Academician Govhar Bakhshaliyeva: "Professional Orientalism in demand in Azerbaijan" (exclusive)
In December 2018, the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences celebrated its 60th anniversary. The director of the institute, orientalist, academician, doctor of philological sciences Govhar Bakhshaliyeva told Vestnik Kavkaza about how the institute has changed over the years, what kind of contribution it makes in revealing the truth about the Nagorno Karabakh conflict to the world community.
- In December, the Institute of Oriental Studies turned 60 years old. What anniversary events were held?
- On the day of the anniversary, December 11, a bas-relief of an outstanding Azerbaijani orientalist, academician Zia Buniyatov was opened. Then the guests, led by the President of the Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences (ANAS), academician Akif Alizadeh, viewed a stand dedicated to Professor Aida Imanguliyeva and an exhibition dedicated to the institute's scientific achievements.
Aida Imanguliyeva's stand
Afterwards, they visited Zia Buniyatov’s office with his furniture, his books and manuscripts. Later, a ceremonial meeting dedicated to the 60th anniversary of our Institute was held. On the eve of the anniversary, the book titled '60 years of the Buniyatov Institute of Oriental Studies' was published. It describes in detail the activities of all departments of the institute, and also contains information about all the scientific works published by our scientists for 60 years. Soon it will be released in Russian and English as well.
- The Institute of Oriental Studies pays special attention to the publication of books and other printed materials aimed at conveying the truth about the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to the world community.
- Our institute considers such work necessary. For example, in 2018, Arabic and Persian booklets were published on the Khojaly genocide. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is a gaping wound in the soul of every Azerbaijani. Therefore, we are trying to convey the truth about it to the world community through the publication of printed materials in foreign languages. Among other things, we annually distribute these publications among our colleagues at international conferences.
The Institute's booklets on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict issue
- In November, you took part in the international forum titled 'Russia and the East. To the 200th anniversary of the Russian Academic Oriental studies,' held in St. Petersburg. Within the framework of the forum, a cooperation agreement was signed with the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts of the Russian Academy of Sciences. What other scientific and educational centers does the Institute of Oriental Studies work with?
- As you rightly noted, we pay great attention to interaction with relevant Russian structures, in particular, with the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences. In addition, the Institute of Oriental Studies of Azerbaijan cooperates with universities of Turkey, Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the Research Center for Islamic History, Art and Culture (IRCICA), the Romanian Babeș-Bolyai University, the International Institute of Social History of Amsterdam, the University of Naples East, the University of Warsaw, The Polish Academy of Sciences, Pakistan’s Bahria University, Tbilisi and Batumi State Universities, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the Institute of Turkology and Central Asian studies, as well as other large structures, studying the East.
In accordance with bilateral agreements, international conferences are organized together with these centers. Some time ago, one of our employees returned from an internship in Indonesia, and the other two are currently in China.
- What changes have occurred at the institute in recent years?
- A lot has changed. However, it is extremely important that we managed to preserve the traditions established by the academicians Abdulkarim Alizade, Alisokhbet Sumbatzade, Hamid Arasli, Zia Buniyatov, professors Aida Imangulieva, Rustam Aliyev, Rauf Seyidov and others. The students of these prominent Orientalist scholars still work in our institute.
This year, the work of our institute's scientists received a decent assessment from President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev. One of the employees was awarded the Order Shohrat, three others - the medal Tereggi, two more were awarded the title Honored Worker of Science and an honorary presidential diploma.
As for the changes in the work of the institute, they were mostly related to the independence of our country in 1991. The fact is that during the Soviet times, the Russian Institute was considered the leading Institute of Oriental Studies. The task of our institute was to study only the countries of the Near and Middle East, including the Arab countries, as well as Iran and Turkey.
Since becoming independent, our country has needed to establish bilateral cooperation with all countries of the East. Not so much was known about some of them. Therefore, the primary task of the Institute of Oriental Studies of Azerbaijan has become the study of the modern socio-political, economic and cultural life of these countries. In this regard, new departments were created, in particular, a department of Central Asian countries responsible for studying the Central Asian republics of the former USSR, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and China, as well as a department of the Asia-Pacific region, which is focused on Japan, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka.
Books published by the Institute
To date, the institute has 13 main departments and several subsidiary ones.
The political situation in the Middle East, which has become one of the most intense regions of the world, could not but affect the work of the institute. The rich reserves of oil and other natural resources in the region constantly attract the attention of great states and world centers of power. The ongoing confrontation between Israel and Palestine, the war in Iraq and Syria, the socio-political events taking place in a number of Arab countries, ethnic disagreements taking place in individual countries, religious fundamentalist movements, the danger of international terrorism and other problems are increasingly attracting the attention of all world to this region.
In this regard, new directions of research have appeared. These include the study of the laws of the socio-political, economic and cultural development of the Eastern countries, the study of the historical, philological, religious and philosophical heritage of the peoples of the East, the translation and publication of written artifacts, as well as analysis of cultural and historical ties between Azerbaijan and the East.
Over the past 60 years, more than 600 monographs, books and collections have been published by the institute, as well as more than seven thousand scientific papers.
- How popular is the profession of orientalist in modern Azerbaijan?
- As I have already said, the international relations of the Azerbaijan Republic expanded significantly after the collapse of the USSR. In particular, contacts with the countries of the Near and Middle East were intensified. Our institute studies not only the history and culture of these countries, but also the sociopolitical and religious situation there, which allows us to make certain predictions about their future development and prospects for cooperation with our country.
Currently, there is a need for interpreters who speak Arabic, Farsi and other Oriental languages. And, of course, we need interpreters who speak Chinese and Japanese.
With the advent of independence, interest in Islam in our country has started to grow. In this context, knowledge of Arabic is desirable, as it gives a clear understanding of the peace-loving nature of the Muslim religion and helps not to fall under the influence of some extremist force. Therefore, I can say with confidence that the profession of orientalist is currently in demand in Azerbaijan.