Tag Archives: azerbaijan

Media, culture and Azerbaijan

This afternoon I attended a brown bag lunch lecture at the World Bank on mobile technology and access to information. It was put on by Intermedia, an organization here in Washington DC that does amazing work on media research. (If you haven’t yet, you have to check out Audiencescapes).

There were at least half a million things I want to blog about in this presentation, so I’m sure you’ll see this referenced quite a bit in the coming days/weeks.

Although the presentation was about the increase of mobile technology and how it might be more integrated into various projects, the speaker, Dr. Gerry Power cautioned us not to forget about radio. In Africa, in particular, radio is still a major source of information, and to ignore it would be foolish. Mobile may be the fun thing to talk about now, but convergence is a more realistic solution.

But when I think of convergence, I think of old stodgey journalists finally learning how to blog. I guess I’ve been seeing it from the print/broadcast practitioner side of things. As opposed to the mobile producer side of things. But convergence, as Dr. Power’s hinted at, is more than that – its the sharing of content. Not only for the broadcaster’s sake, but for the mobile practioner’s sake, too.

A good example of this can be found in Azerbaijan and Armenia. State-owned media in both countries make it pretty hard to get any peace/reconciliation programming broadcast. So pieces that are originally created for television are instead getting audiences online.

Onni Krikorian, blogger for Global Voices, has been writing a lot lately about various media projects aimed at improving relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia. He does an excellent job describing the projects and the media pieces themselves, so I’ll just post his links here. These are highly produced pieces that aren’t being broadcast via television, as intended, but instead are making it into homes via the internet and mobile.

Armenia-Azerbaijan: Dialogue through Film

More Dialogue through Film (one of my favorites is on this one- check out the film called Download)

and Backseat musical musings….and ethnic conflict

And of course, because its on Global Voices, the conversation going on after these posts are equally interesting.

There seems to be a lot of activity in media for change in the region. The very reason I became interested in Azerbaijan was because of a job posting for a media and social change project in Baku. (It made me realize how much I don’t know about the region!)

Its definitely a region I’ll keep watching…


Ali and Nino

As you may know I’m working towards my goal of reading literature from every country. I’m not going in any particular order – I find that I become fascinated with certain countries/regions almost randomly, or sometimes because of external influences, but certainly not in alphabetical order.

Cover of Ali and NinoMy current focus is Azerbaijan. When I started, I knew nothing about this small former soviet republic. In case you know as much as I did when I started, it is located in the Caucus region and it’s borders include Russia, Georgia, Armenia, Iran and the Caspian Sea.  And, although I’m by no means an expert, I feel like I have learned SO much. All thanks to one book in particular – Ali and Nino.

This fictional love story is set in pre-war (WW1) Azerbaijan and tells the tale of a Muslim man who falls in love with a Christian woman. Through their courting, marriage and continued relationship, the reader gets an intimate look at so many struggles that define what it means to be Azeri –  Islam vs Christianity, (and not just Islam, but Sunni vs Shi’ite) East vs West, old vs new, tradition vs modernity…..

What made this book so wonderful for me was how much I learned about the cultures of the region, without feeling like I was being taught anything. The struggles that the two characters go through in their own relationship are inherently cultural. And through those struggles we get glimpses into real life in pre-war Baku. By getting to know and care about the characters and their daily lives and struggles, you get a better appreciation for the bigger picture. I’ve begun reading my next book, Azerbaijan Diary, by reporter Thomas Goltz, and I can’t imagine reading it without first gaining an emotional sense of the place from Ali and Nino.

Ali and Nino is exactly why I love reading books from around the world. I hope I can find equally fascinating, enlightening and education books from other countries as well!

Say Ah…zerbaijan!

A couple of weeks ago I came across a job posting that caught my eye. It was exactly what I want to do, and I was very well qualified for it – except for one thing: you had to be fluent in Azerbaijani.

Hmm. Don’t think I’ll be able to fake that one!

As I talked myself down from how *perfect* that job would have been, and how *perfect* I was for it,  I realized how much I don’t know about Azerbaijan.

Lanscape of the coastline of Baku, Azerbaijan.So, it became the focus of my World of Books reading list! And, wow, I have not been disappointed! I have had a great time with literature set in the area and have learned so much! And that is exactly why I have this crazy goal!

The first book I didn’t technically read – I listened to it on CD during a drive from Ohio. The book is Gentlemen of the Road by Michael Chabon.

If you’ve never read anything from Chabon, you must. His prose is wonderful – the kind that makes you sit up a little straighter and fall in love with words all over again. And listening to Andre Braugher read it makes it especially delectable!

The story itself is set around 950 AD, and only partially in Azerbaijan. The plot takes the main characters on both sides of the Caspian and Black Seas. I can’t say that I necessarily learned specifics about the culture or lives of Azeris, but I definitely got a solid feel for just how central the region is – at the crossroads between East and West.

The story itself is wild and wildly entertaining. I will surely pick up more work from Michael Chabon. It was a great introduction to the region, if only because it was fun and gave a general sense of things, albeit 1000 years ago…