Date:  05:29 PM PDT, 04/16/2002  
To:  William Flemming   
Subject:  on Chloe Arnold's latest piece on jazz in Azerbaijan  

Dear editors of Moscow Times,

The latest article by Chloe Arnold mispresents jazz music and culture in
Azerbaijan as something new, if not distant and 'hard-to-understand' for
the local "dinosaurs." Yet, the truth is Azerbaijan was famous for jazz in
the Soviet Union, and the first state jazz orchestra was setup already in
1930s, before Ms. Arnold was born. Despite Soviet opposition to the
Western music, jazz flourished, and by 1978, one of Azerbaijan's greatest
jazzmen, Vagif Mustafazadeh, took first place at the 8th International
Jazz Festival in Monaco. Today his legacy is carried on by his daughter,
Aziza Mustafazadeh, or as she is better known among music lovers all over the
world, Jazziza, who has released five CDs with Sony Music. Perhaps MT readers,
along with Ms. Arnold, would benefit from the following links to learn more
about jazz in Azerbaijan:

History of Jazz in Azerbaijan

The Emergence of Jazz in Azerbaijan
Vagif Mustafazade: Fusing Jazz with Mugam

Aziza Mustafazadeh


Adil Baguirov


Date:  12:28 AM PST, 04/03/2002  
Subject:  on Chloe Arnold's latest piece  

Dear editors of Moscow Times,

I read your newspaper with great interest, and have noticed an unwelcomed
pattern of misleading and generally wrong assumptions featured in the Opinion
section, by a regular contributor Ms. Chloe Arnold. 

I appreciate the simple writing style, for-the-common-reader sort of speak, of
the writer, re-telling her trips throughout Caucasus. However, accuracy and
adherence to the highest standards of journalism should be paramount

Previously, Ms. Arnold claimed that CDs by Cher and C.Aznavour are "banned" in
Baku, whereas they are easily found in all the largest music stores, as well
as played on the radio, TV and disco-clubs. She has made a countless number of
other mistakes, some to a much greater degree. For example, in the recent
article "No Russian Base Means No Work, No Nothing" (MT, Apr. 2, 2002. Page
15), Ms. Arnold fails to fully represent all the parties of the story, i.e.,
the Georgian side, as well as the Meskhetian side, are completely ignored.
Which obviously detracts from the value of the story as a whole, and distorts
the picture, since Georgians and Meskhetians could have contributed their two

Particularly, when Ms. Arnold declared that "millions" of Armenians were
massacred in W.Turkey [actually Ottoman Empire at the time] at the start of
WWI, it contradicts the obviously inflated figures given even by the Armenian
side. A generally accepted estimate, used by Encyclopedia Britannica and many
Soviet/Russian scholars, is 600,000 Armenians, as well as hundreds of
thousands of Muslims (Turks, Kurds and Azerbaijanis), massacred during the
mess in the region. Let us leave such distant history to historians though.

Albeit, Ms. Arnold touches upon the fact that the indigenous population of the
Akhalkalaki region of Georgia, the Meskhetians, were deported by Stalin, she
completely omits to tell their sad story. The fact is that Meskhetians today
live as refugees in Central Asia, Russia and Azerbaijan (where they number
50,000, adding to the already huge number of almost one million Azerbaijani
refugees who escaped Armenian aggression). They can't wait for the historical
justice to prevail and return to their native, ancestral lands. This is also
what the Council of Europe wants, putting such condition as a requirement for
Georgia's admission into the organization.

