President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has received in a video format Anar Karimov on his appointment as Minister of Culture.
The head of state made a speech at the video meeting.
Speech of President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev
- I am appointing you as Minister of Culture. You are being given great confidence. You have been the Deputy Minister of Culture for some time, and I hope you will live up to this high confidence as Minister.
Azerbaijan's rich and inimitable culture is a source of pride for all of us. We must protect our culture and cultural heritage. For centuries, our people have preserved their culture, and this has allowed us as a people, as a nation, the opportunity to preserve our national and spiritual values and our national identity. For many years, Azerbaijan was denied independence, and our people lived in other states. Nevertheless, the determination of our people and their attachment to national roots stopped our people from becoming assimilated. Our culture has played a vital role in preserving our national identity.
It is our native language, the Azerbaijani language, that has protected us as a people and as a nation for centuries. It is the duty of all of us to protect the Azerbaijani language. At different times in the past, I have spoken about the protection of the mother tongue. Speaking at the Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences and other events, I said that we have a rich language and can be legitimately proud of it. I think that the Azerbaijani language has a special place among the world languages regarding its richness.
Some words recently introduced into the Azerbaijani language interfere with the purity of our language. Our language is vibrant. The Ministry of Culture, together with other relevant agencies such as the Ministry of Education and the Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences, should work hard to protect the Azerbaijani language. Various measures are being taken, there are programs, but everyday life shows that we sometimes see the purity of our language being disrupted. I see it in the media, on television, and, of course, this must be stopped. We have preserved our language for centuries, and we must continue to do so. Today, the Azerbaijani language is the mother tongue for more than 50 million people around the world.
Our rich literature is well-known worldwide, and we can be rightly proud of our great poets. By my order, 2021 is being declared as a "Year of Nizami". In 2021, we will celebrate the 880th anniversary of the birth of Nizami, and it should be celebrated extensively both in Azerbaijan and around the world. The works of great Azerbaijani poet Nizami should be promoted more broadly in the world. As you know, the Nizami Ganjavi International Center has been operating for many years, and I pay special attention to this center. Although the center was established as a humanitarian non-governmental organization, its activities are now pervasive and multifaceted. The annual Global Baku Forum – which, of course, was not held in 2020 due to the pandemic – has taken its rightful place in the world. I want to say again that this year we must widely celebrate the anniversary of Nizami Ganjavi. 2019 was a year of another great Azerbaijani poet Nasimi. It shows that the state and the President personally have great respect and care for our literature and our great poets' memory. Nizami, Nasimi, Fuzuli, and other great Azerbaijani poets have made immense contributions to the world's literary treasury.
Azerbaijan has a rich musical art, and it is known very well in the world today. Our musical art is included in the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Azerbaijani mugham is our national treasure. Mugham competitions and international mugham festivals are regularly held in our country, and performers come from many countries. Of course, the art of mugham exists in several countries, but I think that Azerbaijan is the center of mugham's art. This unique art lives on today. We are making this art live. Significant work has been done to promote mugham's art in the world through the Heydar Aliyev Foundation. I am delighted that our young people are also very interested in the art of mugham. It is very commendable because in some cases, young people prefer more popular music. In other words, they sometimes like foreign music. I am happy that the vast majority of our young people are attached to our national art and music. Of course, our well-known mugham performers have played a huge role in educating the younger generation. As you know, several mugham centers have been established by my order - in Baku, Agham, and Fuzuli districts, in other regions. Such mugham centers will be established in the liberated lands now.
Ashug art is unique. We rightly view ashug art as being purely Azerbaijani and promote ashug art in the world. Our national music is vibrant and attracts a vast audience. Our music shows the talent of our people. In general, our culture shows our people's talent because only talented people can create such beautiful works.
