A nation is known, recognized and distinguished among the world nations by certain characteristic features. The highest and the greatest of these features is culture.

HEYDAR ALIYEV
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The official opening ceremony of the year "Shusha - the cultural capital of the Turkic world" takes place

The official opening ceremony of the year "Shusha - Cultural Capital of the Turkish World 2023" was held on May 12, under the joint organization of the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Azerbaijan and TURKSOY.

The ceremonial event was held in Shusha in line with the order of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan "on the measures related to the declaration of the city of Shusha as the "Cultural Capital of the Turkic World" for 2023."

The event was attended by Sultan Raev, Secretary General of the International Organization of Turkic Culture - TURKSOY; Kumanichbek Omuraliyev, Secretary General of the Organization of Turkic States; Ganira Pashayeva, Chairman of the Culture Committee of the Milli Majlis; Adil Karimli, Minister of Culture; Emin Amrullayev, Minister of Science and Education; Gunay Afandiyeva, President of the International Turkic Culture and Heritage Foundation along with officials, artists, and creative teams from Turkic states.

In his speech during the ceremony, Minister of Culture Adil Karimli expressed his delight in welcoming the guests to Shusha, the cultural capital of Azerbaijan.

He stated that this year holds immense historical significance for Azerbaijan and the Turkic world: “The 100th anniversary of Heydar Aliyev, the founder of independent Azerbaijan, the national leader of the Azerbaijani people, and an exceptional leader in the Turkic world, is celebrated with great solemnity. In light of this, 2023 has been officially proclaimed the "Year of Heydar Aliyev" in Azerbaijan. Shusha, recognized as Azerbaijan's cultural capital, has been designated the cultural capital of the Turkic world for the current year. In addition, the Turkic world is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Republic of Turkey and the 30th anniversary of the establishment of TURKSOY with utmost solemnity. We extend our congratulations to the entire TURKSOY family on this remarkable occasion”.

The minister emphasized that the proclamation of Shusha as the "cultural capital of the Turkic world" for the year 2023 signifies the profound respect that the Turkic world has for Shusha:

“For Azerbaijanis, Shusha holds immense moral significance. This city has played a pivotal role in the destiny of our nation, its history, culture, and the path of national development, and is known as a city of poets, writers, artists, architects, and composers.

The national leader Heydar Aliyev used to say, "Shusha is the heart and soul of Azerbaijan. It serves as a source of immense pride for every Azerbaijani. Shusha is the symbol of our culture and history! Shusha holds a dear place in the hearts of all.”

Shusha, the cultural center of our nation, was of special significance for the national leader of the Azerbaijani people, Heydar Aliyev. He placed great emphasis on safeguarding our nation's cultural heritage.

Today, the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Mr. Ilham Aliyev, successfully continues to implement this policy.

Shusha, along with 20 percent of Azerbaijan's territory, suffered destruction and looting during the 30-year Armenian occupation. During the occupation, mosques, madrasas, houses of prominent personalities, tombstones, and other examples of cultural heritage, which are considered cultural heritage of the Turkic world, fell victim to Armenian vandalism.

On November 8, 2020, after enduring a 30-year occupation, the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan, under the leadership of the triumphant Supreme Commander Ilham Aliyev, successfully liberated the occupied territories of Azerbaijan, including Shusha, during the 44-day Patriotic War and brought a great victory to the Turkic world.

Seeing Shusha liberated was one of Heydar Aliyev's biggest dreams. The call to prayer echoing from the restored Shusha mosques two days ago stands as a symbol of the return of Azerbaijani culture and moral values to Shusha.

Today, Shusha and the entire Karabakh are experiencing a chapter of renaissance. Despite the short time that has elapsed since the victory, intensive efforts are underway, under the direct guidance of President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, to comprehensively restore and reconstruct the devastated forests, cities, villages, historical and cultural monuments, and the entire residential infrastructure within a short timeframe. Shusha's historical and cultural essence is being revived, and cultural life is returning to the city.

