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.
Episode 14 | Gwendolyn Burchell MBE; UK-born founder of children’s charity United Aid For Azerbaijan
Visiting Azerbaijan in 1997, Gwen Burchell witnessed the heartbreaking state of disadvantaged children who had the misfortune to be languishing in institutions that had been chronically underfunded since the collapse of the USSR. With a token £500 donated by friends and family, she decided she would have to do something to improve these children’s lives. The charity she started has since grown into one of the most influential in its sector, contributing enormously to thousands of lives. On the Caspian Podcast, Gwen talks about her remarkable life’s journey including her meetings with both the Queen of England and (now President of Azerbaijan) Ilham Aliyev.
Episode 13 | Azerbaijan based, US born Teresa Hamlin calls herself an “accidental entrepreneur”
This week Mark is in conversation with Teresa Hamlin whose company, Azerbaijani Socks has re-invigorated a traditional Caucasian craft. Far lesser known than carpet weaving, the knitting of slipper-socks in mountainous regions has long been part of village life with distinctive designs that vary regionally. The company now ships worldwide allowing previously low-income rural families to improve their lifestyles and – in some cases – fund access to higher education for their children. To browse or buy the socks click here.
Episode 12 | Svante Cornell discusses geopolitical evolutions in Georgia, Central Asia and Karabakh
Swedish Eurasia specialist Svante Cornell gives many fascinating insights into long term developments in Georgia, Karabakh and post-Karimov Central Asia, along with his thoughts on Russia’s wide-ranging ‘geopolitical toolbox’. You might be interested to compare his views on Uzbekistan’s recent evolution with those of Uzbek journalist Shahida Tulanganova on one of our earlier podcasts.
Svante is the author/editor of numerous books and articles about the Caspian Region including Azerbaijan Since Independence, The Guns of August 2008, Uzbekistan's New Face and The Long Game on the Silk Road: US and EU Strategy for Central Asia and the Caucasus. He is the director and co-founder of the Institute for Security and Development Policy and also director of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program.
Episode 11 | Knut-Erlend Rosvold: Norwegian Founder of Provitaz: Renewable Energy in Azerbaijan
Founder-director of Azerbaijan-based renewable energy company Provitaz, Knut is a Norwegian entrepreneur who speaks Azerbaijani and has lived in the country’s southern Talysh region for most of the last decade. Here he talks to Mark Elliott about the promise of solar power in Azerbaijan, describes some inspiring recent projects and enthuses about the remarkable warmth of Talysh hospitality.
Episode 10 | Alex Vatanka, fellow and Iran analyst at the Middle Eastern Institute, Washington DC
Tehran-born, DC based analyst Alex Vatanka sketches several historic landmarks in Iran’s 20th century geo-political history while giving nuanced background to popular conspiracy theories. He puts into context many personal recollections of Iran as remembered by interviewer Mark Elliott from his years of backpacking in the region, and concludes by assessing the likelihood of Iran and the US reaching an agreement on nuclear and sanctions issues at the on-going Vienna talks that aim to revive the 2015 JCPOA.