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Oriental Studies in Azerbaijan have a long history. Its formation and development is closely related to the history of the Azerbaijani culture, Islamic civilization, Turkic world, culture of Near and Middle East.

 Greatly contributing to the development of history, literature, Philosophy, geography and ethnography of the eastern peoples, as well as the world science as a whole were writings of great Azerbaijani thinkers and scholars Bahmaniyar, Hatib Tabrizi, Shabaddin Suhravardi, Nizami Ganjavi, Mahmud Shabustari, Mohammad ibn Hindushah Nakhchivani, Seyid Yahya Bakuvi, Hasan-bey Rumlu, Haji Zeynalabdin Shirvani, etc.

It was the national culture principles and the influence of European science that gave impetus to the development of the Azerbaijani oriental studies in the 19 century and the appearance on the historical arena of a number of brilliant scholars and men of letters. These included Abbasgulu-aga Bakikhanov, Mirza Kazym-bey, Mirza Jafar Topchibashev and other prominent thinkers and scholars who greatly contributed to the development of the Azerbaijani science and culture. At the same time, they played an important role in the formation and subsequent development of the oriental studies in Russia and European countries. The systematic study of the Orient goes back to 1935 when an Azerbaijani branch of the USSR Academy of Sciences was instituted and to 1954 when a department of the history of foreign eastern countries under the Institute of History was set up.

The Institute of Oriental Studies of Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences (Institute of the Peoples of Near and Middle East in 1967-1984) was set up in 1958 on the basis of appropriate departments and branches of other institutes of the ANAS to comply with a decision of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Azerbaijan Republic. This period marked a qualitatively new stage in the development of the Azerbaijani oriental studies, a shaping of geographical domain and major research areas. The main purpose of the Institute was to study regularities and distinctive features of the historical, social and political, economic and cultural development of Near and Middle Eastern countries. In considering centuries-long cultural and historical ties between Azerbaijan and Near and Middle Eastern countries, the Institute set a task of initiating specific research work aimed at analyzing topical issues of the Republic.

The training of top quality cadres and enhancement of research papers potential of the Institute made it possible to broaden and enrich scope of research of the oriental studies. An emphasis was land on complex analysis of topical issues of history, economy, social and political thought and philology of Near and Middle Eastern countries; research and publication of written monuments of eastern peoples; translation and study of Arabic- and Persian-language monuments of the Azerbaijani people.

It should be noted that prior to gaining of independence by Azerbaijan the oriental studies in the country was developing as an integral part of the Soviet orientalism. Thus, themes of research papers of the Institute, particularly some contemporary social, political and ideological questions of Near Eastern countries were analyzed according to the requirements of the Marxist teaching in conformity with the eastern policy of the Soviet Union. However, it was close relations with former Soviet oriental centers, exchange of research papers experience and research information that gave birth to the development of oriental studies in Azerbaijan. It was no mere coincidence that the Azerbaijani oriental studies took leading positions in the former USSR in the 1970-80s, and country’s orientalists gained worldwide fame as first-class specialists. Contributing to the international prestige and authority of the Azerbaijani oriental studies were Academicians Abdulkerim Alizadeh, Alisohbat Sumbatzadeh, Hamid Arasly, Ziya Buniyadov, Correspondent Member Boyukagha Huseynov, Professors Rustam Aliyev, Aida Imanguliyeva, Akram Jafar, Rauf Seyidov and other leading researchers of the country.

The gaining of Azerbaijan’s independence and the establishment of the sovereign Republic in 1991 opened up new horizons and set new tasks to the Institute.

The purposes and themes of the Institute were radically revised under new conditions. With its independent foreign political line, the Republic of Azerbaijan attached a particular attention to the expansion of economic, political and cultural ties with Near Eastern countries. From foreign political strategy standpoint, Azerbaijan faced the urgent necessity of studying social, political and economic situation in the Near and Middle Eastern countries.

