Azerbaijan’s rich oil and gas resources are helping to contribute to an enriched new cultural life in this former Soviet republic. With the recent opening of the Buta Arts Festival in London, Azerbaijani artists—painters, musicians, dancers, poets, filmmakers—are receiving a new level of exposure. This new artistic frontier was pioneered by Tahir Salakhov, who is now 81 years old. Salakhov created paintings in a style of “severe realism” that shed light on the grim lives of workers in the Soviet Union. As director of the Soviet Art Union, he encouraged dissident artists and introduced the work of Western artists to the Soviet people.
The arts festival in London builds on the artistic renewal among Azeri artists and their patrons. Azerbaijan hosted a pavilion at the 2007 Venice Biennale, then backed recent exhibitions in Germany and Switzerland that have generated much excitement about Azeri culture.
Baku, Azerbaijan, which received an “Islamic Capital of Culture” designation in 2009, has witnessed a flurry of art exhibitions. In September, the city’s brand-new Museum of Modern Art opened with over 800 exhibits. Azerbaijan, one of the world’s most ancient nations, has a proud cultural heritage. Azeri folk art encompasses the ancient custom of carpet weaving as well as the making of a variety of products from garments to housing decorations. Numerous wonderful examples of the folk arts of Azerbaijan can be found in museums around the world.
- Azeri Artists Take on the World
This article discusses how Azeri cultural offerings are becoming known to the Western world.
(Source: New York Times, November 27, 2009)
- AZ Gallery: Discover the Little Known World of Art in Azerbaijan!
This interactive virtual gallery allows you to view seldom-seen paintings and sculptures by Azerbaijani artists from the Soviet period as well as contemporary works created since Azerbaijan’s independence in 1991; includes art puzzles!
(Source: azgallery.org; accessed December 1, 2009)
- Buta Festival of Azerbaijani Arts
The official Web site of the Buta Festival in London, hosted by the Moscow-based Buta Art Center, which promotes the culture of Azerbaijan.
(Source: butafestival.com; accessed December 1, 2009)
- General Information on Azeri Culture
This Web site of the Ministry of Culture of Azerbaijan includes pages devoted to literature, music, theater, and cinema, among many other aspects of Azeri culture.
(Source: azerbaijan.az; accessed December 1, 2009)
Other Issues in the Region
When the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, fifteen republics gained independence. Meanwhile, regions within some of the republics have broken off to form independent governments. Two key examples are the Abkhazia region in Georgia and the Chechnya region in Russia. Despite declaring independence in 1999, Abkhazia has not been recognized as an independent nation, and Georgia continues to try to bring it back into the fold. Since April 2008, however, tensions have risen as Russia has shown support for Abkhazia’s separatist movement, shooting down a Georgian spy plane and bringing troops into the region.
- EU Report Blames Russia and Georgia for Wars
The European Union’s investigation into the Georgia-Russia War in 2008 attributed the outbreak of the war to Georgian actions, but blamed Russia for the “excessive force” of its response.
(Source: Fox News, September 30, 2009)
Soviet Union’s Nuclear Legacy
Fifteen years ago, the end of the Cold War seemed to halt the nuclear showdown between the United States and the Soviet Union. In the years since, the biggest concern about Russia’s and the former Soviet Republics’ nuclear weapons was that they would fall into the hands of terrorists or rogue nations. The fear is not only that terrorists might detonate a nuclear bomb, but that they could also buy or steal radioactive material from Russian nuclear sites and use it to make a “dirty bomb.” The idea of such a bomb would be to use conventional, or regular explosives to spread deadly radiation over a small area.
- Indian PM Arrives in Russia for Arms, Nuclear Deals
India’s prime minister, Manmohan Singh, met Russian leaders in Moscow to finalize agreements to purchase weapons worth some $10 billion and to discuss a deal to bring more uranium to India for its nuclear power plants.
(Source: Reuters, December 6, 2009)
Russia’s transition from a command economy to a market economy has been a difficult one. When the Soviet Union collapsed in December 1991, the economy collapsed with it. Everything changed, from the laws and the currency of the republics, to the availability and distribution of goods. The years since have been tricky as Russia has moved from communism to capitalism. Shortages and rationing were the order of the day. A government-sponsored liberalization and privatization plan benefited mainly the rich and powerful, leaving average people to suffer.
- Medvedev Dreams of Economic Reform
Russian president Dmitry Medvedev has announced his intentions to pursue urgent economic reforms. President Medvedev pledged that his government will rely on technology and innovation to build a modern economy. But Russia continues to face many serious socioeconomic problems.
(Source: Geopolitical Monitor, November 26, 2009)