Ilham Aliyev took part in nationwide festivities on the occasion of Novruz holiday

19 march 2012, 14:30

The most glorious holiday of the Azerbaijani people, Novruz, is coming to our land. In connection with this holiday, which we have inherited from our ancestors and is the best reflection of our national spirit and memory, nationwide celebrations were held in Baku on 19 March. The square outside the Maiden Tower was crowded again. Surrounding buildings were decorated with colorful posters and the symbol of Novruz, a huge samani, adorned the square.

Novruz is an old holiday which reflects the culture, national and spiritual values of our people and popularizes them in the world. It is hard to imagine a second such festival that would express the spiritual world, the national mentality and ideology, the ancient mythical beliefs, folklore and national identity of our people to the same extent as Novruz.

Novruz is the holiday of the entire Turkic world, but Azerbaijan celebrates it more grandly. The greatness of our nation rests in the fact that no prohibitions have made it forget Novruz. Even in the most difficult times our people managed to protect and preserve the holiday, their national customs and traditions by carrying them through the years to the present day.

Even in his first period of leadership in the republic, great leader Heydar Aliyev, despite the prohibitions imposed by the Soviet power, had great respect for the factors contributing to national spirit.

Stressing that Novruz has ancient roots and always lives in the heart of our nation, great leader Heydar Aliyev succeeded in celebrating this festival at a high level even during the harsh imperial regime. After the restoration of independence, our people began to celebrate Novruz with more solemnity. Novruz is the embodiment of noble traditions, national values, benevolence, love of man and nature. Having overcome all the difficulties, Novruz became a fully-fledged nationwide holiday. In addition to attaching nationwide importance to Novruz, Heydar Aliyev was always next to his people over the holidays, congratulated and called on them to live in unity and accord. By doing so, Heydar Aliyev, who regarded Novruz as the favorite holiday of the Azerbaijani people, also showed our people’s great affection to their ancient customs and traditions.

The fact that this great holiday associated with nature is celebrated at state level today is also a manifestation of deep respect for the memory of our ancestors. It shows a link between our past and present, the conservation of our past for the future. Describing Novruz as the embodiment of our national and spiritual values, President Ilham Aliyev annually participates in celebrations, meets with people, lights a fire in the old square in Baku. Besides further enhancing the festive mood, this confirms the strong bond between the people and the government. “Novruz instills confidence of the future, awakens the highest senses in our hearts, encourages people to be compassionate, sympathetic and kind,” President Ilham Aliyev has said. He stressed that this festival also urges people to be creative.

Thanks to the efforts of First Lady and President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation Mehriban Aliyeva, the favorite holiday of our people has been included in the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage, while on 23 February 2010 the UN General Assembly declared 21 March as the International Day of Novruz. This project was implemented at the initiative of the Azerbaijani state.

Azerbaijan is embracing Novruz in a completely different appearance. The extensive improvement work under way in the capital and districts is in harmony with the renewal of nature. The improvement and overall creative work under way around us are further evidence that Azerbaijan is on the path of growth and progress. The fact that this work is carried out with preservation of antiquity and historicity and with the application of contemporary standards shows the attention Azerbaijan has been paying to the past. The focus of the economic and social policies on improving people’s lives bolsters the confidence in the future.

President Ilham Aliyev and his wife Mehriban Aliyeva arrived at the square in front of the Maiden Tower to join the festivities on the occasion of Novruz.

Thousands of city residents and guests of the capital who had gathered in the square warmly welcomed the President and his wife.

Children dressed in national costume presented the President and his wife with a tray filled with various traditional sweats and congratulated President Aliyev and Mehriban Aliyeva on 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. Artists sang songs about spring and Azerbaijan and the holiday atmosphere raised people’s spirits.

President Ilham Aliyev started the Novruz bonfire.

The head of state delivered a speech on the holiday occasion.

Speech by President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev

Dear friends,

Dear ladies and gentlemen!

I heartily congratulate you and all the people of Azerbaijan on the occasion of Novruz holiday and wish happiness and continued success to every Azerbaijani family.

