In Web scribis
The journey to Kazakhstan
Literature, besides being an art form, also preserves cultural ideals, customs, and morals of nations. Literature is the detailed and nuanced window into another world. The Kazakh literature, which is rich in various novels, poems and other distinguished works, could be its great proof. However, I would like to introduce several novels, which, in my opinion, could be considered as a “window” to the history, culture and mentality of Kazakh people. As for the first book, I would like to suggest the historical novel trilogy – “The Nomads”, written by a talented Kazakh writer Ilyas Esenberlin.
The “Nomads” is the first epic novel about historical events in great Kazakh steps between XV-XIX centuries. The novel consists of three parts: “Almas Sword”, “Khan Kene”, and “Despair”. Before “Nomads” Kazakh literature did not have such a detailed historical novel about Kazakh destiny until colonization of Russian Empire. Because, it was banned, hence, any attempts of scholars to make a research or write about history of Kazakh khanate were a “right way” to jail. In addition, such works were destroyed. “The Nomads” was indeed published during Soviet Union (1978) time and was criticized for its author’s nationalistic idea. Thus, publishing of the book had been postponed for many years. Despite this, the novel was published finally, thus making this novel indeed valuable. Most important aspect in the work is the fact that this historical novel was against chauvinistic philosophy, which was stating that Nomads nation did not have any history. “The Nomads” proved a deep history of nomadic civilization, which rooted far more centuries and was the part of World history.
The novel is sub-divided into three parts: “Almas Sword”, “Despair”, and “Khan Kene”. The main idea of “Almas Sword” is to describe the process of the formation of Kazakh nation and the factors, which had a big impact on this process. Moreover, it illustrates a creation of the first Kazakh khanate (State). It was sacred and strategy important idea to unite all Kazakh tribes into one single state. For many centuries Kazakh tribes were the Nomads, who were spread all over the spacious Kazakh steppes. This novel reflects a struggle for the authority among some of the main historical figures in Kazakh history as Zhanibek, Kerey and Abilkhair khan. The fight for authority among different tribes led to the slowing development of the whole nation. “Despair” is about time when Kazakh khanate, according to some historical pressures, took a decision to be part of Russian Empire. For many years The Kazakh steppe was attacked from outside: south, north, east, and north. Therefore, vast majority of citizens experienced harassment, humiliation and suffering. Author analyzes all historical factors which influenced the Kazakh khanate to the take the decision of joining to Russian Empire. The third part of book which is called “Khan Kene” is about struggle warfare of last Khan (ruler) of Kazakh State for independence with autocracy. The most important thing that it was a bloody decade of unequal national independence struggle of the people in terms of total betrayal of his same tribe for short time benefits. “Divide and conquer” was the strategy which was successfully apply for Kazakh Steps during that time and struggle between tribes, reluctance to find the compromise was best opportunities for Empire.
The author could solve the riddle of Great Steps and write in chronological order the history of several centuries underlying the great persons of Kazakh nation. “The Nomads” is the opportunity for whole Kazakh nation to learn from the lessons of past. Through this historical events you can also know about mentality and character of Kazakh nation. The “Nomads” is the picture of ancient Kazakh citizens’ life, old traditions, concept, where Nomads have their own specific rules and laws. “The Nomads” is the key to better understanding of not only Kazakh khanate, but also of Eurasian history, evolution of humanity. This will introduce you with the life on Steppe, which was tragic, but, unique. The book of Ilyas Esenberlin, a thoughtful writer, who can freely “travel” through centuries, can introduce you to the new world and grab back for numerous centuries. By reading this book you will have an opportunity to get acknowledged with the traditional and national Kazakh values such as culture and tradition.
For the second book I will highly suggest the work of Magzhan Zhumabaev which called Guilt of Chulpan. Young couple married against the wishes of parents. Chulpan – the main character of the novel, a happy girl who consorted with her lover. She asked happiness and she did not want to something or someone interferes with their happiness. Not even children. Then, later Chulpan noticed that his husband’s love for children and saw how he refers to his nephews. She thought, even without discussing this problem with her husband that only a child can strengthen their love and understanding. She decided that her betrayal towards husband wll solve her problem. Later, whole village knew about her relation with other man. Her husband couldn’t sustain gossips and in another fight between them killed her. Couple did not openly discuss the problem and dependency to opinion of society made it impossible to solve problem. In this book, you can learn the psychology of the nation, the mentality, which is in many cases under pressure of society and highly depends to the opinion of the people around as relatives, friends. Book as well describes you about Islam in Kazakhstan which mixed with tradition and enough different from other Islamic countries.
As the second book I would like to suggest the “Book of words” of a great Kazakh poet, composer and philosopher-Abai Kunanbayev. Abai’s main contribution to Kazakh culture and folklore lies through his poetry works, which express great wisdom and grows out of Kazakh folk culture. Abai Kunanbaev’s works were influenced by his belief in human reason. He was attracted to Western Enlightenment thinking as well as to the Eastern world, and wove criticism of Kazakh culture into his works, most notably in his collection of poems called Qarasozder ( the Book of Words).
Despite the fact that many years have passed, several generations have changed since Abai times, “Book of Words” is actual today as never before, it is our reference point in life. This book includes different topics – Kazakh history, appreciation towards motherland, culture, people’s psychology and philosophy of life. In his Book of Words the poet expressed his reflections over a period of years, his continuous considerations and discoveries, anxiety and despair, sorrows and joy of revelations, anger and humility. The Book of Words is a philosophic treatise and collection of 45 story where he encourages his fellow Kazakhs to embrace education, literacy, and good moral character in order to escape poverty, enslavement and corruption. He criticized Kazakh mentality for false pride, disjunction for tribes and their behavior for being lazy. He analyzed main philosophy of nation and with his Book of words wanted to give new direction to the development in every aspect of our life.
His Book of Words is a deeply meaningful way to truth. The poet also tirelessly reminds that humans have the greatest value in the world, and that they should be beautiful and harmoniously perfect. The Book of Words will describe you Kazakh soul, philosophy and understanding of life and way of thinking. Despite criticizing Kazakh nation a lot in his works, Abai Kunanbayev was the big patriot of Kazakh nation who wanted development of nation through education and majority of his work was dedicated the this aim.
I hope this journey with books will be interesting for you and help you to discover Kazakhstan. All books available in Russian and English languages.
Elvin Gasimov, MA student of International Relations and Diplomacy
Reference: “M.A.Rasulzade’s role between Azerbaijan-Poland relations” by Nasiman Yaqublu; “Azerbaijan Foreign Policy (1918-1920)” by Nasib Nasibzade
While talking about various perspectives of Azerbaijan, it should be necessary to highlight historical backgrounds particularly cultural and literary relations between Azerbaijan and Poland throughout Azerbaijan Democratic Republic which was the first democratic and secular republic in Muslim world.
I’d like to deliver brief points due to the book entitled “M.A.Rasulzade’s role between Azerbaijan-Poland relations”. Initially, the book argues the close relationships between Azerbaijan and Poland from local level up to national level during 1918-1920 under the leadership of Mammad Amin Rasulzade who was an Azerbaijani statesman, public figure, and the first and only president of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic which might draw readers’ attention.
According to the book, close ties between nations of Azerbaijan and Poland shaped in the beginning of XIX-XX centuries. Apparently, a well known Azerbaijani writer, Ismail bay Gutgashinli made an enormous contribution in the formations of Azerbaijan-Poland relations. His named book “Şərq povestləri” (“East povests”) in french published in Warsaw is a serious resource for studying the history of relations between two states. However, Azerbaijani philosopher, playwright Mirza Fatali Akhundov serviced in the development of relationship between Azerbaijan and Poland. After acquaintance with a famous Polish pianist Anton de Kontski in 1876, Akhundov dedicated one of his poems which was called “Vanda” to Anton’s highly educated and polemical cultured daughter.
Azerbaijani prominent public figure, leader of National Revival Movement M.A.Rasulzade expressed three main reasons of Azerbaijan-Poland relations which were key concepts: “Belong to the family of the Caucasian peoples, the majority of the Turkish population in the country and oppression of nation under Russian imperialism”. Even in the creation of “Prometheus” which aims were to weaken the Russian Empire by supporting nationalist independence movements among the major non-Russian peoples that lived within the borders of Russia and the Soviet Union, M.A.Rasulzade’s role was mentioned in the book “Azerbaijani political emigration” („Azərbaycan siyasi mühacirəti”) by researcher Kh.Ibrahimli.
Polish people forced to stay in Azerbaijan for different reasons contributed an essential part in social and cultural life of our country. Therefore, these people took an active part not only the process of building a sovereign state, but also the establishment of our strong army. Interestingly, Maciej Sulkiewicz’s services were irreplaceable who displayed courage as Chief of General Staff of Azerbaijani Armed Forces in 1918-1920 as a lieutenant general. In accordance of Polish state archives, M.A.Rasulzade’s personal correspondences with Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Marshal Pilsudski were preserved. One of these letters argues the involvement of Azerbaijani military officers in the Polish army.
Despite of facts kept in archive, it obviously known that Azerbaijani even had relationships with Poland in official level at State Duma of Russia while this cooperation went on in “Federalist society” which was founded by representatives of other regions. Polish famous public figure Aleksander Lednicki took a seat next to Alimardan bay Topchubashov, speaker of the Parliament of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic at that presidium of the meeting.
In August, 1936, organizing the conference of Musavat Party in Warsaw by assent of Polish government was another proof of mutual relationships and understandings. Nevertheless, it was marked in one of M.A.Razulzade’s articles related Poland published in Berlin in November 20, 1933 that there was no spirit of revolt in national level as Polish people.
There is another interesting fact discussed in this book that authors of some fascinating architectures in Baku were the Poles. The Executive Power of Baku, the Institute of Manuscript, Felicity Palace, the building of the Presidium of the National Academy of Sciences are possible examples of this architecture regarding Azerbaijan-Polish relations.
To conclude, despite some facts, indicated book offers deeper insights into the process of emigrants’ role between two states due to Russian Imperialism as well as formation and actions of “Prometheus”, mutual exchange of military officers studying military techniques and possible opportunities presented by Poland to Azerbaijan during M.A.Rasulzade’s time, so the audience for this study could be those interested in Azerbaijan-Poland relations and looking for information about these two states in the framework of history.
Seeking the Sense of the Italian Nation in the XIX Century Literature
As everybody knows, even nowadays the sense of nationality in the Italian case is still far from being shaped compared to other examples such as the French or the British one; for this reason it is almost impossible to find in our literature a neat description of the characteristics of the Italian being. With the novel Cuore (English title: Heart) the writer Edmondo de Amicis tried to teach to children through characters from very different parts of Italy feelings like love for country or heroism with the evident goal of creating the future Italian society following the examples provided by XIX century Western Europe but considering the current situation it did not manage to get this goal completely.
Generally the unity of the nation in the Italian elite of the XIX century is more a condition in order to be free from a foreign dominion than as a desire of establishing a society with the other inhabitants of the peninsula. The emblematic Massimo D’Azeglio’s statement “Fatta l’Italia, facciamo gli italiani” (Italy [is] made, let’s make the Italians) shows how the consciousness of the Italian people about a common sense of nationality was extremelyy weak even among the main actors of the unification of the country. Also our national anthem, written by Goffredo Mameli in 1847, follows this line of thought: after revoking the glorious past of the Roman Empire, our anthem is a call to unity of the peoples of the peninsula in order to fight off the foreigners. The anthem stresses on the Austrian dominion in Northern Italy.
The most emblematic opera of the Italian literature of the XIX century is Alessandro Manzoni’s masterpiece I promessi sposi (English title: The Betrothed). Written before the unification of Italy, this is both a historical novel inspired by W. Scott’s Ivanhoe and a Bildungsroman. The story is set in the XVII century Northern Italy during the Spanish dominion but the parallel with Manzoni’s times is evident. The historical events such as the popular riots against the Spaniards or the plague interlace with the troubled love story between two peasants. It is hard to summarize the story because the evolution of all characters find its own space in the novel, but the following lines can be considered a good outline. Two thugs (Bravoes) impose on Father Abbondio, the priest of a small village on the Lake of Como, not to celebrate the marriage
between Renzo Tramaglino and Lucia Mondella because Don Rodrigo, the local squire with Spanish origines, is in love with her. Forced to leave the village, Lucia and her mother take refuge in a convent in Monza led by the controversial nun Gertrude, while Renzo goes to Milan in order to find a solution to their situation. Lucia is kidnapped from the convent by the Unnamed on request of Don Rodrigo but thanks to a crisis of conscience and the intervention of Cardinal Borromeo the Unnamed frees the girl. In the meantime Renzo arrives in Milan in the middle of the riots against the Spaniards that broke out because of the famine and, mistaken for one of the leaders, he is forced to flee to Bergamo. The plague breaks out and Renzo goes back to Milan looking for Lucia: he finds her in a lazaret nursing the people, including the dying Don Rodrigo. The representative of the foreign dominator and his allies are defeated and when the plague is over the two lovers can finally get married.
Unfortunately in the last decades a general attitude among the Italian people is the rejection of the unification. In both Northern and Southern Italy people started making consideration about a possible scenario if the unified country would not exist. Generally the unification of Italy is considered by the common people a synonym of developmental gap caused by the ruling class during the second half of the XIX century. Northern Italians considered the South as a ‚disease’ for the country and the cause of all economic problems, while Southern Italians feels themselves exploited by the North, that put an end on purpose to the development in the region.
Giving a look to the Italian literature, already in the XIX century it is common to find cases of rejection or mistrust in the unification of the country, especially among the writers of Southern Italy. One of them is Giovanni Verga , whose most important novel I Malavoglia (English title: The house by the medlar-tree) is the most relevant example of this Italian tendency that resists even today after 150 years. The novel tells the story of the Toscano family, said the Malavoglia (the Reluctant ones), that live in the small town of Acitrezza since several generations. The patriarchal family is composed at first by the grandfather Padron ‚ Ntoni, then by his son Bastianazzo and his wife Maruzza, said the Longa, and their children : ‚ Ntoni , Luca, Mena, Alessi and Lia. The only wealth of the family are the „house by the medlar tree” in which they live and a boat called ‚Provvidenza’ (providence), the only source of income. The misfortunes of the Malavoglia family begin with the departure of ‚Ntoni the firearms, which results in the lack of strong arms for the work on the ‚Provvidenza’: for the first time a member of the family leaves Sicily. In order to face the economic difficulties, Padron ‚ Ntoni decides to buy a credit load of lupins to be brought to Riposto. But due to a violent storm, the ‚Provvidenza’ shipwrecks, loses its load of lupins and Bastianazzo dies. The family is devastated by the pain but it does not give up and in order to pay the debts decides to work for Padron Cipolla, to sell the house by the medlar-tree , and finally the boat. Luca, who undertook military service after his brother , dies in the Battle of Lissa .’ Ntoni, after coming back home, starts frequenting bad company by smuggling and ends up in jail. Also the women can not escape the misfortunes of the families. Maruzza la Longa dies of cholera. Lia, overwhelmed by a scandal, flees home and ends up becoming a prostitute. Because of family circumstances Mena is forced to give up the marriage with his beloved ‚Compare’ Alfio. Finally the patriarch Padron ‚ Ntoni dies in a hospital thus far from its home. At the end of the novel Alessi redeems the house by the medlar- tree , but this gesture can not help the family because it is already destroyed.
