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Azerbaijan – vivid example of multicultural humanistic values and traditions in the Caucasus

he restoration of independence allowed the Azerbaijan Republic to confidently develop along the path  of  building  a  democratic,  sovereign,  law-governed  and  secular  state.  Both  throughout  its  long history and at present,  Azerbaijan  has  been  striving to maintain good neighborly relations with all states and give a new impetus to intercultural dialogue and dialogue of civilizations. Not only the historical past, but also the modern, dynamic development of the country helps to deepen cooperation on key aspects of inter- national humanitarian cooperation and develop new constructive ideas, projects and important initiatives in the fields of culture, science and education.
Belonging to the Caucasus region, the independent Azerbaijan Republic ensures the comprehensive devel- opment not only of its people, but also of all the neigh- boring sovereign states. The Caucasus is a very sensitive region, and historical, political and cultural events tak- ing place here often become iconic on a global scale. The Caucasus has long been characterized by the rich- ness of the cultural palette and represents a whole world of different ethnicities and religions which live together and share common traditions that produce excellent results of joint neighborly coexistence. Mul- ticulturalism has been regarded not only as tolerance, but also as full-fledged friendship of peoples here. Na- tional leader Heydar Aliyev said: “Our greatest desire is

to achieve peace in Azerbaijan, in the Caucasian region and around the world. Azerbaijan, as a peace-loving state, desires understanding, good neighborliness and cooperation with all countries and peoples, particularly with its neighbors.”
Multiculturalism, which formed as a phenomenon in the new society characterized by diversity and plural- ism, is required by time and the need to promote toler- ance between different cultures and freedom of culture and customs proclaimed by  the  Universal  Declaration of Human Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights, other international documents and national leg- islation.
Dialogue between cultures and civilizations at the beginning of the 3rd millennium became one of the most important and popular trends in the world. Today conferences, forums, events and summits held in the Caucasus are devoted to it, and each such meeting is a kind of dialogue in itself.

The phenomenon of multiculturalism has always been present in the historical area of the Caucasus re- gion, but we want to draw attention to the factors that confirm the existence of this phenomenon specifically on the example of the independent Azerbaijan Repub- lic and to demonstrate their importance for the region as a whole.
The independent Azerbaijan Republic became a re- gional leader and an outpost in the future positive de- velopment of multiculturalism.
The acquisition and strengthening of state inde- pendence imposes the particularities we mentioned above. At the opening of the Orthodox Religious and Cultural Center of the Baku and Azerbaijani Diocese in 2013, President Ilham Aliyev described the traditional and emerging particularities of the multicultural state strategy: “Multiculturalism is a state policy of Azerbai- jan. Azerbaijan has always been a country where rep- resentatives of different religions and nations live in an atmosphere of fraternity. In all periods of history, the Azerbaijani people showed an example of tolerance to the world.”
Modern Azerbaijan demonstrates a model of effective development of inter-ethnic relations to the world. It is obvious that there is never too much tolerance. Today, many of the countries that attribute themselves to “super-civilized ones” and to the “golden billion” and preach the dissolution of small nations in the titular na- tion failed in their policy of multiculturalism. Assuming that the phenomenon of multiculturalism “is the funeral procession of European nation states”, they refused “to participate in their own funeral”, thereby admitting their failure in the maintenance of multi-cultural traditions. Recent events in the world and particularly in Europe
(intensification of terrorist activities – I. H.) force the Western political elite to talk about the “totalitarianism of tolerance” – a phenomenon in which “excessive”, as they say, political correctness and tolerance of ethnic minorities leads to violations of the rules they have im- posed.
In this regard, it should be noted that the utopian nature of multiculturalism, which is imposed by some failed Western strategies, is aimed at suppressing the le- gitimate interests of ethnic minorities and is antidemo- cratic and destructive, is completely refuted by Azerbai- jani experience, as evidenced by many experts on inter- national ethnic problems. The rejection of the path of multiculturalism by the political elites of these countries is akin to the ideology of ignoring national and ethnic interests, from which the Caucasus region, as well as the entire Soviet community suffered for many years. In to- day’s world it is important to find ways to combine tol- erance with self-esteem and protection of ethnic iden- tity. These methods really function in the independent Azerbaijan Republic.
Let’s face it, Azerbaijan is the regional leader in the field of socio-cultural development. The republic, as the most rapidly developing independent state, which is globally recognized as an“island”of stability and sustain- ability, has hosted international meetings and events at various times – a conference of ministers responsible for culture in  Europe  and  its  neighboring  regions  (2008), a conference of ministers of culture of OIC member countries, a conference of ministers of culture of Turkic- speaking countries (2009), a summit of world religious leaders (2010) and so on.
In recent years, the country has played a leading role in holding events in the field of relations between cul- tures and civilizations, a major achievement of which was the “Baku process”, which was remarkable for the whole world. In 2008, Azerbaijan hosted an interna- tional women’s conference, which was attended by rep- resentatives of all continents. This conference adopted the Baku Declaration on the role of women in intercul- tural dialogue.
At the 65th session of the UN General Assembly on 23 September 2010, Ilham Aliyev put forward an initiative to hold the World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue in Baku within the framework of which Baku was declared “the world capital of dialogue”.