Another paradox (or two) of the story is that Armenians assume, and this is
being conveyed to all the MT readers as some rock-solid inevitability, that
"given the traditional hostilities between the two races, Armenians are
terrified this could lead to another bloodbath." This is nonsense, when one
considers that 1) the local Armenian population is armed to the teeth,
comprising most of the soldiers and officers at the Russian base; 2) the
neighboring state is Armenia; 3) Meskhetians are mostly farmers, and refugees,
i.e., people who could not defend themselves in the first place; and 4) what
"traditional hostilities between the two races?!" Meskhetians are a mixed
race, with predominantly Georgian, some Turkish and even some Armenian (!)
blood. And how is it that tens of thousands of Armenians live in Turkey and
Azerbaijan -- while no Turk or Azerbaijani can live in Armenia? Have there
been problems between the Meskhetians and Armenians before deportation of the
former? No. Seems like the "traditional hostilities" are one-sided and
self-inspired. Such paranoid delusions should hardly be reported in such a
respected newspaper without due response from the other side. 

Finally, despite migrating into the region for almost a century, and
comprising absolute majority since the deportation of the Meskhetians in
1940s, the article admits that Armenians "haven't integrated well into
Georgia. Most don't know more than a few words of Georgian, and it's rare to
see a Georgian lari in the town." Why, one might ask, has the 96% majority,
living for almost 100 years in one region, has not "integrated well?" Has
there been little time? Or some educational, social or other barriers? Is not
Akhalkalaki a legitimate region of Georgia, that foreign currency freely
passes hands, and state language is ignored? Maybe the root of the problem is
exactly in this military base, or perhaps in the now unveiled sentiments of
separatism and territorial claims. Seems like Meskhetians have found
themselves like a pawn in a bigger game once more, where they represent a
"problem" to the far-reaching plans of some separatism-minded circles. A sad
continuation to the never-ending tragedy befallen on this simple nation.


Adil Baguirov
The Moscow Times
Tuesday, Apr. 2, 2002. Page 15 

No Russian Base Means No Work, No Nothing

By Chloe Arnold AKHALKALAKI, Georgia -- For Tariko Petrossyan, the Russian
military base on the hill is a lifeline.

"When work at the base finishes for the day, everyone does his shopping," says
Tariko, who sells washing powder from a rickety stall at the back of the
town's bazaar. "If the base closes down, no one will have the money to buy
anything anymore."

Built in the 1960s, the Russian base at Akhalkalaki was one of four in Georgia
used to guard the Soviet Union's southern border. But an agreement signed by
the Russian and Georgian presidents two years ago states that all the military
bases must close. Russian troops in Tbilisi and Abkhazia have already packed
up and gone home.

In Akhalkalaki, the idea of closing the base fills the local population with
dread. The base is the region's biggest, and almost only, employer. People
from the town work there as technicians, cleaners and cooks, or they serve the

There used to be other industry in the area -- a dairy, a slaughterhouse, a
couple of factories -- but all those have closed.

"Without the base," says Tariko, wiping a tear away with the corner of her
dirty apron, "we're sunk."

Akhalkalaki stands apart from other towns in Georgia because 96 percent of the
population is ethnic Armenian. Many of the residents moved to the area to
escape the massacre of millions of Armenians in western Turkey at the start of
World War I.

But they haven't integrated well into Georgia. Most don't know more than a few
words of Georgian, and it's rare to see a Georgian lari in the town. Everyone
uses Russian rubles or Armenian dram.

The only road out of Akhalkalaki is one of the worst in Georgia. Closing the
base would leave it cut off from the rest of the country in every sense.

Their greatest fear, Tariko says, is that Meskhetian Turks, deported from the
area by the Soviets, will come and resettle there, and Georgian authorities
have said this wouldn't be a problem. Given the traditional hostilities
between the two races, Armenians are terrified this could lead to another

The Georgian government has promised to provide new work in the region. But it
has more pressing concerns in Abkhazia, South Ossetia and the Pankisi Gorge
and, anyway, the residents of Akhalkalaki don't believe it.

The town's radical Virk party is now calling for autonomy from Georgia.
Tariko, like many others, supports the idea.

"We won't let the base go quietly," she says. "If necessary, we'll fight to
keep it open. After all, we have to live. The Georgian government should
remember that."

Chloe Arnold is a freelance journalist based in Baku, Azerbaijan.