We can be rightly proud of the art of carpet weaving. There are not many countries in the world engaged in the art of carpet weaving. Azerbaijani carpets have a special place among them. The diversity of our carpets and carpet schools shows our cultural abundance. We are also making the art of carpet weaving live on. In the past, mugham's art was slowly being forgotten and seemed to be left on the sidelines. The same applied to the art of carpet weaving. Young people were not interested in carpet weaving and did not have such opportunities. We have created these opportunities. The art of carpet weaving must live forever.
Our architectural works are famous worldwide and are included in the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Maiden's Tower is an architectural masterpiece. It has a unique architecture. The architectural sites located in Icheri Sheher, the Palace of Shirvanshahs, and other regions show how rich our architectural sites are. At the same time, we have created modern architectural works in recent years. The Heydar Aliyev Center is one of the best architectural creations globally and is cited as the number one example of contemporary architecture in many ratings and reports. The Flame Towers are also an example of architecture reflecting the flame, which is a symbol of Baku's city, as well as the rapid development of our country. It is a very successful project in terms of architecture. There are also other projects. At the same time, the number of modern architectural sites in the regions is growing.
Our religious sites are and will continue to be protected. All our major sacred sites have been renovated on my orders. Many were built, including the Heydar Mosque, which was built on my instruction. Our other mosques have been renovated. They were renovated with the aim of preserving their original appearance. In this area, too, Azerbaijan shows its rich cultural heritage to the world. The Juma Mosque of Shamakhi, one of the oldest mosques in the world, is located in our country. It was built in 743 and was actually rebuilt on my instruction: our Christian sites, Albanian churches, the Kish church, the Khudavang church. The liberated church of Khudavang has been returned to its real owners, to our Udi brothers. Even though the Armenians changed its name and appearance due to fraud, tried to Armenianize it, they failed to do so. Our Udi brothers have already performed their service in the Khudavang church. All other churches belonging to Caucasian Albania, including the church in Nij settlement. This church, renovated by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, was opened during the war, and this is the best answer to those making baseless accusations against us. During the war, the Albanian-Christian church was opened after renovations. Russian Orthodox churches, synagogues, Catholic churches, Georgian churches, the Armenian church in Baku – all this is protected by the state. But notice what our enemies have done to our mosques. More than 60 mosques have been destroyed in the occupied and now liberated lands, but there is no reaction. No international organization has ever condemned Armenia for that. We are protecting the Armenian church. We have no problems with the Armenian people, and the Armenians living in Azerbaijan are our citizens. Today, Armenians living in the Karabakh region, I am sure, already understand that they can generally live only within the Azerbaijani state.
Everything in the liberated lands has been destroyed. There are only a few buildings, a few houses where the Armenians lived. One wonders how people ever lived there. They look more like kernels. The Armenian regime kept these people hostage in such poverty, in such abject poverty, and forced them to live there. They forced them to live there! Whoever had the opportunity ran away. That is why I always said that before the war, the real number of Armenians living there in the occupied territories was about 60,000. The post-war situation shows that today. The Armenians artificially inflated this figure, as if there were 150,000 people there. The maximum was around 60,000. They were also forcibly kept there for purposes of illegal settlement. Look at the state of their dwellings! Of course, when Aghdam, Fuzuli, Shusha, and other cities destroyed by their savage leaders come to life, they will see where it is more comfortable, safer, and economically profitable when these places become a paradise to live.
Therefore, the protection of our cultural and religious sites will be the top priority of the Ministry of Culture. Many historical sites have been restored on my initiative. But there are still quite a few historical sites that are in an unbearable condition. I think that the Ministry of Culture should quickly inspect and list them and prepare new lists of cultural centers in disrepair. Since the lists of sites protected by the state were not prepared accurately in the past. There was a biased approach. Some buildings were removed from the list so that they could be sold. There have been such situations. There have been quite a few violations. In other words, the manipulation of such lists has dealt a massive blow to our cultural heritage, of course. All the different unpleasant situations – unfortunately, there have been quite a few unpleasant situations in the Ministry of Culture – came to light. Those responsible for these violations were held accountable, including criminal liability. Therefore, you must seriously combat all these violations. I gave you these instructions when I appointed you as Deputy Minister.
