From the talk of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev at the meeting with the Azerbaijanis living in Ukraine - Ukraine, July 20, 2002

Talat Aliyev (ambassador of Azerbaijan to Ukraine): Mr. President!

Let me welcome you in Ukraine and deliver the best regards on behalf of the Azerbaijanis living in Ukraine. I thank you for your efforts in discussions on economic cooperation within GUUAM. I thank you for your efforts for improving the welfare of the Azerbaijani people and for developing Azerbaijan. We wish you long life and sound health.

The Azerbaijani diaspora in Ukraine supports your internal and external policy. We`ll support you in the 2003 presidential elections. We`ll strengthen our diaspora based on your recommendations and will always support you.

Mr. President, most of the participants here were sent by you to different universities of the Soviet Union in the 1970s. They are proud of being your followers. They established the Congress of the Azerbaijanis of Ukraine.

Heydar Aliyev: Thank you. I`ll ask you a few questions since we have short of time. Later I`ll disclose my own opinion.

Are the participants here from the Crimea or other parts of Ukraine?

Talat Aliyev: The participants represent over 15 provinces of Ukraine. They are active members of the regional organizations of the Congress.

Heydar Aliyev: It is not bad. How many Azerbaijanis live in the Crimea?

Talat Aliyev: About 15 thousand.

Heydar Aliyev: How many people here represent the Crimea?

Talat Aliyev: 4 people.

Heydar Aliyev: Please stand up. You can take your seat. Do you have anything else to add?

Talat Aliyev: If you allow, the chairman of the Congress would like to welcome you, too. Also, some members of the Congress have a word to say.

Heydar Aliyev: Please.

Talat Aliyev: Oktay Afandiyev...

Oktay Afandiyev (chairman of the Congress of the Azerbaijanis of Ukraine): Mr. President, I welcome you on behalf of the Azerbaijani diaspora. It is an honor for every Azerbaijani to meet such a great person as you. You met the representatives of the Azerbaijani diaspora during your visit in 1997. Our Congress was the first Azerbaijani organization established abroad. It is the only Azerbaijani organization, which is centralized and based on national principle in Ukraine. The Congress cooperates with provinces and keeps solidarity among the Azerbaijanis.

Moreover, the Congress closely cooperates with the embassy. We meet Mr. Talat Aliyev frequently. We work according to your policy. Thanks to the media of the Congress, every Azerbaijani in Ukraine receives information about Azerbaijan. It keeps our solidarity.

I could speak more if there were time.

Heydar Aliyev: No need to speak more. I have questions. Do you chair the Congress of the Azerbaijanis of Ukraine?

Oktay Afandiyev: Yes, I do.

Heydar Aliyev: Very good. Do you live in Kiev?

Oktay Afandiyev: Yes, I do.

Heydar Aliyev: What is your job?

Oktay Afandiyev: Besides my activity in the Congress, I am a member of the Presidium of the Council of National Affairs under the President of Ukraine and the Coordination Council of the World Azerbaijanis.

Heydar Aliyev: Excellent. Can you work on your profession?

Oktay Afandiyev: I am a businessman. I have an investment company. But I can`t spend enough time to my company because of my activity in the Congress.

Heydar Aliyev: Can you work as a businessman?

Oktay Afandiyev: Yes, I can.

Heydar Aliyev: Does your company make money? You should not hide anything. I would like the Azerbaijanis here to hold official positions and become successful businessmen. Because then they can benefit to our diaspora and to our people. So you can answer my questions.

Oktay Afandiyev: Mr. President, my company makes good money. A lot of Azerbaijanis work in my company.

Heydar Aliyev: You are rich enough. I am aware that the Congress unites the Azerbaijanis from 25 provinces of Ukraine. There is no alternative organization. It is very good. The Azerbaijanis were organized faster and more effectively in Ukraine than the Azerbaijanis in other post-Soviet countries. I have another question. Is there anybody from the Congress in the elective governmental structures?

Oktay Afandiyev: Mr. President, the local and parliamentary elections were held in Ukraine recently. Nine representatives of the Congress became members of the local and provincial parliaments.

Heydar Aliyev: Is there any Azerbaijani at the Ukrainian parliament?

Oktay Afandiyev: Unfortunately, there is not. But we do our best to be represented at the Ukrainian parliament.

