Winter 1994 (2.4)
Pages 2-3, 53
Window Into Azerbaijan
I am not an Azerbaijani nor do I have any relatives or business interests in Azerbaijan. I'm just a regular American who, like many others has never had the chance to know very much about Azerbaijan until I began reading your publication. (It's embarrassing to admit my ignorance since my background is Political Science).
To be honest, when I first saw your magazine nearly two years ago, I was expecting it to be extremely biased, since it, obviously, presents a point of view from a particular culture. Instead, I found it quite balanced.
It doesn't surprise me that many major universities and other respected institutions have begun to subscribe. They, undoubtedly, see this publication as a window into Azerbaijan and the region.
Azerbaijan International contains a wealth of current, as well as historical, information which seems to me to be accurate, well researched, beautifully and concisely presented. I've learned an amazing amount of information about Azerbaijan and the surrounding region in a very short time. Most of the articles come from direct and primary sources, including interviews with well-known, as well as ordinary, citizens from all walks of life.
I'm especially pleased to see that Armenians and others with whom Azeris may disagree, are not "demonized" or dehumanized in any way, although of course, some writers are critical of Armenia, sometimes fairly, sometimes not. The point is, this magazine presents a wide variety of viewpoints, and is not a propaganda platform for extremist ideas from any side.
Perhaps, one reason for the balanced approach is that your staff, while small, is international in scope and includes individuals with "Western" as well as "Eastern" perspectives, Azeris as well as non-Azeris. Though I can't read Azeri, I find including a few articles in the two scripts (Latin and Arabic) is an effective way of reaching the widest audience, from citizens to academics and politicians.
It is my hope that there will be many more publications such as yours to serve as bridges of understanding which promote peace and friendship among all people in many of these new regions which we have viewed as past or present adversaries.
Everywhere on earth there are extremists for whom peace and tolerance are anathema. They want the world to change for them, rather than vice versa. But the rest of us, the overwhelming majority, must resist and continue on the right path. We must recognize and honor our cultural differences, and be willing to try to accommodate one another as we all share the same planet and are all God's children.
Martin L. Henriks
October 21, 1994
Aluminum Factory in Sumgayit. Captions to the second and third photos in the article about Kaiser Engineers' reconstruction of the Aluminum Plant in Sumgayit were inadvertently reversed (Summer Issue 2:3, 31) The new equipment which Kaiser will be installing is pictured here. This modern Pre-Bake system replaces a much older system and will be much more efficient in terms of energy and material usage. Consequently, pollution will be significantly reduced.
New Pre-bake system equipment for the Aluminum Factory in Sumgayit. Reconstruction by Kaiser Engineers is scheduled to begin in 1995.
Azeri Language Class. In the Spring Issue (2:2), we announced that Indiana University was offering summer 94 Azeri classes. These classes did not materialize which means that the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) was the only university to offer Azeri language classes in the US this past summer. In 1993, courses were offered at UCLA, Indiana and Texas. Summer 95 courses will be announced in the upcoming Spring 1995 issue.
History Will Tell
I believe that Azerbaijan International will go down in history - first of all, as a magazine committed to breaking through the information blockade that has surrounded Azerbaijan for so long and for spreading the truth about Azerbaijan to many parts of the world. And secondly, for its descriptions of our present-day transition and emergence as an independent country that will become history for tomorrow's readers.
The magazine is like a microcosm opening up worlds of information because your staff spends so much time meeting with and encouraging would-be authors in order to obtain interesting items to print. It's like the birth of a child-a masterpiece of a publication; may your offspring increase a hundred-fold.
In future issues, I look forward to reading articles about the problems of Azerbaijan in relation to science, education, culture, music and ethnography.
We, Azerbaijanis should support your efforts by subscribing as readers, by researching some of the important topics and by helping identify the vital questions of our era.
Academy of Sciences, Baku
Minimizing Cultural Differences
Many letters and articles published in Azerbaijan International focus on the differences between Americans and Azeris. What is it that has made us so distinguishably different from each other since we are all humans and all obey the same rules of nature wherever we live: we breathe, we eat, we think, and we feel?
How is it that when I came to the US three years ago and began dealing with people who looked so much like my neighbors back in Baku that I felt like I was on another planet? How is it that even when we spoke the same language-English-we were on such different wave lengths?
The reason, I believe, was because values had been dictated by a system or society that didn't allow freedom of choice. We could read only certain books which we had been taught to interpret one way without questioning and, therefore, we never realized our perspective might be restricted, limited, one-sided, or even wrong.
