Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia

We visited the three rather small countries south of the Caucasus mountains, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia. They were neighbours, but very different. Azerbaijan is Muslim, even if they are very insistent that it is a secular society and that Islam has no influence on politics. It is also a country with large oil and gas production so it is wealthy and it shows especially in the capital, Baku. It has a strong presidential government system, and democracy and human rights are not very developed.

Georgia is christian and was one of the very first countries to be christianized in the 300s. They are working hard to work themselves from a presidential democracy to a parlament based democracy. They had a disastrous war against Russia in 2008 about the provinces Abcasia, North and South Ossetia, and they lost. Appearantly it was a misunderstanding of some words from the French president: “We will stand behind Georgia” that triggered the war. The conflict is basically not solved yet, with only a truce and no peace agreement. Georgia wants to join NATO and EU. I got the impression that the church had strong influence both on people’s everyday life and the politics. There seems to be churches or fortresses on most hills.

Armenia is also christian and is a relatively poor country with very little natural resources. The population is 3 million but 7 million Armenians live in other countries, and some of them transfer big amount of money back. Examples: an Argentinian-Armenian built the international airport and owns it! An American-Armenian has created a fund for building roads, but it seemed they have forgotten that roads also need maintenance. 1,5 million Armenians were killed by the Turks in 1915 and that genocide is still a major factor in Armenia. Armenia and Azerbaijan have a running conflict about Nagorno-Karabach, so there is no contact between the two countries. We had no problems entering Armenia even if we had visited Azerbaijan, but the other way would have been impossible. There is no trafic across the Armenian-Turkish border, but there is a certain amount of transit through Georgia, also between Azerbaijan and Armenia. We saw very few fortresses, but a number of churches-monasteries on the most unlikely locations. I guess that is normal for monasteries.




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