Azerbaijan’s “lucky” son

Baku, January 14, AZERTAC

The oil industry is one of the major drivers of modern industrial growth throughout the world. Oil as the key contributor to global energy is the lifeblood of most of the world’s economies. The production of oil is a real challenge and this challenge starts with the exploration work carried out by geologists. For most of the world, the words “geologist” and “fame” usually don’t come in the same sentence. But there are certainly exceptions, where the two notions go hand in hand. Among geologists, there are some “famous” ones. Khoshbakht (which translates into Azerbaijani as “Lucky”) Yusifzade is a fine example.

Mr Yusifzade is famous for being the oldest working geologist in the world. In 1952, he graduated from the faculty of geology and exploration oil and gas fields of the Azerbaijan Institute of Industry (currently the Azerbaijan State Oil and Industry University) and started his career as a geologist. Since then, he has developed a 68- year career as a geologist in the oil industry.

In 1954, Khoshbakht Yusifzade was appointed as Senior Geologist in the Caspian offshore field of Neft Dashlary (Oil Rocks). With his direct leadership and participation, more than 20 oil and gas condensate fields were discovered, including those not only in Azerbaijan, but also in Turkmen and Russian sectors of the Caspian Sea. Among them are world famous Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli, Shah Deniz, Bahar, Ashrafi, Garabagh, Umid, Absheron fields.

Khoshbakht Yusifzade is an honorary geologist of the former USSR and also an honorary engineer of the Republic of Azerbaijan.

Since Azerbaijan’s independence, Khoshbakht Yusifzade has held different senior positions. In 1992, he was First Vice President of the “Azerineft” State Concern. During 1994-2004, he was Vice President of the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic. In 2004, by an order of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Khoshbakht Yusifzade was appointed First Vice President of SOCAR for Geology, Geophysics and Field Development and since 2016, he has been SOCAR First Vice President.

Mr Yusifzade’s scientific activities are also related to design, exploration and production of oil and gas fields. His contribution to oil and gas developments is also valued in foreign countries.

In 1987, Khoshbakht Yusifzade received his post-doctoral degree in geology-mineralogy from Moscow Institute of Geology and Development of Fossil Fuels of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, defending his thesis on oil fields and reservoirs and exploration of oil facilities in south-western part of the Oil Rocks.

Khoshbakht Yusifzade is a full member of the Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences and a member and First Vice President of the International Eastern Petroleum Academy. He is also a Corresponding Member of the Russian International Academy of Engineers, a foreign member of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, a full member of the International Academy of Sciences for Turkic World Studies, a foreign member of the National Academy of Sciences of Georgia, a member of the presidium of the High Certification Committee under the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, a member of the editorial office of the periodicals “Oil Economy of Azerbaijan”, “New developments in Azerbaijani Geophysics”, the Azerbaijan National Encyclopedia, a member of the Azerbaijan National Committee of Geophysics, the Society of Petroleum Geologists of Azerbaijan, the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, the Association of Geoscientists and Engineers of Europe.

Khoshbakht Yusifzade is an author of more than 200 research papers, including 18 monographs and eight inventions, which contributed to discovering and exploring oil and gas-condensate blocks, crediting him as a leading expert and scientist in this field.

Khoshbakht Yusifzade was awarded the highest prizes and titles of the former USSR and the Republic of Azerbaijan.

In 2008 Khoshbakht Yusifzade was awarded the Gold Star Medal of the International Academy of Sciences for Turkic World Studies for his contribution to the development of sciences, education and economy of the Turkic world, “The Scholar of the Year” in 2009 and the title of Honorary Scientist of the Turkic World in 2011.

In 2010 Khoshbakht Yusifzade together with a group of SOCAR experts, received the UNESCO Medal for achievements in application of nanotechnology to oil production. His name was added to the UNESCO encyclopedia.

The UN Public Awards Council (UNCOPA) in Geneva, Switzerland, by a decision from 27 December 2018 conferred the order for Service to Europe upon Khoshbakht Yusifzade.

Apart from being a talented geologist, Mr Yusifzade is also talented at handling wide-ranging and important audiences using his incredible sense of humor. Humor is the spice of life – a little here, a little there goes a long way. He is a gifted story-teller, a master of salting and peppering his stories and speeches with jokes and anecdotes. A chunk of his conversational arsenal consists of Molla Nasreddin’s anecdotes – a starring character in a vast number of amusing stories extremely popular in Azerbaijan and other countries of the Middle East. Khoshbakht Yusifzade is the master of injecting Molla Nasreddin’s humor and wit, as well as Azerbaijani proverbs, into the natural flow of conversation.

