The history of folklore, as oral poetic creativity of Azerbaijani people, dates back to the time of the first people settled in the territory of Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan has got one of the richest folklore wealth in the world.
One can still find out rich and deeply meaningful folklore samples in Azerbaijan literature. The signs of mythological and belles-lettres experience are remained both in folklore and classical literature up today. The mythology of Azerbaijan is not of the systematic and full character in comparison with that of ancient India and ancient Greek. But it is possible to find out the traces of Azerbaijan mythology in Azerbaijan folklore. They are generally the elements of cosmogonic, seasonal, and ethnologic myths. Those mythic elements, being the result of artistic thinking of the primary form of human society, reflect cosmos and chaos, i.e. mixture in world life, disorder, the creation of world life(order) of this irregularity, and the reflection of all this in human society. Cosmos in mythic world-outlook, i.e. rules accepted by most of the people, reflects the process of mutual understanding between the major rule of the society- family, life, man, and nature. Separate details of the mythological world-outlook still remain in the texts concerning sorcery, cheers, curses, tales, godu, and the ceremony of counting (sayachy) of the folklore. The old Turkish mythological thinking is the leading motive In the majority of mythological texts. This could be seen in cosmogonic myths concerning the creation of the world, as well as in ethnologic myths concerning the origin of the ethnos and calendar myths concerning season processes. The creation of the mythological texts and their preservation in the form of the elements in folklore texts is closely related to human attitude towards nature and natural forces. The human desire to affect natural forces by word, movement, and dance the provoked necessity to create mythological texts and perform them. For instance, ceremonial songs and dances such as "Kosa-Kosa", "Godu-Godu", "Novruz", "Khidir Nabi" are of that kind.
Common features with other Turkish people folklore is another peculiarity of Azerbaijan. Many coincidences in oral texts of these people prove that these samples were created in the same ethnic-geographical area. "Oguzname"s preserve peculiar series among the epics of common Turkish folklore. The main problems of prototurks found their thorough literary-mythological solution in such epics as "Koch"("Camp"), "Ergenekon", "Shu", "Gayidish"("Return"). The short content of the majority of those epics found its reflection in "Divani Lugat-it-Turk"("Divan of Turkish language") by XI century Turkish scientist Kashgarli Mahmud, which still preserve the literary-mythic world outlook of people in the period of migration.
Azerbaijan folklore is rich genre. Tales and epics, proverbs and sayings, reflecting the wisdom of the people, being the genres of epic folklore, greatly influenced the folklore and classic literature of the neighbors. Bayati-the specimen of the lyrical genre has a multisided literary-emotional reflection of people's life. Ancient Turkish people had their own poetry and it was written in national syllabic and "barmag" ('finger') measures. The number of syllables in different poetic samples is different, but long poems of epical character and epics are generally of seven-syllable form. The poem of such structure is strongly remembered. Bayati-one of the richest genres of Azerbaijan folklore is based on seven syllables.
There are known two kinds of folklore genres-archaic and modern. Sinamalar (believes based on definite actions), sorcery, fortune-telling, oaths, prays, curses take a large position among the genre of archaic folklore. Nevertheless, this division is relative, for these genres are widened by new samples appearing during the long history of folklore formation.
According to the character of the event and the process of ceremonial folklore and labor, songs are known. Ceremonial folklore includes seasonal ceremonies, ceremonies concerning different natural processes, everyday life ceremonies, weddings, and funerals.
Bayaties are one of the richest genres of Azerbaijan folklore. They usually reflect lyrical-philosophical feelings of a human being in short poetic form. For instance, we may count lullaby, elegy, counting words, holavar (labour poems), vesfi-hal (praising), bayati-baglama, bayati-deyishme (competition in saying bayati), bayati-tapmaca (bayati-puzzles), and others as the forms of this genre. Bayati is the form of the poem containing four lines with seven-syllable in each. The form of rhyme is as follows: a-a-b-a. Ginas (the form of rhyming ) historically takes a large place in Turkish poetry, so we may come across bayati samples with ginas, too. One of the forms of bayati is the first line of which contains only rhyme. Such a kind of bayati can generally be seen in Karkuk folklore. The first two lines in bayati are somewhat like the entrance to the main meaning.
