Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Archive for February 8th, 2020

Back in Baku

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 8th February, 2020

6CD508CA-6105-4DE0-8CD2-DAAA28284A03It’s 10 years since I was last in Azerbaijan and it is fascinating to see how much the capital city, Baku, has changed. Lots of new buildings, of course, including a flower-like shopping centre under construction just next to the (new and magnificent) carpet museum. But both the fin-de-siecle edifices put up during the first oil boom more than a century ago and the historic old town are in much better nick than in 2010, and everywhere is fantastically clean and tidy (London take note!). The traffic is much heavier (and sometimes drives alarmingly fast!). But walking along the corniche on the banks of the Caspian Sea is a delight, especially when the weather is unseasonably warm, as it was yesterday — 18 degrees, though it is predicted to snow tomorrow. That’s unfortunate, as voters go to the polls in parliamentary elections then. I’m here as an election monitor and am keen to see how recent political reforms in Azerbaijan are panning out in practice. The Azeris are a handsome, proud and hospitable people; in the old Soviet Union it used to annoy me how rude some Russians were about them. And the country has clearly been investing a good part of its hydrocarbons wealth in improving the lives of local people, certainly in the capital, at least. It will be interesting one day to travel to the interior to see how things are in rural areas.

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