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Azerbaijani literary circles in arms after Writers’ Union head elected unopposed

27 October 2022
Anar Rzayev addressing the 13th Congress of the Azerbaijan Writers’ Union in Baku on 26 October. Photo: Trend.

Anar Rzayev, known as Anar, has been reelected unopposed as chair of the Azerbaijan Writers’ Union, leading to outrage among literary figures.

Anar was reelected for a five-year term on Wednesday by literary, political, cultural, and scientific figures and government officials during the 13th Congress of the Azerbaijan Writers’ Union in Baku. Elections were last held in 2014.

Anar has held the post since 1987, before Azerbaijan’s independence from the Soviet Union.

Writers Emil Rasimoghlu and Fuad Jafarli both attempted to challenge Anar, however, their candidacies were not accepted leading both to criticise the process. 

Other Azerbaijani literary figures were also critical of Anar’s reelection.

Norway-based Azerbaijani writer and poet Gunel Movlud called Anar ‘despicable’, as well as criticising the vote for not having a secret ballot.

‘God, save us from being like Anar when we grow old. At that age, instead of wisdom and light — shamelessness, lechery, and bloodlust rains on a person’s face.’

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Writer and publicist Sharif Aghayar said the widespread backlash against the congress and Anar’s reelection gave reason for hope.

‘As the mask of these swindlers — who infiltrated literature under the guise of writers — is torn, my hope grows’, he wrote.

‘I think this congress is not only the end of Anar, but also of the Azerbaijan Writers’ Union. It’s good that there are social networks; that is the only reason Stalinism could not win.’

There were a number of other controversies during Wednesday’s congress which were widely discussed in Azerbaijan.

Chingiz Abdullayev, a writer and first secretary of the Azerbaijan Writers’ Union, answered rudely to a journalist who questioned him about the organisation’s finances.

The Ministry of Culture allocated ₼203,600 ($120,000) to hold the congress.

Abdullayev answered, ‘you should die of shame’.

Speaking to Kult.az after the conference, Abdullayev claimed journalists had insulted him.

‘The congress was already over; they started asking questions. I told them not to ask stupid questions’, Abdullayev said.

Abdullayev was also heavily criticised for being unable to speak Azerbaijani fluently in his conversation with the journalist.

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