In our Caspian Podcast, veteran travel-writer Mark Elliott chats to fascinating folk whose lives intersect with or revolve around the Caspian Region. Expect a wide variety of insights: guests range from ambassadors to activists, ministers to tour guides, writers to business leaders.


Available on Youtube and with audio only on Soundcloud, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and wherever you listen to podcasts.



Episode 23 | Arnold Alahverdian, Research Historian and Co-founder of Bright Garden Voices

Though Armenians and Azerbaijanis were often friends and neighbours during the Soviet period, since independence – and the two Karabakh wars – contact between the two peoples has been sadly lacking. And that has made it easy for each side to dehumanize and demonize the other. Whether online or in person, contact and discussion between everyday Azerbaijanis and Armenians could help to slowly reverse this process and bring about the conditions needed for lasting peace. That’s the philosophy behind Bright Garden Voices, whose co-founder, Arnold Alahverdian, joins Mark on this edition of the Caspian Podcast.

Episode 22 | Ramin Jabbarli - Academic Researcher and Teacher Born to an Azerbaijani-Turkish Family in Iran

Teaching students using their own non-Persian mother tongue is enough to get you arrested. In Iran anyway. This we learn from Ramin Jabbarli who was born in that country to an Azerbaijani-Turkish family. He is now based in Seattle as an academic researcher and teacher at the University of Washington. Ramin explains the difficulties faced by linguistic minorities in Iran and touches upon a perceived element of ethnic bias in a range of other fields, including ecological movements hoping to improve water resource management.

Episode 21 | Polina Dessiatnichenko, Ethnomusicologist, Tar Player, and Mugham Enthusiast!

Polina Dessiatnichenko is a Ukrainian-Canadian ethnomusicologist and player of the 11-stringed tar, an archetypally Caucasian musical instruments typically used to accompany Azerbaijani mugham. In this unique edition of the Caspian Podcast Polina explains with demonstrations various musical motifs with which tar players build up the structure of that Unesco-listed form of very traditional yet partly improvised music. Polina also explains a little about the linkages between mugham and ghazal poetry and reveals that learning these art forms is an all-encompassing spiritual endeavour rather like becoming the devotee of a guru.

Episode 20 | Dr. Darya Hodaei - Promoting Azerbaijani-Turkic Language and Culture

If you’ve read her article on Caspian Post you might feel that you already know Dr. Darya Hodaei – a Florida-based Azerbaijani-Turk from Iran who is the brains behind the language website EnglishAzerbaijani. On top of her day job as a pharmacist and the pressures of motherhood, she has written three bi-lingual children’s books to promote the Azerbaijani Turkic language and culture. In this podcast we get to know her a little better and hear more about her passion for her native language.

Episode 19 | Iran-analyst Alex Vatanka on Azerbaijan-Iran Relations

The podcast welcomes back prominent Iran-analyst Alex Vatanka, senior fellow at the Middle Eastern Institute. Alex gives a remarkably insightful explanation of the recent Iran-Azerbaijan spat, the perceived role of Israel in the dispute and the background – both historical and political –predicting that it is highly unlikely that the two countries will push their verbal fisticuffs towards a more physical conflict. He also suggests very practical measures that Tehran could take to radically improve its geopolitical situation, should the country find the will.