The oldest sample of written literature of Azerbaijan is 'Avesta', appeared in the VI century b.c. in the territory of Midiya, the author of which was Zardusht (Zoroaster). Dualist world outlook of Azerbaijan people, the ideas of a primitive man about the struggle between the good and the bad found here their literary reflection. The ideas of old people about the good and the bad powers controlling the world and the society found their literary-figurative reflection in 'Avesta', written in the form of addresses of Zardusht to the head of good powers Ahura Mazda (Hormuzd). 'Gatlar' ('Layers'), the most beautiful literary part of 'Avesta', reflect philosophical-moral ideas of Zardusht about human being and the society, nature and an individual. We have not received 'Avesta' in its primary, i.e. full form. This work was burned by Alexander from Makedonia in the IV century and only separate arts of it had remained in the memories of priests of Zoroastrianism, gathered together and translated to pahlavi language. The major features of the mythological world outlook of Azerbaijan people found their reflection in 'Avesta' and reached our times. Mythological motives about the creation of the world, the first man, 'golden period' of the society, the first fault and anger of the God and punishing of people with trouble, disease, disaster are widely-extended elements of world mythology.
'Dada Gorgud' eposes, having found their root in mythological world outlook, were written under the name of 'Kitabi-Dadem Gorgud' in the XI century of our era, those copies that we possess today are manuscripts copied in the XVI century. According to Fridrix fon Didts, the first who investigated the monument, some mythological subjects of the epos, for instance, the topic of Tapagoz(Oneeyed), gave the beginning to the same topics appeared in ancient Greece. The character of Tapagoz in 'Kitabi-Dada Gorgud' is elder in comparison with the character of Polifem in epos 'Odissea' by Homer. Two manuscripts of 'Kitabi-Dada Gorgud' are known today. One of them, Drezden copy, contains a foreword and twelve boys(separate tales in the epos) was taken to Germany by Germanic orientalist F.fon Dits and presented to the library of Drezden, the second copy, containing a foreword and six boys, was found in the Vatican in the 50-s of the XX century.
According to the tradition, the authorship of the eposes belongs to Dada Gorgud. Aybek ad-Devadari and Fazlullah Rashideddin, the historians of the XIV century, wrote that he lived in the period of Prophet Muhammed and was sent to him as a messenger by Turkish people. The foreword of the epos also proves that Dada Gorgud was the contemporary of Prophet Muhammed. The main subject of the eposes are reflected in the following twelve boys: 'The boy of Bugaj, the son of Dirsa khan', 'The boy about spoliation of home of Salur Gazan', 'The Boy of Bamsi Beyrek, the son of Baybura', 'The boy of conviction of Uruz bek, the son of Gazan bek', 'The boy of Deli Domrul, the son of Duxa Goja', 'The boy of Ganturali, the son of Ganli Goja', 'The boy of Yeynek, the son of Gazilig Goja', 'The boy of killing Tapagoz by Basat','The boy of Emra, the son of Bakil','The boy of Segrek, the son of Ushun Goja', 'The boy when Salur Gazan was prisoned to release his son Uruz', 'The boy when Ich Oguz and Dish Oguz joined and kill Beyrak'.
In some of the boys of Dada Gorgud, epos one may come across the signs of mythological world outlook. For instance, in the boy of 'Dali Domrul' reflects the remnants of the worship of death and the explanation of it according to the religious ideas of the period when the epos was written. The character of Azrail, as in many other boys of the epos, was added to the epos after the acceptance of Islam and adapted to the general spirit of the epos. According to this, the same boy has much in common with ancient legends and myths of shumers, vavilonians, Egyptians about dying and enlivened Gods.
The period of copying out of the manuscripts of 'Kitabi-Dadam Gorgud', remaining up today, dates to the XVI century. Though the prose and the poetry alternate in the boys, as in our middle century eposes, those extracts of the poetry less meet the demands of rules of middle age poetry. According to some research workers, firstly 'Kitabi- Dada Gorgud' was written in prose, as well as other ancient Turkish eposes, later only motives that had been remembered were written in the form of the prose.
The main idea of Dada Gorgud boys embraces the defence of motherland and people, the struggle of old Oguses, representing the good power against the foreign occupants-the bad power, and many of moral-didactic views, actual up today. In the 50-s of the past century under the ideological depression of totalitarian soviet regime, the 'Dada Gorgud' epos was forbidden as the monument instigating national quarrel and was rehabilitated only to the beginning of 60-s.