I would like to conclude with the list in alphabetic order of the ten best novels of the Italian literature of XIX and XX centuries. When it is possible, in brackets I provide the title of the English translation.
Alessandro Manzoni – I promessi sposi (The Betrothed)
Edmondo De Amicis – Cuore (Heart)
Elsa Morante – La storia (History: a novel)
Gabriele D’Annunzio – Il piacere (The child of pleasure)
Giovanni Verga – I Malavoglia (The house by the medlar-tree)
Grazia Deledda (Nobel prize laureate)– Canne al vento
Italo Svevo – La coscienza di Zeno (Zeno’s conscience)
Luigi Pirandello (Nobel prize laureate) – Il fu Mattia Pascal (The late Mattia Pascal)
Tomasi di Lampedusa – Il Gattopardo (The leopard)
Umberto Eco – Il nome della rosa (The name of the rose)
Anna Valkova, 30.11.2013
Books, which will help to discover Russia
There is a plenty of books which could be considered as extremely significant for understanding russian history, mentality and the way how russians do perceive themselves and the world in general. Undoubtedly, the literature of the second half of the 19th century has always been considered as the basis for russian classical literature. Names of Tolstoy, Pushkin, Dostoevsky, Gogol, Lermontov etc are famous all over the world.
I would love to speak about the book of the author, whose name is famous in Russia, but not that much outside. “Oblomov” is one of the best known novel by writer Ivan Goncharov, book was first published in 1859. Oblomov is also the central character of the novel, often seen as the ultimate incarnation of the superfluous man, a symbolic character in 19th-century Russian literature. Oblomov is a young, generous nobleman who seems incapable of making important decisions or undertaking any significant actions. Throughout the novel he rarely leaves his room or bed and just manages to move from his bed to a chair in the first 50 pages. Oblomov expresses the spiritual deadness, which eventually led to physical death. Oblomov’s friend Shtolz with german origins on the contrary is very active and rational, he appreciates friendship with Oblomov though. One more protagonist hero is Olga Ilyinskaya, who felt in love with Oblomov but in the end has chosen Shtolz to be her husband. The plot is not difficult: Oblomov gets in love with Olga, but he is not decisive and Shtolz would marry her. The dominant part of the book consists of the hero’s thoughts, his fantasies, reflection. The main point is that Oblomov is extremely honest and kind person, he is deeply honourable, he does not accept the meaningless luxury life of nobles, he is “the last” from the russian gentry of the 19th century. Certainly, “Oblomov” is the life story of the protagonist , but the only way to understand the novel would be wrong. First of all, “Oblomov” is a social work, where the author sets the question about the direction of Russia’s development. Goncharov realizes that the patriarchal landlord Russia, which is slightly idealized by author, remains in the past with all the beautiful features of estate life: hospitality, selflessness, boldness, generosity, spiritual sensitivity, tolerance for others. Thus, if Oblomov is the old dying Russia, Shtolz, probably could represent the future of the state – new epoch – rational, pragmatic and selfish. Interestingly, the question remains – does Russia need this european fashioned future or not?
So, why is this book is important to understand Russia? In my opinion, this book is useful for those, who wants to explain the features of russian mentality. The constant dualism is expressed extremely precisely here – “wide russian soul” can’t coexist with the western rationality. And the problem is that the only who is suffering in the end – that soul. Oblomov is the person, which contains that peculiar spirituality, described by slavophills – highly educated modest honourable person with an absolute will of doing nothing to adapt to the historical reality. The concept is completely romantic. The lack of pragmatism, “traditional” laziness and blind hope for the future forces those people to die out.
Issues, raised in the book, are completely relevant for the modern russian society, as i see it. My patriotic feelings and my own life experience confirm the tension of the author – “russian soul” is that wide, such as actually the country geographically is. Nevertheless, this wideness is either an advantage or, on the contrary, the matter of all the troubles. Pure spirituality and fatalism are not enough to survive. However, to my mind, the question – to which extent “european” rationality is useful and applicable for the russian value matrix, would remain open for a while.
The next russian masterpiece i would like to reflect on is the roman of Mikhail Bulgakov “Master and Margarita”. This book was prohibited in the period of Soviet Union and was published only in 1966. The novel alternates between two settings. The first is 1930s Moscow, where the Patriarch Ponds is the site of the first appearance of Satan in the guise of „Professor” Voland, a mysterious gentleman „magician” of uncertain origin in a company of strange friends. The second setting is the Jerusalem of Pontius Pilate, described by Woland talking to Berlioz and later echoed in the pages of the Master’s novel. Major episodes in the first part of the novel include a satirical portrait of the Massolit and their Griboyedov house; Satan’s magic show at the Variety Theatre, satirizing the vanity, greed and gullibility of the new rich; and Woland and his retinue capturing the late Berlioz’s apartment for their own use. Part two of the novel introduces Margarita, the Master’s mistress, who refuses to despair of her lover or his work. She is invited to the Devil’s midnight ball, where Satan (Woland) offers her the chance to become a witch with supernatural powers. This coincides with the night of Good Friday since the Master’s novel also deals with this same spring full moon when Christ’s fate is sealed by Pontius Pilate and he is crucified in Jerusalem. All three events in the novel are linked by this.
In my opinion, this book is extremely important in order to understand the soviet reality. Bulgakov is considering the fundamental problems of human being in conditions of totalitarian political regime. In the novel Bulgakov describes 1930s in Soviet Union, when the state struggled with the church and people were prohibited to believe in god or devil. Therefore, people deprived of their faith, are pushed closer to evil. Some of them try to resist evil , such as the Master, one of the main heroes. Master wrote a novel which is not appreciated by regime. On the contrary, less talented authors create everyday books, which support the regime and get profit of it. Bulgakov arises the problem of creativity and personal freedom. He demonstrates very well the corruption, dominance of nomenclature and bureaucrats, arrests (people mysteriously disappear from their apartments), political repressions, fraud, chicanery. All these vices are turned into the ridiculous situations. The situation in the USSR is named by Bulgakov devilish and Woland is needed to emphasize this. If the God does not exist in this state to judge people then comes the devil, who does not seem to be absolutely an evil, because the borders of good and bed do not exist anymore in Moscow and all the state. Bulgakov describes an outstanding reality, where fundamental elements of peoples life are replaced by artificial ideology, plans state programs. This book is very different from all the russian literature. Mystical context creates an peculiar atmosphere – totalitarianism is an evil, not the Voland. Bulgakov looks deep inside the regime, what makes his work absolutely unforgettable.
Russian top “must read”
1. “War and Peace” by L. Tolstoy
2. “Evgeniy Onegin” by A. Pushkin
3. “Pyotr Pervy” by A. Tolstoy
4. “Crime and Punishment” by F. Dostoyevsky
5. “Dead Souls” by N. Gogol
6. “Doctor Zhivago” by B. Pasternak
7. “Heart of a dog” by M. Bulgakov
8. “We” by E. Zamyatin
9. “The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956” by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
10. Today I Wrote Nothing: The Selected Writings by Daniil Kharms
11. The Essential tales of Chekhov by A Chekhov
12. “Kolyma Tales” by V. Shalamov
13. “A hero of our Time” by M. Lermontov
Public diplomacy and soft power of culture
• Justinas Marcinkevičius drama “Mažvydas” (1978),
• Simonas Daukantas „The Character of the ancient Highlanders and Samogitians“ (1845)
Justinas Marcinkevičius (1930-2011) – it is Lithuanian writer, poet, playwright and translator. Distinctively continuing Lithuanian neo-romantic lyric tradition. The basic Marcinkevičius creative themes are Lithuania, history which presents nature and culture, a man in the homeland and the world, human existential problems: happiness, suffering, loyalty, duty and honesty. The most important source of national identity Lithuanian poet was a rural agrarian culture. The author books show a lot of Lithuanian rural nature – fields, meadows, rivers, lakes – feeling.
His historical dramas trilogy „Mindaugas”, „Mažvydas” and “the Cathedral”, which is perceived painfully Lithuanian state formation and consolidation phase. This trilogy strengthened nationalism in Soviet times, aroused interest in the language and history.
The poetic drama “Mažvydas” – from dramatic trilogy (“Mindaugas”, “Mažvydas”, “the Cathedral”), is the second part. The main actor of this drama – Martinas Mažvydas, who wrote the first Lithuanian book in 1547. This drama was written to mention of the first Lithuanian book “Catechism” 450 annual anniversaries.
The drama is set in the sixteenth century, when the Lithuanian statehood was threatened on the one hand the increasing spread of Russia, on the other – wishing to connect Poland. At that time the Lithuanian language did not have a significant role in society, especially nobility. The poet’s creations inspired, activated Lithuanian national consciousness and self-esteem reminded the historic Lithuanian state, raised the nation’s integrity issues.
Why this book is so important for Lithuania, because core values, which are based on “Mažvydas” is nationhood, patriotism, nationalism, fostering native language and human freedom. Mažvydas take particular care to bring to the mind of the people, that they might not indifferent to the nation, the lithuanian language and the past.
Simonas Daukantas (1793 – 1864) – the first professional Lithuanian historian, who wrote the first Lithuanian history books. He also published several books on Lithuanian and Samogitian folklore, and wrote a Polish-Lithuanian dictionary.
The most important historical work – „The Character of the ancient Highlanders and Samogitians“- is the first Lithuanian cultural history, which was published in 1845. It is one of the four historiographical works. S. Daukantas was the first who used the modern concept of Highlanders in this paper. Before Lithuania by the cultural imagination in habited by Lithuanians and Lowlanders. This book are based on the chronological sequence of events and synthetically, comprehensive overview of the ancient Lithuanian life.
Why this book is so important for Lithuanian history, because author tried to portray the Lithuanian national character, describe ancient Lithuanian material and spiritual life, social system. Synthesized picture began S.Daukantas material not only from written sources, but also from the Lithuanian peasant traditions and folklore retrospectively imagined the distant past. Tried to describe free from exploitation in the existence of Lithuania in the past. Ancient Lithuanian depicted life in the greatest contrast from serfdom and tsarist despotism. Ancient Lithuanian S.Daukantas portrayed his persistent social and political freedom activist.
S. Daukantas began to construct Lithuanian identity. The author’s one of the most important tasks was to search for sources of Lithuanian nation’s history, to explore and to write books for the people, to educate and raise their self-esteem, their perception of value (Linas Kojala).
Both authors J. Marcinkevičius and S. Daukantas are very important for Lithuanian history, because both of them represent an important historical dates. The first book which was written to mention of the first Lithuanian book „The Catechism” and the second book, which is the first Lithuanian history written in lithuanian language. These literature creations help to better understand Lithuanian nation, because the idea that “literature is a significant means by which we disclose and construct our understandings of the world” (Leggo, 2001, p. 14).
The two books are important for Lithuanian nation, because that strengthens national identity, patriotism, nationalism and to waken interest in our language and history. It also strengthens the native language fostering also activates Lithuanian ethnic consciousness and self-esteem. From these historical books others nations can easily understand Lithuanian national identity, because “if you want to better understand the cultural identity in a given country it is worth looking at the historical books“(Anderson Benedic).
And finally, I would like to finish my essay with these words: „Books are every country’s weapon, without which the country is weak“(Julija Fullerton).
VDU, PMDF, 2 year of master degree
Student Name : Gibaek Lee
1. The conflicts and confrontations in Northeast Asia(2008) by 김영수(Kim Young-su).
As an exchange student from South Korea studying in the faculty of political science here, I feel studying political science in Europe has substantial advantages compared to studying in Korea particularly when it comes to International Relations, Regional Studies and Diplomacy. Europe is a huge and complex region putting so many states internal regions together like Baltic region, Scandinavian region, etc. Along with them, there are great amount of stories and histories. The very interesting point for me is that every friend from many different countries in Europe has struggled to set a sense and pride of their national history and identity, but at the same time they have something in common. I have met many friends from various parts of Europe like German, French, Italian, Polish, Croatian, Hungarian, Lithuanian friends and still more, and nobody here has willingness to deny that he or she is a European regardless of their nationalities. As I feel, all European people have a general and strong sense of regional identity so called European identity, and the identity is the foundation of all views, thoughts and ways of thinking of them.
In contrary, Koreans students have totally different situation in terms of studying those subjects like International Relations, Regional Studies and Diplomacy. We cannot feel the concept of International Relations and Regional Studies as a practical and actual concept. These words are just the theories living in textbooks which are distant from our real life, not actually working words unlike European students feel them. Based on their circumstances, those are just a part of theoretical political science which is not able to provide fun for studying. The cases of Chinese and Japanese are not so different from the Koreans.
The reason of this phenomenon is simple; it is because each country in Northeast Asia does have their own strong national identity without regional identity. They do not perceive themselves as a part of Northeast Asian region but perceive them just as themselves. There is no ‘we’ feeling among states actors and individuals. That is why we feel distance from those concepts. Basically it is because of historical stories and national hostility originated from history.
I would say more specifically that the history of Japanese militarism and the problem of territorial disputes which is reminiscent of a spider web tangled in a very complicated way and influence of them are of critical importance to the dysfunction. Territorial dispute in Northeast Asia is one of major factors generating serious dysfunction among involved states. This book deals with the conflicting histories and territorial disputes in Northeast Asian region and how crucial this problem is influencing the regionalism of the region. To understand Korean nationality we must understand the historical background with Japan and China.
2. Rainy Season (1973) by 윤흥길(Yoon Heung-Kil)
The second important thing that you must know to understand Korea is the Korean War. It was the tragedy of fratricidal war in 1950 which originated current North and South division of Korea. Mainly because of ideological confrontation, Korean War is the direct cause of so many conflicts and griefs by the division. This short novel well shows the sorrow of the Korean race through the pictures of rural area right after the division.
-Frantisek Hecko, Cervene Vino, 1948.
Majority of the most famous Slovak authors tend to focus on the realistic reflection of the nation by rather critical image of the Slovak countryside and uneasy fate of the ordinary Slovak folk. One of these authors is Frantisek Hecko (1905-1960), an important figure of the Slovak literature, who was born in a small village himself and thus in his works he often derived themes typical for the Slovak countryside environment. Hence, in his novels Hecko provides rather realistic yet gentle illustrations of the Slovak nation and culture, enmeshed with lyrical language and focus on traditions and positive features of the Slovak folk despite the difficult times they lived in. Hecko’s ‘Cervene Vino’ (The Red Wine) is perhaps one of the most famous Slovak novels and it was also translated into several foreign languages. Initially, it was supposed to be only a short story written for a radio broadcast but in the end Hecko spent more than five years writing this generational novel consisting of three indisseverable parts. Later on, in the seventies, it became a blueprint for a successful three-part TV film.
The novel portrayals the fate of three generations of the Habdza family over several decades and thus it maps a very extensive period of the history of Slovakia. It is set during the first quarter of the 20th century and displays the Slovak realities as a part of Austro-Hungarian Empire, during the World War I and ultimately in the independent Czechoslovak state . The story takes place in a small vineyard village in the western part of Slovakia and the rural environment is a central part of the novel, therefore, it realistically describes the social transformations of the Slovak countryside at the beginning of the 20th century. Hence, it refers to social changes that incite the change in people, their behavior, opinions or values. The author is very familiar with this environment since he grew up in a very similar surroundings and his own family served as a model for the destinies of the people described in the novel. For that reason, Hecko realistically and accurately introduces the typical village environment that is still closely bound with traditional forms of life but also deeply socially divided. Class plays an important role in this story as Hecko puts into contrast the village bourgeoisie and greedy misers with the moral hardworking and honest folk.