During his lifetime, Khoshbakht Yusifzade met many world leaders, educating them about complex issues related to oil and gas developments in the Caspian region. And this is not an easy task. But he has an incredible ability to gravitate them while communicating his messages and reinforcing them through humor, sharing amusing stories on the subject matter. Sometimes people around Khoshbakht Yusifzade ask him how he makes the world leaders laugh, while putting serious messages across. They understand that telling a joke that doesn’t land can take the wind out of their sails pretty quickly. Of course, it is Khoshbakht Yusifzade’s gift that keeps on giving: when world leaders are amused and laugh, it gives you confidence to deliver the message in a more relaxed environment. You thrill them. You move them. It really is a fantastic feeling to get the leaders to chuckle. Their faces brighten up and their attitude changes. Wherever world leaders need to free themselves from pomp and pageantry, whichever problems they have to solve, there will be people like Khoshbakht Yusifzade, who loosen up the atmosphere and humorously divulge lessons on various life themes.

Khoshbakht Yusifzade is one of those who have lived a life enriched with experiences and learnt everything life had to offer. The priceless experiences that cannot be acquired from books or years of studying are depicted to us through quotes – some of which should be threaded with golden strings. Quotes give us a different perspective on matters, which help us see it in a unique light. Khoshbakht Yusifzade, this great persona, can bring to live any quote or proverb and inspire you on the spot. People admire his easy-going manner in communication. Mr Yusifzade, SOCARS’s first vice president, is a living legend and live encyclopedia of the oil industry of Azerbaijan, and listening to his story-telling became a historic moment for all of us.

During high-level visits of foreign delegations to Azerbaijan, government officials often follow the oil and gas developments in the region, which include trips to the Sangachal terminal near Baku: the most important strategic asset of the country. It has been a great honor for BP to host these visits, and I have been privileged to accompany VIP delegations together with this great persona. It is showing the progress of terminal facilities that creates a greater ‘sense of occasion’ of Azerbaijan’s long-term oil and gas development options.

During these events, Khoshbakht Yusifzade is always first to arrive to discuss visit agendas and the ins and outs of preparations. After ensuring all the arrangements are in place, you can, as always, find him entangled in various conversations with everyone and anyone. On one occasion, the VIP delegation was the president of the Czech Republic visiting the Sangachal terminal, and Khoshbakht Yusifzade asked me what I would give to the Czech President as a welcome token on behalf of BP. He then took a small wooden box containing SOCAR’s gift - a glass box with a gold medal. Within seconds, the glass box slipped from his hands, fell onto the floor and broke to pieces, leaving nothing of what it was seconds ago. The atmosphere in the room was similarly tense, going from lively chats to a quiet disappointment. In order to turn the tables and cheer everyone up, Khoshbakht Yusifzade did what he does best and told Molla Nasreddin story:

One day Molla Nasreddin’s wife passed away and Molla was receiving people’s condolences and sympathy. Once the ceremony was over, annoyed Molla turned around and said, ‘Don’t break down, I was going to divorce her anyway’.

On another occasion, when we were hosting another VIP visit, Khoshbakht Yusifzade was talking about difficulties associated with working offshore. He had worked offshore for 10 years and experienced the challenges and safety issues. Safety is a priority and if you are not in line with the rules, consequences are detrimental, for self and the platform. Khoshbakht Yusifzade expressed his concern by underlining that safety is important to everyone and is a core value in oil production. To avoid accidents and fatalities, everybody should take safety seriously - a moral he concluded by another Molla Nassraddin anecdote:

People ask Molla Nasreddin, “Tell us Molla, where should we go in a funeral procession, in front, at the back or on the side?”

Molla answered, “It doesn't matter where you go, as long as you don't go inside the coffin”.

Khoshbakht Yusifzade has overcome many difficulties in his life. He witnessed terrifying situations at sea, as well as casualties of oilmen working on offshore platforms in the Caspian and made many close and challenging calls in his life. He outlived his many good colleagues and friends and suffered the loss of his two sons. During his lifetime, he recovered from a bad illness. The wear and tear of years did little damage; he remains optimistic and always looks forward to something good. And you will see Khoshbakht Yusifzade working with the same enthusiasm as before, presiding in various conferences and events, sharing valuable advice and experience with oil workers.

It seems that part of what makes Mr Yusifzade happy is creating good memories for everyone around him. He has written his life story which has been published in two books “The Footprints of My Life” (2010) and “Bibliography” (2019) – which he kindly presented to me.

These books describe the memories and mementos of his abundant life, which I found extremely fascinating and read them several times. Today Khoshbakht Yusifzade hits 90. I am sure his 90th birthday will bring forth more precious memories of the past, creating amazing remembrances for tomorrow.

Happy 90th Birthday!


Guivami Rahimli, PhD

Senior Government Affairs Advisor for

BP Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey Region

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