Video message by Audrey Azoulay, the Director-General of UNESCO, to celebrate the 5,500th anniversary of the ancient town of Sarazm 12 September 2020


   I’m delighted to be joining you to celebrate the 5,500th anniversary of the ancient town of Sarazm. I’d like to first thank His Excellency Emomali Rahmon, President of the Republic of Tajikistan, for inviting UNESCO to be part of this great event.

It’s not every day that we have such an opportunity to mark such a historic occasion – where we count in millennia rather than years; where we go back to the roots of humanity.

That’s why I wished to send you a message today, even though I’m unable to attend this important event in person.  

This town, whose name means ‘where the land begins’, takes us back to what protohistorians call the ‘Neolithic Revolution’. 

Indeed, the ruins of Sarazm connect us with an earlier world.

They tell a story about the domestication of plants and animals, and the development of techniques such as metallurgy and irrigation.

They tell a story about the birth of urban societies, and the creation of the first trade routes that brought these settlements to life.

These stories are supported by the work of archaeologists, who have unearthed ceramics, pottery and artistic objects from the steppes of Central Asia, the fields of Transoxiana, the Iranian plateau and the Indus Valley. For nearly one thousand years, Sarazm was a cultural crossroads – a place of dialogue, and a site of cultural exchange.

This history of ties and transmission, of culture and classical civilizations, is important for humanity as a whole. This is why, in 2010, Sarazm was inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

The things that set Sarazm apart are also the things that we need today, to protect future generations.

In this respect, I very much welcome the efforts of the Republic of Tajikistan to help us better understand yesterday’s world by showing us how our ancestors lived almost 55centuries ago.

UNESCO stands ready to support the Tajik authorities in their work to preserve and promote this site – its integrity, universality and authenticity.

This is why we are working with the Tajik authorities to develop a plan for managing the Sarazm site, within the framework of the ‘Silk Roads Heritage Corridors’, a programme that we launched in partnership with the European Union.  

The aim is to ensure that this exceptional site is preserved on a long-term basis for future generations, while benefitting local populations and remaining accessible to visitors – including foreign tourists. This also means supporting scientific research – because Sarazm has not yet revealed all its secrets, as today’s speakers will no doubt tell you.

In this way, in Sarazm also, we are pursuing the ambition that drives our Silk Roads programme: the ambition to combine conservation, understanding, creativity and economic development.

In times of crisis, like the period we are living through, it is essential that we stay mobilized for culture and heritage.

The anniversary of Sarazm is an opportunity to celebrate all that heritage does. It creates meaning and connections; it moves and it unites; it tells the story of our shared humanity.

Thank you.




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