The XIV Ashgabat Forum of Creative and Scientific Intelligentsia of the CIS countries took place in the midst of the most beautiful time of the year in Turkmenistan - a fleeting but extremely bright and generous spring. The hospitality and cordiality of the host country were just as bright and genuine. The guests of the forum impressed everyone with their openness and willingness to hold a comprehensive dialogue. One could really sense a powerful impulse of positivity generated by all delegations that gathered at the generous festive Turkmen table. The high-level forum brought together more than two hundred delegates from the CIS countries, including prominent statesmen and public figures, scientists, writers, musicians and painters. President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov and President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin sent their welcome messages to the forum participants. This fact lent greater importance and political status to the event.
The forum was held under the theme "The Common Humanitarian Space of the CIS: Dialogue in the Sphere of Culture, Science and Education." This theme defined the general course and nature of discussions, including those relating to plans of cooperation in the light of modern realities and identification of priority areas and forms of joint work.
Speaking at the plenary session, Chairman of the CIS Executive Committee, CIS Executive Secretary Sergey Lebedev noted that year after year the forum steadily strengthens its role and authority as a key event in the humanitarian life of the CIS, while face-to-face contacts between the workers of science, art and education contribute to the development of the cultural dialogue. According to Sergey Lebedev, Ashgabat ensured every condition and excellent opportunities for holding a constructive and meaningful dialogue on key topics of the humanitarian agenda, which is clear evidence of Turkmenistan's desire to preserve and develop the common humanitarian space of the CIS. He noted that there are currently 10 active CIS bodies for sectoral cooperation, including the Interstate Fund for Humanitarian Cooperation that plays a great role. The practice of holding thematic years in the CIS, which has been in place for over twenty years now, proved to be efficient. For example, the year 2019 was held under the theme "Year of the Book". The year 2020 was proclaimed "Year of Victory in the Great Patriotic War." By the way, following the proposal by President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, the year 2021 will be held under the theme "Year of Architecture and Urban Planning."
Concluding his speech, Sergey Lebedev expressed confidence that owing to the traditionally open and trustful atmosphere prevailing in the forum the Ashgabat meeting would become a worthy contribution to the strengthening and development of humanitarian and cultural interaction in the CIS. He also noted that this dialogue produced many important and interesting joint projects that contribute to maintaining contacts and strengthening mutual understanding between people, mutual respect and friendship, preserving and passing the historic relations of our peoples and their ethnic and cultural diversity and original traditions to future generations.
In his speech, Chairman of the Board of the Interstate Fund for Humanitarian Cooperation Polad Bulbul-Ogly touched on the topic of youth policy and education. The CIS highest bodies adopted 35 documents on these issues, including the agreements on recognition of higher education diplomas, on advanced training of teaching staff, on giving the status of basic organizations of the CIS countries to 17 higher education establishments for training and advanced training as well as retraining of specialists tailored to the requirements of the CIS markets. Polad Bulbul-Ogly especially noted cooperation in the sphere of culture, citing the most important projects and events, international and national actions in this area: music, theater, film festivals, joint exhibitions and contests, workshops for artists, seminars and conferences.
According to the Head of the Fund, in the period from 2007 to 2018, the Interstate Fund for Humanitarian Cooperation facilitated the implementation of 735 multilateral projects that involved more than 500 thousand people from all CIS countries, Baltic States and Georgia. Eighty-four projects were planned for 2019. Each of them prioritized people, good deeds and new opportunities and produced positive energy that undoubtedly binds together hundreds of thousands of people and makes this world a better place to live. Polad Bulbul-Ogly thanked the entire team of the Fund, the participants of all previous and upcoming projects, the organizers of this forum and all those who spared no strength, knowledge and skills to create a peaceful humanitarian space for our countries.
In his turn, Special Representative of the Russian President for International Cultural Cooperation Mikhail Shvydkoy expressed his gratitude to President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov for his caring attitude towards the Forum of Creative and Scientific Intelligentsia of the CIS countries and for the great organization of work by the Government of Turkmenistan.
The ceremony of awarding winners of the Interstate Prize "Stars of the CIS" for their achievements in science and education, culture and art was the major highlight of the plenary session.
Fourteen nominees from nine countries contested the prize last year. The jury awarded prizes to eleven nominees. It was for the first time that Turkmenistan's representative, opera singer, People's Artist of Turkmenistan Atageldy Garyagdyev won this award.
