MAGAZINE News • Views • Interviews
Culture • Business • Politics Z o r o as t e r ’ s Tal e b y K ab i r a A l i e v a ( m i x ed media on papyrus)
KABIRA ALIEVA – AN AZERBAIJANI VISIONARY Also in this issue: British Parliamentary delegation meets Azerbaijani Foreign Minister No US aid for Nagorno-Karabakh Polish EU Presidency promises pressure on Armenia Aliyev and Medvedev meet in Sochi Rock star Emin wows London Tony Adams – harbinger of hope for Azerbaijani soccer
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5–10 September ZANN – a collection of paintings and drawings by Kabira Alieva Mall Galleries, The Mall, Westminster, London, SW1 1000–1700hrs; Late opening: 6 September 1000–1930hrs Private view: 5 September 1800–2100hrs (to attend, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org) TEAS is delighted to sponsor this exhibition of paintings and drawings at the prestigious Mall Galleries, which capture the essence of Azerbaijani nature and culture in a unique and imaginative manner. Attendees will also be able to hear tracks from UnVeiled, the first CD to be released by the Sabina Rakcheyeva Ensemble, which features a booklet illustrated by Kabira, having been inspired by the compositions.
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They also met Ogtay Asadov, Speaker, Milli Majlis (Azerbaijani Parliament); Elshad Nasirov, Vice-President, State Oil Company of the Azerbaijani Republic (SOCAR); Shahmar Movsumov, Executive Director, State Oil Fund of Azerbaijan (SOFAZ); and members of the British business community.
Christopher Pincher MP, Leader of the CFAZ delegation (left) exchanges views with Elmar Mammadyarov, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister
A delegation of British Parliamentarians has just returned from a five-day fact-finding mission to Azerbaijan. The delegation of members from the Conservative Friends of Azerbaijan (CFAZ), comprised Christopher Pincher MP, Vice-Chairman of CFAZ and a member of the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee; Graham Brady MP, Chairman of the influential 1922 committee; Stephen Mosley MP, a member of the Science and Technology Select Committee; Viscount Eccles, former Chief Executive of the Commonwealth Development Corporation; and Baroness Eccles, a member of the Council of Europe. The fact-finding mission was split in two parts, with the delegation initially visiting rural Azerbaijan. They went to Sheki and Gabala in the northwest, where they examined the thriving agricultural sector, and the nascent tourism industry. They also visited Caucasian Albanian Christian churches, and spoke to the members of the minority Christian communities, who are given state protection and encouragement in this predominantly Muslim country. The Parliamentary delegation continued by visiting a camp for some of the 870,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who are victims of the Armenian invasion of Nagorno-Karabakh and the seven surrounding regions. In Baku, the delegation held a series of meetings with senior figures. These included Elmar Mammadyarov, Foreign Minister; Huseyn Baghirov, Minister for Ecology and Natural Resources; Novruz Mammadov, Head of the International Relations Department at the Presidential Administration; and Dr Carolyn Browne, outgoing British Ambassador.
Christopher Pincher MP, Delegation Leader, commented: “This is my second visit to Azerbaijan, and the rate of expansion in the economy and construction of new infrastructure is truly impressive. The UK is the biggest investor in Azerbaijan, and it is clear from our meetings that the nation is considered a very important strategic partner for the country. It is important that we retain that advantage, so I look forward to our government and business working together to consolidate our lead.” Visitors to the 2011 Conservative Party Conference from 2–5 October at Manchester Central, Petersfield, Manchester, M2 3GX are invited to visit the CFAZ stand (P11 Main Hall).
Polish President Komorowski (standing) acknowledged the developing relationship between the EU and Azerbaijan
EU Eastern Partnership must expedite EU integration
Talks have taken place in Baku between Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Bronislaw Komorowski, his Polish counterpart, in advance of the Polish EU Presidency. During the subsequent press conference, President Aliyev acknowledged that some positive political statements had been made by EU Eastern Partnership members, yet “the time has now come for the EU Eastern Partnership programme to increase its influence.” He went on to explain that Azerbaijan had entered the EU Eastern Partnership because it has
increasingly become closer to Western Europe and now regards itself as an EU partner. The EU Eastern Partnership was launched in 2009 to assist the countries of Eastern Europe and the South Caucasus with EU integration. Objectives include establishment of bilateral comprehensive free trade areas between the EU and partner countries; gradual steps towards visa liberalisation; and the establishment of a multilateral co-operation structure via four thematic platforms, comprising good governance and stability; economic integration and convergence with EU policies; energy security; and contacts between people.
Azerbaijan on the ascendance
Emil Agazade, Head of Media, TEAS, has contributed an article to the Public Service Europe website, which focuses on the policies of the EU and European Parliament (http://bit.ly/pseblackgold). Having initially discussed the development of mechanised oil production in the mid-19th century and the benefits to the country, Agazade continues by outlining the impact of the second oil boom, which began after the signing of the Contract of the Century in 1994. He explains how SOFAZ is capitalising on the country’s current wealth to prepare for a post-oil economy, increasing its coffers 62-fold in a decade, now amounting to $30.4bn (£18.8bn). Agazade concludes by explaining how the country’s estimated deposits of 2bn tonnes of oil and 2.2tn m 3 (tcm) of gas render it as a secure future energy source to Europe via a series of proposed pipelines.
NEWS IN BRIEF UN permanent representatives visit Baku Azerbaijani President Aliyev has received the permanent representatives from several UN countries. He emphasised the importance of expanding economic ties between his country and UN member nations, as Azerbaijan has strong economic potential and is capable of making significant investments on an international basis.
Politics & News
British Parliamentary delegation visits Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan – home to the world’s only all-Jewish town outside Israel
Politics & News
Elezar, whose synagogue faces a mosque on the opposite river bank. When asked about the relations between the communities, he beams: “Excellent! Friendly! Respectful!”
