Mehriban Aliyeva: Eurovision is a common feast of music of different countries, different people, different cultures

Mehriban Aliyeva: Eurovision is a common feast of music of different countries, different people, different cultures

Azerbaijan, Baku, May 12 /Trend/

The Business Year magazine`s special edition dedicated to Azerbaijan features an interview with the country`s first lady, President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, MP Mehriban Aliyeva.
AzerTAc presents the full text of the interview:

"You are considered one of the most energetic first ladies in the world. You head the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, the Friends of Azerbaijani Culture Friends Foundation, Azerbaijan`s Gymnastics Federation, and you are also a member of the Azerbaijani National Assembly. What does such vigorous and multifaceted activity mean personally for you?

Success for success` sake, power for power`s sake, and ambition have never been key motivations for me. The main thing is to be of help to people, and to find ways of helping those in need. And such help and support can be very diverse. Some need help to have their health brought back, to get education, or to establish a museum, while others need help to preserve architectural monuments for future generations. Sometimes there is a necessity to support the development of infrastructure, sometimes there is a need to provide organizational support for interesting projects, and what is really important to me is when we succeed in both realizing large-scale projects and helping real people.

The Heydar Aliyev Foundation was established in 2004. Since its establishment it has realized a wide range of cultural, educational, and healthcare projects. How would you assess the results of the Foundation`s work?

It`s quite difficult to classify our activity and the projects and programs we have implemented from major to minor ones. From the very beginning we set a range of priority directions in our work, such as education, healthcare, culture, sport, and the social sphere. For eight years the Heydar Aliyev Foundation has been successfully implementing large-scale projects in these spheres. We managed to build cooperation with influential international organizations and arrange high-profile international conferences and festivals in Baku. The Foundation continues its work to improve the education system and ensure its integration into the world education system, as well as help those who need care, preserve national and moral values, and draw the world community`s attention to Azerbaijani realities. There is such a concept as the "human dimension," and our Foundation is working on this aspect. It is very hard to separate the tasks, to say that this is a matter of urgency, and this one can wait. For example, hundreds of schools, tens of kindergartens, and specialized boarding schools for children with special needs have been built, repaired, and equipped to the highest standards as part of the Foundation`s projects and programs. And this is not just fresh repair work on the building. Such state-of-the-art schools open brand new horizons, creating wider opportunities for students, which include tens of thousands of boys and girls every year. A Jewish education center was established, and a French school is going to open its doors to students at the initiative of the Foundation. I`m sure of the importance of this work, and this investment in the future can hardly be exaggerated.

At the same time, our Foundation is carrying out great work in the field of healthcare. This includes both hospitals and clinics, state-of-the-art equipment, and projects aimed at helping children with diabetes and thalassemia. Each of these projects means saved lives and a recovered health. Supporting culture, preserving cultural legacy is another important priority in our Foundation`s activity. With the support of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, Azerbaijan is hosting music festivals and a traditional international mugham festival, Gabala international music festival, the festival of classical music after Rostropovich. An international mugham center was built in Baku, while new museums and musical schools emerged in the regions. We are actively cooperating with many international organizations, including UNESCO, ISESCO, UNICEF. However, the major result of our Foundation`s work is that we managed - I hope - to revive the traditions of charity in Azerbaijan. In our country, these traditions have long and rich history. Our oil magnates of the era of first oil boom, including Haji Zeynalabdin Tagiyev and Musa Nagiyev made a tremendous contribution to the formation of these traditions. In early 20th century Haji Zeynalabdin Tagiyev funded the construction of a first secular school for girls and the opening of a first theatre in the East. He also funded the education of Azerbaijani youth in best universities in Russia and Europe. Beautiful buildings constructed with the funds of Musa Nagiyev continue to be architectural pearls of Baku. And it is good that these traditions are today revived in tolerant, secular Azerbaijan, which has ancient history and is located at the crossroads of East and West, and where the past interweaves with the present.

The Heydar Aliyev Foundation is making a valuable contribution to preserving a rare cultural legacy not only in Azerbaijan, but also in other countries. For example, it has supported the restoration of the stained-glass windows in the Strasbourg Cathedral. How significant are such activities?

An ancient and rich cultural legacy is a source of national pride for our people. This includes carpet-weaving, which dates back thousands of years, literature and music, which offer a fascinating mix of East and West, as well as architectural monuments of Azerbaijan, which quite earn the epithet "motionless history". Azerbaijani mugham, Novruz holiday, the art of ashiqs and carpet-weaving were incorporated into the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. And historical and cultural legacy requires constant and tireless care.

