Azerbaijani Model of Multiculturalism In Comparison With Other Models In The World

Azerbaijani Model of Multiculturalism In Comparison With Other Models In The World

 

First I want to introduce myself. My name is Antoaneta Vasileva and I join the course “Azerbaijani multiculturalism” at my university in Bulgaria, Sofia University. I join the course of Director of the Center for Azerbaijani language and culture Sofia Shigaeva- Mitrevska. Also I take participation at the round table on “Multiculturalism in Azerbaijan” with the participation of the Ambassador of the Republic of Azerbaijan in Bulgaria Nargiz Gurbanova. Also I joined the open lecture again from Mrs. Nargiz Gurbanova. In this line of thinking I want to say that I listened a lot about Azerbaijani model of Multiculturalism and that why I chose that topic for my essay.

Whenever different societies have come into contact with one another, people  have compared and contrasted the various behaviors in their respective cultural traditions. Cultural traditions represent unique adaptations and symbolic systems for corresponding author. Different societies, these traditions must be viewed as equally valid. This means investigating other societies without imposing ethnocentric assumptions and also this standpoint allows different nations with different cultural beliefs to live to live together in one state. Azerbaijan can be excellent example where this theory realize itself because with tolerant attitude toward new cultures and their acceptance make Azerbaijan one of the multicultural state from ancient times. The contemporary Azerbaijan located on the border of European and Asian continents, the coast of Caspian Sea. Later, all historical processes shoved that its suitable geographical location one of the factors that facilitated this process.

When talking about Azerbaijan, we are not talking only about the geographical advantage also we have to say about the historical elements too. Because the model of multiculturalism in Azerbaijan underlies long ago and this is not something new for the country. Sedate and with good foundations this model be developed and improved more and more. It is therefore important in a world like today, with so much migration, refugees and problems in international levels to take an example of what happens in Azerbaijan. I think other countries should take an example  from this model.

First of all it is a strategy of a democratic state aimed at  achieving  a particular quality of culture interaction in one country. This quality is generally recognized as peaceful coexistence based on the tolerant attitude to different cultures. It is a fact that Azerbaijan is very tolerant towards different views, customs and traditions. Tolerance to peculiarities of different peoples, nations and religions is mentality of Azeri people.

Azerbaijan Republic is a polyethnical country. Its population is represented by state-forming Azeri people and autochthonic national minorities such as Udins, Ingiloys, Krizes, Hilalugs, Budugs, Tats, Talishs, Lezghins, who do not have any other native lands but historical Azerbaijan and therefore  together with Azeris they can be considered to be members of a single polyethnical Azerbaijanian nation. Besides them, Russians, Ukrainians, Belarusians, Kurds, Jews, Greeks, Assyrians, Germans, Tatars also live in Azerbaijan. These folks has their own historical native land and because of that can be considered to be allochthonic ethnic minorities living in Azerbaijan. Over twenty different cultural communities function in Baku. They are Russian, Ukrainian, Kurd, Lak, Lezghin, Slavic, Tat, Tatar, Georgia, Ingiloy, Talish, Avar, Meskhetian Turks, European Jews, Mountain Jews, German, Greek and others. The number of such kind of communities in the whole country is much larger. They exist in almost all regions where ethnic minorities live compactly.

Azerbaijan Republic is a polyethnical country. Representatives of many ethnoses which have unique peculiarities live here, preserving their own tangible and intangible  culture, language and self-identification, historical memory and mentality, ethnical consciousness and ethnic psychology.Just here one can see settlements of Mountain Jews-Krasnaya Sloboda (Red Village) and pleasant molokans –Ivanovka Udin village Nidj, village Khinalig ,which is famous for its language ,peculiar customs and traditions ,and as well as terns of other settlements of representatives of various nations ,which have become part of Azerrbaijan society.

Etnical minorities have equal rights with the local population in the field of culture and using cultural heritage of the country.

The Native language is taught in primary forms of comprehensive secondary schools situated in the areas where ethnical minorities live compactly. There are curriculums and textbooks, collections of folksongs and poems, fiction literature in these languages, newspapers and magazines  are published in these languages, state national theaters and amateur art collectives.

