Speech of the President of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev at the 19th session of the Permanent ‎Council of the Ministers of Culture of the member states of the TURKSOY organization ‎February 6, 2003‎

I welcome the participants of the new session of TURKSOY and wish you successes here, in Azerbaijan. TURKSOY is one of the most advanced bodies after the establishment of the unity of the Turkic states. TURKSOY brings together everybody. But in some other organizations interests differ. That is why, we pay great attention and attach importance to your organization. We, the heads of states, first put the issue of development of the cultural ties in the summits of Turkic states. Naturally, there are issues of development of economic cooperation and human ties. All these are there. But culture, tongue and our traditions, customs form the roots off all this.

What attaches us to each other? The origin of Our religion. It is true that some of us don't understand each other. But we all are of the same origin.

Second is our common cultures, traditions and moral values. All these tied, approach the Turkic peoples to each other. We did not lose all these during the period of the Russian empire, later in the soviet empire, though we were separated from each other. Indeed, we were not separated completely, we met the Turkmen representatives here every year and held competitions. Turkmen cotton specialists were arriving in Azerbaijan and ours were going there. We had all of it. But we were not talking that our language had a common origin. We have similar customs.

We were not talking about it, because there was the soviet ideology and a single soviet people. The nations were being assimilated gradually and a single soviet nation was emerging. The Soviet nation. All they, Elchin, Polad and Fatma khanum… they are soviet people. They have been "soviet people", a long time and sometimes they forgot their own tongue.

But the empire collapsed and we became independent. Then we realized that our ancestors were of the same origin, same root and fought together. They have common customs, songs and dances. Polad knows well, these all are the same. That is why, at the initiative of the Republic of Turkey, the late Turgut Ozal and the ninth president of Turkey Suleyman Demirel, the unity of the Turkic states were established. We hold the meeting of the heads of Turkic countries in different countries.

We make efforts and move our economy forward. But your works are better than ours in the sphere of culture. That is why I congratulate you. I am very pleased that you have gathered here. The representatives of Turkey, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kirgizstan, Gagauzia, Tatarstan and Bashkortostan are here now. I wondered much if the representatives of Tatarstan and Bashkortostan would come to this meeting. They are big republics. That is not their fault that they have not become independent. For example, Tatarstan has 4 million population if I am not mistaken, and they are big republics. It has advanced economy, everything. This republic can be independent. As well as Bashkiria, can't it? As regards Tuva, Khakasia, Sakha (Yakutia), Altay… Let's be frank. None, including me did not know that tuvans were of the Turkic origin. Did we, Mr. Elchin? He is one of our great writers. We did not know it. Because the idea of the "soviet nation" had penetrated to our minds, we did not know about it.

When I was in the Political Bureau, in Moscow, the first Deputy Chairman of the USSR, Tuvians were often coming to me. It was necessary to build a railroad for them from Krasnoyarsk. The Tuvian officials were often coming to me.

It was hard to build highways there. They wanted a railroad. I was assisting them and taking decisions. But some people were hindering us from different side.

I was in Altay. I was elected deputy of the Supreme Soviet of Russian Federation from there. Altay is the ancient site of our ancestors. The territory known as the Mountainous Altay then, is known as the Republic of Altay.

When I was there I told them that you were Turks and they were saying that they were mountainous Altays. But I was feeling their attitude to me. They were not admitting that we were related with each other. We have become relatives now. I want your meeting to be full of joy. You see, there are so many Turkic regions. Khakasia, Tuva, Altay, Sakha... There were people from Sakha who were coming to me. The people there had strange surnames. For example, Nikolay…

They have Russian names and surnames. Their leader also was Nikolay and he was coming to me. They had their problems too. He wanted a railroad to be built from Berkaki. We wanted as well. Because there were many coal and iron deposits. But there were no money to build the railroad. But they were frequently visiting me. I don't know if they are alive or no.

I studied in Leningrad in 1940-50. A man from Khkasia was studying with me. I had no idea about Khakasia then. I asked him who were the people who populated in in Khakasia, were they Turks, Muslims? He could not explain it.

Elchin Efendiyev: They are shamans.

Heydar Aliyev: They are Turks, as well as shamans. Turks are shamans as well.

I am very satisfied with the work of your organization. I regret that there are no representatives from some republics. It is a great even to have a Turkmen delegation here. I know well that Turkmenistan delegations don't visit many places. But if a representative from Turkmenistan came to Azerbaijan, it does prove the faithfulness of my friend and brother Turkmenbashi Sapharmurad Niyazov to our friendship. Doesn't it? Please give my best regards and high consideration to him. Tell him that I was very concerned of the events that happened there. But he could get out of this situation well. He is powerful. Some people there don't understand that such a man cannot be overthrown from power. Our friend Turkmenbashi is very vigilant and he is more powerful than his rivals. All the people stand behind him. You can do nothing to a man supported by the people.

For example, some people tried to overthrow me in 1994 here. It was just for one year after my coming to power. In 1993 Elchibay government was being toppled here. They invited me to Baku from Nakhichevan to save them. I arrived here, but they were afraid and ran away. Then Surat Huseynov, a colonel attacked here. We stopped his attack. He came to Baku, and I asked him, what do you want? He said that he would be president. I told him what he could not be president. He said that he could. I said to him to let the people elect him. People elected me. But Surat Huseynov did not tolerate it and tried to launch a coup against me a year later. I had no arms and he was controlling the army. I called the people from this room at 10 o'clock at night, 500 thousand people gathered here after 2 hours. There were women, children, young and old among them. None would have standed against the people. I did nothing. The people punished him.

The people stand behind Turkmenbashi now. That is why one can not do anything to a man supported by the people. I am very pleased that you came here from Turkmenistan. President Mintimier Shaymiyev of Tatarstan and Murtaza Rahimov of Bashkirdistan are also my friends.

Shaymiyev has been in Baku. But Rahimov has not. Several time I invited him to Baku and meet. Mintimer Shaymiyev is well-known in the world.