Heydar Aliyev: What is the position of the Azerbaijani diaspora by its size among other diasporas in Ukraine?

Oktay Afandiyev: The Azerbaijani diaspora is the third after the Russian and Tatar diasporas.

Heydar Aliyev: What about the Armenian diaspora?

Oktay Afandiyev: Mr. President, the Armenian diaspora in Ukraine is weak. I am not informed about the number of its members. But I know that the Armenians here do not have a strong organization.

Heydar Aliyev: You should have been informed.

Oktay Afandiyev: Till recently they did not have strong national organization.

Heydar Aliyev: However, President Kuchma told me that the Armenians wanted to come to power in Yalta after the elections. You may not be aware of it. But President Kuchma sent his special envoy to Yalta and prevented the action. Now you say that the Armenians are not strong here. But they were about to come to power in Yalta. I am not satisfied that you don`t have sufficient information. Because the Armenians are main enemies and rivals of the Azerbaijanis.

How strong is the Georgian diaspora?

Oktay Afandiyev: Not so strong. However, there are five people of Georgian origin at the Ukrainian parliament.

Talat Aliyev: Mr. President, there are two people, in fact.

Heydar Aliyev: No, their number is five.

Talat Aliyev: They also include an Ossetian and Adjar.

Heydar Aliyev: There are five Georgians at the Ukrainian parliament. I was told by both Kuchma and Shevardnadze about it. I have more information than you do.

Please don`t worry about my questions. Don`t think that I criticize you here. I just want you to work more.

There is not much time here. But I`ll tell you my point of view, which was stated at the assembly of the World Azerbaijanis. Now I address you, the Azerbaijanis living in Ukraine. They were organized faster and more effectively than the Azerbaijanis in other post-Soviet countries. I see that your organization is strong. There is no conflict here. Am I right?

Oktay Afandiyev: Yes, you are.

Heydar Aliyev: It is good that there are not many problems within the Congress. For example, there are several organizations of the Azerbaijanis in Russia. Every Azerbaijani should understand what his goal is. If someone follows his own purposes, his organization is not a society, but a company. The people, who want to serve Azerbaijan, should have different principles. I appreciate your job from this point of view. From my talk to our embassy and your speech I understood that everything here is fine.

It is not easy to live abroad. Every person has a native land and roots. Every person is related to them. But this is an old tendency. Now people migrate a lot in the changing world. This tendency prevails throughout the whole world. These processes are not controlled. They are objective processes. The Azerbaijanis are also a part of these processes. Personally I think that the migration of the Azerbaijanis to different countries serves to our national interests. It is an old thought that living abroad it hard. Actually it is not so hard. People can live where they feel better and more comfortable. It is natural. However, they should not forget their native land, language, roots, and traditions.

Now Azerbaijan is a European state that belongs to the Muslim world. Our people have lived with Muslim values for centuries. Since the incorporation of Azerbaijan into Russia and the oil boom in Baku in the 19th century, the West has been very interested in Baku. Thanks to the Western people, who came to our country, Azerbaijan started to accept universal values, too. Our progressive people thought that our nation should accept those values and keep their national identity. Thanks to them, Azerbaijan integrated into Europe in a short time.

I can count the names of the progressive people of Azerbaijan, who lived at the end of the 19th century. Just only Uzeyir Hajibeyov created so much. He created his masterpieces such as "Leyli and Majnun", "Arshin mal alan" ("The Cloth Peddler"), "O olmasin, bu olsun" for the nation that lived with outdated rules and that didn`t let women be free.

"Leyli and Majnun" is an Oriental legend. Uzeyir Hajibeyov demonstrated the Eastern philosophy with his opera "Leyli and Majnun" based on the same poem by Fuzuli. Not many people had even read the poem by that time. However, staging the opera "Leyli and Majnun" in 1908, Uzeyir Hajibeyov showed how deep our moral roots are.