Cultural symbiosis existing in Azerbaijan and diversity of traditions are ingraved in the framework of activities for preservation monuments of tangible and culture museums of Astara, Gakh, Guba, Zakatala and  other districts organize expositions which reflect heritage and traditions of ethnical minorities living in this territories. Libraries, the funds of which include books by representatives of ethnical minorities also work effectively in this field.They hold presentations of these books.

Historical memory of Azeri people keeps itself stages of  passage through three religions – Zoroastrism, Christianity and Islam. It is also a very significant factor for establishing balanced intercultural communications both in the country and on the international arena. A specific model of tolerance and interconfessional dialogue was formed in Azerbaijan. This model is an example for other polyethnical regions in the world. In the framework of the contemporary model of state and religious relations, all the confessions got equal status and are equal from the legislative point of view.Along with ensuring rights of  Muslims  which are the overwhelming majority of the population in the country, the government also takes care of all traditional religions spread in the Republic.

Specify examples of Azerbaijan policy aimed at satisfaction satisfy the cultural and religious needs of the citizens such as Opening of Holy merrbearers – peacekeeping cathedral in Baku, which was built at the beginning of the 20th century with active support of Azerbaijani Maecenas Haji Zeinalabdin Tagiyev, and after Soviet period  but it was restored in the early XXI century by the efforts of another Azerbaijani Maecenas. Also opening of the newly built Catholic Church, to the construction of which pontiff Iohanne Pavel gave his blessing during his visit to Azerbaijan. This church will keep to the traditions of the former one, which was demolished by reason of well-known tendencies of 1930s. And also but not in the last place is the synagogue in Baku, which managed to avoid the demolition even in the Soviet times, has been reconstructed and enlarged.There are a lot of other examples which can show us that we are talking about.

Speaking about interethnic relations in republic, followings should be noted: Basic positions of the national policy are set forth in the Constitution of Azerbaijan, which ensures equality of all its citizens irrespective of their ethnic, religious and racial belongings. The concept of national policy of the Azerbaijan Republic is based on such international documents as “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” passed by the UNO, “Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms” adopted by the Council of Europe, “International Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination of UNO”, “International Covenant of UNO on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights”, “Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe”, “Document of the Copenhagen Meeting of the Conference on the Human Dimension of the OSCE”, “Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities” passed by the Council of Europe, “CIS Convention Guaranteeing the Rights of Persons Belonging to National Minorities”. The state document dedicated to the national policy of the Azerbaijan Republic – decree of the Azerbaijan President “On the Protection of the Rights and Freedoms and on State Support for the Promotion of the Languages and Cultures of National Minorities, Smaller Peoples and Ethnic Groups Living in the Republic of Azerbaijan” was adopted as well. In other words, protection of national minorities is one of the main orientations of policy pursued by the leadership of Azerbaijan. Thus, a special organization, headed by the state counselor on national policy, has been established in the presidential apparatus. There is a similar structure in Milli Majlis.

Having equal rights and opportunities provided by the Constitution and laws, representatives of various nations work efficiently in different spheres of the society and make a worthy contribution to the development of the country. Thus, national minorities are presented in the government and other state bodies of the Azerbaijan Republic. In the national parliament of the republic – Milli Majlis, there are representatives of various ethnic minorities of the country, including Russians, Lezghins, Kurds, Tats, Talis and others. During the parliamentary election of 2010, observation mission of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights found out that there are no problems in the question of participation in the elections of the ethnic groups living in Azerbaijan.

Thus, all possible conditions have been created, and are supported in the republic for the existence of ethnic variety.  However, it should be noted once more that the cultural variety is perceived in the country not as a mere combining of various identities, but as a beneficial environment for the development of national solidarity uniting all them. In other words, it is considered as wealth and property of Azerbaijan, which is the common home for all its citizens irrespective of ethnic, religious or any other belonging.

            So, as a part of this topic I want to say some words about other model of multiculturalism from the world. And in this way I would like to make something like comparison the different models. Every model has own special features, but I want to note that no of them does not cover problems such as this.

