Afad Qurbanov and his Garagurbanli Heritage

There are times when life produces the kind of brilliant man or woman that even the most eloquent among us have difficulty and hesitate in our choice of words to describe them. And speaking about such exceptional individuals becomes a great responsibility. It takes great responsibility and heartfelt sincerity to speak about things that go beyond mere words -- about the deeds and dreams of such brilliant and wise men, and about their persona. It is even very difficult to speak of such individuals without coming to love and admire them. Academician Afad Gurbanov was one such individual -- a fine man and renown scientist who became the commander-in-chief of a great army of linguists.


Afad Mahammad oglu Gurbanov descended from a lineage that is so influential and firmly rooted that, in order to do justice in writing about him, we must delve into the distant past and begin with his family tree. Gurbanov’s family heritage stems from the great Garagurbanli (Gararvanli) tribe, a group with an ancient history and which was distributed across wide stretches of territory. The name of this tribe was historically pronounced “Gararvanli and many of its members lived in ancient Western Azerbaijan, Genje, Ghazakh, Tbilisi, the Borchali Lowlands and Borchali Highlands, as well as within Turkey. Onomastic traces remain in many places where this tribe tread, along with stone inscriptions in the historic record. Names such as “Gararvanli yataqlari” in Yagilja in Borchali’s Sarvan region, and “Gararvanli khirmanlari” in the Bashkechid region have survived to this day.


The Garagurbanli tribe stood head and shoulders among others when it came to enlightenment and culture. Highly interested in their children’s learning, they encouraged many of them to receive in-depth education. Afad Gurbanov’s grandfather Ali was especially distinguished in this regard.


Ali was the most respected and highly regarded man in his district. A deep thinker with the finest human qualities, he was a man who had a very worldly outlook for his time. Courage, philanthropy, and kindness were among his most important and most obvious qualities. He regularly extended a helping hand to the poor and under-privileged and he was known as a great philanthropist of his time. Ali was attentive to the education of his four children and, in particular, had both of his sons Ahmad and Mahammad study the Russian language.


Afad Gurbanov’s father Mahammad was very involved in promoting science, education and culture. He was the district’s first high-ranking military officer. After acquiring superior military knowledge and skills in Czarist Russia, he served with such men as General Aliaga Shikhlinski and General Samed bey Mehmandarov. During the era of the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan, the Turkish government invited Mahammad Gurbanov to train with Turkish army units. The horse saddle and other military items he used during his military training are now in the artifact collection at the Kars Museum. Mahammad Gurbanov received a great variety of gifts for his service both in Azerbaijan and in Turkey. The most valuable of these gifts was the saber with an inscription on the hilt and a gold sheath given to him by General Mehmandarov. Afad Qurbanov later wrote this about the saber that had been given to his father: “The saber that General Samed bey Mehmandarov had given him was hung on the wall in our home. While performing a search of our home, agents from what was then Armenia’s State Security Committee (KGB) broke it into pieces but took the scabbard, which was made of gold, with them.”


Although Mahammad Gurbanov was a military man, he had great appreciation and love for science and culture. The reading room that he created in his home from books on military matters and various fields of science, and the works of the literary greats of Azerbaijan, Russia and Europe, as well as encyclopedias and language dictionaries, in a way, became the library for the teachers of the Qizil Shafaq secondary school. Mahammad Gurbanov also played a great role in enhancing the standard of living of people in rural areas. He made contributions to laborers by bringing agricultural tools, vehicles and other resources into rural areas from developed countries.


Mahammad Gurbanov married Aishabali Sharifova, who descended from the famous Sharifli line of Georgia. They had three sons and three daughters: Salimkhan, Javadkhan, Alifuad, Mushkunaz, Gheysar and Tamara.