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The Baku Process: An Effective Cultural Diplomacy Momentum of Azerbaijan

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The Republic of Azerbaijan is home of one of the earliest Christian communities in the world, the Caucasian Albanian-Apostolic Church in the village of Nic, the ancient temple of Caucasian Albania in the village of Kish, the round temple of Caucasian Albania, Khudavend Monastery Complex, the Momuna Khatun Monument, all of these unique religious and cultural monuments have deeply encouraged the Azerbaijani society and lifestyle to embrace a harmonious dialogue and preserve a combination of traditions and ceremonies of different cultures, ethnicities, civilizations and faiths.

The peculiar treasures, ancient historical sites, geographical position and the ethnic – national composition, make the Republic of Azerbaijan a special place where different cultures and religions can converge, harness an open dialogue and live in harmony.  Azerbaijan, the Land of Fire, has built an environment of tolerance, trust and confidence among the principal religious convictions: Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Catholicism; all of these elements of Azerbaijani society are shared throughout the world and the Baku Process plays an indispensable role towards harnessing intercultural dialogue, multiculturalism, spreading peaceful coexistence and prosperity across countries and regions.

On December 2-3, 2008, the President of Azerbaijan, H. E. Mr. Ilham Aliyev, initiated the “Baku Process,” as an interactive international platform that encourages: a dialogue among different cultures and civilizations; promotes Azerbaijan’s Cultural Diplomacy and harnesses multiculturalism policies that ensure a healthy cultural pluralism.

Intercultural Dialogue: a pillar of Azerbaijan’s Cultural Diplomacy

The Republic of Azerbaijan, under the vision and guidance of national leader Heydar Aliyev, has established a solid national economy, strengthened its infrastructure and shaped an effective foreign policy during the first decade of its independence (1993 – 2003).  Founded on the solid statecraft institutions and foreign policy of Azerbaijan, on December 2nd-3rd, 2008, the current president of Azerbaijan H. E. Mr. Ilham Aliyev established the “Baku Process” under the framework of an International Conference dedicated to: “Intercultural dialogue as a basis for peace and sustainable development in Europe and its neighboring regions”, with the participation of official representatives and Ministers of Culture from over eighty different countries.

The “Baku Process” aspires to promote intercultural, inter-racial and inter-religious dialogue among individuals, international experts, journalists and government leaders, while respecting the diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds encountered throughout the five continents.

The First Baku Process Ministerial Conference was entitled: ‘“Baku Process” for the promotion of intercultural dialogue (2008)’; it was organized in cooperation with the Council of Europe.  On this occasion the Ministers of Culture, from Europe, Asia and Western Hemisphere, discussed viable effective methods that could promote and strengthen the cultural dialogue and preserve multiculturalism policies in many regions and countries.  This conference happened to be one of very few venues where European Ministers of Culture exchanged thoughts and views on multiculturalism, cultural diplomacy and public diplomacy with their counterparts from the Muslim Countries in Northern Africa, Middle East and Southeast Asia.

The Ministerial Conference of 2008 emphasized the vital role of effective dialogue, cultural policies, preservation of cultural monuments, and promotion of inter-religious tolerance and shared the values of Azerbaijani Multiculturalism Policy. The foreign dignitaries were introduced to a deeply rooted religious tolerance and cultural diversity that is presently flourishing among Azerbaijani people from Nakhchivan to Baku, from Shaki to Lankaran and from Quba to Tartar Region of Dağlıq Qarabağ (Upper Karabakh Region).  This conference was attended by representatives of the European Cultural Convention, Council of Europe, UNESCO, the International Organization of Turkic Culture TURKSOY; representatives of the GUAM Organization for Democracy and Economic Development shared their views on how to further strengthen cultural diplomacy projects in South – East Europe and in other regions of Europe, Africa and the Americas.  Under the framework of this event, the Ministers of Culture, adopted the ‘Baku Declaration for the Promotion of Intercultural Dialogue’ and established an interactive project entitled: “Artists for Dialogue.”  Through the platform of Baku Process, the cultural diplomacy of Azerbaijan has bolstered its presence in the world, promoted mutual understanding among different cultures and diminished the transnational perils and threats that come from extremism, intolerance, xenophobia and racism.  According to Dr. Rashad Ilyasov; “the ‘Baku Process’ has tremendously strengthened Azerbaijan’s geopolitical role in the global arena; modern Azerbaijan is actively contributing to the mutual development of cultures.”

On his meeting with Mr. Jan Dziedziczak, held on August 17th, 2017, Academician Kamal Abdulla emphasized the importance of intercultural dialogue and noted that: “in all international events, Poland has defended Azerbaijan’s just and right position and representatives of Poland have actively participated at international events.” The advanced cultural partnership between Azerbaijan and Poland is one of many concrete initiatives that have swiftly developed under the framework of the “Baku Process”.

Under the guidance of President Ilham Aliyev, the Government of Azerbaijan has established the Baku Process as an effective mechanism that fosters intercultural dialogue, shapes bridges of communication and confidence among nations and cultures.

In this context an important role has been played by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, a non-for-profit institution under the leadership of Dr. Mehriban Aliyeva, First Vice President of Azerbaijan that is focused on developing projects in the areas of preservation of cultural sites, intercultural dialogue, education, youth and sports.  The priorities and strategic mission of Heydar Aliyev Foundation are to promote the cultural policy of Azerbaijan, foster international cultural research and promote cultural events in art galleries and concert halls.  In 2014, the Arts Council of Azerbaijan worked together with the Heydar Aliyev Foundation on implementing a waste recycling project together with German and Romanian art professionals and environmentalists. Such a prestigious project propelled by Azerbaijan’s cultural diplomacy architects, unveils Azerbaijan as a country that is committed to promote intercultural dialogue both at home and abroad; the leaders of Baku, Nakhchivan and other cities of Azerbaijan, have a track record of concrete actions that support their genuine aspiration to build bridges of dialogue and trust among civilizations and cultures using Azerbaijan’s multicultural experience, interethnic dialogue, linguistic diversity, religious tolerance and historical heritage.  Furthermore, Azerbaijan’s Foreign Policy is focused to establish an International political community that Rousseau had envisaged, as a tool to man’s liberation from the tyrannies, ongoing deprivations; a community that serves as a staunch advocate of human rights, equalities, defense of liberties that have attained a great magnitude and thrust on many international conferences organized by the Government of Azerbaijan, under the framework of “Baku Process”.  Over the last decade Baku has served as a seedbed of pluralist dialogue, intercultural communication and incessantly serves as a platform where the consequences of constant xenophobia and regional war are diminished and in Rousseau’s words: the only way of combating this war is to find a form of government that will set the law above them all.”  Policies implemented by the Government of Azerbaijan are a genuine example of peaceful religious coexistence, were freedom and constitutional rights dominate the functioning structure of the state and its independent institutions.

Baku: a Center of European Cultural Policy

On October 13-15, 2009, the “Baku Process” invited more than ten European Ministers of Culture to participate in the first session of the Sixth Conference of Ministers of Culture of Islamic countries.  The member states of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) organized the Ministerial Roundtable on “Fostering Dialogue and Cultural Diversity – Baku Process: New Challenge for Dialogue between Civilizations,” on this venue European ministers discussed the pressing cultural issues between the Islamic and European communities.  Furthermore, a special emphasis was placed to the involvement of governments, local communities and to the promotion of multiculturalism policies throughout Europe and the Middle East; as well as active engagement of youth, elected officials and teenagers.

On April 7-9, 2011, under the patronage of H. E. Mr. Ilham Aliyev, the Republic of Azerbaijan decided to host the World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue, supported by renowned international organizations such as UNESCO, UN Alliance of Civilizations, World Tourism Organization, Council of Europe, North-South Center of the Council of Europe and ISESCO.  The objective of the 1st “Baku Process” Forum was to advance cultural initiatives promoted by Azerbaijan in the sphere of cultural diplomacy, intercultural dialogue at the regional and global levels and to mark the beginning of a consolidated International Forum that tackles cultural issues and pressing international security matters that are affecting today’s world.

