A common assumption among Western observers is that political opponents of authoritarian leaders in the Caucasus and Central Asia tend to be themselves relatively liberal in their political beliefs and tolerant in social views. But several recent incidents in Azerbaijan challenge this assumption.
Two towns named Ishkashim stand opposite each other on the Pyanj River, which marks the border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan. Against a stark backdrop of daunting peaks and dusty plains, life here, as documented in this photo essay by Diana Markosian, is marked by constant uncertainty.
Compared with all his other problems, Dmytro Firtash is probably not spending a lot of time worrying about his Tajik fertilizer factory. After all, the Ukrainian gas, chemicals and media magnate is now out on $172-million-bail in Vienna as he awaits a ruling on his potential extradition to the United States to face graft and organized-crime charges.
The Kremlin’s partition of Crimea from Ukraine has put other states along Russia’s “near abroad” on edge. But while most of Russia’s neighbors seem to be worried about becoming Vladimir Putin’s next target, one state, Azerbaijan, stands to benefit, at least over the longer term, from the sudden turn of events.
In 2013, as Syria’s civil war raged, 23-year-old Samar Abaza opted, like hundreds of thousands of his countrymen, to flee his home for safety abroad. Yet unlike most of the estimated 2.5 million Syrians who are now refugees, Abaza sought to build a new life in Abkhazia, another contested land.
It’s the Central Asian labor migrant’s second-worst nightmare (an encounter with violent Russian xenophobes is usually the first): on arrival in Russia, an immigration officer reviews the submitted passport with cold intensity. Then, a red light goes off and a couple of border guards swoop in and lead the would-be migrant away. Border guards have identified another one on the list.
It is a tough climb to the weather station: The trail leads across snow-covered boulder fields and steep, icy slopes. But for four researchers from Kyrgyzstan’s Geology and Mineral Resources Agency, the six-hour climb to the Adygene Glacier weather station, perched at 3,600 meters above sea level, is routine.
Warily watching Russia’s takeover of Crimea, Azerbaijani officials, politicians and analysts appear divided about what the crisis will mean for their own 26-year-long dispute with Armenia over the breakaway region of Nagorno Karabakh.
Russia’s escalating confrontation with the West resulting from its annexation of Crimea has thrown long-running international efforts to end the conflict over Nagorno Karabakh into uncertainty. Analysts in Yerevan believe that the standoff bodes ill for continued joint US-Russian mediation of the Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks, which is seen as critical for achieving a compromise settlement.