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Baku in time

Hello again everybody from Baku. I’m now into my second week of teaching IELTS out here and things are going very well. As promised in my previous blog post, I’m going to fill you in on a bit of the history of Baku and Azerbaijan.

Did you know that although Baku has existed in some form since the 12th century (Icherisheher, the Old City, can be seen in the photo to the right), Azerbaijan has only been an independent state since 1991? Recently Azerbaijan celebrated the birth of its nine-millionth citizen, yet there is another Azerbaijan with over 20 million inhabitants – in Iran. Strange as that may sound, in1828 Azerbaijan (as it used to be) was divided between the Russian empire and Persia (now Iran). The province in Iran is still known by the same name as its European neighbour and both areas share cultural and linguistic ties.

The republic of Azerbaijan was first declared in 1918 and lasted for two years before the Red Army invaded and the republic fell under Soviet control for the next 70-odd years. Baku today is an fascinating mix of Islamic, Soviet and modern architecture, the latter being driven by the abundant oil and gas in the surrounding areas. The region has always been oil-rich, so much so that the Nobel brothers set up an oil company in the town back in the 1870s. The money they made in the city funded the Nobel prizes for many years.

Azerbaijan strikes me as a nation still finding its feet, still growing up, and the pace of change is phenomenal. While certain parts of the infrastructure are seriously underfunded, many parts of the city are shrouded in cranes as high-rise hotels and luxury apartments go up. A number of people have told me to come back in five years time “when the country will be finished”, though I get the impression that as long as there is oil in the area, the cranes will remain.


  • to fill you in - (phr. v.) to give you some information about something
  • an independent state - (adj.+n.) a self-governing, unoccupied country
  • strange as that may sound - (fixed expression) discourse marker often used after some unusual or surprising information
  • ties - (n.) links, connections or similarities, especially between families, cultures or countries
  • to fall under control - (phr. v.) to become under the rule or responsibility of a person or government
  • 70-odd - (adv.) approximately 70
  • the latter - (n.) the last thing mentioned in the previous sentence, in this case modern architecture
  • abundant - (adj.) available in many places
  • so much so that - (adv. phr.) another discourse marker used to emphasize the result of a situation
  • to strike you - (idiom) to give you the impression, to make you think
  • to find your feet - (idiom) to become confident or established in your surroundings
  • phenomenal - (adj.) amazing
  • infrastructure - (n.) the basic facilities needed for a country to function such as roads, water and electricity
  • shrouded - (adj.) covered
  • high-rise - (n.) a building with many floors (like a skyscraper)
  • to go up - (phr. v.) to be built

Written by Andy, from The London School of English

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