BY EYNULLA FATULLAYEV
It was a meeting of a master of power with a master of word. After overcoming hundreds of kilometers, one of the outstanding representatives of modern journalism, Vladimir Solovyov, whom even the leaders of self-sufficient states could not resist, the undisputed star of Russian television, a new extraordinary social phenomenon of Putin's era, was hastening to a meeting with the President of Azerbaijan. And he was amazed and overwhelmed by the charisma of personality, which brought new influences into the politics of the modern post-Soviet region.
Almost credo: the right of the enemy to make a mistake
Solovyov is discouraged and puzzled: "The meeting took place at 10:00, and he was already at work." Yes, Solovyov is amazed, for before him was a genuinely strong eastern ruler, but, as the journalist later admitted, "frank, friendly, and he looked much younger than his years."
Humanity and dignity are subtle distinctive features of the political portrait of President Ilham Aliyev. His credo is politics with a human face. Ilham Aliyev is one of the few politicians of our time, gifted to turn an enemy into a friend. And this is not a manifestation of a pragmatic paradigm or artificial utilitarianism. Ilham Aliyev has a sharp sense of justice. He allowed to leave the dungeons of the Gobustan prison the fierce enemies of his father, the patriarch of Azerbaijani politics, and gave the opportunity to return to the country to political emigrants, who had dedicated their lives to fighting the current authorities.
Ilham Aliyev is ready to give his enemy the right to make a mistake. But not a friend! Brutus for him will never become a Brother. And not because kings do not have brothers. But because he, like any clever and wise ruler, never forgives betrayal. An enemy or an opponent do not betray, only friends betray. Only close ones betray - thus had been claimed since the time of Ancient Rome.
Ilham Aliyev also has a natural gift to charm his interlocutors, conquer their hearts, conquer them with depth of his mind, breadth of thinking and height of intellect. In life, I met many political opponents of Ilham Aliyev, who left his office as convinced supporters. He can listen and listen. Listens for hours without interrupting the interlocutor. Without overwhelming him with his powerful, absolute and undivided power, a strong and unshakable will.
After all, such an assessment of Aliyev's personality is sometimes not found even in the mouths of his comrades-in-arms!
Reflecting on the metamorphosis of Solovyov, I involuntarily recall my conversation with the leader of the Karabakh separatists Arkady Gukasyan in 2005.
"After coming to power of Ilham Aliyev, I once asked Robert Kocharyan: 'Well, how is he? What do you think about him?' Kocharyan answered me: 'As if his father was sitting in front of me. I did not feel the difference at all. This is a great figure. He's a very clever man."
Pay attention to the assessment of the scale of President Ilham Aliyev's personality by TV host Solovyov, who sometimes even criticized official Baku: "I saw that Ilham Aliyev was brilliantly educated, intelligent, undoubtedly a politician, and another type of politician - a true statesman. We have diametrically opposite positions, but we must give him his due."
Almost the same phrase I heard from the EU Special Representative Peter Semneby, who visited me in the Baku dungeons.
And how many critics of Ilham Aliyev publicly renounced their "public and pejorative treatises," realizing the scale of the president's personality!
What a person is looking for is what a person finds
And Solovyov, despite all his talents, is engaged and bound by strong ties with the Yerevan establishment. And even he, who amazes millions of spectators with his fascinating TV art, was struck by the high political culture of the president, who very tactfully avoided a painful and already largely tough confrontation with the leaders of Armenia. And now, recall the dialogue of Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan with the famous British journalist Thomas de Waal and his aggressive assessments of official Baku.
Natural nobility, modest aristocracy, subtle perception, sharp political intuition, the highest intellect and world-knowledge, worldview and erudition inherent in Ilham Aliyev, delighted and enticed the master of the word. 55-year-old Solovyov is not just a journalist, he's an outstanding personality who has overcome a great life school. He taught at an American university, defended his thesis at the Institute of World Economy of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, successfully engaged in business (i.e. walked on the razor's edge!) in Yeltsin's Russia, conquered radio and television, wrote books. He is one of the leaders of the Russian Jewish Congress...
And this extraordinary in character and outstanding in terms of abilities famous journalist - after all, Solovyov manipulates the mindsets of tens of millions in the most enlightened state - in anticipation of meeting with the leader of one of the leading states of the region, still yearned to reach out to the truth. So, something inside jarred the master of the word. Remember the dictum of the author of the "Florentine Prince": Who does not know the ever-present discrepancy between what a person is looking for and what a person finds?