The author puts a special focus on the different generations and the differences in their behavior and their attitudes towards the others or towards some particular problems. A particular attention is put on the oldest generation of the Habdza family that is, in contrast to the younger generations, portrayed as very traditional, patriarchic and protecting the old rules and values of the family. Apart from the cultural traditions the novel depicts the everyday realties of the typical Slovak countryside- love, hate, revenge, pride, money, alcohol, religion etc. The novel provides the reader with accurate picture of the lives of Slovak farmers and vine-dressers and all the economic and social problems they had to face. Therefore, the main idea of the story is that the strength of a simple hart of a good and honest man is infinite and embodies incredible abilities that are only discovered during the most critical situations in life. The hardworking nature of the Slovak folk was summarized by the author in a simple way- life is a fulfillment and the fulfillment of life is work even if it is often to the point of complete exhaustion.
In addition to that, the author is often using a simple colloquial language with occasional expressions from the western dialect but the story is also enriched by expert terminology and many traditional proverbs and saying which provide a reader with a special insight into the Slovak culture, customs and traditions.
Furthermore, the novel quite accurately describes important historical as well as political milestones in the lives of the ordinary Slovaks. In the first part of the novel, Hecko describes the difficult times of the World War I when the village was left in the hands of women while men were called to arms. The turbulent times after the war are described predominantly in the second part of the novel where the author focuses on the painful recovery of the village and concepts such as hunger, diseases, lack of resources, hard work but also infidelity during the war are central themes of this part of the story. Subsequently, the novel also deliberates on the political realities of the independent Czechoslovak state when the third part of the novel reflects the local parties’ formation, elections, machinations, corruption and betrayal. Apart from that, reader can come across some important social realities such as ‘magyarization’ of the Slovak nation during the times of the Austro-Hungarian Empire but also publication of one of the first Slovak newspapers ‘Pravda’ that is still published today.
In summary the novel ‘Cervene vino’ provides rather realistic reflection of the historical developments of Slovakia reduced to an image of the developments in a small village. Despite of that, the author provides rather convincing image of the Slovak culture as he tries to balance both vices and virtues of the character of the ordinary Slovak folk. Moreover, the novel unveils numerous customs and traditions typical for the Slovak nation as well as the beauty of the Slovak language and songs.
-Dominik Tatarka, Demon suhlasu, 1963.
The end of the Second World War created some kind of a vacuum in the Slovak literature which was filled only after the full establishment of communism in Czechoslovakia. Nevertheless, that included numerous prohibitions restraining the authors to write freely and the literature has been relegated to a mere servant of politics. It assisted in collectivization, revelation of the class enemies, support for ideological struggle and it aided the enthusiasm-building for fight against imperialism. State publishers, book trade and writers union served as the main instruments of the central control. The writes who refused to follow the lines of the socialist realism were gradually purposely silenced, the noncommunist newspapers and magazines were banned and private publishers were closed down from one day to another. The alternative production was predominantly written in exile with only a very few exceptions of the samizdat literature secretly written and circulated in then Czechoslovakia. The Slovak samizdat was established as a firm defense against the communist regime, in order to preserve the freedom of expression and advert to the untruths declared by the official party’s ideology.
Foremost among many, the most influential were the works of Dominik Tatarka (1913-1989) who tirelessly fought against the suppression of the fundamental rights and freedoms of the Slovak folk. He studied in Sorbonne in Paris which provided him with important insights into the western European philosophies and literature. Therefore, Tatarka unambiguously expressed his avowal to the revolutionary literature and appraised the communist regime as a failure of individuals. The most radical of his works is perhaps a grotesque story ‘Demon suhlasu’ (Demon of content) where Tatarka describes the painful period of normalization under the communist leadership in Czechoslovakia. In his work Tatarka reveals the violent suppression of democracy and subsequent artificial consolidation of the communist authorities and power.
This satiric pamphlet portrayals the deformations, errors and omissions of the personality cult and it is particularly focused on the Writers Union and those critics and authors who became obedient servants of the regime. The story is reproduced by one of the writers who died and subsequently rose form the dead in order to reveal the truth about his life. The honest confession maps the struggles of ambivalent conscience of a person with a clear mind and views but initially adjusted to the public hypocrisy and serving the regime and only later realizing his mistakes and his subsequent decision to tell the truth. The story exposes the sanctimony of the other writers taking part in the congress held in Prague where all the participants blindly agreed with the ideas of the manipulative regime despite the fact that just a day before, in private, they all expressed a severe discontent with those very same thoughts.
The story ponders on the freedom of expression and character of individuals who were stringent by the demon of content. Hence, the title ‘Demon suhlasu’ symbolizes the implicit agreement of public with the official ideology where no one dared to tell the truth or to express their own opinion and thus is appeared that everyone agreed with everything. The servile ‘nodding’ of the Slovak folk Tatarka critically disapproves in a passage where he describes the nation as solely coinciding with whoever exercises the power, moreover, helpless of any kind of resistance or action. He claims that Slovaks, once again, easily disposed of the responsibility of being a nation. For that reason, the main subject of the book is the realistic portrayal of people as mere figures of the regime without any opinion, obediently doing everything in line with the orders from above, for fear of the persecutions of the omnipotent police.
The story is full of irony, satire and deadpan humor and wittily describes the painful realties of a republic that lost its sovereignty when the Soviet Union trampled the basic principles and values of democratic society. The very end of the book is dedicated to a courageous critique of the leadership itself, where Tatarka describes the leader “Figur” who embodies a despotic, infallible and ingenious ruler from the times of personality cult, compulsively craving for power and therefore surrounded by masses of disciplined and obedient figures, flatterers and dignitaries. ‘Demon suhlasu’ thus represents an extremely critical picture of an extensive period of the history of Slovakia as a part of the postwar Czechoslovak Republic under the communist rule.
The required list of 10 more books I find important for the understanding of the Slovak history and culture:
-Marie Vrabcova,Vyznanie- Robert Bezak, 2013.
-Jan Comaj, Slovenske bludy a bludiska, 2012.
-Juraj Bindzar, Bez Duhy-Plebejsky roman, 2011.
-Gustav Murin, Mafia na Slovensku, 2009.
-Frantisek Svantner, Zivot bez konca, 1956.
-Dominik Tatarka, Farska Republika, 1948.
-Elena Marothy-Soltesova, Moje deti, 1923.
-Bozena Slancikova-Timarava, Tapakovci, 1914.
-Pavol Dobsinky, Prostonarodne Slovenske povesti, 1880-1883.
-Jan Botto, Smrt Janosikova, 1862.
The most important pieces of literature for telling the story of Lithuania
The task to choose two books, which may represent Lithuania and may tell a story for others about Lithuania, was very complicated for several reasons. First of all, the story about my country should be understandable for others. Moreover, it should not be biased or subjective. And the biggest problem is that the history is interpreted in many ways. For Lithuanians there are two the most important poets Maironis and Justinas Marcinkevičius. Most of Lithuanian students in schools recite the poetry of these two poets. “Maironis” was the poet’s pen name, while his real name was Jonas Mačiulis. He lived from 1862 to 1932. J. Marcinkevičius lived from 1930 till 2011. Maironis was very important figure during the first independence of Lithuania, while J. Marcinkevičius has contributed for regaining independence in 1990.
Maironis wrote lyric, narrative and dramatic poetry, but his lyric poems captured the hearts and minds of the people, making him the most loved Lithuanian poet of all time. Maironis’s poems celebrating nature and love of homeland would now be classed as romantic. He was convinced that once Lithuania awakened to its national identity and energized to fight for freedom, nothing could stop it. When Maironis died in 1932 at the age of seventy, Lithuania mourned its national poet. He was entombed in the wall of Kaunas Cathedral with this inscription below his bas-relief portrait: ‚The great poet of Lithuania’s rebirth.” When the winds of change began to blow in Lithuania in 1987, the first sparks of rebirth were kindled by Maironis. 1987 marked the 125th anniversary of his birth. In Kaunas a crowd of some 7,000 people gathered at Maironis’s tomb on his birthday, October 21st, and sang „Lietuva brangi“ (Dear Lithuania). This was the beginning of the freedom movement that would accelerate into the dash for independence in 1990.
The spirit and ideals of Lithuania rising to its independence early this century were beautifully expressed in his collection of lyrics „Pavasario Balsai” (Voices of Spring), and longer poems „Jaunoji Lietuva” (Young Lithuania). By speaking of Lithuania’s natural beauty, recalling the great and ancient past and recounting the glorious deeds of the ancestors of the Lithuanians he inspired all with the love of their country, its language, and its people. There are a lot of poems of Maironis that others should read if they want to know the story of Lithuania. And this story is understandable for everyone, because it speaks about a nation, patriotism and love to homeland.
Another one writer is J. Marcinkevičius who was a poet, playwright, prose writer and translator. He is also perceived as a nation‘s poet. Throught his poetry he tried to revive and defend national feelings of Lithuanians. The main topics of his poetry are Lithuania, its history, the importance of homeland and etc. His dramatic trilogy was written over nearly ten years. „Mindaugas“, „The Cathedral“ and „Mažvydas“ are historical dramas that can be referred as a tragedy. They accomplished an important historical role in the restoration of Lithuanian independence. These dramas also have become symbols of the rebirth of the Lithuanian nation.
This trilogy is telling a story about the creation of the most important values for the state of Lithuania. First part of trilogy tells a story about Lithuanian‘s king Mindaugas and his choice to Christianise Lithuania. The second part tells a story about Mažvydas and first book in Lithuanian language „Katekizmas“. And in the third part of trilogy Marcinkevičius tells a story about the formation of Lithuanian cultural development. This trilogy is worth to read in order to know the story of Lithuania.
I have chosen these pieces of literature to present the story of my country. The poems of Maironis and the trilogy of J. Marcinkevičius are very important in Lithuanians’ mind. This literature contributed to the creation of national feelings. This story should be understandable because every nation has a story about its creation which is very similar.
Two Books from LITHUANIA You Would Never Forget
The options for the given task – “to choose two books, that I consider of the top importance for everyone who seeks to understand what the Lithuanian nation’s identity and nature was influenced by” – raised no doubts for me at once. Those two books are the ones which I would suggest to read for everyone. For those, but not only, who are being inspired by the literature peaces on historical motives. For those, who wants to know the circumstances that in some way influenced the modern Lithuanian nation’s traits. Even for those, who loves the top-level prose and are looking for a good literature in order to have a possibility to escape from the rush and stresses of today. The two books I propose to you have been written in two different millenniums, although they contribute only a little more than a half of a century. Furthermore, those books have been written by the authors, living in two entirely different worlds as well as while one of them have been personally involved in the events described in the book, the other one took the narrator’s responsibility of showing the hidden side of the history, never so highly escalated as the first one, telling the story on the basis of the memories of survivors.
If you are already looking with interest and wonder which books I am writing about here, it is the right time to reveal. The first of them is the fictional memoir book of Balys Sruoga,. Actually, the book I propose was the best book that this poet, dramatist and critic has ever written – the book called “The Forest of Gods”. This novel is often described as one of the key peaks in the context of the most important Lithuanian literature. Not in vain, indeed. “The Forest of Gods” tells us the story about the daily life of camp resident or about the life that is constantly closer to death than life. Simply speaking, the author, in the letters of a book speaks about the true reality occurred in the history as well as about himself exiled to the concentration camp of Stutthof, which was caused by the practice, implemented by Nazi, during their regime. The intelligent reader might ask: “But why should I read this book if there are so many similar themed books I have already read before?”. Without disclosing the content of the book, the exclusivity of this novel reveals almost at once you open it. The novel is intimidating and shocking, but at the same time it charms and even makes you laugh. Where have you seen the following extremes, describing the horrible stains of the history? The irony and derision are being used masterfully – it definitely helps to highlight the horror of cruelty and wanton killings. Talking about this book in the context of Lithuanian mentality and important aspects playing role in it, there might be listed at least several aspects, but in short, one of the examples could be that “The Forest of Gods” shows us the role of Lithuanian intellectuals and intelligentsia. The importance of it can be seen in the book while constructing the nation’s consciousness, helping to distinguishes ‘us’ and ‘them’, and to impose the real changes in the nation’s attitude towards the politics of ‘others’ held in Lithuania. Eloquent quote of the SS commander, written in the book, “the freedom for you is taken away for a long time (…) Lithuanian intelligentsia goes before us – Lithuanian intelligentsia must be destroyed”.
The second book I strongly recommend you to read is a book written in 2012 by Ruta Sepetys, the author of Lithuanian origin, the citizen of USA. This book – “Between the Shades of Gray” is an extraordinary journey to the period of the painful experiences for Lithuanian people, about the years of exile to Siberia. The story line goes through the life of a teenage girl Lina, when she, her mother and a little brother are being arrested by the Soviet secret police and exiled to the Siberia, while her father dispatched to die in prison. The promise that she gives herself in case she remains alive is to give a kind of remembrance for the crushed destinies made by the exile. Lina becomes implementing her promise, while drawing and describing the throes of the banished ones.
The author, while writing this story, had done a lot of research: she visited and drew the real facts, perceptions and vision of the matter from the survivals of the exiled Lithuanians, their family members, as well as she spend her time discussing those issues with the historians and parliamentarians of Lithuania. This book tells us the story of a tremendous suffering as well as imperishable hope. It also shows the capacity of love and to teach love, which in Lithuanian nation’s case is best seen in the context of human as well as national hardships. As it was said in the memoirs of survivors, when asked about the reasons of oppressing the people the way they did the guard noted: “we don’t need your death, we need your pain and suffering”. The book “Between the Shades of Grey”, in the context of Lithuanian nation’s identity and mentality, reveals the strength of the nation even in those difficult historical stages (by the way, repeated even several times over the Lithuanian history), when the repressors are doing everything in order to assimilate and enslave Lithuanian nation.
Summing up the main idea of the two books proposed for every foreigner to read, there could be said that each of the books in a bit different way reveals the features of the key importance for Lithuanian mentality: the importance of freedom and identity, protection of our individuality, fostering our language and culture, resisting any kind of oppression. All the said before can be confirmed with the analysis of historical path of Lithuania. Many times different kinds of ‘them’ were trying to destroy us. ‘They’ failed. Obviously not accidentally.
Balys Sruoga “The Forest of Gods” (1945), available in English, French, German, Russian and several other lenguages.
Ruta Sepetys “Between the Shades of Gray” (2012), available in more than 27 languages.
Juozas Lukša Daumantas (1921 – 1951) “The Partisans” (Fighters for freedom)
This is a book about Lithuanian armed resistance movement against the Soviet occupation regime during the period of 1945 – 1953. Memoirs, written by partisans movement participants and Freedom fighters of Lithuania occupies an important place in post-war period Lithuania history.
