Clubs in Azerbaijan
by Vafa Mastanova
In 1996, I went to the
U.S. as a high school exchange student. It was there that I heard
the words "email" and "Internet" for the
very first time.
Left: The Internet is becoming
more and more popular in Azerbaijan, especially among today's
talking to one of my friends and complaining that it took more
than a month for my letters to reach Azerbaijan. She asked: "Why
don't you just send an email?" I didn't even know what email
was at the time so she showed me how to do it and how to surf
the Internet. Unfortunately, at that time, I didn't know anyone
in Baku who had email or access to Internet. So I kept sending
letters home by "snail mail", dreaming of the day it
would be possible to take advantage of this technology in my
Fewer than four years have passed and it's amazing how much things
have changed. Now Azerbaijanis send emails all over the world,
join Azerbaijani chat rooms and are busy creating their own Web
pages. When I went back to the U.S. again not so long ago, this
time I was able to communicate with my family and friends in
Baku by email and even send photos of myself in Disneyland!
Left: Internet Club in Baku. Signs are usually
in Russian or English.
Almost all of my friends have personal email accounts and access
to the Internet now. Recently, I met a student from Ganja [one
of our ancient cities in northwestern Azerbaijan], who comes
to Baku for correspondent classes twice a year. She asked for
my email address. I was shocked. The Internet is becoming widespread
even in other parts of our country.
Quite a few of us have access to computers either at school,
university or work. Computer courses are very popular these days,
especially among young people, since many foreign companies require
language and fundamental computer skills. There are several courses
available, such as the ones offered by Soros that are free. After
attending their training course (taught only in Russian), they
provide a membership card so that you can access their Internet
computers an hour each week. Another option is the U.S. Embassy
Library, which has seven computers available to the public. Since
they're reserved for research, you can't use them to chat or
Since only a few people can afford their own personal computer
($650 and up), many choose to log on at the Internet clubs and
cafes that have sprung up all over Baku in the past six months.
These clubs cost 7,000 to 8,000 manats per hour (a little less
$2). Some clubs issue membership cards for $10 and charge their
members only 4,000 manats ($1 per hour). Email accounts are free
at Web sites such as yahoo.com and hotmail.com.
Internet clubs are especially popular among teens and young adults
such as 18-year-old Orkhan Azayev, who studies at Azerbaijan
Technical University. He says he likes to visit Internet chat
rooms and have conversations with other Azerbaijanis. "I
usually chat at a site called Bakililar," says Orkhan. "I
don't chat much with foreigners since my English isn't that good.
But there are some Azeris who do chat with foreigners in English."
Chat rooms are even available in Azeri. Some of the club computer
keyboards have the Russian keyboard layout with Cyrillic, for
those who want to visit Russian chat rooms. For the Azeri chats,
there are American keyboards with Azeri Latin fonts.
One of the Internet club directors told me that some young people
go a little overboard in the chat rooms, spending as much as
six or seven hours a day chatting. "These are just stages
that we are passing through," the director told me. "Right
now people are mostly interested in chatting and things like
that, since it's so new to us. Later on, they'll do serious and
useful work on the Internet. Besides, it isn't just Azerbaijanis
who spend a lot of time chatting on the Internet - young people
from other countries do it, too."
Some Azerbaijanis use the Internet for research. Aslan Mehdioghlu,
a 21-year-old student at Western University, visits a local Internet
club several times a week. "We have free Internet service
at the university but since there are so many students it's hard
to get on the schedule. So I come to the Internet club."
The Internet is providing us young people with access to the
world. It came at a perfect time, enabling us to make up for
all of the lost time of living in the Soviet Union and being
cut off from the rest of the world. As more and more of us gain
access to computers in our homes, no doubt the Internet will
have a profound effect and totally revolutionize our lives.
(8.1) Spring 2000.
© Azerbaijan International 2000. All rights reserved.
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