The dearest holiday of our people, Novruz, is coming to our land. Nationwide festivities on the occasion of Novruz, a holiday left to us by our forefathers and reflecting our national spirit and memory through its diversity, were held in Baku on 19 March. The square outside the ancient Maiden Tower was as crowded as ever. Surrounding buildings were decorated in colorful posters. A giant Samani, the traditional symbol of Novruz, was also there.
Novruz, a holiday embodying abundance, profusion and kindness, has been marked by UNESCO at the international level for two years now. In September 2009, on the initiative of Azerbaijan’s First Lady, President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, Goodwill Ambassador, MP Mehriban Aliyeva, Novruz was included on the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The UN General Assembly has announced 21 March as the International Day of Novruz.
The Azerbaijani President’s message of congratulation on the occasion of Novruz says that as a nationwide holiday Novruz has been marked throughout our country by various celebrations and customs for centuries. This year’s arrival of spring in Azerbaijan coincides with preparations for the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the restoration of our state independence. The celebration of Novruz, a festival tested over the course of centuries, at state level is one of our independence achievements. Our republic, which is seeing its 20th spring in as a sovereign state, is also welcoming followers of the Mugham, khanende and numerous guests who have come to Azerbaijan during Novruz as part of the International Mugham Festival. The eternal and inimitable masterpiece of our people, the Mugham, sounds in unison with the refreshing spring atmosphere that bolsters people’s faith and the aspiration for creative work.
In remarks at the official opening ceremony of the “Mugham World” Second International Mugham Festival, President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation Mehriban Aliyeva highlighted that it is no coincidence that the Mugham Festival was being held on the eve of the Novruz holiday. There are several quite a few factors that bind Mugham and Novruz together. Both are very old and both combine tradition and renewal.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and his wife Mehriban Aliyeva came to the square outside the Maiden Tower to participate in Novruz festivities. Thousands of city residents and visitors of the capital gathered in the square warmly welcomed the head of state and his wife.
Children dressed in national costume presented the Azerbaijani President and his wife with a tray filled with various traditional sweats and congratulated President Aliyev and Mrs. Aliyeva on the occasion of Novruz.
Fighters carrying swords and shields reminiscent of our ancient history stood on the walls of the Old City and in the square. Dada Gorgud gave his blessing and expressed hope for the spring holiday to bring abundance to our people.
Children dressed in national costume danced in the square. The songs people of art sang about spring and Azerbaijan could be heard well beyond the square, while holiday festivities raised people’s spirits.
President Ilham Aliyev started the Novruz bonfire.
The head of state delivered a speech on the holiday occasion.
Speech by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev
- Dear friends, dear ladies and gentlemen!
I would like to congratulate you and all the people of Azerbaijan on the occasion of Novruz from the bottom of my heart, and wish every citizen of Azerbaijan happiness and good health on these holidays.
Novruz is our favorite holiday. The people of Azerbaijan have been celebrating and cherishing this holiday for centuries. We have been celebrating Novruz at state level for 20 years now. Azerbaijan has been marking Novruz very extensively, as official state holiday, since restoration of independence. In the last several years we have several days to celebrate Novruz. This year we will have nine days of rest. I am sure that every Azerbaijani family will use these days rationally, all families will celebrate this remarkable holiday together.
The people of Azerbaijan have a strong affinity to national values, national traditions. The Azerbaijani state today rests on these values. Since restoration of independence, with the exception of the first two years, we have covered a long road of successful development. The first years of independence were extremely difficult for our country and people. That period is embedded in our minds as years of chaos, crisis and anarchy. In those years, further development of Azerbaijan and its existence as an independent country was called into question. Only after great leader Heydar Aliyev returned to political power on people’s demands in 1993 did the situation in the country stabilize, an end was put to civil war, and development and progress began.
We stick to this course today. Azerbaijan is undergoing a period of development in the proper sense of the word. Our country is rapidly moving ahead. I have no doubt that all positive trends in Azerbaijan will be further strengthened in the coming years too.
This year we are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the restoration of our independence. Twenty years is a short period of time from a historical standpoint, but at the same time quite a lot can be done in 20 years. If we look at the present realities in Azerbaijan, we can see that Azerbaijan has secured a place on the world map as an independent state in the proper sense of the word.
We are actively involved in all regional issues. Azerbaijan has become a factor of regional stability and development. Our initiatives are making our country stronger and having a positive impact on the developments unfolding in the region.
We are building a modern state. In essence, state construction in Azerbaijan commenced after 1993. The foundation of our statehood was laid, very important steps were taken to set up a law-governed state in Azerbaijan, reforms were held. Today these reforms are ongoing. The continuation of reforms both in the political and economic spheres is the key to the development of any society. By continuing reforms, the Azerbaijani state demonstrates its adherence to modernity and development.
