The Life and Creative Work of Afad Gurbanov

Alifuad Mahammad oglu Gurbanov, whose name would later appear in the record as “Afad”, was born into the family of a high-ranking military officer in the village of Cuci (later known as Qizil Shafaq) in the Kalinino District of Western Azerbaijan on January 10, 1929. That child from Cucikend later became a renowned scientist of a great nation called Azerbaijan, and eventually of the Turkic world.


Gurbanov’s original first name “Alifuad” was a combination of his grandfather Ali’s name, and that of a close friend and comrade at arms of his named Fuad. Over time, people began pronouncing Alifuad as "Afad" and that is what he came to be officially called. Hence, the future great man of science was known to the world as Afad Gurbanov.


His father Mahammad Gurbanov fell victim to the oppression of 1937. And his mother passed away that same year, unable to endure her husband's misfortune and being separated from him. Hence, Afad Gurbanov met with great loss and tragedy from a quite early age. He lost his parents when he was 8 years old and was faced with having to negotiate life’s troubled paths on his own.


Under these circumstances, his elder brother Salimkhan shouldered the family burden and raised his younger brothers and sisters, becoming everything to them. With a father’s care, he did everything he could to bring Afad out of dire straights and paid strict attention to his education. Afad always greatly appreciated the care that his brother had taken of him. He looked up to his brother and greatly respected him throughout his life.


Afad Gurbanov received his secondary education at the Qizil Shafaq and Ilmezli schools in Armenia. Because of a workforce shortage during the war years, as well as his intelligence and organizational skills, in 1945 at the age of 16 he was appointed as an Azerbaijani language teacher and the principal of the seven-year Qizil Shafaq school. It was during this year that Afad Gurbanov began his career in pedagogy.


Serving as both a school principal and teacher at a young age, Afad Gurbanov was awarded the World War II Veteran’s Medal in 1946 for his devoted work on the home front. However, young Afad's greatest wish was to pursue higher education. And it was because of this wish that, one year after working as principal, he resigned from his job and moved to the Georgian capital of Tbilisi. His move to this city was no coincidence. His uncle Mahmud Sharifli was living in Tbilisi and was a member of Georgia’s famous intelligencia.


In 1946, Afad Gurbanov was living with his uncle and had been accepted into the Georgian Teachers Institute. His uncle Mahmud treated him like his own son enabling Gurbanov to focus all of his attention on his studies.


Gurbanov graduated cum laude from the Georgian Teachers Institute and, in 1948 he was appointed as the principal and Azerbaijani language and literature teacher at the seven-year Oruzman village school in the Bashkechid District. But, once again, his desire to further his education and to deepen his knowledge of the fundamentals of the sciences did not allow him to rest here. So, in that same year, he resigned his position and moved to Baku, where he entered the College of Language and Literature at the V.I. Lenin Memorial Azerbaijani State Institute of Pedagogy.


Gurbanov graduated cum laude in 1951 and Prof. Abdulazal Demirchizade, head of the Azerbaijani linguistics chair and who was very familiar with Afad’s profound knowledge and skills, submitted a request to the office of the rector that he be kept at the institute. Demirchizade, an extremely demanding man who took great care in his approach to everything in this field of science, wrote this in his request: "I request that you not release Afad Mahammad oglu Gurbanov, one of this year's graduates of the Azerbaijani Institute of Pedagogy, to the Ministry of Education since he is being considered for staying on for postgraduate studies in Azerbaijani linguistics. During his studies, Afad Gurbanov has demonstrated his enthusiasm for linguistics both in the course work he has performed and his oral presentations in student scientific societies. He shows promise to become quite an expert in the future, if he should work in this field. Hence, I am confident that we could retain Afad Gurbanov for postgraduate studies at the Azerbaijani linguistics chair.” At the time, no one paid any regard to this request which is now in the university's archives. No slot was allocated for postgraduate studies in linguistics and Afad Gurbanov ended up working at a secondary school for a while.


Because of his intelligence and organizational skills, the Georgian Ministry of Education appointed him principal of the Hamamli village secondary school in the Bashkechid District, the largest and only educational facility for Azerbaijanis. It was a rare event for a twenty-two year old to be heading up a large educational facility with more than two thousand students and dozens of teachers. But Afad Gurbanov fulfilled the task entrusted to him superbly. Over his four years as principle, he transformed the Hamamli secondary school into one of the leading educational facilities.


Not satisfied with this, Afad Gurbanov once again chose the path of science and education to continue his studies and to research the untouched strata of the linguistic sciences. After teaching for a short time at the A.S. Pushkin Memorial State Pedagogical Institute of Tbilisi, he returned to Baku in 1956 and, during this same year, entered the postgraduate studies program in the Azerbaijani linguistics chair at the Azerbaijani State Pedagogical Institute.