Members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Azerbaijan during their recent visit to the Jewish Synagogue in Guba
Writing in the Jewish Chronicle, journalist Kevin Gould has provided a fascinating insight into Gyrmyzy Gasaba, the world’s only all-Jewish town outside of Israel, located on the left bank of the Gudialcay River. In the article, which may be read at http:// bit.ly/jcazerb, the town is described as “prosperous and thriving”, being proud of its semitic heritage. Gould discusses the many theories about the origin of the Mountain Jews, although it is thought that they came from southern Persia around 720BCE. They were loyal to the Parthian and Sassanid rulers, and were sent to the Caucasus to guard against Mongol invasions from the Pontic steppe. The Mountain Jews then settled in towns across Dagestan, Chechniya and Azerbaijan. He goes on to recall that, during the Soviet period, the Jews of Gyrmyzy Gasaba were banned from speaking Hebrew or openly practicing their religion, consequently doing so covertly. Prior to 1921, there were 18,000 Jews, but Soviet persecution and attendant famines caused many thousands to flee to Baku or emigrate. Gould continues by revealing that, in recent times, such expatriate Jewish entrepreneurs as Telman Ismailov and Irmik Abayev have energetically supported the rebirth and growth of Gyrmyzy Gasaba. In addition to owning local property, retail businesses and agricultural land, Mountain Jews have successfully participated in the indigenous financial and oil service industries in Baku. Gould also explains the strength of Azerbaijani–Israeli bilateral relations. The journalist concludes by highlighting the inherent Azerbaijani racial and religious tolerance, and quotes Rabbi
Azerbaijani–Ukrainian co-operation within Euronest Elkhan Suleymanov, Azerbaijani Member of Parliament (MP) and Head of the Azerbaijani group in the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly, held a meeting with Boris Tarasyuk, Chairman, Ukrainian Parliament’s European Integration Committee and Co-Chairman, Euronest. Issues of bilateral co-operation between the countries within Euronest were discussed at length.
Following this, the importance of developing interparliamentary ties between the countries was reiterated during a meeting between Pavel Klimkin, Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister, and Eynulla Madatli, Azerbaijani Ambassador to Ukraine. Klimkin received a range of new publications on the NagornoKarabakh conflict, including a book on the Khojaly genocide, together with information on Azerbaijani participation in pan-European organisations.
Armenians in Baku wish to remain in adopted homeland According to Hürriyet, the Turkish newspaper, many of the 20,000 Armenians living in Azerbaijan have indicated a wish to remain in the country, regardless of the possible recurrence of hostilities between Baku and Yerevan. The Hürriyet journalist questioned four ethnic Armenian women that had resided in Baku since birth, and had never considered leaving the city. All had subsequently married Azerbaijani husbands and given birth to children, some of whom served in the Azerbaijani army. One of the women, known as CR, aged 54 years, a graduate of the Baku Oil Academy, commented: “There was no difference between Azerbaijanis and Armenians during our childhood. We all grew up in with Azerbajanis, and we were all one. At the time, we did not
know who was Azerbaijani and who was Armenian, as the separation began after the Nagorno-Karabakh war.” Another woman, ŞG, aged 48 years, revealed that she had felt anxious during the Nagorno-Karabakh war, yet had never considered leaving the Azerbaijani capital. She continued: “We were born here, our parents are from Baku, and this is our land. How can we ever leave here? I have not personally witnessed any discrimination due to my Armenian identity. During the war, Armenians residing in Baku were protected by the state. Policemen gave us their personal telephone numbers, and asked to us to call them directly if something happened.” AR, aged 56 years, recalled: “My son served in the Azerbaijani army and my neighbour’s son, who was also an Armenian, died in the NagornoKarabakh war whilst fighting on the Azerbaijani side. How can we say that we are different to our neighbours?” Although the women had not experienced major problems, many Armenians left Azerbaijan during the war, according to RN, a 60-year-old housewife. She recalled: “Almost all of the Armenians who left Azerbaijan wish to return to their lands. I have friends and relatives in Russia, Belgium and the US, and they all want to come back.” Some Armenians also echoed their government’s perspective on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. Armenian housewife CK, aged 54 years, stated: “Nagorno-Karabakh has been Azerbaijani land for decades; they have the right to ask for it back.”
NEWS IN BRIEF Azerbaijan and Italy discuss foreign relations Elmar Mammadyarov, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister met Franco Frattini, his Italian counterpart, during a visit to Rome. Frattini predicted that Italy would eventually become the primary trade partner of Azerbaijan, with economic co-operation developing in the energy sector and other industries. The ministers went on to discuss cultural and educational cooperation, regional and energy security issues, and the NagornoKarabakh conflict.
Several Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have visited Azerbaijan at the invitation of Elkhan Suleymanov, Head of the Azerbaijani delegation to the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly. The delegation comprised Gaston Franco (France), José Ferreira Manuel Fernandes (Portugal) and Alain Destexhe (Belgium). The guests met Ogtay Asadov, Speaker, Milli Majlis (Azerbaijani Parliament); Elmar Mammadyarov, Azerbaijani Minster of Foreign Affairs; Ali Hasanov, Azerbaijani Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the State Committee on Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs); Elshad Nasirov, Vice-President, SOCAR; and Ali Ahmadov, Deputy Chairman of the New Azerbaijan Party (YAP).
Ali Hasanov, Azerbaijani Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the State Committee on Refugees and IDPs, seen during an interview with Euronews TV
Turkish support for refugees and IDPs
Ali Hasanov, Azerbaijani Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the State Committee on Refugees and IDPs, held a press conference with Turkish journalists to talk about the current state of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the work being undertaken by the Azerbaijani government to improve the living conditions of refugees and IDPs. He revealed that the government had allocated around $4.5bn (£2.7bn) to improve welfare standards during the past 20 years. Hasanov called for the continuity of Turkish–Azerbaijani solidarity in combating Armenian expansionist activity. He also stressed his appreciation for the work of Turkish humanitarian organisations in Azerbaijan.
US acknowledgement of Azerbaijani tolerance
Matthew Bryza, US Ambassador to Azerbaijan, has met members of the Christian Udin community in the Nij
village, Gabala region, and visited the restored 17th century Udin church. This was constructed on the site of a Christian Caucasian Albanian church from the 4th Century AD. Ambassador Bryza noted the importance of such projects, as they preserve the rich cultural heritage of the South Caucasus region. He commented: “The preservation of such monuments has great importance that prevails over political, cultural and religious differences. Preservation of your church, culture and language is a splendid example of diversity and tolerance. I recently visited the Armenian Church in Baku, and believe that a day will come when the people will be able to pray in that church like you do here. I am glad to see the respect of the local officials and citizens for such sacred places.”
The restored Udin church in Nij bears testament to centuries of continuous Christian worship in the region
Azerbaijan pursues successful foreign policy
Azerbaijan has become one of the strongest countries in the Caucasus region, due to its pivotal role in political and economic sectors. Speaking on National Diplomats’ Day, Nadir Huseynov, Azerbaijani Deputy Foreign Minister, explained that this position was attributable to the country’s rich natural resources and strategic geopolitical position; pursuit of a balanced foreign policy; internal sociopolitical processes; political stability; integration with the global community; and sustainable development, amongst other factors. Huseynov continued: “We must strive to continue conveying the true facts about our country to the international community, together with strengthening the Azerbaijani position to protect our national interests at a higher level. Naturally, our diplomats in missions across the world are playing an integral role in achieving these objectives. In particular, they must become active in raising awareness of the continuing Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. “Azerbaijani foreign policy collaborates with other countries and international organisations to combat terrorism; human trafficking; illegal migration;
and international organised crime. Cooperation towards tackling such challenges will continue.”
