The Municipality of Turkistan jointly with the Secretariat of the Organization of World Heritage Cities for Euro-Asia held X International Conference of Eurasia World Heritage Cities dedicated to the theme “Heritage, Tourism and Urban Planning” on April 2, 2021, in the online format. This event brought together mayors and representatives of Eurasia local governments, as well as experts from organizations responsible for issues of culture and heritage preservation.
The Conference was attended by more than 100 participants from 55 cities of 23 countries of the world, including Azerbaijan, Albania, Armenia, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Germany, Greece, Georgia, Indonesia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Canada, China, Kyrgyzstan, Morocco, Mongolia, Poland, Russia, Serbia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Uzbekistan, and Ukraine.
The Conference was opened by Mayor of Turkistan (Kazakhstan) Rashid Ayupov who told about activities of Turkistan and the main sight of the city – the Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yaswi. “Joining the OWHC family is a great honor and international recognition both for our city and its citizens. OWHC provides cities with the support related to the efficient management and planning of infrastructure development in accordance with the criteria for the inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List,” Rashid Ayupov highlighted.
It should be noted that Turkistan has a 1500-year history. Turkistan is a pearl of the Great Silk Road, the land of mosques and madrasahs, one of the most important centers of the Islamic pilgrimage in Central Asia. In 2003, the Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yaswi was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Several days ago Turkistan was declared the spiritual capital of the Turkic world by the resolution of the Turkic Council.
“This year, the OWHC Secretariat for Euro-Asia is celebrating its 18th anniversary, and the OWHC World Organization will mark the 30th jubilee. The strength and credibility of the organization consists in its unity and cooperation on the preservation of our planet’s world heritage,” President of OWHC Jacek Majchrowski emphasized.
Deputy Mayor of Kazan Evgeniia Lodvigova and Director of the Almaty UNESCO Office Krista Pikkat delivered a welcome address as well.
During the session “OWHC in Action” Secretary General of OWHC Lee Minaidis and Regional Coordinator of OWHC for Euro-Asia Rasikh Sagitov presented the organization’s projects to the participants and invited cities to take part in them. Among these, the “Heritage of Eurasia” project consisting in drawing on the facades of buildings of one city a picture of heritage sites of other cities. In addition, Rasikh Sagitov noted that the number of new UNESCO World Heritage sites, namely the temples of the Pskov Architecture School, the historic center of Sheki with the Khan’s Palace, the Ombilin Coal Mine in West Sumatra, increased in the territory of the Eurasia region in 2019.
Further, the virtual exhibition of World Heritage Cities moderated by Development Director of the OWHC Secretariat for Euro-Asia Saida Zagidullina took place. During the exhibition, cities presented colorful photos of heritage sites and brief information on them. This exhibition was attended by Turkistan (Kazakhstan), Shakhrisabz (Uzbekistan), the Island-Town of Sviyazhsk (Russia), Osh (the Kyrgyz Republic), Kazan (Russia), Novi Pazar (Serbia), Denpasar (Indonesia), the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), Sheki (Azerbaijan), Nesvizh (Belarus), and Sezhou (China).
At the plenary session the Conference participants discussed such topics as “The impact of COVID-19 on cultural tourism: consequences and new opportunities. Development of virtual tourism”. “It is planned to open tourism in Bali in July in 2021. In this regard, 2 million citizens of Bali are being vaccinated to fulfil 70-80% of the health protocol,” Mayor of Denpasar I Gusti Ngurah Jaya Negara noted.
Secretary General of the Association of Azerbaijan Municipalities Tofik Hasanov shared his experience with the participants: “For the purpose of the development of domestic tourism in Azerbaijan the memorandum of the development of domestic tourism based on a common platform was signed by all travel associations. The work on promotion of cultural heritage, historic monuments and other tourist infrastructure has been done according to various routes.”
President of the ICOMOS Scientific Committee on Historic Cities, Towns and Villages - CIVVIH Claus-Peter Echter, for his part, stressed that actions towards the cultural tourism development and heritage preservation are a contribution to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and the New Urban Agenda.
Fahri Solak, Secretary General of the Union of Turkish World Municipalities, presented the experience of the organization’s cities in the field of the tourism development during the COVID-19.
As part of the session, a small survey dedicated to the heritage preservation was conducted among the participants. The majority (36%) replied “everything is fine” to the question “What presents a threat to the heritage site in your city”. One third consider that inappropriate construction in the historic environment poses a threat to the heritage site. Among the threats, the participants highlighted the lack of financing (18%) and natural phenomena (14%) as well.
Concerning the question “In which part of the world, in your opinion, is there the largest number of heritage sites?” most participants (65%) answered that it is Eurasia, and 29% think that it is Europe.
The second topic of the plenary session was “Heritage preservation and urban planning”. The speakers delivered fascinating speeches about UNESCO cultural heritage sites and recalled the importance to preserve world cultural and natural heritage. Deputy Mayor of Veliky Novgorod Olga Pavlova. Mayor of Beykoz Murat Aydin, Deputy Mayor for Urban Planning and Architecture of Tehran Municipality Abdolreza Golpayegani, Chairman of the Committee for State Control, Use and Protection of Historical and Cultural Monuments of St. Petersburg Sergei Makarov, Chief archaeologist of the city of Moscow, President of ICOMOS – Russia Leonid Kondrashev, Director General of the Institute of Archeology named after A. Kh. Margulan, PhD in History Bauyrzhan Baytanaev took the floor during the session.
As the outcome document of the Conference, the declaration calling for cooperation and unity of Eurasia World Heritage cities was announced. “The Conference participants express their gratitude and support to the OWHC Regional Secretariat for Euro-Asia, which over the past 18 years has been organizing the activities of the World Heritage cities of the entire Eurasian continent for preserving the heritage and the development of tourism” is indicated in the declaration.
Mayor of Turkistan Rashid Ayupov concluded the Conference by extending gratitude to the participants and expressing hope that following the mitigation of the quarantine measures it would be possible to invite everyone to Turkistan and offer the famous Kazakhstan hospitality to the guests of the city.