- Thank you, Your Holiness. I would like to thank You for this honorary award and high appreciation of my activity. I am particularly delighted to have received this order from You. I want to thank You very much and would like to express my infinite esteem to You and Your high mission. You have been delivering to people such fundamental universal values as religious and moral, truthfulness and justice, humanism and mercy, doing good, and helping people. In Azerbaijan, we very well remember Your visit to our country. We highly appreciate Your services to safeguarding moral and cultural heritage, and Your active peace-loving activities aiming at ensuring mutual understanding in the society, restoration of mutual respect, and solidarity. During Your last visit to our capital, You paid a visit to Tazapir Mosque and held a divine service at the Holy Women-Myrrhbearers Cathedral in Baku, whereby You once more emphasized that any faith, any religion serves uniting people, and reconciling them.
Azerbaijan is a multinational and multi-faith state. Multiculturalism, mutual respect have formed our people’s view of the world, and the foundation of the Azerbaijani state’s policy. On the Azerbaijani soil, representatives of different faiths, civilizations and cultures have for centuries lived in the environment of peace and solidarity. This cultural diversity of the peoples living in our country’s territory is, without doubt, our treasure. These words also concern the Russian Orthodox community at large. Today, the number of religious people belonging to the Russian Orthodox Church in Azerbaijan is over 100 thousand.
Recent years Azerbaijan has become one of the globally known centres for dialogue among nations, religions and civilizations. Regular influential international forums are held in our country’s capital, aiming to secure mutual understanding and mutual respect. In 2010, the Summit of World Religious Leaders took place in the capital of our Homeland, in which You also participated. In 2016, Baku hosted the 7th Forum of UN Alliance of Civilizations. On 21 December this year, a conference dedicated to the outcomes of the “Year of Islamic Solidarity” took place, and the subject of this conference was, again, building a dialogue between peoples, and representatives of different religions. Taking this opportunity, I would like to thank You for the letter You have sent to the conference, as well as for the high-level representation of the Russian Orthodox Church.
In our country, we very much revere our roots, traditions, and history. Nevertheless, Azerbaijan is a country open to the world. We are willing to establish friendly relations with other states, and current relations between Russia and Azerbaijan have been established on the basis of kind neighbourhood, mutual respect, and friendship. Azerbaijan and Russia are strategic partners, and, of course, our cooperation in the humanitarian sphere is a very significant part of this cooperation. We have been sharing very big common cultural heritage, and our cooperation in the humanitarian filed has formed back when Azerbaijan and Russia were parts of the same state. It is a rejoicing fact that after Azerbaijan regained its independence, it increased this potential, rather than losing it. In today’s Azerbaijan, there is great interest towards the great Russian literature and culture. Teaching the Russian language has been maintained in full volume in Azerbaijan. Over 300 schools with a hundred percent teaching in Russian have been functioning in our country. The Azerbaijan State Russian Drama Theatre, the Slavic University are operating in the capital. There is a tendency of opening branches of leading Russian higher schools in Azerbaijan – a branch of the Lomonosov Moscow State University and a branch of the Sechenov First Moscow State Medical University have been operating successfully. This is another example of our fruitful cooperation.
We have very sincere friendship relations with Astrakhan Region. This region is our friend, neighbour, and there are many examples of our cooperation. The erection of a monument to Saint Prince Vladimir and its inauguration in 2013 is of special significance to us. Best artists and architects of Azerbaijan have worked on the creation of this monument. Over the course of a year, they have created a grandiose monument, reflecting our profound respect and esteem towards the Russian Orthodox Church.
Your Holiness, I want to thank You once more for Your sincerity and kindness, and express my gratitude. Taking this opportunity, I want to deliver sincere greetings of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and his invitation to visit our country. I wish You prosperity, abundance, sound health and happiness. Thank You very much.