Saturday, September 11, 2010

Baku-Yerevan Cab Music Experiment

This short movie was made by young Armenian and Azeri journalists, as a part of a project by the Eurasia Partnership Foundation supported by the British Embassies in Baku and Yerevan. Unfortunately, it's in the original languages - Armenian and Azeri - with Russian subtitles, so I'll try to summarize it briefly.

Пассажир from eurasiaam on Vimeo.

Essentially it represents the same stereotypes held by each side about "the other" - the cab drivers in respective cities play the other's music and try to start a conversation with those inside, while secretly recording their reactions. This is brilliant: a great illustration of the fact that attitudes and thoughts are very similar, if not the same, on both sides. Yes, I would agree with Mika that perhaps there were more opinions recorded from the Armenian side than from the Azeri one; and yet, it was very interesting to observe them both.

What struck me most was the painfully obvious awareness on both sides that the attitudes and stereotypes are primarily due to socialization, official government propaganda (yes, I won't shy away from using that term here), and the effects of the media. Of course, very few would acknowledge these effects on themselves, and yet, obviously, they do recognize their significance, in principle. Most of the younger "participants" pointed out that they have never interacted with representatives from the other side...

And that's the core of the problem - the lack of knowledge of and about "the other". Crossing the physical and official state boundaries might be impossible for most people at the moment; and yet, modern information and communication technology can help create the virtual space where stereotypes and prejudices can be overcome, and where dialogue might - just might - be possible. (Read my post from July - "Thoughts on the 'Other'".)

I should also commend the British Foreign Office and specifically the Eurasia Foundation for supporting this initiative. This is, indeed, a great way of enhancing their public diplomacy in the region, even if indirectly.

Read more on overcoming stereotypes and conflict resolution in the region on The Caucasian Knot.


  1. Global Voices would like to thank Mika Artyan, Liana Aghajanian, Yelena Osipova, Arzu Geybullayeva and Aygun Janmammadova for taking the time to post their responses to the Eurasia Partnership Foundation video specially for this entry.

  2. Thank YOU, Onnik, for the pitch. Truly interesting! :)