Rustam Ibragimbekov

Rustam Ibragimbekov

Rustam Ibragimbekov, 29 March 2010
Born Rustam Mammad Ibrahim oglu Ibrahimbeyov
(1939-02-05) February 5, 1939
Baku, Azerbaijan SSR, USSR
Occupation film director, screenwriter and cinematographer

Rustam Mammad Ibrahim oglu Ibrahimbeyov, also spelled Ibragimbekov (Azerbaijani: Rüstəm İbrahimbəyov; Russian: Рустам Ибрагимбеков; born February 5, 1939) is a Soviet, Azerbaijani screenwriter, dramatist and producer, well known beyond his home Azerbaijan and the former Soviet Union. He is the chair of the Cinematographers' Union of Azerbaijan and director of the Ibrus Theatre.


Rustam Ibragimbekov was born in Baku, Azerbaijan SSR, to Mammad Ibrahimbeyov and Fatima Meshadibeyova. His father was a professor of art history who hailed from Shamakhy.[1] Ibragimbekov is the younger brother of Magsud Ibrahimbeyov, an Azerbaijani writer and politician.

Rustam Ibragimbekov graduated from Azerbaijan Oil and Chemistry Institute, then studied script writing and film directing at the Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography in Moscow. His writing credits include more than 40 film and television scripts, numerous plays and pieces of prose, and nearly all of his scripts were eventually made into full feature or TV films. Among his most noteworthy film work is White Sun of the Desert (1970, Белое солнце пустыни), Interrogation (1979, Допрос), Guard Me, My Talisman (1986, Храни меня, мой талисман), Urga (Урга, Территория любви, 1991), Burnt by the Sun (1994, Утомлённые солнцем), The Barber of Siberia (1998, Сибирский цирюльник), East/West (1999), Broken Bridges (2004) and Nomad (2005/2007).

White Sun of the Desert (1969), for which he co-wrote the script with Valentin Yezhov, has become a cult film in former USSR. Russian cosmonauts consider it a good omen to watch before they prepare for a launch.

Since the 1970s, Ibragimbekov collaborated closely as scriptwriter with Nikita Mikhalkov. Urga, Territory of Love, directed by Mikhalkov and released in North America as Close to Eden, won the Golden Lion Award in the Venice Film Festival as well as the Felix Award in Berlin as Best European Film. "Close to Eden" was also nominated for American Film Academy Award (Oscar) in 1995 as Best Foreign Language Film. “Burnt by the Sun” (directed by Nikita Mikhalkov) received an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1994 and Grand Prize of the Jury at 47th Cannes International Film Festival; their film “The Barber of Siberia” was the most expensive European production of 1997. Ibragimbekov was co-screenwriter with Sergei Bodrov of French director Régis Wargnier's Oscar-nominated 1999 movie "East/West". In 2008, Ibragimbekov admitted having effectively stopped working with Mikhalkov due to political disagreements between them.[2]

In 1987 he was a member of the jury at the 15th Moscow International Film Festival.[3]

In addition to being a screenwriter, Rustam Ibragimbekov is a well-known writer. Several collected works were published in Russia, Azerbaijan and abroad. He also wrote over ten theatre plays that were staged in numerous theatres. Rustam Ibragimbekov is also credited with several full feature films which he directed.

In 2001, Ibragimbekov founded Ibrus, a cultural centre in Baku functioning as a theatre where plays are acted in both Azeri and Russian.[4]

Ibragimbekov is currently the Chairman of the Confederation of Filmmakers' Unions (CFU), which represents filmmakers from all of the former Soviet republics, Secretary of the Russian Filmmakers' Union, and member of European Film Academy and Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He splits his time between Baku, Azerbaijan, Moscow, Russia and Los Angeles, California, where he owns a house in Santa Monica.

Public activity and criticism

In the late Soviet epoch, Ibragimbekov was a supporter of the Popular Front of Azerbaijan which called for democratic reforms and Azerbaijan's sovereignty. He signed petitions addressed to Kamran Baghirov and Ayaz Mutallibov in the aftermath of Black January (also known as Black Saturday or the January Massacre, was a violent crackdown in Baku on January 19–20, 1990, pursuant to a state of emergency during the dissolution of the Soviet Union and following pogroms and violence against the Armenian population in Baku.) when Soviet troops entered Baku and shot over 130 participants of a peaceful pro-Popular Front rally, bypassers and medical personnel rushing to provide assistance.[5]

In 2009, Rustam Ibragimbekov became one of the founders of the Intelligentsia Forum, an Azerbaijani public organisation which unites prominent scientists, writers and journalists. The forum unanimously criticised the arrest of Azerbaijani bloggers Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizadeh accused of "hooliganism" and demanded from the government to release opposition journalist Eynulla Fatullayev imprisoned allegedly for defamation, encouraging terrorism and drug possession.[6] Ibragimbekov is reported to have attended opposition rallies held in Baku, Azerbaijan.[7]