Novruz is one of the most favorite holidays of the Azerbaijani people. Our people have been celebrating this beautiful festival for centuries. Each family marks Novruz as a dear holiday. The independent Azerbaijan has been marking Novruz as a public holiday for only 20 years. For 20 years, this festival is widely celebrated as an official holiday throughout the country, every citizen of Azerbaijan is happy with the arrival of spring, all Azerbaijani families get together on this holiday. The goal of the Order on the celebration of Novruz in Azerbaijan for five days, which I signed several years ago, was to enable each Azerbaijani family to celebrate Novruz. This year the holidays will last seven days, including Saturday and Sunday.

The people of Azerbaijan are committed to their national and spiritual values. Our state rests on these values. For twenty years, our attitude towards national values and respect for traditions have made us even stronger. The independent Azerbaijan is building its future on this solid national foundation. We are building a modern state, integrating into the world, participating successfully in global processes. But the bottom-line for us is the strong national and spiritual values.

We are committed to universal values, we share them. National values also show our attitude and respect for our past. At the same time, these are steps into the future. I am very pleased that our young people are brought up in line with national and spiritual values. Young people are raised in the national spirit. The high level of the national spirit will always drive us, the Azerbaijanis, forward as a people.

For centuries our people had lived with the dream of independence. We were part of various countries and empires, but never lost our national pride. National values, Azerbaijani values have always multiplied our strength. In the most difficult times for our people, it was primarily our national values, traditions, national holidays and the native language that contributed to the preservation of Azerbaijan as a nation.

As an independent state, Azerbaijan will only go along the path of development. This is suggested by the short history of our independence. From the standpoint of history, 20 years is a short period. But our country has covered a very successful road over these years. The negative developments unfolding in Azerbaijan in the early years of independence could have robbed us of our independence. The chaos, anarchy, incompetence and betrayal of the republic’s political leaders led our country to the brink of an abyss. The return of great leader Heydar Aliyev to Azerbaijan and the confidence of the Azerbaijani people in him changed the situation dramatically. Since 1993, our country has been on the path of development, our international positions are strengthening, the domestic situation is developing in a positive direction. Azerbaijan has achieved worldwide recognition as a respectable country.

The successes achieved in 20 years suggest that our country will continue to develop and Azerbaijan will achieve even greater heights on a global scale. In October last year we were elected to the UN Security Council – the most authoritative structure in the world. I can say that this was a logical result of our 20-year-long independence and successful policies. It is no coincidence that our election to the UN Security Council occurred on the 20th anniversary of the restoration of our independence. It is no coincidence. There is actually great sense in this, it is very symbolic – in 20 years our country has achieved development and international recognition that enabled the world community to believe in and support us. The confidence 155 countries have shown in Azerbaijan and their active lobbying us is our great success and a great achievement of the Azerbaijan state.

We have already started our work in the UN. As I noted earlier, we will uphold justice in the UN Security Council. There is a great need for that in the present-day world. We will defend international law because sometimes international law doesn’t work, its rules are violated. Azerbaijan will demonstrate its expertise in this regard.

As you know, UN Security Council resolutions have remained unfulfilled for about 20 years now, this injustice is still ongoing. In some cases, the resolutions passed are implemented immediately – in a matter of a few hours. But as far as we are concerned, these resolutions have remained on paper for about 20 years. This is an injustice, it is a violation of international law and evidence of the indifference on the part of major states to the infringement of international law.
We will try to use our own opportunities and the support of our friends to put an end to this injustice. The norms of international law must be restored. Our ancestral lands, Nagorno-Karabakh and adjacent districts, must be freed from occupying forces. The territorial integrity of Azerbaijan recognized by the international community must be restored. We will not tolerate a second false Armenian state on Azerbaijani territory. The sovereignty and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan must be restored.

