AZERBEJDŽAN – AZERBAIJAN – AZERBAYKAN

Devojacka kula-The Maiden Tower

Devojacka kula-The Maiden Tower

Muzejski centar-The Museum Centre

Muzejski centar-The Museum Centre

Na krstarenju oko glavnog grada-Cruising around capital Baku

Na krstarenju oko glavnog grada-Cruising around capital Baku

Na zadatku-On duty

Na zadatku-On duty

Naftna polja kraj Kaspijskog jezera-Oil fields by the Caspian Lake

Naftna polja kraj Kaspijskog jezera-Oil fields by the Caspian Lake

Park Filharmonije-Philharmonic Park

Park Filharmonije-Philharmonic Park

Pogled na stari grad Baku-A view of old Baku

Pogled na stari grad Baku-A view of old Baku

Polomljeni ringispil na plazi-A broken carousel on the beach

Polomljeni ringispil na plazi-A broken carousel on the beach

Popodnevna atmosfera u starom gradu-Afternoon in the city

Popodnevna atmosfera u starom gradu-Afternoon in the city

Predsednik-The President

Predsednik-The President

Radost kupanja u Kaspijskom moru-Joy of bathing in the Caspian Sea

Radost kupanja u Kaspijskom moru-Joy of bathing in the Caspian Sea

Zgrada Vlade-The Government House

Zgrada Vlade-The Government House

Ovde, glavni grad Baku nazivaju Baki, što zvuči veoma simpatično. A isti je takav utisak o celoj zemlji, društvu, običajima, ljudima, zabavi. Smeštena iza svojih zakavkaskih sestara, Gruzije i Jermenije, ova zemlja se jedina pružila ka širokom Kaspijskom jezeru, ili moru, kako ga već nazivaju. Stotine napuštenih naftnih bušotina i postrojenja, neka od njih odavno zarđala i van funkcije, vire iz peščanih plaža i svedoče o naftnom bumu, koji je ova zemlja doživela početkom XX veka. Taj uspon se danas nastavlja kroz mudru politiku korišćenja prirodnog bogatstva, prožetu verskom tolerancijom karakterističnom za skoro sve bivše sovjetske republike. Iako to bogatstvo sigurno ima znatan udeo u razvoju zemlje, komunistiški repovi i dalje se viju na prašnjavim graskim periferijama i ostavljaju svoj trag u svakodnevici. Poneko retko vozilo marke volga, koje namerno zaustavim kao taksi vozilo, zbog nostalgije, i zlatni zub u osmehu vozača, deluju veoma simpatično mojoj drugarici Jeleni Radojković i meni, dok krstarimo gradom u moćnom sovjetskom vozilu dužine manjeg tenka.
A kako smo dospeli u ove krajeve? Moj veliki prijatelj, danas već pokojni dr Dušan Musulin, poveo nas je specijalnim letom sa fudbalerima Crvene zvezde u ovaj grad, na prijateljsku utakmicu sa timom iz Bakua, na koju, priznajem, čak ni iz pristojnosti nismo otišli. Bili smo toliko oduševljeni ljudima i ambijentom, da smo neumorno lutali kamenim sokacima starog dela grada.  U njemu se, pored ostalih znamenitosti, nalazi palata čuvenog šaha Širvana, koji je bio utemeljivač azerske drzave, kao i simbol grada Devojačka kula, kao svedočanstvo o nesrećnoj ljubavi princeze, koja je sa njega skočila u Kaspijsko more. Kroz stare kapije i graske zidine spuštamo se na šetaliste, koje se naziva Morski bulevar. U brojnim restoranima na obali ponuda je jednostavna, riba ili kurica (pile, na ruskom). Bilo je to, doduše, pre petnaestak godina, u vreme postkomunističkog buđenja, mada verujem da je danas ponuda raznovrsnija.
Dramski pisac Biljana Srbljanović zivi u Bakiju već neko vreme kao “gospođa ambasadorka” i sigurno je bolje upućena u novu azersku kuhinju, onu sa primesama Orijenta. Preko svog supruga, francuskog ambasadora u Azerbejdžanu, mnogo godina kasnije pokušava da mi obezbedi vizu za Turkmenistan, smešten na drugoj strani jezera. Uspeo sam u poslednjem trenutku, ali to je vec druga priča i o drugoj zemlji. Uzajamno interesovanje za zemlje Centralne Azije pretvorilo se u njenu želju da pročita ove tekstove.
Na tužnoj peščanoj plaži, sa zarđalim ringišpilom koji se nadvija nad vodom, kupamo se Jelena i ja, mnogo godina ranije, pri zalasku sunca sa jednom azerskom porodicom u mirnom i toplom Kaspijskom moru sa ukusom nafte, i – svi smo srećni. Oni što se slobodno druže sa strancima koji razumeju ruski, koliko i oni srpski, a mi što smo u jednom neposrednom i prijateljskom okruženju, medju ljudima koji nam se spontano raduju i osmehuju, ponosno pokazujući svoje zlatne zube.
Iako je ova zemlja danas, pod palicom oca nacije, gospodina Alijeva, krupnim koracima otišla u svetlu budućnost, iako se na tada zapuštenim plažama danas nalaze luksuzni hotelski  kompleksi, za mene je onaj tek probuđeni Baki bio otkrovenje kaspijske regije i vrata koja su vodila ka putevima svile, putevima Marka Pola.
Čak i ona večita nedoumica sovjetskih restorana, pыбы или курицы, ovde dobija neku drugačiju, egzotičniju dimenziju.

