Observations of an American journalist in Azerbaijan, Russia and USA.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Old and the new
Several weeks ago, I was driving through a Baku neighborhood with an Azerbaijani friend. He remarked that the area had been built overnight. This doesn’t mean that all the buildings were built at one time overnight. Rather, many of the houses in the area had been constructed literally at night - under cover of darkness - because building a private residence was contrary to socialist principles as interpreted by the Soviet Union.
Often old and weathered materials were used in the construction of these dwellings - so that if the construction came to the attention of city authorities, the owner could say - “But this is an old building. Look at this old door frame, etc.”
As a consequence of this mode of construction, the streets in that area are crooked and the overall appearance of the neighborhood is a bit chaotic. But - people were able to own their own houses.
Today, I was thinking about this conversation, as I meandered through the city on an aimless walk. Just enjoying a warm afternoon after a string of gray and cold days. Many of these rapidly built houses are being torn down now, to make room for high-rise apartment buildings. These buildings also seem to be built rapidly. And will the people who used to live in these self-made houses be able to afford dwellings in the new buildings?
I honestly don’t know the answer, although I can make a guess.
(Above are some photos - juxtaposing old construction and the new buildings that are going up everywhere in this city.)