Our election to this authoritative structure is also a logical result of the developments unfolding in the country. By carrying out successful political and economic reforms in recent years, we have achieved sustainable development. A growing number of countries are interested in cooperating and being friends with Azerbaijan. There is also a growing number of our diplomatic missions in other countries. So Azerbaijan is a country with an independent policy not only in regional affairs, but also globally. For 20 years we have been living a truly independent life. The fate of the Azerbaijani people is in its own hands. Conducting an independent policy, especially in a region where the interests of large states overlap, requires great political will, courage and wisdom.

I am very glad that the Azerbaijani people, as ever, demonstrate their inherent excellent features in the most difficult moments for the country. We will continue to successfully move towards independence. Today, all the possibilities and horizons ahead of us are open. We have a strong international standing. The domestic policy is stable, the public and political situation is very good. The country is implementing large-scale social programs. It would probably take a few hours to describe these programs. I want to note just two points. Last year, the average pension of about 900,000 pensioners was raised by about 40 per cent. Today, the average pension in Azerbaijan constitutes 40 per cent of the average wage. This result is inherent in developed countries.

An executive order on returning Soviet-era deposits was signed recently. It is also a very serious political step, because from a legal standpoint the independent state of Azerbaijan does not have the obligation to repay the former deposits. But I thought it would be fair. A large amount has now been envisaged in the state budget, so that by the end of next year we can return all the deposits. I want to reiterate that this is a very serious social and political step that demonstrates the strength of our social policies.

Of course, without the strong economic foundation we wouldn’t be able to succeed in social or foreign political areas. This is exactly why we have focused on that. Over the past eight years, our economy had grown three times and the budget nearly 15 times. We are a strong economy now. We have large foreign exchange reserves. We live at our own expense and don’t depend on anyone. Conversely, by implementing our new economic strategy, we are already providing loans to foreign countries. I think this is also a wonderful indicator. This will bring and is already bringing us significant economic and political dividends. We will continue this policy and channel our financial resources in the right projects in a diversified manner.

Our economic successes are influencing our districts too. Each district is experiencing revival, development and creation, there is landscaping everywhere. There is a sound competition among regions and districts. This pleases me very much. I often visit the regions and everywhere I see a great desire for constructive work. People in each district want their towns and villages to become even more beautiful and comfortable.

In short, there are very strong trends of general enthusiasm and creativity in our country, which indicates that Azerbaijan has a healthy society. I want to reiterate that the main source of this health is our national values. We are committed to these values and will always cherish them. At the same time, our integration into the modern world is very successful. As an independent country, we are contributing to the common cause and are involved in regional processes.

Today, Azerbaijan has a say in the implementation of regional energy and transport projects. The projects implemented on our initiative are significant not only for the region, but also for Europe and the world. We know that. We are well aware of our strength. We know that no project can be successfully implemented in the region without regard for the interests of Azerbaijan. We started these initiatives by implementing energy projects. Then they spread to the transport sector. As a result, any initiative put forward in the region today should be agreed with Azerbaijan also politically. The recent developments confirm my words.

We have pursued a policy of good will. We are building relationships with all countries based on mutual benefit, mutual respect and noninterference in each other's affairs. This is a fair and logical position. We don’t interfere in the internal affairs of any country. And, of course, we will never allow anyone to interfere in our internal affairs, although there have been such attempts and it is not ruled out that will occur in the future. But the successful development of Azerbaijan and our strong will should lead to a reduction of such efforts. I hope that it will be the case.

In any case, the path we have chosen is one of development. No-one can force us to deviate from it. No force can deter us from the chosen path because it provides for the well-being of the Azerbaijani people. This path has been chosen to strengthen the independence of Azerbaijan. This path is one of progress and democracy. The successful development of our country even in the years of crisis shows again that we have chosen the right path.

Today, the international financial institutions which gave us recommendations in the past have to accept that we have chosen the right path. Europe is still dominated by crisis. It is experiencing a second wave of the financial recession. Some countries are on the brink of default. The credit ratings of several countries have been dramatically reduced. But the credit ratings of Azerbaijan have been growing. International agencies are lowering the ratings of European countries and raising ours. One can’t fail to see that. No matter how hard some of the anti-Azerbaijani forces may try, it is impossible to ignore or deny our development.