Author memoirs are special in several aspects. During the resistance movement, he kept in touch with abroad, also he was a leader of one resistance group (“Tauras” command). Therefore, he was a direct participant of the events, transmitting partisans sentiments and expectations, so revealed in his book not only his, but also many other partisans thinking.
This book gives very clear picture of systematic terror during the period of 1945-1953, which was carried in occupied Lithuania by Soviets. Author is telling a story about soviet’s efforts to destroy the pre-existing social structures and break down resistance by forcing them to live under the Soviet order. In general, such phenomenon as a partisans war, appeared in the beginning of nineteenth century and has been linked to the social, economic and political regime changes, new ideas and new ethnic – political identity formation. Ideas that have led to emergence of a partisans war, evolved during the entire nineteenth and the beginning of twentieth centuries. Lithuanian partisans war was not localized or unique event, but the component of complex culture, mentality, political and social process. Lithuanian partisans openly declared to be fighting for democracy and social justice in Lithuania.
Author is telling the story about crucial activities in Lithuania of formed Soviet’s local government apparatus like NKVD and NKGB. In his book, he conveys the society fear of being prosecuted, deported, tortured, or executed at the hands of the NKVD. In order to avoid the coercive mobilization to Red Army, mens went to fight in the woods. Author depicts a strong sense of partisans desire for independence and an already ingrained hatred towards the Russians from the prior Tsarist and earlier Soviet occupations. This book indicates lithuanians resistance efforts, inspired by a full spectrum of motives—national pride, self-preservation, avoidance of Red Army conscription. Therefore, this book is a good explanation of one Lithuania mentality feature: repressions of the occupation, installed into our society the “hostage” mentality, which has remained until nowdays. It can unfold also the Lithuania foreign policy mode (the roots of the specific, fear-hatred based relations with Russia or Lithuania aspiration to be the part of Western Europe).
This book should be read by both eastern and westerns Europeans. The story of partisans resistance, itself destroyed the myth which was emitted by Soviets propaganda, that Lithuania voluntarily joined Soviet Union and redeemed Lithuanian government military inactivity in 1940.
Balys sruoga (1896 – 1947) “The shade of a Giant”
“The shade of a Giant” – it is a historical and poetical drama, based on historical facts of The Grand Duchy of Lithuania. In this chronicle, the personality of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania’s duke Vytautas is brought under the greatness and book firstly represent his importance to the history of Lithuania. In this drama, Vytautas is portrayed as a giant in whose shadow, the complicated joint Lithuanian – Polish political life in the Union of Lublin is developing. (Due to the failure of the wars with the Russian state, the fear of its continuous strengthening and numerous harassment of Tartars, after the union of Lublin in 1569, the Kingdom of Poland and The Grand Duchy of Lithuania created single state, – the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth).
The book reflects Vytautas frustration and dissatisfaction about this union and highlights his aspirations and ambitions to regain The Grand Duchy of Lithuania independence, to unite it and to declare himself as the King of Lithuania. Author is telling the story about the Lithuanian – Polish conflicts and intrigues over the crown and wants to exalt the power of Grand Duchy of Lithuania before the union of Lublin treaty.
It is important to note that telling the stories about Vytautas was an important factor for the national rebirth of Lithuania in the 19th century. Lithuanian state was ideologically associated with the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. During the national movement of Lithuania, the idea was to create national culture, which is not lower than neighboring countries cultures, and thus protect their independence. It was thought, that namely the union of Lublin, impeded Lithuanian national consciousness awakening and growth. The memorization of Vytautas times and his aspirations to unite The Grand Dutchy of Lithuania again, was important element for the formation of the national Lithuanian culture.
Telling the story about the magnificent past is one of the way to do that. In order to create national culture, country must have their heroes, because they are the soul of the nation and nation may be alive only having them. At the modern Lithuania nation formation times, it has been claimed that the Lithuanian nation existed in ancient times due to the heroes which seeked prosper Lithuania future, and fought for independence. Vytautas became powerful symbol for such as aspirations.
Azerbaijan and Cultural Policies
1. Azerbaijan: A Political History, 2011
By Suha Bolukbasi
2. Azerbaijan, 2006
By David C. King
3. Modern Azerbaijanian Prose,2012
by Iraj Ismaely, Vagif Sultanly
The Republic of Azerbaijan is situated at the crossroads where historical routes and ancient cultures in and through the Caucasus intersect. Azerbaijan is one of the oldest spots of civilization, a country with a rich and ancient history. A rich cultural heritage has been created on its territory over the span of many millenniums, contributing to the treasure house of World culture.
The contradictions between Russia, Turkey and Iran deepened in the 18th-19th century. Wars were waged over Azerbaijan. The Turkmanchay Treaty of 1828 between Russia and Iran separated Azerbaijan and its people: the northern part of Azerbaijan was conquered by Russia, its southern part became a part of the Iranian state. Over the 20th century, Azerbaijan experienced a great number of extraordinary events, influencing the implementation of cultural policies and instruments: such as severe changes of political regimes, economic booms and recessions, national liberation movements, and involvement in world and regional wars.
The Republic of Azerbaijan – the first secular parliamentary republic of the East – was proclaimed as an independent state on 28 May 1918 and existed for two years. On 18 October 1991, twenty two years ago, the Constitutional Act was passed and Azerbaijan’s state independence was restored. With many internal and external problems, the Republic passed through a difficult period of establishment.
The Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Azerbaijan Republic drafts and implements bilateral and multilateral foreign cultural policy, in coordination with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which is the central executive body in Azerbaijan that is responsible for realization of all international relations and cooperation issues. The Republic of Azerbaijan regards the development and strengthening of international standard-setting activity as a matter of high importance and has, accordingly, acceded to a number of international conventions with a vital bearing on the secure and extensive cultural interchange with other countries – which demands compliance with up-to-date standards of international law.
Cultural Centers under Embassies of the Republic of Azerbaijan in Uzbekistan, Tashkent and Paris, France were established according to the Decree of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan of 2 September 2010. The Republic of Azerbaijan has signed (15/02/2010) the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. The main ministries dealing with implementation of this Convention are the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as the Azerbaijan National Commission on UNESCO.
Azerbaijan participates in a series of multilateral cultural projects. Co-operation with the Council of Europe (CoE) is one of the key elements of multilateral engagement. The Ministry started working with the CoE Steering Committee on Culture in 1999 (i.e. before officially joining the Council of Europe in 25 January, 2001), taking part in the project „Compendium of Cultural Policies and Trends in Europe”. Starting in 2000, Azerbaijan took part in the CoE / ERICarts project „Cultural policies in Europe: a compendium of basic facts and trends”.
Azerbaijan joined UNESCO in 1992. Since then, special celebrations have been organised at UNESCO headquarters in Paris to mark the 1300th anniversary of the epic Azerbaijani legend Kitab-i Dede Qorqud (1998), the 800th anniversary of the birth of Nasir ad-Din Toosi (2001), the 200th anniversary of the birth of Mirza Kazem-Bey (2002), the 100th anniversary of the birth of academician Yusif Mammadaliyev (2005), the 100th anniversary of the birth of carpet-maker artist Latif Kerimov (2006), the 100th anniversary of the first opera in the East: „Leyli and Majnun” (2008), the 100th anniversary of Musa Aliyev, geologist (2008), the 100th anniversary of the birth of Mir Jalal Pashayev, writer (2008), and the 100th anniversary of Sattar Bahlulzadeh, painter, etc.
At the 5th Islamic Conference of Culture Ministers (Tripoli, 21-23 November 2007), the capital of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Baku was proclaimed Islamic Culture Capital for 2009. The VI Ministers of Culture Conference of the Organisation of Islamic Conference member states, chaired at present by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Azerbaijan, was held in Baku from 13-15 October, 2009, following the Baku Process.
Azerbaijan has been invited to enter into intensified political, security, economic and cultural relations with the EU, regional and cross border co-operation and shared responsibility in conflict prevention and conflict resolution. The EU-Azerbaijan Action Plan enhances cultural co-operation, by investigating the possibilities for co-operation in the framework of EU programmes in the field of culture. It also involves exchanging views on the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions and promoting the ratification and implementation of the text. Besides these developments, Azerbaijan has started collaboration within an Eastern Partnership, a project which was initiated by the European Union, and includes Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova and South Caucasus states.
The „Baku Process” is based on the interregional specifics of Azerbaijan, resulting from its geographic situation, social-political aspirations, and historical-cultural traditions, which has contributed historically to the transformation of this region as a meeting place for experts from the East and West as well as from the South and North. Proceeding on this basis, with the modern Republic of Azerbaijan being the only state member both of the Council of Europe and the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (ISESCO), the Baku Process has been initiated by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Azerbaijan recently in order to bring closer these regions consisting of CoE and ISESCO member states.
Azerbaijan National Library
The Museum Center of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Azerbaijan
Portal dedicated to Azerbaijan
The site devoted to the city of Baku
Baku White City
The magazine, „Musiqi dunyasi”, dedicated to musical culture
Tourism Portal of Azerbaijan
Safarli Gamar 2nd year (Master)
Book Name: Azerbaijanis
Author: Yaqub Mahmudov
Publish Date: 2008
Nowadays several of people who are interested in about Azerbaijan, in her historical past and in present achievements of the Azerbaijani people grows all over the world. Therefore, in the book – „Azerbaijan: a general view on ethno-political history”, introduced to the readers who are interested in about Azerbaijan, Azeri origin and so on and just this interests were taken into account while writing book and I hope readers can get general information about Azerbaijani nation. This book describes Azerbaijani’s origin from the old periods. As well as we can see many interesting facts about Azeri population, who lives in Azerbaijan or other parts of the world.
According to history nation of Azerbaijan comes from ancient times and it is true that, after Anatolian Turks Azerbaijanis are the second greatest Turkish people in the world. Azeri nation always are the main inhabitants of Azerbaijan Republic and they are considered the most ancient people in North and South Azerbaijan (the north-west – regions of the Iran). Also origin of Azerbaijani are mixed origin, which here including Caucasian origin, Iranian origin.
Since the ancient times Azerbaijan has kept deep tracks in the world history. Because Azeri people always preserve its true history and can prove it. Azerbaijan is very interesting territory for other nations with history, culture, territory antiquity and national traditions of population. Becoming one of the beginning steps of life, one of the ancient dwellings of the Earth, Azerbaijan is also the country of the ancient civilizations. The Azerbaijani people starting to be form in the integration of Europe and Asia, connecting East and West and compare these parts with North and South and second parts are the successor of a very rich, ancient historical memory and original culture. Azerbaijanis belong to Oghuz branch of Turkic group of the Altai people. They call themselves Azerbaijanis. In order to assess different stages of history they were called „Turks”, „Azerbaijani Turks” or „Caucasian Tatars”, „Azeri Tatars” also. Azerbaijanis who live in South Azerbaijan and in other regions of Iran call each other „Turks” until this time. Also, they speak Azerbaijani which belong to Oghuz branch of Turkic group of Altai language family. They have closer relation to the Caspi (Khazar) type of the white (European) race. They are Muslims. The ancient Turks had spread to South Caucasus and to Azerbaijan as well, including the first Oghuzes – a part of ancient all Turks abode, passing within the passage of Darband called by the old Turks „Damirgapi” and another mountain passage of the Major Caucasus.
Azerbaijanis are one of those nations who have the ancient statehood traditions, which they saved it several years and bring to new generations. Azerbaijani always respect traditions, national identity and until today share it to the world. The Azerbaijani people’s statehood history dates back to 5.000 years approximately. Thus, the early clan unions and slate structures of Azerbaijan territory were formed at the end of the IV-early III millennium BC and saved its importance inside of Azerbaijan.
According to statistic, Azerbaijanis are approximately 60 million: including more than 8 million in the Azerbaijan Republic, roughly 35 million in South Azerbaijan and other parts of Iran.
It has to mention that the history of the Azerbaijani people is also the history of his honorable struggle against the foreign aggressors, who try to expand her lands of strategic significant and rich with natural resources. During some period of history, lands of Great Azerbaijan had been separated and grasped by the empires-conquerors, and also by enemies by force. As we know that in the beginning of the XIX century the territory of Azerbaijan was divided two parts between the Russian empire and Persian kingdom; a lot of deportations and genocide was captivated against to Azerbaijani people
Compare with other nations and ethnic groups the Turkish clans having spread within Azerbaijan – both in the south and in the north were in majority. That’s why the Turkish language had become the main means of sociability among the minor nations and ethnic groups who are living in the territory of Azerbaijan. In those times the Turkish language played a connective role between the northern and the southern lands of Azerbaijan. During Saljugi period Azerbaijan and the Azerbaijani people’s history was more conclusive, because this period played important role for sharing history of Azerbaijan to the World. During the coming of Saljugi influx the new groups of Oghuz Turks came to this territory settled down in Azerbaijan. As a same root The Saljugi Turks moved to Azerbaijan and adopting Islam very soon mixed with the Azerbaijani Turks. Formation process of the Azerbaijani people ended. By forcing out the small local languages in a limited circle, as well as Arabic and Persian the simple Azerbaijani Turkish became the living national language within around South Caucasus, including the territory of Azerbaijan.
To sum up I would like mention that I tried to give brief information to our readers, who didn’t have enough information about Azerbaijan and Azeri nation and I hope all of them will pay attention for a while to this information.
Mukhtar Auezov „The Path of Abai”
“The one who works for himself becomes like a livestock that fills the belly. Man of worth works for humanity.” Abai Qunanbayuli
The epic novel “The Path of Abai” which was written by famous Kazakh writer Mukhtar Auezov is dedicated to difficult destiny of great Kazakh poet Abai Qunanbayuli who was a composer, philosopher and a cultural reformer toward European and Russian cultures. The novel describes complex life picture of Kazakh society in the second half of XIX-th century. It was the time when the nomadic way of life of Kazakh people was collapsing. The author himself claimed that he had chosen Abai as a main character of the book because his life was so intimately linked to the life of the Kazakh people. Abai was the personification of the new advanced and historically progressive features that began to appear in Kazakhstan under the influence of the revolutionary democratic culture of the Russian people.
It is clearly seen in the novel what a difficult time Abai had to live in. Kazakh steppe was seething and regenerating because of the intensified fight for the power as well as the colonial and feudalistic oppressions. All these facts as a leaden weight, laid to the sprouts of Kazakh advanced social Thought and a word of art. Eventually the sprouts were destined to bear a magical fruit by name of the father of Kazakh realistic literature – Abai.
The plot of the story reveals the conflict of father and son. Abai is a son of greedy rich feudalist Qunanbai. When Abai comes back to his native village his father tries to join him to his business. In this way Abai visits many Kazakh villages as an envoy of his father fulfilling the dictates of his father. It is seen from the book that Abai has all traits to become the same famous and rich person as Qunanbai in the future but not in the way his father wanted and expected him to be. Abai is not interested in such matters as power for power’s sake, personal well-being and welfare to the prejudice of justice and truth. The struggle between the old and the new in society is personified in the novel by Qunanbai, as old and reactionary, and his son Abai who was later to become the “spiritual eye” of Kazakh people. Abai treated his people with patience and great affection. He did not want to put up with the world of lawlessness and crimes and he was against many violent patriarchal laws that prevailed in Kazakh society of that period of time.
