While getting acquainted with the recent statement by the Minister of Culture of Azerbaijan, it becomes clear that our neighboring country is once again trying to politicize and transform into a battlefield not only the field of culture, but UNESCO itself– an establishment, the mission of which is to unite and bring together nations. The attempts by Azerbaijani authorities to engage in unhealthy competition do not foster the intercultural dialogue among the nations, thus exacerbating the already tense situation in the region.
The Armenian people have created a rich culture with its unique manifestations, having enriched it via interactions with the cultures of the neighboring countries, at the same time contributing to the latter as well, while never infringing upon them. On the contrary, our neighboring country which possesses a history of less than a hundred years is making attempts to attribute to itself the traditions, history, cultural heritage and achievements of the peoples bearing histories dating back to centuries.
This also refers to the policies Azerbaijan adopts and the measures it undertakes within international organizations. This is not the first time that Azerbaijan initiates “retaliatory” measures after the items presented by Armenia for inscription on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List are approved. Accordingly, we presented lavash and they suddenly “discovered” that lavash is their national bread and two years later submitted a nomination of their own. The same case was with the dance of Kochari. Generally speaking, in each element they are looking for their own “origins and identity” turning everything into a dispute.
The Armenian people have their thorough considerations, observations and historical facts in regard to the matter in question. We have no intention whatsoever to engage in discussions and professional debates over a process aimed at self-assertion by utilising the values of the neighboring peoples, which in its essence is neither a new, nor an effective one to follow.
Now the authorities of Baku are undertaking an unreasonable and absurd step in attempting to inscribe the traditions of preparing Tolma on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List, as an element belonging to “the entire Turkic world”. While not possessing any confidence in their own identity and relying on other nations, before submitting a nomination of an item to UNESCO one should not forget the other peoples that are bearers and practitioners of the given element. We would like to remind that the term “Turkic” refers to a huge ethno-linguistic family, which includes the Kazakhs, the Tatars, the Kyrgyz people, the Turks, the Turkmens, the Uzbeks, the Uyghurs and other peoples. Even if Tolma is a dish common with these peoples, we should not forget to mention its presence within the Arab world and the Balkan and Slavic peoples, and finally the Armenian traditions.
The Armenian people, possessing an ancient culture, a unique alphabet, the centuries-old epic poems, crosstones and the duduk inscribed on UNESCO Lists and, generally speaking- an enormous cultural heritage, cannot afford themselves to get engaged in the Azerbaijani-initiated debates concerning the dish of Tolma. Today our neighboring country is politicizing and making a subject of dispute almost every issue, not realizing that culture is generally originated and developed for the sake of civilization and peace, while peace is the most precious value of humankind.
Hasmik Poghosyan Minister of Culture of the Republic of Armenia