President Vladimir Putin: Dear Ilham Heydarovich [Aliyev],
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are participating in a truly significant event of great importance for the development today of inter-state relations – relations between Azerbaijan and the Russian Federation. Today marks the opening of the Year of Russia in the Republic of Azerbaijan.
This event will not be just a review of Russia’s latest achievements; it also aims at giving a new impulse to the equal and mutually beneficial cooperation between our two states and peoples that have historically always been so close, our peoples who through the centuries have continued to nurture these relations, handing their traditions down from generation to generation.
I am sure that the programme of the Year of Russia will be just as important to Azerbaijan as was the Year of Azerbaijan to the Russian Federation. The Year of Azerbaijan in Russia showed how closely interlinked are the destinies of our peoples, how strong is their desire to live in peace and harmony with each other, help each other grow and develop and mutually enrich each other. This is not at all surprising considering that through the ages Russians and Azerbaijanis have shown a great capacity to understand each other, absorb the spiritual values of unique and original cultures and treasure and preserve the invaluable experience of mutual respect and tolerance in relations between peoples and religions.
We have also achieved a great deal together in pursuing ambitious economic goals. This includes developing the oil industry of the Caspian and opening up the oil fields of Siberia. The scientific research of Russian geologist Ivan Mikhailovich Gubkin in its time led to the discovery of new sources of oil in Azerbaijan. The universities of Baku trained hundreds of thousands of Russian specialists for the oil industry, people who are working in the sector today.
Our fraternity in battle through the years of World War II was an unprecedented example of unity between our peoples. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the President of Azerbaijan and all of Azerbaijan’s war veterans for their solidarity in organising and holding the major events that marked the sixtieth anniversary of the great victory over Nazism.
This solid foundation for cooperation that has been tried and tested by time and this respect for the history we share unite the peoples of Russia and Azerbaijan now too, in the new conditions of today’s world. The constructive successes and achievements of our two countries lay a promising foundation on which we can build our modern partnership. We must also not forget that our positive relations are a factor contributing to political stability throughout the entire region. In this respect we should work to search for and implement together new and effective cooperation models and make full use not just of our bilateral possibilities but also of the integration processes that are underway in the post-Soviet area.
Many citizens of Russia and Azerbaijan are bound by a common cause and by strong family and friendly ties.
We all have a direct interest in preserving and strengthening this common human space, in developing our cultural ties, promoting youth exchanges and expanding our scientific and education contacts. The agreement on humanitarian cooperation signed by the CIS countries in Kazan pursues precisely this goal. I am sure that a multilateral format for humanitarian cooperation will considerably increase and expand the opportunities for bilateral ties in this area. This is why the creative arts and academic communities in the CIS countries have been so eager to welcome and take up the ideas in this agreement and have proposed holding their first forum in Moscow this spring. I am sure that this unique event will provide the impetus for many joint humanitarian projects, for creating a common market for educational, scientific and cultural services throughout the CIS and for developing the human capital in all the member countries.
I know how widely used the Russian language is and how great an interest there is here in Russian literature. I think that the first International Russian Book Festival that will take place soon in Baku will be one of the highlights of the Year of Russia in Azerbaijan. In this context it is fitting to turn to the words of outstanding Russian philologist and educator Dmitry Sergeyevich Likhachev. This year we are celebrating the century of his birth. Speaking of the importance of looking to one’s past to strengthen the spiritual and moral foundation of the nation, he said that this turning to the past will be fruitful only if it is not dictated by the narrow desire to shut oneself off from other peoples and their cultural experience.
This idea of openness that enriches and broadens national cultures fully reflects the spirit of the Year of Russia in Azerbaijan. Today, in declaring its beginning, I would like to wish all the Russian and Azerbaijani participants in this celebration success and all the very best.
Thank you very much for your attention.
President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev: Dear Vladimir Vladimirovich,
Today we are opening the Year of Russia in Azerbaijan. I congratulate all of you on this big event from the bottom of my heart. I am sure that the Year of Russia in Azerbaijan will be a success. Over the course of this year our countries and peoples will draw even closer together, come to know each other even better, cooperate even more actively in many different areas and help ensure that Russia and Azerbaijan will always be good neighbours, friends and partners, now and in the future. This is in the interest of both our countries.
Our countries and peoples share a common history. We have traditionally lived as friends, good neighbours and brothers, and these relations continue to deepen and develop today.
Our two countries are working actively together at the political level on regional cooperation and on international issues. We cooperate actively and support each other in various international organisations. Our bilateral cooperation has a very solid foundation. We are interested in continuing this active political dialogue. The efforts that we have made together enable us to qualify the relations between Russia and Azerbaijan as being a strategic partnership.
This solid foundation that our political relations are built upon also helps us develop relations in all other areas. Before coming here today, Vladimir Vladimirovich and I visited an exhibition of Russian producers in Azerbaijan and saw once again evidence of the great potential that effective economic cooperation offers. The goods and services on show at the exhibition today demonstrate the high potential of Russian producers and also show that Azerbaijan already has in place a solid economic foundation for making use of these goods and services.
It is not by chance that trade between our countries is growing at such a rapid pace. We all recall that two years ago when I came to Russia on an official visit, Vladimir Vladimirovich and I set the goal of doubling our bilateral trade. But we did not think then that this would happen so fast. Bilateral trade between our countries has doubled over the last two years and now exceeds $1 billion a year. Given the economic possibilities of our countries, the rate of economic growth and industrial development, I can say with confidence that this is not the limit and that we will continue to develop these economic relations yet further.
All of this creates excellent conditions for humanitarian cooperation, which Vladimir Vladimirovich just spoke about, and which has always been something of great importance to us. This cooperation does not come from above. It is not the result of an order issued from above that has to be carried out, but is a genuine and sincere demand and the normal state of our society.
Azerbaijan has great love and respect for the Russian culture and language. Russian-language education in Azerbaijan today continues to be provided just as it was during the Soviet years. Not one Russian-language school has been closed and practically all the state universities offer education in Russian. This is a consistent policy and a principle of Azerbaijan as a state, and it is also something that the public wants, something for which there is demand in society, making it an easy policy to implement.
Azerbaijan has always been a country known for its tolerance. Like Russia, Azerbaijan is a multiethnic country. People representing many different ethnic groups live in Azerbaijan as a single family. From the point of view of religious freedom, Azerbaijan is a good example of how the followers of many different religions live together in peace, fraternity and harmony. This is particularly important today at a time when worrying trends are at work in the world, when we talk on the one hand about a dialogue of civilisations but on the other hand see that tension on religious grounds is being artificially stirred up at times. We must be firm in combating these trends and show through the example we set that the world should take a different path in its development.
Azerbaijan is home to many Russians and many Azerbaijanis live in Russia. This is also an important factor in the relations between our countries. I am sure that the year, which we are beginning today with the opening of the Year of Russia in Azerbaijan, will be a successful one and will enable us to deepen our cooperation and draw even closer together. We are neighbours and our good relations as neighbours have a very solid foundation built on the principles precisely of good-neighbourliness, sincerity, reliability, predictability and friendship. I think you will agree that these are indeed the factors underpinning the relations between our countries.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the President of Russia for coming to our country and personally taking part in the opening of the Year of Russia in Azerbaijan.
I would also like to extend a welcome to the leaders of the Russian regions, with whom we have very active economic cooperation.
I would like to welcome all our guests from Russia.
Welcome to Azerbaijan, and I wish success to the Year of Russia in Azerbaijan.
Thank you for your attention.