With a combination of the kitsch of Eurovision and the lofty sentiments of pan-Turkic brotherhood, the Turkic-speaking world’s first international song contest, Turkvision, made its debut. Azerbaijan won the inaugural contest, besting 23 other competitors from across the Turkic world – from the powerhouse host Turkey to tiny Shoria, a region of 14,000 in western Siberia.
In mid-November, an Azerbaijani court sentenced Rashad Ramazanov, an Islamist blogger, to nine years in prison on charges of drug possession. Two weeks earlier, Taleh Bagir-zade, a young and charismatic Shi’a cleric, received a two-year prison term after being convicted on similar charges.
Seventy-year-old Kakesh Jumabai-Kyzy has spent her entire life working with felt.
The mother of eight lives in the mountainous Kyrgyz area of At-Bashy, where many families still tend flocks of sheep that provide the warm, fluffy wool that Jumabai-Kyzy transforms into traditional Kyrgyz clothing and the colorful felt rugs called shyrdaks.
Nearly 20 years after a ceasefire brought a halt to all-out warfare in Nagorno-Karabakh, the Azerbaijani government is still grappling with the challenge of accommodating the country’s 600,000 Internally Displaced Persons, without encouraging them to forget their former homes.
In the five weeks since incumbent Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev was reelected for a third consecutive term, the authorities have cracked down on a prominent NGO, an opposition newspaper, and several bloggers, journalists, and academics in what Amnesty International’s John Dalhuisen has branded “[a] ruthless and relentless attack on any dissenting voices in the media.”
When Mariam Avanesian and her family fled to Yerevan from Azerbaijan 25 years ago this month, they thought they were lucky; they had escaped physical danger, and left behind an apartment rather than “a grave” in the Azerbaijani capital, Baku. But moving to Armenia didn’t mean the end of uncertainty for Avanesian’s family members, and tens of thousands of others.
More than 25 years after its creation, a party game that enables participants to pretend they are Mafia hitmen remains wildly popular in Azerbaijan. Some regular players contend that the game is a reflection of daily reality.
Public anger is building in Azerbaijan over Russia’s rough treatment of an ethnic Azeri accused of murder. The incident likely will scuttle any chance, however remote, that Baku will join the Moscow-led Customs Union.