Throughout the book Abai acts together with the people. He has a friend, a simple young fellow Yerbol who accompanied Abai all his life. Thanks to Yerbol Abai was able to date with impunity his first love Togzhan as she was engaged to another man. And thanks to Togzhan Abai has known the taste of true love. Frequent Abai’s memories of Togzhan are traced in the novel afterwards.
His second big love Aigerim resembled Togzhan. Abai decided to marry her but she was also engaged, the rights to the girl belonged to another man. And according to ancient traditions of nomadic tribes Abai had to pay “kalym” (so-called buyouts to bride’s parents) to Aigerim’s father satisfying all material claims of her fiancé.
Abai strongly protects people during the massive loss of livestock. Without fear of his father he gives away hay and helps the poor. One of these paupers was Darkembai who was a wise unworldly person but also was a friend of Abai for many years. He is a strong, silver-tonged man with lucid mind. Moreover, he lives with dignity realizing his moral rectitude. The character of Darkembai in the novel embodies pains and suffering of the Kazakh poor on one hand, and their resilience on the other.
Bazarly is another friend of Abai. This person is capable of great deeds. He is brave, rebel and sole as a steppe eagle. With the reckless baldness he takes revenge on the rich for humiliation of the poor. He goes through endless persecutions and gets to prison. Finally the path of Bazarly crosses with the path of Abai and he begins to serve the people.
Through the whole of the epic novel it is seen that Abai becomes the protector of the people, poet-fighter and he has indisputable moral authority. At the time of Abai’s life the youth treats him as a mentor. And he loves them as he sees them as future of Kazakh people. The book concludes with Abai’s expression of radiant hope, with his unbreakable faith in a better future for his people.
The figure of Abai is an outstanding personification and illustration of spiritual liberation and progressive enlightenment of Kazakh people at the turn of the XX-th century. Even at the end of his life Abai retained his educational ideals, fidelity to the matter of public prosperity and inflexibility of a fighter. The path of Abai was the path of misery caused by social and personal reasons. He suffered because his people were insulted and humiliated and stinking sores of surrounding patriarchal and feudal life were visible everywhere in the society of that time. He also suffered from personal irretrievable loss – both of his sons passed away and all this misery was an unbearable burden for him. Abai dies wistfully thinking of a fate of a lone tree slain by the storm and dying in the dark: whether his scattered around the world seeds will sprout?
Henry Longfellow said: “When a great man dies, the light he leaves behind him lies upon the paths of men.” And Abai was really one of those Great men whose contribution in the development of Kazakh art and literature still lives and will live further for many years.
Understanding Lithuanian culture and history through the eyes of the Lithuanian narrators
I will share with you something very important for me – two stories, very different, yet with the sense of something exceptional, something you have never heard before. Listen. Once upon a time, two men lived on this planet. They created the entire universe in me. One’s name – Justinas Marcinkevičius, other’s – Balys Sruoga.
“Someday the advent of the book will be compared to the theft of divine fire, for there is no other protection against darkness and the violence of beasts but the book, for only the book can warm our numb souls and lead us through the labyrinths of the world and our own hearts.” Justinas Marcinkevičius: A Diary Without Dates, 1981.
I like beautiful stories telling me terrible things. I believe, stories have real power to embrace, to catch, to hold your attention and shape your way of thinking. Lithuanians live in a storm of stories. We communicate with our ancestors through stories and learn from them. Without these stories our own lives would lack the coherence, the meaning and the eternal essence of our existence.
Once upon a time I understood that sharing the list of my favorite poets with someone is something very delicate: you either get admired or get despised. There are many Lithuanian poets who writes in a very specific and extraordinary way, I like them. But there is one I adore. “If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can warm me, I know that is poetry” (E. Dickinson). This is how I feel when I read the poetry of Justinas Marcinkevičius. His poetry is marvelous, intoxicating, it takes your breath away, because deep inside you understand – you will never be the same person again. It leaves you cracking in cold. He writes so beautifully. The inside of his mind must be a terrible place.
I hear the voice of my narrator. I hear this mythmaker and metahistorian whispering to me: “Be still. Watch and listen. You are the result of the love of thousands”. Suddenly I become taller, proud with dignity, because the belonging to one place, one nation, one culture is born into a man like a heartbeat and you cannot rip it out without killing him. Nobody could kill me now. I am not afraid to die. I am a Lithuanian. That man built a sense of unity in me.
My favorite Lithuanian poet and playwright Justinas Marcinkevičius is a prominent XX-XXI century Lithuanian poet, dramatist. His dramatic trilogy which was written over nearly ten years “Mindaugas”, was published in 1968, “The Cathedral” in 1971, “Mažvydas” in 1976. According to the nature of conflict these historical dramas can be referred as a tragedy. The accomplished an important role in the restoration of Lithuanian independence have become symbols of the rebirth of the Lithuanian nation. They became universally recognized as a national literary and cultural identity.
I am proud like a lion because of the stories this man once told me about my history, about the glory and the tragedy of my ancestors. His major theme was Lithuania, its past and present, nature and culture, human existence in one’s homeland and in the world. Ray Bradburry once said: “You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” Justinas Marcinkevičius taught us to be proud of our history and culture, he understood the importance of it, because “poetry is thoughts that breathe, and words that burn” (Thomas Gray). Justinas Marcinkevičius defended the cultural self-awareness of our nation. He brought back humanistic idea in describing a man, continued on the romantic and lyric poetry tradition.
I do remember the day he passed away, on the 16th of February in 2011. I did not grieve because the man died, I did grieve because I realized that nobody would ever tell me stories the way he could – with such a grace and dignity, with something so sincere and so terrible at the same time. Oh, how selfish I am. I do want him back to tell me these beautiful-terrible stories again and again.
I always wonder, “do they sense it, these dead writers, when their books are read? Does a pinprick of light appear in their darkness? Is their soul stirred by the feather touch of another mind reading theirs? I do hope so.” (Diane Setterfield) I do hope so. I do hope so.
…Of course, their (the Reds) demands to stay within “Soviet realism” were not very pleasant – but even demand do not interfere with his greatest work of art, which without a doubt will make his name famous in the entire world. Such incredible brown concentration camp glimpses no one has yet given…It is difficult to believe that such a piece was written by a person sentenced to die… (Prof. Vladimir Silkarski)
Balys Sruoga was a Lithuanian poet, dramatist, critic, theoretician in literature and drama, as well as professor at the Vilnius University. In 1943 B. Sruoga was arrested by the German and with 47 other Lithuanian intellectuals was held hostage in concentration with the refusal of Lithuania’s youth to join the German Army upon the Nazi’s announcement of mobilization in an occupied nation. He was sent to the Stutthof Concentration Camp near Danzig. His book “Forest of the Gods”, which is a prose, is a work of his remembrances from Stutthof. It became not only heart-stirring document but also one of the finest specimens of Lithuanian prose.
The author transforms his painful personal experience into a ironic and grotesque narrative: “ the most boring people in Europe – Prussians and Germans, submerged in everyday spiritual poverty they could go without their daily bread for an entire week, if only during the holidays they would receive a chance to bang on the big hollow drum.” The very title of the memoir book is ironic as “the factory of death” is given a poetic name of the grove of gods: “Forest of the Gods! – that is what the people called it since ancient times. Once, a long time ago, in this same forest dwelt the gods. Unique gods! Not germanic in origin. Not Odin, not Thor. There lived the last of the Lithuanian gods In 1939, the Forest of the Gods suddenly rallied, resuscitated, revivified as if the ancient gods had returned to it…No, it was not gods that returned, within it settled denizens of the deep, similar to devils.” This is also an example of the symbolic geography.
The concentration camp becomes a miniature model of the absurdity of the world. The book abounds in cultural implications and reflections on the status of our civilization: “With the end of the Polish-German war, Danzig’s civil government decided to erect a concentration camp within the Forest of the Gods, for the disobedient Poles, to bring them back to the path of righteousness.” Three great nations are brought together like during the times of the Great Duchy of Lithuania as Timothy Snyder wrote in his book “Reconstruction of Nations”, yet in not that pleasant circumstances this time: “Lithuanians lay against that wall, Poles – by that one, Byelorussians – through the middle Two hundred people laying like lifeless flies”. The stoic posture of the narrator in the face of absurd makes it comparable to existentialist literature.
I admire his flaming self-respect, the way he stood still, he did not beg, he did not bow his head, he did survive and what was the most important – he did laugh at these “most boring people in Europe” from the bottom of his heart. That made all the difference, indeed. He had chosen to be a hero of his own story, not a victim. This man was unique. Balys Sruoga’s combat against ideological tyranny is formidable. I would like to quote Roman Szporluk dictum that “it matters a lot what a nation imagines itself to be”, because as the French historian Bernard Michel rightly points: “Nationalisme ce ne sont pas seulement des idées, mais aussi un mode de vie.” He stood still, because we are Lithuanians. We are entire ocean in one drop.
Stated briefly, these two men had an immense influence on my education, on my way of thinking. It is something very intimate. You cannot learn it at schools or at universities. It is something you learn on your own. These narrators worked like builders – they built a state within me and suddenly I am not a shell anymore. I am the result of the combat of thousands. I am the result of the power of will of thousands. I am the result of the love of thousands. If there is a need to understand Lithuanian history and culture, one must read Justinas Marcinkevičius’ poetry, especially trilogy “Mindaugas. The Cathedral. Mažvydas” and Balys Sruoga’s “Forest of the Gods”. Be prepared, because after reading this no fire could ever warm you.
Why Romania is different?
I tend to believe that the essay of Lucian Boia it is an ultimate attempt, which by the way is loaded with a complex intellectual flavour, to gather the information about the failures and defects as a result of navigation of Romanian people through history. It is an attempt to explain the fact that we are so different and abnormal from the European normal, which inexorably matters and to which we inevitably anchored continuously from 1800 until today. As we can see Romanians rarely compared themselves with those from Nigeria or Bangladesh, and compared to them we will have probably a better performance on almost all indicators, instead we chose to see our existence in contrast to flourishing Occident. “The way in which Romanians manipulate with rules, pretending to respect them in order to avoid them, is likely to exasperate Occidentals, which built their civilization on the foundation to follow and respect a system of norms and rules” (p.119). Usually in our politico-economical entanglements the rules are called upon respect only when it advantages one or another camp. Actually in this nuance, Romanians are hypocrites, as nobody obliged them after 1800 to anchor constantly and obsessively their ideals toward West. They chose it deliberately, without full filing this rationality, more than that they stopped, which is to say that it is typical for Romanians, on the halfway, adopting easily different forms, procedures, acquis, but not implementing them with the same easiness.
Lucian Boia says to us thought this book that the historian can overcome his position of just an analyst of the past and most of all has a responsibility which is to offer a diagnosis. As we all know Lucian Boia does not prefer a comfortable posture of a neutral and disengaged historian, on the contrary he has the courage to offer merciless diagnoses. “What does not work or at least stagnates in Romanian society is the selection of values. The primacy of the interpersonal or intergroup interests over the institutional exigencies: an old imperfection amplified in communism and left alone on their own after 1989. Along with the escape of the totalitarian cancan in Romanian society an individualistic wilderness started to manifest itself: a competition without rules in order to conquer the front seats. In this those who won were not necessarily the best or the most honestly ones, more, the winners started to promote in their turn their siblings and protégé. If this is the situation of elites, masses have no any chance to present itself in a better way” (pp. 93-94).
Today we are fighting the same old demons enunciated by Boia. “Corruption and patronage are most of all part of our traditional society’s heritage, where it could not be mentioned by this names as it was part of the usual things. The habit of submission is also a heritage. Romanians have acquired it for centuries: starting from the peasant submitted to the lord until the too submissive ruler in face of Sublime Porte. Submission creates also a strategy for compensation: more directly how can you cheat the one in front of whom you obey” (p. 41). Author gives us an explanation of this Romanian complex of inferiority toward others: “If I would have to make a diagnosis of our society, this will be the first illness. Romanians are discovering their insignificance. Small countries which are always at the mercy of others. The necessity to learn all the time from foreigners, to absorb what they created, always to find themselves at the tow of others…From this complexity of inferiority an arrogant construction is born, meant to characterize the low of the present” (p. 33).
In this book we can see a critical point of view addressed to the year 0 of post-communist Romania, which started on the wrong foot. It is obvious that it is rather impossible to establish an authentic democratic system, in which the equality of chances dominates, it is ruled by law, of capitalism, the correct distribution of resources and of the social assistance with the former leading activists of the Communist Party or their descendants. “Nowhere else it manifested, after the end of communism, such an inadequacy between the proclaimed rupture and the effective continuation of it. After the communist lies, not to mention the previous domestic defect of the forms without substance and words without coverage, the public Romanian spirit did not deserve such a treatment. One thing is certain, the communist elite decided to remain at all costs the master of the country” (p. 86). Think which happened with a considerable success. While this elite which exerts a considerable influence on the country’s affairs, forms and deforms the country’s political economic and social framework at their will and they do not hurry up to put the Romanian’s interest above their own. Taking into consideration the amorphous civic-political spirit of the Romanians, as described in this book, nothing will change. The reason is emphasized by the fact that “between accommodation and conservation, Romanians will usually choose accommodation, considering, with a degree of truth that it is more wisely to adapt and to submerse to history, rather than to try to confront it” (p. 59).
Further in this book, Lucian Boia is underling briefly some of the arguments regarding the Romanian elites from the precedent works, in which he studied in detail this problem. From his point of view, the importance of this study, unfortunately, is because the elites are those who dictates the flow, the rhythm and direction to such a degree which is much bigger than in other countries. This is also caused by the historical rift which existed between the old boyar elites, exterminated by the communists which took their place, and people, mostly from rural parts of the country.
Through this book we can see that Lucian Boia will again disturb and upset the nationalistic fibre of the society because he is pointing out what Romanians cannot see by themselves in the mirror. According to Boia, It is without any doubts Romanians like too much to analyse themselves, not necessarily to draw some viable conclusions which we could use to build a better faith, but to do it because “we are narcissist people and we enjoy very much to look in the mirror”.
Are there any solution for this? Theoretically, yes. “Above all we need a critical look and a least tolerant one: to separate mediocrity and sham of value. Step aside! Exclaim Titu Maiorescu at 1886.It is an inquiry that should be updated. Will Romania succeed in doing so?” Lucian Boia also suggests that Romanians were very close to fulfilling the objective of truly westernize the country, but every time the target faded away, and Romanians “drowned like gipsy on the shore”, in a way that instead of minimizing the historical differences that separates the Romanians from Occident, these were maintained constantly.
In the end I find it necessary to mention this revealing conclusion of Lucian Boia in this book. “It is not enough to speak the same language and reprimand the Hungarians once in a while in order to be a nation in the organic meaning of the word. Romania is a fragmented country, atomized and which does not succeed to identify its profits. Maybe because it does not have it” (p. 98). Also, to mention the fact that “Romania is an extremely eclectic country, made by pieces of all kind. In this eclecticism lays the substance of its charm, as much as it is. Bucharest the small Paris, it is rather, through its architectural disorder an anti-Paris. Maybe this is the authentic brand of Romania: the fact that it does not have one” (p. 99).