We have an abundant cultural life, but we must enrich it even more. I do hope that after the vaccination is applied this year, the pandemic will gradually fade away. We are waiting for the vaccine in the coming days, after which normal life will be restored. Our cultural life must be prosperous; competitions and festivals must be organized. We must both promote Azerbaijani culture in the world and continue to invite foreign guests.
Of course, the restoration of cultural facilities and cultural centers in the destroyed areas is one of the top priorities. The operational headquarters has already been instructed on this issue. You are also represented there. Therefore, all our destroyed historical sites and cultural centers should be listed. Their previous appearance should be identified. Their restoration or reconstruction must not detract from their original and authentic identity. In general, we must be very sensitive in the repair of our semi-destroyed historical sites. We must restore the actual appearance of those historical sites.
I declare Shusha to be the capital of Azerbaijani culture. The city of Shusha deserves that. I think that it can be considered not only the cultural capital of Azerbaijan but also of the entire region. The cultural life of Shusha should be rich. Work has already begun on the restoration of Shusha. A large delegation was sent there on my instruction. So the housing stock and historical sites must be inspected, the damage must be accurately calculated, and we must begin the restoration of Shusha. However, the original appearance and the historical image of Shusha must be restored without wasting time, but at the same time without haste.
In particular, our mosques in Shusha must be overhauled, restored, and their original appearance returned. The Armenians have destroyed more than 60 of our mosques. Pigs and cows were kept in the Aghdam mosque. A photo recently published by an Armenian journalist on the Internet infuriated the entire Azerbaijani people yet again. In that photo, the Azerbaijani people's executioner, former President of Armenia Kocharyan, stands in front of a mosque in the occupied city of Aghdam with his thugs and bandits. Insulting inscriptions can be seen on the walls of the Aghdam mosque. Notice who led Armenia, what executioner, someone with such mundane moral values! They have destroyed the city and desecrated our mosque. They filled our mosque with cows and pigs and wrote insulting statements about our religion and our people on the mosque walls. Kocharyan desecrated the mosque, painted insulting pictures on the walls of the mosque, and wrote obscene words. His henchman Sargsyan and himself – they destroyed our cities for 20 years. Our cities were not destroyed during the war. It is impossible to destroy towns during the war. During the occupation after the war, all buildings and settlements were razed to the ground. They are vandals and barbarians, but they ruled Armenia for 20 years.
We will restore all our historical sites. The Armenians allegedly wanted to repair a mosque in Shusha, but it was just a propaganda step. After all, you have destroyed more than 60 mosques, including one in Zangilan. I addressed the Azerbaijani people standing in front of that mosque – there are only a few walls left of that mosque. How come you allegedly repair a mosque in Shusha? Just say for the sake of propaganda that, yes, we respect the Muslim religion here. Unfortunately, foreign specialists took part in repairing this mosque in Shusha and did this without our permission. How can you go to Azerbaijan territory without our consent, allegedly repair our mosque together with the occupying Armenians? What international norms does it fit into? Which moral frames does that fit into? What company or people can ever do that? These are our historical sites, so you should ask us. But they went to the occupied lands of another country and did some work there for yourselves. The historical appearance of the mosque was changed. Therefore, I am ordering you to revise the mosque's interior. We do not need that renovation. We will renovate it and return its original appearance to the mosque. Then we will open it.
The Poetry Days of Vagif should be restored in Shusha. The Poetry Days of Vagif were held traditionally. I remember that my father and I attended the Poetry Days of Vagif. I also attended the opening of Vagif's mausoleum on a snowy and cold day. It makes one's heartache to see Vagif's mausoleum now. How much savagery can there be? How much cruelty can there be? After all, what did the Azerbaijani people do to you? We only gave you bread. What did the people of Azerbaijan do for you to have so much hatred in your heart? You are destroying our cities, expelling our people, demolishing our historic sites.
