Abai 175 and World Philosophy Day

19 November 2020

Video message by Audrey Azoulay, the Director-General of UNESCO, to celebrate the 175th anniversary of Abai Qunanbaiuly, Kazakh philosopher

I am very pleased to join you to celebrate the 175th anniversary of of Abai Ibrahim Qunanbaiuly - better known as Abai.

The COVID-19 pandemic unfortunately prevents me from going in person, as I had to do, to this great crossroads of the world that is Kazakhstan, where the Persian, Indian, Chinese and Turkish worlds have never ceased to meet and exchange ideas.

I would particularly like to thank the Republic of Kazakhstan for associating UNESCO with this event, which brings together specialists, historians and philologists from all over the world to celebrate the legacy of this great poet and philosopher of the steppes.

This event is a new step to deepen the permanent dialogue between our Organization, UNESCO, and the Kazakh authorities, a dialogue that I have had the pleasure of building also to my own measure by meeting on several occasions with high representatives of the country.

But this is certainly not the first time that our Organization has had the pleasure of honoring Abai: as early as 1995, UNESCO joined in the celebrations of the 150th anniversary so that the entire world would pay tribute to him.

He is not only an immense Kazakh poet, but a world poet, who decided to build sensitive and intellectual bridges between languages, cultures and peoples. Bridges constantly rebuilt, through study and through words.

Abai, as he himself wrote in The Book of Words, had "the desire to see everything, to hear everything, to learn everything. And true to his ambition, he devoted his life to the knowledge of Kazakh, Uzbek, Tajik, Russian and Western literature, but also to the translation of works by Goethe, Byron, Pushkin and many others.

His deep commitment to promoting access to education and literacy derives from the same roots: to be open to reading, writing, languages, literature, is to be open to the world and to exist in the world.

This is undoubtedly why the great Kazakh writer Mukhtar Auezov described Abai as "a whole planet of universal spirituality".

These convictions of Abai are fully ours. Exactly a century after its birth, UNESCO was born to defend the same ambition and certainly the same ideal.

To pay homage to him is therefore also to continue his work and to pursue this universal ambition.

This is what we are doing with you at UNESCO, by safeguarding and celebrating the cultural diversity and the immense linguistic variety of our humanity, by defending the fundamental right to education for all, by focusing on dialogue between cultures and heritage, these are concrete ways of building a common future together, based on a shared past.

At a time when we are going through a difficult phase for the entire planet, at a time when we are facing a plural, health, social, educational and cultural crisis, the message of Abai is more relevant than ever. As he himself predicted, "Nothing in this world is immutable, and misfortune cannot last forever. Does not the bountiful and blossoming spring follow the harsh winter? ».

It is up to us to prepare it. This message of hope, this message of peace, this message of respect, this humanist message that Abai promoted throughout his life, UNESCO and the Republic of Kazakhstan are proud to carry it together.

Thank you.

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