Book: Lucian Boia, De ce este Romania altfel?, Humanitas, Bucuresti, 2012
Student: Dragoș Ungureanu
Books, that are important for cultural diplomacy of Lithuania
The way for the country to be represented is its diplomacy and the public officer who are acting in favour of the survival, goals and interest of the state construct. Experience, personalities, working standards draw the framework in which the process develops. The scope of diplomacy includes various more precise issues not regarding the venue it takes place – from the house of somebody to the official meeting with representative of foreign country. There can be separated economic, cultural, public commercial and other types of diplomacy.
The term cultural diplomacy from itself gives the answer that it refers to. It brings together two substantial parts: one is the identity of the country and the other is the way to behave in international atmosphere according to your culture, but with respect to others. With reference to Edouad Herriot – “Culture is what remains, when one has forgotten everything”, it’s the deep reflection to ourselves. Culture changes, the diplomacy also changes, but the values standing besides them keeps to remain.
To the west and to the east, to south and to the north one may draw lines and divisions and separate countries or blocks of them with different cultural diplomacy. History, location, religion and numerous other factors bring the influence, but all of these countries try to find appropriate way to present themselves through the behavior of diplomats.
Lithuania as other countries has its own way of cultural diplomacy, which is the reflection of its culture and diplomatic work. Being a cross border gives the special historical and cultural experience for this country. For understanding of the formation and influence of the current cultural diplomacy two sorted book are important. These are the works by Vydūnas and Asta Petraitytė-Briedienė. Vydūnas book “Seven hundreds years of Germans and Lithuanians relations” gives the insight of the formation of current Lithuanian identity according to the national state understanding and elaborates on cultural development of cultural diplomacy. This book was written at the beginning of the last century. The second book came into public just last year and it has a name “Lithuanian diplomatic service chief Stasys Lozoraitis (1940-1983). The author presents us diplomacy service, historical facts and the way of Lithuanian diplomatic activities.
Vydūnas is the part of authors who were forming the new understanding about Lithuania, its culture, identity. In opposition to the Great Duchy of Lithuania and Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth identity, loyalty to the country and understanding of Lithuanian at this period gets new forms. In the Great Duchy the loyalty and understanding of the Lithuanian was based on loyalty and respect of the laws, regulations. Language, ethnicity, customs were not the matters for the understanding of Lithuanian. With the XX century and the start of modern state of Lithuania situation changes the identity of the country and Vydūnas is one of the thinkers to take part in this process. The identity starts to be connected with, first of all, language, then culture and customs. For every diplomat the culture and understanding of itself bring the background of perception of culture. Works of authors from the end of XIX century and the beginning of the XX may be more relevant for cultural diplomacy, because after regaining the independence the same line of identity and understanding of culture was kept in the country.
Vydunas point in his book the fight for right to be recognized, Baltic heritage and high culture, spirit of fight. These features along with Lithuanian language became the part of modern identity of the country. Inside little country idea to tighten bravery and fight may bring to cultural diplomacy the lasting sense of dissatisfaction.
Baltic heritage is presented by author as a part of spirit and a culture. From his point, Baltic culture doesn’t oppose the Christianity, but the later religion complements the earlier one. The sense of tolerance was common the Great Duchy, but in some way it is kept during the formation of the modern state. Historical sensitivity may have brought to the culture the aspect of conservatism. The Vydunas book is the example how identity of the country was recreated according modern state standard taking aspects from historical perspective. Cultural diplomacy may be as mirror of countries identity, because in communication, negotiations, representations identity goes as a background. Last more than twenty years gave the impact for the development of cultural diplomacy, but the values and reasoning comes from creation of modern state.
The book of Petraityte-Briediene is a good example of diplomatic services, its ongoing actions. The central figure in this book is Stasys Lozoraitis, chief of diplomatic service before and during Soviet occupation of Lithuania. Difficult situation in which this person was acting more than forty years goes as support of cultural identity of fight with strong spirit in pure circumstances and little body of the state. Presenting the cultural diplomacy as unity of two: culture and diplomacy, the book Petraityte-Briediene is an example of the clash of Lithuanian culture with other culture through the activities of diplomatic services.
The book presents opinions, position on diplomatic activities, Lozoraitis political decision and opinion towards Lithuania’s independence case, re-establishment of independence. His influence on statehood development is presented too. The book lets to look how the culture, formatted modern identity gives the background for actions and through the position of Lozoraitis. Different book describing more ancient time was not taken because of different representative forms. This diplomat shows the continuation of diplomacy service, continuation of statehood in whatever circumstances. The public service of Lithuania during occupation is understood as unique phenomenon.
Moreover, this book presents the connection of Lithuanian diplomats with diplomats from other countries of described time. With the contact one realizes who he is, that is his country and what kind of values, culture he bring within himself. Diplomacy from itself is delicate, but together with cultural differences it delicateness increase much more. The book of Petraityte-Briediene presents the inside of the very difficult time of statehood, intentions for seeking goals and clash with different cultural diplomacies of other countries.
Both are as a link to understand the diplomacy and the culture, and how they influence each other and create cultural diplomacy of modern state.
VDU, PMDF, 2 year of master degree
Islam in Azerbaijan
Student: Samil Niftaliyev
VMU, Diplomacy and International Relations, student code: MPD13116
Features of the historical development, geographical location and ethnic composition of the population contributed to the existence of different religions in Azerbaijan. Time to time Paganism, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam and many other religious belief managed to spread over the country, influenced each other and caused the specific features of the religious life.
I would like briefly to give some information about religions mentioned above. Firstly, the root of beliefs of Paganism of the population goes back to antiquity with containing animism, fetishism, totemism and shamanism. The belief for Zoroastrianism appeared during the Paganism. A majority of people who lived in Azerbaijan deeply believed the sanctity of fire, protected and worshiped to the fire. The calling Azerbaijan (azer meaning “fire”) as „The land of fire” directly connects to this ancient history.
Although Zoroastrianism came out form the Paganism, then it emerged as an independent religion. There were fierce fighting between Sassanid and Byzantines in order to expand the scope of penetration and consequently, Zoroastrianism and Christianity became temporarily stronger. In a such environment, Islam had an opportunity to spread in Azerbaijan peacefully. As the Zoroastrianism did not meet cultural and political life requirements during the Middle Ages, it lost its importance utterly.
Historically Judaism has been represented in Azerbaijan by the mountain Jews. There is disagreement among researchers on how the Judaism came to this area. According to some researches, the Jews were evicted from Palestine by the kings of Assyria and Babylon and were settled in Medes (an ancient state which was created in the contemporary area of Azerbaijan, during 678 BCE–549 BCE).
Islam was able to spread to a large portion of the world soon form the Arabian peninsula in the seventh century. The islamization in Azerbaijan started in 639. Marzban of Azerbaijan (border-guard) Isfandiyar ibn Farrukzhad was defeated by the Arabs and forcefully, made a peace treaty. After this, the Arabs conquered Ardabil, Tabriz, Nakhchivan, Barda, Shirvan, zones of Mugan, Aran and they were able to come from to Derbent alongside of the Caspian Sea.
It is difficult to speak about the specific forms of islamization, because this issue has not yet been studied. In any case, it is possible to distinguish several stages of this process. Till the Soviet occupation Islam in Azerbaijan passed several phases. But this religious development changed significantly after Soviet occupation (1918, 28 April). In 1920, May 15 after the establishment of Soviet power in Azerbaijan the Institution of Sheikhul Islam (a title of superior authority in the issues of Islam) and the Ministry of Religious Affairs were dismissed, the religious leaders were persecuted and the vast majority of mosques were closed down. But as the policy changes time to time, Soviet authority played game with religious values of Azerbaijanians. In 1943 the establishment of the Muslim Spiritual Board of Transcaucasia was considered advisable in order to use religious power in the fight against Nazi Germany. The first session of the Transcaucasia Muslims was held on 25-28 May 1944 and the Muslim Spiritual Board of Transcaucasia was established with the center in Baku. Since 1944, the dualism was abolished in the religious organizations of Muslims in the Caucasus. However, the organization was known to be merely symbolic. Because the Soviets were well aware that with persecution of religious belief it was difficult to make population obey them. The gaining strength of Islam in Azerbaijan was not beneficial to Soviets. Because, Iran in the South and Turkey in the Southern-West were the threats for Russian Soviet. Given that Islam is the religion of the majority of people in both countries, this concern would not be so surprising. Soviet leadership was trying to create Atheism in Azerbaijan by provoking everything depended on human activity. And after independence, there was religious freedom in Azerbaijan.
The constitution of Azerbaijan provides for freedom of religion, and the law does not allow religious activities to be interfered with unless they endanger public order. In current time, along with majority Muslims there are living religious minorities in Azerbaijan. Generally the religious figure in Azerbaijan is like that: Islam 96.4 %, Christianity 3.1 % and others 0.5 %. As it is obvious from the statistics, majority of Azerbaijan population is Muslim and accept Islam. The obligation of wearing religious headwear)(hijab) for women in Islam has lost its influence in Azerbaijan currently. The position of the governmental authorities towards Islam is controversial. Men who grow beards and women who wear hijab are often viewed with suspicion by the authorities, for fear of the propagation of Wahhabism. Despite the government’s denial of the matter, the Azerbaijani police drew criticism from lawyers for infringing the rights of observant Muslims. The division factor over Islam in modern period is also noticeable in Azerbaijan. Despite all of the Muslim world is the Sunni, but in Azerbaijan religion is dominated by the Shi’a (85 %).Throughout the world, the Shi’a Muslims are more extremist and militant in their religious and political views. But in Azerbaijan, Sunni Muslims are more likely to be politically active and to mobilize youth.The Salafi Sunni group, in particular, is the most radical and politically active in the nation and openly hostile to the Shi’a.201 Although the majority of Salafi Sunnis are nonviolent, the group has been blamed for a number of extremist activities and has suspected links to al-Qaeda.
Muslims regard the Quran as sacred. Accordingly, visitors should treat the Islamic text with respect. It should not be touched with dirty hands or placed on the floor. When sitting on the floor, the Quran should be held above one’s lap or waist. The Quran should be covered when not in use, and other objects should never be placed on top of it. Muslims keep Quranic texts on the highest shelf of a bookcase. Finally, Qurans should not be brought into latrines. 205 Old or damaged copies can be properly disposed of in one of two ways. Burning is acceptable as long as the process is conducted with respect. Texts should not be burned with trash or other items. The second disposal method is burial. Before burying the text, it should be wrapped in something pure and then buried where people do not walk.
Despite different religious ways of the society went through, Islam is the dominant religion now. Although the majority of society does not fully comply with religious law, some people still live under religious laws and follow them. Personally for me, following all the laws of Islam by majority is too difficult. Taking into account all the processes, after a few decades, the religious values will be in the second plan of the living of people.
1. Hema Kotecha. „Islamic and Ethnic Identities in Azerbaijan”, 2006.
2. Technology Integration Division. „Azeri Cultural Orientation”, 2013.
Representation of Lithuanian culture and national identity through literature
Mantas Rimkevičius MPD12064
How Lithuanian culture, identity, history can be best represented through literature? This representation can be meaningfully done from several different perspectives. Well known old literature which represents historical heritage and cultural tradition of Grand Duchy of Lithuania or Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth is one interesting possibility. Only recently Lithuanians have discovered (in terms of its importance in school education) their old literature heritage such as a poem “Radviliada” by Jonas Radvanas (Lat. Ioannes Radvanus) written in XVIth century. “Radviliada” is about glorious victories of Grand Duchy of Lithuania, its nobility, powerful state, glorious nobleman Mikalojus Radvila and it is sometimes considered as a Lithuanian epic. Of course that is interesting way of representing historical roots which are important for Lithuanians as a mark of great history and past of the state. Also it is not rare to publicly represent country in such way. Image of “Lithuania – a brave country” (a slogan of Lithuania created by government) is deeply rooted into our national consciousness. However, in other perspective, modern Lithuania and its complex identity cannot be understood without marks left by historical events of XXth century and modern literature gives insight into this experience.
In order to familiarize with Lithuanian culture one has to understand legacy of Soviet era, interwar period and World War II. Although a lot of things can be said about old Lithuanian literature, culture and glorious historical past I give preference to several more modern books. One of these books is psychological novel “Altorių šešėly” (Engl. ”In the Shadow of the Altars”) by Vincas Mykolaitis – Putinas. From literary perspective this novel is a breakthrough in Lithuanian literature – modernist, psychological novel corresponds to the best Western European traditions at that time. This novel is a story of young cleric named Liudas Vasaris and his life from seminary, consecration to priesthood, inner search for values, love, his alienation from church and his resign from ministry.
From one perspective this is very personal story, which can be taken as semi-biographical because Vincas Mykolaitis – Putinas was also an ex-priest. But from the other side it also reflects reality of Lithuania starting from pre-WW I period to period of First Republic of Lithuania during 1920’s and 1930’s. This period has so much importance because of state-building process which formed strong, politically-orientated society that could not be easily broke even by 50 years of Soviet annexation. It gives insight into political, cultural, social reality of First Republic of Lithuania and into attitudes of modernising society to traditionally important subjects – clergy, relations to other nationalities, emigration, and relation to traditional rustic worldview.
Main character Liudas Vasaris is idealistic, passionate young person who faces crisis of values. Traditional ideals and values are ever-changing – uneducated, morally pure peasant culture is replaced by culture of the city. It is not easy process and not so much things can be looked upon – even clergy is corrupted. During that time all society faced similar problems. Society with old images from glorious times of middle Ages had to face conversion from just a nation with a great past to the state of XXth century – institutionalized, economically progressive and modernized. Without successful transformation society would not have capabilities to survive when faced great danger of last century – totalitarianism.
Other book in which I find one of the most interesting and fascinating stories of Lithuanian literature is related to these events. Great danger and enormous damages of nazism, communism and happenings during World War II. This book is a novel or more precise memoir of Lithuanian poet, playwright Balys Sruoga named “Dievų miškas” (Engl. “The Forest of Gods). In 1943, during the nazis occupation of Lithuania, he was arrested and sent to Stutthof concentration camp near Gdansk. It was one of the many horrifying places across the Europe where Balys Sruoga spent more than two years. Knowledge of many languages helped him to get a position at an office of this concentration camp and to survive.
Balys Sruoga wrote this book when he returned to Lithuania in 1945. Memoir reflects the reality of concentration camp through perspective full of irony, black humor, and deep sarcasm. You read this book with occasional smile which conflicts with reality of that time, but latter on you start to understand what the true purpose of this style is. It shows that unimaginable horrors cannot be lived through or analyzed through prism of rationality and cannot be explained only cold-blooded, historically. Deep sadness mixed with irony is a way to have lively images and not faded memory or way for author to live through and to remember these events. In some way this book is similar to film directed by and starring Roberto Begnini “Life is Beautiful” (Ital.“La vita è bella”). Book is full jargon, phrases that could not be properly translated into other languages. That makes it even more interesting. More ironically, this book was not approved by soviet authorities and published only after death of Balys Srouga in 1957.
That book also has much to said both about a tragedy of Lithuania, its citizens during World War II and about their mentality and way of thinking. Occupied and repressed, but not compelled to refuse free thinking, culture and national temper. Historical roots and relation to Grand Duchy of Lithuania shows that Lithuanians can be strong, brave and glorious conquerors or fighters – like participants in armed struggle during soviet occupation. In the other way, maybe even more deeply, legacy of First Republic of Lithuania shows that we are also truly modern society which can resist not only with arms but also by using our culture, unrestrained thinking and desire to be modern nation. These perspectives of our culture can be universally represented through literature.
