Author: Sabira ALAKBAR
The 650th anniversary of Nasimi, the inclusion of the Sheki Khans Palace on the UNESCO World Heritage List - these and many other important events marked the past, 2019 in Azerbaijan. The scale and importance of some of them is difficult to overestimate, since they have gone beyond the borders of our country. This only emphasizes the fact that the identity of Azerbaijan, its rich history and culture have made a significant contribution to the treasury of world culture.
The truth about the Irevan Khanate
In May 2019, the exhibition Masterpieces of History consisting of about 300 items from the Azerbaijani and Eastern collections of the National Museum of Georgia opened at the Heydar Aliyev Centre. Three halls of the centre presented samples of Azerbaijani art of the Gajar era, a collection of things, utensils and paintings from the complex of the Sardar palace of the Irevan (Erivan) khan and rare photo documents from the archive of the pioneer of Russian photography Dmitry Yermakov (1846-1916) about the Irevan khanate.
At the opening ceremony of the exhibition, Head of Sector at the Presidential Administration, Fuad Akhundov, noted that five years ago it became known about thousands of historical and cultural artefacts related to Azerbaijan and stored at the Georgian National Museum. President Ilham Aliyev and First Vice President Mehriban Aliyeva made a decision to organise a grand exhibition based on these materials soon after they were informed about the finding.
In August, the exhibition was visited by a descendant of Irevan khans Amir Ali Sardar Irevani, his family and relatives. His grandfather in the seventh generation was the ruler Huseyn Ali Khan Irevani (c. 1750-1780), who also supervised the construction of many architectural buildings, including the Blue Mosque in Irevan. His son was Mohammed Khan Irevani (1796-1804), who sponsored the construction of the Mirror Hall and the Summer Residence at the palace complex. Amir Ali Sardar Irevani himself was born in Tehran and now lives in Germany.
Mr. Irevani expressed deep gratitude to First Vice President of Azerbaijan Mehriban Aliyeva and Director of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation Anar Alekberov for their contribution to the preservation and promotion of the history of the Irevan Khanate, as well as their willingness to support this noble cause comprehensively.
"...This world cannot compass me"
President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev declared the year 2019 as the Year of Nasimi to celebrate the 650th anniversary of the great poet and thinker. Rich heritage of Imadaddin Nasimi, who left an indelible mark in the philosophical thought of Azerbaijan, is of great importance in the spiritual and moral improvement of people. In fact, the research and promotion of the poet’s heritage in Azerbaijan is the continuation of tradition laid by the national leader Heydar Aliyev to celebrate the 600th anniversary of the poet back in 1969. Since that time, the anniversary of the great master has been included in the UNESCO list of prominent personalities and significant events and is celebrated on an international scale.
The year 2019 was an interesting year in terms of the richness of events associated with the name of the greatest Nasimi. The events were also attended by a group of international experts involved in research on Nasimi's work, including as part of scientific, literary and cultural symposia held both in Azerbaijan and beyond. The anniversary of Nasimi was also celebrated at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, where the attendants discussed the role of Nasimi in cultural values of the peoples of the East and West, as well as the uniqueness of philosophical thought of Imadeddin Nasimi. Azerbaijanis should be proud that the works of the great poet are still admired and researched way beyond Azerbaijan by many scientists, including the famous German culturologist Michael Hess, professor of Oriental and Islamic Studies at the University of Murcia, Dr. Pilar Garrido Clemente (Spain), and many others. They all agree that Nasimi was a great humanism, and his philosophy had a huge impact on Western readers. UNESCO Deputy Director General Ernesto Ottone noted that the Nasimi Memorial Ceremony will contribute to UNESCO's mission of understanding, tolerance and promoting a culture of peace.
The 2nd Festival of Poetry, Art and Spirituality Nasimi was organised by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation and the Ministry of Culture. As part of a series of events, experts and ordinary people had a chance to examine various aspects of Nasimi's works, including the philosophical views of the great poet. The events were also held at the poet’s homeland, Shamakhi, where Nasimi's poetry and philosophical ideas were praised through various genres of art and their harmony. On the last day of the festival, Azerbaijan presented a new post stamp bearing an image of Imadeddin Nasimi.
In September, the Nasimi ballet was performed at the Azerbaijan Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre as part of the 11th Uzeyir Hajibeyov International Music Festival. The performance was based on the music by the brilliant Azerbaijani composer, People's Artist of the USSR Fikret Amirov. An equally interesting event was the presentation of an updated, electronic version of feature film Nasimi made by the famous Azerbaijani director Hasan Seyidbeyli. The film was released in 1973 in honour of the 600th anniversary of Nasimi played by the People's Artist of Azerbaijan Rasim Balayev.
