I've started my work in PR when I was 20. Even though it was a governmental structure, we were lucky enough to have good management and actually try to do something. On the other hand - we were close enough to other governmental structures to know how much money gets spent and what outreach was being received. Budgets were enough to feed the families of the whole management, while outreach was simply not worth it. At least PR wise. If you are thinking about starting business in Azerbaijan, probably the first word you should learn is "otkat" (ot-cut). This word we adopted from Russian language means the amount of money one has to bribe with if he receives a grant or a purchase from a certain structure.

And if you think that this is being covered and not talked about - you're mistaken. An Azerbaijani is usually fine talking about the otkats he received or had to pay. "How else should my family survive in this economy", he'll say if you ask.

Otkat works in all fields: business, education, arts and of course PR. As a result - cattles of expensive 4-wheel-drives filling the streets of Baku, millions spent on projects, outreach of which are once again - not worth it. 20 million manats for Flowers Day, 10 million dollars on participation in Eurovision (while Russia only spends 30 thousand), millions of money on cultural events around the world, which are mostly attended by Azerbaijanis. And does it bring more tourists to Azerbaijan? No, it only makes people pick up the phone and check the prices and then choose Turkey or Spain for vacation. Because it's simply much cheaper.

Let me tell you another PR story, which I've already mentioned a few days ago will write more broadly about in my next post.

A couple of months ago German Embassy contacted me asking if I would be interested in attending an International Blogger conference to be held in Berlin in May. "Of course!", I said. A month and an interview later - I was chosen as a representative of Azerbaijan to attend a 10-day Bloggertour organized by the Foreign Office of Germany.

What can I say? It turned out to be the best event I've ever participated. Not only was it well-planned and completely paid, but also so informative, I've already drafted two and wrote 1 post about things I've seen and learned there. And I'm only going to mention 30% of it - parts of the program that impressed me the most.

As a result - 16 most popular bloggers from around the world (and my blog was the weakest there) sharing their impressions and experience with their readers, who will repost those in their blogs or share on their Facebook pages. Outreach - thousands of readers and a line for the next year's tour.

Should I tell about a number of scholarships for international students and kind of promotion it gives to a country? Or work with Social Media activists? Or hundreds of festivals and celebrations held all around the world? La Tomatina in Spain? Saint Patrick's day in Ireland? Shopping festival in Dubai? Even the Pillow Fight in London? Or Karneval der Kulturen in Berlin I was lucky enough to see?

That's my friends, what I call PR. And our ambitions to show ourselves in a good way by spending loads of money are nothing more than just a nice icing on a really bad cake, no one will order again. And no otkat will save it.

With a Little Help From My Friends

Ever since I was a school kid discipline was my main problem. Waking up early, coming to the class in time, doing homework between drawing I loved so much and cartoons I could never miss - all these things were unbearable and torturous sides of my happy childhood. My bad grades have never been about not knowing or not understanding the lesson, they were always about the lack of discipline. So, now that you, dear followers, know me better, you will probably understand one of the main reasons I wouldn't update my blog for more than a month.

Yeah, now we have no secrets between each other.


There are two main questions we ask ourlselves when no one is watching: "Am I a good person?" and "Do people like me?". Yes, however confident and independent we are, we still feel a need to find answers to these questions over and over again.

And this is what makes us human.


During the last month my life was pretty much about my friends.

I went to Georgia again, where I met some new, saw some old, lost some pretty important and rediscovered some friends I knew for a while now.

I came back to Baku to send off one friend who was leaving to do Master's degree at the age of 20 and to support two who've been in prison for more than 90 days now.

Right now my life is pretty much about my friends, hence, borders, prisons, pride and disapoinments, unconditional love and the same old unity you read so much in this blog about.

Many years ago a big guy named Soviet Union came to this region to conquer and make us be friends no matter what after dozens of massacres and clashes happened in the beggining of the 20th century between Armenians and Azerbaijanis. For a while we became friends again but didn't quite understand why and what to do with the memories of killed ancestors.

70 years later we decided to find the answers through war and new killings. 20 more years, several years of war and thousands of more victims have passed and we're still in the search, so drowned in guilt of the past mistakes, that being friends again seems like something unbelievably nasty and betraying.

