The deadline is over a year away, but Azerbaijan is sprinting to complete preparations for the European Games, an Olympics-like competition for athletes from 49 European countries. In sprucing Baku up for the event, officials are taking a softer approach to urban renewal than during the run-up to the Eurovision song contest just under two years ago.
The Crimea crisis is putting pressure on Kazakhstan’s long-standing, multi-vectored foreign policy, which has sought to balance the competing interests of Russia, China and the United States in Central Asia. In forcefully backing Russia’s annexation of Crimea, many in Kazakhstan worry that President Nursultan Nazarbayev could be setting himself up for separatist woes of his own.
Russia’s state-run oil giant Rosneft wants to purchase a majority stake in the state-controlled company that owns all of Kyrgyzstan’s civilian airports. The negotiations are stoking concern in some circles in Bishkek about the potential risk to Kyrgyzstan’s sovereignty. But with its entrenched corruption, poor governance and remote location, the Central Asian country has few other options.
A common assumption among Western observers is that political opponents of authoritarian leaders in the Caucasus and Central Asia tend to be themselves relatively liberal in their political beliefs and tolerant in social views. But several recent incidents in Azerbaijan challenge this assumption.
Two towns named Ishkashim stand opposite each other on the Pyanj River, which marks the border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan. Against a stark backdrop of daunting peaks and dusty plains, life here, as documented in this photo essay by Diana Markosian, is marked by constant uncertainty.
Compared with all his other problems, Dmytro Firtash is probably not spending a lot of time worrying about his Tajik fertilizer factory. After all, the Ukrainian gas, chemicals and media magnate is now out on $172-million-bail in Vienna as he awaits a ruling on his potential extradition to the United States to face graft and organized-crime charges.
The Kremlin’s partition of Crimea from Ukraine has put other states along Russia’s “near abroad” on edge. But while most of Russia’s neighbors seem to be worried about becoming Vladimir Putin’s next target, one state, Azerbaijan, stands to benefit, at least over the longer term, from the sudden turn of events.
In 2013, as Syria’s civil war raged, 23-year-old Samar Abaza opted, like hundreds of thousands of his countrymen, to flee his home for safety abroad. Yet unlike most of the estimated 2.5 million Syrians who are now refugees, Abaza sought to build a new life in Abkhazia, another contested land.
It’s the Central Asian labor migrant’s second-worst nightmare (an encounter with violent Russian xenophobes is usually the first): on arrival in Russia, an immigration officer reviews the submitted passport with cold intensity. Then, a red light goes off and a couple of border guards swoop in and lead the would-be migrant away. Border guards have identified another one on the list.