Kseniya Sobchak, a well-known Russian political activist and social butterfly, is an outspoken critic of Russian leader Vladimir Putin. But, curiously, she seems to be taking a much softer line on Azerbaijan’s authoritarian-minded ruler, Ilham Aliyev.
There's a coffee shop in an out-of-the-way part of Baku where the walls are covered with illustrations from an early 20th century satirical magazine called Molla Nasreddin. The magazine represents a bygone era, when Azerbaijan was a font of new cultural trends in the Muslim world, pioneering such issues as female emancipation, anti-clericalism, anti-colonialism and labor rights
Azerbaijan’s efforts to host the European Olympic Games and other high-profile international events show that Azerbaijani leaders yearn to be taken seriously in European Union capitals. But that doesn’t mean Baku is willing to listen to Brussels.
There has been much speculation surrounding Azerbaijan’s relations with Israel, including reports that Israeli warplanes might use Azerbaijani airfields as support bases during a potential attack against Iran. The reality of the bilateral relationship is not so dramatic, as it is pragmatic.
A neatly refurbished school in the village of Dygyah near the town of Lenkoran stands as a symbol of affluent times in Azerbaijan, fueled by the Caucasus country’s energy boom. One thing, however, hasn't changed: in a village where almost the entire population is Talysh, an Iranian-speaking minority group, all instruction in schools is in the official language, Azeri.
There is a tendency to view the tense relationship between Azerbaijan and Iran through the prism of religion. But bilateral enmity is rooted more in strategic considerations than it is in ideology or religion.
Amid a struggle to determine religion’s role in Azerbaijan, a controversial movement led by Turkish theologian Fetullah Gulen is attempting to establish itself as the face of moderate, politically acceptable Islam in Baku. There are several factors, however, that are limiting the Gulen movement’s ability to achieve its goal.