The “Baku Process” Forum (2011) examined the hurdles that prevent communities from engaging in an effective dialogue and tackled intercultural issues based on geographic and historical contexts. Its main theme was: “United Through Common Values, Enriched by Cultural Diversity,” additional plenary sessions and workshops addressed the example of cultural diversity in Azerbaijan as a positive role model to other regions and nations that aspire to preserve cultural diversity, democratic institutions, top notch education standards, faith and religious harmony as well as a propitious investigative journalism environment.

Geographically located at the heart of European and Asian civilizations, equipped with outstanding religious tolerance and admirable intercultural dialogue, the city of Baku hosted 500 participants from five continents and the representatives of 102 countries, including: public elected officials, heads of international organizations, religious leaders and heads of state. Moreover, the Intercultural Cooperation Platform was established; this venue attracted a wide array of participants and encouraged an extensive discussion on cultural issues and challenges, in this occasion the ‘5A’ platform was established.  The symbolic “5A” platform marked the inception of the World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue that would be organized every two years, guided by a presidential decree signed in May (2011) by H. E. Mr. Ilham Aliyev, the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan.

On May 29th – June 1st, 2013, Baku hosted the 2nd World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue dedicated to generate a meaningful platform focused on cultural diversity, cultural diplomacy, intercultural cooperation, public diplomacy, regional security issues and religious affairs.  The “Baku Process” Forum has emerged as a reliable juncture that deals with ongoing challenges and opportunities that derive from multiculturalism and intercultural dialogue, the following topics were discussed at a greater length on many parallel sessions: “How to build the world’s future together”; “How to build a popular support for cultural diversity”; “The New Era of Globalization: Hybridity of Cultures in a Changing World”; “Supporting Intercultural Actions.”  Furthermore, under this framework, there were other conferences organized such as: “Global Intercultural Cities Learning Community”; a workshop on “Intercultural Dialogue through History Teaching: Best Practices and Challenges”; “Tourism as a key driver of Mutual Understanding and Tolerance among Cultures”; “Intercultural Dialogue through Faith and Science.” This Forum was supported by UNESCO, UN Alliance of Civilizations, UN World Tourism Organization and ISESCO; it brought together principal national and international leaders and decision makers.  The 2nd World Forum hosted for the first time a conference that brought together – in Baku – more than fifty Ministers of Culture and Tourism from Europe, Middle East, Latin America and South-East Asia.

On May 18th – 19th, 2015, under the patronage of Azerbaijan’s President H. E. Mr. Ilham Aliyev, Baku hosted the 3rd World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue.  This major global event was supported by the UN Alliance of Civilizations, UNESCO, Council of Europe and ISESCO.  Under the main topic: “Sharing Culture for Shared Security,” the international participants discussed “culture and sustainable development in the post-2015 development agenda,” this was a perfect opportunity to celebrate the World Day of Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development (May 21st).  In 2015, “Baku Process,” highlighted once again the role of cultural policies, historical heritage, religions, faiths, immigration crisis, sports diplomacy, tertiary education, visual arts, business, university social responsibility and other aspects that promote effective intercultural dialogue; in such a convenient time when the United Nations has proclaimed the International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures (2013-2022).  A number of sessions were focused on: “Sharing Culture for a Shared Security: Cultural rights in the modern age”; “Countering Violent Extremism: the Role of Religious Leaders in Promoting Religious Pluralism and Advancing a Shared Well-being”; “Shaping a Common Global Agenda: the Role of International Organizations in Building Trust and Understanding Between Cultures.”

The 3rd Forum, paid attention to the current global security and the role of nations in addressing the needs of vulnerable people and immigrants at a time of significant geopolitical instability, regional turmoil and European Union’s large bureaucracy.  Under the framework of this forum was hosted: the second Ministerial Conference on “culture and sustainable development in the post-2015 development agenda”; the first meeting of the new Academic Forum of UNESCO Chairs on intercultural and interreligious dialogue and was launched a book by UNESCO-Tudor Rose publication entitled “Agree to Differ.”  According to the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, H. E. Mr. Ilham Aliyev: “today, representatives of all religions, ethnic groups live in Azerbaijan and are contributing for its successful economic development; I think this is one of our biggest assets. And we are proud of that. Therefore we organize numerous international events to promote the values of multiculturalism, values of peaceful cooperation, mutual understanding. I think the world needs this kind of events, needs open discussions, exchange of views in order to strengthen the positive tendencies.”  The results of the Baku Forum will be included into the UNESCO publications focused on intercultural dialogue and support the development of future mission and strategic objectives, including the framework of the UN Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures (2013-2022).

The “Baku Process” is making a prominent contribution to solve contemporary challenges and promote an international environment where living together peacefully and intercultural dialogue acquire the necessary attention to become two major pillars that guide European Countries’ Cultural Dialogue and further strengthen the state of Azerbaijan’s Cultural Diplomacy in the world.  The “Baku Process” creates a rare opportunity for global conversations to take place between state and non-state actors; over the last ten years, it emphasized practical actions and pragmatic cultural collaborations.

One of many concrete examples of such a pragmatic cultural approach is the visit of Bulgarian Vice President, Mrs. Margarita Popova to Baku Slavic University (BSU).  On October 1st, 2016, the Vice President Margarita Popova held a meeting with the Chancellor of Baku Slavic University, Prof. Dr. Nurlana Aliyeva.  The Vice President of Bulgaria emphasized “the education and cultural cooperation between Baku Slavic University and other Bulgarian Public Universities.”  In the same vein, Chancellor Nurlana Aliyeva provided an overview of the Bulgarian Language and Culture Centre that is working at the Baku Slavic University.  In an interview for Azerbaijan State News Agency (AZERTAC), Chancellor Nurlana Aliyeva stated: “the Bulgarian Language and Culture Centre aims to develop cultural relations between the two countries.”

On October 19th, 2016, Baku Slavic University (BSU) Chancellor Nurlana Aliyeva hosted a meeting with Bulgaria’s renowned archaeologist Nikolay Ovcharov, a Counselor in the Ministry of Culture, Government of Bulgaria.  During this meeting Chancellor Aliyeva discussed the prospects for cooperation between the higher education institutions of Azerbaijan and Bulgaria.  This meeting was attended also by Editor-in-Chief of Standart daily newspaper Slavka Buzukova and her deputy, Mrs. Ekaterina Nikolova.

Chancellor Nurlana Aliyeva stated for Azerbaijan State News Agency (AZERTAC) that: “the cultural and scientific cooperation between Azerbaijan and Bulgaria are at excellent levels and Azerbaijani students demonstrate a special interest in the history, ethnography, economic and cultural life of Bulgaria.”  Furthermore, Azerbaijan’s First Lady and president of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, Dr. Mehriban Aliyeva, has played a fundamental role in strengthening the cultural cooperation between Azerbaijan and Bulgaria.”

Later on Dr. Nikolay Ovcharov had a working meeting with State Adviser on Multinational, Multicultural and Religious Affairs, Academician Kamal Abdulla.  On this occasion Azerbaijani Academician Abdulla gave an overview of cultural events organized by the Baku International Multiculturalism Centre.  Dr. Ovcharov shared the interest and possibility to have courses of Azerbaijani Multiculturalism Model be taught at various European universities, to promote the religious tolerance of Azerbaijan throughout many countries of the world.

VII Global Forum of United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC)

On April 25th-27th, 2016, the Government of Azerbaijan hosted the 7th Global Forum of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) under the main theme: “Living Together In Inclusive Societies, A Challenge and A Goal.”  At the official opening ceremony of this historic event, held at the heart of Baku, the President of Azerbaijan H. E. Mr. Ilham Aliyev stated: “It is not accidental that Baku hosts the 7th Global Forum of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations.  Because as the land of tolerance and our commitment to multicultural values, independent Azerbaijan has an extensive experience for development of the dialogue of cultures, realization of important projects aimed at the preservation of cultural diversity and to regulate the mutual relations between civilizations and to host prestigious forums”.

