Saturday, December 11, 2010

Azerbaijan Lesson #1

I just wanted to share a few facts about the Azerbaijani population, in general, that I recently came across. They are random facts about friendships, foreign policy, and media, but they paint a great picture of the Azerbaijani people in general and certainly will serve to motivate and inspire me as I begin to think of projects that I would like to implement here. The facts are compliments of an annual nationwide Caucasus Barometer conducted by the Caucasus Resource Research Center (CRRC). I will refrain from making comments on many of these facts because of a lack of knowledge on my part, but I hope to learn more as time passes and I integrate further into my community.

1.   Only 1% of Azerbaijanis approve of friendship with Armenians.
2.   In Azerbaijan, 27% of respondents said that they had no close friends. When the results are disaggregated by gender, they show a clear divide: women have far fewer close friends. Thirty-seven percent of women reported having no close friends compared to only 17% of men.
a.    Focusing on the settlement type, about a third of the female respondents asked in the capital and in other urban areas replied that they no friends compared with about half of rural women respondents.
b.   Why are so many Azerbaijani women, particularly older rural women, lacking close friendships? Perhaps the isolation of rural life combined with fewer possibilities to do communal activities is leaving women with no one to call a friend. Are they less likely to be involved in public life and activities outside the home? What could contribute to a more socially active and connected female population? This kind of fact and these queries are why I am here. I cannot wait to get started!
c.    My new site mate Bailey suggested that this may also be contributed to the divide between public and private life. Here, people do not really let people into the private life, which she believes stems from the fact that during Soviet times there was a lot in inter-spying going on.
3.   90 percent of the population chooses television as their primary source of information on current events with over 40 percent choosing family, friends, neighbors and colleagues as their second main source. A common held belief is that the influence of the media is especially strong in environments where citizens depend on a limited number of news sources (Azerbaijan).
4.   Furthermore, as the same theory on media effect also argues, those with little or no interest in politics are more prone to influence from the media. In Azerbaijan, 64 percent of people are not at all interested or hardly interested in foreign policy.

CRRC’s report, Armenian and Azerbaijani International News Coverage – Empirical Findings and Recommendations for Improvement, suggests, “while the media can amplify existing tensions and reinforce differences, it also has the potential to build confidence across existing fracture lines by covering a wider spectrum of issues, diversifying sources, representing more voices than just the elite, and consciously eliminating bias from coverage.” There is hope. Discussing issues beyond the conflict would be a great start. Let’s look at similarities:
“In both countries (Azerbaijan and Armenia) the biggest concern in 2009 was the need to reduce daily spending in basic expenditures, both are worried about western influence, both perceive poverty as the biggest threat to the world, and in both countries, while generally uncertain, a significant percentage hopes that their children will be better off than they are.”
These are the kinds of things that should be focused on. 

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