We must ensure that all the tasks facing our country are resolved, people live even better and supremacy of law is fully established in our country. Very serious struggle against unpleasant phenomena is under way in Azerbaijan, and we can see great results of this struggle. The supremacy of law, principles of social justice, the extensive fight against bribery and corruption are yielding fruit. Considering our natural resources and a carefully thought-out economic policy, the Azerbaijani state and Azerbaijani society can only go along the path of development and progress.
We should not confine ourselves to the successes already made. We can see these successes both in the statistical data and in our city becoming prettier. Azerbaijan has been experiencing a real period of renaissance lately. Despite the economic and financial crisis, our economy has grown, people’s social standing has improved, a successful social policy is being implemented.
Nevertheless, the successes made should simply encourage us to take further steps. Life doesn’t stand still, our country is facing new tasks, we come across new challenges and must be prepared for them. For that, we need a strong economy and a strong political system.
The process of formation of civil society is well under way in Azerbaijan, there is coalescence between the people and the authorities. All our initiatives are supported by the people, otherwise we couldn’t have achieved such development.
We can see our future very openly and clearly. Where are we going and what does the future hold in store?! In other words, to successfully cope with the issues we are facing, we must certainly be able to predict the future. I want to repeat that the reforms that are and will be conducted with this aim have a special importance.
Azerbaijan today is a leading state of the region from the economic viewpoint. Azerbaijan accounts for 75 per cent of the South Caucasus economy. The steps taken in the economic and energy spheres in Azerbaijan have not only facilitated the country’s development, but are also having a strong impact on regional processes. Our role in the region will gradually increase. The projects Azerbaijan is implementing have gone beyond the regional plane, these projects and initiatives are of great international importance.
I want to reiterate that in building a modern state we rely primarily on our national values. These values are of top priority for us. Of course, we share the universal human values, treat European values with respect. But the most important for us are Azerbaijani values. We must ensure that the young generation is brought up in the national spirit, is patriotic, loves the Motherland, serves it faithfully, is professional, educated and competent. The work being done to that end is already producing results. In the future, we will see these results even more broadly.
All the tasks the country is facing are being fulfilled. I want to say again that we will continue our political and economic reforms. We will further strengthen our social policies. Thus, we will successfully move towards building a modern state.
Our cities are becoming nicer and more comfortable. Work in our regions is going well, the program on the development of districts is being successfully implemented. We have recently discussed the results of the second year in the execution of the program and can see that every task and every issue is being resolved.
The program on the socioeconomic development of Baku, surrounding settlements and villages will be adopted in the near future. An expanded meeting on this issue was held several days ago. Additional funds will be allocated this year and in the coming years for the development of settlements around Baku. Therefore, a very broad and detailed program on the solution of socioeconomic issues of settlements will be adopted shortly.
In other words, every sphere is in the spotlight. There is no issue in the country that would not be progressing and developing. Along with all these positive trends, I want to repeat that all public officers, all government officials must conscientiously serve our citizens, help them and address their needs. We must ensure that every arising issue is resolved swiftly so that the people of Azerbaijan could live even better and happier.
The most important task our country is facing is the solution of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. As you may know, Azerbaijan is pursuing its own policy in this regard, is demonstrating a constructive approach in the negotiations. At the same time, the strengthening of our country and the expanding sphere of our influence in the region are further invigorating out stance. We all know very well that the decisions and resolutions of all international organizations support Azerbaijan’s cause. From a legal standpoint, all roads to a settlement are clear to us. This issue can be resolved only within the framework of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity. There is no other option, and I have no doubt that Azerbaijan will restore its territorial integrity. We are trying to do that in peace. At the same time, we are paying serious attention to army building. Sometimes this worries certain foreign circles. I think there is nothing to worry about. If the issue is resolved peacefully, of course, there can be no talk of the military option. But Azerbaijani lands have been under occupation for over 20 years. Citizens of Azerbaijan are suffering from this occupation, from the policy of ethnic cleansing. The ever-strengthening Azerbaijan is absolutely confident that this issue can be resolved in any manner.
Of course, the attention we are paying to army construction, the increasing military spending, production of new military hardware in Azerbaijan are, in my view, additional opportunities for a fair solution of the issue. The most sophisticated military hardware is produced in Azerbaijan today. Our growing economic capacities, the additional revenue that will be fetched by the implementation of energy projects will, of course, further strengthen Azerbaijan in this respect.
We are still hoping that the issue can be resolved peacefully. For that, the Armenian side must conditionally fulfill the resolutions of international organizations, including the UN Security Council, vacate the occupied lands, and the citizens of Azerbaijan must return to their native homes. Then peace and stability can be established in the region.
At present, the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh poses the biggest threat for the region. Everyone knows very well that we didn’t create this threat and that Azerbaijan is the worst affected side. I hope and am sure that the issue will be resolved, we will restore our territorial integrity. There isn’t and can’t be any other option. The Azerbaijani people and state will never tolerate a second Armenian state on their historical lands. Nagorno-Karabakh will never be granted independence. People living in Nagorno-Karabakh now and the Azerbaijanis who will definitely return there must live in an autonomy. This is an internationally known approach, and all issues must be resolved through the provision of the status of autonomy within a single Azerbaijani state. I want to repeat that Azerbaijan will not back down from this principled stance.