According to Mr. Milikh Yevdayev: “The delegates flew to Azerbaijan from every corner of the world, to discuss the power of inclusiveness in a world that is overwhelmed by division and strife.  Security experts, political scientists, heads of state, diplomats, organizational leaders, activists, students, and brave heroes, those who spend every day risking their lives at the frontlines of change – all came together for a meeting of their hearts and minds. Throughout the two days of intense programs and panels, the forum leaders gave particular attention to the role of religious leaders, women, youth, culture and education in perpetuating the message of building peace by actively and cooperatively coming together against hate and extremism. I saw many new faces, and also the familiar representatives of Azerbaijan’s own diverse religious communities: Muslim, Christian and Jewish friends, and important leaders in this effort. …”

On his article: “Reflections on Global Peace and the 7th Forum of the U.N. Alliance of Civilizations;” published at The Jewish Journal, Mr. Milikh Yevdayev, emphasized: “There was something very powerful about this forum and its theme, as it relates to Azerbaijan in particular. The forum’s theme ‘Living Together In Inclusive Societies: A Challenge and A Goal’ made me feel a sense of pride. There could be no better fit for such a program than Azerbaijan.  Positive inclusion is central to our national character, and also to our historical identity.  We are a nation defined by our success with inclusivity, multicultural and multi faith respect – now and in times when there is so much division and hatred in various parts of the world.”  In his analysis Mr. Milikh Yevdayev underscored: “the UNAOC program was nothing short of uplifting, after weeks of immense worry and stress especially, as our homeland Azerbaijan came under attack again.  Before this, I wondered how to face the Passover Holiday while so many of my fellow Azerbaijanis were mourning their loved ones lost to the renewed aggression by Armenia in Azerbaijan’s Karabakh region.”

In her keynote speech, the First Lady of the Republic of Azerbaijan Dr. Mehriban Aliyeva stressed that tolerance and multiculturalism are a lifestyle in Azerbaijan.  She also informed the participants about the severe humanitarian and environmental consequences of Armenia’s aggression against Azerbaijan and gave detailed information about the projects implemented by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation in the country and abroad on the basis of public-private and civil society partnerships.

The 7th Global Forum of the UNAOC was addressed by: the President of the Republic of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the UN High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations Ambassador Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, and the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo.

Furthermore this global event hosted a breakout session entitled: “Constructing Peace, Deconstructing Terror,” where a number of matters in the Middle East and other regions of the world were addressed. Similarly, Baku hosted other sessions; according to Dr. Rafig Novruzov the following topics were embarked upon: “a new global social contract for regions destroyed by internal and interstate conflicts and ways to reduce attraction towards extremist behavior; effective ways to restore a sense of dignity among people feeling disempowered; the changing narrative from religious and sectarian to political and strategic dimensions of violent extremism.”

In these unique panels, some of the keynote speakers were: Baron John Thomas Alderdice, Former Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly (1998-2004); Mr. Novruz Mammadov, Mr. Egemen Bağış, Former Minister of European Union Affairs, Republic of Turkey; Mr. Samir Barhoum, Editor-in-chief of The Jordan Times.  In his remarks, Mr. Novruz Mammadov emphasized that 20 (twenty) percent of Azerbaijani lands are under the Armenian occupation. Mr. Mammadov stated: “United Nations Security Council adopted four resolutions demanding immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Armenian troops from our territory, but these resolutions remain on paper. These resolutions demand immediate and unconditional withdrawal; in some cases, resolutions of the U. N. Security Council are being implemented within hours or days.  But in our case it is more than twenty years of no action. That shows that there is a lack of political will.”
In the framework of UN Alliance of Civilizations’ objectives focused on: the promotion of cultural and interreligious dialogue; respect and mutual understanding among civilizations; encourage solutions that bring societies together based on the UN fundamental principles of peace and security, human rights and sustainable development; more than 4,000 delegates from 147 countries participated in the 7th Baku UNAOC Global Forum. This event was widely covered by 117 foreign and local media representatives.

In the 7th Global Forum of the UN Alliance of Civilizations was adopted the Baku Declaration during the high level ministerial meeting.  This document emphasized Azerbaijan’s role as the host country of the 7th Global Forum of the UN Alliance of Civilizations under the name “Living Together in Inclusive Societies: A Challenge and A Goal”, as a way to bind multiple perspectives and strengthen inclusiveness and diversity throughout many countries and regions.  According to Mr. Sarkhanbay Khuduyev: “the Baku Process, started in 2008 under the guidance and leadership of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, whose aim is to develop inter-civilizational dialogue and address intercultural convergence beyond the boundaries of Europe; the Azerbaijani head of state is raising the current multiculturalism matters at the global level.”

IV World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue

On May 5-6, 2017, Baku hosted the 4th World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue, under the main theme: “Advancing Intercultural Dialogue: New Avenues for Human Security, Peace and Sustainable Development.” This major global event focused on the role of faith, religions, migration, human security, sports diplomacy, cultural diplomacy, sustainable development and on ways to curtail violent extremism. The Forum provided a platform to discuss the best practices that ensure genuine respect for everyone, including freedom of religion, equal employment opportunities, good governance, effective healthcare systems and economic growth.  Heads of governments, ministers, representatives of various international organizations, senior policy makers, cultural diplomacy professionals, goodwill ambassadors, experts, journalists, practitioners, prominent intellectuals and activists, participated throughout the sessions of the 4th World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue.  According to Prof. Mehmood – Ul – Hassan Khan: “the IV World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue has already prioritized its agenda by placing intercultural dialogue and cultural diversity higher on the international agenda, it is critical for human security and a prime responsibility of our time. Prof. Ul – Hassan Khan emphasized: “[Previous] World Forums have reached remarkable achievements by bringing together heads of governments, ministers, and leaders of various international organizations, senior policy makers…” to discuss pressing challenges of our time.

Conclusion  

The Republic of Azerbaijan is a very special country where various ethnic groups, cultures, religions have coexisted for centuries since The Byzantine Empire.  The favorable geographic location of Azerbaijan has exposed this country to admirable features of European and Islamic Civilizations, making Baku, Nakhchivan, Shaki, Dağlıq Qarabağ and Quba, to become genuine archaeological and ancient commercial routes between the East and the West, as well as from the North to the South.  Azerbaijan, the Land of Fire, unlike any other country in the Eurasian landmass has preserved cultures of many ethnic groups and has become a candid bridge among millenary cultures, multiculturalism and religious dialogue.

Under the patronage of H. E. Mr. Ilham Aliyev, the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, over the last ten years the “Baku Process” has hosted the following major events:

  • The I World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue held on April 7-9, 2011; addressed matters pertaining to intercultural dialogue with the participation of 500 representatives from 102 countries from all continents. The main topic of the Forum was: “United Through Common Values, Enriched by Cultural Diversity.”
  • The II World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue held on May 29 – June 01, 2013, tackled ways on: “How to build a global future together”; “How to build a popular support for cultural diversity”; “Matters on the New Era of Globalization: hybridity of cultures in a changing world”; “Supporting intercultural actions.” Another important session was focused on: ““Tourism as a key driver of mutual understanding and tolerance among cultures.” The main topic of the Forum was: “Living Together Peacefully in a Diverse World”.
  • The III World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue held on May 18-19, 2015; reflected matters on human security, the importance of sharing different cultures; understanding that human security must be a fully shared responsibility among community leaders, educators and spiritual leaders. The main topic of the Forum was: “Culture and Sustainable Development in the Post 2015 Development Agenda.”
  • The IV World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue was held on May 5-6, 2017, tackled the role of faith, many religions, immigration policies, human security, cultural diplomacy, education, sustainable development and other matters. The main theme of this Global Forum was: “Advancing Intercultural Dialogue: New Avenues for Human Security, Peace and Sustainable Development.”

All of the aforementioned major international forums have generated tangible results in the realm of Azerbaijan’s Cultural Diplomacy and strengthened the role of the Government of Azerbaijan in the implementation of its foreign policy at the bilateral and multilateral platforms.