A Turkish proverb found in China sources belonging to 328 b.e. and scripts on stones of VI-VIII centuries a.d., made in the status of Turkish literature are in common Turkish context the specimens of written Azerbaijan literature after 'Avesta'. Those scripts have the character of epitaph-chronicles to heads of the states, but their literary quality is also high and reflects some idea about the development of Turkish literary language, and the formation of the system of images. The work of Mahmud Kashgarli is important for he recorded many of the samples of Turkish mythology and folk-lore, thus stabilized them. For example, the elegy dedicated to the death of Alp er Tonga, Turkish leader, lived in VII-VI b.c., reflects all the tenderness and beauty of old Turkish literary thinking.
Albanian literature should be considered one of the sources of classic written literature, for being created in the territory of Azerbaijan, the writing of which dates back to the V century. The elegy written by Devdek and dedicated to Javanshir, the leader of Albania, has much the same with that of dedicated to Alp er Tonga.
The poems of Azerbaijan poets Abu Muhammed ibn Bashar, Musa Shahavat and Ismail ibn Yesar, lived and created in Madina and Mekka, the centres of Islam Khilafatin VII-VIII centuries, differs from that time Arabic poetry for its struggling critical spirit, original artistic peculiarities. This fact was also approved by specialists. The tradition of writing literary works in the Arabic language continued till XI-XII centuries, Khatib Tabrizi, Masud ibn Namdar creates the works in this language, thus enriched the literature of Azerbaijan. Khatib Tabrizi, the great philologist of his time, had a great contribution to the study of literature. His work 'Sherhul-Hemase' remains its authority among orientalists and literary critics for a thousand years. A lot of scientific research works are written about this work.
With the creativity of Gatran Tabrizi (1012-1088) in the XI century, Azerbaijan poetic generation passes to a new stage of development, the use of skin language. 'Divan' of Gatran Tabrizi, existing today, contains mostly medhiye-qeside(praising gesides) dedicated to the governors of the time, the foreword of these gasidas reflect the admirable description of nature and had a great role in the further development of Azerbaijan poetic school.
In 1054 Azerbaijan is included into Seljugilar state created by Oguz Turkish people, which gave the start to the development of science, art and literature, and completed the formation of Turkish-language Azerbaijan folk. In works of Gatran Tabrizi, one of the greatest Azerbaijan poets of the XI century, one can feel the Turkish-Azerbaijan spirit and see many words and realities of Azerbaijan language. The poet used his mother tongue when came across with the difficulties of finding corresponding rhyme in Arabic and Persian languages. It goes without saying, that the language of Gatran Tabrizi is that of the Persian-writing artist with Azerbaijani (Turkish) thinking, and this peculiarity is a characteristic feature of Persian-language Azerbaijan poetry. This fact was also stated by Nasir Khosrov, the famous poet and scientist of Iran, who lived in times of Gatran Tabrizi and was personally acquainted with him, in his 'Sayahatname' he mentioned that the knowledge of Gatran in Persian was weak.
XII century completes the formation of the poetic school, which later strongly influences Azerbaijan literature, as well as the literature of the Near and the Middle East and the that of the world; appear such world-famous coryphaeus as Khagani Shirvani, Nizami Ganjevi. In comparison with Khorasan literary school (heritage), which was characterized by wide use of archaic words and thus met with difficulties in expression of deep philosophical contexts, the representatives of Azerbaijan literary school lead the skin language to a new level, enriching poetic works of that language with Arabic words and phrases, thus successfully expressed the tender poetic essence and deep philosophical ideas. The palace literature, under the guidance of XII century Azerbaijan states Shirvanshahs and Atabeys, breeds such artists as Abul-Ula Ganjevi (1096-1159), Mesheti Ganjevi (1089-1183), Khagani Shirvani (1126-1199), Feleki Shirvani (1126-1160), Mudjireddin Beylagani (-1190), Izzeddin Shirvani, the works of which still keep their high literary-aesthetic value.
Representatives of the XII century Azerbaijan poetic school, are characterized by high poetic professionalism, the ability of maximal usage of poetic possibilities of words, as well as stable polysemy of poetic unities. There was also a strong inclination to folk art (folklore), folk-lore images, words and phrases of people living language and aphorisms.
The most attractive fact in the creation of Afzaladdin Khagani (1126-1199), well-known as one of the great poets of his time, is the deep figurativeness and scientific character reflected in each stanza and even a line. Well informed about most of the sciences of Islamic East, he presents all his knowledge not by rough, wearing, but by sweet, attractive, admirable poetic language. Being deeply aware of the sciences of his time, Khagani sometimes with hints expresses an idea which may be fit in whole work. Sometimes he uses ezop-language conclusions, that contradict dogmas defined by men of Shariat of his time, as well as poetic symbols. In poem 'Tohfatul-Irageyn'('Gift of two Iraqs') (1156), the first epistolary couplet in Azerbaijan literature, by means of series of symbols and hints Khagani succeeded in revelling great differences between him and his time. Thus the creative activity of Khagani and Nizami is characterized by dialectic development. To them, nature and society are not frozen, they constantly develop and progress. The creative activity of Nizami from this aspect is a special stage in world literature. Khagani Tabrizi, getting tired of the pejorative influence of palace atmosphere, visited Mekka and never came back to palace; he settled and died in Tebriz. The grave of the poet is in the 'Mausoleum of poets ' in graveyard Surhab Tabriz.