As is known, today the Near Eastern region is world’s hottest and crisis spot. Great powers and international consortiums’ attention is riveted on this mineral resources, specifically oil and gas-rich region of the globe. Further complicating the case are the Israeli-Palestinian confrontation, a war in Iraq, social and political disturbances in some Arab countries, ethnic and religious clashes, international terrorism, etc. It is no mere coincidence that for some time past various “centers for eastern studies” are set up America and Europe; related materials and publications issued. Indicative of oncoming aggravation of the situation in the region is a broadly discussed US “Great Near East” project. National and state interests of independent Azerbaijan make it necessary to thrash out current and oncoming developments in the region.

At the same time, there was a pressing necessity for Azerbaijan in transition to market economy to make use of the experience of Near Eastern countries in reforms and privatization, as well as production of natural resources. In this respect, experience of European countries, as well as that of eastern countries, both positive and negative, mentally and spiritually close, had a particular topically for Azerbaijan. Besides, it is essential to emphasize top priority importance of this line for the expansion of economic relations with Turkey, Iran and Arab countries.

In considering the above-stated, the Institute stepped up its activity in new directions. At present, the Institute focuses its research papers activity on lines as follows:

1. Study into regularities of social, political, economic and cultural development of eastern countries;

2. Study into historical, philological, religious and philosophical heritage of eastern peoples; analysis, translation and publication of written monuments of eastern peoples;

3. Study into East-West inter-civilization relations;

4. Analysis of historical and cultural relations between Azerbaijan and eastern peoples;

5. Research into political, economic, diplomatic and cultural relations between the independent Azerbaijani Republic; making of related forecasts and recommendations.

The first director of the Institute of Oriental Studies was outstanding textual critic and scholar, Academician A.A.Alizadeh (1958-1963). Later on, the Institute was headed by Academician A.S.Sumbatzadeh (1963-1970); Academician H.Arasly (1970-1981); Academician Z.M.Buniyadov (1981-1986; 1988-1991; 1992-1997); Professor A.N.Imanguliyeva (1991-1992). At present, the Institute is headed by ANAS corresponding member, Professor G.B.Bakhshaliyeva.

It should be noted that the formation of textual criticism in Azerbaijan is directly associated with the name of Acad. A.A.Alizadeh. He made an invaluable contribution to the collection and research papers-critical, textual analysis of writings of Nizami Ganjavi, Fazlullah Rashidaddin, Mohammad ibn Hindushah Nakhchivani et al.

With all his creative might any many-sided talent having been devoted to the development of the Azerbaijani literary criticism and the research of classic literary heritage, Acad.H.Arasly focused on the analysis of medieval Azerbaijani and oriental literatures. Of particular importance is his contribution to the study of the history of the Azerbaijani literature.

Research papers of Acad.Z.M.Buniyadov are devoted to the analysis of the history of the Arab caliphate and medieval period. With his priceless contribution to the history of the Azerbaijani science and culture, the prominent scholar also analyzed, translated and published works of medieval authors on the history, science and culture of Azerbaijan and Near and Middle Eastern peoples.

Doctor in Philology, Prof. A.N.Imanguliyeva has rendered great services to the formation of the Azerbaijani school of Arabic literary studies. As a leading researcher of the Arab “mahjar” literature in the former Soviet Union, A.N.Imanguliyeva significantly enriched and promoted the Azerbaijani Arabic literary studies with her fundamental works and research papers publications.

Currently heading the Institute of Oriental Studies, Correspondent Member of ANAS, Doctor in Philology, Prof. G.B.Bakhshaliyeva authored 3 monographs, 11 books and above 180 research papers on various aspects of the Arabic literature and Azerbaijani-Arabic literary relations. Together with research papers and organization activities, G.B.Bakhshaliyeva takes an active part in the social and political life of the country. In 2001, following the Parliamentary elections she was elected to Milli Majlis.

The Institute research workers are engaged in studying topical issues of the oriental studies; history, social, political and economic development of Turkey, Iran and Arab countries; philology of oriental peoples; history of Islam, religious and social thought trends in presentsay Near Eastern countries.