A few concrete results are:

  • On November 18th, 2016, Mr. Aslan Aslanov, Director General of Azerbaijan State News Agency (AZERTAC), was elected as the new president of the Organization of Asia-Pacific News Agencies (OANA) for a three years term (2016-2019). AZERTAC in cooperation with the Heydar Aliyev Foundation hosted on November 16-18, 2016, the 5th News Agencies World Congress and the 22nd session of the Council of CIS Heads of News Agencies.  Furthermore, on this occasion AZERTAC hosted the 16th General Assembly of the Organization of Asia-Pacific News Agencies (OANA).

Mr. Vugar Seyidov, Special Correspondent of AZERTAC in Germany was elected as OANA Secretary General.

  • The Government of Azerbaijan has helped inspire a number of regional governments, and international bodies, to pursue an active role towards strengthening their multiculturalism policies and religious dialogue, as well as intensify – and shape – these nations’ respective efforts in reducing religious violence, acts of terrorism and improve regional immigration policies. In this context it is valuable to indicate a few recent events that are held in Europe: the 2nd International Conference on “Religious and Cultural Pluralism and Peaceful Coexistence in the Middle East,” held in Athens (Greece) on October 30-31 (2017); organization of the 1st Ministerial Meeting of the Ancient Civilizations Forum, held in Athens on April 24-25 (2017); and the establishment of “Ancient Civilizations Forum” or GC10.  In September 23rd, 2015, leaders of European governments met in Brussels to try to shape a common action “plan on refugees following months of recriminations and amid a sense of spiraling momentum of which the leaders have lost control.”

It is certain that the Republic of Azerbaijan has always harnessed an avant-garde foreign policy that addresses many global challenges that are deeply affecting Europe and Asia today.  Baku has supported, and become a global player, on all efforts led by the international community right at their inception stage; the Government of Azerbaijan under President Ilham Aliyev has proactively brought together Nobel Prize winners, heads of state and cultural experts to promote intercultural and interfaith dialogue — always intertwined with the world’s pressing challenges and obstacles of today and of the future.

The nation of Azerbaijan, with its tolerant attitude and admirable acceptance of other cultures, upholds the special values of intercultural and interreligious dialogue; characteristics that are essential to foster regional peace, economic development and ensure respect for international law.  The “Baku Process” will continue to promote intercultural dialogue between governments and nations, strengthen cooperation among many ethnic groups and encourage cultural partnerships among people living on different continents.

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Eastern Europe

Economic Growth of Ukraine Depends on Completing Pending Reforms Quickly

MD Staff

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Ukraine’s economy grew by 2.5 percent in 2017, the second year of modest growth, according to the World Bank’s latest Ukraine Economic Update.  Growth in manufacturing, services, and construction was robust, but weaknesses in the agriculture and mining sectors, together with delays in key reforms to further strengthen investor confidence contributed to the modest overall growth performance.

“Faster growth is needed to improve living standards for the people of Ukraine who continue to hurt from the economic crisis of 2014-2015,” said Satu Kahkonen, World Bank Country Director for Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine. “This will require decisive measures in the next few months to complete pending reforms to bolster investor confidence and safeguard macroeconomic stability.”

Economic growth is projected at 3.5 percent in 2018 if pending reforms in anticorruption, land markets, state-owned banks, and privatization can be advanced in the next few months. This would provide an important signal to investors. If reforms are delayed, growth could drop below current levels in an uncertain macroeconomic environment as financing risks rapidly increase.

Ukraine faces major financing needs to repay public debt and fiscal pressures from higher public sector wages and social benefits in 2018 and 2019. Mobilizing adequate international financing by completing pending reforms in the months ahead will be important to maintain macroeconomic stability.

Meeting the fiscal deficit target of 2.5 percent of GDP in 2018 will require improving targeting of housing utility subsidies, making further wage increases contingent on measures to optimize the school and hospital network and public-sector staffing, and identifying affordable options to update public sector pensions.

Fiscal Pressures and Reform Options …

According to the World Bank’s Special Focus Note on fiscal pressures and reform options, Ukraine has made progress in reducing its large public spending since 2014. However, sustaining these gains while also improving the effectiveness of public services will require implementation of reforms in education, health, public administration, pensions, and social assistance in a fiscally affordable manner.

Public expenditures increased significantly in 2017, by 11.7 percent in real terms, reaching 41.5 percent of GDP, due to the doubling of the minimum wage and over 40 percent increase in wages of teachers and doctors. Spending on social programs also increased.

The recently adopted reforms in education, health, and public administration seek to improve compensation for teachers, doctors, and public servants to strengthen incentives and attract quality personnel. Achieving this in a fiscally affordable manner will require coordinating further increases in salaries with time-bound measures to optimize staffing and the school and hospital network.

The social assistance package in Ukraine is not only fiscally costly—costing 5 percent of GDP in 2017, but is also poorly targeted—with only 30 percent of assistance going to the bottom 20 percent of the population. Fixing this will require improved targeting of the large HUS program.

The recently adopted pension reform helped improve adequacy of benefits and stabilize fiscal costs. Additional initiatives going forward should avoid undermining these core objectives of the pension system. The timeline to create a funded pillar system by January 2019 needs to be reconsidered since this will undermine contributions to the pay-as-you-go system, create contingent fiscal liabilities, and face inadequate availability financial instruments.

Background

Since May 2014, the World Bank Group has provided a total of more than US$5 billion to Ukraine (including 4 development policy loans, 7 investment operations and 1 guarantee) from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD).

The World Bank’s current investment project portfolio in Ukraine amounts to US$2.5 billion.  Investments support improving basic public services that directly benefit ordinary people in areas such as water supply, sanitation, heating, power, roads, social protection and healthcare, as well as private sector development. Since Ukraine joined the World Bank in 1992, the Bank’s commitments to the country have totaled over US$12 billion in about 70 projects and programs.

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Baltic States: Missed opportunities in global politics

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We are living in the world where the facts “who makes” and “where it is made” are much more important than “what for” issue. Nowadays the world political scene is divided between superpowers supported by their allies. In order to punish each other for having opposite views the sides criticize any step made by the opponent.

Unfortunately, this happens even in case of evident necessity. It is not the secret that the modern system of international security is unable to perform all demanded functions any more. It needs to be reformed. Another question is who and where will decide.

The most likely political platforms for this are the United Nation Organization and OSCE. But the preparatory stage for any new decision should become different forums and conferences, such as the Munich Security Conference and the Moscow International Conference on Security.

This year the Munich Security Conference took place on February 16-18. More than 30 heads of state and government and over 100 cabinet ministers from across the globe came together at the forum for discussions on major international security challenges. As far as the Baltic States concerns, President of Estonia, as well as Lithuanian and Latvian ministers of defence did not miss the event because it was of great importance for the future of their countries and all Europe.

Just another situation developed in March. In Moscow an annual International Conference on Security was held on April 4-5. The fight against terrorism and other pressing security challenges were one the agenda. There is not a single person who is not affected by the discussed topics.

Many European countries considered it unnecessary to visit the event. It makes no sense to blame them for this choice. They have a strong and common view on what is happening in the world. But if abstract from the current geopolitical situation and confrontation between Russia and the West, politicians should see such kind of forums as a chance to find even weak possibilities to make the world safer. Probably the main reason for not attending the event is in the fact that politicians forgot how to listen to each other. They forgot that only discussing controversial issues makes possible to reach a consensus.
Another issue that deserves attention is the list of participants, which is of great interest to the analysts. According to the Russia’s Defense Ministry, representatives from at least 95 countries, three deputy prime ministers, 30 defense ministers, 15 chiefs of staff, 10 international organizations and military delegations have come to participate in the International Conference on Security. They include defense ministers of India, South Africa, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Vietnam, Azerbaijan, Belarus, China, Armenia, Mozambique, Serbia, and Israel. Thus, almost half of the UN member-states (total number is 193) sent representatives to the Conference.

It becomes evident that Russia really has powerful partners and allies that are ready to discuss even difficult questions and find mutually beneficial solutions. Those who came do not necessarily agree with Moscow and support its foreign policy but they clearly understand that unfortunately without Russia it is impossible to improve the International Security system.