What is your goal? Do they think that this atrocity will be ever erased from our memory? We fought a war for 44 days and ultimately defeated Armenia. We could have taken any step, any step! But I said that we are not fighting against the civilian population. We are not fighting against history. We are not fighting against religious sites. Has any of their sacred sites been destroyed? No! The casualties among their civilians are also very low, and even that happened by accident. But look at what they did. The Khojaly genocide, the destruction of our mosques, the destruction of our cities. They have committed cultural genocide against us. The whole world, their patrons, and friends should see this. Foreign patrons who try to introduce it as a civilized nation surrounded by Muslims and those who believe in that open your eyes to this. Look what they have done! They are wild. Man does not act like that. This atrocity had to be stopped, and it was. Shouldn't they have been taught a lesson?
They are defying all the neighbors. They are making baseless claims, claims of land, territorial claims. They want to appropriate everything. They are stealing our music. Go and look it up. The authors of most of the music they present as their own is either Uzeyir Hajibayli or another Azerbaijani composer. They are stealing our cuisine. They are stealing the cuisine of neighboring nations. They are stealing historical sites. They are trying to steal churches from other nations, from neighboring countries.
So let me repeat, the Poetry Days of Vagif must be restored in Shusha, the "Khari Bulbul" festival must be restored. A new road is being built to Shusha now. However, this road runs through an area with very difficult terrain. But we will achieve this. Plan your work to hold these two events in Shusha this year – the "Khari Bulbul" festival and the Poetry Days of Vagif.
An international airport will be built in Fuzuli on my instructions. This instruction has already been given. Places are being identified now. Mine clearance work will be carried out. I have ordered that an international airport be established in Fuzuli this year. At least a runway should be put into operation. The distance from there to Shusha is short. Because in Soviet times, you had to go to Shusha either from Khankandi or through the Lachin corridor. We are building a new road now. Of course, those roads are there too, and our citizens, those engaged in repair work there these days, are using these roads – the Aghdam-Khankandi-Shusha road and the Lachin corridor. In other words, these roads are open to us. We should be able to go there whenever we want, and it will be the case. However, the construction of the Fuzuli international airport will create opportunities to invite foreign guests to Shusha. It will be possible to come there and then travel a short distance to Shusha.
A list of all cultural sites in the liberated lands should be prepared. Such plans existed before, but we have to look at the sites on the spot, look at their condition, and restore them later. But first of all, of course, they must be inspected, classified, and a full list must be developed by inviting international companies. I can say that all the overall destruction in the liberated lands is being recorded. We will take legal action against the perpetrators of this destruction.
I want to touch upon another issue. You have represented Azerbaijan in UNESCO for many years. You are well informed about the relations between UNESCO and Azerbaijan. You have made an effort to develop these relations. The decision to appoint you as Deputy Minister and now as Minister is also based on your experience. In other words, we have very productive and sincere relations with UNESCO, and I hope that these relations will be maintained. I had meetings with three general secretaries. I met the current general secretary in Baku once, but I had several meetings with the previous two general secretaries. They have visited Azerbaijan many times. They have played a significant role in the development of UNESCO-Azerbaijan relations. Therefore, UNESCO has a lot of information about Azerbaijan's contribution to the world's cultural heritage. We have implemented various projects not only in Azerbaijan but also in some countries. In particular, we have played an active role in the restoration of Muslim and Christian religious sites. The multicultural society in Azerbaijan should be an example for many countries. It is not me saying that. It is what the world's religious leaders are saying. Let them look at Pope Francis's statements, who visited Baku, pay attention to the opinions of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation leaders. Let them watch the speeches of other religious leaders, Jewish, Catholic, Orthodox, and Muslim religious leaders who have repeatedly visited Baku. Who can ever accuse us that the sites of other religions are in danger in Azerbaijan? Only novice politicians, populists, certain "politicians" who have no idea about our region but act on the Armenian lobby orders or at least try to do so can criticize us. Is there a basis for such claims? No! Proof of my words is several volumes of this work. Let them go and see what the Armenians have done to Muslim sites. Why hasn't UNESCO raised this issue for 30 years? We have applied to them many times. These appeals are documented in the form of letters. Two years ago, the new UNESCO leadership was asked to send a mission here, to send a mission to the occupied lands and see what is left of our historic sites. What was the response of the UNESCO leadership? They said that they did not want to politicize the issue. Okay, if you did not want to politicize the case two years ago, why do you want to politicize it now? Let them give an answer, provide a straightforward answer, a logical explanation. There is no reply. I appealed to them from Zangilan. I said, open your eyes and see what the Armenians have done to our mosque. Did any reaction follow? No! It is what the Armenians have destroyed. But what have we destroyed? What have we done? We have only repaired and protected sites. So, you know, we can't just ignore such unfounded approaches.
