Address by the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan H.E. Mr. Islam Karimov at the International Conference «The historical heritage of scientists and thinkers of the Medieval East, its role and significance for the modern civilization»

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May 17, 2014

Address by the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan H.E. Mr. Islam Karimov at the International Conference «The historical heritage of scientists and thinkers of the Medieval East, its role and significance for the modern civilization»

President Islam Karimos at the international conf.Address by the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan H.E. Mr. Islam Karimov at the International Conference «The historical heritage of scientists and thinkers of the Medieval East, its role and significance for the modern civilization»

Dear participants of the Conference!

Ladies and Gentlemen!

It gives me an enormous pleasure to welcome You, the participants of the Conference, and first of all our distinguished guests – the heads and representatives of high-profile international organizations and institutions, science and research centers, universities and higher educational institutions, prominent scholars and experts, and express my deep respect and gratitude for accepting our invitation to take part at this Forum.

It attributes a special meaning and special significance that we hold our Forum in the ancient Samarkand which during its almost three-thousand-year history was and remains a crossroad of world civilization and cultures of nations.

The ancient and ever-young city of Samarkand is widely known in various parts of our planet as a magic city with unmatchable Oriental color and the richest history, unique and wonderful monuments of the past that are still preserved here. It is not by chance that Samarkand along with Rome is well-known in the world as «an eternal city» the magnificent blue domes of which fascinate millions of tourists.

To me, as a man who was born and raised in this city, it is of a special pleasure on behalf of all citizens to express our cordial hospitality and say to all of You: «Welcome to Samarkand».

Dear friends!

The purpose of our Conference is to discuss and deeply comprehend the scientific heritage of the prominent scholars and thinkers of the Medieval East, and assess their role and place in the history of modern civilization.

I deem it not less important to give a new and powerful impetus to further in-depth researches and popularization of their truly priceless scientific heritage, reveal the actuality and significance of their discoveries for the modern science and progress.

The history of Medieval East proves that rapid growth of culture and education, medicine, literature, art and architecture, emergence of scientific schools, inflow and generation of talents were conditioned by such factors as rather fast development of economy, agriculture and municipal services, a high level of growth of handicrafts and trade, construction of roads and launching new caravan routes, and primarily, preserving a relative stability.

The ancient pieces of Bactrian, Sogdian, Orhon, and Khorezmian scripts, mural paintings and sculptures, architecture and many other facts testify about a developed culture, in particular, of the Central Asian peoples. The State of Khorezm which was created from the 11th to 13th centuries covered the significant part of Asia uniting the lands of neighboring peoples – up to the Persian Gulf.

It is hard to overestimate the huge and irreplaceable role of the Great Silk Road (2nd century B.C. – 15th century A.D.) as an international transport artery of the ancient times which linked such countries and regions as China, India, Central Asia, Middle and Near East, as well as Mediterranean. That path provided not only the merchant ties among those territories, but also the information exchange among continents and countries. The Silk Road also served as a conductor for a swift distribution of new technologies and innovations (manufacturing of silk, porcelain, gunpowder, paper and many others), agricultural crops and technologies, as well as cultural values creating by this way the favorable conditions for a civilization and technological exchange.

The mutual enrichment of different nations through scientific knowledge and achievements played a special role. Via the routes of the Great Silk Road the information on the activity of scholars and thinkers of the East and Europe flew into Europe and back into Asia. The practical access became possible to the works, ideas and discoveries of such great scholars of antiquity as Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and others.
It is well-known that according to the traditions of those times the enlightened thinkers and philosophers, scientists and poets, as a rule, found shelter and patronage at the courts of rulers and sultans.

Among them there was a pleiad of scholars who successfully worked in the 9-11th centuries in the Mamun Academy in Khiva and «House of Wisdom» («Bait al-hikma») in Baghdad, as well as the School of Ulughbek in the 15th century in Samarkand which gained a broad prominence.

According to the researchers, the East, in particular, the region of Central Asia became a source of the two powerful outburst of scientific and cultural growth in the 9-12th centuries and the 14-15th centuries which are rightfully recognized by the global scientific community as an epoch of the Oriental Renaissance that had a favorable impact on the processes of Renaissance in other parts of the world.
Along with this, as many scholars note, if the epoch of Renaissance in Europe resulted in creation of the great pieces of literature, art and masterpieces of architecture, and new inventions in medicine and cognition of human being, then the specifics of the Oriental Renaissance were first of all in development of natural and exact sciences, i.e. mathematics, astronomy, physics, chemistry, geodesy, pharmacology, medicine, history, philosophy and literature.