This development shows itself in statistics, in our developing cities, in our improving districts and in our prospering Baku. Baku is our capital, Baku is our home town. For every Azerbaijani regardless of where they live, Baku is the center. Today, Baku is a city that truly deserves to be the capital. Today, the historical beauty of Baku is enriched with modern infrastructure projects.

Since last year, we have been implementing the program on the socioeconomic development of suburban settlements of Baku. I am sure it will be successfully completed next year. Social infrastructure projects will be carried out in all the settlements. Baku is becoming prettier, all historical buildings are being restored. Today, Baku is a city of parks, gardens and alleys. Baku is one of the most beautiful cities in the world today. This is a reality.

We have further plans on the development of our city. First and foremost, we must treat our historical past with great respect. The state reserve “Icherisheher” is restored with a great deal of sensitivity, care, love and respect for historicity.
All our religious monuments, mosques, public places and streets are improving. Our boulevard, which epitomizes the modern Baku, is expanding. The historical length of the boulevard is 3.5 kilometers.

We are building a new boulevard. The new boulevard will probably be opened in a month or two. The length of the new boulevard will be almost 2 kilometers. It will be a beautiful boulevard. It will be followed by the State Flag Square. The promenades under construction in the State Flag Square – they will actually be a continuation of the boulevard – are 7.5 kilometers long. So we are extending our boulevard several times. As a result, after a month or two our citizens and visitors of Baku can enjoy the new boulevard 13-15 kilometers in length.

Large-scale improvement work is under way in the State Flag Square, and every citizen of Azerbaijan will soon use these opportunities. Work is drawing to a close there now.

We are establishing new parks, reconstructing the cable car, which is part of our history and a symbol of Baku. A wonderful carpet museum is under construction. The “Baku Venice” is being reconstructed and its canals expanded. I am sure it will have a pleasant appearance. Parks are renovated. Landscaping is under way in all our parks. We have recently renovated the Koroglu Park. Extensive work is under way in the Dada Gorgud Park, artificial lakes are being set up there.

So we are doing all this to create a comfortable life for our people. Baku has all the opportunities for people to live and work. I want Baku to be one of the most beautiful cities around the world. I am sure we will say one day that Baku is the most beautiful city in the world. And that’s the way it should be. Citizens of Azerbaijan must live in the finest conditions – both in cities and in villages. We have specific programs for each village, and they are being implemented.

Dear friends, on these beautiful holidays even the weather is on our side. This winter was very severe. I personally don’t remember the Caspian Sea ever freezing. Those older than me remember it freezing in 1953. So it was an emergency situation, and we all looked forward to these beautiful sunny days. And it is very symbolic that the Sun is also with us on this holiday. I want the skies above Azerbaijan always to be clear and the Sun to light our path. Because our path is one of truth, justice and development.

Let me congratulate you and all the people of Azerbaijan on this wonderful holiday again and wish every citizen of Azerbaijan good health and success. Thank you

X X X

Then the 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 wrestled on a mat near-by, while sportsmen demonstrated their skill.

President Ilham Aliyev, First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva and other participants in the festivities watched these scenes with interest and reviewed samples of ancient handicrafts.

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. Artists, performers of meykhana, ashugs, rope-dancers, naghara drummers, etc. demonstrated the customs and traditions of our people and ancient crafts.

The oriental bazaar organized in 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 and his wife Mehriban Aliyeva had their picture 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.

During the festivities in the National Seaside Park, President Ilham Aliyev was presented with the first ticket to the Under 17 Women’s World Cup due to be held in Azerbaijan. The head of state was also informed about the sale of tickets to World Cup games. It was mentioned that the online sale of tickets to this prestigious competition, due to start in Tofiq Bahramov Stadium on 22 September, would commence on 16 April.

President Ilham Aliyev and his wife Mehriban Aliyeva signed an appeal to the International Olympic Committee to support the campaign for conducting the 2020 Olympic Games in Baku.

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 Majlis Ogtay Asadov, Chief-of-Staff of the Presidential Administration Ramiz Mehdiyev and other officials.