Closing speech by Ilham Aliyev at the meeting with a group of culture and art figures

01 march 2019, 14:00

Dear friends, I know that there are many more people who would like to speak. I suggest that we hold such meetings on a regular basis, so that we could cover all the issues.

Today’s meeting shows again that such meetings are of great benefit. The questions raised here are very important indeed. I believe that their solution can clarify many issues. I have already instructed the Minister of Culture and am now instructing the Presidential Administration to analyze all the proposals made here and include them in a program, so that we could consistently address these issues.

On some questions, I want to express my opinion already now – in a chronological order. The process of restoration of the Center of Writers has been launched. Mr. Anar has expressed his opinion about this and noted that this issue had been resolved in a meeting. The IDPs settled there are being provided with new houses and apartments. The building will be refurbished and handed over to writers. At the same time, a Center for Contemporary Art is being created in Shabran District.

Other proposals, including those related to monuments, will definitely be examined. I accept and support the proposals concerning the monument to Jalil Mammadguluzadeh. Appropriate instructions have been given related to the construction of an apartment building for writers. A land plot has been allocated and this apartment building will be constructed. At the same time, I believe that the government should build a new residential building for prominent cultural figures and young talents. The Baku City Executive Authority, the State Committee for Town Planning and Architecture and the State Committee for Property Issues will receive relevant instructions. They are hearing my instructions as we speak: to allocate a plot of land in a short period of time so that we could build a beautiful apartment building for prominent figures and provide them with apartments.

I also accept the suggestions made by the Union of Composers. Today, the Baku City Executive Authority will be instructed to solve the housing problem of Yashar Imanov. If I had known about this before, the issue would have been resolved long ago. You are well aware that the government has provided apartments to hundreds of prominent cultural figures in recent years. I can say that the absolute majority of requests I have received in this regard have been resolved. We will continue to do so, as I believe that the state should take this responsibility. I do not know how this issue is addressed in other countries, but as far as I know, Azerbaijan is showing an example of leadership in this area. The cultural workers who have made great contributions to the nation and state and who have won the love of the people must be supported by the state. One of the goals of this meeting is to hear your suggestions and make the right decision in the end.

The establishment of artistic councils on television channels is an issue that has long been on the agenda, but unfortunately remains unresolved. I believe that the Azerbaijani state television, AzTV, should be the first in this regard. Other TV channels are also encouraged to set up artistic councils. But Mrs. Alizadeh is absolutely right that everything will depend on who will be represented on these artistic councils. Therefore, we should probably take into account the proposals of creative people. The Ministry of Culture, the Presidential Administration and unions should make proposals. There are different opinions and different approaches in connection with television programs - some like them, others don't. Quite often, private television channels compete for advertising. Therefore, they try to show more spectacular shows, which slightly reduces their quality at times. We must address this issue in a comprehensive manner but this area needs a unified approach.

As for the festivals, let me say this: I believe that there should be no problem with state support of the Shaki festival. Again, this is an issue that can be easily resolved. The Minister of Culture is saying this too – we can resolve this.

As Mr. Babayev has said, the establishment of mugham centers has gained momentum. The latest center was established in the city of Agdam. We celebrated its opening together. Prior to that, centers had been opened in other cities too. Mugham contests are very important. Mugham is our national asset. Our musical culture has a special role in educating young people in the spirit of patriotism. It is no coincidence that live mugham contests attract a large audience. We watch them and we know that the absolute majority of our people watch them too. I want to highlight the role of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation and Mrs. Mehriban Aliyeva in the development of mugham both in the country and abroad. The inclusion of Azerbaijani mugham in the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage is a historic achievement. We have also held international contests and mugham festivals. This art lives in several countries, but UNESCO’s recognition of Azerbaijani mugham as an asset of Intangible Cultural Heritage of mankind is, of course, a great achievement.

I should also note you that 13 samples of intangible cultural heritage of the Azerbaijani people are included in various UNESCO lists.

As always, I welcome the brilliant remarks of Mrs. Zeynab Khanlarova. Zeynab Khanlarova is the role model of our people, an outstanding personality, a great master and a prominent public figure. There is no-one in Azerbaijan who would not love her. Our family is closely associated with Zeynab Khanlarova. I remember the difficult days for my father when he left his post, retired, had health problems, was in isolation in some sense. Zeynab Khanlarova visited us – I was there too. She cheered him up and provided with moral support. At that time, it had a special meaning for my father. Of course, Zeynab Khanlarova also understood at the time that Heydar Aliyev was perceived as an undesirable person in the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, the then leaders of Azerbaijan also allowed for this injustice. These courageous and honest steps by Zeynab Khanlarova will always remain in our hearts, in our memory.

A few suggestions have been made here regarding theaters. I mentioned the leading theaters in my opening remarks and said that, first of all, we dealt with the refurbishment of theaters – the Academic State Drama Theater, the Russian Drama Theater, the Music Theater, the Theater of Young Spectators, the Puppet Theater. Therefore, of course, I believe that we should not draw any distinctions here. It is necessary to prepare proposals on the wages of theater workers and significantly increase them. We must do that. Of course, Mr. Haji Ismayilov, thank you for the invitation. I will come with great pleasure and will be glad to see the beautiful performances together with you.

An idea related to taxes was also mentioned here. It is necessary to study it and see what can be done. In parallel with this, I believe that the state should also provide support for our leading theaters. An instruction will be issued. I believe that the private sector should also sponsor theaters. I want to encourage the private sector to support theaters in this, but the state will take on this issue in the first place. This should be addressed in the decisions to be made at the end of our meeting.