When we speak about the great scientific discoveries of the early period of Medieval East, among the first names we recall Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khorezmi who made an invaluable contribution to modern mathematics, trigonometry and geography. He was the first scholar who substantiated and put into common use the decimal numeration system, zero mark and polar coordinates that became a turning point in development of mathematics and astronomy.

Al-Khorezmi created algebra as a science and elaborated the precise rules of composing the scientific data and tractates, and authored many works on astronomy, geography and climate theory. The merits of Al-Khorezmi in developing the world science are commonly recognized and his name and works – exceptional case for the scholars of Medieval East – were immortalized in modern scientific terms «algorithm» and «algebra».

The fundamental work of Akhmad al-Ferghani «The book of astronomy elements» was written yet in the 9th century and contained the first data on the structure of universe, dimensions of the Earth, proofs of its sphericity and up to the 17th century was used at European universities as a principal manual on astronomy. The book served as a scientific basis for Columbus, Magallanes and other seafarers of the epoch of the Great geographical discoveries. One of the major practical achievements of al-Ferghani was development of the astrolabe theory – the main astronomic tool of middle ages, as well as construction of a facility on the Nile River well-known as the «Nile Measure» which functioned as a crucial instrument to measure the water level for many centuries.

Another outstanding scientist Abu Nasr ibn Iraq, who is believed to be a founder of the spherical trigonometry, is famous for his inventions in mathematics and astronomy. He is rightfully called as the «Second Ptolemaeus».

It is hard to fully assess the genius of works of a prominent encyclopaedist Abu Raihon Beruni. From more than 150 scientific works of Beruni only 31 have reached our days, but even this available fragmentary information demonstrates the multifaceted heritage he left to us.
Beruni was the first scholar who offered the original theory of seas and structure of spherical globe of the Earth, calculated the Earth radius, explained existence of vacuum, predicted (500 years ahead of Columbus voyage) the existence of a continent over the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. He was the first who created the classification of minerals and the theory of their origin, and laid the ground of the science of geodesy. It is exactly for these reasons that historians of natural sciences all around the world call the 11th century as the «century of Beruni».

It is a subject of a special admiration for ancestors the life and activity of Abu Ali ibn Sina who rightfully deserved the title of «the most famous philosopher and encyclopaedist scholar of Islamic world and one of the greatest thinkers of humanity». He started his scientific researches at the age of 16 and wrote more than 450 works, first of all, in the spheres of medicine and philosophy, as well as logic, chemistry, physics, astronomy, mathematics, music, literature and linguistics. Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Francis Bacon and many other generations of scholars did admire his works.

We proudly recognize that by his priceless fundamental work the «Canons of Medicine», which is, probably, the most renowned book in the history of medicine, Ibn Sina determined the main directions of development of medical disciplines for many centuries ahead and in fact laid a foundation of basic methods of practical medicine and pharmacology which still preserve their actuality. It is for this reason that this book was among the first published in Europe in the 15th century. For almost 500 years it was used as a manual on medicine at the top European universities.

The correspondence between Ibn Sina and Beruni about «On the Heavens» of Aristotle which reached our days stands as a classical example of the highest level of scholarly dialogue, deep reconsideration and development of philosophic visions of antiquity by our great thinkers.
The merits of Beruni, Ibn Sina and other eminent scholars and thinkers who worked between the 10-11th centuries in Khorezm are not limited only to their scientific works and tractates, but also include such an important issue as establishment of a scientific school – the Khorezm Academy of Mamun which left a deep trace in the intellectual history of mankind.

The contemporaries named Abu Nasr Farobi the «Aristotle of Orient» for his comprehensive knowledge of an encyclopaedist scholar of the 10th century. He enriched many sciences, developed the philosophic visions of scholars of different countries and wrote more than 160 works.

The most prominent of them are «The word on substance», «On origin of sciences», «Epistle on the Intellect» and others. The considerable part of scientific works of Farobi was translated into many European and Oriental languages, and is still a subject for an in-depth research.
The pleiad of outstanding scientists and thinkers of the Medieval East would not be full, if we don’t mention the so-called epoch of Temur and his ancestors Temurids. The name of Mirzo Ulughbek continues shining as a bright star, as much as his numerous fellows and disciples as Ali Kushchi, Qozizoda Rumi and others.

