''Engelhardt Observatory deserves being prepared for UNESCO nomination''

Mintimer Shamiev’s From Heart to Heart: how another book about the first president was presented in Kazan

''Engelhardt Observatory deserves being prepared for UNESCO nomination'' Photo: Maksim Platonov

The final session of the Forum for Intercultural Dialogue was marked by the presentation of a new book about Mintimer Shaimiev, which includes interviews and speeches of the Tatarstan activist. It was impossible to avoid kind words of the first Tatarstan president's colleagues and friends because of which the main character of the book felt uncomfortable – he admitted he got used to criticism but didn't want to get used to praise. Then speakers found out the phrase ''We Can!'' belonged to Mintimer Shaimiev, not Barack Obama, and Engelhardt Observatory deserved a UNESCO nomination. Realnoe Vremya tells the details of the presentation and conclusions of the forum.

From Mintimer Shaimiev's Heart to Heart

Many words were said about first Tatarstan president Mintimer Shaimiev in the Kazan Kremlin's Executive Lounge on 7 September. The presentation of the book From Heart to Heart. Selected Speeches and interviews of First President of the Republic of Tatarstan, Special UNESCO Envoy for Intercultural Dialogue Mintimer Shaimiev was the reason during the Kazan Forum for Intercultural Dialogue.

The book was printed in three languages – Russian, Tatar and English. The volume includes over 600 pages that tell and show what the first president did and does all his life. The voluminous book was gifted to the forum's participants. It won't be possible to see it for others because the Tatar Publishing House printed just a thousand copies.

Russian State Duma deputy, director of the Federal Agency for the Commonwealth of Independent States, Compatriots Living Abroad and International Humanitarian Cooperation Eleonora Mitrofanova invited those who wanted to say something about the book of the republic's state activist to the rostrum. But before this, she noted Mintimer Shaimiev's whole journey of life was ''full of love for his people, understanding of its spiritual world and service to its interests''.

Yury Kamaltynov considers Mintimer Shaimiev and his colleagues managed to dramatically change the attitude to the Tatars in Russian society

Yury Kamaltynov, deputy chairman of the Tatarstan State Council and director of the Administrative Council of the Regional Fund of Historical and Cultural Monuments of the Republic of Tatarstan, expressed his respect for the new book's main character. It's possible to see in the book the history of relationship of the republic with the federal centre after the dissolution of the USSR, the history of events of the life-changing moment after which the term ''Tatarstan model'' appeared, which symbolises a successful experience in the way out of a complicated situation the republic was in after the dissolution of the Soviet state. Afterwards, Mintimer Shaimiev would tell in interviews to Russian and foreign mass media sources about the ''Tatarstan model'' and what it turned into many times. Having read the book, Yury Kamaltynov remembered those breaking moments and connected the first president's politics with intercultural dialogue and considered that he and his colleagues managed to dramatically change the attitude to the Tatars in Russian society.

''The very word 'Tatar' caused fear and mistrust among some people. The Tatars didn't deserve such unfairness,'' Kamaltynov began to read Shaimiev's words at the 1 st session of the World Congress of the Tatars in 1992.

''It worked – even books changed and became different,'' the speaker stated.

If the first part of the book opens a ''window'' to the events taking place 25 years ago, the second one is a story about calmer days that allowed to closely deal with developing Tatarstan's economy, attracting foreign investors, the establishment of links.

''It's obvious that everything that Mr Shaimiev undertakes is done, thoroughly, till the end. As it seemed to me, I found the secret to this feature of his character in one of the interviews about Sabantuy,'' Kamaltynov admitted and read the first president's direct speech. So if he isn't sure about a victory, he never undertakes the task. Even when playing as a kid. ''It's my life rule – if you begin doing something, you must win. If you feel you won't win, you shouldn't begin. I don't know if it's good or bad. It's the way I am,'' Shaimiev's another quote was heard.

Judging by the number of memories of the first president written down, Kamaltynov really liked the book. According to him, everyone should have one in the library. The only thing he criticised was the number of copies, which was ''a bit small''.

Zilya Valeyeva was on the stage, Mintimer Shaimiev told that she was in the opposition as a talented journalist during the Perestroika. However, they started to speak the same language as time went by

Shaimiev as Tatar Socrates and peacemaker

Director Kazan Kremlin museum reserve Zilya Valeyeva was next to be on the stage. But previously Mintimer Shaimiev told that she was in the opposition as a talented journalist during the Perestroika. However, they started to speak the same language as time went by.

