British Foundation for Study of Azerbaijan and Caucasus solemnly presented in London [PHOTO]
By Amina Nazarli
The establishment of British Foundation for the Study of Azerbaijan and the Caucasus (www.bfsac.org.uk) embarks a new milestone in development of the scientific-humanitarian, as well as cultural interaction between Azerbaijan and the UK.
This Foundation was established to provide transparent and fair support in an effort to ensure sustainability, success, viability and international academic level of the entire work carried out in the UK in the fields of culture and science in relation to Azerbaijan and the Caucasus.
The British Foundation for the Study of Azerbaijan and the Caucasus held its solemn presentation ceremony at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the world's largest museum of decorative arts and design, founded in 1852, to announce about the scope of its activities to the British and Azerbaijani public.
This important event dedicated to Azerbaijan was for the first time held in the prestigious temple of art as the Victoria and Albert Museum with the support of local British scientific and cultural circles.
The solemn evening, which will go down in history of Azerbaijani science and culture, welcomed many honored guests, prominent figures of science and culture, political and public figures, who warmly interacted with each other and talked about the joint activities to further the implementation of the Foundation’s goals.
The event was also attended by influential members of the scientific academic community of the UK, and people representing the Government and the Parliament of Great Britain, such as Baroness Nicholson, who serves as the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Iraq, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, Members of the House of Lords of the British Parliament, Lord Malcolm Bruce and Lord Michael German.
Special guests attending the event from Azerbaijan included President of Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences (ANAS), Professor Akif Alizade, Academician of ANAS, Dean of the Faculty of Theology, Professor Vasim Mammadaliyev, Chairman of Azerbaijan Writers Union, People's Writer Anar Rzayev, Director of the National Museum of History, academician Naila Velikhanli, Director of Azerbaijan State Philharmonic Society, People's Artist Murad Adigozalzade, as well as businessmen and Azerbaijanis living in the UK.
The chairman of the British Foundation for the Study of Azerbaijan and the Caucasus, head of the Baku branch of Lomonosov Moscow State University, corresponding member of Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences, head of Nizami Ganjavi Center at the Oxford University, co-chairman of the England-Azerbaijan Society, Professor Nargiz Pashayeva, addressed the opening ceremony and welcomed the guests.
“Dear guests, I am happy to see you all here. Today we celebrate the launch of our Foundation. We have come a long way. Our foundation, our work, our initiative is not just short-term formal work. We have been part of Oxford University for almost four years. The Nizami Ganjavi Programme represents Azerbaijan at Oxford University. This Programme is not just an exchange project between two universities. We have created a new academic structure, which is a full part of Oxford University. We are part of the university’s full academic process. Our work at Oxford University is the first stable and serious contact between the university and Azerbaijan. Our main goal is to become part of Oxford University forever. We want to be part of world intellectual community. We understand that it is not an easy path. We understand our challenges. But thanks to the support of our colleagues at Oxford University we have already made important first steps.”
Nargiz Pashayeva noted the special role of Azerbaijan in the formation of democratic values in the East and its contribution to the world cultural heritage.
“The United Kingdom is a great country with strong traditions and great history. My country, Azerbaijan, also has many things to be proud of. In the Muslim world, the first parliamentary democratic republic was created in Azerbaijan in 1918. All citizens of independent Azerbaijan were equal in 1918. No nationality or religion mattered. The first university was created. The Parliament had many parties. Men and women had same rights in it. In November 1919 the press was freed from censure. Sixty newspapers and magazines were published. Satirical magazines with caricatures mocked religious fanaticism.
First professional mugham opera in the East, first secular girls’ school, new genres of Azerbaijani literature, performance art and theater were created. The ancient eastern city became home to European architecture. This way Baku became the city that united East and West. In December of 1918 the tricolored flag of Azerbaijan was permanently raised on top of the parliament building in Baku. This was the order of British general Thomson - governor of Baku then.
Yes, Azerbaijan is my motherland. I love her and can speak about her much longer. Today, independence is Azerbaijan’s biggest gain. Azerbaijani culture is important for the world culture in general. It includes Turkish and Persian worlds with many European and Russian elements. Great poets like Nasimi, Fizuli and famous Shakh Ismayil Khatai wrote in Azeri. The legendary hero Dede Gorgud also sang his ballads in Azeri dialect of Turkic languages.
It is a great honor that the first event of our foundation is in Victoria and Albert museum. The British crown has collected and valued all world cultures; past and present. The Shaykh Safi carpet from south Azerbaijan and other unique pieces of Islamic world are open to the world here. They are also kept safe for the future generations.
The golden ages of Islam gave the world great heritage. Sadly, today, we don’t always see the great and beautiful traditions of the East. It is important that Islam gets its great image back. I think that openness between universities and honesty of real scholars will prevent many humanitarian catastrophes. This is how people were saved during the Great Terror, and the Cold War. Imagine that the dance of twist and love for jazz were dangerous then in Soviet Union. The ideological stamp had blocked information of Soviet and Azerbaijani scholars and they had to use fake methodology. Nevertheless, real scholars were at work.