It is well-known that Mirzo Ulughbek, the grandson of Amir Temur, who ruled Samarkand for more than forty years, was famous as a great astronomer whose name is rightfully put next to the names of such geniuses as Copernicus, Jordano Bruno, Galilei and others.
The code of astronomic tables was compiled by him in the 15th century and contained description and positioning of 1018 stars being the first new catalogue of astronomic measurements for 16 centuries.

His fellowman al-Kashi was the first who put into common use the decimal fractions and created the methods of successive approximations and calculation of the roots of arbitrary degrees.

One can learn more thoroughly about the Ulughbek Observatory at the Ulughbek Museum located on one of the highest hills surrounding Samarkand.

There is an enormous and inexhaustible well of wisdom and humanistic cognition of the surrounding world in the creative heritage of such greatest philosophers, poets and enlighteners as Abu Abdullah Rudaki, Firdowsy, Nizami Ganjavi, Saadi, Khafiz Shirazi, Jami, Alisher Navoi, Babur and others. Their heritage truly stands as a treasure of global importance.

Mahmud Kashgari was the author of the first in history «Dictionary of the Turkic languages». He enriched his work with a wonderful collection of Turkic proverbs and poems which do represent a golden mine of lexicon in full sense of this word. Kashgari is believed to be the first scholar of language, culture, ethnography and folklore of the Turkic nations.

Mahmud Zamahshari gained a wide fame yet in his lifetime as a linguist, scholar of literature, geography and philosophy, and is acclaimed as a founder of the Arab grammar. He was also a compiler of the first in history the Arab-Persian-Turkic multilingual dictionary.
And certainly, all of us should pay tribute of respect to the pleiad of prominent historians of the Medieval East whose works stand as an invaluable evidence of events of those times, namely Ahmad ibn Arabshah, Nizamiddin Shami, Sharafiddin Ali Yazdi, Hafiz-i Abru, Hondamir, Abdurazzak Samarkandi, and others.

Dear participants of the Conference!

Today after almost millennia we continue admiring the genius, versatile interest and encyclopedic knowledge of the scientists and thinkers of the Medieval East. Unfortunately, due to various cataclysms, wars and natural disasters suffered by mankind we can say that only one thousandth of their great heritage has reached our days. Now it is difficult to imagine that during certain periods of history, when ignorance and obscurantism reigned, the scientists were persecuted and many of them ended their lives tragically.
According to the facts, the sources of knowledge – the priceless manuscripts and books used to fall the first victims to confrontations, standoffs and conflicts among people. All of you well know, it was the destiny of the largest antique Alexandrian Library and unique library of Mirzo Ulughbek lost never to return. Unfortunately, this sad list can be continued.

Nevertheless, despite all hardships and severe trials, the scientists and thinkers remained devoted to their scientific duty, ideals of humanism and enlightenment.

Today we have all grounds to state that their lives devoted to serving science and their achievements which are now admired by the entire enlightened humanity, without any doubt, stand as a true spiritual exploit before which we rightfully bow our heads.
Today without any exaggeration one can say, and I would like to specially emphasize this, that the enormous layer of the scientific heritage of great geniuses of the Medieval East was not completely researched and await their scholars.

Today in Uzbekistan alone there are more than 100 thousand manuscripts in book depositories and major part of them are included into the UNESCO World Heritage List. The manuscripts of the scientists and thinkers of Medieval East make up the «golden fund» of libraries of many countries of Europe and Asia, in particular, the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Russia, France, Egypt, India, Iran, and others.
What do these facts speak about? First of all, this is yet another confirmation of the fact that the genius works and scientific heritage of the outstanding scholars and thinkers of the Medieval East are the heritage of not only one nation or the people, but entire humanity. This is a priceless wealth, source of wisdom and knowledge for the new and new generations, and if you wish, this is an excellent material for the new discoveries.

It is wise and efficient to use this richest material that has reached our days for the benefit of the entire humanity. This is our task and this is our duty.

The role of selfless scholars which is invaluable in this endeavor deserves a special attention and recognition. Thanks to them we open up the priceless scientific heritage of the past.

Taking this opportunity, I would like to address to you and in your person to your colleagues – scientists, historians-orientalists, archaeologists, anthropologists and various experts, everyone who is busy with laborious task of studying the yellowed manuscripts and old writings, with the words of sincere gratitude since thanks to you the treasuries of human thought of the past become accessible for the ancestors and contemporaries, and this beautiful and mysterious world of the old epochs and civilizations becomes closer to us.