The purpose of his operetta "Arshin mal alan" ("The Cloth Peddler") was not only to make people laugh. There the composer showed that our traditions did not let people feel free. A person could not even see whom he was going to marry with. Can any of you marry without love now? The great works like "Arshin mal alan" ("The Cloth Peddler"), "O olmasin, bu olsun woke our people. We became Europeanized thanks to the progress in many fields, such as music, science, literature, technology and industry. Now we want our compatriots abroad to keep their national identity. You should know the local language and not forget your mother tongue. You should learn the local traditions. It makes us morally rich. For example, a Ukrainian knows only his language and traditions. However, most of you can speak Ukrainian, Russian and Azerbaijani. You are acquainted with both the Ukrainian and Azerbaijani traditions.

You should integrate into the Ukrainian society. It is my policy. I was appointed the head of Azerbaijan on July 14, 1969. Since then I have always strived to develop Azerbaijan and the Azerbaijanis. One of the ways of the development is the migration of the Azerbaijanis to all over the world. For example, the chairman of the Congress is rich enough, so he can even help the Azerbaijanis in need here, can`t he?

Someone: He does...

Heydar Aliyev: He does. It is free market economy now. Capable people can succeed in these conditions. They succeed and make more money. When they become rich, they get a chance to help their nation, too. I recommend you to live here. Good luck.

Are you informed about the processes in Azerbaijan? I have been the President of Azerbaijan for 9 years. The presidential elections will be held next year. I have a right to be reelected for another 5-year tenure. I`ll use my right and take part in the elections in 2003. I hope that the Azerbaijani people will trust me once again. I try to fulfill their trust and develop Azerbaijan. However, the Azerbaijani opposition and its media spreads only libel and slander about me. I have witnessed a lot of things in my life. However, I have never seen such libel and slander written in the opposition media that uses freedom of speech and media.

Some ask me how I can stand it. There is a big respect to my personality everywhere. I have a rich political experience. I resigned from a high post in the Kremlin, quitted politics, was oppressed, but later I was elected the President of Azerbaijan. I presided over Azerbaijan during the Soviet time and independence. Some say that I should not let people write about me what they want. But I can`t do anything because we have democracy and freedom of speech in our country. Perhaps some people misuse the freedom of speech. So I have to tolerate all these in order to continue to serve the Azerbaijani people. I prove with my activity and moral that all these are libel and slander. The people never believe in such things.

Those who criticize me always repeat the same thing that the people in Azerbaijan live in terrible conditions. But you visit Azerbaijan. Can you say that the Azerbaijani people live in poverty?

According to a high-ranking representative of the International Monetary Fund, who visited Baku three days ago, Azerbaijan holds the first position due to its economic indicators among the CIS countries. This is the official statement of the IMF that controls the global financial system. However, some claim that the Azerbaijani people live in poverty, therefore 2 million Azerbaijanis live abroad. But I started my policy on the migration of the Azerbaijanis to different countries 30 years ago. I wanted the Azerbaijanis to spread over many countries and represent Azerbaijan there. The Azerbaijanis are the biggest ethnic group in the South Caucasus. However, the neighboring nations are known well enough all over the world. As I stated a while ago, the Armenians were about to come to power in Yalta. They have strong groups and armed bands here. So you have to be more careful.

Even though the number of the Georgians in Ukraine is less than the number of the Azerbaijanis, they are represented by five people in the Ukrainian parliament. The Georgians are our friends. But I want our diaspora to have representatives in the Ukrainian parliament, too.

Azerbaijanis haven`t learnt to leave home for another place. In the 1970s I helped one person to go to work and live in Moscow. However, he came back a year later, saying that his wife and parents don`t want him to live abroad. I sent many Azerbaijanis abroad, but some of them returned later. You said that I had sent most of you to study abroad. It is wonderful. I like that generation. Perhaps you remember that I used all my efforts in order to send 800 people abroad without exams. For example, it was impossible for an Azerbaijani to pass an exam at the Dnepropetrovsk Institute. Are there any graduates of that university?

Someone: There is one person. He is a member of the parliament.

Heydar Aliyev: Is he? Do you remember that we sent you there after you passed an exam at the Polytechnic Institute in Baku? You are one of the students who studied abroad. When I sent 800 people abroad, I knew that some of them would return to Azerbaijan, while the other would stay in the countries they studied. Some of them married to foreigners, settled, lived and worked in those countries. I supported the Azerbaijanis who settled abroad. Even though they married to foreigners, their children would be Azerbaijanis. Am I right? I anticipated it. I did my best to send young people to study abroad. I told them to stay there if they wanted to.