Other winners of "Star of the CIS" award included conductor Rauf Abdullayev (Azerbaijan); painter Robert Elibekyan (Armenia); the team of authors of the Institute of Powder Metallurgy (Belarus) comprised of academician Pyotr Vityaz, doctor of technical sciences Alexander Ilyuschenko, candidate of physical and mathematical sciences Mikhail Andreyev; poet Yesengali Raushanov (Kazakhstan); writer Mar Baydzhiev (Kyrgyzstan); doctor Ion Ababiy (Moldova); President of the National Research Center "Kurchatov Institute" Mikhail Kovalchuk (Russia); doctor of chemical sciences Ulmas Mirsaidov (Tajikistan).
The plenary session was followed by the press briefing at the Mekan Palace as part of the XIV Forum of Creative and Scientific Intelligentsia of the CIS. It was attended by members of the Forum Presidium, winners of the Interstate Prize "Stars of the CIS" and representatives of the Turkmen and foreign mass media.
Answering questions from reporters, the briefing participants emphasized the importance of the humanitarian dimension as an integral factor of multi-vector cooperation in the CIS, strengthening the traditional bonds of friendship, mutual understanding and trust between the peoples of the CIS countries, preserving and promoting their historical and cultural heritage and common humanistic values.
In the afternoon, the International University for the Humanities and Development hosted a panel discussion on the topic "Turkmenistan is the Heart of the Great Silk Road" as part of the XIV Forum of Creative and Scientific Intelligentsia of the CIS. This panel brought together mostly representatives of the academic community from among the delegates of the forum. Eminent humanities scholars, including those specializing in philosophy, social sciences, history and oriental studies analyzed the evolution of the Great Silk Road from ancient times to the present day and its current transformation into a mega-corridor for the intensive two-way traffic of goods and technologies, ideas and people. Emphasis was placed on the need to popularize the Great Silk Road phenomenon as a factor of bringing together not only the economies of the countries of the Eurasian continent but also the peoples and cultures, as well as Turkmenistan's work in this regard and the initiatives put forward by the leader of the country.
A presentation of the cultural capital of the CIS in 2020 - the city of Shymkent (Republic of Kazakhstan) - was held at the same university. Governor of the city of Shymkent Gabidulla Abdrakhimov spoke about the program "City of Shymkent - the cultural capital of the CIS 2020". This city is now an important industrial hub, a metropolis, one of the three cities of Kazakhstan with the population exceeding one million people. Shymkent will be a great platform for cultural events throughout 2020. The city is being transformed at a fast pace: a new airport passenger terminal is being built, and, after putting it into operation, passenger traffic will increase tenfold. Together with the air harbor, the railway station with daily capacity of up to nine thousand passengers is also being modernized.
The city administration plans to erect a modern congress center, a shopping and entertainment complex with the water park "Happy Land" and modernize the central stadium. The old city with the remnants of an ancient fortress of the XIV century is being reconstructed. Landscaping will also cover the bank of the Koshkar-ata river. According to Gabidulla Abdrakhimov, visitors will be impressed with a series of striking events, including the main spring holiday of Navruz and the international festival "Tulip Way". This beautiful flower with the two thousand year old history came to Europe from Shymkent through Iran and Turkey.
On the second day, the forum worked in three thematic sections that discussed further cooperation in culture, science and education. The participants covered topics relating to the actualization of the material and spiritual heritage in the current context, establishment of multi-channel information links, exchanging art delegations and implementation of joint research projects.
For example, the thematic section "Culture of the CIS: Universal Language of the Dialogue" at the Turkmen State Institute of Culture looked at the tasks and strategies of humanitarian partnership, covering many areas from art, museum and library to publishing business.
The second thematic section "Education and Science in the CIS" took place at the Magtymguly Turkmen State University. It discussed the directions of the actual fundamental and applied research works, technological developments and innovations in the methodology of vocational training and pedagogical practice adopted by the higher education establishments of Turkmenistan and the CIS countries.
The dialogue of cultures is difficult to imagine without a literary dialogue. Given the fact that literary translation skills have largely remained in the Soviet past, the question is how to conduct it? This and many other problems, along with the prospects for development of modern literature, were discussed by writers, publishers, librarians in a separate panel discussion as part of the "Year of the Book in the CIS". The comprehensive discussions were moderated by Vladimir Tolstoy, cultural adviser to the President of the Russian Federation, and Bagdagul Samedova, Deputy Director of the State Library of Turkmenistan.