One of the most respected participants of our Conference is the biggest researcher of our region, the Japanese Professor Kyuzo Kato whose scientific activity helped to disclose many unexplored pages of the history, ethnography, archaeology and art of Central Asia. His works on exploring the Great Silk Road, the State of Bactria, as well as archaeological excavations at the ancient settlements of Dalverzintepa and Koratepa underway since 1989 in Surkhandarya Region, translations of works of Amir Temur, Babur, Ulughbek and other great thinkers of Central Asia into Japanese allowed to make the knowledge about history and culture of our vast region a world heritage.

There is another participant of the Conference – Professor Frederick Starr is a well-known American historian, archaeologist, anthropologist and founding chairman of the Central Asia – Caucasus Institute at the Johns Hopkins University, who has published 22 books and authored more than 200 scientific articles. In 2009 his essay «Rediscovering Central Asia» was found in the United States as one of the best publications of the year in mass media.

The period of the Oriental Renaissance is a subject for in-depth studies at the academic and cultural centers of India. Today we are joined by Professor Mansura Haidar – the academic advisor at the Indira Gandhi National Center for the Arts, who during many years has been fruitfully involved in comparative studies of the Middle Asian manuscripts of the 9-15th centuries.

Her monograph «The historical significance of «Zafarnoma» by Nizomiddin Shami» gained a broad international recognition. In this work she studied in detail the book – the only one written during his lifetime – devoted to the state activity of Amir Temur.

Our guest from the Republic of Korea Park Choon Bae, the President of Inha University – one of the top universities in Korea and Asia, is an acclaimed organizer of the higher education, expert in aerospace engineering and for many years led the research in aeronautics and space studies in Korea. This year with his immediate and personal participation the branch of the well-known Inha University of Korea is being established in Tashkent to train highly qualified bachelors and masters students on the information technologies.

Professor of the Cairo University, well-known scholar on Turkic philology and literature Magida Makhlouf completed last year her extensive work on translation of «Baburnoma» into Arabic in which she gave her in-depth scientific commentaries and critical analysis of previous studies on this topic. It is very important that the outstanding tractate of our great ancestor Zahiriddin Muhammad Babur, along with the English, Persian and many other languages, became also available in Arabic.

We highly value the scientific activity of Professor of the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium Jules Janssens, who authored more than 60 publications on different aspects of the Oriental history and philosophy. His book «Ibn Sina and his influence on the Arab and Latin world» and collection «Avicenna and his heritage» gained a high assessment and wide recognition not only among experts, but also a great number of readers throughout the world.

I would like to especially mention Professor Shi Yonli – the Director of the Department of History and Archaeology at the Chinese Science and Technology University, who is a world-known expert on the history of astronomy. His research in comparative analysis of development of astronomy in the middle ages in Central Asia, China, Korea and Europe gained the highest recognition. He is also well-known in the world as a promoter of history of origin and development of astronomy, and member of editorial boards of several top academic and popular publications in China and Southeast Asia.

The selfless endeavor of Dr. Marc Bonnel deserves a great respect. He is renowned in Europe as a physician and acknowledged expert in the sphere of modern public health. The Association «Avicenne-France» headed by him makes a precious contribution to spreading the awareness in France and Europe about scientific works of Ibn Sina on culture, philosophy and medicine.

The well-known Dutch scholar Robert van Gent from the Institute for History and Foundations of Science in Utrecht also takes part in our Conference. More than 10 books and 60 scientific works published by him cover not only contemporary problems of astronomy, cartography and geodesy, but also the history of their development, in particular, during the period of Medieval East.

The same recognition and respect can equally be attributed to the absolute majority of scientists and experts who make a commendable contribution to studies and popularizing, informing the broad public about the everlasting heritage of the scientists and thinkers of Medieval East. Thank you for your work and contribution to the progress of science and education.

Dear friends!

I am convinced you will agree with me that a deep respect to history, accumulated experience and intellectual potential which is considered as the biggest treasure in the world, make up the basis of both material and spiritual progress of any state.

In this connection, I think it will be appropriate to reiterate the words of a great Spanish writer Miguel De Cervantes that history is the depository of our actions, the witness of what is past, the example and instruction of the present and warning of the future. Because those who don’t know history make mistakes at every step, and people who are not proud of their history cannot see their future.

We well understand that without deep mastering of available knowledge and great discoveries of the past, including the ones of the Medieval East, it is impossible to reach the new and ever higher frontiers either in science or other spheres. We will pursue this idea in our future endeavors.

Today the humanity faces the new global problems among which I would like to note such acute ones as climate change, protection and preserving the ecological system and biodiversity, exhaustion of natural resources and others. The reasonable and optimal solution of these problems is becoming the strongest challenge of our time.

