Musa Cälil (; Arabic: موسا ﺟﮫليل; Jaŋalif: Musa Çəlil; Cyrillic: Муса Җәлил; full name: Musa Mostafa ulı Cälilev, Cyrillic: Муса Мостафа улы Җәлилев; Russian: Муса Джалиль, Муса Мустафович Залялов, Musa Dzhalil, Musa Mustafovich Zalyalov, also anglicized as Mussa Jalil ; February 15, 1906 – August 25, 1944) was a Soviet Tatar poet and resistance fighter. He is the only poet of the Soviet Union who was simultaneously awarded two of the highest government decorations: Hero of the Soviet Union for personal courage and meritorious performance of duty, and the Lenin Prize for his cycle The Moabit Notebooks (both awarded posthumously).
In 1925-26 Cälil became an instructor of Orsk uyezd Komsomol cell, where he visited Tatar and Kazakh auls, agitating for Komsomol there. In 1926 he became the member of Orenburg governorate Komsomol committee. In 1927 Musa moved to Moscow, where he combine his study in the Moscow State University and job in Tatar-Bashkir section of the Central Committee of Komsomol. In 1929 Cälil joined Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The same year his second collection, İptäşkä (i.e. To the Comrade; Jaŋalif: Iptəşkə) was published. There were verses, full of optimism and admiration with the future trends. Living in Moscow, Cälil met Russian poets Zharov, Bezymensky, Svetlov, attend Vladimir Mayakovsky's performances. He entered Moscow Association of Proletarian Writers (МАПП - MAPP), and became its third secretary and a leader of its Tatar section. Now his hero is a village fellow, striving to the new life, admiring with the "voice of machines". Cälil tried to find "new poetic language", full or "proletarian colours". However, in the end of 1920s lyricism appeared in Cälil's poetry.
In 1931 Cälil graduated Literature Faculty of Moscow University. Until 1932 he was a chief editor of Keckenə iptəşlər, later renamed to Oktəbr Balasь (Little Octobrist), the Tatar magazine for children. Then he headed the section of literature and art in the central Tatar newspaper Kommunist. In 1934 Musa Cälil published two collections. The first of them, The Millions, Decorated with Orders was devoted mostly to youth and Komsomol, whereas in the second, Verses and Poems, the best of his writing were collected. The mainstream lyric was full of optimism and spirits. However, many of his lyrical poems weren't published, as being in dissonance with Stalinism. Musa Cälil lived in the various places of the USSR, combining several jobs.
In 1935, the first Russian translations of his poems were published. His verses, set to music, became popular Tatar songs. In 1930s Cälil also translated to the Tatar language writngs of poets of the USSR peoples, such as Shota Rustaveli, Taras Shevchenko, Pushkin, Nekrasov, Mayakovsky and Lebedev-Kumach. In the late 1930s he tended to write epic poems, such as The Director and the Sun (1935), Cihan (1935-1938), The Postman (1938). A a playwright of Tatar State Opera he wrote four librettos for Tatar operas, and the most prominent of them is Altınçäç (Golden Hair Maiden) of Näcip Cihanov. In 1939-1940, he became the chairman of the Tatar ASSR Union of Writers. To this day Musa Cälil is regarded as one of the most significant authors in the Tatar language.
After Nazi Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, Cälil volunteered to the Red Army. Briefly graduating political officer courses, he arrived to the Volkhov Front and became war correspondent in Otvaga newspaper. Cälil also wrote verse, patriotic but later turns to the front lyricism, i.e. about feelings of war people.
In June 1942, Cälil's unit was encircled, when they tried to run a blockade he was seriously wounded, shell-shocked and captured. After months in concentration camps for Soviet prisoners-of-war, including Stalag-340 in Latvia and Spandau, Cälil was transferred to Dęblin, a fortified stronghold in Poland. There Musa met his fellow countrymen, for the Nazis were assembling prisoners of Idel-Ural and Eastern nationalities in the camp. He sought out people he could trust in and together they subsequently formed a resistance group.
