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Original: English



Mr Federico Mayor


of the United Nations Educational,

Scientific and Cultural Organization


at the closure of the international symposium

“Manas and the World Epic Heritage”


28 August 1995

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Mr Minister of Culture,

Mr Minister of Education and Science,

Distinguished participants,


Ladies and gentlemen,

It is an honour and pleasure for me to participate in the

closing ceremony of this

international symposium to mark the

millennium of the great Kyrgyz national epic. 

I wish to thank the

President of the Kyrgyz 

Republic, Mr Askar Akayev, and through

him the Government and people of Kyrgyzstan for inviting me to

be with you at this time.

I also wish to greet



participants and distinguished guests whose presence has made

this gathering a truly representative occasion.

I have the honour to represent UNESCO and the United Nations

at this ceremony. As you know,

the General Assembly of the United

Nations has recognized 1995 as the 

year commemorating the

millennium of the Manas epic,

and UNESCO has assumed the leading

role in the international commemoration of this anniversary. It

has been included,

by decision of the General Conference, in



list of

anniversaries of


personalities and events with a universal impact in its fields

of competence.

In practical terms,

UNESCO has been pleased to

provide support for the holding of the present symposium, for the

recent and very welcome publication of the Manas text in English,

and for the development of the project “Kyrgyzstan: Tourism and

the Manas.”


Ladies and gentlemen,

This is my second visit to Kyrgyzstan and to its capital.

It was in 1986,

at the invitation of my great friend Chinguiz


that I took part in the Issyk-Kul Forum, which brought

together an international panel of intellectuals to reflect on

some of the issues confronting an increasingly interdependent


I have warm memories of this time, which coincided with

the early days of  perestroika.

The spirit and substance of our

discussions at Issyk-Kul have often inspired me in my functions

as Director-General of UNESCO.

I am glad to see that the small

fir-tree I planted in 1986 has taken root and is now growing

proudly beside

the building occupied by the 

Kyrgyz National

Commission for UNESCO.

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So much else has evolved in the space of a decade. In


Kyrgyzstan has become a sovereign state and has

chosen the path of democracy,

free enterprise and respect for


rights as

the surest

route to



sustainable development.

The challenge is clearly immense - here

as in the other

Republics of Central Asia. But with the kind of

leadership provided by President Akayev and the indispensable

help of the international community, I am confident that the

Kyrgyz people can

find within itself the resources of energy,




required to





Next year,

we will come back to Issyk-Kul to reflect on

present trends and threats and to try to identify new solutions.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We are gathered here to celebrate one of the world’s great

epic poems. In scale,


dwarfs most of the world’s folk epics.

Its dimensions seem to reflect the immense stretches of time in

which it was conceived in the vast territories extending from the

mighty Siberian Enisei

river to the lofty Kyrgyzian Altau. No

less impressive is

the richness and diversity of its content -

poetical, social,

cultural and spiritual.

The Manas has its place

in the cultural treasury of humanity along with such masterpieces

as the  Gilgamesh,

the Egyptian  Hilaliyya,  Homer’s  Iliad and

Odyssey  and the Indian  Mahabharata.

yet though its scale, form and


clearly set it

within the world epic heritage,

the Manas is distinguished by its

close proximity

to our own time. Within living memory,





from yurt

to yurt



embellishing an epic

inheritance over nine centuries old. The

vast panorama of the  Manas  is

for the Kyrgyz people the clearly

discernible origin of their traditions and culture.

We celebrate in the  Manas  not just a literary masterpiece

but the expression of the living genius of a people. It is - in

the words of General Assembly resolution 49/129 recognizing 1995

as the year of the  Manas  - “not only the source of the Kyrgyz

language and literature but also the foundation of the cultural,



social and religious traditions of the Kyrgyz


At this time of transition and self-renewal, the Kyrgyz

national epic

thus assumes a



From its

freedom-loving legacy,

the Kyrgyz people can draw inspiration to


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address the challenges inherent in the apprenticeship of freedom.

In the heroic struggles of Manas, Semetey and Seytek, it can

derive examples

to nourish its sense of national unity and


The Manas has also been - as the General Assembly resolution

reminds us -

“a vital link in sustaining and unifying the peoples

of the Central Asian region throughout their long history”. The

poem reflects the close historic ties between Kyrgyz and Kazaks.

It likewise urges unity among all the peoples of the region in

confronting common challenges:

“If, united, our lives we save/Let

us live on one mountain range”.

The Manas epic is part of the

common heritage of the Central Asia region, and it will find its

due place in the six-volume History of Civilizations of Central

Asia that UNESCO is in the process of publishing.

In a still broader context,

the Manas  is an essential part

of the world cultural heritage.

Helping to protect this heritage

and making it universally known is one

of UNESCO’s important

responsibilities within the United Nations system.

In addition

to its action to preserve historic sites and monuments under its

World Heritage Convention,

UNESCO is also much concerned to

preserve the intangible heritage - music, dance, oral traditions,

endangered languages and the whole rich cultural fabric of the

world’s diverse societies. At the same time, its Representative

Works programme -

comprising some 900 titles translated into

mainstream languages from nearly 100 original tongues - seeks to

make the treasures of world literature more widely accessible to

an international readership.

UNESCO’s support for the translation

of Manas  into English falls within this objective.

Our Organization’s fundamental mission, though, is to lay the

foundations for a culture

of peace,

to help

construct the

“defences of peace”

in the minds of men and women.

Thus the

ultimate purpose of the protection and promotion of the cultural

heritage is to enrich the exchanges between the world’s cultures

and intensify our sense of belonging to a world community. This

has nothing to do with encouraging cultural conformity. On the


its aim is to ensure that each and every culture finds

the fullest possible expression - as an essential condition of

national development and to enable it to contribute to the common

wealth of the world’s cultures.



is for me the true

significance of


commemoration of the millennium of the Manas: it is a celebration

of the poetic word - emanation of the spirit of a people - passed

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on and nourished like a sacred flame down the ages, ready when

the climate of freedom permits to light the way of a nation and

to share its radiance with the wider community of nations. May

the light of your diversity, of your unity, of your deep-rooted

past illuminate your path toward a better future: a peaceful

future of justice, freedom, solidarity, and equality.

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