Books on Azerbaijan
Update No: 317- (30/05/07)
There can be nothing better to grasp a foreign country than to
have an insider's view, especially an informed person, with long experience of
its politics and society.
Opposition leader gives his view on Azeri politics
Opposition politician Eldar Namazov is just such a figure. He resigned in
October 1999 as an adviser to Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev. He published
a three-part article in February-March 2007 in successive issues of the
opposition weekly "Realny Azerbaijan" focusing on the relative
strength of regional political groupings in Azerbaijan and the role they have
played in national politics both before and since independence.
Rizvan Talybov, the leader of one such group uniting Azeris expelled from the
Armenian SSR in the 1950s or late 1980s, was arrested in late April, days before
a planned mass protest in support of former Health Minister Ali Insanov, also a
member of that grouping.
Namazov began by affirming that both ruling elite and opposition were
established largely on regional lines and by questioning the widely observed
taboo on any public discussions of regionalism. He argued that there is nothing
shameful in identifying with the geographical region from which one's family
originates, but at the same time he conceded that some people seek to capitalize
on their origin to further their personal ends.
Grouping The Groupings
Namazov divided the various regional groupings into three categories, of which
the first and largest comprises those Azerbaijanis who resettled in the
present-day Azerbaijan Republic from what is now Armenia.
He estimated in the first instalment of his three-part article that they account
for some 40 percent of Azerbaijan's present population of 8.4 million, but in
the second instalment quoted feedback he received suggesting the true figure
could be either higher -- up to 50 percent -- or lower -- between 25-30 percent.
In second place, each accounting for 8-10 percent of the population, are four
groups: those from Baku-Shirvan, Karabakh, Gyanja, and Lenkoran (in the far
south, bordering on Iran). Two groups representing ethnic minorities, the Kurds
on the one hand and the Avars and Lezgins on the other, each account for less
than 5 percent, as do the natives of Quba/Khachmas and Sheki.
Finally, the third and numerically smallest groups are the Azeris from Borchalo
(southeastern Georgia) and from the Naxicevan Autonomous Republic. The latter
two groups, according to Namazov, exercise disproportionate influence. He
characterizes the Borchalo group as being particularly mobilized and active and
as controlling media outlets that portray it in a sympathetic light. The
Naxicevan "clan" has been at the forefront of Azerbaijani politics for
almost three decades by virtue of the key role played by its most illustrious
scion, former Communist Party of Azerbaijan first secretary and later President
In the second section of his analysis, Namazov focuses on the interaction
between the various groups enumerated above. He argues that the widely held
perception that Aliyev's regime rested on a coalition between the
"Armenian" and Naxicevan groups, to which a parallel alliance between
the Baku-Shirvan group and the Karabakh group served as a counterweight, with
the other, smaller groups occupying a more or less neutral position, is an
oversimplification. Aliyev, who succeeded Veli Akhundov, a representative of the
Baku group, as Azerbaijan CP first secretary in 1969, was constrained to seek
the backing of the more numerous "Armenian" group, Namazov suggested.
On his return to power as head of an independent state in June 1993, Aliyev
presided over a division of leading posts that reserved for his own Naxicevan
group the plum posts of president, prime minister and presidential apparatus,
giving the Armenian group the post of parliament speaker, together with control
over the economic and security ministries, and several other ministerial
portfolios. Namazov attributed the "disproportionately large share of the
pie" granted to the Naxicevan group to Aliyev's capacity for identifying
and neutralizing potential threats to his power. When the "Armenian"
group created a formal organization -- Agrydag -- in the mid-1990s, Aliyev did
all in his power to undermine and neutralize it.
The "Armenian" grouping appears to have seized on Aliyev's death
in 2003 as an opportunity to revise the status quo and strengthen its political
influence -- even though the Naxicevan clan retained its virtual monopoly on
power thanks to the election as president in October 2003 of Heydar Aliyev's son
Ilham, who retained fellow Naxicevani Ramiz Meehtyev as head of the presidential
administration. In May 2005, the "Armenian" grouping founded a new,
quasi-irredentist group, Return to Western Azerbaijan (meaning those regions of
present day Armenia that during the 18th-19th century were part of the Erivan
khanate). As of October 2006, the organization still had not been formally
registered with the Justice Ministry, but despite its ambiguous legal status its
leader, Rizvan Talybov, announced that it would lobby for the creation of an
autonomous republic on Armenian territory, according to zerkalo.az on October
31. In January 2007, Talybov announced plans for the creation of a government in
exile, day.az reported on January 17.
