Ten Days In Baku That Shook My World
Dear Dr. Fricke,
I enjoyed reading your Ten Days in Baku That Shook My World article on RFE/RL this evening. I spent this past summer (2010) in Baku as an American student in the Critical Language Scholarship program at Azerbaijan University of Languages. As a recent university graduate well versed in international relations, human rights and questions of democracy in the post-Soviet space I myself struggled with many of the same questions that you had while in Baku in regards to the jailed bloggers and the ubiquitous posters of Heydar Aliyev.
Having previously studied in a home-stay in Paris, where discussing politics over the dinner table is considered a test of intelligence and manliness, adjusting to my Baku home-stay was considerably challenging. I learned quickly to nod my head in silent agreement when my host family and all other
Azeris I met spoke ill of Armenians and highly of Messrs. Aliyev. While
in Azerbaijan, I wrote a blog (snyderabroad.wordpress.com), where I tried my best to tread lightly while demonstrating to friends and family back home how odd life is under totalitarianism.
I am eager to see if your experience in Azerbaijan has encouraged you to perform research on the human mind under totalitarian regimes which I would greatly look forward to reading.
Warm regards and yaxşı yol,
Stephen Snyder, University of Michigan
Dear Christel Fricke,
I am a Turkmen journalist based in Prague. Before moving to Prague I lived in Bergen for three and half years and one of my sons now lives and works in Oslo as a software engineer.
I would like to thank you for your kindhearted commentary about our post-soviet struggle with those ugly states while natural resources such as oil and gas seem more valuable for many Europeans than human rights . To tell you the truth, I don't remember reading in recent years such a thoughtful and caring article about our almost forgotten region.
Before our late dictator’s death some Western newspapers had published dozens of articles about our tragedy, but those articles mostly ridiculed our petty dictator and cared less about the suffering people. If you happen to be interested in a more colorful picture of those dissident struggles around the Caspian sea, I could send you my annals of an escape adventure.
I would like to thank you again for your kindhearted commentary about my Azerbaijani brothers.
With all the best, Yovshan Annagurban
by: Ray F. from: Lawrence, KS
January 02, 2011 18:21
Reply: Appreciate your candid and contrite comments. I’m afraid that most in the west are willing to avoid uncomfortable truths (especially when it comes to oil-exporting nations), lest it upset their contented status quo. After the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the recent economic slow-down, and the steady growth of China, I’m afraid that concern for democracy and human rights among western leaders is almost non-existent. As long as the autocrat is not too bloody, quasi-repressive order is better for the bottom-line.