This fact admitted Thomas Greminger, secretary-general for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. He stressed that Russia is a key partner in issues of the European security. But the Baltic States blinded by hatred to Russia ignore ignored the event thus putting political ambitions higher than common sense.

It is obvious that Russia is not satisfied with NATO’s actions near its borders. NATO in its turn disputes the lawfulness of Russia’s behavior. Every day confrontation becomes harder and leads to the arms race. The only way out is to discuss things and find the way out. The Baltic States as usual lost the possibility to express their position on key international security issues and be the active actors in global politics.

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Eastern Europe

Pope Francis on Armenia and Armenizm

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In June 2016, Pope Francis, current Pope of the Roman Catholic Church was on a three-day official visit to the Republic of Armenia. This visit was not a routine visit of the ruler of the state. It is distinguished by the fact that the Pope is the leader of the superpower of the Vatican state and the Holy See, the power of which depends not on nuclear and other weapons, but on powerful spiritual charge which is guided by the army of billion followers. On the other hand, Francis is not an ordinary political leader but a Man who stands out not only for his intellect but also for his spiritual nature and decency, for his exemplary behavior and lifestyle; his apparent merit and he can be placed in the series of great humanist thinkers.

If we add to this Francis’ ideas about Armenia and the Armenians, it becomes clear that his trip was truly historic and every Armenian, wherever he is, can be proud of, and should draw serious conclusions and prove to the ignorant world that He was right, as it is accepted by the Catholic dogma of the pope’s infallibility.

Now I want to present a few thoughts of Pope Francis about Armenia and the Armenians:

On the eve of his visit, the Pope calls the attention of the world noting. “…I will go on pilgrimage to a land of the East, Armenia…”. What does “pilgrimage” mean in this case? Is this a common pilgrimage? Where do people usually go on pilgrimage? – sanctuaries, then Armenia is such a sacred place. Of course, Armenia is sacred for every Armenian, but it is also a sacred place for the Pope, that is for the Catholic world, in case when Armenia and the Armenian Apostolic Church are Christian, and not Catholic.

This expression has a continuation, “… I ask for your prayers…” What does it mean? Why should all the Christians pray for him? Probably it means that He has a very serious task, which can only be fulfilled by everyone’s support, and he visits Armenia by a particular mission. What is that mission? He wants to remind the world which is now in its tough times, not to forget the role of Armenia in the development of modern civilization.

In his speech in Holy Etchmiadzin, he said, “It is very moving for me to have crossed the threshold of this holy place… the centre from which its spirituality radiates”. Immediately a question arises. What is the spirituality of the Armenians?

What does it mean, especially when he adds “Armenia gave the world its unique identity and it made itself the herald of Christ to other nations.” What kind of identity, moreover particular identity?  What precepts should the Armenians impart to other nations? Whether it should be understood in the framework of purely Christian ideas? He continues: “… faith in Christ … is an essential part of its identity… ” and then cited John Paul II, which refers to the identity of the Armenian nation.

Pope Francis, following Saint John Paul II, considers the Armenians peace ambassadors to the world. He believes that “The whole world needs…(your) message of peace….”. Pope Francis probably had in mind the fact that the Armenian kingdoms had constantly pursued a policy of peace, fought only when they were attacked. This is proved by the fact that there was no slavery as such in Armenia. The same thing happens today when the soldiers forced the aggressor to a ceasefire.

In this context I consider it important to mention the attitude of Pope Francis to Saint Gregory of Narek, whom he proclaimed a Doctor of Catholic Church, whose poem “Book of Lamentations” he considers to be an extraordinary book and calls it the “spiritual constitution of the Armenian people.” What spiritual is it and how is it expressed? Do the Armenians understand this “constitution”? Did they understand what is to be the Doctor (Vardapet) of the Catholic Church? What did this proclamation give the Armenians? What did the Armenians do to recognize, to understand, to gain lessons, to present to the world the ancient thousand-year-old “spiritual constitution”? And in their turn what did others do to learn this spiritual wealth?

The Pope refers with his precepts to the Armenian people, which, I think, in a sense, completes his mission and the pilgrimage to Armenia. Here’s the message: “…. a future of constant efforts to create the conditions for peace: dignified employment for all, care for those in greatest need, and the unending battle to eliminate corruption”. Here is his exhortation to people. “Dear young people, this future belongs to you, but cherish the great wisdom of your elders and strive to be peacemakers: not content with the status quo, but actively engaged in building the culture of encounter and reconciliation”.

Being familiar with the Armenians, Pope Francis believes that Armenizm unites them all, regardless of whether they are Catholic or the followers of the Apostolic Church. What is the Armenian identity? What is the difference between Armenians and other nations? What peculiar features do they possess? In short, what does Armenizm mean?

I think there is no need to continue with a series of new questions that Pope Francis put forward, they are too many, that are basis for serious reflection, as well as for new, radical conclusions for the Armenians and the world.

Overall, the Pope’s visit seems to me as follows: He, like no-one before and now, placed the Armenian nation in the most prominent peak in view of not only Catholics and Christians in general, but of all humanity.

Armenians need to finally come out of the sleep. The road is the correct understanding of the questions put by the Pope and thoughtful, reasoned response. The Armenians have no choice. The Pope with his visit gave the key to the solution of domestic and foreign policy, the fundamental concept of solving the problem of Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh) and, in general, the key to true progress of the Armenian society.

ARMENIZM

With this essay I try, on non-professional level, to touch briefly the problem of, particularly, spirituality of the Armenian people, its unique identity and Armenizm.

In recent decades, the issue of national(ethnic) identity has become a topic for current discussions in social sciences as great efforts were made to merge the nations in the course of history, which, however, can be asserted, successfully failed. A vivid example of the above said is the policy of Turks towards annihilation of nations and Turkization, Bolshevik national policy, as well as the advocacy of the European multiculturalism. And it is not accidental that the issue of identity was moved to the foreground. In this context it is necessary to highlight the fact that constantly growing consumer psychology and materialism has promoted the spiritual values ​​ carried by the nations themselves. The Armenian social scientists are also concerned with the Armenian identity, but as far as I know, not to a sufficient extent to give complete answers to the questions – Who are the Armenians? What is Armenizm?

In this regard, it is debated whether the Armenians are the carrier of the European culture or the Asian? This issue is very important in terms of the European integration, which the Armenian nation faces from time to time.

I think that the identity of the Armenian people (as well as of any other nation) is determined by many factors, particularly by customs, traditions and legends created in the Armenian environment by the cultural, economic and other relations with neighboring and other countries, by the Armenian music, architecture, music and dance, the Armenian Script, military culture, the Armenian alphabet created by Mesrop Mashtots, bibliography and by Christian values, etc. The translated literature, which has greatly contributed to the Theology, Philosophy, Law, Political and Natural sciences and, in general, to the development of the Armenian culture, has a unique place in the Armenian literature, and it is no coincidence that the Armenian people has included The Feast of the Holy Translators in their calendar. Great and unique is the role of such individuals as Hayk Nahapet (Hayk the Great), Aram, Tigranes the Great (Tigran Mets), Gregory the Illuminator and Mesrop Mashtots, Movses Khorenatsi, David the Invincible, Gregory of Narek, Nerses IV the Gracious (Nerses Shnorhali), Mkhitar Gosh, Komitas on the road of shaping the Armenizm.

Based on all abovementioned, as well as on other diverse factors, the Armenian culture has evolved over centuries, which in its turn determines the Armenizm, the Armenian spirit, the spiritual conformation, and the Armenian nation has been shaped of its own kind. What is this type capable of? The same is true about other nations.

I think it is important what combinations of various features have been made. This probably depends on the path of the nation over the past centuries, that makes every nation unique.

All in all, I would like to highlight just a few of the many Armenian features, without claiming them as completely justified.