Folk songs are also among wide-spread folklore genres. These are poetic texts of different form with concrete musical motive. Singers still include such songs as "Aman nene" ("Oh, grandmother"), "Ay lolo", "Sona bulbullar" ('Beautiful nightingales'), "Susan sunbul"('iris spike') in their repertoire. The folk song is performed in solo, chorus and wrangling forms.
If the epic folklore genre is to be analyzed chronologically, legends should come first. The main distinctive feature of the legend is -the existence of fantastic elements and events. In comparison with fairy tales, having the same distinctive feature, the subject of the legend is not completed, it exists only in the form of a fragment. Based on the object described and the context of the event legends may be cosmogonic, zoonotic, toponymic, ethnographic, religious, historical, heroic, etc. The oldest legends tell us about the universe, the world, and the heavenly body.
Stories, as the wide-spread epic specimen of literature, occupy the next position after legends and tales among the folklore genres of Azerbaijan.
Proverbs and sayings are widely spread among the epic genres of Azerbaijan folklore as well. The proverbs and sayings, as the generalized conclusion and result of people century-old experience, are famous among Turkish people, and in many cases somewhat replaced the moral code in the society. The first samples of this genre could be seen in such classical written monuments as "Divanu lugat-it-turk" by Mahmud Kashgari, "Kitabi- Dada Gorgud" ("The book of old Gorgud"). Special proverbs collection-"Oguzname"z, reflecting the wisdom of Turkish tribes are invaluable monuments of Azerbaijan folklore as well.
A great group of folklore specimens of Azerbaijan had especially been created for children. They are of lyric, epic, and dramatic content. Lyric includes the genres of lullaby and child songs; epic includes puzzle, tongue-twisted, Garavelli; drama includes children's games and performances.
Middle centuries occupy a particular place among the levels of evolution of Azerbaijan folklore. In this period of the XII-XVIII centuries, the genre of epos had especially been developed. Great artists like Gurbani, Tufarganli Abbas, Sari Ashig, Xasta Gasim are the lived and created at this period. This period is also popular with the appearance of such love eposes as "Gurbani", "Ashig Garib-Shahsanam", "Asli-Kerem", "Abbas-Gulgas", " Shah Ismail- Gulzar", "Nahir-Zohra", 'Alikhan-Peri', 'Arzu-Gamber', mainly connected with Irfan, and heroic epos 'Koroglu'. In comparison with love eposes 'Koroglu' is the collection of different branches, thus continues the tradition of "Dada Gorgud" epos. That is why it is called the epos. Though the main subject of "Koroglu" is based on the concrete historical event- the movement of Jalairilar in Azerbaijan and Turkey in the XVI-XVII, some extra subjects were added to the monument in the process of formation. Here and there one can find mythic motives.
For the reason that the specimen of folklore is anonym, i.e. they do not have an author, ashug literature with concrete authors occupies a particular place in Azerbaijan folklore. The great representatives of the art of ashug, foundered in XVI century and still existing up today, are called "ustad ashuglar"-"masters". The firs master ashug in Azerbaijan folklore was Gurbani. Gurbani was elder than Shah Ismail Khatai(1478-1524) and there was some kind of attitude between them. One can take some information about this artist from the history of Sefevids and epos "Gurbani".
Three hundred year-long traditions of ashug art reed in the XIX century the great artist of people, Ahug Alesker(1821-1926). In the creation of Ashug Alesker lyrical and moral-didactic motives joined as a whole. The great artist influenced posterior ashug literature and the development of the written poem. During 105 year-long life, ashug reflected many historical events and persons in his creative activity.
In written form, The first specimen of Azerbaijan folklore came to our times by Herodot, the ancient Greek historian, in "History" (V cent, B.C.). They are the reflection of people literary thinking concerning the reasons of collapsing Midiya, an ancient Azerbaijan state, and its occupation by Iran. The legends "Astiyag", 'Tomris' and others found their written reflection in the work of Herodot. Herodot, the work of which is not only the historical, but also a kind of fiction, literarily worked out Azerbaijan legends and created effective psychological scenes. The legend of 'Tomris' deserves special attention from this aspect. Heroin Tomris, the warlord of Midiya which was destroyed by shah(king) of Iran, defeated the shah cutting off his head and sinking it into the barrel of blood, so that 'he could quench his bloodthirst'…
Mythological aspect in the myth of 'Astiag' is stronger. The main event is based here on dreams and forecast. The weakness of a man in changing the fate defined by divine powers has been presented in the example of Astiag tragedy. Same motives are widely spread in most ancient literature, as well as ancient Greek literature.