If someone finds a job abroad, should I blame him or her for not staying in Azerbaijan? Why should I? Some even blame me for it. But it is good that many Azerbaijanis work abroad. I want the number of the Azerbaijanis abroad to increase. Because then you will be stronger. You will have more chances to be represented in power. You will have more chances to do business. This is what I want. Please remember my words.

Don`t rush to return to Azerbaijan. You can work, become richer and have children. Then you can come back to Azerbaijan and settle here. I don`t want to make you stay away from Azerbaijan. I just want the Azerbaijanis to spread all over the world. Do you understand me? I want our culture and traditions to be known abroad. I recommend all of you not to forget your national identity. The Azerbaijanis are always ready to be assimilated. For example, if Azerbaijani speaks Russian well, he or she starts to disrespect the mother tongue. I don`t like this case. We have a rich language. Azerbaijani is a language of poetry. So you should know and speak it well and teach your children and grandchildren. I want you to keep the Azerbaijani traditions at home. I know that you celebrate the Novruz holiday and Kurban holiday here.

You say that you have Azerbaijani classes on Sundays. They are necessary. You should have a musical ensemble, too. Here is our Minister of Culture Polad Bulbuloglu. Ask him everything you need. Culture and language are very important that determine national identity. Science and other spheres are also important. But who would know Polad Bulbuloglu, had he become a cybernetic scientist? But he is a famous singer and composer now. He makes his nation famous, too. He is not merely Polad Mammadov. He is called Polad Bulbuloglu, because he is the son of a famous singer Murtuza, who was well-known in Karabakh and nicknamed Bulbul (nightingale) due to his sweet voice. Polad Bulbuloglu follows his father`s track now.

I am in a hurry and have a lot to do. I want you to know that Azerbaijan will always support you. Our independence is a historic chance. Today I said a toast about the independence of Ukraine. Even such a big country as Ukraine was once dependent. As the Ukrainians are a Slavic nation like the Russians, their situation was somehow better than the situation of the Muslim Azerbaijanis. Now Ukraine is an independent country. When I visit Ukraine, I witness that the Ukrainian language is spoken everywhere. However, Ukrainian was rarely spoken here during the Soviet time. Russian was dominant.

Last night we listened to a concert in the headquarters of the Ukrainian President. Young Ukrainian singers performed nice songs in their mother tongue.

Azerbaijan has achieved a lot since its independence. The Azerbaijani people were repressed during the Soviet time. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which broke out in 1988, still continues. There was no respect for the Azerbaijani language during the Soviet time. At the meetings of the Central Committee I spoke both in Azerbaijani and Russian. However, some participants of those meetings did not know the Azerbaijani language. Once the second secretary of the Committee, who was Russian left the meeting as a protest to my speaking in Azerbaijani. This was a major nationality.

Now Azerbaijan is independent, even though it is wounded. I mean the occupation of the 20 percent of the Azerbaijani territories. We strive to solve this problem. Today in my speech at the meeting of GUUAM I addressed to the international organizations, superpowers and the Minsk Group. Not every politician could have made such a statement. But I did. Because I protect the interests of Azerbaijan and want justice. I demand that the international legal norms be implemented and the occupied territories be liberated.

The superpowers state that they recognize the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. However, they ignore the occupation of the Azerbaijani territories by the Armenian armed forces, and want Azerbaijan and Armenia to find compromise. This approach is a double standard.

Our oil strategy and oil projects benefit Azerbaijan very much. Our country is developing. Today I surprised the presidents when I said that our GDP grew by 10% last year and by 8% during the first half of the year.

Earlier I mentioned the evaluation of IMF. It proves the development of Azerbaijan. Democracy and market economy are being developed in our country. Favorable conditions for businessmen are being created. I met local and foreign businessmen this year. Now we prepare for the third meeting with state officials. Our reforms are to encourage entrepreneurship and help the private sector. The private sector is the leading force and future of our economy. We solve our difficulties. Azerbaijan will be an economically and socially developed country in a few years.

I wish you good luck. Please visit Azerbaijan when you have time. You can see how we work there. You need to represent Azerbaijan at a high level here. Thank you.

The newspaper "Azerbaycan", July 24, 2002