Spring 1995 (3.1)
A Brand New World!
I really can't believe we're doing this but, if all goes well, we're on our way to Baku this summer to visit the family of the Azerbaijani exchange student who lived with us last year. This is such a different experience for us to think about. Me-a public school teacher from small-town America who has been happily content at teaching "do-re-mi" to school children, raising goats, and playing the organ at church for most of my life.
Last year, Askar Askarov dropped on our doorstep quite by accident as a 15-year-old high school exchange student. He filled our house with the joyful sounds of youth and introduced us to a whole different culture. The truth is-he has quite profoundly changed our lives.
Our own five children are all grown and living on their own; Askar was the 35th exchange student I had ever been involved with-either as local coordinator or a "mom". And it happened quite by chance. At the last minute, World Learning needed one more host family and we agreed to help them out. But Askar turned out to be exceptional. He's made an incredible impact on our lives. He's charming, has great "people-to-people" skills, and a grand sense of humor.
Last December I started writing Askar's family to explain how well their son was doing in the U.S., convinced that a great deal of credit was due to the training they had given him at home as a lad. Well, one thing led to another, and soon we were developing a marvelous friendship across the miles. And now we're making plans to visit these wonderfully warm and loving people 10,000 miles away. It will be a first for us-we've never visited any of our exchange students though they've often returned to see us.
Askar filled our home with music-sounds which were different from what I was accustomed to, but which I miss greatly now that he's gone back to Baku. This teenager could do things with the traditional compositions of "mugham" which were very exciting and complicated. He was far, far beyond me in his musical ability despite all my formal music training. He has a very highly trained ear for music. We've worn out the tapes he left with us but we're hoping for more so our house and car can once again ring out with Azerbaijani music.
This has been a great experience. The story hasn't ended. Our community is trying to find a scholarship to bring Askar back for college. I have a great feeling there's much more to come.
December 19, 1995
Major League Publication
|I received the latest issue of Azerbaijan International today! Your magazine just keeps getting better; I read it immediately - article by article, cover to cover. I realize that you receive many accolades for this publication. Azerbaijan International is major-league magazine and you just keep on hitting home runs!
University of Oklahoma
December 5, 1994
Who Can Help Us Build Our Nation?
I recently had a chance to see a copy of Azerbaijan International for the first time (Summer 1994: "Environmental Challenges"). The magazine left a deep impression on me as it contains important information written with perception and wisdom. It identified our major environmental problems, describing some of the efforts of individuals and institutions, which are trying to improve our situation.
Since Azerbaijan is a small country and rich in natural resources, it is critical that we restore our land and guard against pollution and the harmful mutation in human genetics that is already being identified.
The back cover featured a 13-year-old artist's depiction of the war-a woman paralyzed with pain, tears streaming down her face. I ask, "Who on this earth can bring solace to people who have suffered so much?" Only those who cherish this land, this nation and people and who desire its blessing can help us solve these profound problems. I hope their efforts will not be in vain as we search for ways which lead to peace and harmony in our tormented land.
Dr. Ali Bagirov, MD
January 20, 1994
Armenia Should Seek Compromise
The following opinion was a "Letter to the Editor" published in California Courier ("Newspaper for All Armenians"), by Harold Laloian, January 26, 1995. Reprinted with permission from California Courier.
Now that Armenians control the disputed Karabakh, they must win a lasting peace. There are four options open to them.
(1) To appeal for Western help. However, this route is a waste of time because the West will not favor Armenia in this dispute. It will, instead, continue to support its strategic ally, Turkey, as well as partake in the riches that Azerbaijan offers. While the West gives millions to Armenia, they will be giving billions for Azeri oil. Furthermore, the West's ability and resolve to interfere in the region is limited. For example, 20 years after Turkey invaded Cyprus to protect its fellow Turks, it still controls half of the island.
(2) To rely on Russia's help is wishful thinking. Russia's army is so disorganized it could not defeat Turkey in a non-nuclear war. Furthermore, Russian troops in Armenia merely antagonize Armenia's neighbors (with whom any peace would depend on), since they view Russia as a colonizing power.
(3) Going on alone is self-defeating. Continued economic blockade and loss of Middle Eastern economic markets (Armenia's potentially most important customers), has undermined its future. What good is it for Armenia if her brightest are forced to move to Glendale? And why should only the West benefit from the region's potential riches? Why not Armenians?
The final option-compromise and accommodation with Azerbaijan to forge a lasting peace seems the best way out. The negotiated settlement that the CSCE has suggested and agreed to implement would lend international legitimacy and permanence to the settlement. If the return of the Lachin Corridor and Shusha are the only stumbling blocks to peace, then they are a small price to pay. And if a common market between the two countries can be worked out, then this strip of Azeri territory between Karabakh and Armenia would be of little consequence.
In fact, landlocked, resource-poor Armenia needs Azerbaijan for its economic development more than Azerbaijan needs Armenia. Soon, with Turkey's help, the Azeris could develop a powerful military. Armenia should go out of its way to foster trust and links with the Azeris. Indeed, common goals such as a common market and military alliances would strengthen both. Allied, both countries would not need to be so submissive to the political whims of the larger players of the region: Turkey, Iran, Russia and the West.
By convincing Azerbaijan to be an ally rather than an enemy. Armenia, with her well-educated and hard-working population could have an economic and military future much larger than her small size would suggest.
Computers to Strengthen Environmental Movement
We were impressed with the environmentally focused issue of Azerbaijan International (Summer 94). Unfortunately, it is unusual for journals devoted to a particular country to concentrate on environmental issues, so we are grateful that you dared to "take a stand".