The greatest specimen of Azerbaijan folklore remained in written form till our days is the epos "Kitabi- Dada Gorgud". Though different characters and motives of the epos influenced the following Azerbaijan folklore and classic literature, it has not been preserved thoroughly in an oral generation. So 'Dada Gorgud' epos is also investigated as the specimen of written literature. The same principle is preserved in this article.
At present, valuable work is being done at the state level to draw attention to and promote Azerbaijani folklore. Because a nation without a past will not have a future.
Research of Azerbaijani folklore
Azerbaijan folk-lore is an area of creative work being a part of common Turkic oral literature and reflecting in self highest spiritual-moral values of the Azerbaijani Turks, the most leading inclinations of ethic and aesthetic thoughts. Habits of the Azerbaijani Turks, ceremonies, beliefs and faiths, historical knight morals, patriotism and love to land, parents, and dismal lyrical senses were described in this creative work fully and in a specific form. Folklore of Azerbaijani Turks was formed at a base of different genres (lyrical, epic and dramatic) and has been divided into types according to the same styles.
The first stage of recording of Azerbaijani folk-lore covers 1830-1900 years. During this period the first examples of the folklore of the Caucasian nations, Azerbaijani Turks had been reflected in newspapers of Vedomosti, Tiflisskiye vedomosti, Novoe obazreniye, Kafkazskiy vestnik, Kafkaz", and SMOMPK collections, which began publishing since 70-es of XIX century.
The first national press organ "Ekinchi", which began publishing in 1875, and later on "Kaskul" newspapers had continued this case decently.
The basic stage of gathering samples of Azerbaijani folklore in mass form covers the years 1900-1920. During this period activities of Eynali Sultanov and Mahmudbey Mahmudbeyov in the field of collecting, publication, and research of oral samples of folklore can be considered as the first steps of our folklore studies. Notable literary critic Firudin bey Kocherli had been included in the history of our folklore not just as a collector but a founder of Azerbaijani folklore studies. Hanafi Zeynalli that had special contributions in collecting, publication and analyzing folklore samples, is considered as one of the researchers classifying for the first time oral literature during those years (an author of books "Azerbaijani proverbs and sayings" (1926), "Azerbaijani riddles" (1928)".
One of the persons that studied the theory of folklore, introducing the most modern research methods in Azerbaijani folklore studies of that time was Amin Abid. A.Abid is one of the authors of scientific lectures on folk songs, bayatis, ashug poems, syllabic rhythms, derived forms of Turkic seven syllabic poems, rhythm, repeating of similar sounds, alliteration, division, and other poetic forms.
Researcher Vali Khuluflu systematically engaged in collecting and publication of our folklore samples during 20-30-es. He published a book of El aşıqları (Folk ashugs) in 1927 and for the first time Koroglu epos (second publication in 1929) in Azerbaijan. Contributions of Salman Mumtaz and Hummat Alizade in the field of collection of Azerbaijani folklore samples can be marked particularly. S.Mümtaz had published in 1927 and 1928 the book "El shairleri" (People poets), and recorded best samples of poems, bayatis and proverbs of Gurbani, Sari Ashug. In 1929 H.Alizade had published "Ashuglar' collection in two volumes and published fourteen sections and over fifty separate branches of "Koroglu" epos from the repertoire of Azerbaijani ashugs.
Names of H.Arasly, M.H.Tahmasib, M.Seyidov, X.Koroglu, A.Akhundov, V.Valiyev, M.Hakimov, P.Efendiyev, A.Nabiyev, etc could be noted particularly for their roles in the development of our folklore studies since WWII till our date.