What did we know about the United States? We had been taught that Europeans who conquered America in the 1400s completely devastated the American Indians. That racism against the black population was strong. That in capitalism, man exploits each other.
But American movies were so compelling: they were colorful, full of action and beautiful actors. Who wouldn't want to live in this world? So we had our government telling us how hard life was and on the other hand we were seeing the movies of sunny California beaches and people drinking Coca-Cola. We all lived in the paradox of Soviet mentality where we contentedly followed the rules even though we didn't trust them. At the same time, we all unanimously decided that America must be a paradise on earth and wanted to come here to touch it and breathe its air.
Now that I'm here, I can't speak about the air but I can say that the knowledge that I have gained by being exposed to freedom of choice and information and the opportunity I have had to make comparisons between my two worlds has been the most valuable experience of my life.
But what about Americans? Where I live in California must be one of the richest cultural arenas in the world. I've learned so much even about my own country just by observing Chinese, Indians, Arabs, Persians and others, sometimes just by listening to their music. It's thrilling, eye-opening, incredible!
But what is appalling to me is to discover how indifferent Americans are about the rest of the world. How helpless they are at even attempting to pronounce the word, "Azerbaijan". Is it the educational system that has given them too much choice as children, allowing them to seek the simplest and easiest classes at school and thus be deprived of so much learning and knowledge?
Or is it the rat race at work that mentally and spiritually drains them, leaving no time for "unnecessary" education? Does the unlimited flood of information which bursts in upon their world every morning leave them confused and numb on the one hand while so biased on the other, as the creators of news go about their daily task of imposing their own opinions and values as dictated by what can be sold? Regardless of the cause or causes, does it not all lead to the same habitual numbness so familiar to my own people?
I don't know and, of course, I'm generalizing. There are so many people in both cultures that are interested and thus informed. My deepest wish is for those people to spread their knowledge to help others open their minds so that these mental borders can be broken down and so we all can move beyond the limited boundaries in which we were born.
There are many people who want to listen and learn in both worlds. I thank Azerbaijan International's staff and others like them who are so committed to fostering this vital process.
Pleasant Hill, CA
In April this year, my mom met some Azerbaijanis at work (Exxon) and we invited them to our home for dinner. It was very unique as the Azerbaijanis themselves volunteered to cook Shaslik, which is like barbecued lamb chops on a stick. This was no ordinary 30-minute American fast-food dinner!
Pretty soon, through Mom's halting Russian and their attempts at English, we figured out that they had kids and that I could be a penpal. So I wrote a letter and they carried it to Baku. It seemed we waited forever for a reply. This was not just some "drop the letter in a box and wait ten days for an answer" kind of arrangement. I was so eager to find out about this new city called Baku. Finally, a month later, a package came.
My new penpal, Sharif, writes very good English, though his cursive writing style is very different. In America we "chatter" about the weather and stuff but he relayed mostly facts such as total square kilometers of Baku (why hadn't I paid attention during that metric lesson last year?) and how he feels about the war (a war in my country, how would I feel?). He also told of his proud heritage, which had been passed from generation to generation.
As we've come to know each other better, I've started asking about what kids our age do, like after school "hang-outs", local school dances, and sports. Does the fact that there's a war going on make these things too frivolous?
No matter what I learn in the future, this has already been an experience that has opened my eyes and made me see things differently here in America. I will always treasure the Azerbaijanis we now call our friends.
Caryn Glosch, 16
September 2, 1994
Finally an Azerbaijani Forum!
Thanks for a colorful and rich magazine. There have been so many attempts among Azerbaijanis around the world to find a proper common forum for discussion on matters related to the Azeri people which have not succeeded. There is no doubt that you are doing a unique work by producing such a fine magazine and we appreciate it greatly. Thanks a lot!
October 14, 1994
Concerned Exchange Student
I'm an exchange student from Azerbaijan and am concerned about the current situation and issues related to Azerbaijan. Your magazine is the only resource where I can get this information. I want to take the opportunity and say a lot of thankful words to you and all the people who work at this magazine which is very important for all of us. As you know, here in the USA, nobody knows anything about Azerbaijan. So publishing this magazine gives people a great opportunity to learn more about our beautiful country which is now undergoing difficult times. Thank you again.
November 1, 1994
From Azerbaijan International (2.4) Winter 1994.
© Azerbaijan International 1994. All rights reserved.