[RARE ISSUE OF "THE RUSSIAN ORIENT"] Chark'i Rus = Sark-i Rus. 12 Cemâziyelevvel 1321 = 25 Eylül 1903, No: 48
MEHEMMEDAGHA SHAHTAHTLI, (1846-1931), Tipographia E. I. Kheladze, Tiflis (Tbilisi), 1903.
Original newspaper. Folio. (49 x 33 cm). In Ottoman script (Old Turkish with Arabic letters) and imprint details in bilingual in Russian and Turkish. 4 p. Slight tears and foxing on thin paper. Otherwise a good copy.
An early issue of this extremely rare newspaper published in Tbilisi by Mehemmedaga Sahtahtli between 1903 and 1905 as 392 issues in total, published for all Turks and Islamic groups in Russia, which had a significant position in the modernization history of Azerbaijani and Russian Turks and the political and social changes at the end of the 19th and the early 20th centuries for Islamic minorities in Russia.
The articles were included in this issue as follows:
Tiflis-Musahabe by Mehemmed Bey Kasimbekov, pp. 1-2 (about the Girls' Schools in the Caucasus.; Türkistan’a Seyahat by Tacir Arif, pp. 2-3 [Voyage into Turkestan], Öz Muhbirlerimizden-Uralsk'dan-Men Garra' Gurra'-Tercüman ve Muharriri, pp. 3 [an article criticizing "Sark-i Rus"' publishing policy]; Kirim, Öz Muhbirlerimizden-Kirim'dan-Akmescid’de Darü'l-Muallimîn, pp. 3-4 [about the school for teachers, which was opened in Akmescit (Simferopol) in 1870 and provides education in Russian, the number of students and the education program and the inadequacy of the Muslim education of the same school]; Öz Muhbirlerimizden-Bakû'dan, pp. 4 [about the Muslims of Baku losing their influence from the commercial life of the city]; etc.
The first Turkish newspapers titled "Ziya", "Ziya-yi Kafkasiye" and "Keshkul" published in Tbilisi in the 19th century were closed by the Russian authorities. The newspaper "Sark-i Rus", published in 1891, long after the closure of Keşkul, became the first Turkish newspaper published in the Caucasus at the beginning of the 20th century.
Mehemmedaga Sahtahtli, or Mammad agha Shahtakhtinski (1846-1931), was an Azerbaijani linguist and public figure. In 1902, Shahtakhtinski returned to the Caucasus and settled in Tiflis. Here in March 1903, he founded the Azeri-language newspaper Sharg-i Rus ("The Russian Orient") dedicated to the academic enlightenment of the Muslims of the Caucasus. His articles propagated the necessity of Europeanisation, which he saw as the only possible way to a stable and developed future. He sharply criticized Islamic fanaticism, which in his opinion was a major obstacle in the development of Azeri culture and was incompatible with the idea of progress. He also dismissed Pan-Turkism, a popular theory among Turkic-speaking scholars and political activists of the time, and propagated the use of folk Azeri as a literary language, as opposed to the common practice of using Ottoman Turkish. He was among the peacemakers during the bloody Armenian-Tatar massacres of 1905-1907. In 1907, he was elected to the State Duma of the Russian Empire (second convocation). After the dissolution of the duma, he worked for the Petersburg-based newspaper "Russia", then edited by Pyotr Stolypin. Between 1908 and 1918, Shahtakhtinski lived in various parts of the Middle East, including Anatolia, Iraq, and Persia, meanwhile writing articles for "Turkestan Times" (Russian: Turkestanskie Vedomosti). During this time abroad, he worked at the Russian embassy in the Ottoman Empire as a translator between 1909 and 1912. In 1919, he returned to then-independent Azerbaijan to give lectures at the newly established Azerbaijan State University.
Shahtakhtinski was among the numerous scholars who had followed Mirza Fatali Akhundov in proposing an alphabet reform for Azeri, suggesting reform of the existing Perso-Arabic script. The unsuitability of the Arabic alphabet to Turkic languages, in general, was in his opinion a major obstacle to the spread of literacy among Azeris. Between 1879 and 1903, Shahtakhtinski designed several model alphabets for Azeri, some of them Roman-based, however, none of them was implemented in practice. He attended the Congress of the Peoples of the East, acting as an interpreter for Turkish, French, German, Persian, and Arabic in 1920. In 1923, Shahtakhtinski a member of a special four-member committee developed a new Roman-script alphabet for Azeri, apparently based on one of Shahtakhtinski's earlier models. He defended this reform in First Turkology Congress in Baku (1926). Shahtakhtinski died in 1931. His goal, the new alphabet, was put into official use on par with the Perso-Arabic alphabet, which it completely replaced in 1928, and was used until 1939 when it itself was replaced by Cyrillic.