Sincerity and truth are the all-conquering weapons of President Ilham Aliyev. Sometimes Aliyev makes political decisions, or takes some steps that are difficult to explain even to the most dedicated to the secrets of his power analysts. This is political pragmatism. But time passes, perhaps years, and maybe a decade, and there comes a realization that the president was not just playing with fate. He never relies on the mercy of fate - and how many times did the president challenge the powerful of this world. And did not lose. The superstitious people explained this by providence - they say, Heydar Aliyev's son was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. And royalist realists - by faith in the extraordinary mind of their sovereign.
But how did it happen that an ardent critic of Azerbaijan, Vladimir Solovyov, suddenly decided to come to a country that had long chose as a target of uncompromising condemnation? This question does not give rest to the whole puzzled and surprised community. It excites social networks, Facebook and staging of public discussions.
Creator and art
As far as I know, Solovyov wrote a letter to Ambassador of Azerbaijan to Russia Polad Bulbuloglu with a request to interview Ilham Aliyev. This was reported to the president. One can only guess at the feelings of the president, who received a written petition from a television journalist, who literally anathematized his state and his country. But Aliyev did not fail to take advantage of the opportunity to meet Solovyov in his office, not doubting that he would leave Baku with a sense of delight and benevolence. And Solovyov, leaving the country, almost repeated the assessment of Xenia Sobchak, another bright TV presenter, calling Baku the incarnation, more precisely, the very work of contemporary architectural art.
Who is the creator and author of this art? He certainly knew that Ilham Aliyev was truly a master of modern political art and has left an indelible mark in the history of his country. The history of Baku has not seen such construction and creation since the time of the first oil boom in the epoch of tsarist Russia that fell into oblivion.
Ilham Aliyev did not give an interview to Vladimir Solovyov. He confined himself to a long, honest and frank conversation. Aliyev does not accept taboo topics - hushing up problems is not in his nature and is fraught with cataclysms. The master of power and the master of word spoke about everything: about Karabakh, the war with Armenia, about the problem of de-occupation of Karabakh lowlands and future fate of the upper Karabakh... The problem of blogger Lapshin and Marat Ueldanov was not ignored. They talked frankly, looking at the truth and each other in the eyes.
Aliyev did not talk about war, but about peace. About a thorny and long way to achieve the long-awaited peace.
Armenians do not come to Baku? Excuse me, they do come - dozens of journalists and public activists from Armenia knock on the doors of the Azerbaijani authorities. They seek salvation here from encroachments of provincial despotism. Why don't they open borders and admit all Armenians seeking to reach Azerbaijan?
Later, Solovyov himself will characterize the president's position: "The president explained that they don't have a war with all Armenians, but the situation is that it is necessary to ensure the safety of every person, who comes to Azerbaijan. Given the very tense relations, actually explosive, between Azerbaijan and Armenia, where is the guarantee that a person with an Armenian name comes to a hotel, registers documents and is not then stabbed? And the authorities will be to blame in such a case. Therefore, they need a whole security system for organizing visits.' Thus Solovyov quoted Ilham Aliyev a little freely.
But here, apparently, is some unfortunate oversight, but not a conceived subtext. This is clearly not President Aliyev's lexicon. He could not say - stab in a hotel! Ilham Aliyev often expressed this idea in his speeches, but somewhat in a different sense and context. Millions of Azerbaijanis have lost the most sacred and precious in a merciless and bloody multiethnic war, which still has no end - close ones, relatives, parents and children, finally, land, and after such a deep emotional shock these people can try to settle personal bills with visitors. This war, we repeat, is purely inter-ethnic and multi-ethnic in nature! Of course, the day will come, peace will come, borders will be opened, the peoples may not forget, but they will forgive and look forward to their future. That's how President Ilham Aliyev could say.
The president and the journalist spoke not only about multi-ethnic, but also inter-confessional, religious wars. According to Solovyov, Ilham Aliyev allegedly expressed a negative assessment of political Islam. Yes, the President of Azerbaijan could condemn radical Islamism in its often manifested militarized and violent form, but not political Islam.