Alexey Varlamov, Rector of the Moscow Institute of Literature, raised a vital topic concerning training of specialists in literary translation:
"In the time of the USSR, our institute focused on education of poets, publicists and literary critics. Writers from all soviet republics studied there. There was a department of literary translation from the languages of the peoples of the USSR. That was the right approach, because the works by such authors as Vasil Bykov, Chingiz Aitmatov, Mustai Karim and others were made known to the world at large through translations into the Russian language. Unfortunately, these good traditions have been largely lost by now. Nevertheless, we have opened at the institute several groups of national translations into the Tatar, Bashkir, Buryat languages. We are thinking of opening the groups on the Yakut and Udmurt languages. It is extremely important for us to resume the literary dialogue, because today we know little about what is happening in Turkmen, Kazakh, and Ukrainian literature."
The audience listened with interest and leaned, sometimes with surprise, about the initiatives in different countries. According to publisher from Uzbekistan Mizrob Buronov, book publishers enjoy preferences in his country, namely tax benefits. A grandiose book project on translation of Russian classic works into the Uzbek language started there. Out of one hundred volumes, the first volume with translations of Pushkin's works has been already released. Other ambitious tasks are also being addressed, such as the publication of multivolume collections of world and national literature. In order to attract young people to reading, the contest "Young Reader" has been held for the second year in a row. Winners of the contest have been awarded very valuable prizes.
The round table participant expressed a number of recommendations, and the most relevant of them deserve mentioning. It was noted that it is important to publish translations of works by contemporary authors into the Russian language, similar to the multivolume collection "Classics of CIS Literature" that was released as part of the project of the Interstate Fund for Humanitarian Cooperation. A proposal was made to hold regular meetings of the CIS writers in the framework of the Forum of Creative and Scientific Intelligentsia of the CIS. As regards the library industry, it is important to connect national funds to a single network.
Vera Osoyanu, Deputy Director of the National Library of Moldova:
"Our country has developed its own practice of popularizing books and reading. The International Book Salon has been held for twenty-eight years now. Our library actively participates in the National Book and Reading Festival that has been held for the eighth consecutive year. In 2017, our parliament passed a new law instructing local administrations to ensure the supply of at least fifty copies of books to public libraries per year. There is a Strategy of Culture - 2020 that clearly defines the main vectors of development, and one of them is the preservation of the national cultural heritage. There is a state fund for book publishing for public libraries with the budget of some three hundred thousand US dollars a year. An electronic library is being developed. As of today, books considered a national treasure have been put into an electronic format."
Alexander Dudik, Director of the Belarusian Science Publishing House:
"Our publishing house represents the Academy of Sciences, so most of the works promote the scientific thought. Unfortunately, their release is limited to fifty - three hundred copies. We are currently working on two important projects. One of them is the five-volume collection "History of Belarusian Statehood". The first two volumes that we released caused a stir, so we had to print more copies. However, this book is not an indicator of an average publishing capacity. We can also publish fiction literature. I initiated publishing historical novels that relate to Belarus this way or another. We released one thousand copies of the novel about young Vitovt by Sergei Mintslov, which was first published at the beginning of the last century. The manuscript was adapted for the modern reader. Unfortunately, these are exceptions. We are naturally doing our best to use the digital format as much as possible, but book is dead without paper."
In the second half of the day, the State Library of Turkmenistan hosted the traditional action "Books as a Gift." As part of the action, the CIS Interstate Fund for Humanitarian Cooperation donated editions of the Russian classical and modern literature to the central library of the country.
Other events included master classes by cultural figures from different CIS countries - painters, sculptors, composers, conductors, theater actors - for students of high education establishments and pupils of special art schools of Ashgabat. Their master classes at the Turkmen State Institute of Culture, the State Academy of Arts and a special music boarding school at the Turkmen National Conservatory were held in the atmosphere of lively exchange of views.
At the closing ceremony of the XIV Forum of Creative and Scientific Intelligentsia of the CIS, the participants summed up the results of the two-day active work at various venues, in various formats, made recommendations for the further development of humanitarian cooperation in the CIS and reflected it all in the outcome document.
The outcome document calls on the CIS countries to support joint projects in the area of preservation of the cultural and natural heritage of the CIS countries with the view of developing contacts between specialists in history, art history, cultural studies, museum and archival work, restoration, as well as local history and preserving the historical and cultural landscape.
A concert by the CIS Youth Symphony Orchestra was a wonderful musical way to conclude the forum. A group of talented musicians based on the State Symphony Orchestra of Turkmenistan presented an impressive concert program that featured many beautiful compositions by Turkmen musicians and composers from the CIS countries.