Our good friend and partner Saadet Karaeva is a successful businesswoman, a bright public figure, a beautiful and educated woman, and a wonderful mother of three sons. She has greatly contributed to the development of friendly relations in the field of culture and art between Russia and Azerbaijan. But the heroine of the interview does not stop and continues moving beyond. Saadet founded a popular Azerbaijani Folk Song and Dance Ensemble “Odlar Yurdu” (translated as “Land of lights” from Azerbaijani) in Krasnoyarsk fifteen years ago. Currently there are about 100 dancers divided into three age groups (junior group – from 4 to 7 years, middle – 8-12 years, senior group – 13-25 years) and also talented vocalists, performing Azerbaijani classic and folk songs in the ensemble. Experienced teachers, choreographers, ballet-masters and tutors work with the participants. The artistic director of the group is Agil Dzhafarov. We talked to Mrs. Karaeva about “Odlar Yurdu”, the cultural heritage of this ensemble and the role of creativity in a person’s life
— Saadet, the Azerbaijani Folk Song and Dance Ensemble “Odlar Yurdu” is no less than 15 years old. It is your cherished child! If we make a comparison with a child`s development, what, in your opinion, was it like? What has become of it?
— I have motherly feelings to this ensemble. Moreover, when I founded it, my first child was born. That’s why I always treated the children that came and still come to our ensemble as my own. At that time the creation of the ensemble was a big dream for me. I wanted the children who were born far from their historical homeland, Azerbaijan, not to forget the culture and traditions of their folk, their land. There are many Azerbaijanis living in Krasnoyarsk, where the ensemble is active now. At first, “Odlar Yurdu” was just an amateur dance ensemble. When we began working on the program, we had a strong desire to become the best. It is said that all children have talents from birth. It was important to discover them. Hard work, creativity, constant progression and the ability to build a teamwork allowed the Song and Dance Ensemble “Odlar Yurdu” to achieve the honorary “Nation Title”. This was our first big victory! We decided to move forward without slowing down, invited choreographers and ballet-masters from Azerbaijan, who helped our dancers to hone their skills and grow as professionals.
— Could you tell us please about the main mission of the “Odlar Yurdu” ensemble?
— Folk dance helps people to get closer and understand each other. People who try to understand each other have the same spiritual roots. National traditions create the unity of spirit! It is said that the language of dance unites different peoples and cultures without pronouncing a single word. The audience understands and accepts the beauty of our customs and traditions. Each stage entrance of the dancers is accompanied by a storm of applause! Folk dance is a world of beauty, movement, music, colorful costumes, the world of magical art, and we are the bearers of these values. For many years our ensemble has been preserving folk traditions and customs in the Siberian land, asserting ideas of peace, goodness and harmony among the younger generation. It is very important because a person who does not know the traditions and culture of his ancestry will not respect the traditions and culture of the environment he lives in. I am pleased to say that about forty percent of our group are representatives of mixed families and different nationalities. We express the friendship of two historically close countries – Russia and Azerbaijan through dancing. Our ensemble has been created and works in Russia with the constant support of the Azerbaijani National Cultural Community in Krasnoyarsk, the Ministry of Culture of the Krasnoyarsk region, the Department of Public Relations of the Governor of the Krasnoyarsk region, regional organizations “A. N. Kuznetsov Palace of Labour and Reconciliation”, “The Krasnoyarsk House of friendship of the people”. We are grateful for their help.
— What cultural and interesting events have you visited with your creative band this year?
— In 2020 we cancelled two international trips, to Cyprus and The United Arab Emirates where we were supposed to represent Azerbaijan and Russia at the important state events. We replaced them with Russian tours. This year we had many performances of regional and all-Russian scale. For each month we had more than 10 performances, and among them there were many charity concerts in social institutions.
— Saadet, what awards and prizes has the Azerbaijani Folk Song and Dance Ensemble “Odlar Yurdu” received over all these years?
— If I start to count all the awards, received for 15 years, I am afraid, the interview will be extended to the size of the book… So, I will mention the most significant ones.
Thanks to persistent and task-oriented work the ensemble reached the international level: participation in the M. K. Ataturk International Festival in Amasia, in Ankara and in two suburbs of Ankara – Nallihan and Sariyar (Turkey 2011, 2012 and 2018), participation in the international cultural festival in the Kingdom of Thailand (2015). In addition, “Odlar Yurdu” is the winner and first degree laureate of many prestigious competitions and festivals, such as the All-Siberian competition named after M. Godenko (2012, 2016, 2017 and 2018), the International Festival of World Music and Crafts “WORLD of Siberia”” (2013, 2014, 2017, 2018 and 2021), the national festival “Dancing Buryatia” in Ulan-Ude, ethnic festival “Commonwealth on the Yenisei”, international choreographic online contest “Dancemania” from CID c/o UNESCO, Russian Folk Dance Championship: Cup of Siberian Federal District 2019, and many others. Our group actively participates in regional, city, national and international events, including concerts at XXIX World Winter Universiade, “Commonwealth on the Yenisei”, “Day of the Caucasian peoples”, festivals of national cultures in educational institutions and culture days of peoples living in Krasnoyarsk region.
— Have you ever performed in the capital of Azerbaijan, Baku?
— Unfortunately, we have not had an opportunity to go to Azerbaijan yet, as we live far from it. Our big dream is to visit our historical homeland and show our fellow countrymen how we managed to preserve our historical culture in Siberia. We have a goal to participate in the events of the cultural festival in Shusha during summer 2022. This is a sacred goal for every Azerbaijani engaged in culture. Shusha, the cultural capital of Azerbaijan, is as significant for us as St. Petersburg is for a Russian person. We will do our best to earn possibility to dance the “Karabakh Suite” in the land blessed for us!
Even though all participants of the ensemble have not visited Azerbaijan yet, we are actively and closely cooperating with honored figures of Azerbaijani culture. Many friends appreciate us, share our views in our historical homeland: we receive excellent feedbacks, full of admiration, and it gives us a big incentive to work. This allows us to understand that our work is not done in vain, and that we are appreciated and welcome in our home country!
— What are the plans for 2022?
— Next year is our anniversary. We are planning big concerts, preparing a new program, we want to show our contribution to the culture, which we have been accumulating for 15 years. We are planning to put into action a massive project within the framework of the anniversary. The plans are grandiose, but we don’t want to reveal all the details.
You know, I cannot tell you how proud I am of our ensemble! Several generations of dancers have literally grown up beneath our eyes, we are watching not only their creative ups and downs, but also their lives! “Odlar Yurdu” is more than an ensemble, it is a friendly creative family!