Polish President’s South Caucasus tour
Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski has undertaken an official tour of the South Caucasus, beginning in Baku. The discussions with Azerbaijani President Aliyev focused on the extension of economic ties and the transportation of Azerbaijani oil to Western European customers, including those in Poland. President Komorowski explained that Poland and the EU are interested in pursuing the proposed Odessa–Brody– Plock–Gdansk pipeline, and Azerbaijan has expressed its political support for this. An Azerbaijani–Polish Business Forum will take place later in the year, during which the potential for mutual investments will be discussed. Talks also focused on closer co-operation between the two countries within international organisations, particularly regarding Azerbaijani integration into Euro-Atlantic structures. This acts as a precursor to the EU Eastern Partnership Summit, scheduled to take place in Warsaw during the Autumn.
YAP Deputy Chairman meets PACE corapporteur
Ali Ahmadov, Deputy Chairman and Executive Secretary of the ruling New Azerbaijan Party (YAP) has received Pedro Agramunt, Co-rapporteur for the Parliamentary Assembly to the Council of Europe (PACE); Agustín Conde Bajén, a member of the PACE Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights; and Egidijus Vareikis, Chairman, PACE Regulatory Committee. Ahmadov stated that Azerbaijani society expects international organisations to take action regarding the fair settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, as significant results have not yet been achieved, to date. He commented that the international community should combine its efforts towards achieving satisfactory conflict resolution. According to Ahmadov: “Azerbaijan remains an important country for Europe and plays an important role in achieving energy security.” He stated that YAP cooperates with the European People’s Party, of which Agramunt is a member, to which it has made a membership submission.
Politics & News
European Parliamentary delegation in Azerbaijan
The majestic 32-year-old mugham singer Gochag Askarov has released a new CD entitled simply Mugham on the Italian label Felmay, with the support of the Azerbaijani Ministry of Culture and Tourism. Aimed at showcasing many façets of Azerbaijani mugham and Gochag’s glorious three-octave range, the CD includes the Dilkesh and Bayati Shiraz mughams. The accompanying musicians are of very high calibre, including Malik Mansurov on tar, who played with Alim Qasimov for 15 years, and Elnur Mikailov, who ranks amongst the greatest living Azerbaijani kamancha exponents. Dr Sanubar Baghirova, musicologist, explained the significance of the album: “This is the first in a series of six CDs on the Felmay label focusing on Azerbaijani music. They will be widely distributed across Europe. Three of the CDs will focus on mugham, two will concentrate on folk songs and dances, and one will be dedicated to the music of the ashiqs. Gochag has already promoted the CD with concerts in Turin and Milan.” To order a copy, visit http://amzn.to/gaskarov.
Artist Naile Zulfuqarova against a backdrop of her artworks
Successful UK exhibition for Zulfuqarova
A single-night exhibition of artworks by the 29-year-old London-based artist Naile Zulfuqarova at the Rich Mix, Bethnal Green, London, has proven a tremendous success. During the event, the expressionistic, colourful evocations of her homeland were viewed by H.E. Fakhraddin Gurbanov, Azerbaijani Ambassador to the UK; Dr Ali Atalar Chairman; Azerbaijan House; and Sanan Aliyev, President, Azerbaijan Intercultural Society, together with members of the London artistic community. Zulfuqarova received excellent feedback from all attendees, selling two paintings in the night. To view Zulfuqarova’s artworks, go to http://bit.ly/nailez.
Emin’s magic touches London P h o t o : E l i z ab e t h J o n e s
New CD from Gochag Askarov – Mugham Master
Third Gabala International Music Festival ends
The Gabala International Music Festival, organised by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, came to an end on 5 August. The event began 23 days earlier with a minute’s silence to remember those who lost their lives in the Armenian occupation of the Azerbaijani district of Agdam 18 years earlier and in the terror attacks in Norway on 22 July. Attendees at the festival saw performances from such classical music luminaries as Yuri Bashmet (conductor and violinist), Massimiliano Pisapia (tenor), Boris Berezovsky, Oksana Yablonskaya (both piano). The Festival was co-directed by pianist and composer Farhad Badalbeyli, Director, Baku Music Academy, and Dmitry Yablonsky, cellist and conductor.
Emin displayed formidable stage presence during his London performance
Emin, the popular Azerbaijani singer and composer, has given his first UK concert at the prestigious new Under the Bridge venue in Chelsea, London. Attendees included H.E. Fakhraddin Gurbanov, Azerbaijani Ambassador to the UK; Leyla Aliyeva, Chairperson of the Azerbaijani Youth Organisation of Russia and Vice-President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation; Dr Ali Atalar, Chairman, Azerbaijan House; Tale Heydarov, Chairman and Founder, TEAS; musicians; members of the Azerbaijani diaspora; and fans. The artist has already achieved considerable UK success, with BBC Radio 2, the UK’s most popular station, naming the singles Obvious and Any Time You Fall as Record of the Week and his album Wonder receiving the accolade of Album of the Week. Most of the songs were taken from this album, and Emin showed tremendous confidence and artistry throughout his performance, which attracted widespread applause. To purchase Wonder, visit www.emin-music.com. Emin has also contributed his recording of All I Need Tonight to the album Music That Changes the World, issued by the David Lynch Foundation. This is a not-for-profit educational organisation that offers stressreducing transcendental meditation to underserved populations, including at-risk inner-city youth and US army veterans. To download, go to http:// davidlynchfoundationmusic.org.
Bashmet stated: “The Gabala International Music Festival has an individual character. Here, I think that the specific image of the festival is directly linked to its venue – an ancient city that has acknowledged its traditions and unique nature.” Matthew Bryza, US Ambassador to Azerbaijan, told journalists of his delight at hearing such wonderful music in one of the most beautiful parts of Azerbaijan. During the closing ceremony, Badalbeyli explained the scope of the Festival, which included masterclasses, chamber music, orchestra and mugham concerts. He voiced confidence that the Festival would promote international friendship and co-operation. The final concert, celebrating the bicentenary of Franz Liszt’s birth, comprised his Les Préludes, together with the First and Second Piano Concerti. Prior to the Festival, the second Gabala International Piano Competition took place, being won by the 26-year-old Russian virtuoso Andrei Yaroshinsky for his impassioned rendition of the Concerto No. 3 in D Minor by Sergei Rachmaninov. Yaroshinsky received $30,000 (£18,554), and will undertake his début concert in London with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, which will be recorded for Naxos.
NEWS IN BRIEF Karabakh Foundation to present a book on Azerbaijani composers The Washington DC-based Karabakh Foundation has published a new book of sheet music by the most famous 20th century Azerbaijani composers. This comprises sections dedicated to each composer, each of which is prefaced by introductory material from renowned musical figures. The website is www. karabakhfoundation.org.