But the "Armenian" grouping was seriously weakened by the arrest in
October 2005 on charges of corruption and of plotting a coup d'etat of two of
its most prominent members, Health Minister Insanov and presidential
administration official Akif Muradverdiyev. Both have men since been tried and
sentenced, and their property confiscated. And the authorities have already
moved to co-opt, or at least spilt, the "Armenian" grouping: on April
7, the online daily zerkalo.az reported the creation two months earlier of a new
movement to represent the interests of that group.
Named Public Union of Compatriots Deported from Western Azerbaijan, that
organization has formally pledged its support for the current Azerbaijani
leadership and its policies. And in an appeal adopted in early April, it called
on the authorities and law enforcement bodies to take all appropriate measures
to curtail the "provocative" activities of such
"destructive" organizations as Talybov's.
President Aliyev issues executive order to improve chess
According to the executive order, chess is one of the ancient games widespread
Taking into account potential in the sphere of chess and successes of our
sportsmen in international competitions, the President commissioned related
ministries to prepare draft state program on improving chess in Azerbaijan in
Youth and Sport Ministry and Education Ministry along with local administrative
bodies are to present the draft to the president within three months, taking
into account proposals of Azerbaijan National Olympic Committee and Azerbaijan
France's Lafarge may start cement plant construction before end-2007
Deputy Executive Director of Azerbaijan Investment Company Riyad Gasymov
recently said that French company Lafarge may begin building a cement plant in
Azerbaijan before the end of 2007, according to Interfax News Agency.
"Geologists from the French company have visited Azerbaijan twice. Certain
details are being clarified at present. Azerbaijan would like the plant to be
built in the region and not in Baku. Work on a feasibility study is expected to
start soon. Construction work could begin before the end of the year,"
Gasymov said. The construction work will take at least 18 months, he said,
adding: The new cement plant could start operating in 2009. The Azerbaijan
Investment Company hopes to reach an agreement with Holcim of Switzerland on
buying shares in Azerbaijan's largest cement producer Garadagh Cement, Gasymov
said. Holcim owns 89.5 per cent of the company. "Holcim has agreed to sell
20 per cent of shares to Azerbaijan Investment Company. Some of the details
about the production section are now being clarified. We plan to acquire shares
in the company by the end of 2007," he said. Azerbaijan Investment Company
will buy the shares at market cost, it was reported. A valuator will be hired to
determine the value. It was reported earlier that Azerbaijan's Economic
Development Ministry, Azerbaijan Investment Company and Lafarge had signed an
agreement to build a 150 million Euro cement plant. Lafarge SA is one of the
world's largest construction materials producers. Azerbaijan Investment Company
was established in March 2006 for long-term investment in non-oil sector
CNPC, SOCAR discuss Kursengi-Garabagly contract conditions
China National Petroleum Corporation is holding talks with Azeri state oil
company SOCAR to make amendments to the contract for the development of the
Kursengi-Garabagly fields, Araz Asadov, commercial director of the project's
operator Salyan Oil, told Interfax News Agency.
"About 50 per cent of the oil produced at the contract zone is sold to
SOCAR at an internal price of US$ eight per barrel, and this is creating an
obstacle to Salyan Oil expanding its commercial activity. CNPC is holding talks
with SOCAR to change some conditions in the PSA type contract in this
area," he said. He also said Salyan Oil is interested in pumping oil
through the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline. "We are carrying out a commercial
analysis of possibilities to pump oil along various routes. We are also
interested in the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan and are evaluating the possibilities for
SOCAR calls tender for May Rebco consignment
Azeri state oil company SOCAR has called a tender for the May consignment of
Rebco oil to be shipped from the port of Novorossiisk, a source in the company
told Interfax. The consignment of 450,000 barrels will be shipped on May
29-30th, New Europe reported.
Switzerland's Sun Oil bought the January consignment, Britain's Glencore Energy
bought the February consignment, REOC Ltd. bought the March consignment and
Glencore Energy bought the April consignment. Glencore bought eight Rebco
consignments in 2006, REOC bought three and Tauras, Select, Vitol and Sun Oil
bought one each.