The first thing I would like to mention is the attitude of the Armenians to their children, they pay too much attention to their learning, education, they spare nor their welfare, nor health, nor their rest, nothing. Even the illiterate Armenian finds that education is a necessity for his child. It is no coincidence that the adult’s precept to their children is as such: “Learn to become a human”. It is surprising how the elderly parents care for their already grown-up children (who are not children any longer) when they need more care for themselves. But this is not all. The parents` attitude is much deeply displayed towards the grandchildren, probably because becoming wise through the years they realize that they were not sufficiently attentive to their children at that time and try to compensate it by their attitude to their grandchildren.

All this applies not only to an individual Armenian, but the Armenians in general. It is known that in the Middle Ages, even in the absence of statehood, the education was free in Armenia.

On the other hand, the Armenians stand out for their worship to the parents and in general, for a deep respect towards adults, when the children try in every way to be worthy to their parents with their attitude and care, uphold their honor, ensure a dignified senility for them. And this is not conditioned by their potential, they are ready for any sacrifice, only the parents feel themselves better. It is not an ordinary compensation of debts, but internal, spiritual urge, an expression of love that turns the family into holiness. Such a relationship of the generations based on mutual love makes the Armenian family a strong and indivisible/ inseparable unity, which becomes a unique whole cell not dependent on the social status, social environment. Perhaps this is one of the factors that the “Armenian” type retains its identity.

Another typical feature of the Armenians is their attitude to the manuscripts and books. They have always been considered a subject of special care and one of the greatest values. Special attitude was displayed to “Narek” of the poem “Book of Lamentations” by Gregory of Narek, which is considered sacred and balm from diseases.

It is enough to remember that when the Armenians were forced to leave their homes and take migration path, among the first items of necessity have always been manuscripts and books. That is why many of the famous ancient manuscripts were saved in this way. It is not accidental that after the invention of printing in many European and Asian cities the Armenians have established printing houses and published books.

One of the characteristic features peculiar to the Armenians is the fact that in many Armenian communities of the countries worldwide there has been an indisputable principle throughout the centuries – there should be no one asking for alms, beggars and the poor in their community. And, as a continuation of this and the previous principle, there was another principle – education was free of charge. Let us recall the great philanthropists A. Mantashev, G. Gulbenkian and others.

One of the typical features of the Armenians is their strive for justice and law-abidance, which is observed in Armenia as well as in all the countries where there are Armenian communities. All the Armenian kingdoms considered the adherence to moral principles as a guarantee to ensure justice; they have stressed the importance of human dignity, and, in general, spiritual values and legality, which were considered supreme/uppermost values. Such an approach has been expressed in all the Armenian Lawcodes since the IV century. A concentrated expression of such ideas was presented by Gregory of Narek, who pleaded the God in his prayers to give a man a chance of conversion as he believed that the person’s sins first of all are not his guilt but misfortune. Such a possibility could be realized only in the conditions of a peaceful, just, law-abiding, spiritually healthy society. In the Armenian reality the role of legal consciousness therewith was also highlighted, without which it could be impossible to ensure an ordinary development of the society. That is why Nerses the Gracious appeals to all the classes of the society in his “Toukht Enthanrakan”, demanding them not to be guided only by the carnal, and not to forget the spirituality because of the carnal. Overall, “Toukht Enthanrakan” contains regulatory provisions on human rights and of limiting the powers of the authorities which are still consistent with modern concepts with their legal significance.

The “Lawcode”(Datastanagirq) of Mkhitar Gosh has acquired special significance in the Armenian reality, on the basis of which is the divine right of man, or by modern terminology, the natural rights. Since the 5th Century the constitutional approaches have been of great importance in Armenia. This is primarily manifested in Church Councils that have adopted mandatory rules regulating public, as well as legal relationship. These Church Councils, starting from the Council of Ashtishat (365 AD), were, in today’s terminology, a representative assembly, which was attended by the representatives of all social strata without exception. This approach has been maintained in subsequent centuries, and the rules of these congregations had universal and priority importance. From this perspective it can be asserted that these meetings are comparable with constituent meetings by their nature. It should be noted that a similar meeting was held by King Vachagan (5th century), where “Canonical Constitution” was adopted. In the absence of statehood such meetings were held by the Catholicoses. Overall, it can be concluded that the rules adopted in such Councils have ensured the supremacy of the rules of national consensus, thus they have been constitutional by nature.

It is not convenient to talk about the details here, but I want to mention two circumstances that show the special attitude of the Armenians to the Constitution. First, the work “Snare of Glory” by Sh. Shahamirian published in 1773, which was a unique draft constitution, intended for future independent Armenia. Only the title of the book is a complete constitutional concept and, taking into account the time of publication of this work, one can be really surprised by such a constitutional ideas and approaches.

The other phenomenon is that in the illiberal Ottoman Empire from 1840 to 1860 the “constitutional movement” was expanding, the purpose of which was to adopt a formal document for Armenians in Turkish Sultanate which would regulate the internal relations of the community. As a result of the movement in 1863, the Sultan government approved the “Armenian National Constitution,” which retains its significance up to now.

Such thinking is obviously an evidence of the formation of a new civilizational level.

I would not dare to make such a conclusion, if it were not for the point of view of an expert of the Armenian law, Professor Kohler, according to whom the Armenian nation gained civilized legal status, when he adopted highly developed religion. It is no exaggeration to say that the Armenian, as a carrier of its own civilization, could perform the role of the world in a strange world.

Without going into professional details, which is beyond our power and not our problem, I suggest to those who are interested in the history of law to get acquainted with the researches of Josef Karst, Joseph Kohler, etc.

Considering all these, I think that the foundation of the analytical center of “Constitutional Culture” in 2016 Yerevan should be highlighted. I am convinced that this international organization in the nearest future will generate ideas that will guide further development of civilization in various aspects.

As for the behavior of the Armenians in the Armenian communities, we can claim that they have never been distinguished by their illegal, unlawful behavior, otherwise the authorities of these countries will not grant them any privileges. Besides, the Armenians have always tried to harmonize their community life with the legislation of the host country, while remaining faithful to national values. This is evidenced by the “Lawcode of Polish Armenians”, “Astrakhan Lawcode”, etc., created on the bases of the legal principles of the Lawcode by Mkhitar Gosh and have been functioned with the permission of the authorities. The Armenian law-abidance is evidenced by the generosity emphasized in the poem “Tazit” by the great Russian poet A. Pushkin (see further).

Of course, it may be objected that in this case, how should it be explained that nowadays the number of inmates in American prisons has increased dramatically? Here I would like to refer to the words of the great English poet Lord Byron. “The virtues (of Armenians) have been those of peace, and their vices are those of compulsion.” In this case, the vices of the Armenians are forced to them and appear as soviet legacy. The Soviet Union was a country where any economic freedom, economic initiative was considered illegal, which led to the formation of the corresponding illegal behavior. I am sure that the rate of such crimes will drastically decrease after the change of the generation. And my hypothesis that the reason for such behavior is homo sovieticus – is motivated by the fact that this phenomenon is characteristic to the migrants from all the post-Soviet space.

I would like to mention one of the most important features of all Armenians – it’s a special attitude of the Armenians to the Armenian woman. The Armenian woman, who is a bit of oriental and European, has a unique place in the Armenian society with her generic image and has a special social status. I believe that the basis for this phenomenon is the loyalty to the Bible, in other words, the Armenians have been impulsively guided by biblical provision, according to which “the two shall become one flesh.” I should also bring the viewpoint of August von Haxthausen on the Armenian woman – …in family life, this people has a patriarchal way of life, which only sharply differs from other Asian peoples in one way – the difference in the social status of women, in invoking her for independence, equality and human dignity, which is expressed in the very way of the Armenian family, as well as in the personal characteristics of the Armenian women. Then he gives an explanation. It seems to von Haxthausen that the reason for this lies in the very mission of the Armenians, as people of high culture and spirituality that has become a mediating link and the center of the unification of Europe and Asia. I think there is no need to add anything to the said above. In fact, this definition is not the only one, the same view was expressed by the Austrian historian Amand Shvaykher Lirhenfeld and many others.

