Russian “Nezavisimaya gazeta”
newspaper has published an article by Honoured Journalist, Holder of the State Prize of the Republic of Azerbaijan Elmira Akhundova about Azerbaijan`s first lady, President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation Mehriban Aliyeva.
Vestnik Kavkaza website previously posted this article in English. AzerTAc
presents the full text of the article:
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Cannes hosted the Azerbaijani Cultural Festival in the second half of July. World media paid special attention to the event, newspapers of France called the events in the French Riviera a triumph of Azerbaijani culture in the heart of Europe.
The Festival program organized by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation was intensive and memorable, fans of classic music could hear the Gara Garayev State Chamber Orchestra with Teymur Goychayev as the conductor, jazz connoisseurs enjoyed improvisations of young jazzman Isfar Sarabski, gastronomes tried Azerbaijani national cuisine. The “Azerbaijan – the country of traditions and the future” exhibition presented all the richness of the material and cultural artifacts of Azerbaijani people. The presentation of the First European Olympic Games in Cannes, which Azerbaijan will host in 2015, was probably the most symbolic event. Mehriban Aliyeva, the First Lady of Azerbaijan, the head of the Organizing Committee of the European Games, attended the ceremony and other cultural events in the French Riviera.
The echo of many cultural projects of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation and charity events of its president can regularly be heard in different parts of the world. Restoration of part of the Palace of Versailles and the Medieval cathedral in Strasbourg, one of the Louvre galleries and Roman catacombs in Roma Aeterna, reconstruction of a girls’ school in the Pakistani city of Muzaffarabad, opening of the Azerbaijani pavilion on the most prestigious international art exhibition Venice Biennale, construction of the Friendship Bridge of Azerbaijan and Russia in Astrakhan, capital reconstruction of school N78 in Ulyanovsk… Listing all the good deeds and charity affairs of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation would take up all the space in my article. One thing is obvious: the non-governmental organization has turned into a plenipotentiary envoy of humanitarian and cultural diplomacy of Azerbaijan and the main image-maker of the country.
President of the Foundation Mehriban Aliyeva and her creative team travel all over the world, permanently making openings, presentations, speeches. Her presence lifts the benchmark of international events to a much higher level, providing statusness and stardom to guests visiting them, wideness and fullness of their coverage in foreign press. Adding the level and scale of events the Foundation organizes to the aforementioned, like international conferences, round-table conferences on inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue attended by first ladies of foreign countries and heads of such structures as the UN, UNESCO, ISESCO, Council of Europe and others, makes the results very impressive.
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… Analyzing the work of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, marveling with the diversity, ambitiousness and, most importantly, success of practically all ideas and projects of the little crew, gives an impression that the irreplaceable Leader of the team is capable of forming a sensible hierarchy of problems and reacting to public requests.
In the first years of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, the priority issues were reconstruction and modernization of orphanages and boarding schools, support of vulnerable parts of the population. Mehriban Aliyeva was focusing on problems of children, orphans for ten years, helping with problems of daily graft, health, psychological and social rehabilitation of young citizens deprived of parental care.
Later, the line of construction and capital reconstruction of schools all over the republic were added to the strategic task. At some moment, healthcare, public attention towards genetic diseases, support for children, people suffering from diabetes, thalassaemia, oncology became priority issues. From the first days of the Foundation’s progress, Mehriban Aliyeva could not ignore problems of spiritual, cultural value, such as promotion of classic and Mugham musical heritage, acquainting foreigners with the priceless monuments of material culture of Azerbaijani people, formation of correct understanding of processes in Azerbaijan among world elites, in particular, around the Nagorno-Karabakh problem and the conflict with Armenia and etc.
I reiterate, there have always been several lines, yet none of them has been the top priority for a certain particular moment in time.
Today, as far as I understand, Mehriban Aliyeva and her team are concentrating on solving image problems of Azerbaijan. It is quite logical. The country is getting stronger, developing, becoming richer and more influential, it still acts on the international arena as an independent geopolitical and geoeconomic player. It provokes interest in our country and understandable jealousy of competing states. So, formation of correct picture of our republic, its rich culture and traditions, past and present in the minds of world establishment is the goal of utmost importance and topicality. The Heydar Aliyev Foundation and its Leader are working on the task with great success.
