National Geographic : 2010 Aug
• man a xed to the windshield of a sedan. Arms linked, men walk up the mud of the street, women up the mud of the sidewalk. Lazarev's small house was built in 1850, in the time of hard-willed Nicholas I. e roof leans severely, threatening to cave. Lazarev cannot pay to x it. He and his family live o his mother's 90-lari (about $50) monthly pension. Still, when they have guests, Lazarev's wife, Liza, busies her- self setting the table with what food they possess. A daughter, Gohar, sits at an old upright piano and practices her lessons, lling the small room with music and missteps. Lazarev grieves over his bad luck with the railroad and more generally, but not so loudly that his family will hear. He rummages through a wardrobe and re- turns to the table. In his hand is a felt-backed shoulder board, its green fabric faded nearly to gray. It is the emblem of a lieutenant, an engineer with the Russian border service. "My grandfather served under Nicholas II," Lazarev says. "He built roads to Akhaltsikhe and Batu- mi." Lazarev smiles, a rare incident, and then the room goes dark. e electricity has gone out in Akhalkalaki, and the Lazarevs fall silent, but for the sound of the old piano. that initially impresses in Baku, its roadway lamps gilding the new asphalt from airport to city. Baku no longer supplies half the world's petroleum needs, as it did at the open- ing of the 20th century. But it feels like it does. In the past three years all manner of luxe stores have opened along the boulevard Neftchiler Prospekti, their windows re ecting the Caspian waters. Plans are progressing on a $4.5-billion, carbon-neutral resort on Zira Island, in the bay beyond the city. A Four Seasons Hotel will open shortly to house the guests drawn to Baku by the wealth of the state oil monopoly, located across the street. In the ve years since the BTC pipeline began pumping oil out of the Caspian and money into Baku, Azerbaijan's economy has grown by more than 100 percent. In the years a er the former Turkish presi- dent, Süleyman Demirel, broached the topic of the Iron Silk Road in a Tbilisi speech in the late 1990s, the parties involved attempted to secure international funding for its construction. But the Armenian diaspora blocked all nancing ef- forts, arguing convincingly that the routing of the railroad, like that of the oil pipeline before it, was a punitive gesture linked to Nagorno-Karabakh.