I just watched this. As I lived for almost 7 years in Baku, allow me some comments as I do not at all agree with Danny Forster’s views. I also comment some of Danny Forster’s statements on his web sites.

About Heydar Aliyev Cultural Centre Baku he writes: “This beautiful cultural center is not just a place to house the culture of a young nation— it is also a way to define itself to the world.”

Who defines whom? This young nation is defined by a ruling class of family clans and not by its people. Democracy does not exist in Azerbaijan and elections are regularly rigged.

“So let′s just take a deep breath and skip to the end—or what an optimist might call the beginning. Azerbaijan has been an independent modern democracy for just twenty years, since it was freed of the grip of theSoviet Union in 1991.“

Is he kidding? The Republic of Azerbaijan may have been some kind of democracy in its first 2 or 3 years after independence. But due to the war with Armenia and no democratic tradition even this statement is more than questionable. Also at that time several military coups were attempted. Since 1994 Azerbaijanis are under the rule of the family of the former leader of Soviet Azerbaijan, Heydar Aliyev, again. The grip it was under in Soviet times was just continued and transformed in a clan cleptocracy.

“Political independence was followed by financial independence — which in Azerbaijan means „learning how to tap your oil wells.“ Once they figured that out, Azerbaijanis had to figure out, after centuries of foreign domination, who exactly they were. What does it mean to be Azerbaijani?”

Yes, who are they? Was Azerbaijan really dominated by foreigners? The Safavids ruling Iran from 1501 to 1722, of which Azerbaijan was a part of most of that time, were of Azerbaijani (or Turkish) origin. The turkification of the Azerbaijanis was not completed until the late 19th century. The today Azerbaijanis (Turkish) speakers of Azerbaijan are mainly descendants from the earlier Iranian speakers and other native people, several pockets of whom still exist in the region. Russian rule and early Soviet rule may in fact be considered as domination by foreigners. However, since 1969 when Heydar Aliyev took over as the first secretary of the Communist Party of Azerbaijan, the Soviet Republic’s ruling elite consisted almost entirely of ethnic Azerbaijanis.

“By design, the Heydar Aliyev Cultural Center is a statement about indigenous culture, about the culture that arises from a place, rather than being imposed upon it. Azerbaijanis clearly intend to locate their national character, and this center will be an incredible place to start looking.”

Very funny taking into account the facts I described. By the way, is Tahir Gozel Azeri? Of course not. He is a Turk. So what national character we talk about?

“On the other hand, Baku’s plans to build its new real estate dreams with an ecological clean-up of a former industrial zone is cutting edge thinking, making development sustainable and attracting dollars from forward-thinking investors.”

I see this project not as totally negative. The same view I have on the the cleaning of the Bibi Heybay oil field. However, you should ask, where the profits from the ecological clean-ups go to? I know some of the profiteers.

“Empowering the individual, lifting him up.”

What is lifted up? The Swiss bank accounts of Azeri officials?

“After centuries of living under the influence of other people’s ideas cultures and governments, the people of Azerbaijan finally have the space to chose. Who they want to be as a people? What kind of city do the want to live in? And may be most importantly what kind of culture do they want to create for themselves?”

Sorry, no space to choose for ordinary people in Azerbaijan. Get real!