P h o t o : Pe t e r Wal l ac e
Tony Adams, Manager, Gabala FC (centre) discusses strategy with his colleagues during the Gabala vs. Barnet match
Azerbaijani football team Gabala FC travelled to the UK in late July to play a series of fixtures against English teams as part of the club’s pre-season training camp programme. This intensive tour, designed to give the team an insight into the playing style and speed of the English game, saw Gabala pitted against five UK clubs in 10 days. The team put in consistently strong performances, with the tactical style being amended during the tour, being led by former Arsenal and England star Tony Adams, Manager, Gabala FC. TEAS caught up with Tony after the first three matches, gaining an invaluable insight into his approach towards Azerbaijani football and experiences, to date. What prompted you to move to Azerbaijan to manage Gabala FC? Before I went to Azerbaijan, I didn’t know the country and had to pay it a visit before considering the role at Gabala FC. After it was explained, I had a good feeling about the job, which I took due to faith in Tale Heydarov, the owner.
occur overnight. I am in a fantastic job, and am getting the support from the top that I need. Football is my life, and I know I will eventually win the league with Gabala. This is in contrast with my previous position at Portsmouth, where survival was regarded as success. Which changes have you implemented at Gabala FC? When I went to Gabala, the club was split into four departments – Football in the Community; The Academy; The Reserve Team and The First Team, but now I have managed to bring these together, and become one club. Some of the major matches attract crowds of 1000 people, such as the game against Nefti. We also organise buses from the regions for fans to come to watch. The fact that I have money to spend on the squad is not the summation of the equation – I have a chance to build the side and generate a crowd and atmosphere. In 16 months’ time we will have completed our 13,000-seater stadium. The intention is that we will be able to incubate our own
players at our own residential academy. When constructed, this will be the only facility of its type in the country. Currently, we have recruited and train 130 boys aged 6–17 years from across the country. The salaries in Azerbaijan are comparatively modest. There is no pressure on me to win the league, and I believe that the pre-season camp in England will raise the fitness levels of the squad. What are your most outstanding experiences of working at Gabala FC? One of the highlights of working at Gabala is the opportunity for the team and myself to develop and make mistakes. I am able to experiment, and learn about myself as a coach and as a person. The fans are friendly and respectful, and the distracting cult of the celebrity is not as prevalent in Gabala as in Western Europe. Most of our regular supporters are aged 15–17 years. The people are very friendly towards children, and my own children attend the international school in Baku, together with those of several players. We are also trying to create an environment that is suitable for families. The game in Western Europe is considerably different to that in Azerbaijan, as it is much faster. During the Barnet match, it was difficult for the Azerbaijani players to perform adequately on a wet, quick surface. There is hardly any physical contact between players in the Azerbaijani game, whereas the reverse is true here. When the team returns to Azerbaijan, their fitness level will considerably surpass that of their compatriots. The Azerbaijani game is very technical in nature. I would say it was comparable in quality to the Spanish and Italian second divisions.
Working in Azerbaijan is a breath of fresh air. I have been given carte blanche to create a team in my own image, with the building of a new stadium, training ground and team, which I hope will steadily improve next year. I made the decision to take the job at Gabala because of Tale, who gave me total support. I needed to ensure that he would permit me to change and develop the club. In the UK, the average tenure of a manger is 16 months, which is insufficient time to make a mark. Tale is extremely patient, and knows that change will not
Tony Adams is injecting new vigour into the technical Azerbaijani game
TONY ADAMS – GOALS FOR GABALA
Personalities The Gabala team prepare for victory against Luton Town
Excited expatriate Azerbaijani fans cheering Gabala
The Gabala team is very international, with 12 nationalities in a squad of 24 men. There are negligible linguistic challenges, as football speaks a language of its own, and I can still show my message. My fitness coach is Turkish, and can translate, where necessary. Religion does not present an issue – I am open-minded, and during Ramadan we ensure that the team consumes recovery foods after sunset. I have a positive attitude to such cultural diversity. What are you trying to achieve at Gabala FC? I need to get on and do my job. It may take a decade before we enter the European Champions’ League, and Azerbaijan is a long way from that. However, the Azerbaijani national side is improving, and beat Turkey in the Euro 2012 qualifying match last year. There is not currently much football culture in Azerbaijan, but we are starting to change that mentality. Azerbaijanis are very supportive of sports, and there is an Olympic village in every region. Our intention is that, by developing Gabala FC, the quality of Azerbaijani football will improve, enabling it to enter the international sphere. Once the training facilities are complete, other teams will be able to use them. I want to build a great football club to be proud of, rather than buying in non-Azerbaijani players to achieve short-term success. I
have only brought in one British player – striker Deon Burton. I have been coaching for nine years, during which I have been trying to turn the fortunes of my clubs around. In Azerbaijan, I have been given a rare chance to apply my skills. I studied sociology at university, and understand what the top players require. Last season, Gabala kept 21 clean sheets out of 32 games – we are becoming hard to beat in the Azerbaijani game. What do you aim to achieve from the British tour? The intention of the pre-season tour of British clubs is to test Gabala against teams that play a quick, more physical, game than is normally found in Azerbaijan. The Barnet team, during the first game, was a strong opposition. The players are not used to playing a fast game in slippery conditions. I am happy with the way the games are going – obviously I always want to win, but the intention is to test all the players, and I won’t be too unhappy if we lose all five games, although I don’t really like to lose any match. All of the team played in the first match, half each, then they will play in at least two of the other four games, giving every player in the squad two-anda-half games played by the time we return to Azerbaijan. At St. Albans we began sloppily, and gave goals away, but we came back to win 3–2.
Adams gives his players the ‘thumbs-up’ during their victorious match against Luton Town
British recruit Deon Burton has proven to be the most successful striker in Gabala’s history
I have some transfer deals planned, and some contracts are pending. I need players who can deliver, and Zaur Azizov, General Manager, Gabala FC, has some excellent contacts and knows how to complete a deal at the right price for Gabala FC. When we return to Azerbaijan, Gabala will immediately participate in the Jala Tournament, taking place on 30–31 July. Two teams from Azerbaijan and two from Georgia will participate. They will be playing on grass, and the Tournament will be held in the Gabala stadium, when completed. The final will be televised.
Pre-season Training Camp Results: 20 July: Barnet FC 1–0 Gabala FC 23 July: Bishop’s Stortford 0-0 Gabala FC 24 July: St Albans City 2–3 Gabala FC 26 July: Hayes & Yeading 1–2 Gabala FC 27 July: Luton Town 2–3 Gabala FC Jala Tournament Final Result: Dila FC (Georgia)1–0 Kapaz FC (Azerbaijan)
For the latest news on Gabala FC, go to www.gabalafc.az
to any event and is close to such landmarks as Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar Square. Owned by the Crown, and being a registered charity run by the Federation of British Artists, in a way, this venue could not be any more traditionally British. That is one of the reasons why it forms such a great contrast to any visiting exhibition, particularly those that are ethnic.