Arguing about the political tolerance of Ilham Aliyev, Solovyov emphasized: "That is, everyone has his own tough position, diametrically opposed, but they do not cross the line of politeness and dignified behavior." Well, politeness and dignity will not allow Ilham Aliyev to question the right to life of political Islam as a form of expression of the will of millions in the world, representing government in the form of Islamic democracy and theocracy. Doesn't every people have a right to its own, original and unique way of historical development? How else could it be for the peoples, whose culture was formed on the basis of the Islamic system of values that for centuries has relied on the model of Islamic statehood as the supreme and unsurpassed form of a just and social state? Who will doubt the faith of another? Ilham Aliyev could not have condemned either political Islam, Orthodoxy, or even the Jewish ethnocracy...
Who does not remember?
However, undoubtedly, the war for Karabakh was the cornerstone of the conversation between the president and the journalist. After all, Solovyov practically established in the arena of his "duel" historical and ideological discussions, and for some reason the prerogative in this arena is given to Armenian experts as an obligatory tribute.
"Ilham Aliyev regretted that there were many Armenian speakers on the programs of Vladimir Solovyov and very few Azerbaijani ones," the TV host said after the meeting and explained this by the insignificant number of Azerbaijani or pro-Azerbaijani expert circles in Moscow. Strangely, however, why is it in Russia there was a hard-to-explain stereotypical image of an Azerbaijani from a Moscow counter or as a participant in trade-oligarchic street battles. In fact, the imposed stereotype is far from reality.
The shop in the Moscow market is identified not so much with the reputation of an Azerbaijani, as with the image of a passionate Caucasian workaholic. At the same time there are many Armenians in the same markets and among the artisans, who fled the harsh reality of the impoverished and marginalized country. Not to mention the fact that thousands of Azerbaijanis are multiplying the glory of Russian science and culture! Who does not remember in Moscow the great scientist-engineer, one of the leaders of Soviet cosmonautics Kerim Kerimov?
Or here is a fresh example - Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev appointed 37-year-old Azer Talibov as Russia's Deputy Minister of Economy! Is this not a vivid example of the dizzying success of an Azerbaijani in the Russian hierarchy? And how not to recall the outstanding Azerbaijani medical professor Fazil Gurbanov, the current head of the All-Russian Azerbaijani Congress? Is the role of Rafael Huseynov, the current secretary of the Russian Union of Journalists in the public and political life of Russia, saying nothing? And Azer Mursaliev, who heads one of Russia's leading media - the Kommersant newspaper, and popular TV host Irada Zeynalova? The greatness of Muslim Magomayev and Polad Bulbuloglu in the entire post-Soviet space cannot be overestimated. There is also a prominent Soviet diplomat, Ramiz Abutalibov, who in the Soviet era reached diplomatic heights in UNESCO and represented in this organization a great power? Now he belongs to the leadership of the Azerbaijani diaspora organization - the All-Russian Azerbaijani Congress.
Hundreds of Azerbaijanis, who have entered the Russian elite, glorify science, art and culture of that great country.
By the way, about the All-Russian Azerbaijani Congress case
For Ilham Aliyev's conversation with the Russian journalist took place soon after the active attack of a part of the Russian bureaucratic machine on the All-Russian Azerbaijani Congress. There was an unpleasant residue. And the news of the dangers standing before the organization established on the initiative of Vladimir Putin and Heydar Aliyev, caused a lot of negative emotions in Baku. How could you raise your hand at the brainchild of Heydar Aliyev? But it seems that the danger has passed: at the very last moment, the session of the Supreme Court of Russia on the case of the abolition of registration of the All-Russian Azerbaijani Congress was postponed. This reassured and largely inspired official Baku.
Nevertheless, in power circles, they still ask a fair and natural question: how does it happen, because diasporal organizations identical to ARAC, also created on the initiative of the Azerbaijani government, operate in all the capitals of the West! In these capitals, congresses of the Azerbaijani diaspora are held regularly. And what happens - in a friendly Russia they decided to abolish it. For what? Why? Who has encroached on it? ARAC throughout its history served a sacred goal - to strengthen the bridge of friendship and fraternity with Russia, didn't it? And why should it be abolished?
In none of the former Soviet republics, Russia's allies, Russian culture and the Russian language occupy such a significant place as in Baku and Azerbaijan.
