Topic: Foreign Relations
On July 14 France celebrates the national holiday, Bastille Day that is seen as the reference point in the modern history of France. On occasion of this remarkable date we cite an interview with Jean-Claude RICHARD, the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of France in Turkmenistan.
“The storming of the Bastille is not only an important event in the history of the French people but also a turning-point in the history of humankind, as it embodied the cherished desires common to all peoples. Therefore, it immediately produced an echo that resounded even in America.
The fortress of Bastille, a symbol of royal misrule for the Parisians, was also known for holding political prisoners. Therefore, the storming of the Bastille marked the victory of the ideas of liberty and equality.
It was not occasional that some days later both ideas were embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that solemnly declared, “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”
Another historical value of the storming of the Bastille was the idea of fraternity. It was not enough to attack the Bastille but it should be destroyed. All levels of population took part in the storming of the Bastille.
A year later, on 14 July 1790 a great festival was organised on occasion of the anniversary of this remarkable event in the history of France.
Liberty, Equality, Fraternity. This is the slogan of the French Republic. These words embody the ideals of peoples all over the world. They are inseparable from the forth ideal, the national sovereignty. It became clearly apparent at the moment when the foreign armies, which had conquered France to kill its ideals, were defeated on 20 September 1792 at the Battle of Valmy. It is known that Goethe who was fighting in the ranks of the Prussian army against the French said being greatly impressed with the French volunteers’ enthusiasm, “At this place, on this day the new era in the world’s history begins.”
The ideas of the French Revolution are common to all peoples. Victor Hugo wrote, “14th July does not belong to the French, 14th July belongs to all peoples.”
The Embassy of the French Republic in Turkmenistan adheres to this idea.
One of the priority directions of the Embassy’s activities is respect to Turkmen culture as well as the desire to know the country better. This aim is purposed by the French-Turkmen expedition headed by Professor Oliver Lecomte who is carrying out the archaeological excavations in Ulag-Depe, a historical site located near the settlement of Dushak.
The Embassy regularly organises and holds various cultural actions aiming to introduce French culture to the people of Turkmenistan as well as to develop cultural exchange between both countries and peoples. A composition created by F. Pugeot, C. Barrou and C. Pachett is penetrated with the spirit of Turkmen folk music.
Many other French musicians visited Ashgabat. They were impressed by the Turkmen music lovers’ warm welcome. We have organised eight concerts of classical and modern music in Turkmenistan. Some concerts were arranged in the towns of Turkmenbashi and Mary.
We have also organised art exhibitions such as Water Gardens of Ashgabat, Chanteau, Versailles photo exhibitions, a joint exhibition of the works of the painters from Mary and F. Margeri who delivered lectures on modern painting. On June 23 – July 1, an exhibition of the works of 15 Turkmen painters was organised in Paris near the Eiffel Tower. This autumn the French painters will arrange an exhibition of their works in Ashgabat.
Many young people of Turkmenistan visited France within the framework of the programmes on cultural and scientific exchange either to receive higher education in economy, international law and modern technologies or to attend the extension courses for the French teachers. The laureates of the French Literature Contest made the linguistic tours to France.
Jules Verne French Cultural Centre conducts various activities. Its library includes various French newspapers and magazines, 1,200 DVD and videocassettes with the feature and documentary films, over 200 compact disks of French music and songs, over 500 books and CD-ROM. The Centre regularly conducts the French language contests for children, young people and adults, organises the defence of the students’ diploma theses on the French language in collaboration with the Ministry of Education of Turkmenistan. The cinema-club presents the films in French.
The Embassy granted the textbooks to the French language centres. Closely co-operating with the Turkmen linguists the Embassy plans to publish the first bilingual French-Turkmen dictionary this August.
The French companies are among the first ones to establish close co-operation with Turkmenistan. Every day one can see the construction sites of the Bouygues Company that takes an active part in developing Ashgabat. The buildings constructed by the Bouygues Company in accordance with the international standards are easily recognised by their original style. For less than a year the company built the largest in Central Asia mosque in the settlement of Gypjak, the buildings of Museum of Fine Arts and Daykhan Bank. At present, the company is engaged in constructing dozens of objects, which will adorn the capital of Turkmenistan within a few next years.
Other French companies also made their possible contribution to development of Turkmenistan. For example, the Technip Company modernised the Turkmenbashi complex of oil refineries in 1997-2002. The company’s German partners continue this work. The Tales Company supplies up-to-date navigation equipment promoting modernisation of Turkmenistan’s air transport. The Schlumberger Company, one of the leading companies in the world, provides services in exploring and developing oil and gas fields. The Sersel Company supplies geophysical equipment, the Schneider Company – electrical systems and the Alstom Company assembles the pump stations. The Sifal Group, a long-term partner of Turkmenistan, represents other French companies whose contribution to Turkmenistan’s economic development is no less important.
The French community in Turkmenistan is one of the most numerous foreign communities in your country and the most numerous one in Central Asia.
As a EU member, France also takes an active part in various bilateral programmes, such as TACIS and Tempus, the programmes initiated by the UNDP, UNICEF, UNESCO, NATO, OSCE and Medecins Sans Frontiers.
Last year I visited Brussels to participate in a session of the European Union – Turkmenistan Joint Committee, the first one since 1998, as the EU Chairman in Turkmenistan. I think that development of contacts and co-operation is of common interest, indeed. The last session of the Joint Committee was held in Ashgabat six years ago. I was glad to make my contribution to the common cause.
In this regard, I am glad to witness such measures as withdrawal of an exit visa and registration of non-governmental organisations taken in Turkmenistan. In this way Turkmenistan demonstrates its adherence to the ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity, which we celebrate on Bastille Day.
State Information Agency of Turkmenistan (TDH)