Russia and Kurdistan
A high ranking delegation from the Russian Federation visited Kurdistan Region last week and met with Region’s top officials.
The delegation that included President Vladimir Putin’s Envoy to the Middle East and Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, Chairman of Gazprom Neft, Alexander Dyukov, and Deputy Energy Minister, Yuri Sentyurin, met with Kurdish President Massoud Barzani.
Dring the meeting Bogdanov praised the role of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the Peshmarga in the fight against Islamic State. He also delivered ‘Storied Land: Kurdish Culture through the Eyes of Russian Scholars’, an academic look at the history of Kurds, written by Russian authors, to President Barzani.
“When Kurds moved to Russia in the mid-20th century, the political and cultural relations between Kurdistan and Russia improved and we would like to take these relations forward.”
The delegation also met with Kurdistan Region’s Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, where they highlighted historic relations between Kurdistan and Russia, and their intention to strengthen those relations, particularly in the economic and cultural fields.
The Chairman of Gazprom Neft, Mr. Dyukov, briefed Prime Minister Barzani on the activities and progress the company has achieved in the Kurdistan Region, expressing his satisfaction with the level of cooperation his company receives from the Kurdistan Regional Government, especially the Ministry of Natural Resources.
Mr. Dyukov announced that Gazprom Neft plans to raise the volume of his company’s investment in the Region.
Prime Minister Barzani expressed to the delegation his appreciation for their visit and for organizing the inauguration ceremony for introducing of the book, “The Nation of Epics: Kurdish Culture in the Eyes of Russian Scholars”, which was compiled and written by scholars from the Russian Institute of Oriental Studies and the Russian Institute of Oriental Manuscripts, and published by Gazprom Neft.
He reiterated that cultural relations will lead to strengthening political and economic relations. He expressed his appreciation to the Russian Federation for its readiness to further develop relations with Kurdistan Region.
Prime Minister Barzani also discussed the war against the Islamic State terrorist organization, and the courage and bravery of Peshmarga forces who counter this threat.
He pointed out that due to this brutal conflict the Kurdistan Region endures a heavy economic burden that has been made even more difficult due to inadequate receipt of agreed Budget share from the Iraqi Federal Government. He emphasized this shortfall is occurring at the time when the KRG serving the needs of more than 1.5 million displaced people who fled to the Region seeking refuge from the conflict. The dramatic decline in oil prices has compounded the burden.
Prime Minister Barzani expressed his hope that the Russian Federation will assist the Kurdistan Region to effectively pass through this very difficult period.
During the visit, the Russian delegation also attended a ceremony for the announcement of the book “The Nation of Epics: Kurdish Culture in the Eyes of Russian Scholars”, which was organized at the Saad Convention Center in Erbil on Sunday, May 17, 2015.
President Barzani, PM Barzani, Deputy PM Qubad Talabani and other KRG officials and ministers attended the ceremony.
Russian Foreign Minister Bogdanov delivered a speech at the beginning of the ceremony, in which he talked about Mustafa Barzani’s stay in Russia in the mid-20th century, as well as the historical relation be- tween the two nations.
Bogdanov also praised the authors and publishers of the book.
Gazprom Neft Chairman Dyukov also delivered a speech and talked about his company’s operations in Kurdistan Region and the company’s future plans in the Region.
Dyukov said economic relations are as important as other relations between the two nations.
He said that Kurdish history has attracted the Russian nation. He added that when President Barzani visited Russia two years ago, he met him. After seeing all the documents and scripts they decided to publish this book.
Dyukov announced that his company’s next project would be publishing an encyclopedia of the Kurdish and Russian History and a documentary film.
PM Barzani also gave a speech to the attendants, in which he welcomed the delegation again and told a Russian saying that says “the same way that feathers make a peacock beautiful, culture and enlightenment make humans beautiful.”
He also said that the visit and the publication of the book are proofs that Russia and Kurdistan would like to improve their mutual ties and cultural exchange.
“Culture is the language of nations, is an invitation for dialogue and introduction, is a sign of originality of humanism in building information bridge and establishing the citadel of knowledge and science,” said PM Barzani.
Talking about the new book, PM Barzani said this adds a lot of value to the Kurdish history and culture as it collects historical photos and documents from Russian Scholars about the Kurds and have been preserved at Russia’s institutes and museums.
“If Europe is the place for Orientalism in general, Russia is definitely the place for studies about Kurds,” said PM Barzani. “Due to its geographical proximity to Kurdistan, Russia has been able to establish strong relations with the Kurdistani nation. We know that orientalism has a long history in Russia and a large number of orientalists working on Kurdish studies in Europe were from Russia and have graduated there.”
During his speech, Barzani mentioned Vladimir Minorsky, an orientalist who is well known among Kurdish scholars.
He said Minorsky did a lot of valuable work on Kurdish geography and history during the past century. He also mentioned that Mikhail Lazarev, who wrote about Kurds from the end of 19th century till the end of the World War II.
Barzani talked about the impact of the Russian classic poetry and literature on Kurdish poets and scholars, including the great Kurdish poet Abdulla Goran.
Kurdish PM encouraged Kurdish scholars, writers and professors of history, literature to do research on the scripts that belong to Kurdistan and are a national treasure and are protected in Russia’s museums.
At the end of his speech, PM Barzani said they value their relations with Russia and would like to improve their political, economic, and cultural relations for the benefit of both nations.
“I hope culture can be used as a soft weapon for peace, and establishment of a civilized society on the basis of understanding and providing a life full of dignity and justice for all the nations of the world.”