My parents names were complicated..


Solmaz Gusseynova

Soviet Union

Both Solmaz’s parents came from Azerbaijan. Her father left the Republic at the age of 18 to study in the Polytechnic Institute of Leningrad and always wanted to go back. But his life took a different turn, and the family had to adapt to life in the Soviet Union: learning the Russian language (with the help of little Solmaz) and way of life, going to Azerbaijan for holidays. Perestroika period was a dramatic event for Solmaz and her parents, who took many of the national conflicts in Soviet republics struggling for independence very personally.


Soviet Union, Leningrad
30.3; 60.0
Postcard frontside, author: Solmaz Gusseynova
Wedding Card
A Wedding card that Solmaz's family kept since 1977.
Postcard backside, author: Solmaz Gusseynova
Komosol Stamp
Komosol (Communist Youth) Stamp issued in 1966.
Postcard Text
My dear Nastenka and Misha! All the best for your wedding! We wish you a lot of happiness. M. and Mrs Guseinov. June 24th, 1993

personal archives

Life in Leningrad

Solmaz and her mother in residential suburb district of Leningrad in late 1970s.

country: Soviet Union / year:

Solmaz and her mother in a residential suburb district of Leningrad, in the late 1970s. Both of Solmaz's parents came from Azerbaijan. At the time, the best students from each Republic were assigned to the best universities in the country so that every Soviet republic would have its own specialists. Solmaz's father was sent to the Polytechnic University in Leningrad, because Azerbaijan needed energy specialists. His wife joined him somewhat later.

Azerbaijan Holidays

With her uncle and some inhabitants of a village in Azerbaijan.

country: Soviet Union / year:

With her uncle and inhabitans in a village in Azerbaijan. With two parents who worked, Solmaz and her brother were sent to the nursery at a very young age. The condition of the nursery was quite bad and Solmaz got pneumonia several times. Her parents decided to send her South, to their family in Azerbaijan, for the summer holidays. There she had to cope with a more tradition attitude towards girls: "Many things were allowed to boys. They had much more freedom. Me, I couldn't go hunting..."

A Communist Azeri Family

Solmaz’s mother in Leningrad.

country: Soviet Union / year:

Solmaz’s mother in Leningrad. Like her father, Solmaz’s mother was also an engineer. She came from an Azeri Communist family from Erevan. Her father (Solmaz’s grandfather) was rescued by the Red Army during a massacre. After that he became a great supporter of the Soviet cause. He was a Chekist (member of the Cheka, the first Soviet State Security organisation) and an admirer of Stalin. Solmaz remembers how he kept recordings of all of Stalin’s speeches in a red velvet box.

A chance to study

Solmaz’s father and mother, just married.

country: Soviet Union / year:

Solmaz’s newlywed father and mother. Solmaz’s parents met in Baku where Ghassan, her father, studied before entering the Polytechnic in Leningrad. They both had the chance to attend University. In families with many children, only the youngest had this opportunity, as generally, the eldest had to start working to help support the family.

“I was called Natasha”

Solmaz with her class mates - around 8 years old.

country: Soviet Union / year:

Solmaz with her classmates - around 8 years old. Going to school in Russia was not always easy for a young girl from a foreign family. People had a hard time understanding her parents’ names. Solmaz herself had a Russian name when she was in school: Natasha. Years before, her grandfather changed the family name from Dervishli to Dervichevy, following the Russian pronunciation, as he hadn’t want his children to be discriminated against, as he had been, because of his Muslim name.