Russian ambassador: Azerbaijan, Russia share strong ties
Azerbaijan, Baku, June 11 / Trend E.Tariverdiyeva /
Trend conducts an exclusive interview with Russian Ambassador to Azerbaijan Vladimir Dorokhin in the run-up to the Day of Russia.
Trend: Mr. Ambassador, why is the Day of Russia celebrated June 12?
Dorokhin: The Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic's Deputy Congress adopted the Declaration on State Sovereignty June 12, 1990. By doing so, the Russian Federation declared its autonomy within the Soviet Union. The decision was followed by other union republics declaring their independence.
Former Russian President Boris Yeltsin declared June 12 a national holiday in 1994 - the Day of the Declaration on Russia's State Sovereignty. The holiday was renamed in 1997. Since then, we celebrate the holiday as the Day of Russia.
Trend: Russia has been independent for almost 20 years. What can we say about the path Russia has chosen? What has its independence done for the people?
A: Deng Xiaoping was asked: "What do you think of the 1789 French Revolution?" He answered that 200 years is too short a historical period to provide any assessments. The new Russia is only 20 years old. One could say that the road has been rough. New Russia was born in the throes of political confrontation. The conflict between the president and the parliament as your readers probably will remember turned in a storm of the White House. The transition to a market economy was implemented by drastic measures and liberalization in the spirit of so-called shock therapy. This provided an impetus to the entrepreneurial development, but also led to the impoverishment of the population. We faced threats of separatism, the most acute manifestation of which was Chechnya. Russia faced collapse. Some people began to write the country off.
However, fortunately, society found the strength to look at the situation and push apt policies. Russia has been characterized by political and economic stability in recent years. There are still many unsolved problems, but we are starting to feel more confident we are on the right path.
According to opinion polls, 36 percent of the people believed that sovereignty benefited Russia in 2002. In 2010, the figure was 56 percent. The figure speaks for itself.
Q: Has Russia managed to stand on par with other leading world powers during the years of its independence?
A: Russia does not have the same capabilities as the Soviet Union, which was a superpower. Nuclear weapons are the only parity between Russia and the United States. We lag behind the world's leading countries in terms of economic development.
But today's global politics are fundamentally different from the period of Soviet-U.S. confrontation. Today, we do not need any more saber-rattling. Instead, we need to align global interests, taking into account the views of all actors on the international stage.
Russia stands for a world order based on the rule of international law and the principles of equitable cooperation. We stand for a world in which everyone feels safe. We do not want to impose development models or teach anyone how to build their life. We are ready to contribute to solving global problems, and to make the lives of the people peaceful and stable.
Q: Bilateral ties between former Soviet republics have seen quite a few bumps in the road. How does Russia feel about its new relations with its former "brothers?"
A: Russia proclaimed that its relations with the former Soviet republics are a priority from the beginning and this is understandable. The economies of Russia and other former Soviet countries once formed a single national economic complex. Our ties must be maintained to ensure economic balance. Despite the emergence of national borders, millions of citizens in the CIS were and remain linked. Much bonding has been done between our countries historically and political decisions cannot affect these relations.
Of course, we did not have any ready-made recipes in terms of how to implement these priorities. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the formation of the newly independent states led to a complex process that was difficult not only to foresee, but also to assess.
Now strategic priorities are becoming clearer. The main priority is economic integration. Russia initiated the Customs Union. A military and political priority for Russia is to take part in the Collective Security Treaty Organization.
Today, everything is not so easy. But we have the patience to search for joint solutions. Moscow will not impose anything on anyone. Respecting the sovereignty of our former "brothers" is the alpha and the omega of Russian policies in the post-Soviet space.
Q: What is Azerbaijan's role in Russian foreign policy?
A: Azerbaijan is an important strategic partner for Russia. Its significance is determined by its geopolitical position, its proximity to the North Caucasus, traditional historical ties, its growing economic potential and its unique role in energy affairs.
The initial stages of our bilateral relations as independent states were tough. Fortunately, former President Heydar Aliyev was at the helm of Azerbaijan. Moscow listened and understood him. The new Russian diplomacy has also contributed to establishing relations based on mutual and unconditional respect for each other's interests.
Q: The main problem for Azerbaijan is the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. How do you assess Russia's role as a mediator in resolving the conflict? Does Moscow have a better chance to achieve progress in the talks as an objective and influential geopolitical player?
A: Russia understands the genesis of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict better than any other country. We understand the positions of each side and are pained by the fact that the problem has remained unresolved for so long. We lived together in the country where the problem originated and then the conflict worsened. These factors distinguish Russia from other mediators. We are convinced that as a mediator we are doing everything we can and we are ready to continue our efforts in this direction.
Q: Do you think Russia should fight to preserve the use of the Russian language in the post-Soviet space? If so, how? What is the level of cultural cooperation between our two countries - in terms of education, science, Russian language, and youth policy?
A: Russia is studying what many countries have done to support "their" languages and cultures abroad - and we have started to apply civilized and generally accepted methods to support the Russian language and everything related to Russian culture in the world.
Cultural relations between Azerbaijan and Russia have a natural character. Azerbaijan receives "cultural goods" from Russia in the form of books, plays and popular artists. New ties are born with each day. A branch of Moscow State University was opened in Baku in 2008, as well as a branch of the Russian Information and Culture Center.
As an ambassador, I am proud that Russia remains a center for educating Azerbaijanis. Roughly 6,000 Azerbaijani citizens study at Russian universities on government scholarships and at their own expense.
We highly appreciate the Azerbaijani government's position regarding the Russian language. Azerbaijanis realize that bilingualism is an enormous advantage. In this regard, we share exceptional cooperation.
The embassy will work actively to use further our ties in these favorable conditions.