Among the most important events we can note the 7-9 April 2011 World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue organized by the government of Azerbaijan in cooperation with UNESCO, the UN Alliance of Civilizations, the Council of Europe, the North-South Center and ISESCO. The forum was held on the basis of the Global Agenda for Dialogue among Civilizations of the United Nations General Assembly (November 2001), the UNESCO Con- vention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (2005), the ISESCO Declaration on Cultural Diversity (2004), according to the declaration and plan of action of the Third Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Council of Eu- rope Member States, the Council of Europe White Paper on Intercultural Dialogue (May 2008), the Baku Declara- tion on the Promotion of Intercultural Dialogue and the Global Agenda for Intercultural Dialogue. The slogan of the global forum was a “world without dividing lines”, which involves the promotion of intercultural under- standing, mutual respect and cooperation among dif- ferent civilizations through culture, art and cultural heri- tage. The Forum brought together some 450 represen- tatives from 80 countries. The forum laid the foundation of the “5A Intercultural Cooperation Platform”, which symbolically  unites  the  five  continents,  whose  names begin with the same sound in the Azerbaijani language.
Independent  Azerbaijan,  leading  the  region  in  the political,  economic,  social  and  cultural  spheres,  initiates and generates numerous agreements and treaties with the neighboring Caucasus republics. Among them are the Tbilisi Declaration on Peace and Cooperation in the Caucasus (1996), the Declaration on Friendship and Cooperation between Azerbaijan and Dagestan (1996),
the Treaty on the Expansion of Project Activities in the Sphere of Youth Policy (2012), an agreement between
the Azerbaijan State Oil Academy and the Russian company Lukoil on the training of personnel (2003) and a number of cultural projects. The fruitful activity of the
Azerbaijan Republic in strengthening multilateral relations in the fields of culture, science and education has a positive and productive impact not only in the repub-
lic but also in neighboring countries. Moreover, Azerbaijan itself is a prime example of intercultural interaction.
In  May  2012,  the  Azerbaijan  Republic  hosted  the
Baku International Humanitarian Forum in the traditionally established format of annual meetings, which wasattended by representatives of more than 100 countries and well-known  figures in  the  field of  culture,  educa- tion and science. In his speech at the forum, the rector of the Russian State Humanitarian University, Y. Pivovar, noted that “if we talk about a dialogue of cultures, toler- ance, mutual support and consideration of differences, interests and characteristics of each other’s lives, multi- culturalism will not go anywhere from us and will exist in this world anyway”.
Today active and fruitful regional cooperation is being implemented in the Caucasus in the fields of culture, historical knowledge, collaborative scientific research and the study of the characteristics of the cultural poli- cy pursued by regional states. Numerous programs and projects are being carried out, and one of them is the project “Intercultural Cooperation in the Caucasus” (Jan- uary 2011, Grozny). The project focuses on the preserva- tion and promotion of the traditions of the peoples of the Caucasus.
Today the Caucasus is a region that supports its na- tional state and the socio-cultural  identity.  Of  course, no similarity to the West or East, or other civilizations, is expected or will happen – the state and societies of the Caucasus will not be able to “escape from geography and history” and, let’s add, culture.
At the same time, today’s world is experiencing pro- cesses of integration and globalization, the establish- ment of common universal standards in all spheres of life and, especially, in culture. In order to “survive” and preserve their purpose, national cultures, including Cau- casian, are conducting extensive outreach activities in the global community. If 30-40 years ago the Caucasus was presented by the Soviet ideology as a single com- munity with no significant differences in the culture of ethnic groups inhabiting it, today many nations, states and sovereign entities with their own history, mutual re lations, traditions and spirituality are open to the world.
Today, the peoples of  the ethno-political Caucasus area (except for Armenia) constructively respond to the bchallenges  of  integration  and  globalization:  regional mutual cooperation is actively developing, interaction with  other  cultures  and  civilizations  is  being  imple mented  through  the  prism  of  the  national  spiritual
development of the Caucasian community, the bound aries of the creative participation of civil society in the promotion of national cultural and historical heritage in
the world cultural area are expanding, and comprehensive commitment to the roots, spirituality, morality and traditions is being maintained and cultivated.
