IN THIRTY YEARS LITTLE HAS CHANGED IN AZERBAIJAN (Volkskrant, 9 October 2020)

Imagine, somebody getting in coma in 1993, and wakes up in October 2020.

He turns on the TV, sees there is a war going on in Nagorno Karabach and that the leader of Azerbaijan is called Alijev.

He will shout spontaneously: Nothing ever changes in this world.

The Alijev who leads Azerbeijan nowadays, is called Ilham. The Alijev who was the leader of the country before, was calles Hejdar.The old Alijev was a child of the Soviet Union: He was of modest descent, a hard worker, career in the KGB, from 1969 the Soviet-boss of Azerbaijan.

After the collapse of the Soviet-Union he found himself te be nationalist and capitalist. When he died in 2003, he transferred his power of Azerbaijan over to his son, Ilham.

Many were of the opinion that the young Alijev was given a silver spoon. The old Alijev signed a ceasefire in 1994 with regard to the war with Armenia on Nagorno-Karabach, an enclave on soil of Azerbaijan.

After that he was able to profit from the oil riches of Azerbaijan. In less than ten years the Soviet-Union became like an Arabian Gulfstate. The jetset life of the young Alijev fitted in the picture. He loved glamour and the songfestival. His wife frequently visited the plastic surgeon. His oldest daughter had her own glossy magazine.

The young Alijev was regarded by the international community, with a modest influence in the region. Human Rights Watch was critical, because he imprisoned opponents, but he was a welcome guest in Moscow and Brussels. He had such good relations in Europe that he got done that a young officer of Azerbaijan, who hit a young Armenian officer with an axe during a language course at the NATO, out of revenge because of the humiliation in Nagorno-Karabach, was allowed to get his punishment in his own country.

Once home, the young officer was given an award by Alijev as a hero. Some realised only then: This Alijev likes the songfestival and speaks the languages, but in addition to that he is the dictator of Azerbeijan, where the grudge about Nagorno-Karabach is widespread.

Consensus among specialists is rare, but surprisingly few Caucusus-experts doubt that the young Alijev started the frozen war again. But he has a motive. Thirty years ago it was a different case. The war that was started then, when the Soviet-Union collapsed, had its roots in the resentment that the Armenians had regarding the borders which the Bolsheviks in 1920 had made in the Caucasus, right through Armenian living area.

When the old Alijev signed a ceasefire in 1994, Azerbaijan was poor and had many refugees. In fact, Armenia had won the war. Karabach is not recognised by any state in the world, but on the soil it is Armenian land. In short, Armenia had no interest to start the war again. It had no oil money to modernise its army. The past years it functions as a democracy.

Translation by: Boy Frank

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