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14 Jul, 2007 08:57

The Media Mirror. What’s in the Russian newspapers?

This weekend’s press review focuses on a single but very inspiring story. This week Ogonyok magazine reports an event that, for some reason, has dropped off the sights of the mainstream media – the reconciliation between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

Several days ago, writes the magazine, amidst this breathtaking scenery, five people from Azerbaijan crossed the unrecognized but heavily defended border to Nagorny Karabakh. It was the first such crossing in twenty years. Soldiers had spent a whole day clearing a path in the minefield.

Nagorny Karabakh used to be a part of former Soviet Azerbaijan, mostly populated by Armenians. The ethnic war that broke out in this tolerant, bi-cultural prosperous land after the collapse of the Soviet Union ended in a stand-off in 1994 leaving 40 thousand dead, over a million refugees and a strange border that everyone calls the “line of the firearms contact”.

The delegation was led by Polat Bul Bul Oglu, a sweet and extremely popular voice of 1960s, a singer, poet and composer who pioneered the Russian-language version of the twist and rock-n-roll, later the Rector of the Baku Conservatory, then Minister of Culture of his republic, today the Ambassador to the Russian Federation.

Armen Smbatian, his counterpart who met him in Stepanakert, the capital of Karabakh, is also a famous composer, Rector of the Yerevan Conservatory, then Minister of Culture and now also the Ambassador to Moscow.

Their day started with a ‘real Karabakh breakfast’ – fried eggs with tomatoes and honey eaten in ethnically mixed company. Then they walked together to the childhood home of Polat Bul Bul Oglue in the nearby town of Shusha.

They flew to Yerevan for a lunch with President Robert Kocharian. Then in his airplane – to dinner with President Ilkham Aliev. It was the first time in two decades that an Armenian plane has touched down in Baku. The pilots had stocked up on food and were prepared to stay on board. Instead, they spent the night at dinner with their Azerbaijani colleagues, talking and singing together in Russian.

Ambassador Smbatian says:

“Someone of authority had to risk taking the first step. Polat and I have known and respected each other for over twenty years. We got together and decided it had to be us.”

Polat Bul Bul Oglu adds:

“In the past few years, some force inside me kept pushing me to do something about the situation.”

“We will never recognise the self-declared republic, but that is no reason not to talk to the people there.”

Asked about the toasts during their meals with the presidents, Mr Smbatian answers:

“We toasted Compromise.”