Azerbaijani   multiculturalism   shows   the   country’s commitment   to   democratic   ideals   of   freedom   and
equality of cultures of ethnic groups living in it to such a degree that the OSCE is going to promote this expe rience  in  projects  to  support  tolerance.  Today,  these freedoms  are  being  reinterpreted  in  a  new  pluralistic context.
The  state  of  society  and  public  policy  in  issues  of multiculturalism in Azerbaijan are going together. This is an indicator of the development of society and a way
of life.
The 4th International Humanitarian Forum held in Baku turned Azerbaijan into an internationally recog- nized center of multiculturalism. Influential in the world political community, forum participants noted that “tol- erance in Azerbaijan results from high culture. It has been, is and will be the case for centuries.” Based on this, Azerbaijan has become a rallying point of intercultural dialogue on a global scale.
The 4th  International Humanitarian Forum was an- other important step in the development of inter-eth- nic communication. It served the rapprochement of peoples and their cultures in the context of new para- digms and socio-cultural trends. UNESCO Director-Gen- eral Irina Bokova said: “The Baku forum has become a platform for the formation of the international humani- tarian agenda.”
As a landmark event of outstanding representatives of the political, cultural and scientific elite of the world community, the forum brought together well-known public figures, laureates of the Nobel Prize and current or former heads of state. All participants noted that Azerbaijan is a unique country in terms of ethnic tol- erance and a state with a growing reputation. Former Bulgarian President Peter Stoyanov said that “Azerbaijan, using  the  favorable  geographical  position  and  traditions of multiculturalism and presenting its cultural val- ues to the world, has turned into an important center of dialogue in the world.” Secretary General of the Co- operation Council of Turkic Speaking States Halil Akinci appreciated the importance of Azerbaijan in terms of regional peace and security. The representative of the Kyrgyz people, former President of the Kyrgyz Repub- lic Roza Otunbayeva, spoke about the significance of rich historical and cultural heritage for the world com- munity. A member of the European Parliament and mayor of one of Paris districts, Rachida Dati,  stressed that Azerbaijan, which is rapidly developing and is the initiator of regional projects, is one of the most multicul- tural countries in the world, in which representatives of various nations and religions live in mutual respect and understanding. The Declaration adopted by the forum states: “Traditionally held on the initiative of Azerbaijan, the Baku Humanitarian Forum is an important contribu- tion to the development of multiculturalism based on humanistic practices as a basic value of the postmodern age. In recent years, a number of countries, including Azerbaijan, have made significant progress in the field of planning and managing processes of sustainable development, which is reflected in the indicators and reports of international organizations.”
In the context of the tolerance of the Azerbaijani people with regard to all peoples  without  exception, we must talk about an issue that is the most important for the people and the state today. As you know, for over 20 years, Armenia has been waging a war with the sov-

ereign Azerbaijan Republic with territorial claims to in- digenous Azerbaijani lands, which are accompanied by their occupation, a huge number (about one million – I. H.) of refugees and internally displaced persons, the de- struction of the historical-cultural heritage of the Azer- baijani people and infrastructure, violations of interna- tional law and agreements on the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan proclaimed by the international community. The political position of the independent Azerbaijani state rightly blames unprecedented crimes and geno- cide on the political elite of Armenia and its foreign sponsors ruling the Armenian state from outside,  but not on the entire Armenian  nation. This  is  evidenced by the stable residence of more than 30 thousand Ar- menians in the territory of Azerbaijan and the tolerant attitude to representatives of Armenia at international conferences, forums and sports held in Baku.
The existing format of the Humanitarian Forum  in the field of international cooperation confirms the tra- ditional commitment of the Azerbaijani people and the country’s leadership to ideals and principles of multi- culturalism, as well as issues of ethno-cultural security. Obviously, at a time when the Western interpretation of multiculturalism has failed, the independent Azerbai- jan Republic is becoming a real leader on the path of establishing humanistic principles of equality, identity, spirituality of national cultures and their positive coex- istence.

Author: Irada HUSEYNOVA, Doctor of History, Professor
Source: IRS magazine

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