Avgust 1999.
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The capital city of Baku is pronounced ‘Baki’ here, which sounds quite cute. The whole country, its society, customs, people and entertainment appear equally likeable. Situated to the southeast of its Lesser Caucasus sisters, Georgia and Armenia, only this country opens on to the huge Caspian Lake, or as they call it, the Caspian Sea. Hundreds of abandoned oil rigs and industrial plants, some of them rusted and dysfunctional for a long while, stick out from the sandy beaches, documenting the oil boom era at the beginning of the 20th century. Today, this boom has continued as a wise and controlled exploitation of natural resources, coupled with religious tolerance characteristic of almost all ex-Soviet republics. Even though this wealth plays an important part in the country’s development, the detritus of communism is still found in the dusty suburbs and has left stains on the fabric of everyday life. Out of pure nostalgia, I intentionally hail an old Volga taxi, not to be seen so often in the streets; the size of a small tank this ancient car goes along well with the driver, who flashes us a golden toothed smile. My friend Jelena Radojković and I find all this incredibly charming, while cruising the city of Baku in this mighty vehicle.
And how did we get here in the first place? We got on a special flight together with the Red Star football team, thanks to my great friend, now deceased, Dušan Musulin. However, we did not show even a minimal courtesy by going to see the friendly match between Red Star and Baku – we were so delighted with the local people and the surroundings that we continued to explore the stony alleyways of the Old city, for hours on end. Amongst the other historical sites, the Old Inner city is home to Shirvanshash’s Palace – he was the founder of the Azeri state – as well as the city’s landmark – the Maiden Tower, a sad testament to the unfulfilled love of a princess who jumped out of its window into the Caspian Sea. Passing through the ancient gates and city walls we descend to the Baku boulevard, a seafront promenade. At numerous restaurants on the shore, the choice is simple – fish or kuritsa –meaning chicken in Russian. However, that was fifteen years ago, at the time of the post communist wake-up call; I suspect the culinary variety is better these days.
Our playwright, Biljana Srbljanović, has been living in Baki for some time now, as ‘Mrs. Ambassador’s wife’ and, surely has developed a better understanding of the new trends and Oriental influences in the Azeri cuisine. Through her husband, the French Ambassador to Azerbaijan, many years later she tried to obtain a Turkmenistan visa for me. I succeeded in getting it at the very last moment, but that is another story, about another country across the Caspian Sea. Biljana and I share a common interest in the countries of Central Asia, so she was enthusiastic about reading my travel essays.
Many years before, at sunset, Jelena and I swim in the warm, serene Caspian Sea which tastes like oil, looking at the sad, abandoned beach with a rusty merry-go round. We are together with an Azeri family – and everyone is happy. They are happy because they are free to make friends with foreigners who understand Russian as much as they understand Serbian; we are happy to be in a simple, relaxing environment, amongst the folks who are joyous and spontaneous, proudly flashing their golden teeth in a smile.
Even though today, Azerbaijan is taking big strides towards a bright future, led by the nation’s father, Mr. Aliyev, and even though on once neglected beaches you now find luxurious hotel resorts, for me, the only just awoken Baku was a real discovery of the Caspian region, its gates opening on to the Silk route, the same one explored by Marco Polo.
Even the eternal dilemma of the Soviet cuisine, pыбы или курицы (fish or chicken), takes on a different, more exotic hue.

August 1999

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