I also support the ideas about musical instruments. In recent years, we have done some work on the acquisition of musical instruments, including those on the proposals from Farhad Badalbayli. At the same time, we must definitely consider buying the musical instruments of great value, including the works of famous masters. Investment in this sphere will remain as investment, but at the same time, it will play an important role in the development of our musical art.

I also approve of the suggestions about architecture. I believe that the Baku City Executive Authority and the Union of Architects need to analyze the proposal of Mr. Elbay Gasimzadeh because you are absolutely right. The center of Baku seems to be concentrated in several districts. I don’t know why this happened – this was historically the case. There is a lot of logic in this. If the boundaries of the city center are precisely set, then, of course, you can create a unified management system. For example, by my decision we have created the Boulevard and Icherisheher as separate administrative units. This is exactly why both the Boulevard and Icherisheher are so clean, in order and have a wonderful atmosphere now. Therefore, in principle, I support the proposal to create a central district of Baku. We need to analyze this in detail in order to know what steps need to be taken. Therefore, such an instruction is being given.

Of course, we should be very sensitive about the restoration of historical buildings in Baku. I have always said that it is necessary to preserve the historical appearance of buildings during repairs. This should be the main principle. In recent years, the main historical buildings of our city have been overhauled with preservation of their historical appearance.

You also need to consider, together with the Ministry of Culture, the issue of erecting monuments in honor of outstanding architects and make suggestions. Mrs. Afag Bashirgizi has mentioned the issue of salaries of actors and the division of theaters into categories. I have also expressed my opinion on this matter.

Suggestions have been made related to the shooting of films. I believe that in the last year or two, this issue was not given due attention. We have to fill this gap. In other words, it is necessary to restore the process of shooting films on state order. The state budget does not envisage that for this year. I know that Abulfas Garayev tried very hard to incorporate this, but for some reason this was not done. Therefore, there is one way to go about that: to allocate sufficient funds from the President’s contingency fund for the current year. Now you need to make suggestions. The state budget for the next and subsequent years should definitely envisage funds for the restoration of film production.

As for the building of the Union of Cinematographers, Abulfas Garayev tells me that you have a building.

Abulfas Garayev: It is rented.

President Ilham Aliyev: Then the suggestion is to choose a beautiful building in the center of Baku. The Baku City Executive Authority, the Committee on Property Issues and the Ministry of Culture are now being instructed. Mrs. Shafiga Mammadova, please make suggestions on this issue. Of course, we must do this because the Union of Cinematographers should have its own building with good conditions.

I do not see any problems with the transformation of the Russian Drama Theater into an academic theater. I am instructing to resolve this issue today. Steps must be taken to raise the level of other theaters as well. In principle, both salaries and status will be raised. I said that the issue of raising the salaries of theater workers should soon be resolved. You mentioned that although 11 years have passed, it seems to have happened just recently. There is probably a need for repairs. If this is necessary, do let me know. In principle, repairs of our theaters were carried out 10 years ago. If there is a need for repairs, let me know so that we can resolve this issue.

I would also like to comment on the words of Tahir Imanov. I do not know. I have asked Abulfas Garayev – who imposed this ban on you? No-one can impose any bans on you. If someone did, let me know and we will eliminate it.

Tahir Imanov: Private TV channels.

President Ilham Aliyev: Private TV channels? I think they made a mistake. I advise and recommend that they completely lift this ban if it does at all exist. I believe that all television channels should be open to such talented people as you.

Tahir Imanov: Thank you.

President Ilham Aliyev: I am glad that you raised this question because apparently there is some misunderstanding here. In other words, there can be no prohibitions by the state. I have known you for over 20 years. In previous years, we had good contacts. I still watch your activities today. I am regularly informed about your work. I am pleased that you are expanding the scope of your activities. You are very talented people and the Azerbaijani people love you.

Tahir Imanov: Thank you very much.

President Ilham Aliyev: As regards the perpetuation of Suleyman Alasgarov, I am instructing the Baku City Executive Authority to name one of the streets after Suleyman Alasgarov. You should contact the head of the Executive Authority because your family should definitely be involved in choosing the street.

Tahir Imanov: Thank you.

President Ilham Aliyev: I approve of Bahram’s proposal as well. Haji Zeynalabdin Tagiyev was a great man, a great patron. He was a person who did a lot for the people of Azerbaijan. About 20 years ago, the Pir Hasan sanctuary was landscaped on my instruction. Our family also benefited from Haji Zeynalabdin Taghiyev’s humane activities. At that time, my grandfather Aziz Aliyev wrote him a letter asking for money to study the profession of a doctor. Haji Zeynalabdin, of course, did not know and could not know him. In response to that letter only, he sent him money. With this money, Aziz Aliyev entered the Military Medical Academy in St. Petersburg, became a doctor and entered a new period in his life. Haji Zeynalabdin Tagiyev helped thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of people, and one of my steps as President was to overhaul his house. It currently houses the Museum of History but I perceived this building as his house, and we did that. To erect a monument to him would be the right decision. It would be good if you, Bahram, also took an active part in this. Do prepare suggestions. In general, I watch your activities. You are doing a lot of hard and dedicated work to develop our city and protect our historical heritage. I see and approve of that, and wish you continued success.

I also support the proposals of Tahir Salahov both to establish the post of the main artist and to hold a biennale in Baku. I am told that a biennale will be held here this year. This is also a great suggestions.

I am pleased to accept the invitation of Mrs. Khuraman Gasimova. It is possible to say that I have expressed my attitude to all the key issues raised here.

Dear friends, I want to say again that such a warm and frank conversation creates excellent opportunities for addressing many issues. I suggest holding such meetings on a regular basis in one format or another, so that our work in this area is more correct and systematic, so that all the problems that concern our creative public are resolved. Thank you. I wish you continued success and a happy upcoming. Thank you!