To give you a feel for
some of the latest trends and attitudes in Azerbaijan, we
will be interviewing those who are most likely to notice them:
the youth. This column is the first in a series entitled, "Youth
at Work" which focuses on Azerbaijan's complex transition
to a market-based economy. Those who know English, computer programs
and have a youthful drive are at a distinct advantage over their
seniors. Eventually, they will determine the future direction
24, works with British Airways in Baku as Sales and Marketing
executive. She has three years of experience in the airline industry
and has worked at British Airways for the past year. Sabina handles
the company's corporate accounts, specifically sales and marketing,
which includes calling on her clients to make sure they are satisfied
with British Airways' services. Someday she dreams of being Sales
busy at work as a Marketing Executive at British Airways.
Sabina had considered studying journalism at the university,
but was afraid that she wouldn't be able to find a job. (In fact,
many of her schoolmates who even pursued medicine have still
not yet found jobs in their profession.) Sabina notes, "I
decided to learn English so that I could get a job and do whatever
Previous generations of Azerbaijanis did not enjoy so much self-determination.
"They depended on their parents for everything," says
Sabina. "Their parents fed them, chose their education,
chose their profession and sometimes even their spouses. If your
parents happened to be doctors, for example, it could be difficult
for you to become an artist. Your parents wouldn't understand."
When asked about her position at British Airways, Sabina is very
enthusiastic. "I don't think I could find a more interesting
job than working in the airline or travel business. I have so
many opportunities to travel and meet people. I get to talk to
so many different people and help solve travel-related problems."
So far Sabina has traveled to London, Paris and Prague on training
Women at Work
Until just recently, it would have seemed unusual for a young
woman to work in a managerial position in Azerbaijan. Today,
the opposite is true, at least in the offices of foreign companies.
"It's completely different than it was two years ago,"
explains Sabina. "Today, most of the young people working
in foreign companies are women. I don't know why. Maybe they
find us more industrious or more responsible. When Europeans
and Americans hire new employees, it seems they're more concerned
about the skills of the applicant than the gender."
Like so many other youth, Sabina has set a precedent by taking
on the major support of her family. Previously in Azerbaijan,
it would have been unacceptable for a parent to be supported
by a son's income, much less a daughter's.
This new freedom also manifests itself in Sabina's leisure time.
Whereas she used to spend a lot of time at home reading, she
now goes out much more often. "We [women] have a lot of
places to go now," says Sabina. "We couldn't do that
when I was still in school. Girls weren't supposed to sit outside
anywhere. Now we can go out alone to drink a cup of coffee or
eat in a restaurant. No one will even look at you. I don't smoke,
but you can if you want to, and no one will make a big deal of
it. Life is so different these days-I like it. We're not abusing
our freedom; we're deeply appreciating it."
This exposure to the outside world does have at least one drawback.
"The only bad thing is that it's more difficult to be impressed,"
says Sabina. "For example, it used to be a big deal to be
able to see a Michael Jackson music video. We'd get together
with friends to watch it and talk about it. Now it's not such
a big thing. You get used to new stuff pretty quickly."
Sabina realizes that her generation finds itself at a unique
moment in Azerbaijan's history. The path that she and her peers
stake out for themselves is very different from the paths of
the generations that precede and follow hers. "My generation
is very conscious of what we are doing," says Sabina. "It
seems to me that the younger generation is much more aggressive
than we are. They are concerned that something could happen later
and that they will lose everything."
Knowing Who We
Sabina's generation also has a different attitude toward history.
"I remember when we were happy
to be able to go to Moscow and the Red Square," Sabina recalls.
"Teenagers today laugh at that. They don't remember this
period of time. I know who Stalin and Lenin were and what World
War II was all about. They don't. Some of them don't know their
history. But if you don't know your history, how can you know
your future? If you're going to live here, you have to know what
has happened in this country.
"Today's teenagers were growing up just as Azerbaijan was
gaining its independence (since 1991). I think it's spoiled them.
They need to accept their background. They look down on their
elders, saying, 'You haven't seen anything. You don't know anything.
The future is better.'"
Sabina is fairly optimistic about Azerbaijan's future, just as
she is about her own. "Everybody is uncertain," she
says. "I don't know what tomorrow will bring. I don't know
what will happen five years from now [after the next Presidential
election]. I'm trying to do everything I can today to secure
my future for my family and myself. We have to be brave and believe
in ourselves. If something bad happens tomorrow, we don't have
to accept it, but we do have to cope with it. Something bad might
happen in the future, but today, things are good."
(7.1) Spring 1999.
© Azerbaijan International 1999. All rights reserved.
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AI 7.1 (Spring 99)
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