Azeri Poet for the Freedom of Ararat

By Artsvi Bakhchinyan, Yerevan, 5 May 2023

One of the classics of Azerbaijani poetry, also playwright and translator Məmməd Rahim (real name: Məmməd Rahim Abbas oğlu Hüseynov. 1907-1977) has several vital items of Armenian interest. He has translated the works of Hovhannes Tumanyan and Avetik Isahakyan; was an author of a number of poems dedicated to Armenia (“Ararat,” “In the Gardens of Armenia,” “Sevan,” “Yerevan,” “Sayat-Nova”), as well as the play “Sayat-Nova.” In Soviet times, such a phenomenon was almost mandatory for peoples playing “brotherhood.” However, Rahim’s case seems to be different.

His poem “Ararat” is surprising in his unusual thoughts and messages. First of all, it was written and published during Stalin’s times when even Armenian poets could not chant Ararat easily. With this work, the Azerbaijani poet reminds of the crime committed by his fellow Turks – another forbidden topic for Stalinist times. He called Ararat “wounded by the yataghan” and asks: “How many new Komitases in Turkey have been buried with the songs unfinished on their lips?” The poem ends with the bright hope for the future of Ararat, burning with longing for freedom…

Here is Məmməd Rahim’s poem “Ararat” in my literal translation. I have done it through eminent Armenian poet Hamo Sahyan’s translation, who, on his turn has done it, in all probability, from Russian. Sahian’s translation was first published in 1952 in the Soviet-Armenian press and reprinted in Diaspora Armenian newspapers, and then appeared in two Armenian volumes of Rahim: “The Edge of the Motherland” (1954) and “Poems” (1964). Thus, the English is the third language.


Why are you looking around like that day and night?
What are you pondering like that, oh gray-haired Ararat?
The clouds have settled on your chest, and the storms are howling,
And you have kept your head in the sky unblemished.

I looked at you, Ararat, from nowadays Yerevan.
Your pathways are not twisted under my feet.
I looked at you, Ararat, from nowadays Yerevan.
Which is higher than your top white.

Tell me, oh Ararat, how many new Komitases in Turkey
Have been buried with the songs unfinished on their lips?
How many mothers are now mourning like Zohrabah,
How many Surhis were drowned… tell me, oh Ararat!

Tell me, oh Ararat, wounded by the yataghan,
How many peoples are wandering in distant worlds?
How many peoples wander along unknown roads?
And wherever they go, they take Van and Sevan in their hearts.

Oh Ararat, Ararat, so mighty and so lofty,
Do you believe, like me, in your future bewitching soul?
You are so heavy but your sorrow is heavier than you
You burn day and night with longing for freedom.

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