Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Baku Past, Present and Future

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 29th September, 2010

A century ago, Baku was one of the greatest cities on earth, the old walled settlement on the banks of the Caspian Sea swelled by the ornate mansions of men who made fortunes from oil and the related economic boom. Communism largely put a halt to the city’s growth, as Moscow was wary of giving the Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan too much clout and Western customers found their oil supplies elsewhere. But since Azerbaijan’s declaration of independence in 1991, the oil and gas industry has soared in importance once more. The smell of sulphur hits you in the nostrils as you drive into Baku from the airport. Huge skyscrapers are ging up around the old city core, more Dubai than reflecting Azeri heritage. Black Humvees with OTT car horns assert their right of way over chugging Ladas as they race along the new town’s broad avenues. The government is determined to put Azerbaijan firmly back on the map, despite the fact that it has a population of only 9 million and has a festering territorial dispute with neighbouring Armenia that shows no sign of early resolution. Meanwhile, foreign contractors from all over the globe are in town, sniffing for business, as Baku once again savours being at the crossroads of East and West, North and South.

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