The Azerbaijani word and Azerbaijani music can be heard at the most prestigious platforms of the world, anniversaries of masters of national culture are regularly celebrated at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris. The list of non-material cultural heritage includes Azerbaijani Mugham and Ashug art, methods of Azerbaijani carpet-making and Tar playing. The World Heritage List has been enriched with Icheri-Sheher and Gobustan open-air museums. It is undeniably a deed of UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Mehriban Aliyeva, whose name is rightfully authoritative in the largest world organizations.
In one of the latest interviews, outstanding Kazakh writer and public figure Olzhas Suleimenov said the following about cultural expansion of Azerbaijan in Europe: “I can say confidently that of all the Turkic-speaking states visiting Paris for decades, Azerbaijan is the most remarkable at the cultural center of Europe. One of my advanced friends in Paris called Azerbaijan “the most civilized of Muslim states.” I am sure that the most complicated problems of the East and West can only be solved by culture. It is great when countries understand that by spending on culture, they invest in the future of their countries and peace. Half a year, from spring to the end of autumn, the Louvre was demonstration art of Muslim states in the most tourist-intensive season. Millions of Europeans saw the magnificent exhibition hosted with the help of Azerbaijan. There are many such examples of your republic’s participation in the world cultural process. The cultural center of Azerbaijan in Paris. It is in the most prestigious place next to the Eiffel Tower. Not a single embassy accredited in France has anything like it.?
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Today the goals the Heydar Aliyev Foundation was pursuing during the first years of its existence have become much more ambitious. The foundation successfully cooperates with various non-governmental, public and governmental organizations. The programme of modernization of state schools and technical schools, higher educational institutions and academies is being continued, the "coolest" medical centres are being built, a special programme has been launched in order to return orphans to their biological families to provide them with new parents, many non-governmental organizations are engaged in charity and patronize child institutions etc.
This means that the foundation and its leader also have a task - to stimulate civic initiatives and public activities. Mehriban Aliyeva and her team generate those advanced ideas, which would then captivate the active part of society and as a result lead to national unity and solidarity.
That is the second quality of a true leader - to generate new ideas and lead people. That is the way the foundation and its leader are worthy of their name, which they carry splendidly. That is why first ladies, female ministers and politicians pay visits to the republic so eagerly. They are quite open about the fact that the aim of their visits is to meet with Mehriban Aliyeva, to learn from her and to qet acquainted with her experience in order to use this knowledge in their own countries. Thus the institute of the first lady transformed into an actual school of leadership.
The president of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation has gradually become a role model for socially-active representatives of the fair sex in Azerbaijan. An Azerbaijani woman now is a politician, a businesswoman, a philanthropist and a public figure. This phenomenon is already becoming really massive and remarkable for the country. These women do not suffer from the absence of a role model. The example of Mehriban Aliyeva is very bright.
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This exquisite woman, who has very noble and beautiful features, has been decorated with many prestigious orders and received many awards and titles. She is a goodwill ambassador, a winner of the Heydar Aliyev Prize, a cavalier of the Order of the Legion of Honour, a cavalier of the Order of Merit of the Great Commander's Cross of Poland etc. However, I believe that Mehriban Aliyeva herself is most proud of her position as people's favourite. Still, as God is my witness, she herself does not show off her achievements and awards. She does not even talk a lot, neither does she address the public too often. However, one believes her every word because each one is backed by actual deeds. The field of charity and good, which she has been cultivating for almost two decades, is now bearing fruits. In many respects it is thanks to the Heydar Aliyev Foundation that we now live in a profoundly different country. It seems like this is the main achievement Mehriban Aliyeva made before her first serious jubilee.
However it is not enough to stop or even take a break. There are further goals and achievements. She is a true leader and she is indeed gifted. Everyone knows that such people are challenged more than others.