In late 1942, the Nazis started forming what they called national legions. Among others, the Idel-Ural legion was formed in Jedlina, Poland, of prisoners-of-war belonging to the nations of the Volga basin. Since the majority were Volga Tatars, the Germans usually called it the Volga-Tatar legion. The Nazis brainwashed the prisoners in a rabidly chauvinistic and anti-Soviet spirit, to prepare the legionnaires for action against the Soviet Army. He joined the Wehrmacht propaganda unit for the legion under the false name Gumeroff. Cälil's group set out to wreck the Nazi plans, to convince the men to use the weapons they would be supplied with against the Nazis themselves. The members of the resistance group infiltrated the editorial board of the Idel-Ural newspaper the German command produced, and printed and circulated anti-fascist leaflets among the legionnaires into esoteric action groups consisting of 5 men each. The very first battalion of the Volga-Tatar legion that was sent to the Eastern front mutinied, shot all the German officers, and defected to the Soviet partisans in Belarus.
In August 1943, Nazi spies managed to track down the resistance group. Musa Cälil and most of his militant comrades were seized. There followed nightmare days and nights of interrogations, torture, and more torture. The Gestapo broke his left arm and injured his kidneys. His body was covered with welts from the beatings he got with an electric cord and rubber hose. His crushed fingers were swollen and would not bend. But the poet did not give up. Behind bars he continued his fight against Nazism. He had only his poetry for a weapon.
On August 10, 1943, he was arrested with his comrades and sent to Moabit Prison in Berlin. He sat in a cell with Belgian patriot and resistance fighter André Timmermans, and also with one Polish prisoner. Cälil studied German in prison to communicate with the cellmates. As the regime was not so harsh, he managed to compile at least hundred of all his verses, composed in the prison, to the small self-made notebooks. He and his group of 12 were sentenced to death on February 12, 1944 and guillotined at Plötzensee Prison, Berlin, on August 25. His body was never recovered, possibly buried in mass grave.
On April 23, 1945, the 79th Infantry Corps of the Soviet Army that was advancing on the Reichstag took up positions along the Berlin streers of Ratenowerstraße and Turnstraße. A soldier who paused there before the next attack noticed several lines in Russian on one of the clean pages of a book that was lying about: "I am the Tatar poet Musa Cälil, held in Moabit prison as a prisoner-of-war against whom political charges have been preferred, and will most likely be shot soon. If some Russian finds this note, convey my regards to my writer-friends in Moscow and break the news to my family". The soldiers sent the page to Moscow, to the Union of Writers. That was the first his country heard of the heroic fate of Musa Cälil.
Cälil's first notebook was preserved by the Tatars Ğabbas Şäripov and then Niğmät Teregulov (both late dead in Stalin's camps). Şäripov also was imprisoned in Moabit and received Cälil's and Abdulla Aliş's writings when the prison guards hide of bombing. To preserve the writings, Cälil's group fenced him off. The second one was preserved by the Belgian cellmate André Timmermans. Those notebooks were passed to the Tatar ASSR Union of Writers in 1946 and 1947 correspondingly. They were published as two books under the title Moabit Däftäre (The Moabit Notebook). Cälil's widow Äminä Zalyalova gave the originals to the National Museum of Tatarstan for safekeeping.
It is known that one notebook was brought to the Soviet embassy in Rome by the ethnically Tatar Turkish citizen Kazim Mirşan in 1946. However, this notebook was lost in the archives of SMERSH, and the pursuits since 1979 give no results.
All Soviet POVs were considered parricides by the USSR authorities. In 1946 MGB brought an action against Musa Cälil, accusing him of parricide and aiding to the enemy. In April 1947 his name was included to the list of dangerous special criminals. Tatar writers and Tatarstan department of state security managed to prove Cälil's underground work against the Nazis and his death. In 1953 The Moabit Notebooks were published in Kazan and the Russian translation also was published in Literaturnaya Gazeta owing to its editor Konstantin Simonov. Musa Cälil was awarded to the star of the Hero of the Soviet Union in 1956 and Literature Lenin Prize in 1957 for The Moabit Notebooks.
After that Musa Cälil gained recognition as the most heroic Tatar participant of the World War II, despite of being in Nazi prison and his formal participating in the collaborationist legion. The monument to Musa Cälil is placed near the Kazan Kremlin, the museum in his flat was opened in Kazan in 1983. His poetry was popularized all over the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact countries. As Azerbaijani poet Səməd Vurğun wrote,
The world and its literature know many poets who have made their names immortal, but there are few poets who have won immortality both by their unfading works and by the gallant sacrifice of their lives. They are: the great Byron, the renowned poet of the Hungarian people Sándor Petőfi, the heroic Julius Fučík and, finally, Musa Cälil.
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