They say it is better late than never. Our work today is for future generations. I hope this British foundation will succeed in this mission. What have we done until today? With Oxford University we have finished two archaeological seasons. We have five students: Master’s and Doctors, two conferences and very important work – English translation of famous Russian orientalist Yevgeniy Bertels’s book: The Great Azerbaijani Poet, Nizami. We will soon have the presentation of this book.”
“The name of our foundation includes the Caucasus region. Caucasus is a multicultural and multiethnic region. We want to bring together all we know about the Caucasus and expand its study at Oxford University together with our colleagues. I hope one day the study of the history of all Azeris, south and north, 40 million Azeris of the world, will be based on real and objective academic work. All of this will be possible thanks to most people present here.”
Concluding her speech, the chairman of the British Foundation for the Study of Azerbaijan and the Caucasus, Professor Nargiz Pashayeva said:
“First of all I would like to thank our trustees: Lord Malcolm Bruce, Professor Robert Hoyland, Professor Robert Gleave and Professor Andrew Peacock. All my colleagues at Oxford University, especially, director of Nizami Ganjavi Centre at Oxford, Professor Edmund Herzig. I would like to thank Mr Iskandar Khalilov for his first financial support of the Oxford Nizami Ganjavi Centre.”
“This year we will celebrate 20th anniversary of Anglo-Azerbaijan society in UK. My colleague, the co-chairman of the society Lord Mike German is here – thank you for coming. I would like to thank our guests from Baku, Naila khanim, Anar muellim, Akif muellim, Vasim muellim, Mr. Gordon Birrell and business groups from Azerbaijan. Also, everyone who helped in the organization of this event. I got letters from British Ambassador in Azerbaijan Dr. Crofts, director of British Council Azerbaijan Ms White and head of BP Mr. Dudley – thank you for your attention. I would like to thank the colleagues from the Moscow State University and Baku State University, my students who always support me. I would also like to thank all Azeris who don’t know us personally, but still support us. Nothing is possible without you all.”
“University is my second home since 1978. For me nothing is better. On this happy day, please let me thank two very precious people in my life: my grandmother Govher khanum and my grandfather famous journalist Nasir Imanguliyev. I learned from her: power of a song is not loudness. My grandfather was my best support. He gave me confidence and faith in others.”
Thank you so much for your attention and enjoy the evening!”
Taking the floor, Professor of the Faculty of Oriental Studies at Oxford University, Head of Nizami Ganjavi Center at Oxford University from the British side, Edmund Herzig in his speech stressed the importance of an in-depth study of Azerbaijan and Caucasus in the academic circles of Britain.
He voiced his biggest regret over scanty research into the internally diverse and rich region, as well as the country like Azerbaijan and its culture, which is closely linked with neighboring countries. “Topics on Azerbaijan were usually developed in summary and in scanty format in the UK academic community,” he said. “In the study of this part of the world a lot of attention should be paid to relations with various countries. For example, while studying Great Silk Road project it can be seen that the Silk Road passes through Azerbaijan. These researches, an in-depth study in the broader context of relations of different countries with each other, have extremely great importance in an increasingly globalizing world.”
In turn, Founder of the British Foundation for the Study of Azerbaijan and the Caucasus from the British side, Lord Malcolm Bruce, stressed that the tolerance in Azerbaijan can be an example for many countries.
“One of the most attractive features of Azerbaijan is that for centuries this country exists as a noble and secular society. At the same time, religious tolerance and tolerance are among the factors that characterize this country. In the current troubled war, Azerbaijan's experience deserves significant approval and I hope that the academic work carried out in this area will play an important role in the promotion of global experience in this country,” he said.
Head of Nizami Ganjavi Center at Oxford University from the British side, a professor of Oxford and New York Universities Robert Hoyland also noted the importance of the event.
“First of all, I would like to express my special appreciation to Professor Nargiz Pashayeva. Our first meeting with her took place in 2013,” he said. “Providing comprehensive aid to young students with both financial and intellectual point of view is one of goals and ideas unifying us. This first initiative gradually led us to wider horizons, and resulted at opening of the Research Center named after Nizami Ganjavi at Oxford University. Various scientific works were translated from Azerbaijani and Russian languages into English, which allowed to create greater opportunities for students.”
In turn, eminent quests to the event shared their impressions about the solemn presentation of British Foundation for the Study of Azerbaijan and the Caucasus, voicing their confidence in its success.
Lord Michael Herman noted that the magic of Azerbaijan lies in the fact that many do not know this country, adding that this is a wonderful region, which combines East and West, North and South, and made a unique contribution to the development of humanity, its culture and heritage.
“Azerbaijan absorbed all the best historical path of human development. Therefore it is very important to know about this country, and to learn its history, culture and contribution to the development of world civilization. The creation of the British Foundation is a cultural and historical necessity to inform the world community about the true value of Azerbaijan for all mankind,” he said.
Naila Velikhanli, for her part, noted the importance of the
establishment of cultural bridge between Azerbaijan and the Great
Britain, the expansion of scientific activity between the museums
of the two countries.
"The participation of world-renowned scientists in this event shows how much attention is focused on this truly momentous historical event, arouses great interest among the workers of culture and science, and will surely make its significant contribution to the development of our relations," she said.