By Aynur Jafarova
The Azerbaijan Cartoonists Union has announced the sixth international cartoon contest "Molla Nasreddin-Azerbaijan". The event is dedicated to the 107th anniversary of the first publication of the Molla Nasreddin satirical magazine, which was first published on April 7, 1906.
According to the head of the Union Bayram Hajizadeh, for seven years Azerbaijan has been celebrating Cartoon Day on April 7.
Each cartoonist attending the contest will be awarded the "No to drugs" book-catalogue prepared by Azerbaijan's State Customs Committee. It includes works of 307 cartoonists from 60 countries.
First satirical magazine in Azerbaijan
The Molla Nasreddin satirical magazine was one of the most remarkable projects in the history of the Azerbaijani press. It represented a new stage in the development of national satire and cartoon art.
It was an eight-page magazine published in Azerbaijani and occasionally in the Russian language.
The name "Molla Nasreddin" was inspired by 13th century Muslim cleric Nasreddin who was remembered for his funny stories and anecdotes.
The features and columns of the Molla Nasreddin magazine were discussions, short witty pieces of writing, feuilletons, humorous poems, advertisement and telegrams, satirical stories, anecdotes, cartoons, caricatures, illustrations, etc.
The founder, publisher and editor of the Molla Nasreddin magazine was great writer, journalist and public figure Jalil Mammadguluzade. The magazine was published at the Geyrat Publishing House owned by Mammadguluzade.
When working at the Eastern Russian newspaper, Mammadguluzade met Omar Faig Nemanzade, a man whose friendship helped him to establish the Molla Nasreddin magazine. Nemanzade was an eminent journalist and public figure as well.
The magazine gathered the most advanced team of Azerbaijani intelligentsia, who published their stories on the magazine's pages under various pen-names. Pictures and caricatures were supplied by artists Oskar Schmerling, Azim Azimzade and Josif Rotter.
The first publication of the magazine was released in Tiflis on April 7, 1906. The picture on the cover of the first publication was a group of Muslims in deep sleep with Molla Nasreddin trying to awake them. "I came for you" is the most popular article of the first publication of the magazine.
The main purpose of the magazine was the struggle with the old world and the fight against colonialism of the imperialist countries, tsarist autocracy and in the East with the despotic regimes in Iran and Turkey as well as satirical depiction of inequality, cultural assimilation, corruption, backward lifestyles and values of the clergy and religious fanatics.
It exposed the leftovers of medieval feudalism, bourgeois exploitation, backwardness, obscurantism, indolence, religious fanaticism and the hypocrisy of its ministers.
The magazine achieved great popularity not only in the South Caucasus and Russia but across countries of the Near and Middle East as well. It was distributed widely in Iran and Turkey.
Although the magazine was banned by Iran and Turkey and there were repeated representations to the governing tsar that called for stopping the magazine's satirizing the sultans of Iran and Turkey, Molla Nasreddin continued to publish sharp cartoons and comment on events in these countries.
The magazine was closed down in 1907. The documents prove that the reason for closing Molla Nasreddin was the publication of cartoons about Turkey.
The magazine enjoyed public popularity and had readers not only in Russia, Iran and Turkey but also in America, England, France, Italy, India, China, Finland and other countries. Its circulation was one of the largest of the periodicals of that period. The magazine was the most influential and perhaps first publication of its kind to be read across the Muslim world, from Morocco to India.
About half of each eight-page issue featured illustrations, which made the magazine accessible to large parts of the population that was illiterate.
Libraries in Russia, Paris, Cambridge, Ankara, Istanbul, Tehran, Helsinki, etc. all hold collections of the magazine.
Molla Nasreddin continued to appear under the Soviet regime. It was published regularly in Baku from late 1922 until early 1931, before Mammadguluzade died in Baku in January 1932.
The magazine had 748 publications over the period of 25 years.The significance of the Molla Nasreddin magazine is its role in the development of the critical realist genre in Azerbaijani literature. It influenced similar processes in other literary traditions, primarily in Iran. Iranian cartoon art emerged as a result of publishing Molla Nasreddin in Tabriz in 1921.