Whose Resources Are They?
The weather has turned towards a more winter-like chill in the past week or two. In the last few days here in Lənkəran, the nights have gone near or below freezing and the wet weather has given us an extra layer of chill. To be sure, the more northern and mountainous regions are colder, but this is what I’m used to. And when heating and insulation are extremely shoddy, it doesn’t have to be very cold outside to chill you inside.
Which is why I went to get my small gas tank refilled this evening. My apartment building isn’t hooked up to the city gas system, so most of the apartments just have wood stoves for heat. I didn’t go through the trouble of securing cords of wood for the winter, so I’m having a go with a small heater that runs off of a gas tank, kind of like a propane tank. Tonight it ran out, so I went out and grabbed a taxi to shuttle me over to the station for a fill-up.
This was a taxi driver I’m familiar with. He’s very friendly, always helpful, and maybe a little more worldly than your average Azerbaijani. On the way, we talked about the gas problems Lənkəran has been having the last few days, as the weather has taken a turn. On Eli’s side of town, they lost gas today for quite a few hours. More long-term, homes like mine, without gas, are in a large chunk of the downtown area of the city. Technically, the infrastructure is mostly there. It just needs to be tweaked or the gas just needs to be turned on. My taxi driver friend took it from there.
As we know, Azerbaijan sells gas to other countries. Iran and Azerbaijan just signed a big contract. Last year, Russia and Azerbaijan signed a large agreement. And now the Europeans have come a knockin’. As I listened, my taxi driver friend went on, talking about how he has no problem sharing the gas wealth with other countries, but that Azerbaijan should take care of its own needs first. I think this is a fairly reasonable position. However, he then took it probably a step too far: he told me that it is in the Azerbaijani Constitution that resources from the land belong to the Azerbaijani nation, and here he used the word ‘xalq’, Azərbaycan xalqı. In this sense, xalq refers to the people of a given nation. My friend was saying that the oil and gas and whatever other resources belong to the people of the Azerbaijani nation. I was curious, so I looked up the Azerbaijani Constitution (English/Azeri). Article 14:
Article 14. Natural resources
Without prejudice to rights and interests of any physical persons and legal entities natural resources belong to the Azerbaijan Republic.
Maddə 14. Təbii ehtiyatlar
Təbii ehtiyatlar hər hansı fiziki və ya hüquqi şəxslərin hüquqlarına və mənafelərinə xələl gətirmədən Azərbaycan Respublikasına mənsubdur.
Unfortunately for my friend here, in fact, the resources belong to the Azerbaijan Republic. Honest people could argue about what that means, but ‘xalq’ and ‘respublika’ are not really the same thing.
On a lighter note, a friend of the blog also pointed out that even if the constitution used the word xalq, it would still be problematic. If we were to judge by the innumerable signs along highways throughout the country, it would probably turn out that xalq actually means Heydar Aliyev. So the resources would be his instead.