Khagani is also famous as one of the great lyrical poets of Azerbaijan literature. The best traditions of Azerbaijan poetic school are based in his gazals and rubais. The deep love of Turkism, another peculiarity of Azerbaijan poetic school, finds its reflection in the creation of Khagani. This aspect later finds its pick in the creative activity of Nizami.
Together with Falaki, Abul-Ula, Mudjireddin Beylagani, the 'pupils' of Shirvan literary environment, XII century Azerbaijan poetic school includes such philosopher-poets as Shihabeddin Suhraverdi(1154-1192), the grew in South Azerbaijan.
XII century poetess Mesheti Genjevi, the life of which is full of legends and tales, is considered to be one of the masters of rubai after Omar Hayyam.
The second strong generation of Azerbaijan in this period grows outside the palace and more and more influences the literary-cultural environment. Word creators like Nizami Ganjevi (1141-1209) form democratic branch literature of this period. They were interested in literature, poetry not for earning their living, but it was the means of ideal-literary expression of humanist and patriotic feelings coming out of the depth of the heart, the means of popularization for lightening human life, for seeing happy a human- 'the crown' of the created. With his unfading five poems ('The Treasure of Secrets', 'Khosrov and Shirin', 'Leyli and Mejnun', 'Seven Beauties', 'Iskendername') Nizami Ganjevi brought quite new poetic voice and breath to the world literature. With his literary-philosophical wisdom, he understood it well and prophet-like foretold the immortality of his art. The heritage of Nizami had been the source of enthusiasm for poets up to our days and about 500 naziras (poems in resemblance) were written in different languages of the East and the West in resemblance to his works. It is for the creation of Nizami and other artists as great as him that XII-XVI centuries are considered to be the period of Renaissance in Azerbaijan literature.
The creativity of Nizami, well-known as 'The genius from Ganja', is also of global importance, for western, i.e. west antic literary-cultural values of that time found their synthesis in his heritage as well as that of eastern ones. The creativity of Nizami may fully be appreciated as a new step in classical period. For in high humanist ideas of Nizami we may come across with rational, logical attitude towards the events and the subjects, to a man, to meaning and importance of the society, the attitude of a man who wakened from middle centuries mysticism and possessed healthy and wakeful mental activity. A man was created for happy life and no power may chance this godlike destiny. This is the main lightening linear idea of the whole creative activity of Nizami. The same idea will later again be revealed in works of artists of the European Renaissance.
Another character of the immortality of Nizami art is that he discovered the eternal problem of human psychology and showed the ways of its solution. The role of literature in the life of the mankind and its cultural development should here be searched. Without hundred year-long ethic-didactic popularizations of oral Azerbaijan folk literature and written literature under the leadership of such geniuses as Nizami, world-wide evil and violence, injustice would increase, modern achievements of the civilization would turn to a dream. The global calamity-Mongolian attacks, facing the pick of Nizami creative activity and salvation of his works from their fires, gave us a chance to derive benefit from Nizami heritage, that behind which our today's thinking remains from the point of humanism.
One of the reasons for the greatness of Nizami creativity is the problems that he tries to solve. According to the poet, the state should be governed by a clever, enlightened person, who should support the harmonic attitudes of the people in the society. Being the head of the social environment, the quality of that society somewhat depends on his personality. The main problem discussed in the works of the poet is that the head of the state should fulfil the responsibilities that he took before God, and should do his best for happiness and comfort life of his people. Only in this case, there could be harmony in the development of individuals in the society, and only in this case purposes of God in the creation of a man could be fulfilled.
Nizami starting his creative activity with lyrical poems - gasidas, gazals and rubais, as the literary tradition of his time demanded, composed his 'Divan' in a very short time period and became famous as a writer. He dedicated the whole his life to lyrical poems, and different painful, philosophical problems, that he could not express by large epic poems, were reflected by him laconically in rubais. Beginning with his first epic poem 'Sirlar Xasinasi '('The treasure of secrets') (1174) up to 'Iskendername' Nizami focused on the solution of actual problems of his time, as well as eternal problems of the world, perfecting work by work. This still constitutes a humanist conception of immortal Nizami art. The five epic poems of Nizami later were famous in the literary of the Near and the Middle East people under the name 'Khamsa' ('The five'). Most of the followers of Nizami school wished to create 'Khamsa', but only a few of them could realize their dream.