A detail from Alchemy by Kabira Alieva (mixed media on canvas, 120×150cm)
Bakuvian Kabira Alieva began to draw at the age of three years, and art has subsequently become an integral element of her life. Focusing on painting and drawing, Kabira’s greatest mentor, Katana Gazi Sharifova, recognised her embryonic talent at the age of four years, enabling her to study at the wellknown children’s studio in Baku. Kabira’s first exhibition took place at the age of six, being recognised in the Azerbaijani media as the youngest artist in the country to have her own exhibition. Her second personal exhibition followed four years later, and Kabira achieved various prizes in regional and international children’s art competitions. Her work evolved, as Kabira’s family moved from Baku to Istanbul, and then to London.
end of the day, is inherently ‘Azerbaijani’ about them. Although culturally and historically the territory of modern Azerbaijan is very rich, as a state it is a young country that has been and is influenced by its neighbours and the world at large. Many Azerbaijanis these days travel a great deal and live abroad.
At school, Kabira discovered a new interest in life sciences and completed degrees in biology and molecular medicine. The natural world became a source of inspiration, and is omnipresent in her work, as is nostalgia for Baku, strengthening her identity as an Azerbaijani contemporary artist.
Given the location and content of this exhibition, ZANN attempts to stir the familiar and perhaps nostalgic feelings amongst the Azerbaijani audience. It will possibly even enhance confidence in Azerbaijani identity, especially for those who are far away from home.
TEAS is honoured to sponsor ZANN, Kabira’s forthcoming exhibition, which is taking place at the prestigious Mall Galleries, The Mall, London from 5–10 September, and spoke to her in advance of this high-profile event:
As for our foreign or British guests, I hope ZANN will intrigue and shed another bright ray of light on our culture, which is well worth learning about. London is a fantastic city that is wealthy, as it attracts so many cultures from around the world to one place. I believe Azerbaijan is and, given the opportunity, will become a significant contributor to this international stage that educates people from around the globe about each other.
ZANN is your second solo exhibition in the UK. Please tell us something about the theme and the impact you are aiming to have on your audience, many of whom will be non-Azerbaijanis. ZANN is an experiment and a call for Azerbaijanis to reconnect with familiar feelings; to question why they feel or do not sense a certain connection; and what, at the
As I have moved around to some extent, I know that sometimes becoming aware of what makes a person who they are can be confusing. As a result, you develop a yearning to delve deeper into your own ethnic identity. Nowadays, cultural, economic and political borders are becoming quite blurred, so this desire to find your place in a huge cultural world is important.
The exhibition is taking place in the Mall Galleries, located in the heart of London. What attracted you to this space? The Mall Galleries forms a beautiful backdrop
The central location of the Mall Galleries and quality of its exhibitions, many of which comprise competitions for emerging and established artists, attract numerous tourists, together with London residents. I believe that selecting a central venue like the Mall Galleries is strategic, as it serves to create greater impact by attempting to introduce and integrate the two Azerbaijani and British cultures. I also like the fact that it is not a commercial gallery, but a registered charity. Consequently, you know that, by staging an exhibition here, the artist, or his/her sponsor – in this case, TEAS – are contributing to the development of other artists, primarily British. Which elements of Azerbaijani life and culture are represented in the current exhibition? Overall, I think this collection of work conveys the Azerbaijani temperament, more than anything else, which is quite challenging to divide into separate elements. There are some visual representations of Azerbaijani music, food and beliefs. Through these elements, my aim is to capture the mood and soul of a true Azerbaijani. Some works are more personal than others, and probably refer to some sides of my own character, which may not always become apparent to myself straight away! The collection is the next step in a journey of self-discovery: a search through my identity as an Azerbaijani artist. As I mentioned when organising the Zoroastrian Footprint exhibition in Baku, it is also a search for my spiritual roots. Perhaps certain textures in my work take me back to the past, whilst particular colours or combinations of colours and line movements revitalise this past on canvas or paper. A hallmark of your work is your very stylised, flowing forms. What is the background to these figures? Are they derived from traditional Azerbaijani art? Not really. The figures, especially the female figurines, are probably my personal
KABIRA ALIEVA – AN UNIQUE INTERPRETATION OF AZERBAIJANI IDENTITY
Personalities Bricks of time (mixed media on papyrus)
expressions, rather than reflections of the traditional. They may possibly be a mixture of both. Many of them resemble goats, related to my Zodiac sign, and sides of my character that have something to do with how I react to life at its troughs and peaks. The exhibition builds upon your recent exhibition in Baku, entitled Zoroastrian Footprint. Why do you feel that Zoroastrianism remains relevant to modern Azerbaijan? It is in the country’s name, arguably in the symbol of Baku – the Maiden Tower; the much loved holiday of Novruz, cherished by Azerbaijanis across the world every year; and the petals of fire (buta) seen absolutely everywhere – in carpets; architecture; ornate interiors; and the actual natural fire coming out of rocks seen at various sites around Absheron. Moreover, there is the very warm, and sometimes fiery, nature of Azerbaijani people, although I am not sure how much that has to do with the ancient Zoroastrian faith. Zoroastrianism teaches about kindness and wisdom. Being one of the most ancient faiths, it formed the basis for most major religions practiced around the world today. I believe that the fundamental elements of this faith are actually reflections of universal laws and, particularly, of human conscience. When you meet Azerbaijanis, and appreciate their values in life, you start to question its source. You consider whether some of these values stem from Islam or elsewhere and, if so, how much of this dates back to Zoroastrianism, the beginning of monotheism. You have recently been realising your works on papyrus. What is your reason for selecting this ancient material? Does its use present any challenges? Papyrus is a beautiful material to work
On the way to Novruz (mixed media on papyrus)
with. It exudes history, mystery and curiosity about the past. I love the sound of a stilt on this material, its natural colour and texture infiltrated with sunlight. There is something that is immortal, durable and responsible about this as a medium for passing on a significant message across the centuries. It is challenging to work with, as it is quite fragile, and sometimes the ink runs through its fibres in an unanticipated manner. However, it may lead the artist to create an image that they didn’t even know they were destined to draw. You recently exhibited in Baku for the first time in nearly 20 years. What was the response to your work? It was absolutely wonderful! My aim was for Bakuvians to reawaken their roots, particularly spiritual roots, through the theme of my exhibition. It is in people’s nature to take lots of things for granted and sometimes, as a result of that, they forget who they are, what they stand for, and why. I think art is a very powerful medium for making people think, feel and reassess themselves and their environment. Judging from the feedback I received from my guests, I managed to evoke some thought, which constitutes a little success! Generally, the reception I received in Baku was very warm, and it was a great experience to work with the locals, meeting other artists and art enthusiasts. Hopefully I’ll get to do another project there in the near future. During the past few months, you contributed artworks for the booklet of UnVeiled, the inaugural CD by the Sabina Rakcheyeva Ensemble, where each track inspired a drawing. How did you approach this commission? Artistic collaboration is always a pleasure and a challenge. Respecting, accommodating and enhancing another artist’s vision, whether musical, literary or visual, is tricky.