The solution of these problems may well require an intellectual breakthrough, reconsideration and fresh formulation of laws that developed for many centuries, as well as organization of large-scale scientific researches and experiments on the broadest spectrum of directions related to studying the world around us.

In its turn, obviously, this will require enormous resources and investments, wise use of brilliant scientific inventions of the past. It becomes clear that the 21st century is fairly called «the century of knowledge, intellect and human wit». It is not by chance that the following truth is becoming more evident in the world: «the most demanded and profitable assets are the assets invested in human capital».

What do I mean?

We have always realized and do realize now that a state and society which don’t pay a due attention to careful preserving, enriching and multiplying its historical, cultural and intellectual heritage, as well as upbringing the new generation based on universal and national values, and which don’t put forward the goal of establishing harmoniously developed and independently thinking individual with his own visions, his choice and his civil position, – this state and society are doomed to find themselves on the sidelines of history.

Since the first days of achieving independence and sovereignty we have come to a firm conclusion that without radical reforming the existing education system of the past, complete denial of stereotypes and dogmas of communistic ideology, without consolidation of democratic values in the minds of young people, it is impossible to build a new society.

If we take into account that in Uzbekistan more than 60 percent of population are the young people under 30, the necessity and role of these reforms, certainly, become clear and obvious.

In accordance with the national program, we have introduced a 12-year general mandatory free education in the country based on the scheme 9+3. The principle peculiarity of this model, first of all, is as follows: after 9 years of education at a secondary school, the next 3 years the pupils attend specialized vocational colleges and academic lyceums where each of them, along with general disciplines, obtains vocational training on 2-3 specialities demanded in the labor market.

After 12-year mandatory education, the young people on their own wish can continue education at higher education institutions to seek bachelor and master degrees.

As a result of successful implementation of the education reforms, we have set up an integral system of continuous education that meets the modern requirements. It includes all stages of the educational process – from preschool and school education to secondary special vocational and higher education, as well as single-stage postgraduate education that envisages defending thesis to obtain a Ph.D. according to the international standards.
During the years of reforms the number of higher educational institutions in the country has grown two times, and today more than 230 thousand students study at 60 universities and institutes. The branches of some leading higher educational institutions of Europe and Asia, namely the Westminster University, the Management and Development Institute of Singapore, the Turin Polytechnic University, the Russian University of Oil and Gas, the Moscow State University and the Russian Economic University successfully function in Uzbekistan.

At present, the National University and Academy of Sciences of Uzbekistan together with the top UK Cambridge University establish the Center of high technologies.

From September 2014 the branch of the South Korean Inha University will start its activity in our country to teach the information-communication technologies and computer engineering.

Thousands of our talented youth study at the leading universities of Japan, Germany, South Korea, China, the United Kingdom, the United States, France and other countries, and this broadens the scope of their knowledge and skills.

According to the UN data, today the expenditures channeled to education make up more than 35 percent of the State budget of our country.
The research carried out in 2012 by the World Intellectual Property Organization and one of the top international business schools INSEAD on human capital development index showed that Uzbekistan holds the 53rd place among 141 countries of the world, and on the education system development index, including the share of funds channeled to educational purposes, the authors put our country in the 5th place in the world.

Dear participants of the Conference!

We are convinced of exceptional importance and necessity to hold this Conference to learn and spread knowledge about everlasting significance of scientific heritage of the great scholars of Medieval East, their invaluable contribution to development of the world civilization.

There is no doubt that given the composition of participants of the Forum, the proposals that would be made at plenary and group discussions will greatly contribute to tackling the urgent issues of the agenda.

I would like to especially emphasize that we are interested in further strengthening the comprehensive cooperation between our and leading foreign universities, scientific and research centers, and in this aspect we see one of the main purposes of the current Conference.
It is also very important that through cooperation of scientists and experts we will have cooperation of the young generation, students and young people, irrespective of what part of the world they live, study and work.

We wish such forums are held on regular basis. There are many hospitable people in Uzbekistan, and we wish our distinguished guests feel this and everyone through his own experience. Therefore, we are happy to see you not only in Samarkand and Tashkent, but also in such cities – the pearls of the past as Bukhara, Khiva, Shakhrisabz and other cities, where our history and achievements of the ancient civilization are carefully preserved.

From this high rostrum, once again I would like to sincerely thank everyone gathered in this hall and wish you a fruitful work, pleasant stay in Uzbekistan, sound health, new successes and good luck in your noble activity.

Thank you for your attention.