A broader emphasis is currently laid on the study of economic, social and cultural development problems of South Azerbaijan; questions of Islamic fundamentalism, etc.

Over the past period, the Institute issued above 600 monographs, collected articles, books and upwards of 7,000 research papers.

In 1998, under a decree of the President Heydar Aliyev, the Institute of Oriental Studies was named after Acad.Z.M.Bunuyatov.

At present, the number of research workers of the Institute of Oriental Studies is 96, where 2 of them are Correspondent Members of ANAS; 8 doctors of sciences, 52 PhD.

11 departments are active at the Institute of Oriental Studies; History and Economy of Turkey, History and Economy of Iran; History and Economy of Arab Countries; Turkish Philology; Iranian Philology; Arabic Philology; Source Study and Study and Publication of Written Monuments; History of Religion and Social Thought; South Azerbaijan; East-West; Central Asia and Far Eastern Countries.

Institute researchers represented Azerbaijani oriental studies at various international congresses, conferences and symposiums, including XXIV, XXV, XXIX, XXXI, XXXII and XXXVII international conferences (in Germany, USSR, Australia, France, Japan, Russia), recent 14 congresses of the Turkish History Society (Ankara, 1966-2006), other conferences and symposiums in the United States, Germany, Austria, Great Britain, France, Holland, Russia, China, South Korea, Turkey, Iran, Egypt, Malaysia, Israel, India, Georgia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, etc. which dealt with various problems of the oriental studies.

Nowadays, the Institute of Oriental Studies maintains close research papers ties with universities and research centers of Turkey, Russia, Germany, Holland, Iran, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, as well as with the Turkish Historical Society. At the same time the Institute is a coordinator of the UNESCO – backed International Institute for Central Asian Studies (IICAS) for Azerbaijan. In the years of independence the Institute convoked a number of important international conferences and symposiums. These included an international conference devoted to the 110-anniversary of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (Baku, 1991); jointly with Utrecht University (Holland) – an international conference titled “Social-political Thought and Ideological Realities in Azerbaijan and Neighboring Countries Earlier 20 Century” (Baku, 1997); an international conference devoted to the 75-anniversary of the establishment of the Republic of Turkey (Baku, 1998); an international symposium titled “Islamic Civilization in the Caucasus” (Baku, 1998); an international conference devoted to the 700-anniversary of the Ottoman State (Baku, 1999); international conferences devoted to great Iranian poets Hafiz Shirazi and Sadi Shirazi (Baku, 2002; Baku, 2003); an international conference devoted to the 200-anniversary of Mirza Kazimbey (jointly with the UNESCO, Baku, 2003); international  conferences titled “Globalization and Islam” (Baku, 2004, Baku, 2005); an international conference titled “Constitutional Revolution - 100 in Iran” (Baku, 2005); an international conference titled “A Dialogue Between East-West” (Romania, Cluj-Naboka, 2010); an international conference titled Baku Congress of Eastern Peoples - 120: History and Realities (Baku, 2010); an international conference titled “Topical Issues of Oriental Studies” (Baku, 2011); an international symposium “Historiography and Source Study of the East in the Middle Ages” dedicated to the 90-anniversary of Academician Ziya Buniyadov (Baku, 2012); an international conference titled “Nizami Ganjavi and Oriental Literature” (Baku, 2012); an international conference titled “Enlighteners of the Turkic world: M.Akif Ersoy and Huseyn Javid” (Baku, 2013); an international conference “Ways of Development of Oriental Studies” dedicated to the 70-anniversary of Academician Vasim Mamedaliyev; an international conference titled “Republic of Turkey-90” (Baku, 2013), etc.

One Institute researcher was awarded a State Prize of Azerbaijan; three researchers – H.Z.Tagiyev Prize; one researcher – A.A.Bakikhanov Prize; three researchers – honorary titled of Honored Scientist.

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