Winter 2001 (9.4)
Experiences - These Past Ten Years
The collapse of the Soviet Union opened up new horizons for us.
Indeed, it transformed our lives. As I'm a petroleum engineer
in one of the most prolific oil areas of the former Soviet Union,
I can clearly see how life would have been different if we were
still living under the Soviet regime.
We would not have had access to a Western knowledge base, new
Western technologies or industrial standards, as these things
were not accepted or utilized during Soviet times; they were
acquired once we opened our borders and signed significant oil
contracts with international companies. Nor would I have been
able to work in a large, multinational company - drilling wells
in the Gulf of Mexico, visiting the U.K. and Norwegian platforms
in the North Sea. Nor would there have been any independent activity,
enabling us to achieve by working hard and professionally and
being appreciated for our true worth.
Only after gaining independence, once the "Iron Curtain"
was lifted, did Azerbaijanis begin to discern the differences
between Western life and the one that we had had. Along with
this new vision, we had troubles that we had never experienced
before - such as the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, in which neighbors
became enemies. The general political and economic situation,
and most of all, the uncertainty of the future, became a shocking
reality. For the first time in our lives, we had to make our
own independent decisions and adjust to democracy and new rules
that were quite chaotic. Azerbaijan was no longer part of a larger
country. We were on our own in our struggle for independence,
territorial integrity and political stability.
During the Soviet era, it was common to have friends from all
over the Soviet Union. We used to visit each other, sharing both
good times and bad. Now the borders that separate the 15 former
Soviet Republics are too visible and conscious. In the past,
Baku was characterized as being very multinational and heterogeneous.
We did not distinguish ourselves by nationalities and origins,
religions and beliefs. This sincerity and affection for each
other is what I miss most about the former Soviet Union. I miss
the freedom to communicate without having ulterior motives. We
seem to be losing that now. What I don't miss is the insularity
and lack of information, a situation in which we had no idea
about the realities of the world that surrounded us. Nor did
we have the ability to make unbiased decisions.
(9.4) Winter 2001.
© Azerbaijan International 2002. All rights reserved.
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