London. November 14, 2011: With Russia to the north, Iran to the south, and Europe just a short hop to the west, Azerbaijan is an intriguing and increasingly important piece in the global jigsaw. As the oil-rich country prepares to host next year’s Eurovision Song Contest and continues to develop at a rapid pace, CNN’s Eye On strand visits Azerbaijan to find out more.
In Eye On Azerbaijan – the latest instalment of the series that has already visited India, Germany, Ukraine, Georgia, Poland and Macedonia this year – CNN’s Jim Clancy and Jim Boulden present a mix of reports and interviews and covering some of Azerbaijan’s major business, cultural and sporting stories.
“Azerbaijan has changed beyond recognition since it gained independence from the Soviet Union 20 years ago. It has formidable energy resources, a rich culture and a burgeoning tourism industry”, said Mike McCarthy, vice president of coverage and feature programming for CNN International. “We want to look at some of the untold stories in the country, and take its temperature at what is a very interesting time in its development.”
Azerbaijan is among the fastest growing economies in the world, and was cited as one of the top 10 reformers by the World Bank in 2008. Jim Boulden takes a look at this success story, and visits the world’s biggest combined oil and gas plant to look at its contribution to Azerbaijan’s growth, and finds out how the country plans to expand beyond fossil fuels.
Chess is one of Azerbaijan’s most popular pastimes, and the country has produced many Grand Masters. More than 30,000 children play chess in Azerbaijan’s schools, including over 66 specialist chess schools around the country. Jim Boulden finds out why the game is so popular in Azerbaijan and meets players from its national chess team.
The Caspian Sea is the birthplace of caviar and the sturgeon fish that produce the most sought after and expensive varieties of the delicacy. Sturgeon numbers are at an all time low due to over fishing and pollution, and a fishing embargo has been in place in the Caspian this year. CNN visits Mingachevir to explore how the Caspian Fish Company is rearing its own Sturgeon stock at a fish farm to ensure the survival of its business and help repopulate the Caspian.
May 2012 will see the whole of Europe and many of its neighbours descend on Baku, as Azerbaijan hosts the Eurovision Contest. One of the few truly pan-European television events, transmitted live to more than 100 million viewers, the Contest is big news for Azerbaijan. Jim Clancy meets last year’s winners, finds out how preparations for 2012 are going and assesses the impact Eurovision will have on the country.
In November 2010 the Azerbaijani carpet was proclaimed a Masterpiece of Intangible Heritage by UNESCO. Under Soviet rule the art of carpet making was suppressed and machine production introduced, leading to a decline in traditional carpet making and a resulting loss of national heritage. Jim Clancy looks at how this once disappearing art is now experiencing a revival, and finds out how older generations are re-educating the young to ensure its survival.
The masterplan for Baku’s White City aims to transform the area into a brand new, high quality urban quarter, acting as a catalyst for the regeneration of the city and the wider region, attracting investment, generating jobs and strengthening Baku’s economy. Jim Clancy meets the people driving the project to find out more.