Ziya Musa ogly Buniyatov was born on December 21, 1923 in town Astara, in the family of a war interpreter, who had served for a regiment of Cossack chieftain Lyakhov-led division long before the October Revolution began.
His father, Musa Movsum ogly Buniyatov, descended from a famous, respectable family of Bibi-Heybat erudite sheiks, knew several languages. Thanks to his father, Ziya knew the Arab language since childhood.
According to documents, which formed the basis of the genealogy, the Buniyatov family descended from the name of the 13th ancestor-Bunyad. The full name of Ziya is read as follows: Sheik Diya ad-Din bin Sheik Musa bin Sheik Ma’sum bin Sheik Mahdi bin Sheik Mirza bin Sheik Ismayil bin Sheik Ali Muhammad, bin Sheik Muhammad Amin bin Sheik Ali Asgar bin Sheik Muhammad Mughim, bin Sheik Askar Ali bin Sheik Ghulam Ali bin Sheik Bunyad al-Bakuvi.
His mother, Raisa Maksimovna Gusakova, was a native of Lenkoran, descended from a family of Russian old settlers in Azerbaijan, was fluent in Azerbaijani and thus her children spoke both languages equally freely. There were six children in the family: three sons Ziya, Tofik, and Aidyn, and three daughters Aziza, Adylya, and Elsa who were brought up in a very strict atmosphere.
Owing to his service, the father was moved to Geokchay where Ziya spent his school years. Having graduated from a secondary school at the age of 16, Ziya left for Baku to enter a flying school. But after having failed to undergo medical test, he added two years to his age and entered the Baku-based S. Orjonikidze Infantry School that he graduated from with honors in May 1941 in the rank of lieutenant. He was immediately sent to a place of his service in Bessarabia - small town-pier Bendery on River Dnestr - where he entered the first battle in his life an hour after the war began.
Except for a period he spent in military hospitals (as a result of two injuries and contusion), Ziya Buniyatov stayed at the frontline till the end of the Great Patriotic War. He took an active part in battles for Ukraine, Moldavia, fights for Mozdok and Tuapse, Byelorussia and Poland. He broke out of encirclement carrying the regiment’s banner, something that preserved the regiment’s war honor. He also partook in battles in the Northern Caucasus where he led a company of 120 men, including 50 Volga sailors from Saratov. Ziya Buniyatov accomplished lots of fearless feats during the years of the war. In standing for that he was right, he quarreled with a commander and thus was sent to a company of military offenders where he spent around a year.
The young lieutenant managed to win the respect of offenders, who were older than he and had a richer experience of life. With this circumstance in mind, the commandment proposed to him, already as commander of an infantry battalion, to lead the company of military offenders, an offer Ziya Buniyatov approved immediately. The offenders were sent to riskiest, most complicated parts of the frontline.
Particularly, in the course of the Visla-Oder operation, the 123rd company of offenders led by captain Z. Buniyatov seized an 80-meter mine-strewn bridge across River Pilitsa and kept it for several hours before the main troops approached the place. Of 670 men, only 47 survivors remained by this time...
From prize paper: Captain Z. M. Buniyatov-led Army 123rd separate company, while partaking in breaking the enemy’s defense at the Mangushev place of arms on January 14-16, 1945, passed the southern outskirts of village Dombruvki and the railway thanks to a strict commandment; on January 14, the company was the first to force a crossing at River Pilitsa and kept the taken positions at the River’s Left Bank until the main infantry troopers of the 80th guards division arrived in the place.
The company killed 160 soldiers and officers of the enemy, took 45 soldiers prisoners, and seized 5 six-barrel mortars, 3 weapons and lots of machine-guns, rifles, ammunition, foods, and other trophies.
Company’s commander, captain Z. M. Buniyatov deserved being assigned the rank of the Hero of the Soviet Union. Z. M. Buniyatov was assigned the rank of the Hero of the Soviet Union on February 27, 1945.
For the years he spent at the frontlines of the Great Patriotic War, he more than once displayed courage, fortitude, tenacity and resourcefulness, as testified by the orders and medals he was awarded with: the Star of the Hero of the Soviet Union, the Order of Lenin, the Order of Battle Red Banner, the Order of the Patriotic War of the first degree, the Order of Red Star, the Order of Bogdan Khmelnitskiy of the third degree, the Order of the October Revolution, the Order of Alexander Nevsky, the Medal for Courage, the Medal for the Defense of the Caucasus, the Medal for the Capture of Berlin, the Medal for Victory over Germany, the Medal for the Defense of Stalingrad, the Medal Waffenbrudersaft, the Arthur Bekker Medal, the USSR VDNH Silver Medal (for the successes in science development), and the jubilee Medals for the 20th, 30th, 40th and 50th respectively anniversaries of the victory in the 1941-1945 Great Patriotic War, etc.
