BY NATIQ HUSEYNZADEH
Rovshan Askerov, legendary connoisseur of the elite club 'What? Where? When?,' who has been taking part in the television version of the game on Russia's Channel One for the last 20 years, as well as the PR director of the Moscow magazine 'Baku' gave a detailed interview to the Russian site Sports.ru, in which he spoke about his work, about life in Azerbaijan and Russia, about his attitude towards Armenians and much more.
The owner of the prestigious Crystal Owl says that he has been living in Moscow for 18 years, and his feelings for his future spouse have forced him to move to the Russian capital from Baku. 'I liked a girl, wanted to marry her. She would not have moved to Baku from Moscow, where she was born. Therefore, I moved there instead,' tells Rovshan.
Having moved to Moscow, Rovshan started working in the popular Sport Express edition and worked there from 2001 to 2007.
'My favourite story is when we arrived at the ski championship in Italy,' recalls Askerov, talking about the most unusual trip during his work in the newspaper. 'The Armenian team flew with us on a plane from Moscow. We landed in Italy, unloaded, should have been taken to the hotel in the Alps. We already received our luggage, but remained at teh airport. I asked: 'Why are we not going?' 'There are some problems with the Armenian national team.' And the transport was the same. I asked the staff about the problem. It turned out that they lost part of their luggage. But the problem was that the Armenians did not know Italian, and the Italians could not speak Armenian. Moreover, the Armenian side did not understand English, only German. And they were waiting for a man who could translate. I thought: 'But they do know Russian, and I speak English.' The matter was quickly settled through me. They were told that everything would be brought to the hotel. I got on a bus with the Russian national team, and here comes an Italian: 'Can you take a bus with the Armenias? Except you, no one knows Armenian.' I took it normally. You live with stereotypes. It's like saying that my wife's grandfather fought in the WWII. So what, now she can't go to Germany because of it? National stories are speculations for not-so-smart people.'
'The last time I was in Armenia was in the summer of 1981,' continues Rovshan. 'Then it was a single country, the USSR, but now I cannot go there. Because there are the conventionalities. Now I can live in isolation from nations, but I am in a world that exists by insane rules. They say there is a conflict between the two countries. And they just won't let me go to Armenia. There were also cases when Russian citizens with Armenian surnames were not allowed into Azerbaijan.
Yes, I have only a Russian passport. I am a citizen of Russia. But due to circumstances, I am a media figure, people know where I'm from, and I will have no guarantees of security.'
(Rovshan Askerov touched upon the most painful topic in Azerbaijan's relations with Russia. A few days ago, the Russian Foreign Ministry made a sharp statement condemning the Azerbaijani authorities for their reluctance to admit citizens of the Russian Federation of Armenian ethnicity to the country. Azerbaijani authorities explain the reason for their decision with the need to guarantee security of the Russian citizens of Armenian ethnicity. However, it is evident that Russian citizens of Azerbaijani ethnicity are in a identical situation, as Rovshan openly says. However, the Russian Foreign Ministry does not touch on this side of the problem - comment of Azeri Daily)
'The war between Armenia and Azerbaijan has been going on since 1988,' says Rovshan. 'And it goes on the territory of Azerbaijan. Nagorno-Karabakh is the territory of Azerbaijan. There is a confrontation between the two countries. This is the same as for a citizen of the USSR to enter Germany in 1943. I am not going to Armenia for the same reason, why I am not going to Syria. I go to any country calmly, if I know that I will return back without any problems. In the case of Armenia, there is no such certainty.
I don't hate Armenians. How can there be hatred for a whole people? Because of what? For me, an enemy is the one who wronged me personally. Or wronged my friends and relatives. According to this formulation, I have more enemies among Azerbaijanis. But I don't divide enemies and friends on a national basis. It's like rooting for a team just because we are from one country and against those from another. If a person is a bad person, I am not friends with him or her, whatever his or her citizenship. Can my son ever call Karabakh a territory of Armenia? Never. Why would he say that? We can declare any territory the territory of another state. But Karabakh is Azerbaijani. And there are UN resolutions to support it.'