We are ready to continue our cooperation with UNESCO but only if UNESCO maintains its international status. UNESCO is not a branch of any country. If this approach prevails in our relations, there will be cooperation. If not, this cooperation can be reconsidered. In any case, our intentions are pure. There must be a relationship free from double standards, Islamophobia, and discrimination.
I must also say that an ICESCO mission will visit Azerbaijan at our invitation in January and hold meetings here. I think they should also go to the liberated lands. Then a group of experts should come. They must send a mission to record the destruction of Muslim sites by Armenians and state this in their report. Of course, let's create the maximum opportunity provided that all security measures are observed because there are still many mines in those areas, and security measures must be taken.
Thus, the protection and preservation of our cultural heritage, the promotion of Azerbaijani culture globally, the awareness of the younger generation of Azerbaijani culture, cultural heritage, and the Ministry's role re-development in educating our youth in the national spirit. One of the main tasks of the Ministry of Culture should be to reward talented cultural figures and provide them with state support, to nurture the younger generation, to protect our historical sites, to continue the traditional functions of the Ministry and now, of course, work in the liberated lands. I am confident that you will be able to cope with this task. I wish you good luck. I am sure that you will live up to this high confidence with your work.
Anar Karimov: Thank you very much, dear Mr. President. With your permission, first of all, on behalf of the cultural community, I would like to congratulate you as Commander-in-Chief of our victorious army on this historic victory again.
As a result of your persistent position and political determination, Azerbaijan has restored its territorial integrity and regained its national pride and confidence. Thank you for the particular importance you are attaching to our culture and the Ministry of Culture's role in the "Great Return to Karabakh" program you announced as a result of this victory.
On the day of the liberation of Shusha, the cradle of our national music and culture, you said, "Shusha, you are free!" Your words have become a source of pride for both the people of Azerbaijan and our cultural community. Mr. President, it is a great honor and a great responsibility for me to be given this high confidence at such a historic moment. As you said, I will do my best to revive our culture and, at the same time, return it to Karabakh.
The care and attention you and the First Vice-President of our country Mehriban khanim have been paying to our culture's development is an example for all of us. It will be the working principle in our future activities.
I am proud to say that I witnessed your support for developing our culture during my years at UNESCO. Following my appointment as Deputy Minister of Culture, we embarked on a large-scale and systematic process to carry out reforms in the cultural sector under your initial instructions. I would like to bring to your attention to the four main directions of this reform process. The first is to establish transparent and effective governance, strengthen human resources, enrich the Ministry of Culture's content, and apply economic models. We will use all of these in the reform process and will be guided by the valuable ideas and directions you have outlined about our culture today.
As for cooperation at the international level, of course, under your leadership, global organizations will be required to respect our territorial integrity, respect our sovereignty, and treat these issues fairly and impartially.
Dear Mr. President, please let me assure you that I will try to fulfill your instructions and responsibilities with dignity and honesty. Thank you very much again for your confidence. Thank you very much.