A Little Less Luster
Some of the shine is being taken off the elites of Azerbaijan in recent news. Despite wealth and power enhanced with an oily sheen, the last week has featured a few choice pieces highlighting some less-than-impressive behavior. First up is Steve LeVine, a correspondent and blogger at Foreign Policy with extensive experience in affairs in the former Soviet Union and oil politics. He’s commenting on some of the US cables that have been coming out lately:
The main thing is not to cross Heydarov. When I was still keeping an apartment in Baku, one often heard of a powerful fellow named Farhad Aliyev, who though no relation to the president was said to represent Aliyev family oil interests as head of a company called AzPetrol, and was later minister of economic development. In 2005, he was mysteriously arrested, and has since been imprisoned somewhere on highly strange charges. Lu’s cable suggests what really happened: Changes in government regulations pushed by Farhad Aliyev “stood to hurt Heydarov’s interests,” and “Heydarov allegedly put his foot down.”
Next up is Azeri Report. Their focus was on an incident that occurred over the summer, and grabbed headlines here in Azerbaijan, when one of these elites decided he wanted bear kebabs. Apparently, there is a court case against the journalists who brought up the story in their newspapers:
A group of journalists and activists from “Dalga” youth movement protested outside Yasamal District Court, voicing slogans such as “1 million for a bear, AZN 100 for a pensioner,” “Leave our workplaces alone”, “Don’t eat bears and make newspapers pick up the bill,” and “End the pressure on freedom of speech!” This protest was stopped by police intervention.
And last, Der Spiegel comes in to talk about western countries fighting for influence in Azerbaijan:
The “Great Game” is what the 19th century battle between the British and the Russians over Central Asian influence was called. These days, the Americans are also on the frontlines of this battle — and the potential rewards are much larger. Unfortunately, as the State Department’s classified documents make clear, the price that American diplomats have to pay is also much greater.
An interesting week for Azerbaijan in the international press.