The current state of Azerbaijani folklore
Folklore is the memory and destiny of the people: the fate of each ethnos depends on the degree of its connection to the national memory. A nation that can return to its memory can rise to the top that makes it a nation among nations ... The integrity and security of each nation as a nation and as a country depends on how the ethnocosmic memory maintains it ... In order to objectively characterize the current state of Azerbaijani folklore, it is necessary to compare its work with the work done in the last century. Thus, the folklore of Azerbaijan ended the twentieth century with these theoretical and practical results: At the beginning of the century, the intellectuals of the nation, in the true sense of the word, fought hard for the collection of Azerbaijani folklore. Guided by the ideology of "There is no sign of my nation among these signatures", they faced all difficulties to establish the spiritual signature of our nation among the signatures. Numerous folklore texts have been collected and published. In the 1920s-1930s, Azerbaijani folklore developed from a scientific and theoretical point of view. Continuing their research here, Soviet scientists invited to Azerbaijan supervised the formation of theoretical knowledge of young Azerbaijani folklorists from both a moral and a practical point of view. In the 30s, the entire intellectual potential of the nation, including folklorists, was ruthlessly destroyed, and the progressive development of Azerbaijani folklore at all levels was hampered. Since then, crippled folklorists began to form, faithfully serving the Soviet empire. Their task was to bring Azerbaijani folklore in line with the standards of Soviet-socialist ideology, and if this was not achieved, to create fake folklore texts in general. Although progressive folklorists of Azerbaijan at that time tried to save our folklore within the framework of their activities, their initiatives did not grow into mass activity and did not go beyond a small number of folklore publications and research. Although the regime began to soften in the 1970s and 1980s, the Soviet scientific stereotypes of "power" ingrained in folklore prevented them from being reborn. The practice of falsifying folklore texts, in general, of creating false texts that are not original, has further developed. At the end of the century, the Institute of Folklore of ANAS saved Azerbaijani folklore and folklore studies from the maelstrom of destruction. Playing the role of a filter of history, he stood between the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, the second millennium and the third millennium, passed an entire era, and laid the foundation for a bright path to the future of the nation. The Institute of Folklore of ANAS, established by the will of the late President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, great leader Heydar Aliyev, not only guarded the folklore of the people but also guarded the souls of folklore martyrs who fell victim to the Soviet empire. Several books from the "Early Folklore Publications" series were published and returned to the people. In particular, the folklore heritage of S.Mumtaz, A.Abid, H.Alizade, V.Khuluflu, B.Behjat, and other victims of the bloody repressions of the 1930s is being published and researched. The scientific-theoretical experience gained by the Azerbaijani folklore of the XX century is not a worthless stage for the Institute of Folklore of ANAS, but the experience of which it turned, studied, modeled, and modernized its intellectual activity at the level of all its aspects. An experience that is relevant today with all its successful and erroneous, useful and harmful, advantageous and disadvantageous sides. The Institute of Folklore is the heir and successor of all progressive traditions of Azerbaijani folklore of the 20th century and the denial of all shortcomings. The Institute of Folklore of ANAS has done a great job since its foundation, done a great job in collecting, publishing, and researching our folklore. The number and range of these works are rich. Before touching on them briefly, we want to talk about our latest big work. The Institute of Folklore of the National Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan began publishing the "Azerbaijan Folklore Collection" and published the first six volumes, one of the highest goals of Azerbaijani science in the third millennium AD, naming the name of Almighty God for national goals, for the goals of the nation, for goals that nationalize us as individuals. "Azerbaijan Folklore Collection" is a new century project in its current goal and a millennium project in its strategic goal. With these first volumes, he laid the foundation for a national project, which Azerbaijani folklore dreamed of throughout the twentieth century, but never realized. Such a solid foundation has been laid that the spirituality of a nation can stand on it while the world stands...
In general, the Institute of Folklore publishes folklore texts with the following publications:
1. Anthology of Azerbaijani folklore;
2. Azerbaijan folklore collection;
3. Research on Azerbaijani oral folk literature;
4. "Dada Gorgud" magazine.
Along with all this, an international folklore conference "From a common Turkish past to a common Turkish future" is held here every year. Folklorists from all over the world are invited here.
With the strengthening of the state independence of the Republic of Azerbaijan, folklore science, one of its national and spiritual supports, is constantly developing.