An important place in the Uzbek-French relations is occupied by the cultural and humanitarian component.
Cultural and humanitarian cooperation
An important place in the Uzbek-French relations is occupied by the cultural and humanitarian component. Sister cities have been established between the cities of Samarkand and Lyon, Khiva and Versailles, Bukhara and Rueil-Malmaison. In 2019, an “Uzbek garden” was opened in the central park of the city of Rueil-Malmaison, on the territory of which a monument to Abu Ali ibn Sina was erected.
In cultural and humanitarian cooperation at the present stage, the following aspects can be distinguished.
First. In Uzbekistan, much attention is paid to the study of the French language, literature and culture. Currently, about three thousand teachers working in the field of secondary specialized and higher education teach French to about 300 thousand pupils and students. French is taught in 812 schools in Uzbekistan and 6 specialized schools.8 universities have departments of French or Romance languages, where students study French as their main language, many students study it as a second foreign language. It is gratifying to note that in 2019, the specialized school No. 43 of the city of Samarkand was named after French citizen Lucien Keren, the founder of the Association for the Study of History and Art of the Temurids.
An important role in the development of the French language and culture in Uzbekistan, as well as in strengthening the Uzbek-French cooperation, is given to the successfully operating in the country – the French alliance and the French school. With the support of the French Embassy in Tashkent, seminars and advanced training courses are systematically organized for French language teachers with the participation of French specialists, both in Uzbekistan and in France.Events are being held aimed at popularizing the French language and culture, namely the Francophonie holiday, school and student theater festivals, the Day of European Languages. In particular, as part of the Francophonie holiday in 2019, for the first time in Uzbekistan, a nationwide dictation in French was held among French language learners.
In 2019, the Association of French Teachers of Uzbekistan was established, which will function under the International Association of French Teachers. In November of the same year, Uzbekistan celebrated the Day of French Teachers for the first time, which was established on the initiative of French President Emmanuel Macron. Until the end of 2020, with the support of the French Embassy in Tashkent, it is planned to launch a project of a monthly magazine for French language teachers.
It is gratifying to note that in 2019, by decision of the French government, four representatives of educational institutions of Uzbekistan were awarded the Order of Academic Palms (cavalier degree) of the French Republic, whose history dates back to the era of Napoleon I. It is awarded to French citizens for their outstanding achievements in the field of education, as well as foreign citizens who have distinguished themselves by their activities in the popularization of the French language and culture.
Second. Interuniversity and academic cooperation is getting stronger. In recent years, interuniversity relations have been established with such educational institutions in France as the universities of Paris-Sud, Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne, Paris II Pantheon-Assas, Paris IV Sorbonne, Grenoble University, University of Nice Sophia-Antipolis, University of Brittany-sud, National Institute Oriental Languages and Civilizations, the University of Toulouse, the Institute of Political Studies of Toulouse, the Higher National School of Architecture of Versailles and others. The productive ties between the Academy of Public Administration under the President of Uzbekistan and the National School of Administration of France should also be noted.
Uzbek language courses have been opened at the National Institute of Oriental Languages and Civilizations at the Sorbonne University. And since 2019, three faculties, branches of French educational institutions, have been operating in Uzbekistan. Students and teachers are exchanged, joint academic events are organized, including online webinars.Joint educational programs have been launched between a number of universities in Uzbekistan and France, enabling students to study in two countries and receive two diplomas. Along with this, academic cooperation with French universities is also being strengthened within the framework of the European Union’s Erasmus+ projects. In particular, since January 2020, the Tashkent State University of Oriental Studies, in partnership with the Franco-American Business School (Lyon), has been participating in the Erasmus + program on international credit mobility, designed for three years.
An agreement was reached to hold a summit of the rectors of Uzbekistan and France to strengthen interuniversity cooperation and discuss priority areas of interaction. Along with this, the readiness to sign the Cooperation Plan between the Ministry of Higher and Secondary Specialized Education of Uzbekistan and the Campus France agency, which is the sole operator for promoting higher education in France and for the admission of foreign students, was confirmed.
Third. Relations are actively developing in the field of archeology and preservation of cultural heritage. Four French archaeological missions operate in cooperation with the archaeologists of Uzbekistan: the French-Uzbek archaeological mission of Sogdiana; French-Uzbek archaeological mission of Northern Bactriana; the French archaeological mission Ayakagitma for neolithization in Central Asia; French-Uzbek archaeological mission in the oasis of Bukhara.Paikend and Romitan. These projects are funded by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. French partners also provide assistance in the implementation of projects for the restoration of cultural heritage sites in Uzbekistan. One of them is the project of restoration of the “Ambassadors” fresco in the Afrosiab Museum.
