Spring 2000 (8.1)

Language and Alphabet Transitions
In Molla Nasraddin Magazine

Editor Jalil Mammadguluzade (published from 1906-1932)

"Molla Nasraddin" (1906-1932) was one of the most important magazines ever to be published in the Caucasus. In this eight-page, biweekly publication, editor Jalil Mammadguluzade and his staff of cartoonists, writers, satirists and poets addressed the major social and political issues of their time. The impact of their work is still felt in the region - especially in the Caucasus, Turkey and Iran.

Left: Transition from Arabic to Latin script in process.

The "Molla Nasraddin" writers advocated what was known as the "movement for modernity ", encouraging their readers to catch up with Europe's progress. Articles and artwork were concerned with issues like women's rights, education, literacy, public safety and religious fanaticism; many articles poked fun at religious clergy as well as the intelligensia.

One of many issues that "Molla Nasraddin" tackled was that of alphabet and language reform. Its contributors believed that Azerbaijan and its surrounding region were underdeveloped in part because their alphabet, Arabic, was so complicated. They urged the adoption of a Latin based alphabet, convinced it would foster literacy, knowledge and progress. The following caricatures reprinted here show how the magazine dealt with these language issues.

The Arabic script was the cause of much of the illiteracy throughout the country according to writers of the Molla Nasraddin magazine. Above and below left the artist satirizes the situation.

Upper and lower right: Transitions that the magazine went through itself from Arabic script to Latin and then Cyrillic. Cartoons satirize the fact that the political situation was always imposing language other than Azeri on the population, especially Russian, Persian and Turkish.

Left: Arabic script slows progress.

From Azerbaijan International (8.1) Spring 2000.
© Azerbaijan International 2000. All rights reserved.

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