• Antanas Maceina, National Education, (dissertation, 1934), Šviesa, 1991.
• Gintaras Beresnevičius, Making Empire: Outline of Lithuanian Ideology, Vilnius University Press, 2003.
Lithuanians need a new, strong and convincing myth
To choose two books which are the best for understanding Lithuania, its culture and ideology. I would say a very difficult and challenging task. Nevertheless, I accept this challenge. It should be noted that using two books it is almost impossible to draw a clear picture and to answer what Lithuanian (or any other country’s) culture and mentality is, but I will try to bring more light for those who are generally interested in it and want to satisfy their curiosity.
The first book I have chosen is National Education by, probably, the best known Lithuanian philosopher and educator Antanas Maceina. In the book he discusses what patriotism is, and how Lithuanians should be educated in order to become real patriots – constructive patriots. The nation must constructively criticize the state. If the patriot always praises his country, such behavior leads to destruction. Real patriotism does not avoid criticism and rebuke. Maceina claims that patriotism is not a romantic veil but a glimpse of a bright spirit which sees the nation as it is – with its victories, defeats and sins. The most dangerous aspect in distorting the history is that sooner or later after collapse of the ideological foundations of the nation, patriotism will collapse along with them. It is important to emphasize that history must not be falsified or distorted. It is required to reveal all the way the state went trough, even if that way is painful or embarrassing. Recalling the nation’s younger generation only moments of glory makes a big mistake, because the generation then does not know the mistakes which were made in the past, who are its friends and enemies, what suffering it caused to others, and what has suffered itself. Lithuanians are a small nation, which endured long years of occupation. The interwar period with its discovery of golden age and dissemination of information about the famous and the powerful rulers of the past, by Maceina is viewed as very positive period because people simply need heroes. They need heroes even today.
The second book is Making Empire: Outline of Lithuanian Ideology. It is a kind of Machiavellian style handbook for Lithuania. Mostly it is well-known as intellectual provocation, especially for those, who have absolutely negative attitudes towards any kind of imperialism. Beresnevičius raises the main question: Can a small and oppressed Lithuania become a superpower? The answer is – definitely YES. He seeks to expel all the inferiority complexes from the nation’s mentality. According to Beresnevičius, the Old Europe is already tired, and Lithuania can achieve much more than it have ever dreamed about because within Lithuanians lies a huge vital force. Lithuania can become an empire. Of course, it will not be an old style empire or hegemon as United States or Russia. Lithuania could become a regional empire of tolerance and coexistence of different religions and cultures. In ideological context – the same as it was during the Lithuanian Grand Duchy times. Of course, territorially it still would be small, but ideologically it would be an empire. Today’s Lithuania is too small for Lithuanians. He emphasizing that there is too little space to materialize bellicosity, combativeness and warlike nature of Lithuanians. It is the main cause of nowadays depression, despair and suicides in Lithuania. The book shows that Lithuanians need a new, strong and convincing myth. Beresnevičius, paradoxically, weaves future visions and old myths about Lithuania’s glorious past.
Why these books are relevant today? How they help us to understand Lithuanian culture and mentality? Firstly, Beresnevičius looks to a very deep past in order to draw wider perspectives for the future. In other words, in Lithuania there is a need for new identities and spaces because the old ones from the 19th century are morally outdated. The world is becoming more and more globalized, so Lithuania cannot close itself inside the national state. Previously Lithuanian national identity faced a danger from the East through the forced assimilation policies implemented by the Soviet Union. Paradoxically, today the danger to national identity is no less great. The threat of globalization is invisible, and is accepted through voluntary basis. This is a reason why the concept of multicultural Lithuanian Grand Duchy is still relevant today. In other words, Lithuania talks about the revitalization of Central-Eastern European region and seeks successfully operate in it. Such constructions can give a meaning to Lithuania’s current activities, to give a clear direction to its foreign policy.
Secondly, there is no doubt that Antanas Maceina approach to patriotism and national education was important when Lithuania regained its statehood, and when it was searched on what values the state should be based. Moreover, it was searched to which the past events to turn back, and what Lithuanian nation has to realize in order to be successful in geopolitical games of neighbouring states. It is important to emphasize that in Lithuania of the twenty-first century, Maceina’s ideas remains relevant because there is a new, modern and historically yet untested challenges to patriotism. The boundaries between nation-states are vanishing, and the people take cosmopolitan values. Precisely because of that it is worth to cherish national identity and to draw attention to the patriotic education, because firstly these modern challenges will affect small nations as Lithuania.
Thirdly, in ancient Rome, one of the most shameful punishments was expulsion from the native land. According to Antanas Maceina, land is one of the most important components of patriotism. The land forms a material base of patriotism. In Soviet times, the government of the invaders took this method in order to disrupt the innate human connection to the land, and many people were deported away from their motherland. On the one hand, in nowadays Lithuania one can observe a tendency when many people blame the state and governmental institutions for all troubles in the country and in their personal life. Consequently, they choose a way of emigration. On the other hand, when Lithuanians emigrate, they are not running from Lithuania as a homeland, but from the government policies. From Maceina’s perspective, such a dichotomy suggests that the Lithuanian emigrant love of the homeland is not less strong than that who is continuing to live in Lithuania. But the emigrant lacks tenacity and willingness to transform or shape existing sins to a more positive direction. Moreover, such kind of emigration can be viewed as a part of Beresnevičius’ statements about too little Lithuania in ideological terms.
Fourthly, bearing in mind that Lithuania is an agricultural country, and the land of Lithuania has always been mystified as the mother of sustenance – Maceina’s approach to the origins of patriotism is objective. However, permanent connection between Lithuanians identity and the land as one of the most important sources of patriotism can be found in the current Lithuanian policy. Relevant issue today is the sale of land for foreigners. The Parliament and people try in possible legitimate ways to limit and delay such process, raising it even into the national security level.
To sum up, these two books clearly demonstrate that Lithuanian mentality should be understood through the prism of history, land and patriotism. Intricate interconnection between old glorious myths and future perspectives can be observed. New myths already are trying to find their place in society. For example, a myth of Lithuania as political, cultural and scientific center of Central-Eastern Europe is constructed. Even more, time by time a myth of Lithuania as a family member of Nordic community is raised into the daylight. But the problem is that other states of the region do not recognize Lithuania as such leading centre. Lithuanian foreign policy is based on values, historical memory and continuation. Consequently, it is hard to find compromises with its eastern neighbours who prefer pragmatic policy and distorted history. That is why in Western Europe Lithuania is known to be the most concerned about the Russian issue and take the single most irreconcilable positions among the EU member states.
I WILL TELL YOU A STORY…
When two foreigners meet they will start talking about their state history sooner or later. I asked myself a question what Poland can show to different nation for introducing its own culture and history. What picture people in this country have in minds while thinking about their own state. And what picture they would present to different states, if they have a choice. When it comes to that topic, all that really matter is a storytelling in a way that should be chosen in a considerate way.
For me finding an answer for this question is quite simple. Polish people have still in minds memory of significant country that was Polish state couple centuries ago and are still feeling historical injustice. Is it a correct one? It is difficult to tell. I know that, this is the most common one and getting under consideration all of the circumstances, it is still the best option to present our country.
“Czarna Księga Kresów” or as I will call it for putting it in more convenient way for review purposes “Black Book” is written by Joanna Wieliczka – Szarkowa and published recently, because at 2011 at Krakow. It is a piece that can be categorized as a historical one and it is presenting the history of today parts territory of Lithuania, Byelorussia and Ukrainian.
For many polish readers it might be just another book that tells the story of polish lost land, but I am convinced that foreign readers might find it very interesting because of many reasons. Author of this book included history of this land and polish people, who lived there from early medieval until today. In thirteen chapters there is a story that every Pole knows more or less but as a medium for storytelling in public diplomacy it might give different effects.
If someone wanted to use this book as a guide through polish history especially this particular part of it, then the last effect will be exactly like the Poles are presenting themselves. What is this picture? For me it is always a story of great people, who are constantly losing because of not their fault but some unexplained difficulties or the other states that were determined to destroy Poland. And even though, even after many years and centuries of this kind of hardships there are still people, who are proud to be Polish.
With “Black Book” the story gets completed in other way. At all of the pages reader can find the story of people that were living at lands of Poland and were constantly under attack by many enemies. Through all this pages person that is reading this book gets to know horrible story of polish nobleman’s, who were living there. It is story about lands that in polish language is called “The Ends”, the ones that were “guarding” the main part of the kingdom, and later because of partitions of Poland and two World Wars were lost from Poland.
What is special about this book and why knowledge about this part of history is important for polish culture? Because Poles as a nation are proud and still remembers glory of former days. Also undoubtedly there is case of historical injustice that still exist in minds of people. Especially for those ones, whose families were originally from those territories, but had to left their homes and whole history of their families behind for saving lives. Also there is still very strong felling of solidarity with those ones that were left behind the borders and now are living as a part of minorities in neighboring countries to Poland.
And this book is showing many stories about those people and their histories. And mostly all of them are with tragic ends. Reading this book, at least for polish person, will not give any kind of pleasure, but it is still worth reading. For a person, that is not feeling related to this topic whatsoever and is foreigner it can also be interesting to find out about many facts that are rarely or never discussed for national scale.
But “Black Book” can be also seen as controversial book. Especially for people that are citizens from countries, that story is about. I am talking about Lithuanians, Byelorussians and Ukrainians. As usual every story can be told in different way, what can cause entirely different outcome and conclusions. I am convinced that if this book was translated to those three languages, it would not have be a popular purchase or it would cause quite a ruckus.
And in the matter of exchanging knowledge about culture between states and getting stronger cooperation in those three cases would be impossible. Story about lost lands and injustice that happened to people, who lived at “The Ends” is in many cases story about regaining taken territory and basically huge victory. Stories that for polish people main characters are heroes with tragic experiences, but for the other parties those same people would be villain that were punished for their long term crimes.
And even with this in my mind I still chose this particular book as one of the best examples, what can give the best insight of a way of polish people thinking and perceiving themselves.
Second book I chose is about different matter, not that well known amongst polish, mainly because it is not that widely commented. It is a book called “Polskie piekiełko. Obrazy z życia elit emigracyjnych 1939 – 1945”, that in my free translation would be „Polish hell. The stories from the emigration elites from 1939 to 1945”. Its author Sławomir Koper is a historian, who is publishing very active. Also this book is one of his newest creations. I chose it because in comparison to the first one, this one is showing completely different picture about polish history and people that were holding power during one of the most dramatically times for all nations – Second World War.
This book is telling a story about people, who were during that time escaping from the war zone and after finding relatively calm place started to fight amongst themselves. This story also shown history of political story in Poland before war and during it. It is not showing positive picture, but undoubtedly true one. People that were supposed to protect their country citizens fled to safe location, and did not do a thing to help them. People that were bickering over posts and titles. This part of book gives the picture of a very saddening development of action.
But there are also others aspects of this book. Others that are showing how part of those people were fighting or at least trying to. That other part is accurate to the tragic heroes characters, so much loved by polish culture. Because Poles really love their fallen heroes. I would even say, polish culture glorifies people that lost.
According to that, some stories about people from the elites of Poland would fit perfectly. Author is telling the story about brave generals, soldiers that were taking active part in war actions or of an polish agent, who were working for British government. And almost all of this stories are having miserable ends. People once loved and respected ended up killed or completely forgotten. Some of them alone without former friends and previous respect.
Is this a way that storytelling about polish culture should be presented? Well, I strongly believe it should be. Because even though for many people it is not a proper way, to promote and create a certain brand amongst other nations, it is still Poland part of history. Long and full of falls. Full of despair and hope. Fights and also a victories. Forgetting about this angle and trying to choose something else would be forgetting about the core of today country. Everything that Poland is today, is built on fundaments of doings of ancestors.
France through Literature.
Describing a culture, more precisely a national culture, may be the hardest work to do. Using literature might be the answer to the hardship of this analysis. Remains the thing that the choice of books is deeply subjective and anyone has its own view of its country.
Maybe some features can be considered as common values; however it is important to avoid stereotypes, “clichés”, or negatives comments. That is a t least the good thing of doing it for its own territory, whatever it will look like it will never be more than a deep introspection in your own culture, history, background, with admiration, love maybe, or criticisms or hate sometimes, but always has to remain an honest and righteous analysis.
Collecting two books to describe France is probably the most difficult work which has ever been expected from me, however as probably the more exciting as well. Indeed as every country we own a very wide collection of authors, all more impressive than another, but former historic place of France guide us toward past, old literature whereas the purpose of this exercise is to help to understand French culture, particularly recent one.
Considering that contemporary books do not fit to describe a French identity, or maybe there is no “proper” French identity any longer considering France had a wide territorial history and people living here nowadays come from everywhere, which is a good thing to learn about the world and realize how small individuals and countries are, but the number of traditions and cultural background does not help to point a cultural identity.
Considering those factors, I decided to focus on social aspects inherent to France, through the centuries: the result of this method of choosing decided me to pick two great books, written in extraordinarily pure French and which contains deep social thoughts, very different from one another.
The first one is Le Père Goriot (which could be translated as “Old-man Goriot” [his name]) written by Honoré de Balzac in 1835, is essential to understand the link between Paris and the rest of France, and inhere the deep struggle to rise in social field in France, which is still topical. The second one, Voyage au Bout de la Nuit (almost impossible to translate, we could say “Travel through/till the end of the night) written by the very controversial Louis Ferdinand Céline in 1932, is probably the best French book written during the XXth century, in the unique way Céline could achieve.
I/ Le Père Goriot, allegory of social rising struggle.
France had always been presented as the country of Human Rights, of progress, of democracy, of freedom or equality. None of these assessments is true, not one bit. In this way of thinking, Le Père Goriot is very important because it shows the difficult path for a relatively poor young man to make his place in a cruel and hard to reach world, the Elite Paris, goal of every ambitious man.
This book is the part of the huge Human Comedy, whole of books following different characters all lifelong. This one is focused on Eugene de Rastignac, young noble from a countryside family with no material wealth, standing for the French middle-class hoping to rise in social hierarchy, ideal of French Revolution.
Balzac stands for this generation of French authors inspired by “romantism”, such as Victor Hugo or François-René de Chateaubriand, stuck between several historical paradigms.
On the first hand the new revolutionary ideal, supposed to carry the new nation, symbol of freedom, equality and brotherhood, coming out from the glorious Revolution, containing republic, democracy, human rights, but which at Balzac’s time, has already turn out to be a disappointment.
On the second hand an admiration for a very bankable character for literature, the one who ended the bloody and blind revolution, Napoleon Bonaparte. An admiration which never stopped to crease with ages, especially with temporary return of Monarchy in 1815 till 1848.
Finally the use of characters coming from small nobility point a hard to delete attachment to former royalty, time of cultural and territorial greatness of Balzac’s country.
We can note that Le Père Goriot is a testimony of a transition period, stuck between three very different regimes and situations, characterized by its uncertainty but containing all of the elements of a very particular French mentality
II/ Voyage au Bout de la Nuit, insubordination anthem.
