Eva-Maria Auch: "It's hard to establish peace when history is being politicized"
International scientific conference "Interpretation of Cultural Heritage of Nizami in Modern Times" is currently held in the framework of the 6th Global Baku Forum. Over 20 scientists from 13 countries - Canada, USA, Brazil, India, Egypt, Georgia, Turkey, Germany, Italy, France, Great Britain, Iran, Finland, as well as more than 30 scientists from Azerbaijan participate in this conference.
Head of the Department of History of Azerbaijan at the Humboldt University, professor Eva-Maria Auch, gave an interview to Vestnik Kavkaza.
- Are conferences like this important?
- There's no doubt they are important. Here, scientists from different countries are discussing important topic, which hides a lot of unexplored. Almost thousand years have passed Since the days of Nizami, but some layers of his work are still undiscovered. We must find material, ask and answer new questions. At today's conference, there were not only linguists and literary critics, but also historians and philosophers. Such interdisciplinary work is very interesting.
- Are the works of Nizami interesting for German orientalists?
- According to old tradition, he's considered one of the Persian poets. Nizami wrote a lot in Persian, although he was born in Azerbaijan. At the same time, his themes are universal. I think he's one of the sources of tolerance that we can see today in Azerbaijan. What we consider to be Azerbaijan's identity has developed on this basis. This is Nizami's achievement.
- Does Germany percieve Azerbaijan as the East or the West?
- It all depends on who's asking questions and who's looking for answers. Politicians and economists perceive Azerbaijan as European country, as a member of the Council of Europe. On the other hand, majority of the population of Azerbaijan are Muslims, therefore this country is considered to be a part of the Eastern world. But at the same time, many people perceive Georgia as part of the Eastern world. Basically, Azerbaijan is at the crossroads of the West and the East, and it's wonderful.
- Did German dramaturgists, writers and philosophers who studied Nizami think the East is exotic?
- We can see in Goethe's West–Eastern Diwan that he considers inner affinity of poetry of the East and poetry of the West important. For him, the East and the West are inseparable. However, some time later, colonial policy and nationalist ideas led to discord: you are the East and we are the West.
- How is it connected to today's Islamophobia in Europe?
- You can't say that there's only one opinion in the West. If we won't forget traditions laid down by Nizami and Goethe, we will get a chance to build our common future together. In Germany, there are right-wing circles who fear that "the East is coming," who fear clash of civilizations. That's why it's so important to not forget about intercultural ties that existed for centuries. At one time, the eastern influence led the West to ideas of humanism, enlightenment. Without the East, we would never see the current West.
- Azerbaijan declared 2016 the Year of Multiculturalism, while 2017 was the Year of Islamic Solidarity. Can this serve as an example of successful coexistence of world religions?
- Yes. Let's recall how Mirza Fatali Akhundov spoke about the ideas of reforming society. In this sense, Azerbaijan has a great heritage, deep traditions. Multiculturalism is often understood as a parallel coexistence, but we must take a step forward and be interested in each other, understand and accept each other. That would be great. In this sense, Azerbaijan is already a bridge between the East and the West. I regret that not all ideas of Azerbaijan are appreciated in the West. Very interesting events are being held here. There are people who only meet here. There is an intercultural dialogue. We need to write about this more often.
- This year Yerevan will celebrate its 2800th anniversary. According to Armenian sources, the city is considered to be older than Rome, although if you look at the archives, it's only 500 years old. At one time, its Muslim heritage like mosques was destroyed. What do you think about attempts to manipulate history?
- Unfortunately, we can destruction of historical monuments not only in Armenia, but also, for example, in Afghanistan. However, it's also impossible to deny Armenian history in the Caucasus. We're still far from having enough respect for each other. There is a discussion about who came to this land first. However, this issue must be resolved calmly, quietly, not through war, not through occupation of territories. It's necessary to establish dialogue in order to understand and accept each other. Competition of "who was here first, who was here last" will lead to nothing. It's hard to establish peace when history is being politicized.