Author: Sabira ALAKBAR
The basis for such a dialogue is our common past. We cannot forget it, we cannot erase it. We still read and enjoy the picturesque descriptions of Azerbaijani beauties by Lermontov, Yesenin's 'Farewell to Baku'. To lose the historical past of two peoples, who have once lived in one big country, who fought for a common Motherland, would mean destroying the code of coexistence, breaking cultural ties that had developed over centuries. The conference Baku - Moscow: Dialogue of Cultures is aimed at strengthening the ties between our peoples and developing cooperation between Azerbaijan and Russia.
The Baku Process
As the Minister of Culture of Azerbaijan Abulfaz Garayev noted in his opening speech, the conference attended by about 150 people, including ministers, representatives of the Moscow government, deputies, scientists, university rectors, artists and actors from Russia, was a continuation of the Baku Process, initiated back in 2008 by the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, to create an effective and efficient intercultural and inter-civilizational dialogue. Azerbaijan’s nomination of such a global process is based on the factor of the diversity of religious communities, ethnic groups, as well as the cultural diversity that has developed historically in our country. On September 23, 2010, at the 65th session of the UN General Assembly, Ilham Aliyev made a statement on holding the World Intercultural Dialogue Forum, hence making the Baku Process go beyond the regional context and turn into a global movement.
The Baku Process continues in various forms and encourages the implementation of various international projects. This autumn Baku will host the Humanitarian Forum again, said minister Garayev. Consequently, the Baku-Moscow: Dialogue of Cultures conference lays the foundation for expanding relations and discussions during the upcoming Humanitarian Forum in Baku.
"Such events serve to ensure that we better understand each other, the culture of our countries and together fight various phobias and challenges," the minister said.
First and forever
Baku - Moscow: Dialogue of Cultures is a project implemented for the first time in two capitals simultaneously. Cooperation between the two cities will be carried out in the context of concerts, cultural and entertainment activities, museum exhibitions, libraries, as well as art and music education. Within the framework of the conference, a round table was held on the theme Dialogue of Cultures - Basis of Dialogue Among Peoples, photo exhibitions of prominent compatriots living both in Azerbaijan and Russia, organised by TASS and AzerTAG news agencies. There was also a presentation of the books Formula of Power and Formula of Life by the First Deputy General Director of TASS, prominent journalist of Russia, laureate of the State Prize of Russia, Knight of State Orders of Azerbaijan Glory, Friendship and Honour, Michael Gusman. The event was dedicated to the 70th anniversary of Mikhail Gusman. By the way, the decree on awarding Mikhail Solomonovich Gusman with the Sharaf order was signed by President Ilham Aliyev on January 23, on the birthday of the outstanding journalist, radio and television presenter. Gusman was awarded this high award for many years of fruitful activity in the development of mutual relations between Azerbaijan and Russia. It is symbolic that Mikhail Gusman, who was born in Baku, held his anniversary in Baku. It is doubly symbolic that it was on this day that he presented the most important book of his life, Formula of Life: A Book about My Mom and Dad, in Baku too.
Dialogue of cultures is the basis of the dialogue of peoples
Expressing his gratitude to President Ilham Aliyev and First Vice President of Azerbaijan Mehriban Aliyeva, M. Gusman said: "Our countries have deep historical roots. The event is attended by a large delegation of prominent public and cultural figures of Russia. Everyone is very happy to be in Baku. It is not only about the traditional Azerbaijani hospitality, but it is also due to the atmosphere of friendship, cooperation and attention with which the delegation is surrounded here."
Mikhail Gusman emphasized that the great leader Heydar Aliyev made a great contribution to the establishment of friendly and partnership relations between the countries: "We all remember the importance that the national leader Heydar Aliyev attached to the relations between Azerbaijan and Russia, our cultural ties. Today's conference is the symbol of his deeds."
In his speech, the Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation for International Cultural Cooperation, Mikhail Shvydkoy, said that the Baku International Forum gained importance on the international agenda and indeed became an event of planetary significance: "The Baku Forum is important not only in bilateral but also in multilateral relations. It attracts the attention of representatives of various countries, including countries in Europe, the USA, Central Asia and the Far East. This conference demonstrates that we are connected by a long-standing human friendship that lasts for centuries."
Spokeswoman of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, noted that a dialogue of cultures is an indicator of respect for each other and a search for common ground: "The dialogue of cultures is when cultures and traditions are not imposed externally. Both Russia and Azerbaijan in a situation when they are endlessly advised on how to live, what to change, what to leave from the past, with whom to communicate and make friends. The dialogue of cultures is the ability of preserving traditions and finding common values . We need to develop this side of culture."