Rustam Ibragimbekov repeatedly criticised the 2009 constitutional amendment which lifted the two-term limit for presidency in Azerbaijan, calling it "shameful". At the same time, he admitted seeing no real alternative to the current president, Ilham Aliyev. He openly appealed to Aliyev asking to free the government of incompetent people he referred to as "cheats" who comprise the "core part of the system".[8]

Ibragimbekov's criticism targeted Azerbaijan's Ministry of Culture and Tourism for artificially creating obstacles in order to obliterate the initiative of the Cinematographers' Union of Azerbaijan (chaired by Ibragimbekov) to open and maintain the Higher School of Filmmaking in Baku. He also accused the Head of the Presidential Administration Ramiz Mehdiyev and Head of the Department of the Arts of the said administration Fatma Abdullazadeh of "doing everything possible" to obstruct cultural projects of the Union for the past ten years, namely the annual East/West International Film Festival or screenings of Azerbaijani films in rural parts of the country. According to Ibragimbekov, aspiring filmmakers have no opportunities of studying in Azerbaijan and can only hope to be state-funded to study abroad, if they bribe the appropriate officials.[8]

Due to his public activity, the forum and namely Ibragimbekov became subject to criticism from various government figures and members of the ruling party.[6][9] Ibragimbekov is criticised for opportunism and frequently changing his opinion of the government of Azerbaijan. More specifically, his opponents cite his inability to purchase land near the Martyrs' Lane due to legal issues involving the government and hence resorting to critical statements targeting state policy and government establishments such as SOCAR. Ibragimbekov refuted these claims by stating that SOCAR deliberately incurs in his private property in the Baku suburb of Bayil intending to install oil rigs there without having proper documentation.[8]

In June 2012, an organisation alternative to the Cinematographers' Union of Azerbaijan and named Cinematographers' Union of the Republic of Azerbaijan was established, uniting many members of the former. The executive committee assessed Ibragimbekov's work as a union chair as "unsatisfactory".[10] Ibragimbekov responded by stating that the establishment of the new union was orchestrated by the government due to his political activity and that should the new union with almost the same name and function be officially registered, the political nature of its creation would become obvious. He explained the creative problems experienced by the union he has chaired by the difficulties which the government had caused for its existence. Nevertheless, he expressed hope that the new union would engage in a productive activity.[11] Ibragimbekov believed members of the new union may have been pressured by the government into speaking out against the union he chairs.[12]

In an interview to Azerbaijani media, Polish director Krzysztof Zanussi praised Ibragimbekov for his contribution to both Azerbaijani and world film. However, this particular part of the interview was censored out and not included in the official publication.[13] Around the same time the head of the Presidential Administration of Azerbaijan Ali Hasanov attacked Ibragimbekov in the media, accusing him of fraud committed against businesspeople in Moscow. He also commented on the establishment of a new union saying film making required "skilled people, as opposed to those who cannot do anything." He added that Ibragimbekov should not expect to be thanked by Azerbaijani society for "having directed a couple of movies or so."[14] For these remarks, Hasanov himself came under the attack of Azerbaijani human rights activist. Chair of the Committee for the Protection of Women's Rights Novella Jafarova believes Hasanov must be made legally accountable according to the Azerbaijani law which still considers libel a criminal offence but seems to be applied only against journalists. Chair of the Azerbaijan National Committee of Helsinki Citizens' Assembly Arzu Abdullayeva said Hasanov's words as those coming from the head of a social and political department are illogical. According to her, Ibragimbekov's reputation is impeccable in Azerbaijan, and he would not even react to this attack because he and Hasanov "are in different weight classes."[15]

In July 2012, Russian writer of Azeri descent Eduard Bagirov publicly renounced his membership with the Writers' Union of Azerbaijan and the All-Russia Azeri Congress as a form of protest against political repressions targeting Ibragimbekov in Azerbaijan.[16]

In 2010, after the All-Russian Azeri Congress (at the time, the leading Azeri diaspora organization in Russia) implemented some structural changes, Ibragimbekov, who holds Russian citizenship and had been one of the vice-presidents of the Congress, was demoted from his position. He later explained these changes by a directive coming from Baku. In 2012, Ibragimbekov declared the Congress a non-functioning entity and co-established the Union of Azeri Organizations of Russia together with high-ranking Russian businessmen of Azeri origin: Aras Agalarov (father of Ilham Aliyev's son-in-law Emin Agalarov), Vagit Alekperov, Telman Ismailov, Isgandar Khalilov, Abbas Abbasov, Soyun Sadikhov, and Ramazan Abdulatipov (originally Dagestani).[17] This led to a new wave of criticism of Ibragimbekov on the part of state-sponsored media and accusations of him "being sympathetic to Armenians", "embezzling public funds"[18] and "having exhausted his talent as a director".[19] In addition, he was accused of pandering to Russia's interests in the region by fellow diaspora activists.[20] Ibragimbekov claims the Union was formed due to the inactivity of other diaspora organizations and has no political agenda.[21]