The Heydar Aliyev Foundation, led by Azerbaijan's First Vice-President, Mehriban Aliyeva, organizes a wide range of local and international cultural events in Shusha. Additionally, significant efforts are underway to restore our cultural heritage:

The "Kharibulbul" festival, established in 1989 but disrupted for many years by the occupation, has been organized in liberated Shusha for the third consecutive year. Formerly represented as Soviet Union countries, the brotherly Turkic states now join this festival as independent nations. It lasts for three days. Yesterday we held the closing ceremony of the festival together with the representatives of friendly republics”.

Adil Karimli emphasized the significant role of culture in fostering unity among Turkic states and promoting strong connections between them: “Recognizing this, Heydar Aliyev, the national leader of the Azerbaijani people, made invaluable contributions to the establishment of TURKSOY. Throughout his political career, one of the key goals of the national leader, Heydar Aliyev, has always been to ensure unity among Turkic nations, expand cultural connections, and facilitate the integration of Turkic states around shared national values.

After 30 years of operation, TURKSOY has established itself as a respected international organization. Through its effective and fruitful initiatives, TURKSOY consistently facilitates the mutual integration of our peoples, enabling them to maintain strong ties to their rich historical and cultural heritage.

I would like to highlight that, in line with the order of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Mr. Ilham Aliyev, declaring Shusha the "cultural capital of the Turkic world" for 2023, an extensive action plan is developed.

In this regard, the First Turkic World Culture Forum is set to take place in Shusha as part of the scheduled Permanent Council of Ministers in October. The main objective of the forum is to gather all the stakeholders involved in cultural work in our region and make a substantial contribution to the advancement of our shared culture.

I am confident that our colleagues, international organizations, scientific communities, and creative industries will back Azerbaijan's initiative by lending their support.

I have no doubt that the First Turkic World Culture Forum in Shusha will open new avenues for the advancement of cultural connections and serve as a powerful shared platform, turning the 21st century into the century of Turkic peoples.”

Concluding his speech, the minister conveyed his gratitude to the special representation of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan in Shusha district, the TURKSOY Secretariat, relevant institutions, and everyone who contributed to the event.

Aydin Karimov, the special representative of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan in Shusha district, highlighted the ongoing restoration and construction efforts undertaken by our government in Shusha. He emphasized that the development of cultural infrastructure in Shusha is also being given due consideration.

Sultan Raev, the Secretary General of TURKSOY, spoke about the literary and cultural figures that Shusha has historically gifted to Azerbaijan and the Turkic world at large. He emphasized the organization's commitment to continuously promoting and preserving the cultural wealth of Shusha.

Kumanichbek Omuraliyev, the Secretary General of the Organization of Turkic States, highlighted the significance of relations among Turkic states and the crucial role played by cultural factors in this regard. He emphasized the important decisions made by the heads of Turkic states in recent years.

Polad Bulbuloghlu, the Ambassador of Azerbaijan to Russia and a People's Artist expressed his delight in returning to his homeland. He shared information about the establishment and activities of TURKSOY.

Afterwards, the awards of TURKSOY were presented, and a concert program was introduced.

In the conclusion, Anar, the Chairman of the Union of Azerbaijani Writers, People's Writer presented the Bakhtiyar Vahabzadeh Award to Sultan Raev, the Secretary General of TURKSOY.

It is worth noting that on March 31, 2022, in Bursa, Turkiye, the decision was made by the Permanent Council of Ministers of Culture of TURKSOY member countries to designate Shusha, the historical birthplace of mugham art, as the "cultural capital of the Turkic world" for 2023.

It is important to remember that the "Cultural Capital of the Turkic World" project was initiated in 2010 during the 10th summit of Turkic-speaking countries in Istanbul. According to the decision, a city from the Turkic world is selected each year to be declared the "capital of culture. So far, cities like Astana (2012, Kazakhstan), Eskishehir (2013, Turkiye), Kazan (2014, Tatarstan, Russia), Merv (2015, Turkmenistan), Shaki (2016, Azerbaijan), Turkestan (2017, Kazakhstan), Kastamonu (2018, Turkiye), Osh (2019, Kyrgyzstan), Khiva (2020, Uzbekistan), and Bursa (2022, Turkey) have been honored as the "cultural capital of the Turkic world." Shusha is the 11th city in the Turkic world to undertake this important role.

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