Fourth. The Foundation for the Development of Culture and Art under the Ministry of Culture of Uzbekistan and the Center for Research and Restoration of Museums of France have established cooperation, including scientific research in the field of history of art and culture, scientific support in the creation of a laboratory for the analysis of cultural values of Uzbekistan. Work is also underway in organizing and holding exhibitions and conferences, both in France and in Uzbekistan.
The Fund for the Development of Culture and Art of Uzbekistan and the Louvre Museum signed a memorandum of understanding. Delegations of representatives of the French Museum visited Uzbekistan twice in 2018. The document provides for the dissemination of the results of the excavations of the French archaeological expedition in Bukhara, cooperation in the field of the history of art and culture, museology, restoration and conservation of cultural and historical objects of museum values.Planned exchange of specialists and training of scientific and museum staff, training them in advanced technologies and practices of conservation, restoration, as well as modern methods of organizing museum business. Along with this, the issue of organizing an exhibition about Uzbekistan in the Louvre Museum in 2021 is being worked out.
Fifth. In 2018, the Days of Culture of Uzbekistan were held in France. Concert programs, video presentations about the tourism potential and cultural heritage of our country, art exhibitions and other events held in the French city of Bourges aroused interest and a lively response from visitors. The event, which brought together three thousand spectators, was attended by more than 50 famous masters of art from our republic. Great attention of the public was attracted by bright musical evenings, where the stars of the folklore and ethnographic ensemble, classical and traditional singing, talented musicians and dancers performed.The proposal to re-hold the Days of Culture of Uzbekistan in this city was a clear evidence of the success of the events.
An important event was the first opened in 2018 pavilion “Uzbekistan” at the 71st International Cannes Film Festival in France. And in 2019, the Uzbek pavilion was opened as part of the 72nd International Film Festival at Marché du Film in Cannes. Marché du Film organizer Arnaud Menindes noted: “Uzbekistan has great potential, it is attractive to many tourists and filmmakers, you have very interesting sights. We hope that in the near future we will see world film premieres that will be filmed in Uzbekistan.”
Sixth. From May 22 to June 5, 2019, representatives of the fashion industry of Uzbekistan were trained for the first time at the International Academy of Fashion and Design of Paris (AICP). Upon completion of advanced training courses, Uzbek specialists were awarded diplomas of this prestigious educational institution. An agreement on the organization of internships was reached during the trip of the Uzbek delegation led by the Sharq Liboslari Design Center to Paris in February 2018 to participate in the international exhibition of fabrics and accessories Texworld Paris.
As part of the internship program, Uzbek specialists participated in master classes and workshops by leading designers of famous brands such as Givenchy, Chanel, Dior, Louis Vuitton, who work closely with AICP.
Thus, the Uzbek-French relations are characterized by dynamism, strategic orientation and the emergence of promising areas. Without exaggeration, it can be stated that the state visit of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev to France played a big role in this, which became a logical continuation of the work that has intensified in recent years to give a qualitatively new character and direction to Uzbek-French relations.
Firstly, the closeness of the Action Strategy being implemented in Uzbekistan with the reform program of the French leader, and secondly, the approaches of the two states to solving major international and regional problems are close or coincide. This contributes to the development of new forms of regional and international cooperation, joint counteraction to new challenges and threats of our time.
Breakthrough results in Uzbek-French relations have been achieved in a number of areas of cooperation. Firstly, economic diplomacy between the countries has intensified, parliamentary diplomacy established over the previous years has received an impetus. Secondly, a gradual increase in the volume of mutual trade, an increase in the tourist flow and the interest of French business circles. The implementation of high-tech investment projects aimed at industrial and technological modernization of the economy of Uzbekistan has begun. This contributes to enhancing the image of the renewed Uzbekistan in the international arena.
The cultural and humanitarian aspect of cooperation received new content. There is a successful development of cooperation in the field of education and science, especially in terms of studying the French language and literature in educational institutions of Uzbekistan. Further development of cultural relations will contribute to the rapprochement of the peoples of France and Uzbekistan.
The regional policy of Uzbekistan, aimed at achieving constructive and good-neighbourly relations with the countries of Central Asia, has created a completely different regional environment, which contributes to the achievement of the goals of French foreign policy in the Central Asian direction.
The new reality of bilateral relations is only the beginning of the further development of relations, as many resources remain to be activated. The ongoing changes in international relations, the beginning of the global economic crisis associated with the pandemic, began to increase the role of France in Europe, and Uzbekistan in Eurasia.
It is here that new opportunities and conditions for the further development of bilateral relations appear. France, as the locomotive of the European Union, and Uzbekistan, as a backbone factor in Central Asia, can play a strategic role between Europe and Asia.
Professor Emmanuel Dupuy, President of the Institute for Prediction and Security in Europe
Saifiddin Zhuraev, Professor of Tashkent State University of Oriental Studies
Elyor Mahmudov, Associate Professor, Tashkent State University of Oriental Studies