After the war, Z. Buniyatov in May 1945-May 1946 worked as aide to the commandant of Berlin’s most prestigious district-Pankow. He was awarded with the Arthur Bekker and Waffenbrudersaft Golden Medals for his active participation in the rehabilitation and normalization of Berlin’s economic and cultural life. Thirty years after the war was over, Z. M. Buniyatov was awarded with the rank of Honorary citizen of the Berlin-Pankow district. Z. Buniyatov could make an excellent war career; however, he “was tired of war” so he, as a man who was fluent in the Arab language since childhood, decided to enter the N. Narimanov Institute of Oriental Studies in Moscow- a decision that predetermined his further fate.
He graduated from the Institute in 1950 and became a post-graduate. At the same time, Z. Buniyatov worked for the Azerbaijan’s Permanent Representation in Moscow, where he dealt with Azerbaijani students who studied in Moscow. He cared about their affairs, settled their problems, let them receive allowances; in one word, did his best to help them. In May 1954, Z. Buniyatov defended a candidate’s thesis titled “Italian Imperialism in Africa” and in August of the same year left for his native Baku where he started working as a senior research officer of the Institute of History of the Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan. In 1958-1959, Z. Buniyatov worked as a teacher at the Faculty of Oriental Studies of the State University of Azerbaijan. He was a strict but fair teacher: he gave marks for knowledge only. He was more interested in scientific activity so in 1964 he joined the Institute of Nations of the Near East and Middle East as head of the Department of medieval history of the East, and in April 1981-January 1986 led the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan as director. Z. Buniyatov was engaged in studying the history of countries of the Near East and Middle East in the epoch of feudalism, and published commented translations and works of medieval authors concerning the history, science and culture of nations of the Near East and Middle East. His scientific articles have been demanded by scientists up to now. He was not indifferent to everything that happened in his country’s life: he spoke to common workers, shared his memories, was in written correspondence with orphanage children, and brought up the youth in the war-patriotic spirit. His scientific and public activity was always designed to benefit the homeland. On March 5, 1964, he defended the doctor of historical sciences’ thesis “Azerbaijan in the 7th-8th centuries”, and issued a monograph in 1965. The book was positively responded by key scholars of the country and abroad states. As a matter of fact, this was the first study of history of the Arab Caliphate-era Azerbaijan in the Soviet historiography. This work is based upon ancient Armenia, Georgia, Persian and Turkish sources as well as little-known monuments and works of medieval authors. “As a result, there was created a monumental work containing the fair description of events that happened in Azerbaijan’s socioeconomic and political life prior to, during and after the Arab invasion.” (N. Velikhanly). The book came as a bombshell: enthusiastic reviews got mixed with negative articles by “Armenian scientists” but luckily, “it is no possible to deface what cannot be defaced by either abusing or reviling.” In 1965, the Higher Attestation Commission under the Ministry of Higher and Specialized Secondary Education of the USSR assigned the rank of professor to Z. Buniyatov. In 1967, he was elected a corresponding member of the Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan, and in 1970-appointed as chief editor of the “Izvestiya (News) of the Academy of Sciences of the Azerbaijan SSR. Series of Public Sciences.” An astonishingly workable man, he, apart from his scientific activity, was involved in work with candidates for a degree, whom he helped with advice, shared his opinion, and led them to defend theses. Among his graduates there also were those from abroad, who were thankful to Z. Buniyatov for his father’s attitude to them. Eight candidate’s degrees and three doctor’s degrees were defended under his scientific guidance by 1970. With his exceptional memory, he always remembered about his subordinates even when he was on a mission to another place. If Z. Buniyatov found an interesting book, an article or a source, he knew whom he had to gift it. In 1973, there was published a translation from Arabic of “Biography of Sultan Jalal ad-Din Mankburny” by Shihab ad-Din Muhammad an-Nasavi. This fundamental work was published for the second time in 1996 in series titled “Monuments of Script of the Orient”, CVII. The edition appeared due to the financial support of open joint-stock company “Oil Company LUKoil.” Z. Buniyatov was elected an academician of the Academy of Sciences of the Azerbaijan SSR in 1976 and a member of the chief editorial staff of the Azerbaijani Soviet Encyclopedia in 1980. He wrote numerous articles concerning the history of Azerbaijan for the Encyclopedia. As a continuation of study of sources, Z. Buniyatov started working over a book titled “The State of the Atabeks of Azerbaijan. 