In Azerbaijan oil and gas rules the world. Some people call it ‘the Dubai of the Former Soviet Union’. This Republic is by far the richest in the Transcaucasian region. Besides Russian, people speak Azeri - a kind of old-style Turkish. The closeness of both cultures has led to strong business and political ties between these two countries.

Interestingly enough, nobody would have ever expected that the current president Ilham Aliev would manage his country so well and gain such a strong position in a geopolitical context. As a young man he was more interested in spending a fortune in casinos and enjoying night life rather than being interested in politics. But after the death of his father he grew with his responsibilities. He was elected president in autumn 2003 and until to date he is successfully leading his country to a prosperous future.

However, this development does not come without sacrifices. Key positions are held by members of the Aliev clan or those who are close to it. Although there is general prosperity and well-being, a lot of people live under rather poor conditions. Political opposition and media freedom are not necessarily reality in the country.

But despite all this, oil exports through the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline remains the main economic driver, while efforts to boost Azerbaijan's gas production are under way. Natural gas developed by an international consortium on the Azeri territory is the only gas currently available for the geopolitically important Southern corridor project, which aims at improving European energy security. Still until today, Azerbaijan seems to be one of the most stable, wealthy, manageable and interesting Republics of the Former Soviet Union.


© Waltraud Gehrig & Natalia Holl