The multinational and multi-confessional nature of the Azerbaijan population is an important aspect for intercultural dialogue, being one of the priorities of the national cultural policy. The basic spirit of the national policy derives from the Constitution, which proclaims all citizens equal, regardless of ethnic or racial origin. The Law on Joining the International Convention on Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (1996) has found its reflex in the Law on Culture (1998) and other relevant laws. On 16 June 2001, Azerbaijan joined the Framework Convention of the Council of Europe for the Protection of National Minorities. |
The main public actor responsible for implementing the programmes and policies to promote intercultural dialogue in Azerbaijan, at national and local policy levels, is the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. It closely cooperates with the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Youth and Sport, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Justice, State Committee on Work with Religious Formations, State Committee on Family, Women and Children's Issues, Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences and the Republican Authors Rights Agency, depending on the matter under consideration.
Azerbaijan actively takes part in all relevant programmes and activities of UNESCO, the Council of Europe and other international organizations on the promotion of intercultural dialogue. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism continues to implement the project "Cultural Diversity in Azerbaijan", which is designed to highlight the country's ethnic and cultural diversity. It involves the cultural associations of the various national minorities, and helps to realise one of its chief strategic aims - to develop and support intercultural dialogue. A Declaration, adopted at the scientific conference "Cultural Diversity in Azerbaijan" (June 2002), states the necessity to have constant interaction and partnership between the state sector, private sector and civil society; to hold periodical monitoring on the situation in the sphere of preservation and support for cultural diversity.
Another significant event - the festival "Arts of national minorities" was organized in November 2006. In the framework of the festival, a scientific conference was held - "Cultural heritage of national minorities and modernity", along with a corresponding photo-exhibition. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism is also planning to establish the Coordinating Council on Cultural Diversity, which will consider the work with ethnic cultural communities as one of its aspects; as well as to work out a special program on the preservation and development of cultural diversity on the basis of existing traditions.
Inter-regional issues in Azerbaijan, resulting from its geographical situation, social-political aspirations and historical-cultural traditions, have contributed historically to the transmission of this region as being a part of the East and the West, as well as the South and the North. Over the ages, and because of the historical, economic and cultural specifics characteristic of Azerbaijan, the population has operated in conditions of tolerance and respect for the cultures of other people and national minorities.
There are more than 20 different cultural communities functioning in Baku, including Russian, Ukrainian, Kurdish, Laks, Lezginian, Slavyan, Tat, Tatar, Georgian, Ingiloy, Talish, Avar, Community of Akhiska Turks, Jews, Germans, and Greeks etc. Representatives of the three largest religions - Islam, Christian and Judaism - participate in all initiatives and events at the state level, on a permanent basis.
Ethnic composition of population (1999 census).
% share of total
7 205 500
7 953 400
Source: State Statistical Committee.
Supporting and safeguarding cultural diversity is reflected in the state policy of the Republic of Azerbaijan. National policies have their basis in the Constitution of Azerbaijan, which provides for equality of all citizens, irrespective of their ethnic, religious or racial background. All forms of discrimination and xenophobia, including ethnic, national and racial, are not acceptable. Ethnic minorities of Azerbaijan have equal cultural rights and the same access to cultural heritage of the country as the titular population of Azerbaijan. Article 8 ("the Right to cultural identity") of the Law on Culture states that "each person has a right to keep their national-cultural identity and to choose their own moral, aesthetic and other values; the State promotes the right to their cultural identity". This article gives an immediate legal guarantee to protect cultural identities which are independent of racial, ethnic and national belonging, but are based on personality.
There are a number of other articles of the Law on Culture that provide legal security for personal rights to cultural identity. In particular, Article 48 on International Cooperation in the Cultural Sphere, Article 49 on International Exchange in the Cultural Sphere, Article 50 on Cooperation in the Sphere of Conservation of Cultural Values provide for the development and progression of international contacts of cultural minorities with their historical motherlands. This guarantee is ensured also in other laws of the Republic of Azerbaijan referring to culture.
The Ministry of Culture and Tourism carries out a concrete programme of activities connected with safeguarding and development of cultural values of national minorities and ethnic groups living in the country, which includes cooperation with cultural communities and centres of ethnic minorities; organization of art performances of amateur collectives in regions where ethnic minorities are concentrated; organization of exhibitions reflecting ethnography, art and traditions of the ethnic minorities; tour trips of the ethnic collectives in the Republic and abroad; encouraging creation and performance of art compositions, promoting customs and traditions of ethnic groups; and supplying amateur collectives with traditional clothes, musical instruments and means, etc.
In accordance with the approved working plans of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the performances of artists, theatre and music collectives and exhibitions organized abroad during the Days of Culture, as well as international competitions and festivals are covered by the Ministry. There is no special system of fellowships and financial aid, however, at the same time, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism assists artists and NGOs functioning in the field of culture. Furthermore, funds, banks and other financial institutions, operating in Azerbaijan, give considerable sponsorship to assist and promote the mobility of artists and artworks.