I will start with the American model of multiculturalism.Up to the middle of the 1960-s the USA was imagined as a “melting pot”, which combined Anglo Saxons (ethno cultural base of the American nation) with immigrants.  In the given “pot” the Anglo Saxons were in the dominant position. After that the situation substantially changed. The “melting pot” program was substituted by the ideology of multiculturalism. As the main reason of the change, I can note, was the adoption of 2 important laws- “Law on Civil Rights” in 1964 and “Immigration Law” in 1965. The first law weakened the Anglo Saxons factor and provided equality of nations. The second law accelerated immigration in the country.Today in multicultural policy of the USA we clearly see the acceptance of the values of the American society by immigrants on the one side, and the lack of ethno cultural homogeneity of the American society as well as formation of supplementary mechanisms preventing ethnic and racial extremism, on the other side.

What about Austrian model of multiculturalism. The formation of multicultural society in Australia was preceded by the policy of isolationism pursued by the government. “Law on Immigration”, adopted in Australia in 1901, and served as a legislative basis for conducting the policy of isolationism by the ruling elite. The situation began to change with the adoption of the following legislative documents: “Law on Citizenship” (1948) with amendments, “Law on Migration” (1958) with amendments, “Law on Foreigners” (1984) with amendments and “Law on Visa regulation” (1997) with amendments.It should be noted that the introduction of the term “multiculturalism” into political lexicon is connected with the name of Al Grasby, minister of Immigration of Australia (1970). He did very much to overcome the hostility between the Anglo Saxon population and new Australians. In 1979 the government founded Australian Institute on Problems of Cultural Diversity, in 1987 – the government established the Committee on Problems of Multiculturalism. These measures of the Australian government played a very important role in successful evolving of the immigration policy of Australia from pro-racist to multicultural policy.

The Swedish model is based on the active role of the state in conducting the policy directed to preserve cultural diversity. Such an active position of the state in Sweden has been related to the ruling of the Social- Democratic Party, which has a strong social policy. In 1976 the Swedish government allowed foreigners to vote. “Law on Immigration” (1997) identified Sweden as a multicultural society.The policies are directed to urge immigrants to study the Swedish and native language. Thus, the Swedish government considers cultural diversity in the country as a reality which should be preserved.

 The formation of multicultural society in Canada has begun since the 1960-s. The Canadian government believes racial, ethnic, confessional diversities of the population to be the basic national feature of the Canadian society. It means that multiculturalism is one of the most significant national peculiarities of Canadians. Multiculturalism is protected by the 27-th clause of the Canadian Charter of Freedom and Rights.Unlike the USA and Australia, in Canada there was never a crude assimilation by an ethnic group having a dominant position. Canada is indisputably to be a multilingual country. All members of ethnic communities have rights to use their native languages including the right to teach it. As a result of this situation ethnic minorities of Canada preserve also their cultural and mental peculiarities.

Thus, as a result of a comparative analysis of different models of multiculturalism I’d like to make some generalizations.Multiculturalism is a positive societal phenomenon. It creates favorable conditions for the development of society. Particularly, it prevents the development  of ethnic collisions, strengthens the trust between peoples.Multiculturalism came into existence as alternative policy to repressive varieties of reactions of society toward cultural diversity. Also democracy has been one of the most important prerequisites for the formation of multicultural society. Peculiarities of historical development of state caused formation of various models of multiculturalism.And last but not least despite some differences between various models of multiculturalism in all of these analyzed models the state has been playing a crucial role in creating and supporting multicultural environment.

In Azerbaijan the problems of multiculturalism are in the centre of attention of philosophers, culture specialists, political scientists, etc. The understanding of topicality of whole the problems of multiculturalism are to some extent explained to us by the fact that faced the exigencies of its public relations in the late 80s, when the ethnic conflicts of that times’Soviet Unionshowed, that all is not well with international relations, and that internationalism is not enough for their solution. At the same time it became obvious, that international relations are not reduced only to vertical relationship, that social consciousness introduces its own understanding of process of international relationship development.

Multiculturalism – is, of course, a dialogue of cultures, but it goes inside the society, between cultures and subcultures. This difference is not understood by everybody. Azerbaijan has a tradition to perceive the culture, which absorbs different subcultures. Because of this the relation to multiculturalism in mass consciousness might be basically positive.

 

 

 

Antoaneta Vasileva

19.05.2016

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