Trans Eurasia travel

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Azerbaijan, Baku. Soviet favelas of Rio de Janeiro

Azerbaijan is the first absolute monarchy in the territory of the former Soviet Union. The power of the ruler is not limited and literally passed from father to son. Even in the notorious Turkmenistan, the son of the late Turkmenbashi had to leave his homeland and emigrate to Russia. The country is not as closed as Turkmenistan but it is still rulled by a firm hand. Unlike in neighbouring Georgia and Armenia, one will need visa to Azerbaijan that is not always easy to obtain.

The current president was not an active politician and was rarely seen on TV before his father death. So there were assumptions that he would be a nominal ruler, but they proved to be wrong. Ilham Aliyev was not timid and quickly took over his father’s position. 

That's when Heydar Aliyev’s personality cult has reached unprecedented heights. A strange feature of this cult is that Azerbaijanis are not limited to the installation of monuments at home, but strive to put them all over the world, causing confusion among the locals.

Heydar Aliyev successfully replaced Lenin in Azerbaijan. His remarks and quotes can be seen nearly everywhere. For the enlightenment of the people, the quotes are placed at the entrance to each of underground passage.

The son follows his father and compiles his own book of quotations. 

Obviously, the entrance to each school would also have the quote of the former or current presidents. 

Inside the school... would be the same situation.

At the same time the dictatorship in Azerbaijan does not look intimidating. Azerbaijan resembles a comic rotten Latin American banana republic from the book "Cabbages and Kings" by O. Henry. It is hard be taken seriously when the president addressed as "His Excellency."

Even taxi drivers in Azerbaijan is not afraid openly admit that all oil revenues go primarily to enrich the royal family. While seem to be rich if looking at oil revenues per capita, the average salary even in Baku does not exceed $400. For comparison, the global measure of prices a Big Mac at McDonald's, costs in Azerbaijan $5 against $3 in Russia. And it is obviously not the good life at home drives people to leave Azerbaijan in search of work in Russia and other countries.

So how the average people of Baku live like? Baku has a population of two and half million, most of whom live not in the city centre in the beautiful buildings, but in familiar to all of us homes.

Visiting the outskirts one can easily imagine still being in USSR. This is a typical quarters that has not been renovated. 

Renovated houses in the city center on the inside look not really better. If you look into the yard, you can see the following. 

Like in any self-respecting southern city, each one attaches balconies and attics, as much as one can. 

This is how typical old quarters look like.  

Now it is time to look at real slums, or ‘mahalla’ - how they call them here. It is on the site of mahallas appear multi-storey buildings. Authentic slums can be seen, if you climb up the mountain, where there is the Baku TV Tower.

At first it's just a very old houses with a bunch of unauthorized construction. 

Soviet ruins.

Small shop stands on pipes.

Now the real life begins 

Pipes, wiring, walls everywhere

Stairs going up upstairs, just like in the Dona Marta.

The roofs are used as a dumping site for broken stones.

Someone’s roof is made of a piece of slate, which is held in place by dozen of bricks.

There is not really much difference between Rio de Janeiro's favelas

Surprisingly, this road is used by cars 

Residents of the favelas can be consoled by the fact that the views are excellent.