“It Is Possible to Encounter Surprise Relations in Every Interview, Memoir, and Archive Document” – Interview With Elmin Aliyev

We regularly introduce scholars that work in the project by letting them answer three short questions. Today, we talk to Elmin Aliyev who holds degrees in Islamic Philosophy from Marmara University (MA) and Baku State University (BA). In his dissertation, Aliyev analyzes the dynamics of 13th century Islamic moral and political thought through the works of Siradj al-Din al-Urmawi. Besides his research on Islamic philosophy, logics and physiognomy tradition, Aliyev also conducts research on the modernization process in Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Iran during the 20th century. Within the framework of this project, Alivey analyses the knowledge relations between Iran and Turkey with special focus on the former USSR and GDR. His research draws on history, philosophy and political activism, combining archival research in Ankara, Baku and Moscow with interviews with former students in the Eastern Bloc.   

What will you be working on while being involved with the “Knowledge Unbound” project and what did you work on before?

Before joining the team of “Knowledge Unbound”, I was working on my Ph.D. dissertation on the dynamics of the medieval Islamic moral and political thought. At the same time, I was pursuing research on the modernization process in Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Iran during the 20th century. In the framework of the “Knowledge Unbound” project, my research is dedicated to Turkish and Iranian students who studied in the Eastern Bloc in the fields of social sciences and humanities. Due to the investigation of the knowledge relations between them and Soviet comrades, I am focused on the biographies of former students, the main trajectories of their education, and  their academic and socio-political activities.

What role does the concept of “knowledge” play in your own research?

I can say that the transmission of knowledge has an important place in all my research. In my Ph.D. thesis and other research, I have tried to examine this element in the context of practical philosophy (moral-political thought) based on written sources. But in the scope of the “Relations in the Ideoscape” project, I have realized that oral history has as high a priority as written history.

I am focused on determining and analyzing the characteristic features and mechanisms of knowledge transfer. In the context of Iranian students in Soviet Azerbaijan, it is possible to talk about a bidirectional transfer of academic knowledge. Soviet education had seriously shaped the academic research of these students. On the other hand, their academic attitudes had affected Soviet oriental studies to a certain extent too. As a matter of fact, the academic works of Iranian students played an important role in the development of the official Soviet discourse, at least regarding the history and literature of Azerbaijan. However, in the context of Turkish students, it is more appropriate to talk about unidirectional knowledge transfer. The main character of their activities was the popularisation of knowledge through journalism/broadcasting and literature.

Have there been any surprising moments in your research recently?

Indeed, there are surprising moments all the time, especially in the context of Turkish students. While conducting interviews with former Turkish students in the Eastern Bloc, it surprised me to learn about their sense of insecurity which was caused by the socio-political environment of the Cold War years. Since the Communist Party of Turkey was illegal during those years, its members had functioned secretly under pseudonyms. For this reason, it is possible to encounter surprise information and relations in every interview, memoir, and archive document.


Max Weber Stiftung

The Max Weber Foundation promotes global research, focused on the areas of social sciences, cultural studies and the humanities. Our research is conducted at ten institutes in various countries across the globe with different and independent fields of focus. Through our globally operating institutes, we are able to contribute to the communication and networking between Germany and our host countries or regions. By promoting academic dialogue and merging academic and non-academic employees from several countries with different cultural backgrounds, the Max Weber Foundation is able to strengthen the internationalization of research.

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