In their speeches, Academician Kamal Abdullayev, People's Artist Farhad Badalbeyli, People's Artist Farhad Khalilov, Chairman of the Council of the Russian Federation Committee on Foreign Affairs Konstantin Kosachev and others noted that today, when relations between Russia and Azerbaijan are developing intensively in all directions, cultural ties are a strong link. It was emphasized that the cultural cooperation of countries sometimes plays no less role than political and economic. The key factor in this process is the close and friendly relations between the heads of our countries.
Chairman of the Union of Writers of Azerbaijan, People's Writer Anar Rzayev noted that the dialogue of cultures between Azerbaijan and Russia, in fact, has never interrupted. For example, there is the literary and creative association Luch under the Writers' Union of Azerbaijan, which still publishes the magazines ЛитературныйАзербайджан and Мирлитературы, which unite Russian-speaking authors. Thus, the Writers' Union contributes to the noble cause of the further development of cultural ties between countries.
Indeed, the government of Azerbaijan pays considerable attention to teaching Russian in 342 schools. Russian language competitions are held every year in the country. In Baku, there are branches of the Lomonosov Moscow State University and the Sechenov First State Medical University of Moscow, Baku Slavic University, established on the basis of the Azerbaijan Pedagogical Institute of Russian Language and Literature, the Samad Vurgun Academic Russian Drama Theatre.
No less attention is paid to teaching Azerbaijani language in Russia. Some Russian educational institutions teach the Azerbaijani language and literature. The Moscow State Linguistic University has a centre for the Azerbaijani language.
Fuad Akhundov, Head of Sector of the Presidential Administration of Azerbaijan, paid special attention to these facts. According to him, with such a tolerant attitude towards languages in our countries, in Armenia the Russian-language education is simply destroyed at government level. The Russian school was preserved only in the village of Fioletovo under the patronage of the Russian Embassy in Armenia. Russian classes in Armenia were opened later under pressure, but only for those children of whom at least one of parents was not an ethnic Armenian. The then ambassador of the Russian Federation to Armenia Anatoly Dryukov compared the actions of the language inspection with the medieval Inquisition. Some Armenian families cannot send their children to Russian classes in Armenia after a 6-7 year stay in Russia. Moreover, there is an extensive study entitled "Studying the Situation of Russian-Speaking Citizens in the CIS and Baltic Countries", according to which the Russian-speaking citizens are in the worst situation in Armenia. And all this happens against the backdrop of the exaltation of Nazi ideas and the glorification of the founder of Armenian racism, Garegin Nzhdeh. Today, Yerevan represents this accomplice of Hitler to the world as a hero of the Armenian national liberation movement at the beginning of the 20th century.
Union of poetry and art
One of the founders of the bard genre in Russia is the geophysicist, academician Alexander Gorodnitsky, who believes that the poetic union is the most important form of dialogue between cultures and friendship between Azerbaijan and Russia. "For 15 years, with the support of the Ministry of Culture of Azerbaijan, the Baku International Festival of Author's Song and Poetry has been held with great success, which unites not only our states, but also representatives of other countries, causing great resonance.
The centuries-old art of Azerbaijani ashugs and Russian bards finds its harmonious embodiment in the festival, brings people together in the spiritual world of high word and music. "All these years I have been the chairman of the jury of this festival and I hope that further propaganda of culture will bring the kindest emotions to people. When people come together to sing and read poetry, this leads to the longest and lasting connections, a dialogue of peoples for peace and creation," Alexander Gorodnitsky said.
The well-known Russian artist, Fellow of the Russian Academy of Arts, Honorary Doctor of the Azerbaijan State University of Culture and Art, Nikas Safronov, noted that culture and art bring countries together, provide an opportunity to learn more about the history and traditions of various peoples. "Azerbaijani people are very wise and through the dialogue of cultures brings the highest human values to the world. Historically, Azerbaijan and Russia have been linked by friendly relations, and I always call myself a friend of Azerbaijan. Once having arrived in your hospitable and kind country, I have remained here forever with my heart and attitude. I always enjoy staying here. Azerbaijan is my second homeland - this is how much I love this country, the people and their unique culture. With the blessing of the President of Azerbaijan, Heydar Aliyev, in 1998 my first personal exhibition was held in Baku with great success. This May, a new exhibition will be held, at which 200 paintings will be presented, some of which are prepared and dedicated to Azerbaijan - landscapes, portraits and various compositions. I have prepared many paintings especially for this exhibition, and they will be shown for the first time. These works were created over a year and a half, for which I visited many regions of Azerbaijan. The exhibition is planned to be held at the Heydar Aliyev Centre and the Museum of Modern Art, and it will coincide with the birthday of Heydar Aliyev on May 10," Nikas Safronov noted.
Much was said about the general historical ties, but one thing is clear: rich ethnic composition, the atmosphere of tolerance, history and the unique geographical location make Azerbaijan a special place for rapprochement of different cultures, religions (Islam, Judaism and Christianity), their peaceful coexistence. And it will always be so!