Too strong or too weak?

That’s the question facing anyone covering today’s protests in Baku. Is the opposition too weak or is the ruling YAP party too strong?

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The Tank Cemetery

Heading southwest out of Baku you can expect a few sights worth noting, but the good stuff is hidden behind the walls of Azerbaijan Methane Company. There are other stops worth pointing out on the road to Gobustan, but my favorite was the tank cemetery we found on the way to Lenin’s giant head.

There’s the tranquil Bibi Heybat Mosque, The famous “James Bond” oil fields where they filmed The World is Not Enough, a few beaches, and some overpriced resorts in various stages of construction. Otherwise there is a mostly a big wall on the right and the Caspian shore on the left. There’s a hole in that wall that leaves to a barren world of pipes, more walls and petro-chemical plants across the horizon.

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Azerbaijan Redux

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I’m back in Azerbaijan. The balcony floorboards are rotted, the water heater is broken and there are protests every few weeks.

I’ll be here for a few months writing about the regions. Right now I’m in Baku and I’ve spent the first week getting situated and catching up with the world I left behind before. Soon I’ll be looking into holy places, minor officials’ salaries, the life of a soldier and possibly hazelnuts farmers.

There’s a lot to say about Azerbaijan and even more to learn. There are claims of endemic economic malaise and there are well-publicized drives against corruption. Baku itself is abuzz with repairs that have moved a few blocks up the hill in the months I’ve been away. Stay tuned, my goal is to put up at least one entry a week from now on – I’ll begin tomorrow with a visit to the tank cemetery.

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Georgia’s Young People – And An Old Puppeteer’s Clock Tower

Tucked into a sidestreet just off an improvised bus terminal along one of the busiest roads in Tbilisi is Rezo Gabriadze’s pet project: a three story clock tower that is perpetually falling down. It’s a very young structure in a very old place, made by a world famous puppeteer who cobbled it together himself in the street over three years, brick by brick.

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Election reflections

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The storefronts and billboards throughout Baku are still covered in election posters, but a brief conversation with the stores’ owner reveals the cynicism of the recent elections here. In most cases, the owner did not support or oppose the candidate, did not know who put up the poster inside his shop and didn’t remove it because, in the words of one woman, “Why would I do a stupid thing like that?” Continue reading

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Baku

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Baku is hot in the summer, windy by the water and surrounded on all sides by Azerbaijan. On one side is the rest of the country, with its towns and villages, its sacks of tea leaves and vans loaded to the roof with watermelons. On the other is the Caspian Sea, full of oil, gas, and foreigner experts, with BP’s floating oil city and a rumored, “secret” island for rolling dice and God knows what. Continue reading

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The Burning Hillside

As the summer heat begins to exhaust itself, it is easier to take stock of Baku and Azerbaijan in general. The idea of day trips actually becomes appealing, so I was happy to check things off my sightseeing list when some of our Polish guests suggested a trip to Yanar Daĝ, “the burning hillside.”

My flatmate Karolin, a bleach-blond British girl named Claire, a muscular New Zealand girl and I all decided to join them, along with five Pols (three heading north and a separate couple stopping on their way to Georgia). The latter don’t quite own their English (or much else, which we gathered by their daily diet of bread and spreadable cheese and effortless evasion of taxi fares) and consisted of a long-haired, stocky girl who looks like the round-faced, smiling farm girl you’d expect to see on a Polish tourist catalog, accompanied by her happy, lanky boyfriend. Continue reading

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More photos from IDP school story

Here a recent story I did for EurasiaNet.org :
www.eurasianet.org/node/61994

Here’s more photos from that story:

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More flood photos

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My recent article for EurasiaNet.org can be found here:

But they’re only able to take five photos with a story, so the slideshow above has additional images.

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Bards vs. Boulevards

I met Oleg my first week in Baku while roaming around the central shopping district taking photos. The entire area is under construction, with the sidewalks being transformed from potholes to fresh concrete or from perfectly good concrete to tile, and so on.

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