During our walk along the boulevard of Baku, it strikes me how much the city has changed since my last visit, almost twelve years earlier. Flashy buildings are now defining the skyline of the Azeri capital, and judging from the cranes standing over open spaces, more buildings will have risen to the sky on my next visit. Between these new additions of concrete and glass, we spot political statements referring to the victory of Azerbaijan in the last war in Nagorno-Karabakh. After the breakup of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, several wars were fought between Armenia and Azerbaijan about the contested region. Administered for several decades by Armenia, the region was always contested by Azerbaijan, and between September and November 2020, the latter managed to conquer several areas.
The long-time president of the country seized upon this victory to strengthen his position. It was used to underline the strength of the country. A victory parade was organised only weeks after the war stopped, and he ordered the creation of a War Trophies Park on the boulevard of Baku. When we reach the fence surrounding it, we first walk around it before entering. This is a big terrain on which rows of tanks, armoured vehicles, military trucks, pick-up trucks, surface-to-air missile systems and other military material is on display. All of them destroyed. Some even have the missile that destroyed them still visible. Many are burnt out or reduced to rubble. Upon the opening of the park, mannequins representing Armenian soldiers were included in the display, but after official protests, they have been removed.
There is a defence system, with trenches, bedrooms, kitchens, watch-out towers, and more, giving an idea of what Armenian defence posts looked like. Walking around this extensive exhibition almost inevitably makes the visitor feel uneasy. There are big pictures featuring the president in a military uniform, eager to use this victory to bolster his position. There is a wall of number plates of Armenian vehicles captured or destroyed in the war. There used to be displays of helmets of fallen Armenian soldiers, but they too have been removed after protests. Walking around this display of victory, inevitably also underlining the defeat of what is seen as "the enemy", makes one wonder if true peace will ever come in the contested region. Meanwhile, building of the future skyline of Baku continues in the background. The question remains: what capital does Baku want to be?
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Baku War Tropies Park (Azerbaijan). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Baku War Tropies Park. Read more about this site.