Finally, it should be infered that Armenizm as a phenomenon could be formed only in the Armenian Highlands, under the auspices of the holy Mount Ararat, a mountain that has been sacred for Armenians for thousands of years, which was later enshrined in the Bible. And another factor – today the science finds that one of the most important factors of European civilization progress is the wheat plant, the homeland of which is the Armenian Highlands, I mean that it is not accidental that Armenia has become the cradle of civilization and has assumed the role of civilizing. Armenizm exists and will exist as long as there is Armenian Highland and the people live there. No matter how good the Armenians feel themselves abroad they will be able to survive only if the Armenians continue to live in their homeland, from where they get their vital and spiritual food.

I must also mention the creative kind and nature of the Armenian. Every Armenian, regardless of educational, social, environment background and opportunities, is constantly in the incessant search for something new. And the Armenian is the carrier of both the rational and the spiritual, and always strives to achieve his objectives. He is not indifferent to the events happening in his surroundings, or in the world, he always reflects his attitude to everything. Of course, this does not mean that he is always right and meaningful, and that’s why he is always ready to listen to a view of a better qualified and educated one and evaluate it.

Finally, I want to mention the general characteristic for the Armenians, by the XVII century famous botanist, traveler Joseph Pitton de Tournefort, which was later repeated by Jacques Elisee Reclu and many others, according to which the Armenians are the best people in the world, they are virtuous, polite, imbued with discretion and decency.

The list of characteristics of the Armenians can be continued, but it should be left for the future. Here I would like to mention just a few of the hundred assessments and characterizations given to the Armenians in two-thousand-year-history.

One of the famous characteristics of the Armenian nation is given by the greatest   thinker, philosopher I. Kant and he thinks that the unique commercial spirit is dominating in the Armenians: they are engaged in exchange, traveling from China to Cabo Corso (present-day Cape Coast) on the Gulf of Guinea.  It shows the unique origin of this intelligent and hardworking people, people that passes through the entire Ancient world from the north-east to south-west and is warmly accepted among all these nations where he finds himself. It proves the superiority of their nature …

Another German ethnographer and traveler August von Haxthausen describes the Armenians as follows: all the studies indicate the fact that the Armenian people are marked by the will of God and are chosen to spread the Christianity and civilization in the East. The Armenians can be regarded as a leaver, as the main ingredient in the Asian dough, designed to revive the dead spiritual life in this region.

Many years ago, when I got to know Kant’s characterization of the “commercial spirit”, it had a very negative impression on me, so far as “merchant” prompts nothing good to many of us. Basically, we understand that word with negative meaning “hawker”, “trader”, ” usurer,” “miser”, as the European “bourgeois”, which has never been respectfully accepted in the European culture. However, much later, when I studied the Armenian culture more thoroughly and the history of development of the European economy, I began to understand that the genius philosopher from Konigsberg gave such a description that the Armenians can really be proud of and present themselves to the world with their contribution to the modern civilization.

When reading Kant`s writings, especially taking into consideration the limited communication possibilities in the 18th century, immediately a question arises – How could he have known that the Armenians are “intelligent and hard-working” and that “passing through the Ancient world they received a cordial reception among all the peoples”? What did he mean by saying “unique origin” and “superiority of the character”? The cordial reception among the peoples is probably certified by the fact that the big merchants were engaged not only in trade but also performed the role of mediator and interpreter in the relations between the ruling families and/or authorities of different countries, they even did official diplomatic assignments, became ambassadors to different countries and even ministers of foreign affairs. If we add to this all the significant contribution of the Armenians in commercial and economic, particularly in maritime relations between China, India, other Far Eastern and European countries, I think, the picture will become more complete.

As to the characteristics of the Armenians given by von Haxthausen, it should be noted that not only the existent researches had served as a starting point for him, such as Kant and others, but also his own experiences and researches. Overall, his view is not only consistent with the thoughts expressed by Kant, but he gives more far-reaching civilizational assessments.

Considering the fact that Kant had practically never been away from Konigsberg, it can be assumed that there was some idea about Armenia and the Armenians in Europe in the 18th century, which is justified by the von Haxthausen witness that there is certain information and research about the Armenians.

A question arises, what kind of information and research is meant? First, we can mention «Anglo-Saxon chronicle» of 807, where it is indicated on the first lines of the old English manuscript that the Brits came from Armenia and settled in the south of England. Valuable information is also contained in the German legends, where Armenia and Ararat are often mentioned, the leader of Germanic peoples called Armenios, as well as the assumption that the Bavarians and the Tirols have been originated from the Armenians (Enno Mayer, Zwischen Rhein und Arax. 900 jahredeutsch-armenische beziehungen, 1988). It is not difficult to assume that the works of famous Greek and Roman historians can be listed among these researches which were included in the framework of the interests of European thinkers since the Renaissance, and in many of them Armenia and the Armenians had serious assignation (I mean such great thinkers as Herodotus, Xenophon, Polybius, Strabo, Plutarch, Cicero, Seneca and many others).

In addition, all the Europeans were cooperating with the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia in the Crusades, got directly acquainted with the Armenian culture, established economic and trade relations with the Armenians (especially Venice and Genoa republics). It was not accidental that the king of Cilicia, Leo VI Lusignan was given royal reception by the kings of Castile, Aragon and France. John I, the King of Castile, granted several cities to Leo VI. King Charles VI of France gave him the royal palace of Paris Saint-Owen. His tombstone is in the royal crypt at Saint-Denis. The Armenian participation in the Crusades was highly appreciated by Papal Bull (“Ecclesia Romana”) of Pope Francis Gregory XIII.

Here it is not impossible to note Francois Rabelais, who in his novel “The life of Gargantua and of Pantagruel” speaks with reverence about the Armenians. It is interesting to note that the name of Artaxias (Artashes) is written with the Armenian phonetics and the history of the King Artaxias II is described with deep knowledge. Further the luxurious reception in Rome of Tiridates, the King of Armenia as well as the efforts of the Roman Emperor Nero to make Tiridates the permanent friend to Rome are described.

Extensive information about Armenia and the Armenians was given by the European travelers in their traveling notes (Zhurden de Severac, Burkhardos Monte de Sion, William of Rubruck, Marco Polo, Ruy Gonzalez de Clavijo, John Dardel, Johannes Schiltberger, Antonio de Gouveia and others).

In this context, I think it was important that the Armenians founded numerous publishing houses and were publishing books in Venice already in 1512 and further in many other European cities. This circumstance could not but attract the attention of the Europeans, if we consider that the book was a rare and exotic phenomenon at that period.

Important information was published about Armenia, Greater Armenia, Lesser Armenia and Tigran the Great in the French encyclopedia, in “Britannica” and in other universal encyclopedias published in Europe in the 18-19th centuries.

Apart from this, the prominent European thinkers began to discuss issues related to Armenia and the Armenians, the Armenian language and the works of the Armenian historians in their studies and gradually the Armenian Studies was formed (Matyuren La Kroz, Gottfried Leibniz, Joseph Pitton de Tournefort, Joachim Johann Shroyder, I. Kant, J. Herder, Antoine-Jean Saint-Martin, A. Von Haksthauzen, Leopold von Ranke, Heinrich Petermann, Marie Brosset, Edward Dulaurie, Victor Langlois, Frederick Muller, Auguste Carrier and others).

Taking into account all the above mentioned, it is not difficult to guess why Armenia was in the limelight of the European science and culture.

Armenians, wherever they live – in Europe or the Far East, South America, the Middle East, North America or Iran, regardless of cultural and religious environment, had rapidly integrated and become law-abiding and exemplary subjects and citizens of these countries, were distinguished by their hard work, contributed to the development of science, the arts and crafts of that countries and to the economic progress.

Such a viewpoint may seem an exaggeration, but when learning about the Armenian activities in various countries, it is not difficult to ascertain the accuracy of such evaluation. On the other hand, it is surprising that this viewpoint is expressed by the Europeans, because in the framework of the ideology of Eurocentrism at that period, only the Europeans are capable of civilizational, cultural, economic intervention. Despite this factor, when the Europeans think that the Armenians may have a serious mission in terms of civilization, this means that there are serious grounds for it.

