ongoing important processes in our Republic.

In the time, when our enemies try to appropriate material and moral wealth of Azerbaijan, it is our common commitment to claim the possession of our moral heritages – history, literature, culture, art and also cartoon art.

Bayram Hajizadeh

The Honored Art Worker
of The Azerbaijan Republic,
Doctor of Philosophy.


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