For the entire Soviet period, the toxic assault against Azerbaijan's air, water, and soil was suppressed information. Even after the Soviet period, the headlines were full of news about war and economics, and justly so, but there was hardly a word about the various threats to Azerbaijan's life support structure-its ecology.
Clearly, Azerbaijanis, like all humans, need to have the basic economic rights to food, clothing, and shelter. The articles in that issue of AI showed that, although Azerbaijan is resource rich and a few environmental remediation projects are underway, a broad-based environmental commitment is not forthcoming either from the business or governmental sectors. Such a responsibility should be borne out of self-interest. It is becoming common knowledge among the Western business community that a polluted environment is bad business. Company profits that remain in the marketplace are consumed by health costs directly linked to environmental degradation.
Since 1985, our main focus at Sacred Earth Network (SEN) has been to collaborate with the environmental community-NGOs (non-governmental organizations) in the former Soviet Union (increasingly called Eurasia). SEN's main project, the Environmental Telecommunications Project, provides computer equipment, on-site training, and small grants to the environmental NGO community in Eurasia. We have played a major role in creating an environmental computer network that includes 60 cities in 13 of the 15 former Soviet republics.
We would like to assist Azerbaijan's environmental community. The current energy and communications infrastructure there is in such bad condition that we are unsure of how to proceed. There is not a single environmentally-focused e-mail station in Azerbaijan. If we receive a formal invitation from the Environmental Ministry, a business, or a prominent non-governmental organization, we could supply matching funds to create an independent environmental e-mail station.
What we need is a sign that there is enthusiasm to follow through with this project once our specialists leave. We would also be willing to add an Azerbaijani to our technical support team if at least half a dozen of these stations were deemed necessary.
In a country where water can be a rarity and when found, is often polluted and undrinkable; an international effort based on reliable, inexpensive communications is essential to solve this and other life threatening problems. Our experience dictates that a small e-mail network is the most appropriate, democratic mechanism to assist this effort on grass-roots level.
We can only hope this letter will lead to genuine cooperation between SEN and the people of Azerbaijan so that together we can create a clean, sustainable future on Planet Earth. By the way, we publish an environmental newsletter about our projects in English and Russian for those who are interested.
Bill Pfeiffer, Executive Director
Sacred Earth Network
267 East Street
Petersham, MA 01366
Tel: (508) 724-3443
Fax: (508) 724-3436
December 28, 1994
Our Children: Our Mother Tongue
Here in Sweden, there is a fairly sizable community of Azerbaijanis (from Iran). We're quite privileged to live here as immigrants because the Swedish government provides Azerbaijani language courses for our children. Although Swedish and English language courses are mandatory, each child is also allowed to study his mother tongue for a minimum of two lessons per week just as any other ordinary subject like mathematics or chemistry. If there are 15 or more students studying at the same level at a single school who speak the same mother tongue, they have the right to require that all lessons, except the Swedish and English, are taught in their own mother tongue.
Considering the number of immigrants living in this country, the project costs the Swedish government a significant amount of money but it is viewed as an investment in future citizenship.
Studies show that children who are proficient in their native languages grow up to be more successful in everyday life. Specific studies in Sweden (with immigrants from Turkey, former Yugoslavia and Greece) indicate that children who failed to learn their own mother tongues as proficiently as they learned Swedish tended to feel socially outcast from both societies-their own as well as the Swedish community, and hence were more prone to get involved with crime. Clearly, being proficient in one's mother tongue provides stability and a sense of belonging.
Contrary to what many people think, we immigrants bestow a great gift upon our children when we promote our own mother tongue. We shouldn't neglect it. All language studies point to the importance of the mother tongue. Bilingualism and tri-lingualism should be viewed as intellectual assets which do not interfere with mental and psychological development, but conversely, enhance identity and personality.
I hope that in the future there will be a movement among Azerbaijani immigrants to strengthen the use of our mother tongue among our children. If the governments where we live don't pay for language instruction, then we as parents, families and cultural societies should become actively involved in promoting the Azerbaijani language as something very normal, healthy and invigorating. If our children learn Azerbaijani well, it can only help them grow up to be successful even in societies dominated by other languages
January 20, 1995
Alaska So Far Away
I'm an exchange student from Azerbaijan studying here in Wasilla, Alaska. As you know, Alaska is kind of isolated from the rest of the US and here there's no chance to know what's going on in Azerbaijan even from the local papers. When I heard about your magazine, I was really surprised and excited that there was such a publication that could tell us about Azerbaijanis all over the world. It's really important for us, the people of Azerbaijan, and especially for us here in America, many thousands of miles away from our country, city, family and friends. This way we feel connected with our national culture, customs and traditions. Thanks a lot.
Rashad Tagiyev, 17
Jan 9, 1995
New 1995 Calendar
The Canadian Azerbaijanis National Federation (CANF) has just printed an attractive 1995 calendar which features scenes from both the Republic of (Northern) Azerbaijan and Iranian (Southern) Azerbaijan. Canadian, American, and Jewish holidays are marked although Noruz (New Year's) and the National Holidays for the Republic of Azerbaijan are conspicuously missing. Calendars may be ordered for $15 from CANF, Sheppard Centre, 2 Sheppard Ave E, Suite 900, North York, Ontario, M2N 5Y7 Canada. Tel/Fax: (905) 479-1666.
From Azerbaijan International (3.1) Spring 1995.
© Azerbaijan International 1995. All rights reserved.