Russian culture is part of Azerbaijani identity. And the Russian language is native to millions of Azerbaijanis. It is blasphemous even to think about the encroachment on the historical role of the Russian language in our country. And television journalist Solovyov was struck by this. Ilham Aliyev himself spoke in an exclusive, sonorous and vivid dialect of the Russian language.
Zhirinovsky - from Aliyev to Erdogan
Two years ago, the naturalness of using the Russian language in Baku captivated and puzzled another influential Russian statesman - Vladimir Zhirinovsky. The politician openly admitted that he had never seen such a picture in any of the countries that had allied ties with Russia. And he left the office of Ilham Aliyev as a great friend of Azerbaijan... Moreover, as the deputies of the Russian State Duma told me, it was at the request of Ilham Aliyev that Zhirinovsky was received by Turkish President Erdogan. And in the speeches of Vladimir Volfovich, who formerly defamed these two Turkic countries, aggressive rhetoric towards Baku and Ankara has noticeably dispersed.
As early as the spring of 2015, at the suggestion of the LDPR, I interviewed Zhirinovsky. Prior to our meeting, Vladimir Volfovich met with his constituents. With enormous interest, with bated breath, I observed the rhetorical art of the talented politician. After completing the speech, he began to answer the questions of the enthusiastic public - this politician is very popular in the current Russian society.
One of the questions concerned the "Armenian genocide" (April was approaching) and the strength of the Russian-Armenian alliance. Zhirinovsky, in his characteristic manner, missed the main point of the issue, saying that Armenians are flooding him with their literature, while Azerbaijan and Turkey are passive in propaganda of their truth. The first to open the window to the offices of politicians, stupefied by the "Armenian truth," was President Ilham Aliyev.
And was it worth it?
After the loud statement by Vladimir Solovyov, the eternal skeptics, ill-wishers and critics in Baku doubted and wondered whether it was worth meeting with a TV journalist, who was guarding the interests of the Karabakh separatists.
The best and impartial judge is the Armenian public opinion. In Yerevan, they hastened to brand Solovyov and even declare him a hidden agent of Azerbaijan. The well-known Armenian edition "lragir" hastened with loud words: "Solovyov, known for his harsh statements about Azerbaijan, is in reality... a secret agent of Baku. And he came to the capital of Azerbaijan to report on the work done... It is clear that the star of Russian propaganda will not ask for an apology for his position on "Artsakh." Otherwise, he will cease to be a means of influencing the souls and thoughts of Armenians. But he has an important mission - to legitimize the prospects of the Russian-Azerbaijani military-political deal. In comparison with this, his position on "Artsakh" is a trifle for Aliyev," the end of the quotation. No comment, as they say.
And Zhirinovsky got it too. In Armenia, hysteria arose over Zhirinovsky's appeal "about historical justice to Azerbaijan."
Following this publication, an article appeared in another popular Armenian media resource 1in.am. Judge for yourself what the Armenian nationalists write: "Formula of admiration for Aliyev by Solovyov. This, perhaps, would not interest anyone, but the problem is that, first of all, Solovyov is the heavy artillery of the official Russian propaganda, who actually expresses his admiration for Aliyev. And, secondly, Solovyov was considered, so to speak, one of the friends of Armenia, a kind of "indulgence" in a dangerous Russian policy towards Armenia, when Solovyov could be "presented" to the Armenian community displeased by this policy, and everybody changing their angry expression to dreamy, with pleasure would listen to his sweet words about Armenians, Armenia and other things. In other words, Solovyov is a reflection of the splendor and poverty of the Armenian identity, the state dignity, which is even more evident after his conversation with Aliyev and the eulogies addressed to the latter, which he voiced on the air of a Russian radio station."
And who, after these furious philippics in the Armenian media, will decide to doubt the filigree diplomacy and the foreign policy breakthrough of Ilham Aliyev!
We are talking about two venerable and influential representatives of the Russian political establishment. As the Armenian critic notes, two representatives of heavy artillery of official Russian propaganda after one (!!!) conversation with the President of Azerbaijan express their admiration for the Azerbaijani leader and stand up for historical justice for Azerbaijan.
Ilham Aliyev has put into the mouths of yesterday's enemies and opponents a call for justice for Azerbaijan. What else is the skill of a politician, if not the ability to return the master of word to truth and sincerity?