Duality (mixed media on papyrus)
However, with collaborations that involve two different genres of artistic expression, such as music and visual art, the marriage of two visions is less of a clash and more of a complementary relationship. UnVeiled is a compilation of beautiful, profound compositions/improvisations, and I am absolutely honoured that Sabina asked me to channel part of her and her colleagues’ work into drawings. It was an invitation into her world, which I gladly accepted. I simply listened to the tracks very carefully many times, on CD and from ‘live’ recordings, each time feeling something new, until an image matured in my mind. In a way, the illustrations that I created were spontaneous, in that I never sketched them prior to the final outcome. On the other hand, they were the result of feelings harboured after having listened to the record numerous times. How do you feel that your work is evolving? As time goes by, I increasingly question everything around me, and think this is reflected in my work. Sometimes, my art helps me find answers to some of my questions. I think I am slowly starting to integrate elements of the natural world into my work, given my background in biological sciences. On one hand, my work is experimental, on the other, I think my style is becoming a little more recognisable, and that tells me something about my artistic identity finding its way.
Exhibition: ZANN – a collection of paintings and drawings by Kabira Alieva Venue: Mall Galleries, The Mall, London, SW1 Dates: 5–10 September 1000–1700hrs Late opening: 6 September 1000–1930hrs Private view: 5 September 1800–2100hrs (to attend, e-mail: email@example.com) Website: www.kabira-alieva.com
data shows that around 80 per cent of the 2010 cash remittances totalling at least $1.3bn (£80m) emanated from Russia, which is home to hundreds of thousands of Armenian migrant workers.
An EU meeting in Strasbourg has indicated enhanced interest in resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. Michal Labenda, Polish Ambassador to Azerbaijan, outlined Poland’s EU Presidency priorities, emphasising that that the country would particularly seek to promote the EU Eastern Partnership. He commented that the Partnership Summit in September would: “Provide an impetus for the integration process of Azerbaijan in the EU.” Jérôme Pons, Chargé d’affaires of the EU delegation to Baku, stated that: “Nagorno-Karabakh has always been considered a part of the territory of Azerbaijan and this is the approach of the international community.” ( P h o to : Pr ess Ser vice o f th e A r menian Pr e s i d e nt)
(from left) Russian President Medvedev and Armenian President Sargsyan share pleasantries in Yerevan in August 2010
Azerbaijani President receives PACE delegation
Azerbaijani President Aliyev has received a delegation from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). During the meeting, he spoke about the development of the country since the regaining of Azerbaijani independence; the strength of the economy; and the country’s relationship with all EU member states and NATO partners. President Aliyev went on to reiterate the inherent racial and religious tolerance of Azerbaijan, this fact being acknowledged by Luca Volontè, Chairman, European People’s Party’s group (EPP), PACE. In contrast, Volontè was informed about the realities of Armenian ethnic cleansing in Nagorno-Karabakh, resulting in 870,000 Azerbaijani refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), and the flouting of four UN Security Council resolutions. President Aliyev reiterated his call for influential countries to support Azerbaijani territorial integrity.
Gallup poll finds strong Armenian proRussian sentiments
Moscow enjoys higher approval ratings in only four other countries included in the survey – Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Mali, and Uzbekistan. Despite increasingly favouring closer ties with the West, many Armenians continue to regard Russia as a guarantor of their country’s security. A Gallup spokesman commented: “The high approval rating reflects how dependent many residents of these counties are on remittances from Russia.” In Armenia, these monies constituted 13 per cent of the country’s GDP last year. Government
He added that: “All OSCE efforts are based on mandates agreed by consensus across the 56 participating states,” and thus “the countries of the South Caucasus – Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia – are not only ‘consumers’ of our efforts, but also contributors to the work of the OSCE, as a whole, to promote security, prosperity and democracy throughout the OSCE space.” He was therefore: “Optimistic that progress can be achieved.”
OSCE remains most effective NagornoKarabakh resolution format
João Soares, newly-appointed Special Representative for the South Caucasus, OSCE, has commented that the OSCE Minsk Group remains the most effective format for Nagorno-Karabakh negotiations. He stipulated that his mandate would focus on protracted conflicts, together with implementing and monitoring the important democratic reforms across the three South Caucasus countries. Soares added that he would visit the area in the immediate future, as he considers this to be necessary to facilitate direct dialogue regarding Nagorno-Karabakh with all segments of society in both Armenia and Azerbaijan.
A recent Gallup opinion poll has found that three-quarters of the Armenian population approve of Russia’s current leadership. This makes it the fifth most pro-Russian country in the world. The poll – conducted in 104 countries last year – shows that only seven per cent of Armenians are critical of the Kremlin’s leadership, with another 17 per cent being undecided. The remaining 75 per cent positively assess policies pursued by President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
Armenia and Azerbaijan to move towards the drafting of a comprehensive peace settlement.
Lamberto Zannier, Secretary-General, OSCE, recognised the imperative necessity of peace across the South Caucasus
Basic principles must be agreed as top priority
Lamberto Zannier, Secretary-General, Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), has commented that the South Caucasus is important in maintaining security and stability across the entire OSCE area. As the OSCE addresses protracted conflicts through agreed formats, Zannier stated that he shares the opinion of the OSCE Minsk Group that the Basic Principles must be agreed as a top priority, enabling
Nagorno Karabakh conflict – an EU responsibility?
Dr Sofie Bedford, Centre for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Uppsala University, has given her perspective on the US, Russian and European intervention in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. She commented that the US hosting of a meeting between Azerbaijan and Armenia could provide benefits, such as recognition of the unacceptability of the status quo, although there would potentially be intimidation from Russian leaders, who had previously operated as mediators. Whilst describing the significance of the Azerbaijani–Armenian Kazan Summit, mediated by Russia, Dr Bedford mentioned that the significance of this meeting is that, despite the lack of progress, the talks are continuing.
EU interest in Nagorno-Karabakh increases
(from left) Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev evaluated the outcome of the Kazan Summit
The US Congress has been allocating funds to address the humanitarian needs of the victims of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict since 1992. Since 2005, under pressure from Armenian–American groups, US funds have been solely provided to the Armenian community in the occupied regions, whilst the 870,000 Azerbaijani IDPs and refugees received no assistance.