In December 2012, Ibrahimbeyov was held up at the Heydar Aliyev International Airport in Baku, reportedly due to the fact that the computer system had failed to identify him. In January 2013, he was held up again and told that he had been forbidden to access his flight from the airport's VIP zone. In the common zone, where Ibrahimbeyov then proceeded, the computer system was again said to have been irresponsive. According to Eldar Namazov, who witnessed the scene, Ibrahimbeyov was only let through after a "notification" was received from the authorities.[22]

On 3 June 2013, Ibrahimbeyov filed a lawsuit against Ali Hasanov, Head of the Department of Social Political Issues of the Presidential Administration of Azerbaijan, for libel. According to Ibrahimbeyov's lawyer, the court refused to take lawsuit for various reasons and the courts of appeal upheld those decisions. Finally, the process was started following the decision of the Supreme Court of Azerbaijan. As of 21 June, the court had adjourned the hearing three times due to the defendant's failure to show up.[23]

Personal life

Rustam Ibragimbekov is the father of director Fuad Ibrahimbeyov by his first marriage to Shohrat Ibrahimbeyova. A year later the couple divorced and Ibragimbekov married actress Lyudmila Dukhovnaya by whom he has a daughter named Fatima.[24]

Honours and awards

Renouncing the Order of Arts and Letters

Ibrahimbeyov was awarded the title of Commander of the French Order of Arts and Letters in 2000. He renounced this award in 2012 as a sign of protest against a French law criminalizing the refusal of qualifying the 1915 events as "the Armenian genocide." In an open letter, he stated: "For opportunistic purposes and electoral gains, which are so highly insignificant compared to the democratic image of the country, there has been passed a law preventing the people of France from exercising their basic civil right of self-expression." Ibrahimbeyov also quit the position of President of the Azerbaijan—France Cultural Ties Society.[26]


  1. ВИКТОР МАТИЗЕН (26 May 2005). Рустам Ибрагимбеков: "Три дня я европеец, три дня – азиат" (in Russian). Газета «Новые Известия».
  2. A Country with No National Elite Has No Future. Pravda. 30 October 2010.
  3. "15th Moscow International Film Festival (1987)". MIFF. Retrieved 2013-02-18.
  4. Rustam Ibragimbekov to Open New Stage in Moscow. Trend. 12 November 2010.
  5. Rustam Ibragimbekov: The Government is Corrupt by the Silence of the People. Radio Liberty Azerbaijan. 21 April 2012.
  6. 1 2 Rashad Rustamov. "Unethical to Praise Govt First, Then to Criticise It". Interview with MP Gular Ahmadova. Zerkalo. 25 May 2012.
  7. Alexander Kasatkin. Govt Agreed to Let Rally Be Held. Radio Liberty Azerbaijan. 8 April 2012.
  8. 1 2 3 Rustam Ibragimbekov Addressed to Ilham Aliyev. Azadliq. 8 January 2012.
  9. Rashad Rustamov. Mercinary Spirit and Intelligentsia. Zerkalo. 8 February 2012.
  10. Cinematographers' Union of the Republic of Azerbaijan Established. APA. 21 June 2012.
  11. Nijat Samadoglu. "O Friends, How Great Our Union Is!". Zerkalo. 22 June 2012.
  12. Rustam Ibragimbekov: 'This is a Useless Step'. Radio Liberty. 23 June 2012.
  13. Chingiz Sultansoy. Zanussi on Freedom of Speech and Rustam Ibragimbekov. Radio Liberty. 20 July 2012.
  14. Ali Hasanov: 'It Is Ibragimbekov Who Is Unfortunate'. Radio Liberty. 21 July 2012.
  15. Human Rights Activists: 'Ali Hasanov Must Be Held Liable'. 23 July 2012.
  16. Eduard Bagirov. Farewell, My Azerbaijan!. Azerros. 30 July 2012. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
  17. Irina Cherkasova. Georgian Experienced Scared Baku. Birzhevoy Lider. 14 November 2012.
  18. Yeni Azerbaijan Newspaper Condemned Ibragimbekov. 16 November 2012.
  19. Rustam Ibragimbekov Proved Failure. Kaspi. 16 November 2012.
  20. Samira Patzer-Ismayilova. On Whose Side Are You, Rustam Ibragimbekov?. 16 November 2012.
  21. Rustam Ibragimbekov: Billionairas Cannot Be Controlled from Baku. Radio Liberty. 12 November 2012.
  22. Rustam Ibrahimbeyov Held Up at Airport Again. 21 January 2013.
  23. Rauf Orujov. Ali Hasanov Evading Court Process. Zerkalo. 21 June 2013.
  24. Валерий Кичин (24 January 2007). Старый князь и новые проблемы (in Russian). "Российская газета". Я азербайджанец, я люблю свой народ, но большую часть жизни прожил в России.
  25. Respublika kino sənəti işçilərinə Azərbaycan SSR fəxri adlarının verilməsi haqqında Azərbaycan SSR Ali Soveti Rəyasət Heyətinin 23 dekabr 1976-cı il tarixli Fərmanı
  26. Rustam Ibrahimbeyov Renounced Order of Arts and Letters. Zerkalo. 26 January 2012.
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