I do not know what specific basics are meant by von Haxthausen and others for their conclusions, but many of such facts are known from history. It is a well-known fact that in the 18th century, for several centuries, the Armenians, who migrated from Armenia, had established large communities in some European regions (Italy, Byzantium, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Transylvania, Russia, etc.), where they had received many privileges from the government, built churches, schools, founded printing houses, participated in cultural life, had many popular  scientific, religious, cultural, political and economic figures. Unlike the European countries, where Armenians settled willingly, escaping from the Tatar-Mongol and later the Seljuk Turks unbearable domination, the Persian ruler Shah Abbas forcibly resettled several hundred thousand Armenians in Persia, granting them with great benefits. Here they built the city of New Julfa, boosting the rapid development of trade, economy and culture. Favorable attitude was displayed towards the Armenians in Russia. Thus, Peter I the Great granted privileges to the Armenian merchants. With the edict of November 10 (21) in 1724 he announced his patronage to the Armenian people: “Keep the honest Armenian people with special mercy… We ordered not only to protect their merchants, but also to grant with some privileges for great interests and benefits and will be kind to them in the most merciful way.” The same attitude was treated by Catherine II, who with decree of 1768 expressed her support and patronage to the Armenian people. In particular, by granting privileges to the Armenians, allowed them to build Grigoriupol and New Nakhchivan cities.

The poem “Tazit” by the great Russian poet A. Pushkin can be considered the illustration of the political role of the Armenians in Russia. The famous phrase of the poem: “You are a coward, a slave, you are Armenian”, which, taken out of the context of the poem, has become “a great proof” of different interpretations and speculations, and Armenophobia. Whereas reading the poem, it becomes apparent that Pushkin, in this case by saying “Armenian” with the mouth of highlander meant only the evince of magnanimity, a person with high moral qualities. But that is not of interest to us. We should answer to the question – why the great poet, as opposition to human cruelty, ferocity of satisfying the vile passions, has mentioned the Armenians. How is this explained? Hardly accidentally, Pushkin would mention particularly the Armenians without any reason. Pushkin was very well aware of and had close ties with a number of Armenian politicians (David Abamelik, the Lazaryans, Grigor Zakaryan and many others). Moreover, Pushkin has witnessed how the Karabakh brigade returned from the battle, bringing eight Turkish flags with them. Therefore, Pushkin could not describe the Armenians as a coward or a slave. But it is not enough to commemorate/mention the Armenians.

To understand why Pushkin has done so, it is necessary to refer to the role of the Armenian element in the North Caucasus and Caucasus, in general, in the beginning of the XIX century and during the second half of the 18th century. In this regard, we consider it important to mention a question concerning Crimea. The point is that after the destruction of Ani, many Armenians migrated to Europe (Hungary, Transylvania, Poland, etc.), particularly to the Crimea, where densely settled Armenians had a major impact on economic, cultural and political life. When in 1768-1774 after the Russian-Turkish war, the Russian Empire, in the face of Russian Empress Catherine II and Russian Prince Grigory Potemkin, decided to unite the Crimea to Russia, deported Armenians from the Crimea in 1778 (as well as other Christian nations). In 1780, the Armenians established the famous New Nakhchivan residence with the sponsorship of the government. To understand this Russian policy, we should apply to another Russian writer V. Pikul, who in his historical novel “Favorite”, in the letter of Potemkin addressed to the commander A. Suvorov, who had Armenian descent states about letting the Hellenes make the wine and hunt mugil, they are commercial people, resourceful, believe me they won`t get lost. But in the new areas … let the Armenians develop new handicrafts, such as … weave silk and cotton fabrics, make leather morocco leather, make various needlework, in which the Armenian women are so skilled. It is no coincidence that Potemkin highlighted particularly the spiritual development of the people in the letter and ordered to bring priests from Armenia.

With this deportation the Russian Empire undermined the economic and military capabilities of Crimean Khanate and created conditions for uniting the Crimea to Russia, and besides, strengthened its position in the North Caucasus. The Russians realized that it was impossible to establish order in this immense territory only by military force, it was necessary, if we use the current terminology, economic, cultural, political intervention. And to solve the very problem they wisely used the Armenians and other Christian nations, encouraging them by various privileges to continue to live in that region. And the Armenians settling in the region began to deal with economy, trade, agriculture (particularly horticulture), crafts and many other occupations. It is obvious that by settling there they developed their own culture, established schools, cultural centers, built church and residential buildings. The economy began to develop gradually in the Caucasus as a result of the Armenians` various creative activities, which had a beneficial effect on the development of public relations. And, most importantly, other nations were also involved in these processes, gradually acquiring the appropriate civilizational level. The same happened in the Crimea, after joining the Russian Empire, where the Armenians were given many privileges, which contributed to the settlement of the migrants from Western Armenia in Crimea.  As you can see, the Russian policy towards the Armenians greatly facilitated the final appropriation of the North Caucasus.

I think here the unique character of the Armenians is manifested, which was successfully used by the Russian Empire to solve their own internal problems.

Obviously, the Armenians had gratefully received the favorable treatment of their host country/people, and at the same time it is also obvious that such attitude to the Armenians is explained not, as it is said, for their beautiful eyes but for the sake of far-reaching political and civilizational reasons and state interests.

Every nation and a state have a problem of being presented to the world, especially the newly independent state. Today, the world is not aware of a few thousand-years-history of the Armenian people, the place of Armenia on the map, though the word “Armenia” is mentioned on all the ancient maps of the world. It is known only by the Armenians and by narrow specialized, scientific small community. Despite millennial cultural heritage and their contribution to global civilization, today the Armenians are only known to the world as the remnants of a collapsed superpower. Meanwhile, they have the task to develop, but it is necessary to appear to the world not only with a dignity, their culture, historical heritage, but first of all with present cultural, economic, scientific achievements, with their Armenizm.

When I heard the words of Pope Francis on Armenizm, I tried to understand what it means. After long ponderings, of course, on amateur level, I found out that I still do not know what are the elements that formed it, what mixture does lead to Armenizm. But overall, I think we can draw the conclusion that Armenizm is meant to serve to civilization, to develop a civilization, to fight for civilization. Especially given the fact that many great thinkers have expressed such an opinion (August von Haxthausen, V. Abaza, Joseph Pitton de Tournefort,  N. Marr, F. Makler, A. Kraft-Bonnar, P. Charanis, E. Mezhelaytis and others). Perhaps, I will mention only the words of A. Mayer: There is a country that Armenians can demand … due to the fact that they are a force. Armenians are the force of civilization since IV or V century.

My knowledge is this much. It is obvious that the aforementioned about the Armenians is only the small part of the reality, which has various layers of exploration and discovery, but that’s not the problem. Of course, the Armenians will be grateful to all the scientists and researchers who will help to clarify and supplement the Armenian history, the Armenian identity and Armenizm, all this is necessary for the states interested in the progress of civilization. The great Russian scientist N. Marr, back in the beginning of the XX century, writes in this regard that the Armenians were the first to understand the international interests and the history of space already in the Middle Ages. The Russians should be the first to get interested in the history of the Armenian people, as responsible for the present fate. The Armenian nation is still the only race capable of sublime Christian culture and civilization, a tribe that owns the future of the region.

The same thing, in fact, is claimed by the European and American Armenologists.

How can we explain such a favorable attitude of the great humanist Francis towards Armenia and the Armenian people? I think there is no secret here. Such an attitude stems from the concern over the future of mankind, when the Christian values ​​are gradually replaced by the growing mercantilism, when the moral values ​​are turned into the product, when spirituality is replaced by the material, when the material is idolized, when the human being is transformed into a robot. Therefore, the Pope can not remain indifferent to all those communities, including the Armenians and Armenia, which is already two millennia appropriates Christ’s teaching, and this doctrine has become a state subject for a thousand seven hundred years and it remains faithful to Christian values ​​and continues to contribute to the progress of civilization.

Let me finish with the principle of the Lithuanian poet E.Mezhelaytis that Armenia is the rock of civilization.

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