Aliyev and Medvedev Armenia and Azerbaijan respond meet in Sochi Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and his to amended Basic Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev met in Sochi to discuss the Nagorno-Karabakh Principles conflict, issues of bilateral relations, and the status of hydrocarbon deposits in the Caspian Sea. President Medvedev stated: “I would like to have a sincere conversation on the next steps to be taken and how developments are continuing, taking into consideration our last trilateral meeting held in Kazan, and previous meetings in this format.” President Aliyev replied: “Azerbaijan and Armenia are neighbours, both being Caspian nations and Caucasian countries. In many respects, developments in the region are determined by our interaction. In Azerbaijan, we greatly appreciate your personal involvement in this process. These rounds of negotiations, held in a trilateral format, have brought the sides very much closer. “The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict remains a major problem of regional security, and Azerbaijan is interested in resolution of the conflict in the very near future, enabling the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to return home and facilitating the re-establishment of peace in the region.” It is unclear whether Medvedev plans to hold similar talks with Armenian President Sargsyan.
No US aid for NagornoKarabakh
In a statement, Azerbaijani diaspora organisations in the US have welcomed the decision by the US Congress to omit Nagorno-Karabakh from the recipients’ list for US aid in 2012. Board Members of the Pax Turcica Institute, Azerbaijan Society of America and Azerbaijani–American Council welcomed the recent decision by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programmes to eliminate direct US assistance to the Armenian-occupied Nagorno-Karabakh and seven adjacent territories from the Fiscal Year 2012 budget appropriations for the South Caucasus.
Late July was a period of daily contact between Armenian and Azerbaijani officials and the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs from Russia, the US and France. This culminated in answers from Azerbaijani President Aliyev and Armenian President Sargsyan regarding Russian President Medvedev’s proposal that both sides should accept the amended Basic Principles. The Co-Chairs went on to issue a joint statement on 18 July, which states: “In Baku and Yerevan, the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs met Presidents Aliyev and Sargsyan, respectively. They reiterated to both Presidents the importance of reaching agreement on the Basic Principles as the framework for moving toward final settlement negotiations. The Presidents committed to making their decisions regarding the most recent formulations proposed in the framework document, and to continue working with the Co-Chairs and the Co-Chair governments on the process of seeking a peaceful settlement.” Elmar Mammadyarov, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister, stated that Azerbaijan was calling upon Armenia to start work on a peace treaty regarding settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict without further prevarication, as Baku is ready to start negotiations on peace treaties with the Armenians. He expressed the view that the Kazan Summit was not entirely unsuccessful, instead representing a rapprochement of the sides.
EU to financially assist Nagorno-Karabakh settlement
Štefan Füle, EU Commissioner for Enlargement and the European Neighborhood Policy, revealed in an interview with RFE/Radio Liberty that the EU is likely to promote its participation in
the Nagorno-Karabakh issue, being ready to provide financial assistance towards promoting settlement and reconstructing the region. However, if the sides reach a lasting agreement, the EU will provide more funds, including measures for social and economic development. He stated that the OSCE Minsk Group process would continue, and that replacement of one or more Co-Chairs had not been considered.
After two decades, mine clearance continues
Azerbaijan’s National Agency for Mine Action (ANAMA) defused nine anti-tank and four anti-personnel mines in July. According to a press release, during the month, it cleared an area covering 2,232,269m2, also destroying 483 unexploded ordnances (UXOs). All the devices date from the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which raged from 1988–94. Since 1998, ANAMA has cleared 167,029,079m2 of Azerbaijani territory, destroying 662,446 mines and UXOs. The July operations involved 480 mine specialists, 120 rescue workers, six mineclearance vehicles and 32 speciallytrained dogs. ANAMA is currently undertaking demining operations in Agdam, Agjabadi, Fizuli, Goranboy, Terter, Yevlakh and the Güzdek settlement. In July, Aygun Shahmaliyeva, was killed by an explosive device placed inside a toy that she picked out of the Tovuz River, near the Armenian border. It is alleged that the toy came from Armenia. In another incident last month, soldier Hasil Sarkhanov, aged 19 years, was injured by an antipersonnel mine on the ‘contact line’ separating Armenian and Azerbaijani forces in the Terter District.
NEWS IN BRIEF Armenian armed forces injure Azerbaijani civilian An Azerbaijani 22-year-old civilian has been injured by Armenian armed forces whilst she was resting by the Mazam Lake, near the Armenian border. Abisalam Heydarov, Gazakh Regional Prosecutor, explained that the bullet passed through her arm. She was taken to the Gazakh Central Hospital, where her state was described as ‘critical’ although this assessment was revised to ‘stable’, following an operation. An investigation is now underway.
by Maria Serrano
P h o t o : A l ai n D o u i t ( E B U)
opportunities.” As this contest will increase the number of tourists, the tourism sector is expected to derive AZN60m (£47.3m) in additional revenues. It is anticipated that attendance at Eurovision will prompt visitors to make return visits to Azerbaijan, many of whom will not have previously explored the country. The Eurovision Song Contest is a golden opportunity to demonstrate Azerbaijani tourist potential to the rest of the world. As all attention will be directed to Azerbaijan, the nation will also have the opportunity to showcase its modernity.
NEWS IN BRIEF The Azerbaijani Eurovision win by Ell and Nikki represents a great opportunity for the country’s nascent tourism industry
An estimated 60,000 tourists are expected to visit Baku in May 2012 to attend the 57th Eurovision Song Contest. Faig Gurbatov, National Co-ordinator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) Tourism Development Project, explained that Azerbaijan must prepare to receive a large influx of visitors. He commented: “We need to create additional resources, and provide information on Azerbaijani historical monuments, tourism opportunities and culture, amongst other aspects.” Turgut Gür, Chairman, Turkish Tourism Investors’ Association, commented on the importance of optimising tourist service quality. Mehriban Aliyeva MP, Azerbaijani First Lady, chaired the first meeting of the Eurovision Organisation Committee, during which she emphasised the importance of effective contest management. Moreover, the Azerbaijani Ministry of Culture and Tourism discussed the necessity of outlining essential tasks and responsibilities. Although six new five-star hotels are currently under construction in Baku, many historic buildings in the capital will be used to accommodate international guests. To improve services, it will be necessary to undertake personnel training, in accordance with the Year of Tourism, which is currently being implemented across the country. Muzaffar Agakerimov, Chairman, Tourism Association of Azerbaijan, revealed that the country should provide guests with quality services that are commensurate with international standards. He reported that these issues are already being addressed by the Azerbaijani Ministry of Culture and Tourism; Tourism Institute; Tourism Association; and other related agencies.
