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With a phenomenal 190 novels to his name, he is published in 29 languages around the world. As of today, 27.5 million copies of his books have been printed – a record for an Azerbaijani writer.

Many of those books are thrillers, which draw on the author’s experience in special operations for the USSR Defence Ministry. Let me introduce him: People's Writer of Azerbaijan, secretary of the Union of Writers, the winner of every literary prize and award going, a favourite with the ladies, the charismatic Chingiz Abdullayev.

Our interview took place on a sad day, the 22nd anniversary of the Khojaly tragedy, when 637 Azerbaijani civilians, fleeing their homes in Nagorno-Karabakh, were slaughtered by Armenian forces.

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The straight back and distinguished greying locks, with just a hint of a quiff, are a reassuring sight to music-lovers in Azerbaijan – when Rauf Abdullayev takes up the baton, audiences know that an evening of fine music is in prospect. Chief conductor and artistic director of the Azerbaijan State Symphony Orchestra, holder of the title People’s Artiste and winner of a State Prize, Professor Rauf Abdullayev talks to Jeyran Bayramova about conducting in Azerbaijan and shares his memories of some of the country’s best composers.