Today, when my inner borders have disappeared, and I can actually enjoy my friendship, I face many others - physical and moral ones, and have to be strong here.

So yeah, since my life is about my friends - the border is one of my problems.

People always get shocked when they see 900 friends on my Facebook, saying this is not normal and I probably don't know most of them. Well, actually I do know most of them, moreover - many of these most are my actual friends.

"No", people say, "One can't have so many friends, it's impossible. You can't know them all well, you'll get disappointed". Well, what can I say? Whenever I actually FEEL like calling someone a friend I do it and I'm not sorry for that. Whenever I get disappointed - I move on. Should a friend that has let me down change my life views? No. In fact, the only time I ever got disappointed was a bit more than a week ago. And the only thing I can say here - it happens.

Disappointment - a new feeling discovered during this month of absence.

October 14th, 2008 will always be one of the most special days for me - the day I rediscovered people I've known for a while, the day I've found my TRIBE.

I was fighting my fall depression when my boss called me to say that he and his wife are on their way downtown to celebrate the birthday of our friend Emin Milli. And even though Milli himself was in NY at that time, people still decided to gather and have fun. I wasn't very excited about it but decided to go as the depression was kicking pretty hardly.

The moment I arrived something clicked. I realized I was talking to people who actually dig me and are at the same page with me. That night I came back home around 4am after several hours of talking and was absolutely happy.

Ever since - my life has changed.

In several days, on October 14h Emin Milli is going to turn 30 and will probably still be in the prison. Did it change our plans? No, he would never let this happen.

Emin's birthday is going to be celebrated not only in Azerbaijan but all around the world. It's been only one day since we've created an event and we already have groups in UK, US, Turkey, France and even Thailand. :) Yes, whether Emin and Adnan will join us on 14th or not, whether the trial that turned into an endless comedy with bad actors and fake proofs is going to end or not, there will be a celebration for their freedom and Emin's jubilee.

During the last month my life was about my friends. As well as unity and loyalty we have always needed so much.


Am I a good person? Do people like me?

Now, that we became that close, dear followers, let me teach you another word in Azerbaijani language - "dostluq" (dostloogh), which means friendship.

I've had a wonderful month which was all about "dostluq", realizing how much it means to me and how special my friends are.

I've also realized one main thing: the only people who can answer my two main questions simply with their EXISTENCE are my friends. Whenever I feel proud of them - I feel happy about myself too. Whenever I feel that there's someone standing behind me just to be there - it's the best confidence one can ever dream of.

And when it comes to discipline.. well.. once you have it all you become disciplined just out of grattitude :)



"Toy", the Azeri word for wedding, is the reason we wake up, grow up, live, study, make friends and later lose them for husband's disapproval. "Toy" is a wonderful opportunity to meet up with endless amount of relatives from all over the country and show them how rich and cool we are. We argue and yell at each other over every single detail of the "toy" - starting from the bride's dress (which is usually bought by the groom), or groom's suit (bought by the bride), amount of jewelery brought for the girl or seats for each family. Old relatives terrorise us to hurry up, because they wanna live to see our wedding and dare to argue here. But what is most important - neither bride nor groom decide ANYTHING about their own wedding. "Toy" is the culmination of our lives, the edge of the world almost every girl here prepares for ever since she gets her first period.

The rulers of the wedding are mothers. If groom's mother is rich enough she buys all the clothing and jewelery for the bride from Dubai or Istanbul. She is always updated with the prices for gold in the world and usually remembers every single thing she brought for the girl till the end of her or bride's life. Bride's mother analyses the gifts and decides whether to gossip off or praise the new in-laws.

After several months of mutual torture, arguments and several brake ups the wedding is finally on. Friends and neighbours with expensive cars escort the main car, drive fast and honk all the way to the restaurant. After 6 hours of exhausting wedding parents count money the guests brought while bride and groom can't even think of spending their first night - the only thing they can do is crash on bed and fall into a sleeping coma.

My brother got married when he was 22. A close girlfriend of mine got married at the age of 21 to her very first boyfriend. Somehow both couples manage to stay happy or at least to look so.

