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 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.

Episode 18 | John Spencer: Shusha and the 2nd Karabakh War – key lessons for military strategists

John Spencer is the chair of urban warfare studies at MWI (the Modern War Institute) at West Point – America’s top Military Academy. Here he talks about the 2020 2nd Karabakh War and why it has students of military tactics re-thinking the nature of modern warfare. John’s particular interest is the Battle of Shusha, the conflict’s dramatic culmination and pivotal victory. The battle, he explains, underlines the continued key importance of strategic cities in winning a campaign.

For further information, read John’s influential article on the battle here and a longer July 2021 discussion on the campaign here. John’s excellent series of regular podcasts on urban warfare can be found here.

Episode 17 | Amanda Paul, Senior Policy Analyst at the European Policy Centre

As a Brussels-based analyst of EU, Turkish and ex-Soviet affairs, Amanda combines a wealth of experience with access to many of the region’s decision-makers. In this wide-ranging chat, she outlines the role of the EPC, separates fact from fiction in the EU hopes of the Associated Trio (Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine) and discusses the perception of pro-Armenian bias in parts of Europe.

Episode 16 | Prof. James Ker-Lindsay: Academic Expert and Geopolitical YouTube Star

James Ker-Lindsay is a British professor of international relations whose studies focus on peace and security issues. He teaches courses on conflict resolution and is an occasional advisor to the British foreign office. However, he is probably best known for his YouTube channel, which provides clear, easily digestible, yet in-depth backgrounds to a wide range of the world’s unsolved conflicts, quasi-nations and new states. Though his presentations span the globe, his main region of expertise is Southeast Europe, notably the Balkans and Cyprus. In today’s podcast, he makes some fascinating comparisons between conflicts in that zone and those in the Caspian region and points out key ramifications of geopolitical lessons that have been learned.

Episode 15 | Thomas de Waal, Author of Black Garden, The Caucasus, and The Great Catastrophe

‘Historian of the present’ Tom de Waal is one of the best-known writers on recent conflicts in the Caucasus. With nearly three decades of experience, his many personal visits, as well as his wide range of friends and colleagues on all sides, have helped him present unusually clear-sighted overviews of a multiplicity of viewpoints, even if his lack of bias sometimes leads to his being attacked from every direction. That’s especially relevant in the era of social media, which he describes as being ‘perfectly designed for people with poisonous intentions.’ 

In this podcast, he recalls some of the practicalities that allowed him to research his books first hand, including crossing a minefield clutching a suitcase. Reflecting on Karabakh, he calls for trust-building and a non-hubristic response from Azerbaijan after their victory in the 2020 war. He also gives insights into the possible motives of Russia in providing peace-keepers.