Except for this problem, other issues, I repeat, are being successfully resolved in Azerbaijan. We are very hopeful and optimistic of the future. We must ensure that our country grows stronger and more powerful still. We are and will be protecting our independent life. Independence is our biggest achievement, out biggest asset, our biggest value. The people of Azerbaijan dreamed of independence for centuries. Today, as an independent country, we are conducting an independent policy, and this policy fully meets the interests of the Azerbaijani people. We must protect our independent choice, our way of life. I want to repeat that Azerbaijani society rests on solid national and spiritual values. At the same time, Azerbaijan is a modern and secular state, and all the positive developments unfolding in the world are having a positive impact on Azerbaijan too.
We will continue this policy in the future. I want to reiterate that independence is of the greatest value for us. We must and we do work day and night to strengthen this independence. There is complete solidarity in our society on this issue. We know where we are going and what our future will be like. Our future is in our own hands. It is up to us to decide how Azerbaijan will be developing in the future.
I think the foundation of our statehood that has been laid over these years, over the last 17 years, is so solid that it will be impossible to get off this track in the coming years. This is the only choice, which is confirmed by Azerbaijan’s successful development. In other words, our development could have taken several courses in 1993, but only this path, the path of development and independence, our aspiration to rely on ourselves have created the present realities for us. In recent years, Azerbaijan has developed at the most rapid pace in the world. This is confirmed by all statistical indicators.
Azerbaijani economy grows even in the years of crisis, Azerbaijan is becoming prettier, more comfortable and stronger. All foreign citizens coming to Azerbaijan today, all our guests, if they are impartial of course, see, approve and appreciate these realities.
On this remarkable day, on the eve of the dear Novruz holiday, I would like to congratulate the people of Azerbaijan from the bottom of my heart again and wish every citizen of Azerbaijan good health, happiness and further successes!
X X X
Then Azerbaijani President and his wife visited the National Seaside Park. President Ilham Aliyev and his wife Mehriban Aliyeva met with the key characters of Novruz – Kosa and Kechal.
Kosa and Kechal congratulated the President and his wife on the holiday and competed with the head of state in egg breaking.
Performances by amateur talent groups representing various regions of Azerbaijan were greeted with interest. President Ilham Aliyev and Mehriban Aliyeva listened to performances by Ashug and Mugham masters.
The Oriental bazaar organized at the National Park lent a special touch to the festivities, as handicraft items made in different parts of the country were demonstrated there. The head of state and his wife received some presents. Young athletes were wrestling on a map near-by, while sportsmen were demonstrating their skill.
President Ilham Aliyev, his wife Mehriban Aliyeva and other participants in the festivities watched these scenes and reviewed samples of ancient handicrafts.
As part of the celebrations, the head of state and his wife also toured an exhibition of products grown on prolific Azerbaijani soil. The President of Azerbaijan and his wife tried the shish kebabs cooked on a brazier. Various sweets, the symbols of Novruz, were also on display at a ceremony demonstrating ancient folk crafts. President Ilham Aliyev and Mehriban Aliyeva had tea with traditional festive treats.
The head of state and his wife examined the works by young artists, designers and craftsmen. Mehriban Aliyeva was presented with a carpet with her image on it. Artists, performers of Maykhana, Ashugs, rope-dancers, Naghara drummers, etc. demonstrated the customs and traditions of our people and ancient crafts.
The oriental bazaar organized at the National Park displayed food products grown and produced in various parts of Azerbaijan. This exhibition was further evidence that the President’s instructions on ensuring food security in the country are being successfully fulfilled.
The crowd keenly watched the performance by members of the Armwrestling Federation of Azerbaijan. President Ilham Aliyev competed with one of the athletes. Mehriban Aliyeva also joined the contest at the suggestion of female armwrestlers. A picture was taken with athletes and wrestlers.
Bahar Gyz presented President Ilham Aliyev and Mehriban Aliyeva with a holiday tray filled with traditional festive treats. Great interest was also aroused by traditional Novruz dishes brought from different regions of Azerbaijan. Mehriban Aliyeva was presented with a national costume.
Then President Ilham Aliyev and his wife Mehriban Aliyeva enjoyed the sea view from the National Seaside Park. The head of state renewed his best wishes on the occasion of Novruz to the residents and visitors of Baku who had come to meet him and celebrate the holiday together.
Also attending the festivities on the occasion of Novruz were Prime Minister Artur Rasizade, Speaker of the Milli Mejlis Ogtay Asadov, Chief-of-Staff of the Presidential Administration Ramiz Mehdiyev and other officials. The celebrations lasted until late at night and were crowned with a concert featuring renowned artists and craftsmen.