Aydin Ismiyev, Head, Tourism Department, Azerbaijani Ministry of Culture and Tourism, stated his view that many hotels in Baku are now ready to receive guests, since currently 295 hotels and hotel-type facilities have received Ministry approval. Hosting this event is a logistical and infrastructural challenge that is currently being addressed in collaboration with Ictimai TV, who will broadcast the event. The initial decisions have been already made, such as the reconstruction of the Heydar Aliyev International Airport, the preparation of a user-friendly map of Azerbaijan as a guide for overseas visitors, and the development of websites that include online booking facilities. Iltimas Mammadov, Deputy Communications and IT Minister, explained that the Azerbaijani telecommunications infrastructure is ready to transmit the Eurovision Song Contest. There are three potential venues for Eurovision Song Contest, but the most debated and interesting project involves construction of a new complex in one of the most scenic corners of Baku. This selection will be finally determined in late August. The state has pledged that security for all foreign visitors will be guaranteed, together with freedom of expression. Azad Rahimov, Minister of Youth and Sports resolutely confirmed: “Azerbaijan guarantees security of Armenian representatives at Eurovision 2012.” Gür commented: “The hosting of the Eurovision Song Contest will have a positive impact on the capital’s tourism
First international TASIM project meeting in Gabala The first international meeting focusing on the Trans-Eurasian Information Superhighway (TASIM) Project has taken place in Gabala. Lasting two days, this conference was aimed at highlighting issues regarding the regulation of relations between the participating operators; the co-ordination of interests; and establishment of an international consortium. During this event, international experts examined the general, technical and legal elements of TASIM, and the TASIM Permanent Secretariat was established in Baku. The initiative has been backed by the UN General Assembly, which adopted a resolution entitled Building connectivity through the Trans-Eurasian Information Super Highway in 2009.
Eurovision 2012: a golden chance for Azerbaijan
SYNERGY GROUP OJSC What is the size of your company? The Synergy Group employs over 500 employees across Azerbaijan.
The Synergy Group operates a dynamic portfolio of more than a dozen diverse, growth-oriented businesses. Based in Azerbaijan, at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, it is undertaking a programme of expansion across this dynamic market. The Synergy Group focuses on creating and running companies as independent entities; selecting best-of-breed partners; investing intellectual and financial capital; and fostering an entrepreneurial culture in which talented professionals can thrive. The company considers itself to be a standard bearer for the new Azerbaijan – young, modern, reliable and forwardlooking. It encapsulates the spirit of building for the future, and consistently strives to achieve optimal results for its employees, shareholders, subsidiaries and their clients. These core principles, coupled with the Group’s ambition and resources, constitute the foundation of its regional and global expansion. The Group also collaborates with international and domestic market-leaders regarding the development of a robust international business for the long-term, subsequently diversifying into financial services and other sectors. The Synergy Group is the ideal partner for investment projects in the region. It has an intimate knowledge of the business environment and regulatory frameworks in Azerbaijan and across the South Caucasus, together with a strong network of contacts in the public and private sectors. These combine local knowledge with an internationally experienced management team. TEAS spoke to Michael Gerlich, CEO and Chairman of the Board, Synergy Group, to find out more: What is your company’s specialisation? The Synergy Group operates a dynamic portfolio of over a dozen diverse businesses. Located in Azerbaijan, it focuses on four sectors that are regarded as playing an essential role in the future development of the country – agriculture and food; construction and property management; tourism and hospitality; and banking and financial services.
What are the special strengths of the Synergy Group? These are reflected in the company name. All the Group’s companies are working, cooperating and growing together. Western management and strong knowledge of Azerbaijani markets are the key elements that help it attain market leadership. Where do you sit in the Azerbaijani marketplace? The Group’s home base, Azerbaijan, is developing quickly, and the company is an important player in the marketplace. Indeed, by rising to the challenges thrown up by rapid economic and social change, it embodies the new Azerbaijan – dynamic, forward-looking, and determined to seek out exciting opportunities. Are you experiencing any competition from outside of Azerbaijan? Azerbaijan is undeniably a very attractive market, featuring a fast-growing economy and population. Such markets are definitely attractive for foreign companies, but the Synergy Group’s financial and intellectual resources have sufficient strength to compete. Do you have a presence in other countries? The company is certainly growing, both in Azerbaijan and abroad. It is thus cooperating with different companies in Germany, UK, Russia, Israel and The Netherlands. What are the aspirations of the Synergy Group in Azerbaijan? It aims to make a difference and help its companies and customers become and remain strong leaders for the future. The Group believes that share and stakeholders will only derive benefits if it offers a wide range of excellent quality products and services. What are your wider regional objectives? The non-oil sector of the Azerbaijani economy is experiencing tremendous growth, and the Synergy Group intends to attain a leadership position in these industries. It will enhance the rapid development of the country by increasing the company’s presence domestically, throughout the South Caucasus region, and on an international level.
What was the impetus behind your establishment in Azerbaijan?
Michael Gerlich, CEO and Chairman of the Board, Synergy Group
Azerbaijan’s recent transition towards a market economy has presented both significant opportunities and challenges. During the past decade, the country has successfully implemented a strategy to capitalise on its energy resources. This country is now seeking to achieve success in the Azerbaijani non-energy sector. How do you view the business climate in Azerbaijan? Azerbaijan remains the leading investment destination in the region. The government has managed to open up the economy for international and local businesses and introduce investment-friendly laws and regulations. Generally, Azerbaijani legislation is aimed at establishing a very favourable business climate. How has the Synergy Group grown? As the company was established in 2010 and remains comparatively young, it is too early to discuss growth. What is the skills base amongst the Azerbaijanis? Talented Azerbaijanis may be found across the country. In turn, we aim to develop valuable human resources, offering professional training and providing encouraging working conditions. Does your company provide training or operate apprenticeship schemes? Yes – staff receive professional training from skilled, well-known experts in various sectors, both here in Azerbaijan and overseas. Do you use foreign/expatriate workers? Yes – we employ specialists and the top management from overseas.
Synergy Group, 55, Zarifa Aliyeva Road, AZ-1095, Baku, Azerbaijan Tel: +994 12 5984443 Website: www.synergygroup.az
Az e r O l y m p i c
inner back page AZERBAIJAN: QUICK FACTS Official name: The Republic of Azerbaijan Capital: Baku Area: 86,600km2 Population: 9,000,000 Density: 104 inhab./km2 Urban population: 51.8 per cent Population of main cities excluding suburbs: Baku (2,500,000); Gandja (300,000); Sumgait (270,000); Mingacevir (95,000) Religions: Shiite Muslims (65 per cent), Sunni Muslims (28 per cent), Orthodox Christians (5 per cent), Others (2 per cent) Principal exports: Oil, gas, aluminium, carpets Official language: Azerbaijani Business languages: English and Russian
Average annual exchange rate for US$1
Exchange rates as of 10.8.11: AZN1=US$1.27; US$1=AZN0.79; AZN1=£0.79; £1=AZN1.27; AZN1=€0.88; €1=AZN1.13
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