1136-1225.” This monograph, issued in 1978, received a lot of enthusiastic reviews. This work was highly appraised by the scientific community, and in 1980 Buniyatov was awarded with the State Prize in the field of science and technology of the Azerbaijan SSR. In 1982, Z. Buniyatov was assigned the rank of “Honorary Figure of Science of the Azerbaijan SSR.” Starting from 1966, Z. Buniyatov had been a permanent participant of congresses of the Ankara-based Turkish Historical Society. For his great merits in the study of the history of Turkic nations, Z. Buniyatov was elected a corresponding member of the Turkish Historical Society (TURK TARIH KURUMU) later the same year and an Honorary Member of the Society in 1988. Ziya Buniyatov was a participant of many International congresses: a Congress of historians in Baghdad, the XXXI Congress of orientalists in Tokyo, an Egypt conference devoted to the 500th anniversary of birth of Jalal ad-Din Abd ar-Rahman as-Suyuti; besides, he thrice visited the Islamic Republic of Iran, and also toured the Great Britain, Germany, Israel, Leningrad (St-Petersburg), Moscow, and Japan. He was known as the true scientist; his opinion was taken into consideration and valued. The field of activity of Z. Buniyatov was immeasurable: he was also an active member of the republic’s DOSAAF: for his war-patriotic work amongst the youth while on tours across the Soviet Union, he was awarded with the Honorary Sign of the USSR DOSAAF in 1976. In 1986, Z. Buniyatov completed another fundamental work, “The State of Khorezmshahs-Anushteginids. 1097-1231.” The book was published by Moscow-based publishing house “Science.” “In publishing “The Biography...” Z. M. Buniyatov showed himself as a patriot of Khorezm and Uzbekistan and, having issued “The State of Khorezmshahs-Anushteginids”, left the Uzbeks eternally indebted to him” (A. Akhmedov). The book was translated into Uzbek. A two-volume collection of his works including Z. Buniyatov’s articles about the history of Uzbekistan was published in Uzbekistan. In May 1988, Z. Buniyatov was included in the composition of a Committee responsible for the rescue of the Aral Sea. On September 24 of the same year, in connection with the celebrations on the occasion of the 340th anniversary of town Urgench (Khorezm), for his merits in the field of study of Khorezm’s literature and history as well as for his great contribution to the solution of the Aral ecology problems, he was assigned the rank of the first “Honorary citizen of town Urgench” and received an appropriate document. In September 1987, Z. Buniyatov was elected a candidate corresponding member of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR on the specialty “Universal History.” From May 1988 to 1990 he led the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Academy of Sciences of the Azerbaijan SSR as director, and in June 1990 became a Vice-President of the Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan. In 1991, jointly with V. Mammedaliyev, he completed translation of Koran into Azerbaijani. For this laborious, responsible work, he was awarded with the G. Z. Tagiyev Prize. In October 1992, he was reelected director of the Institute of Oriental Studies by general vote. In 1991, Z. Buniyatov prepared him-commented edition “Gulistan-Iran” for press, and thus is awarded with the A. A. Bakikhanov Prize in 1993. In the complicated period for his republic, he actively backed his nation, spoke in front of multi-thousand audiences, and published articles in an effort to stop the avalanche of lie and terror. In 1992, Z. Buniyatov was elected deputy Chairman of the Yeni Azerbaijan Party. He was assigned the rank of “Honorary Citizen of Astara” in 1993 and “Honorary Citizen of Geokchay” in 1994. Z. M. Buniyatov was elected MP of the Parliament of Azerbaijan in 1995 and a member of the Parliament’s Permanent Commission for international relations and inter-parliamentary ties later the same year. On February 21, 1997, Ziya Buniyatov was murdered at the entrance of his apartment block. Not only science but also the world became deserted without him. Since then, 16 years have passed, but our souls and hearts remain filled with pain and grief. Ziya Buniyatov devoted all his life to not only science but also the next generation. Under his guidance, more than 27 persons defended their theses for the candidate of history and more than 8-for the doctor of history. A man of an unusual erudition, he was simple in communicating people of any level. Till his last days, he remained a warrior, a fearless fighter who it was no possible to break or scare. Devoted to his credo, he never feared hardships, but coped with them with a rare dignity. Often, he acted as One against many and won unequal battles at either a battlefield or scientific field. A man is alive until his name is pronounced: invisibly, he, nevertheless, is among us. We still ask him questions, and his still answers them.
We do not recall, we remember you, ZIYA MUSA OGLY BUNIYATOV.