Zilya Valeyeva told that in modern reality there was room for such a category as soul, the ''from-heart-to-heart'' principle beautified Kazan. Later Rector of the Institute for Peace (UNESCO), President of Europe – Asia International Humanitarian Academy Engel Tagirov compared Mintimer Shaimiev with Tatar Socrates, thinker, scientist and said he and UNESCO were two phenomena.

''Love for peace, love for people, love for all who surround him – this love turned him into a peacemaker,'' the scientist noted enthusiastically.

Former Director of the Arab Regional Centre for World Heritage and current adviser for the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities Mounir Bouchenaki also took advantage to say several kind words to his lasting friend. He remembered he acquainted with the first president of Tatarstan 20 years ago and could say he ''looks at people with human eyes''.

Once Mr Shaimiev told he wouldn't like the Tatarstan people to suffer like people do in many countries, he said. So Mounir Bouchenaki was a witness from the very beginning that very sensible, wise decisions have been made at the level of both the regional parliament and in cooperation at the federal level since the 90s.

Former Director of the Arab Regional Centre for World Heritage Mounir Bouchenaki also took advantage to say several kind words to his lasting friend

He also mentioned the slogan ''We Can!'', which became a motto for the republic. But Tatarstan isn't the only place to use this phrase because former US President Barack Obama liked to use ''Yes We Can'' very much.

The UNESCO expert admitted the phrase belonged to the Tatarstan activist and claimed President Shaimiev said it before President Obama.

Professor Alkiviadis Prepis, ICOMOS expert, Director of Democritus University of Thrace's Department of Architectural Engineering was another foreign expert to know Tatarstan well too. He called Shaimiev a real leader and admitted when talking with him there was an impression that you talk with your father. In his opinion, the book reflects the Tatarstan activist's personality.

''I've never been praised for four days in a row''

Shaimiev felt uncomfortable after the amount of praise he heard during the Forum for Intercultural Dialogue.

''I've never been praised for four days in a row. It's so habitual when you are told off, criticised. Pressure doesn't go up because of it. But when you have being praised for so many days… Considering that the forum ends today, I think I can handle it. But I try not to get used to this, otherwise, it will be wrong,'' the republic's first president noted selecting words.

He thanked all the speakers for their kind words and told about another book about himself, which was printed in the Russian series of books Life of Wonderful People.

''Only one sentence is mine, the rest was written by authors. I wrote there: ''Thanks for all kind words, statements, support in the most uneasy time of my work'' and then added: ''But I am not that good.'' It's written as it is because it's impossible to be very good with such a biography. But the positive evaluation, in general, is pleasant. But I need to handle it,'' the Tatarstan activist shared.

Mintimer Shaimiev: ''I've never been praised for four days in a row''

A bit later Kazan and Tatarstan Metropolitan Feofan, who had been listening to all speakers during all this time, was sitting with Tatarstan Mufti Hazrat Kamil Samigullin and said the book's name proved Shaimiev's depth. His Grace obviously liked the volume. And here a trial in the form of another praise and gratitude awaited the main character of the book – this time for deep understanding of culture and conservation of cultural heritage.

Course for Engelhardt Observatory

After the presentation of the book, the people present had only one thing left to do – it was time to end the Forum for Intercultural Dialogue after four busy days. Then Kazan Federal University Rector Ilshat Gafurov told about the university's successes but didn't mention that Tatarstan had begun to work on preparation of the UNESCO nomination for the Engelhardt Astronomic Observatory. Mintimer Shamiev corrected the mistake and complained that he even started to worry about Ilshat Gafurov who modestly omitted it.

''The Engelhardt Astronomic Observatory deserves having a nomination. It will be a new area, but it will be in demand by the UNESCO institute,'' the first Tatarstan president noted. ''Now it's good we have such a nomination [air, space and astronomy]. We should take advantage and show it to the whole world.''

There was said a lot about intercultural cooperation and the course for the future when drawing conclusions to the forum. The Russian Commission for UNESCO Secretary Grigory Ordzhonikidze read the declaration prepared after the forum. But the declaration and plans for the Engelhardt Observatory aren't the only results of the international event. Two agreements on cooperation signed by Director of the Federal Agency for the Commonwealth of Independent States, Compatriots Living Abroad and International Humanitarian Cooperation Eleonora Mitrofanova, Director of the Administration of the Tatarstan Cabinet of Ministers, Chairman of the Tatarstan Commission for UNESCO Shamil Gafarov and KFU Rector Ilshat Gafurov closed it.

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By Maria Gorozhaninova. Photo: Maksim Platonov
Tatarstan