This famous book of Louis-Ferdinand Céline is one of the last testimonies of French’s identity through ages. Here again the style, oral style, written in a pretended slang and jaunty way, is absolutely astonishing. However, the content is even more interesting, in the Voyage at least, in the rest of its work is less obvious.
Very criticized in France for his anti-Semitism, Céline remained anyway a privileged and accurate witness of his time. Despite his terrible image in France, Céline vouched for real French humanists values inherited from the Revolution of 1789, and other in complete contradiction with it; that is part of his genius and of his nationalist education, which directed him as a true insurgent toward a deep hate of his country which is developing more and more from his firsts works to the last ones.
However his unsubordinated mind turned out to be deeply disappointed during his different travels: indeed his writings vouch clearly against established order, whatever he comes from: denying and refusing nationalist values described by in his experience in Africa, where he pictured colonists as stupid and greedy pigs, while spreading his anti Semitism in his “poetry”, refusing strongly capitalism while talking about his time in Detroit, cradle of Fordism, one of the hardest way of capitalism among all, whereas he was attacking violently “social parasites” and lazy workers… This trident arguing-vouching-condemning, each of them in very violent words, is part of the French identity which you can find any time any place in our history and territory. And Céline, despite his anti nationalism does not avoid the cliché of his birth country, whereas he would refuse it stronger and stronger with ages.
But the most French spirit of his writing, if I can say it like that, is his visceral rejection of any kind of authority, even if he admits very funnily a certain cowardice which often pushed him toward his boss’ or master’s opinion all his youth. However as a writer and doctor, in a way as a free man, he kept spitting on every establish order, every kind of hierarchy, even, and particularly, admitted discourses which pulled him outside the pantheon of literature’s genius he indisputably enriched. This systematic refusal of order, or at least this obedience till a certain extent, is part of French identity, from the Revolution of 1789 of course, but also from previous Jacqueries (peasants riots, of the mid XIVth century and followings) and you still can find it in recent events in Paris and his suburbs, more social than religious as it is dishonestly presented by some categories of medias…
To put it in a nutshell, even if a French culture is hard (we could say impossible) to define nowadays, probably because at the present changing, some features remained, especially regarding the social aspects inherited from French Revolution of 1789, a will of complete freedom and equality. However the problem is that this Revolution was a “Revolution Bourgeoise” and its features were mainly for the upper class, and pushed middle and lower classes toward a will of social rising or systematic refusal of any authority, almost anarchy, which is obvious in Balzac and Céline’s respective books. This unaccomplished Revolution is probably the reason why these features remained for old and more recent French, and once again in this period where national identity is deeply changing this will, hopefully I would say, remain still for long time.
Public diplomacy and soft power of culture
Balys Sruoga “Forest of the Gods”
Book review- essay
Balys Sruoga- was a Lithuanian poet, playwright, critic, literary theorist, professor of Vilnius university who wrote many dramatic works and novels, poems, novelettes, but his best and famous novel- memoir book in the whole world is the “Forest of the Gods” (Dievų miškas), based on his own life experiences as a prisoner in Nazi German concentration camps.
Speaking about historical contexts, during the second world war many countries were occupied by Nazi Germany and Soviet Union. First of all, in Spetember 1939 Poland was occupied by Nazi Germany and Soviet Union and during this time Poland was divided between these nations: the west of Poland was in the hands of Nazis and eastern was occupied by Soviets. Moreover, several years later in the summer of 1941 Nazi Germany occupied Lithuania. During this time of occupation Nazis have been trying to destroy the identity of both nations and for this reason many intellectuals, aristocrats, writers, professors, enterprisers, man and women were sent to the concentration camp – Stutthof. Stutthof was the first German Nazi concentration camp built in the wooded area in the west of the small town of Stutthof (Sztutowo) in the territory near the city of Danzig (Gdańsk). In the memoir book “Forest of the Gods” Stutthof described as a “factory of death”.
Balys Sruoga in March 1943 together with forty-seven other Lithuanian intellectuals were sent in Stutthof concentration camp after the Nazis started a campaign against possible anti-Nazi agitation in occupied Lithuania. In the “Forest of the Gods” Balys Sruoga revealed life in a concentration camp through the eyes of a man whose only way to save his life and maintain his dignity was to view everything through a veil of irony and humor, where torturers and their victims are exposed as imperfect human beings, being far removed from the false ideals of their political leaders.
Moreover, the author transforms his painful experience into an ironic and sarcastic narrative. The title of the memoir book as well as is very ironic because „the factory of death“ is given a poetic name of the forest of gods. Also, it is very interesting that the concentration camp becomes a miniature model of the absurdity of the world. The book abounds in cultural implications and reflections on the status of our civilization. The Stoic posture of the narrator in the face of absurd makes it comparable to existentialist literature.
In the memoir book, author reveals the peculiarities of life and death in the camp which becomes commonness, self-evident occurrence, and people there are cruelly slaughtered like animals in the slaughterhouses. To continue the latest idea, author described many of situations in which human life is not respected. For example, many people were died from starving and hard physical work. In the situation two employees of the camp were responsible for the registration of death prisoners and that moment they wrote down 9 corpses and when they recalculated them they noticed that there were not 9, nut 8 bodies. Finally, they find out that one person was half-dead and he was crawled in to the corridor. However, the prisoner was towed back and was shot.
Another grotesque moment of death is the gallows of two lovers. On the Christmas eve two lovers were hanged near the decorated Christmas tree, prisoners were dancing around and the commandants, chiefs of camp were enjoying the champagne.
According to the author, in the concentration camp disappears all human values instead of the mind emerge the main instincts: hunger, cold, pain, self- protection. In the book there were described many examples of people who were very good persons and in the camp they became an animals. Therefore, the main instinct which was able to help to survive is an irony. According to the Balys Sruoga, irony is the best way to protect yourself from the loss of humanness. Ironic approach creates very distinctive, grotesque world, where the grimace of pain is covered by laughter diluted with tears. Also, it opens a tragic paradox and immorality of reality and most important- the horror of the human situation in this environment. Irony is effort for the person to survive in any situation and to resist for the shattering impact of concentration camp.
Every situation in this book is described very picturesquely. The author did not avoid to use many metaphors and curses, for example: “intelligence of a dog’s tail”, “Hey, you, pig snouts”, “go carry the dead”, “sons of bitches”, “small white animals” and etc.
It is already known that during the second world war many countries, citizens suffered from the brutality of Nazis and some of from the Soviet Union. That period was not only the massive destruction of Jews, but also a destruction of identity of many occupied countries. Many people were deported to the concentration camps such as Stutthof. For example in Stutthof there were 50 different nationalities and the vast majority was Poles. It shows that we all are connected of common history, common experience.
“Forest of the Gods” is recognized as a classic of Lithuanian memoir literary, which is described as one of the most original works in Europe about Hitler’s concentration camps, it is a unique piece of Lithuanian prose, “masterpiece of ironic literary”. This book is recommended for anyone who wants to feel how our compatriots survived the period of deportation in concentration camps. Finally, the most surprising think is that unbearable living conditions: hunger, frost and the death scenes are described with strong spices of black humor, irony and grotesque.
Goran Gerovac (2009.) Broken (original: Razbijeni)
Broken is dramatic novel of Croatian writer Goran Gerovec. Although Gerovec is not well known writer in Croatia, this novel is one of the best books that describes contemporary Croatian reality and mentality. Book consists of nine chapters, written in first person, but from the perspective of another character. All storytellers and their fates meet at several points that link the content in a solid unit. This novel is impressive and shocking picture of Croatian reality, without pink glasses, written in authentic, rude and direct language.
The nine chapters of novels and nine storytellers are skillfully fused into a complete and logical story that consists of fragments, touching those points on which the Croatian reality rather stays quiet. Those points arise from past and recent social and political events. However, those events are not the main theme of this novel, but they have permanently left deep wounds in the skin of individuals, the characters of this novel is that. No matter how indirect the author was about these problems, they successfully hit sample of Croatian society.
Moreover, in this novel all actors are losers, but the fault for that lurks somewhere beyond them. They would gladly changed their position there, but it is quite clear that this is just another of the impossible missions. The characters of the novel are in different relationships (family, friendship, lovers) and it is indeed difficult to list all problems Gerovac spoke through their fates. In the background, of course, there are war, crime, corruption, politics and other post-war transition and troubles, which have been deeply marked by characters that are truly „broken” at various public and private spheres.
Gerovac described community that only hypocrites can call family. It consists of a father who dreams of young lover (his friend’s the daughter), who spends time at bar with fake friends; alcoholic mother without a job and with a lover who is her husband’s friend; son in elementary school who harasses girls at school toilets and seeks its identity in violent group of kids overdosed with drugs and pornography grandfather who debates with senior citizens about past, illnesses and youngsters who don’t care about him. That „family“ is only one part of this novel, full of energy, dynamism and truth.
Additionally, Gerovac describes the ones who are with the family in some way related – drug dealers, police officers, underage prostitutes who sell themselves for clothes and new mobile phones, debt collectors, cancer patients, etc. Each of nine narrators brings his intimate story.
Why do I think this book is the best representative of contemporary Croatian reality? It describes the truth; total hopelessness of all generations, regardless of whether they are experiencing these times as generations of grandfathers and fathers or sons and daughters, who are trying to find themselves in these capitalistic relations. All actors in the novel are in the same time guilty and innocent, and that is the biggest tragedy.
I find novel Broken one of the best stories about Croatian situation nowadays, post-war situation – broken families, broken social norms, broken political systems, broken democracy, broken freedom, broken dreams.
Miroslav Krleža (1932.) The return of Philip Latinowicz (original: Povratak Filipa Latinovicza)
The Return of Philip Latinowicz is a novel by the Croatian author Miroslav Krleža, the greatest Croatian writer of the 20th century. It is considered the first modern complete novel of Croatian literature. Also, the novel is considered as one of the most complex Krleža’s books – motives and problems described in the novel are much deeper than it seems at first.
Filip Latinovicz, painter, comes back to his hometown after twenty-three years from the darkness of Western cities. Homecoming is Filip’s attempt to reaffirm himself both as a man and as a painter. Return revives things, persons and events related to his childhood. Krleža described figure of the intellectual and artist, insecure in his own identity, who was over matured, unbalanced child, insecure person. For the most time, Filip has been preoccupied with a woman’s body, daydreaming about woman. Filip is oversensitive, with strong emotional experiences of the world around him. His childhood was intense, bloody, traumatic, deeply lived.
This is actually the story of the „lost son“, who is trying to find himself in a morally corrupted society. Other hidden topics in this novel are alienation, nerve shattering, identity crisis, the collapse of all values and the disappointment of European culture and civilization. All of these problems are spiritual baggage that Filip brought with himself from the world in order to revive memories of childhood. Filip’s return is not only physical, it is also psychological.
Therefore, I find this story important picture of Croatian culture. Intellectual who run in the world trying to escape from the problems (both personal and problems of society in general) and now is trying to escape from civilization of big European cities because of unhealthy alienation from human nature.
Marija Djedović, Croatia
December 1, 2013, Kaunas
Student: Tino Deželić
Student’s number: VIZ13071
IN THE CONTEMPORARY CHAOS (1952) – Jozo Kljaković
It is an autobiographical prose of a painter, cartoonist, illustrator and writer Jozo Kljaković (1889-1969), one of the most important Croatian artists of the last century.
On the one hand exciting literary work which content and form brings almost diary entries from the author’s direct experiencing both World Wars, and on the other hand historically authentic view of the political situation in which one must navigate and orient as a triple political refugee – it is the easiest way to briefly describe autobiographical prose of Jozo Kljaković, one of the most important Croatian artists of the last century, and also an excellent writer distinctive layered character who without hesitation talking about our own human imperfections and the misery of a life in emigration. He was an Austro-Hungarian fugitive during WWI, politically incorrect person in the Pavelić’s NDH regime where he barely draws alive from the prison of Ustašas, and too sharp and pungent critic of Tito and the Yugoslav communist. That he has always been an objective and critical of the government is best illustrated by the fact that he was profane to both authorities. During the fascist regime of Ante Pavelićev he called the “Chetnik” and spent his time in prison, and during Tito’s Yugoslavia “Ustasha” and was forced to continue living in exile.
Kljaković’s fate is multiple interesting in the context of moral, political and ideological changes that Croatian intellectuals passed during the 20th century, confronted with the simple truth that their own fate is inseparable from accidents of an entire Croatian people and historical forces that govern humanity. Can one in a difficult and dangerous time remain a human, about that Kljaković witnesses on the example of his own destiny and destiny of the people he knew closely and who had the power to make decisions about other people’s lives.
The book is worth of reading mainly because it is one of the rare, or the only of that kind, books which had managed to talk objectively about politics, ideologies, different types of government and political leaders from first Yugoslavia (Kingdom of Yugoslavia) through “Independent State of Croatia” (NDH – Nezavisna Država Hrvatska) with Pavelić all over to communism and second Yugoslavia with Tito as a leader. Within these differences author always tries to take a wide view of a current situation putting the Croatian people and their benefit in first row. Anyone who knows anything about WWI and WWII knows that it is not simple to stay neutral and critically minded whether in dictatorship, fascism or communism (again dictatorship but in a different way of Kingdom’s), especially if you are a public personality with influence on the rest of the people, which means you are involved into a politics, whether you chose it or not. And in the case of Kljaković, by reading this book, it is quite difficult to “discover” his political views and ideology, the only thing that stays constantly is his care and fight for the benefit of people and human in general. It is true that Kljaković had his own assurances, especially as a young intellectual during the idea and enthusiasm of creating a new state of free Slavic countries outside of the Austro-Hungarian Kingdom after the WWI, but his human value he expressed at the very moment when he was able to recognize that he got carried away by the idea, that he was wrong and that people are suffering.
Kljaković is today in Croatia almost unknown personality, as an artist and as a historical person, mostly because of the earlier statement at the second paragraph – that he never was suitable to any political garniture so after his death in 1969. He had a rich education, he lived in the most cultural centers of the Europe at that time, met and corresponded with many influential and well known people of that time, from the artist to politicians and was exiled from his own country. But, that never stopped him to keep fighting for his own roots and small people in the jaws of the politics.
And these are the main reasons why I think this book should be read in a context of representing Croatia, firstly through its human, moral side, which is the most important piece of an identity. It is well known that parts of Balkan and around Balkan are complex issue for centuries, especially controversial during the 20th century, so if one is trying to get an objective story about it, it should be for sure this book of Jozo Kljaković.
Finally, it should be noted that the book is really convincing portrayal of a turbulent period, both for the world and for our region. It is an autobiography, not a scientific work, it is no wonder if sometimes catching impression of the author’s subjectivity, however, he of the same highly successful runs. However, one should take into account that it is a story of a reliving of events from the firsthand where emotions could not be easily put aside. And, again, even though it is not, the book faithfully (and often, more objective) provides a view of all the complex political and social issues than do some scientists who specialize in this area.
İslam in Azerbaijan.
1. Hema Kotecha. „Islamic and Ethnic Identities in Azerbaijan”, 2006.
Features of the historical development, geographical location and ethnic composition of the population contributed to the existence of different religions in Azerbaijan. Time to time Paganism, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam and many other religious belief managed to spread over the country, influenced each other and caused the specific features of the religious life.
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