Thursday, July 14, 2005

Azerbaijan ... one of the 15 post-soviet countries

Azerbaijan is one of the 15 post-soviet countries. Together with Armenia and Georgia, Azerbaijan belongs among the Caucasus republics. It is thus situated between the two seas, the Black sea on the west and Caspian sea on the east with amazing Caucasus mountains in the north.

Azerbaijan is Muslim country, Islam is thus not part of the constitution. The country is therefore quite different from Arabic countries. Besides the communistic period left some impact on the country, as Islam, or any kind of religion was not officially allowed.

To give you a picture of its size, it has 86 thousand square km, thus it is bit bigger than Czech rep., though with smaller population of about 8 mil people, mostly of Azeri origin.

Traditions and conservatism are though quite strongly rooted within the society. But much more in the villages and definitely among men. Young girls or women, especially from the capital Baku are very open minded and modern. I found out it is possible to discuss with them any sort of topic, including the religion. I found no real difference between them and my Czech friends which really surprized me.

The country is really poor. In the early 90s it suffered from a war conflict with Armenia over the territory called Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenia till today occupies approx. 20% of Azeri territory and the N-K region. So instead of focusing on regular development after the split from Soviet Union, the country has been dealing with over 800 thousand refugees and the impact that the war had on the people and their minds.

There are number of Non-govermental organizations present in the country but only from the late 90s they had a chance to actually focus on the development of the society and the country instead of dealing with the war matters/relief.

Azerbaijan is in a way a rich country. There are quite some oil supplies in the Caspian sea and around 80% of their GDP is actually derived from the oil exports. The less fortunate thing is that the money never really reaches the population and seems to get stuck with the government. Thus growing GDP per capita is not really accurate.

There are number of foreign companies present in the oil sector but I have noticed the fear among the people what will happen when the oil reserves cease to exist. The main investments into the country are, of course, connected with the presence of oil.

This is just to give an overall picture. Please, let me know if there would be something more of an interest to you. I will focus on more everyday issues in my further postings and I hope you will enjoy the little tour through this country.

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