Vagif, Molla Panakh

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Vagif, Molla Panakh


Born circa 1717, in the village of Salakhly, in present-day Kazakh Raion, died 1797, in Shusha. Azerbaijani poet and statesman.

Vagif was born into a peasant family. He knew both the Arabic and Persian languages. He studied music and singing under the best ashugs (folk singers and poets), and he himself used to improvise songs. He was a schoolteacher (the affixation “molla” to the poet’s name is linked with this activity). Subsequently Vagif became a vizier (minister of foreign affairs) to the ruler of the Karabakh state. In this post he manifested extraordinary abilities as a diplomat. With his participation a defensive alliance was concluded among the Karabakh state, Georgia, and the Talysh and Yerevan khanates against Iran. Vagif was also the initiator of negotiations with Russia for the purpose of obtaining its support. In 1797 power in the Karabakh state was seized by the nephew of Ibragim-Khan, Mukhammed-Beg Dzhevanshir, who ordered Vagif and his son, the young poet Ali-Beg, killed and his house destroyed.

Vagif’s works have not been preserved in manuscript; they were collected later from separate copies or from singers. The first collection of his poetry was published in 1856 by M. Iu. Nersesov in Temir-Khan-Shur (present-day Buinaksk). M. F. Akhundov also expended a great deal of effort in collecting Vagif’s poems. The first complete collection was published in 1945 (Russian translation, 1949). Vagif opened a new page in Azerbaijani poetry, bringing it close to the people. His lyricism is full of the joy of living; he soberly judges real life and strives to overcome its bad aspects with the force of reason, finding philosophical meaning even in sorrows. Man’s highest reward in this world is earthly, almost pagan, love. In contrast to the romantic poets who sang of a lofty, self-sacrificing love for an ideally beautiful woman, Vagif poeticized physical pleasure and created images of completely real, beautiful women and playful, frolicsome girls (“Violet,” “I Praise Two Beauties,” “A Firm Bosom Is Marvelous”). During his later years Vagif’s poems place a greater emphasis on the motif of the “vicissitudes of fate,” a common theme of medieval Oriental lyric poetry; the helplessness of man before fate and predestination (“Vidadi, Look at These Hard Hearts”). His philosophical lyrics are permeated with bitterness (“He Who Has Perfected Himself Will Be Struck Down by the Fates”) and an ironic attitude toward the world of deceit and evil (“I Sought the Truth, but Again and Again There Was No Truth”). Together with his older contemporary and friend Vidadi, Vagif’secured the position of the ashug form goshma, which is the closest to the poetic creativity of the folk, in Azerbaijani poetry. Nevertheless, with his splendid ghazals and mukhammases, written in a strictly classical form, Vagif also paid tribute to the poetic school of Fizuli. Vagif’s verses are performed to this day by ashugs and singers. A popular folk proverb states: “Not everyone who studies will become a Molla Panakh.” Vagif’s life found artistic embodiment in S. Vurgun’s dramatic narrative poem Vagif.


Äsärläri. Baku, 1960.
Sechilmish äsärläri. Baku, 1968. (Arabic script.)
In Russian translation:
Lirika. Moscow, 1968.


Azärbayjan ädäbiyyatl tarikhi, vol. 1. Baku, 1960.
Dadashzadä, A. Molla Panah Vagif. Baku, 1966.
Dadashzadä, A. Pevets zhizni (Razdum’ia o Vagife). Baku, 1968.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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