Azerbaijan International

Autumn 1999 (7.3)
Page 10

Reader's Forum
View from Japan

I'm a Japanese graduate student studying international relations. My area of research is Azerbaijani politics, specifically the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Unfortunately, Azerbaijan is not well known in Japan. Actually, few people have ever heard of the country, and even fewer know its location geographically. In a way, this is to be expected, given the fact that Azerbaijan was part of the USSR for such a long time, and so few opportunities existed for contact between Azerbaijan and Japan.

I'm often asked why I'm studying such a country. In fact, it has been a long and complicated path. When I first entered graduate school, I initially focused on the USSR and wrote my Master's thesis about the Soviet Union's contribution to the peace process in the Vietnam War. For my doctorate, I'm researching the post-Perestroika era. That's why I became interested in ethnic conflicts, especially the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Azerbaijanis and Armenians.

The magnitude and complexity of the problem made me want to do more research. I was very disturbed to discover that most research and articles analyzing the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict have been written from an Armenian point of view, and that the U.S. Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act prohibits the U.S. government from extending any aid to the Azerbaijani government. I strongly believe that research and politics must, above all, be fair, and I believe that the conclusions of such fair and unbiased research will show the genuineness of Azerbaijan's position.|

As I studied articles, books, Web sites and Russian newspapers, I became attracted to other aspects of Azerbaijan. Although I've never had the chance to visit there, I now feel a deep sense of intimacy with Azerbaijan and the many Azerbaijani people with whom I'm in contact regularly by e-mail.

In recent years, Japan has been strengthening its relations with Azerbaijan. In 1997, Prime Minister Hashimoto announced his "Eurasian diplomacy" as part of Japanese foreign policy. The Japanese government has sought to improve its relationship with Eurasian governments, and has, for example, given food aid and numerous supplies to Azerbaijani refugees.

In addition, Azerbaijan's President Heydar Aliyev officially visited Japan in February 1998, which further strengthened the economic and political ties between our two countries. Now Japan plans to open its Embassy in Azerbaijan in January 2000.

Since 1996, Japanese investment in Azerbaijan has increased significantly. Many Japanese firms such as ITOCHU, Indonesia Petroleum, Japan National Oil Company (JNOC), Japex, JPEC, Marubeni Oil, Mitsubishi Oil, Mitsui, Nippon Oil, Taiyo Oil and Teikoku Oil are actively investing in the development of Azerbaijan's oil. This, in turn, is becoming an impetus for people here to get to know the country. In addition, some Japanese NGOs [non-governmental organizations] are providing food, clothing, textbooks, housing and other forms of assistance.

I would like to emphasize that many things fascinate us about Azerbaijan, not just oil. It seems there is even some similarity between the structure of our two languages-Azeri and Japanese. I think, therefore, that it should be relatively easy for Japanese people to study Azeri. At present, however, there are no Azeri language textbooks for Japanese speakers. Although I can't speak Azeri, I plan to go to Azerbaijan to continue my research, and one day I hope to be fluent in Azeri. I hope that I can contribute to Azerbaijan not only through my research, but also through cultural exchange. I wish the best of luck to Azerbaijan International and to the Republic of Azerbaijan.

Yoko Hirose
Ph.D. student
University of Tokyo
Tokyo, Japan

From Azerbaijan International (7.3) Autumn 1999.
© Azerbaijan International 1998. All rights reserved.

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