Spring 1996 (4.1)
Pages 2-3, 83
British Library: Books about Azerbaijan
It's 3:00 am; I've just spent nearly all night searching for "Azerbaijan" in the Electronic Catalog of the British Library. I only intended to spend a couple of hours, but found I couldn't stop when I realized the sad state of affairs and lack of information that exists about my country. I'm appalled to think what impression the average person forms when they rely only on this library.
Stamps recently issued in Azerbaijan Republic to commemorate the 15th anniversary of John Lennon's death on December 8, 1995. Eight countries issued stamps to mark this event. Courtesy: Yusif Valiyev.
I found approximately 300 entries. Most are in Russian, a few have been translated into English but I found absolutely nothing in the Azerbaijani language in any shape or form (Cyrillic, Latin or Arabic scripts). The majority of books emphasize political issues; rarely is mention made of our culture, literature, traditions, arts, folklore or even about history, industry and technology.
Fortunately, the British Library subscribes to your magazine, Azerbaijan International, is like the "odd one out" as it is the only source in the entire library that I found which explored numerous dimensions of our contemporary lives and recognized the great potential of our nation internationally.
Most books date back to the Soviet Period and merely propagate Soviet ideology. Here are some titles: "Azerbaijan and Russian Brotherhood" (1979); "Kirov in Azerbaijan" (1970); "Their Names Live with Us Forever-The 26 Baku Commissars" (1978). As you probably know, both Kirov and the Commissars were involved in bringing Soviet power to Azerbaijan in the 1920s; Kirov's Statue which used to stand on the highest vantage point in Baku has since been pulled down.
And the list goes on. I found nothing describing Azerbaijan as an independent country. We are almost always depicted as a tiny, unknown and ignored province of the USSR. When it comes to Western independent publications, they have a tendency to focus on the "Cold War" and Azerbaijan's strategic location between the USSR and the Western bloc. Titles include: "Iran and the Cold War: The Azerbaijan Crisis of 1946," "The Soviet Union and Iranian Azerbaijan, the Use of Nationalism for Political Penetration," and "Azerbaijani Turks, Power and Identity under Russian Rule." These books might be helpful for people doing doctoral research but they surely wouldn't interest most people who want to understand my people today.
Another category deals with the 1990-1993 period when we were gaining our independence. Most of these books are written by Armenians and are anti-Azerbaijani in substance. Titles include "Ethnic Cleansing in Progress, War in Nagorno-Karabagh," "Sumgayit-Genocide, Glasnost," There were many books in French such as "Le Karabagh, Une Terry Armenienne en Azerbaijan" (1989, Paris). Only two books look at the Karabakh problem from a different perspective: "Armenian Terrorism" by Ismet Gaibov and "Nagorniy Karabakh: History, Facts and Events" by Igrar Aliyev (Russian, 1989).
As for visual materials, I found one book entitled "Azerbaijan in Pictures" but imagine how much has changed since 1966 when it was published.
There were no clues anywhere (except in your magazine) that one fifth of our territory is under occupation by Armenians, or that we have one million refugees who have been forced off their lands, cut off from their communities, relatives, friends, and work. Nor was there evidence of the considerable activity of international companies related to oil.
Without being nationalistic, we Azerbaijanis must take responsibility and do something. If such a fine institution as the British Library has such a poor representation about our country, what can we expect from other libraries? We, as a fledgling independent country cannot allow this to happen. If we ignore this issue, we lose on ideological grounds, which in my opinion, is the most important factor when it comes to forging relations with the international community. It will take years to alter first impressions that people get when they base their information on such collections not to mention how journalists also depend on such collections.
I know we are all too busy with our careers and our every day lives, but the reputation of a whole nation of people is being severely damaged. We must get involved with the libraries in each of our own little corners of the world and make sure Azerbaijan is well represented in them.
January 20, 1996
Children in Azerbaijan
I work in a child development agency in Los Angeles and have become very interested in Child Welfare Issues in the former Soviet Union (FSU). I might add that I'm an "adoptive parent" of a child from a Russian "orphanage" and have joined a networking group related to adoptions from the FSU and eastern Europe. As such, I'm interested in connecting with professionals in Azerbaijan who are involved with such issues.
Recently, I went to UCLA's Research Library and found "Azerbaijan International." Naturally, I was amazed at the breadth and depth of my own ignorance about this country, not to mention how much the US media has tilted toward Armenia when writing about conflicts in the region. So it was a rewarding experience for me to discover your magazine.