The first epic poem of Nizami 'Sirler Xazinesi' (1174) is differentiated from other parts of 'Khamsa' by the absence of a single subject line. But in the presentation of many problems here reflected, the author skillfully used different stories and tales. Using for this purpose different sources of his time poet presented the whole material in a high literary level. The poem is traditionally constructed from a foreword and 20 small articles and stories. With this first poem, Nizami proved the foundation of a new epic tradition in the Near and The Middle East literature and founded a whole literary school after himself.
The epic poem 'Khosrov and Shirin' (1180) is the first romantic work of Nizami, i.e. it is the first among the poems with the completed image gallery based on the novel subject. Though the theme of the work is taken from the history of the dynasty of Iran Sasani leaders, in the presentation of most of the problems the poet take into consideration the events, persons and problems of his motherland. Nizami did not write historical-legendary work as his predecessor Firdovsi, Iranian poet did. He evaluates the genre of his epic poem as 'hevesname' ('encouraging letter') and dedicates it to praising of love. It is not by chance that the poet kept on the focus the moments of the life of the hero Khosrov Parviz with Shirin, the princess of Azerbaijan. The beauty, that is native to the poet is about to be the heroin. Though the genre of the plot is evaluated as 'hevesname' by the poet, he praises not quickly passing interest and passion as his predecessors did, but pure love that morally enriches and perfects the man, love that raises him to divine level and changes his character from worst to best. The character of Farhad, one of the monumental characters of the poem, later inspired many of Nizami followers and was chosen as a chief character for many epic poems.
Nizami, reflecting the dynamic progress of the hero according to the type of romantic profession, at the end of his poem showed an unbelievable change of his hero into an ideal person under the influence of his love. The poet relates the tragedy of Khosrov with another historical event taken from Islam reality; prophet Muhammed in his letter to Khosrov invites him to Islam and Khosrov tears the letter into pieces showing his indifference. This extract was given as an addition to end the poem.
Description and praising of pure love, heightening a man and perpetuating his name are clearly seen in 'Leyli and Mejnun'(1188), the third member of 'Khamsa' composition. In this work, written by request of Shirvanshah Ahsitan, Nizami succeeded with his admirable ability to create immortal love epos. He is known to be the first artist in the Near and Middle East literature to write an epos of this theme. The chief heroes of the epic Leyli and Geys, named 'Mejnun' (mad) by the society, which did not want to accept the idea of human freedom, turned into a personification of a human wish of freedom of. One of the main problems of the work is a new outlook to woman freedom. The poet rejects old traditions preventing the freedom and the progress of the society and the personality, puts forward and grounds the necessity of an idea about the rational freedom of a human in the society. The reason for the tragic end of the subject Nizami sees inn social environment surrounding a human, non-logical traditions of this society, animal instincts. He faces all it with natural environment, the world of animals that a man can not interfere. The poet shows that pure animals which are far from social influence, better understand the superiority and purity of Mejnun and gather round him. In the foreword of the epic Nizami gave an exposure to many faults and disformity of human society.
The rest epic poems of Nizami 'Yeddi Gozel'('Seven Beauties')(1197) and 'Iskendername' (1203) are the results of long-time scientific researches in the libraries, the logical conclusion of his observations. The theme of both of the works as defined by the author himself and used it as philosophical-poetic mean in the literary realization of a social ideal. Both the works have the historical base, but the author used the history as the background, and in most cases changed the real historical fact according to his aesthetic ideal. From this angle, these poems could be analyzed as a logical continuation of one another. The main idea that Nizami aims to solve as a humanist artist is human happiness and its ways. As in the middle ages, the responsibility for it was put on the leader and not the society, the philosophical and literary works reflected the same aspect of the facts. With the help of Isgender image, Nizami showed how fair and enlightener leader may have the capabilities of working for the happiness of society and harmonic development. In this aspect, we may see the progression of leader images created by Nizami from work to work and their corresponding to the demands of the society. The images of leaders beginning from Khosrov ('Khosrov and Shirin') to Bahram Gur ('Yeddi Gozel') and Isgender ('Isgendername') reaches the level of a prophet who shows the right way to many people and restores the justice not only in his country Greece, but also in the whole world(in the second part of 'Isgendername'-'Igbalname').
The great size of the art of Nizami and purity of his aesthetic ideal greatly influenced the following development of Azerbaijan literature, the principles of humanism and democracy defined by this great genius extended humanistic inclination not only in Azerbaijan but also in the whole Near and the Middle East and in a part of West literature.