Saturday, 26 March 2011

Happy Novruz, or some very scary Azeri males.

Okay, if you are not Azeri  and are not very familiar with Azeries in general, you will see this photo and think something terrible must have happened. Perhaps, someone important died? Or, maybe, it is a yet another demonstration somewhere in the Middle Eastern part of the world?

 But really, this is not an image from a war zone, but from a very happy event. 

The photos are by Onnik Krikorian, taken in Marneuli, a mainly ethnic Azeri town in Georgia, at the Novruz celebrations this year. And Novruz is a happy holiday, a celebration of the spring. Honest!

I just wondered, looking at these faces, why in some cultures, young men consider it cool to look this moody and angry? Just for a split second, I had this bizarre image of suddenly being dumped into the middle of that crowd of the black leather clad Azeri males. Trust me, that was not a welcome thought. 

And I am lost for words. I guess, I am wondering why those guys look the way they do. Are they really unhappy? Depressed? Poor? Angry? Hungry? With severe learning disabilities? Inbred?

Thankfully, moving down the page, I found more appealing faces, young girls holding the traditional grass on the plate, old men playing music, even occasional smiles... which I decided to share with you as well, just for a balanced view, so to speak. But really, I was simply horrified by the first photo. Too bloody depressing, if you ask me. Especially, for these young girls in the village. 


  1. Think it's a Caucasus thing. Men in black, and girls in bright colors. Still, was a cold and wet day, but regardless, the latter made up for it.

    Have to say, though, Marneuli is not in the best of shape. So many coaches waiting there to take men to Baku to work as there's little for them in Georgia.

    Still, great to be there for Novruz, and the more colorful girls in traditional costumes mostly stood out more despite being outnumbered. :)

  2. Well, better than some geordie lads or even lasses after a night of heavy drinking!:)

  3. @Onnik: I felt somehow that the place must not be the happiest...Not sure what gave it away?
    But it is not just the colour of their jackets...

    @Anonymous: Good point, my friend.

  4. Honestly, I never noticed anyone looking grim at a neighborhood Novruz festival! The kids in the yard of my former Kruschevka and in the alleys outside my flat in Icheri Sheher typically were having a blast during Novruz. Are you sure those guys in the picture aren't attending a Charles Bukowski retrospective?

  5. hopefully they are happy, maybe they are not :/ In Georgia black is too much in fashion. I saw on FB photos of a birthday, all ladies in black and it seemed very very weird.

  6. Those guys are f***ing awesome. The one in the foreground rubbing his chin does look annoyed, but I don't like having my picture snapped in public either. When I am wealthy I will look to Azerbaijan to satisfy my employment needs:

    Bodyguards, check.
    Hitmen, check.
    PR Representatives, check.

  7. About those angry/hungry faces, have you noticed that's the same expression models have while modelling? Although with them I'd choose hunger as the reason.

  8. I think these young men seem to be doing just fine on Georgian standards. Never having been in Azerbaijan but plenty of times in Georgia, morose posture is par for the course for young men who fancy themselves "zveli bichi" or old boys. Black clothes, unsmiling (or smirking), unimpressed with just about everything... this is the Georgian version of the boy from the wrong side of the tracks, except in Georgia this is the cool way to be, endorsed from mothers to even political parties. So for Azeris, they seem to be doing just fine, fitting right in with alpha male typology Georgian style (sadly).

  9. Loving the references "Azeri-style," "Georgian-style," and from me, "Armenians style." It's the same "Caucasus style" and thankfully we haven't gotten ourselves into the situation when each country claims they invented it and accuses the other other of stealing it... :)

    Would have been nice to have documented more color, but only got to Marneuli the day before, and because it's an urban center there weren't any signs of informal Novruz celebrations that I saw around where I was. Villages were probably different, and also inside people's home.

    Day after Novruz went to a village, and Novruz tables were laid out, but pretty bare. The region around Marneuli was pretty depressed, but should point out this problem is not specific to Azeri-inhabited areas. Also the same for Armenian and Georgian inhabited regions.

    Plus, of course, the same in the regions of Armenia and Azerbaijan.

  10. Agrrr...I have just lost a whole bunch of my replies. will have to do it again, in short.

    @Khatia: Yes, the obsession with black colour is pretty common, but it sure helps if you are a pretty young woman. However....however.

    @Mark You can probably find using your boys in the hood closer to home more practical than going to azerbaijan for the hitmen and bodyguard services. But PR? No wonder you are not wealthy just yet, my friend. Your ideas of PR need polishing up somewhat! :)

    @Gabriela? You are so kind as to compare these guys to male models on TV? You are an angel, honestly.

    @Hulya: Hi, nice to meet you here. It is pretty sad, but I am not surprised you say Georgian guys are the same. I always thought Georgians had a bit more style, personally...

    @Onnik: In Baku, the black leather is still the main colour for men. at least in summer it goes away. But I did wonder how depressing life in Marneuli must be, to be honest. It did make me think. And even the pretty clothes the girls are wearing looked don't know what to say. Cheap? Badly done? Poor? Made me sad.

  11. Should also be mentioned that this Novruz event seemed more preoccupied by Saakashvili visiting it and using it as a platform to raise the issue of ethnic Azeri integration in Georgia.