I'll admit I was under the impression all Newly Independent States (NIS) in the Transcaucasus were practically third world "basket cases." I suppose this is an ever-present hazard when reporters jet from New York and Washington to places like Azerbaijan with one week to write their stories. So I liked the optimism in your magazine. It's important for Azerbaijanis and Westerners who have been living there awhile to get the chance to tell their own stories like they do in your magazine.
Existing library collections about the former Soviet Union tend to emphasize outdated "Cold War" topics, so periodicals like yours help fill a huge information gap. Every NIS should publish a magazine like "Azerbaijan International" to get their message across. Russia has a similar magazine, but it's very expensive, and I've never found it again after reading it once on Aeroflot to Moscow.
I know that public libraries are experiencing budget restrictions and may be cutting back on subscriptions. Is there a chance that American corporations doing business in Azerbaijan would ever be interested in sponsoring subscriptions to schools and public libraries? If so, it would be a great boon for Azerbaijan!
February 6, 1996
Editor: We're glad you've found our magazine a valuable resource. Many prestigious university libraries are discovering us and have subscribed, including Cambridge (UK), Harvard, Colombia, Princeton, Cornnell, Vanderbilt, Stanford, Indiana, UCLA, Texas, Berlin (Germany), as well as the British Library, New York Public, Los Angeles City, Library of Congress, and the National Library of Australia.
But we agree, many libraries throughout the world on both the local and university levels could benefit from our magazine if they are interested in following the contemporary trends and developments in Azerbaijan. On several occasions, subscribers and cultural societies have initiated gift subscriptions and the gesture has been appreciated by both city, national and university libraries.
On May 1, 1996, Internet users can access our "Azerbaijan International Web Page" at <http://www.azer.com>. More than 150 articles with accompanying photos will be available when we start. Eventually, we'd like to add sound capability and possibly even short video clips when the technology has been perfected.
Congratulations again for the excellent magazine you are publishing. "Azerbaijan International" provides great insight about this culturally and historically rich country and its people, and adapts a balanced and in-depth approach to issues concerning the region and the international community at large, in particular, topics such as the Oil Pipeline Project. Thanks.
Assembly of Turkish American Associations
February 6, 1996
From the Czech Republic
It might seem strange that a girl from the Czech Republic is writing you but we have some Azerbaijanis living here in Prague, too. When I first met them, I had to go look Azerbaijan up on the map. I knew it used to be part of the former Soviet Union but, to tell you the truth, that was all I knew. I can still remember how some of us started asking one of them so many questions about the war with Armenia and about their foreign policy. We wanted to hear the opinions of someone born there.
When I tell some of my Czech friends that I have friends from Azerbaijan, I can see they're confused. They think people ride camels in Azerbaijan. People here remember the years we lived under the domination of the former Soviet Union. Maybe that's why they're suspicious of everything which was somehow related to that regime. Czechs simply cannot distinguish between people from countries like the former Yugoslavia, Albania, Dagestan, Chechnya, Russia, Turkey or Azerbaijan. But media doesn't help. There is hardly anything in the newspapers or on TV about Azerbaijan except when there is heavy fighting or accidents in the Metro. I've seen my Azeri friends get really "pissed off" about how their country is depicted in the international newspapers and magazines. They say the news is usually full of lies. Most Czechs don't pay much attention as events from that part of the world seem like thousands of star years away which can never affect life here.
Some time ago, one of the Azeris introduced me to your magazine, telling me it was a good one. Since then, I've read most of the articles. Your magazine is giving me the chance to find out about life in a country which is 5,000 kilometers away and which has different customs, problems, and language. I've begun understanding more of the things my Azeri friends discuss and I'm starting to appreciate my own country more as we don't have to deal with so many life-threatening problems. I'd really like to go to Baku and help out a bit, especially after reading about the children. To me, the Republic of Azerbaijan is like a child. It was an infant a few years ago, it's a toddler right now. Soon it will be a teenager and grown-up just like so many other countries. At least, that's the way I see it.
I'll tell you one more thing. Never ever in my life have I met people who love their homeland and their hometown, Baku, as much as my Azerbaijani friends. They can spend hours talking about the blue sky, the shining sun, and the Caspian Sea splashing onto their faces. I've heard it a thousand times. Sometimes I even feel like I've already been there.
Prague, Czech Republic
February 12, 1996
From Azerbaijan International (4.1) Spring 1996.
© Azerbaijan International 1996. All rights reserved.