The culmination of events dedicated to Nasimi was a powerful environmental action to plant 650 thousand trees symbolizing the significant date in Azerbaijan in a single day (!) on the initiative of the First Vice President of Azerbaijan Mehriban Aliyeva. International experts immediately praised the action noting that it was a good example for government and public figures around the world to solve environmental problems.
Part of World Heritage
At the regular meeting of the 43rd session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee held in Baku in 2019, the Sheki Khans Palace and the historical centre of Sheki were included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. This was a triumph for Azerbaijan and all the residents of Sheki, as well as a continuation of the triumph of 2014, when the art of making, symbolism and wearing the Sheki kelaghai (women's headscarf) were included in the list of especially protected values at the 9th session of UNESCO.
The Sheki Khans Palace was built in 1761-1762 during the reign of Huseyn Khan Müshtag, a grandson of Haji Celebi Khan, founder of the first independent khanate in Azerbaijan. All parts of the facade of the palace were joined without using nails. Here you can see hunting and war scenes, as well as geometric and floral patterns. In the centre is a huge stained-glass window made of multi-coloured glass mosaics. The windows of the palace are collected from pieces of coloured glass inside decorative stone grids called shebeke (network). Shebekes on windows are made of 14,000 (!) small parts of stained glass. The palace is rightfully considered one of the best examples of architecture of the 18th century in the Caucasus and one of the pearls of the Islamic East.
Nine years of International Mugham Day
Every year on August 26, thanks to the decision of the mayor's office of Niagara City, Canada and the leadership of the annual International Niagara Music Festival in 2010, the world community celebrates the International Azerbaijan Mugham Day and Music Day of countries located along the Great Silk Road. This fact also confirms that mugham is not only the national wealth of the Azerbaijani people, but also a common heritage. This year, the significant event celebrated its 9th anniversary.
During the years of independence, Azerbaijani mugham entered a new stage of development. The First Lady of Azerbaijan, President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, Mehriban Aliyeva, plays an exceptional role in promoting mugham. Thanks to her efforts, UNESCO declared mugham a masterpiece of the intangible cultural heritage of humankind. Azerbaijan is home to the International Mugham Centre, which has become the venue for the most prestigious events. At the initiative and with the support of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, the International Mugham Festival and competitions are held annually to identify young mugham performers.
Uzeyir Hajibeyov everywhere
Every year on September 18, the National Music Day, Baku is living in anticipation of a big musical event, the International Uzeyir Hajibeyov Festival. On this day, Azerbaijan celebrates the birthday of the founder of modern professional musical art of Azerbaijan, the outstanding composer Uzeyir Hajibeyov. The festival is always full of concerts and events attended by famous musicians and bands from Russia, U.S., China, Turkey, Italy, Uzbekistan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Georgia and so on. In 2019, Baku saw the 11th reincarnation of the festival.
The history of the holiday dates back to 1995, when the national leader of Azerbaijan, Heydar Aliyev, issued an order declaring the Day of National Music. The Ministry of Culture of Azerbaijan annually holds various events in honour of this holiday. One of the unaltered traditions of the event is a concert in front of the Uzeyir Hajibeyov Baku Music Academy. Every year, on the same day a symphony orchestra performs the immortal works of the outstanding Azerbaijani composer. This is the day you can hear the music of the composer everywhere in Baku from metro stations to cultural and educational centres, to streets and parks.
In 2019, Baku also hosted the anniversary 10th International Mstislav Rostropovich Festival organized by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Azerbaijan and the M. L. Rostropovich Foundation of Cultural and Humanitarian Programs.
Baku is proud to be the birthplace of Mstislav Rostropovich, who liked visiting this generous and hospitable city with rich cultural traditions throughout his life. There is also a street named after Mstislav and Leopold Rostropovich, as well as a museum dedicated to the great musician. The first Rostropovitch festival was held in Baku back in 2007 with Olga Mstislavovna Rostropovich as president and artistic director of the festival. As always, famous musicians from different countries and with excellent repertoire attended and performed at the anniversary festival.
In picturesque Gabala
In 2019, Gabala hosted the International Music Festival for the 11th time. The festival of classical, jazz and mugham music has been held in Gabala, Azerbaijan every summer since 2009. Musicians perform in the open air and in chamber concert halls of the city. The Gabala music festival is attended by renowned orchestras and musicians from around the world. Once in every two years Gabala also hosts an international piano competition. In 2019, it was the concert "Oksana Yablonskaya and Friends" dedicated to the 80th anniversary of the world-famous pianist Oksana Yablonskaya.
Given the scope and scale of the cultural events of 2019, we can say that we did a good job. What can we expect in 2020? What other achievements do await Azerbaijan in the future? Let's be patient...