Vol. 4, No. 6 (March 15, 2011)

Training abroad as a key element in Azerbaijani state policy

Paul Goble
Publications Advisor
Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy

Azerbaijan, like other former Soviet republics, has found it far easier to create new institutions for the future than to reform those inherited from the communist past.  Nowhere has this pattern been more obvious and the stakes greater than in the case of higher education.  Reforming existing educational institutions and especially their administrative culture has proved a daunting task, and creating new ones on the ground has been almost as difficult.  As a result, Baku as a matter of state policy has encouraged its young people to study abroad, thereby allowing such students to gain from educational institutions already functioning in other countries and helping to create post-Soviet elite for Azerbaijan.

Two events this month called attention to this process.  On March 10, First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva, the president of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, told Alice Gast, the special representative of the President of the United States for Science, that “the Azerbaijani state is interested in broadening the process of the instruction of Azerbaijani children and young people abroad,” a desire that the American official said she and the American government welcome. [1]

At the same time and as an indication of both how large this phenomenon has become and how much importance the Azerbaijani government devotes to it, more than 150 Azerbaijanis studying in 25 countries came together at a two-day Azerbaijani Students and Alumni International Forum in the offices of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, a meeting that also attracted senior Azerbaijani government officials and educators. [2]

The two-day meeting was organized around four panels: the Creation of a Network and the Application of New Methods for the Development of Azerbaijan; Human Capital as a Main Goal; Young People and Public Diplomacy; and Azerbaijanism—Unity for the Future.  Sports Minister Azad Rahimov in his presentation stressed that young people, especially those with training abroad, will play a key role in the future of Azerbaijan, and he called on those studying abroad to be “strugglers for the unity of our country” as well as importers of new ideas.

Rahimov also stressed the importance of Azerbaijanis studying abroad as public ambassadors who can combat the ideological and information “wars” now being directed against their homeland.  Daryal Batybey, Turkey’s permanent representative to the Council of Europe, supported that idea and called attention to the importance of developing contacts among students from various Turkic countries.  And Samad Seyidov, the head of the Azerbaijani delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, put it bluntly: “The future of Azerbaijan is in the hands of Azerbaijani young people” and especially those with training abroad.

Elnur Aslanov, the head of the political analysis and information support department of the Presidential Administration, went even further.  He said that there is “a sharp need” for every student receiving education abroad to return to Azerbaijan where he or she will be able to “play an important role in the future development of the country.”

“Democracy begins,” the Presidential advisor added, “at the moment when each young person on returning to his country begins to work and to introduce innovations in the sector in which he is working.  Democracy is the norm and stereotype of the transformation of consciousness.”  Because that is so, Aslanov said, the government is today supporting “thousands of young” Azerbaijanis studying abroad.

Azerbaijani young people,” he continued, “must today occupy themselves with these real tasks.  A young person, thinking about his country, must not give in to provocations.  Each representative of Azerbaijani youth, having received an education, must communicate to the world Azerbaijani realities.”

Among the officials taking part were three Millli Majlis deputies—Jeyhun Osmanly, Sabir Hajiyev and Fuad Muradov—Azerbaijani ambassadors to London, the Hague, and Budapest; the Azerbaijani consul general in Los Angeles; Azad Rahimov, minister of youth and sports; Intigam Babayev, the deputy minister of youth and sports; Hasan Mammadzade and Farhad Mammadov of the Presidential Administration; Hamlet Isakhanly, the former rector of Khazar University; Fariz Ismailzade of the Azerbaijani Diplomatic Academy; Elkhan Mammadov, the secretary general of AFFA; Ilgar Huseynov, the director general of the Trend News Agency; Farid Novruzi, the president of NOVCO; Vagif Hasanov, the director of the Garant Sigorta insurance agency; Rufat Abbasov of the Central Bank; Rauf Mardiyev of the Ireli Group; and Shahin Ismayilov, the president of the Union of Student Youth Organizations of Azerbaijan. 

Other Azerbaijani leaders taking part included Shahhmar Movsumov, the president of the State Oil Foundation of Azerbaijan; Elmar Gasymov, the deputy education minister; Bahram Khalilov from the Commission on Questions of State Service; Arif Mammadov, the permanent representative of Azerbaijan to the Council of Europe; Gamil Hasanov, the secretary general of the Turkic Parliamentary Assembly; and Tural Karimli, the representative of the US-based Karabakh Foundation.  Still others involved with this conference included ASAIF President Orkhan Akbarov; Farhad Hajiyev, the deputy head of the State Committee for Work with the Diaspora. 


[1] See http://news.day.az/politics/257099.html (accessed 13 March 2011).

[2] See http://news.day.az/politics/257279.html (accessed 13 March 2011).