Wednesday, May 30, 2012



Culture Smart! Azerbaijan by Nikki Kazimova

I never wanted to get into the culture/tour guide book, but I boldly went into that territory when I chose a book about Azerbaijan. There were a couple of considerations which led me to this decision: 1.) I had never before heard of Azerbaijan and didn’t have any particular attachment to this country; and 2.) there were a limited number of affordable books which focused solely on this country. When I started this challenge, I also purchased the books I read. As time went on, I realized that if I continued this trend, I would eventually be the owner of a pretty epic library. 

(As a lover of classical music, I must digress into an incredibly interesting aspect of Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan was the home to the first opera house in the Islamic world. While doing some digging on the internet, I discovered that there is apparently an interesting history to this opera house. According to some rumors, it was built by a rich oil businessman after falling for an Italian opera diva. Nonetheless, it has become one of my new goals to see an operatic production in the Akhundov Azerbaijan State Academic Opera and Ballet Theater in the country’s capital of Baku.) 

Culture Smart! Azerbaijan by Nikki Kazimova has developed in me an appreciation for this country. Some interesting facts of this country include:
  • The first oil well of the world was drilled in Azerbaijan in 1848. Today, “the proceeds from oil and gas comprise about 60 percent of Azerbaijan’s GDP.” (page 140)
  • The Azeri language has throughout history been written in three different scripts: Arabic, Cyrillic, and Latin script. We can see how these languages mirror the history of the country with its influences from Iran, Russia, and the West.
  • Azerbaijan celebrates March 31 as the National Genocide Day. In 1918, Armenian troops massacred Azeris. This fact interested me greatly, and I would love to get more information about this conflict. After reading a book about the Armenian genocide, the idea that the victims becoming the perpetrators is a very interesting concept. Moreover, February 26 marks the day of the Khajali Genocide, which occurred in 1992 as a result of Armenian troops.
  • Azerbaijan “was the first modern parliamentary republic in the Muslim world, and the first to extend voting rights to women.” (page 31)
  • Azerbaijan has military conscription.

To be honest, this book left me with more questions than answers. It gave me just enough information about Azerbaijan that I began to develop questions. For example, I have a desire to learn more about the genocide conducted by the Armenians and its importance to Azerbaijan. I would also like to know more about the Azerbaijan oil-based economy, how this has affected its relationships with the outside world (including the West), and the efforts to diversify it. 

Please feel free to comment on the topics or note something interesting from the book. I look forward to hearing your opinions!


  1. Dear Emily, you can find a lot of information on the Internet and can find answer to your questions about Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan has rich culture and interesting history,you can learn other interesting facts about Azerbaijan by the search
    Vusal Mammadrzayev

    1. Thank you, Vusal, for your communication and your willingness to answer my questions regarding the economics and the political atmosphere of Azerbaijan! I feel like your answers have given me an even greater appreciation for your country.