Any lost artifact means irreplaceable losses and, I can say for sure, it is a crime against future generations so we are trying our best to preserve the cultural legacy both in our country and beyond its borders to the maximum extent. The Heydar Aliyev Foundation restored architectural monuments of the Palace of Versailles in Paris, which are included in the World Heritage List. We also allocated funds for restoring stained-glass windows of the 14th century Strasbourg Cathedral, restoring Louvre, rebuilding the Berlin City Palace, which was destroyed and burnt during the World War II, as well as restoring the damaged medieval Azerbaijani manuscripts kept in Vatican`s archives. The Foundation will continue working on this front. Currently, we are carrying out negotiations over the restoration of cultural monuments in Vatican.

Building cultural and humanitarian relations with other countries is of great importance to us. It is cultural and humanitarian cooperation that affects how well we know each other, how much we are familiar with history, culture and traditions of other people. In 2011, the Heydar Aliyev Foundation organized a large number of events in different countries on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the restoration of Azerbaijan`s independence. And we hope that these events helped many people to familiarize themselves with and love our music, culture and art.
This January "Fly to Baku: Contemporary Art from Azerbaijan" exhibition took place in London with the assistance of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation. The exhibition featured interesting works in a variety of genres, including painting, graphics, photography and video. Such exhibitions will be arranged in Berlin, New York, Paris and Rome.

I would like to emphasize that the Heydar Aliyev Foundation`s international activity is not limited to the field of culture. The Foundation built a girl`s school in Muzaffarabad in Pakistan after the old school was destroyed by an earthquake. We contributed to building and repairing schools in the Netherlands, Georgia, Egypt, the Russian Federation and Romania. We provided financial assistance in tackling the consequences of an earthquake in Haiti and floods in Romania.

I would like to note that the Heydar Aliyev Foundation will continue making contribution to expanding Azerbaijan`s dialogue with other countries. This is a beautiful foundation for international cooperation.

Azerbaijan`s economy continues to rapidly develop amid the world economic crisis. How important is it to develop the traditions of charity in Azerbaijan?

Azerbaijan`s successes are obvious. The country`s State Budget increased 16-fold, thousands of schools, hundreds of healthcare facilities, tens of sport complexes have been built in the country. The level of poverty fell 5-fold from 49 per cent to 9 per cent. Look how our beloved native Baku changed, what changes occurred in Azerbaijan`s regions. And this makes it possible to assess the scale and rate of the country`s development. Nevertheless, there is an enormous field of activity for non-commercial foundations. First of all it is a cultural sphere.

Today Azerbaijan is recognized mostly as an exporter of oil and gas. However, our history, our culture is our important national heritage as well. There is also the necessity to support social projects, but the level of socio-economic development is not the point here. In my opinion, feelings and inner emotions are more important. As the economic crisis continues it is vital to form the traditions of charity and social responsibility, and instill the ability to sympathize and empathize into ourselves. This must become part of our life.

Less than a year ago Azerbaijan celebrated the victory of its duo Ell & Nikki at the Eurovision Song Contest in Düsseldorf. Since you head the Eurovision 2012 Organizing Committee, how is Azerbaijan gearing up to host such important event?

Probably it`s no exaggeration to say that our representatives` victory at Eurovision-2011 Song Contest was marked by nationwide celebrations. And as Azerbaijani, as a citizen of my country I was truly happy with the triumph of our duo. This, surely, is a great success of both the participants of the contest and all those involved in preparing this winning performance. The victory at Eurovision is a good example which shows that success and responsibility walk together in life.

Preparation for such a large-scaled contest as Eurovision includes many aspects: a concert hall, hotels, city logistics and infrastructure. Our preparations are already nearing the end, and I hope we will summarize the results of the last stage of preparation for Eurovision in April.

I would like to point out another aspect. Eurovision is a common feast of music of different countries, different people, different cultures. In Azerbaijan, for centuries representatives of various nationalities and religions have co-existed in peace and harmony. Being a country located at the crossroads of continents and civilizations, we are familiar with different religions and cultural values, customs and traditions. Our traditions of tolerance provide a brilliant foundation so that all conditions are created for every visitor who comes to Azerbaijan as an organizer, observer or just a member of the audience. I hope the beauty of Baku, which combines old buildings in eastern architectural styles and modern European-style buildings, the city`s delightful aura, cordiality and hospitality of our people will fully meet the requirements of even the most demanding guests. Tens of thousands of people from different countries will visit Baku for Eurovision-2012, and we are happy to give them all proper reception.

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