At the same time, Gurbanov continued teaching at this center of higher learning, at the Baku Supreme Party School and the Azerbaijani language and literature chair of the Azerbaijani State Language Institute.


But it was in 1956 that one of life's most unexpected events occurred. The Georgian Supreme Court issued a ruling exonerating his father, Mahammad Ali oglu Gurbanov.


During his postgraduate studies, Afad Gurbanov researched the language of the dramas of Samed Vurgun under the scientific guidance of Prof. A. Demirchizade, a corresponding member of the Azerbaijani Academy of Sciences. He received an award from the office of the rector for completing and writing his scientific work early and was retained at the institute.


In 1962, Gurbanov successfully defended his master’s thesis titled “The Language and Style of Samed Vurgun's Play ‘Vaqif”. And, not long afterwards in 1968 he successfully defended his doctoral dissertation titled “Modern Azerbaijani Literary Language” before the Social Sciences section of the Azerbaijani Academy of Sciences. In 1970, the Supreme Certifications Commission certified Gurbanov as a professor.


From 1959, Gurbanov worked as a teacher and teaching fellow at the Azerbaijani linguistics chair. Beginning in 1965, he served as an assistant professor. Gurbanov was always relied upon for his profound scientific knowledge and superior organizational abilities. From 1967 until 1981, he served as assistant dean of the Faculty of Philology at the Azerbaijani State Pedagogical Institute, with 13 years as dean. He held the position of president of this institute from 1981 until 1989. During this same period he also chaired the Defense Council for Philological Sciences and the Defense Council for Pedagogical Sciences. From 1979 until his death (i.e. 30 years), Afad Gurbanov served as the head of the Azerbaijani linguistics chair at the Azerbaijani State Pedagogical University.


Moreover, from 1969, Gurbanov was deputy chairman of the Instructional Methods Councils of the Azerbaijan SSR Ministry of Secondary and Higher Professional Education and the Ministry of Education. Later, he was an active member of the Ministry of Education Scientific Methodology Council and the Scientific Methodology Center for Issues in Education, as well as a number of commissions.


From 1979, Gurbanov was a member of the editorial staff for the publication “A Dictionary of Azerbaijani Toponyms", the digest "Language and Literature", and the journals "Science and Life", "Education" and "Turkology". He was also the founder and editor-in-chief of the linguistic journal “Linguistics” and the onomastic journal “Onomastics”. Starting in 1980, he chaired the Azerbaijani Alphabet Commission. He was also productive and enthusiastic in his service as a member of the Azerbaijani National Academy of Sciences Terminology Committee, Special Commission on First Names and Surnames, the Commission on Compiling the Draft Law on the National Language, the Coordination Council, the Science and Defense Councils at the Nasimi Memorial Linguistics Institute and other commissions. He was a member of the Azerbaijan Writers Union.


Starting in 1970, Afad Gurbanov received numerous awards and citations of commendation from the nation’s leader, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, the Presidium of the National Academy of Sciences, and the Ministry of Education for his contributions in promoting Azerbaijani science and training highly skilled science and pedagogical professionals.


In 1983, Afad Gurbanov was elected as a correspondent member of the Azerbaijan Academy of Sciences. In 1988, the USSR Academy of Sciences recommended him for candidacy as a full member of the Azerbaijan Academy of Sciences.


From 1983 to 1989, Gurbanov chaired the Republic of Azerbaijan “Bilik” Society’s Public Speaking and Lecturing Skills Commission and was a member of the Presidium of the Council of Rectors of Azerbaijani Institutions of Higher Education. From 1992 to 2009, Gurbanov headed an Azerbaijani language onomatology laboratory.


At the same time, Gurbanov made contributions to establishing private educational facilities in the country during the 1990's. The special commission he headed granted approval for a number of private institutes and universities (including Western University) to open their doors to students, and they are still successfully operating within the educational system today.


Afad Gurbanov was also prolific in the contributions he made outside of Azerbaijan as well. From 1984 to 1989, he was a member of the USSR Academy of Sciences Committee of Soviet Turkologists. He served as chair of the Education Methods Section and was a member of the board of the Turkic Onomastics Section. Later, he served as deputy chairman of this committee.


From 1992 until 2000, the renowned scientist was an academic of the Azerbaijan National Academy of Creative Works, the International Academy of Pedagogical Sciences, The Russian Pedagogy and Social Sciences Academy, and the New York Academy. He was an honorary member of the Turkish Language Society and a full member of the Standing Congress on Turkish Language. He was also elected to honorary or full memberships in the Belgian Onomastics Society, Finland’s Finno-Ugaric Society and other organizations.


In 1987, the great scientist delivered a presentation titled “Scientific Research in Azerbaijani Onomastics” at the Second International Conference on Turkic Studies held at Indiana University in the United States.


Between 1981 and 1987, Gurbanov held a seat as a deputy in the Baku City Soviet. From 1990 to 1995, he served as a representative in the Azerbaijani Parliament.