The Commonwealth of Independent States Youth Symphony Orchestra led by Vladimir Spivakov, the world-famous Russian conductor, gave the concert two days after a similar performance in Baku. It was also attended by Bulbuloglu and Armen Smbatian, his former Armenian opposite number who currently runs the CIS Interstate Foundation for Humanitarian Cooperation.
The orchestra toured the two neighboring states remaining in a de facto state of war at the initiative of Mikhail Shvydkoy, a special cultural envoy of Russian Dmitry Medvedev.
The Azerbaijani official previously served as his country’s culture minister and was a popular singer during Soviet times. He, Smbatian and Shvydkoy already paid a joint visit to Armenia, Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh last year as part of a Russian-led initiative to rebuild bridges between the two estranged peoples. They were accompanied by small groups of Armenian and Azerbaijani intellectuals and other public figures at the time.
Shvydkoy told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that they are now continuing the “cultural dialogue” and also acting “security guarantors” for young Armenian and Azerbaijanis playing together for the first time since the outbreak of the Karabakh conflict in 1988. He said they hope that such cultural exchanges will eventually facilitate a compromise between the conflicting parties.
“When things are tense and explosive, compromise becomes the supreme value because compromise means life,” he said, speaking shortly before the Yerevan concert,.
“This is how we feel,” added Shvydkoy. “Politicians don’t have feelings, they are forbidden to feel. Politicians are driven by some pragmatic interests. But for us … this is an emotion, a spiritual need.”