Perhaps, something is wrong with me that I can't understang how one makes this important decision without any life experience. But I do realise one thing - here it's normal.

Many girls here get raised with one major aim in life - to get married. Yes, it's not THAT important where or what they study, but what really matters is how many azeri meals they can cook. They are programmed. Some of them never travelled without their mothers, because "girl's dignity is easy to sully". The best entertainment for them is... someone else's "toy". It is also the best way to show how beautiful you are and after wait for the call of mother's acquaintances with a purpose to introduce you to their sons. So we live from "toy" to "toy" waiting for the one of our own.

Guys are allowed to live lives of their own untill their parents decide - it's time. Then the race starts. And even very sane ones can't resist the pressure and give up - they marry ones they're told to horrifyingly often. If it's necessary - they break up with current girlfriends, come back from abroad and do all sorts of forced things. In a couple of moths after the wedding they usually find themselves mistresses. Some do it even earlier.

Today, in our society, the "necessity of a wedding" beats up not only romance and the whole "happily ever after" concept but a very needed in marriage "mature approach" as well.

I tried to figure out why exactly it's happening to us and then it just came up - we simply enjoy going S&M with our lives. And "toy" here is just another toy for tortures.

P.S. and of course, as every rule, this one has its exceptions. Like this:


"Hormet" and bastards


Twenty years ago when R.F. was the General Director of the Azerbaijan State Film Studio a young director V.M. came with a one page idea of a controversial and obviously anti-soviet movie which no one would want to make. R.F. liked it and wrote a scenario, set V.M. as a director and produced the movie himself.

"Yaramaz" (Bastard) they named it.

Several years later after V.M. filmed a series of pro-governmental movies, became deputy minister and GM of a TV channel, for some unknown reason he wouldn't say hi and became absolutely inadequate to R.F. and some other people.

Couple of days ago R.F. got an invitation to the anniversary of the movie...

Another important word here: "Hormet" - respect.

Yes, we are eager to be respected by our neighbors, co-workers, employees, friends and family. We don't do anything "ayib" in order not to lose "hormet". Men consider women as their "qeyret" - dignity, so they assure men's "hormet" in society.

All people are strictly divided into those who deserve "hormet" and those who don't. Although, one's got much less limitations if he's rich or holds an important position in government. He gets his "hormet" by default. Moreover, his kids also inherit the "hormet". They park their cars in the middle of the road, because their fathers know the police chief, they get served first in stores and restaurants, they can easily say to a professor: "Get off, my dad can buy you".

Ironically, we also use this word as a slang for bribery. We give "hormet" to policemen, state employees, university professors. We bribe respectfully.

Does "hormet" count with money or power we have? Can it get cheaper during crisis? Can we get a discount for "hortmet"?

...R.F. refused to go to the anniversary today. His wife and daughter did.

Wonder what happened when they arrived? There were no seats left for them. They had to request representatives of the Ministry of Culture to find ones. V.M. wouldn't even move.

What was the whole event about? V.M., not the movie.

How many times did he mention R.F. or anyone who helped him with the movie? Only once. At the end.

Did he invite the editor or the rest of the crew? No.

Yes, "hormet" means a lot here. Especially the one for bastards.

The "A" word


My granma used to say this word "ayibdi" - shameful. She would use it if we talked loudly, asked innapropriate questions or get into school fights. "Ayibdi" was an important part of her personality, hence, identity. Frankly, this scary word is a part of every Azerbaijani.

Married women should not stay out late, wear mini skirts, have male friends or talk about their sex lives even to their husbands. Girls should not chat to neighbor guys, talk late on the phone or let male colleagues give them a lift. "Ayibdi". Although there are much less limitations for men, the "A" word still has strong influence on them.

"Ayibdi" is a moral limit, a code of society rules which u can not cross in order to be a good respected citizen.

So, the only thing that bothers me nowadays is the immorality we came to by keeping up this code. We care about insignificant things limiting freedoms of our children and forget about what is really important.

Do we respect ourselves for accepting bribes? For detaining innocents? For screwing our own country? For being a part of the destructive system? For keeping silence?

Why isn't this "ayib"?