    So, for example, security was tight with metal detectors and a police presence more interested in preparing for Misha's arrival than anything else. Most stalls promoted Georgia's development than the holiday itself.

    Indeed, most of the event seemed to revolve around that rather than Novruz itself.

    As were media reports:

    Still, it was good that Saakashvili came for what is now an official holiday in Georgia, but I think it could have taken a back seat leaving Novruz at the center. That was my opinion and some friends from Azerbaijan who were visiting, for example.

    To be honest, they weren't so happy that it was more about getting PR for Misha than for celebrating Novruz. I also felt the same, but did what I could in such an environment choosing not to take photos of Saakashvili, especially because of some tight media control which was unecessary.

    That said, the Azeris we spoke to seemed very happy and content with the event because the Georgian president had come in person and implicity represented an official policy to turn attention to minorities in Georgia, and especially in regions such as that surrounding Marneuli.

    Doesn't change anything re. the dress code, but it does point out that hopefully regional poverty and high unemployment should be tackled on a State level. When that happens perhaps brighter colors will be the order of the day... :)

  12. Did anyone think for a second that they are looking at the person behind the camera?! If it was a hot blond instead, I think we would have seen very different expressions. :))

  13. Happy (late) Nowruz everyone!

    What's with the hate for dressed-in-black-angry-tough-looking guys? I look angry and tough all the time chicks love it!

  14. @Nata: I would suspect that they would not look any more intelligent or handsome if the expressions on the faces changed to horny, do you? :)

    @Kaweh: Maybe you look like a male model? That would help. Still, a sign of intelligence would also be a welcome touch.

  15. @Onnik: that is interesting....I doubt the love for the black jackets would go away that soon, but maybe we would see more smiles? who knows.

  16. @Nata That's definitely not a reason and the photograph depicts a common sight in the Caucasus. Besides, I got happy smiles from the women and children I photographed.

    Same is true from the pensioners regardless of gender. Anyway, was a terribly cold and rainy day too which might have had an effect given that the previous day was sunny and t-shirt weather.

    Still, the children had fun regardless and the scene didn't surprise or shock me at all. It's common in Armenia and from what Hulya says above, typical for Georgia too.

    Regardless, I enjoyed myself although wasn't happy with the extent to which Saakashvili became the focal point rather than Novruz even an hour before he arrived.

    A friend from Azerbaijan also wasn't happy when Manana Japaridze, a Georgian singer who sings in Azerbaijani, broke into Boney M's One Way Ticket. Glad I went, but it could have been better.

    Well, more Novruz, in fact. Understand what Saakashvili was trying to do, but I think his PR people went overboard. Personally was shocked and surprised by their control of the media.

    And I say that used to a) men in black and b) a lack of media freedom in Armenia. Anyways, not as surprised as Scary Azeri, and wouldn't have even noticed were it not for this post.

    Have become totally acclimatized to life in the Caucasus... :)

  17. When we lived in Azaebaijan m husband and I would joke about a red winetr coat I bought. He would say I was crazy by wearing something other than hard BLACK in Baku. I surely stood out.

  18. @Scary Looking tough yet intelligent is very doable, unless you're faking it.

  19. @ Nata: Does Azerbaijan have blondes? When I type "Azeri girls" into Google I get plenty of hot women, but not so many blondes.

  20. The first picture is very depressing indeed. Caucasian guys give you the impression of a bad guy but most are in fact quite shy. It's that they think that being fashionable is not a thing for real men, but something for gay guys,which is ridiculous. If Caucasian women are considered beautiful same can be applied to our men as well if they would care about their appearance. On the other side I think we have much bigger issues to care about, our country is not stable,people are thinking of ways to support their family so naturally they won't have the time, the money and the freedom to think about what they are wearing. It's the last thing one can think about in such situation, but a smile would do at least ... especially on a holiday ... I guess that is just part of our macho culture.

  21. I can't help but notice that you talk disparagingly of you country of origin quite often. First why not marry an Azeri girl post, then the Ikea in Azerbaijan, etc I know you are mainly joking but seriosuly to new reader it seems like you really do hate your heritage. Just because someone looks moody doesn't autaomatically make thema murderer so the being in a crowd of leather-clad Azeris @an unwelcome thought@ sounds paranoid and OTT. I used to be in crowd of similary clad and equaly moody Sicilians for a long time and have to admit got treated 1000 times beter than I do by gentle looking, denim and cotton clad North-West Europeans.

  22. @Anonymous: Sorry, I have covered this topic too many times before. You either get it or not.

    Funnily enough, I just got a nice comment from someone who is about to marry an Azeri girl, and he thought it was a cute posting. Whereas you thought it was mean. You see, people see things very differently, and honestly, I cant spend much time trying to defend my way of presenting the truth to everyone who does not get it.

  23. Azeris and Armenians-are not Caucasians! Don't disgrace the name of Caucasus please! Caucasians are Chechens ,Georgians, Dagestanis, Circassians,Ingushs,Abkhazians and so...And especially you,scary,don't even pretend and dream to be Caucasian! You have nothing to do with Caucasus!