Alexander Ivanov: "Hospitality and good neighborliness are in the nature of Azerbaijani people"

By Vestnik Kavkaza
Alexander Ivanov: "Hospitality and good neighborliness are in the nature of Azerbaijani people"

Today is the birthday of CEO of Interfax-Azerbaijan Alexander Alexeevich Ivanov, a man with a unique destiny and life experience. For a long time he served in the state security bodies of Azerbaijan, personally working with Heydar Aliyev. In 2005 Alexander Ivanov was invited to head the office of Interfax in Azerbaijan. Over the years, the news agency has become one of the most popular in the republic.

Vestnik Kavkaza congratulates Alexander Ivanov on his birthday, wishes him good health and further success in the media space, and offers its readers an interview with him.

-Congratulations on being awarded the honorary sign of Rossotrudnichestvo for the development of bilateral cooperation. How do you assess the work of Rossotrudnichestvo in Azerbaijan?

-Recently, the head of the agency Lubov Nikolaevna Glebova visited Baku for the opening of the first European Games. And I had the good fortune to meet her at our Interfax offices, we met and took an extended interview with her.

The representative of Rossotrudnichestvo in Azerbaijan, Valentin Petrovich Denisov, carries out very productive, high-quality and very extensive work on promoting projects on which Rossotrudnichestvo works.

Azerbaijan carries out an incredible amount of activities to study the Russian language, Olympiads on knowledge of the Russian language are held in almost all the regions of Azerbaijan. Many events are held at the Russian Information and Cultural Center.

I consider the celebration of a Valentine's Day analogue in Azerbaijan as a positive moment – through the Rossotrudnichestvo policy the Day of Family, Love and Faithfulness is held annually. And among the former Soviet republics, Azerbaijan celebrates this holiday most widely. People gather, guests are invited, the screen shows couples who have been married for more than 25 years, demonstrating their young life, the growth of their children and grandchildren.
Rossotrudnichestvo holds jubilee celebrations of Russian writers, poets, scientists and researchers. I take part in them with pleasure, and I believe that the agency carries out multifaceted, multi-purpose work.

-You were the head of the private security service of Heydar Aliyev, and while on duty were at many events. How would you rate the level of bilateral contacts between Moscow and Baku, in particular in the form of the personal interaction of the heads of state, at that time and today?

-My management of the personal safety of Heydar Aliyev lasted until his retirement in 1980. That period was somewhat complicated. Mikhail Gorbachev behaved unfairly with Aliyev as a potential leader of the Soviet Union in the period when he was a member of the Politbureau. Apparently, there was envy. There were also somewhat tense relations with Boris Yeltsin when he came to power.

The situation drastically changed at the level of the leaders of Russia and Azerbaijan, when in 2000 Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin came to power in the Russian Federation. Of course, the authority of Heydar Aliyev is famous not only as a politician, but also as a Chekist leader, because he was the first chairman of the Azerbaijan SSR KGB, the first major-general of the Azerbaijani Chekist. I suppose Vladimir Vladimirovich's former profession has played a role in his relations to national leader Heydar Aliyev as a person who in his work delves into intricacies. Today I will turn your attention to this, he is the only leader of state to visit the grave of Heydar Aliyev, kneeling his right knee in front of the monument. That says a lot.

Today the mutual friendship level between the current presidents, I believe, is also positive, and any interaction is aimed at prospering bilateral relations between Azerbaijan and Russia.

-The people of Baku have always been very friendly toward Moscow. For 10 years already you have been the head of Interfax-Azerbaijan, you often go to the regions of Azerbaijan, meet with different people. What is the mood there, how are people feeling today toward Russia and its policy in the Caucasus?

-The people of Azerbaijan are friendly, responsive. Hospitality and good-neighborliness are always present in the character of Azerbaijani people. There is even a phrase – the closest relative is the neighbor.

