Leonid Litinetsky: "Azerbaijan has unique style"
One of the countries that traditionally observes elections in Azerbaijan Israel - didn't become an exception at this year's early presidential elections in the republic. Member of the Israeli observation mission, member of the Knesset, chairman of the Coordinating Council of Organizations of Russian-speaking Compatriots in Israel, Leonid Litinetsky, discussed organizing electoral process in Azerbaijan and Israeli-Azerbaijani ties in an interview with Vestnik Kavkaza.
- How do you assess preparations for presidential elections?
- We talked to officials, discussed overall situation with preparations for these elections, as well as development of relations between our countries. Our countries have very close cultural and economic ties, especially in the framework of our union of immigrants from Azerbaijan to Israel, created by Yosef Shagal. During the meeting I spoke about the fact that we pay great attention to diaspora, to Jews scattered around the world, that we try to preserve culture and language, because close connection between people living outside our homeland and their historical roots is very important for us. I saw similar situation in Azerbaijan, which pays great attention to contacts with its diaspora, and we planned many meetings to discuss this. We carry out constructive, great work. Our strong cultural and trade relations have been developing for many years, and the fact that our delegation is here to observe elections is a result of that.
Politicians, public figures, scientists, former ministers arrived from Israel, in other words, people who are very well informed about the elections process, people who know how they're done, who know what to look at during preparations. Today's "day of silence" will be very interesting for us, just like tomorrow's voting day, when we will see electoral process itself. Israel has great experience of holding elections. On average, elections take place every three years, but often there are early elections, and we know how to do it. I think we will be able to evalute organization of the voting process, preparations for these elections and their transparency. We will definetely speak to voters at the polling stations, this is our tradition. I always do this when I participate in such events as international observer, go incognito and try to find out what people think, how they live, who they came to vote for, try to learn about their mood. Members of our delegation will be at the polling stations today and tomorrow in different parts of Baku and Azerbaijan.
- What do you think about the current state of Jewish diaspora in Azerbaijan compared to other CIS countries?
- Overall, the state of Jewish diaspora in the post-Soviet space is pretty good. Compared to the Soviet period, all traditions and holidays of Jewish people are celebrated much more today. Today heads of states and mayors of cities participate in national holidays, which hasn't happened before. Now this happens in Kazan, Moscow, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Azerbaijan. Today we're going to see how Jews live in Azerbaijan, but I can already say that officials are very respectful towards traditions and to representatives of Jewish diaspora living here in general. Many Israelis and immigrants from Azerbaijan who live in Israel say that Azerbaijanis are respectful towards Jews. We also know that Jewish communities live pretty well financially, and it's very important for us.
- It's your first time in Azerbaijan. What do you enjoy the most?
- I'm familiar with Azerbaijan thanks to television: we watch Russian channels, follow traditional local festivals, and there are always Azerbaijanis who became stars of international and Russian pop music. I'm not even talking about the "Zhara" festival in Baku, which everyone knows. But it's very important to come to the country and see it with your own eyes. First of all, I was amazed by Azerbaijani architecture, it's a combination of modernism, Soviet classicism and national styly. Baku business centers, skyscrapers reminded me of Tel Aviv, where everything is getting bigger and bigger, just like in Manhattan. I was surprised by how clean the streets are - I always pay attention to how people treat trees and flowers, who green the city is. Azerbaijan has a unique style, and Azerbaijanis' hospitality is simply amazing. When you sit at a table with such people, it shows the entire inner world of Azerbaijani culture, all of its national traditions.