The deadline is over a year away, but Azerbaijan is sprinting to complete preparations for the European Games, an Olympics-like competition for athletes from 49 European countries. In sprucing Baku up for the event, officials are taking a softer approach to urban renewal than during the run-up to the Eurovision song contest just under two years ago.
Twenty-seven-year-old Manucher has spent every day for the past six years cleaning out manure and, in winter, snow from his cattle barn. In his impoverished village not far from Dushanbe, Tajikistan’s capital, he counts himself lucky to have the work.
The mayor of Toronto, Canada’s largest city, made headlines recently by admitting to smoking crack cocaine. Taron Margarian, the mayor of Armenia’s capital Yerevan, is generating controversy in a different way – by proffering a vision of glowing flamingoes for his city.
Still recovering from the political fallout of a recent bus boycott, Yerevan’s city government is now grappling with growing public anger over allegations that a privately run parking system is serving the business interests of a close associate of Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan.
In June, Turkey experienced the worst anti-government protests in decades over plans to redevelop Gezi Park in central Istanbul. Now, a historic church once used by Russian refugees fleeing the 1917 Bolshevik Coup is at the center of a fresh controversy over the city’s development ambitions.
A fascination with grandiose graves, built to show respect for the deceased and bestow honor on the bereaved, could mean that the Armenian capital of Yerevan, a city of over 1.1 million people, soon will run out of space to bury its dearly departed.
Many Mongolians were surprised when, one day in 2004, a corrugated-steel fence suddenly went up around Ulaanbaatar’s 35-acre Children’s Park. They were horrified six years later when only a tiny four-acre fraction of the park reopened to the public, and plans emerged for the construction of a luxury hotel and other private developments on the rest of the area.
In Turkey, it is not just the cost and questionable necessity of massive government development projects that are giving citizens pause. It is also what critics charge is the undemocratic way the city of Istanbul is being transformed without local input.
A bucket dangles on a string from a top-floor window in one of Istanbul’s older neighborhoods; inside it, within grasp of any passerby, lie a couple of crumpled banknotes. After a while, a shopkeeper takes the money and replaces it with an order of groceries.