On this basis, Azerbaijani people have an understanding that long-standing friendly relations must be maintained, and today there is a positive attitude to the Russian people. Now many Russians come to us, they say: "It feels as if we are not abroad." Russian speech is heard everywhere, there are monuments to Russian poets, writers, great people of Russia. Street names – Lermontov, Pushkin, Gogol – are preserved. Indigenous Baku people often use Russian names of streets in conversation, which were changed in independent Azerbaijan. Names associated with some heroes or topographical terms are in use.

-Interfax-Azerbaijan gave a very detailed review of the first European Games in Baku. Have your personal expectations for the Games been met, not as a sporting event, but in terms of strengthening the positive image of Azerbaijan?

-The period of preparation for the Games was very short. There were only two years to prepare the infrastructure, sports venues and other things that had to be done at the request of the European Olympic Committee. All this was done within the period, all facilities and infrastructure for the Games have been provided at a high level.

As a resident of Baku, I will say that the changes were very fast. After 2-3 weeks you could already not recognize the places where the construction was held.

And, of course, a sense of patriotism of Azerbaijanis themselves in their country over the success of the Games. Everybody closely followed the opening. Including me. The mood of people was complacency, pride for their country. By the nature of my work I have met with many famous people who came here, particularly from Russia, from other European countries. I am in close contact with Vladislav Tretiak, we have been friends for a long time, and Irina Rodnina. They are State Duma deputies who have seen many things, they were torchbearers at the opening of the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi. And they were amazed by what they saw in Baku.

Vladislav Tretiak, by the way, was in the capital of Azerbaijan for the first time. At the airport it was impossible to get close to Rodnina and Tretyak – everyone wanted to see them, to take a picture. This is how Azerbaijanis feel towards Russians. Their experience, their comments are very important.

I also met with many European participants of the Games, opening and closing. They also gave a very high rating.

-The latest visits to Karabakh by Sterligov and Kazarnovskaya led to their inclusion by Azerbaijan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the list of persona non grata. Are illegal visits to the occupied territories really hindering a settlement of the conflict?

-Absolutely, because the unrecognized by anyone Nagorno-Karabakh Republic is an inseparable territory of Azerbaijan. Travel must comply with international standards under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, border situations, customs activities. Sometimes, while not knowing the global problems Azerbaijan can get in Karabakh. But such famous people as Kazarnovskaya!

I think she had contacts with the ambassador of Azerbaijan in Moscow, well-known, and respected in Azerbaijan and Russia, and throughout the world Polad Bulbuloglu. He always has a pain in his heart, because he is a native of Nagorno-Karabakh. I am sure that Kazarnovskaya knew about it.

Many get there, and then apologize, appeal to the authority of Azerbaijan, appeal to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan, that they supposedly got there unknowingly. Still, the problem has existed for over 20 years, and even if someone is far from politics, they still understand very well that this formation is illegal, unrecognized by anyone in the world.

Maybe Sterligov has some criminal motives. There is a rumor that he was hiding from the Russian authorities. He has repeatedly said that Russia does not understand him. So it's like he is running away from Russia to Nagorno-Karabakh.

I have an extremely negative attitude toward the situation, when respected, well-known people do such things.

-How do you see the ways to solve Karabakh conflict, and Moscow's role in resolving the conflict?

This problem must be solved peacefully. If today everything ended peacefully, and as was repeatedly stated by the leadership of Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh would receive special status, these lands would not have been in such an outrage as they are now, when, for example, refugees from Syria are resettled there. The fundamental point for resolving this issue is, of course, peace negotiations, and Russia, as a mediator-state in resolving the conflict, has quite weighty leverages to help resolve it. Unfortunately, the opposite side has a different approach, although it is not clear why, After all, in the economic, social and cultural spheres peace would benefit the peoples of the two countries

-You are a happy father and grandfather. Your granddaughter is a student of the history department of Moscow State University. Do you discuss political issues with her?

-My granddaughter was born in Moscow, but on holidays she always comes to Azerbaijan, which she loves and considers as her second home. She has friends here. I am proud that she graduated from the historical faculty of Moscow State University.