Thursday, 3 April 2008
Blood, Oil, and Borat in Azerbaijan
Thanks to Tablaqueen, I came across this article on Azerbaijan from The Exile:
There Will Be Krov: Oil-soaked Travels Through Azerbaijan
BLOOD, OIL, AND BORAT IN AZERBAIJAN
By Alexander Zaitchik
Below I provide with only 3 extracts from the article, but I highly recommend reading it in full.
If there’s one other thing people might know about Azerbaijan, it is the face of its president, Ilham Aliyev, the ultimate Borat president. He’s also the actual Borat president. In the Sacha Ben Cohen film, it is Aliyev’s portrait that appears during the credits as a stand-in for Nursultan Nazarbayev, the real president of Kazakhstan.
In 1999, while still alive, Heydar built a museum in honor of himself. It will soon be joined by a futuristic Heydar Aliyev Cultural Center in downtown Baku. Designed by trendy all-star London architect Zaha Hadid, the building is scheduled to open in 2009 featuring a concert hall, a library, an Aliyev family museum and—in a classic Azeri touch—underground parking for no less than 1,350 cars. (Traffic-choked Baku was a pioneer of car culture during the first oil boom; today Azeri kids drive around in mechanized toy cars in Baku’s few open spaces.) The announcement of the tender for this Cult of Personality palace led architecture critic Hrag Vartanian to ask, “Is Zaha Hadid the new Leni Riefenstahl?”
“Slowly, the power of Azerbaijan’s oligarchs is increasing,” says Emin Huseynov, Chairman of the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety in Baku. “Soon they will fear no one.” [Unzipped - Sounds familiar, eh?]
"Just what it looks like. On the streets of Sumgayit."
*all photos by Alexander Zaitchik, The Exile