Autumn 1999 (7.3)
In Search of Optimism
"So how is life in the U.S.? It must be paradise there," Azerbaijanis so often comment when they learn I've just returned home after spending a year studying in the U.S. Azerbaijanis have so many illusions about America and so much disbelief and distrust of their own country. I was shocked to discover so much passivity and pessimism. Of course, Baku has been extremely hot this summer and that makes people lazy, prone to whine and unwilling to work.
From a 1995 series of stamps issued in Azerbaijan commemorating the history of balloons and dirigibles throughout the world. Courtesy: Yagub Karimov.
Of course, it was easy for me to be optimistic about Azerbaijan while I was living on the lovely campus of Wesleyan University in Connecticut and not experiencing water shortages, transportation problems or dozens of other daily difficulties. But I did use those opportunities abroad to advocate for Azerbaijan, fight for its development and promote its interests, both at the U.S. governmental level and among ordinary people.
But what did I discover when I returned? So much complacency. What happened to the people who hardly a decade ago used to spend days and nights in "Freedom Square" [known as "Lenin Square" back then] fighting for our independence? Why do people walk around these days slumped over with such sad faces? Why can't people see the optimism that I felt in the U.S.? Why are people always complaining instead of working for solutions to all our problems?
Of course there are many reasons. The majority of the readers of this magazine probably know them. But I don't see a use for all this pessimism, despite the fact that I'm now working among refugees for a humanitarian organization. Economic problems are not just specific to my country; they are widespread throughout the entire former USSR. In many places, they are even more severe than in Azerbaijan. Of course, Armenian aggression has added to our problems. But all those things must be viewed upon as the past. We must move on. We must work for the future of Azerbaijan. We must work...not just complain.
When I gaze across the Talysh mountains in the south of Azerbaijan and walk along the seashore, I think: What a beautiful country we have! What great potential!
And that's why I return to my optimism. If we all work and do our part, then we can solve our problems. Then we will prosper. Then we will make the spirits of our martyrs happy. But if people continue to wake up every morning thinking only of making money at the expense of others, our problems will persist. At this crossroads in our history, let's not think only about our own welfare but work for a future that will benefit us all.
Fariz Ismailzade, 21
From Azerbaijan International (7.3) Autumn 1999.
© Azerbaijan International 1998. All rights reserved.