BAKU — On May 10, late Azerbaijani dictator Heydar Aliyev’s birthday, a graffiti reading “Congratulations on Slavery Festival!”(Qul bayraminiz mübarək!) appeared on the pedestal of one of the numerous monuments to him in a park carrying his name located in front of the Central Bank of Azerbaijan in Baku.
According to the Azerbaijani opposition online Meydan TV website, an unknown author punned on the phrase “Congratulations on flower festival” by changing two letters in the first word and giving the word and the phrase a different meaning quite popular among the Azerbaijani dissidents and opposition.
The website notes that while the country lives in poverty, tens of millions of dollars are spent on flowers to celebrate the birthday of Heydar Aliyev, “the nationwide leader” and “the savior of the nation.”This “feast in time of plague” — observed every year in Baku — has caused an ambiguous attitude in the Azerbaijani society for several years.
“For example, in 2014, more than 1 million flowers from 50 countries were brought for that festival on Heydar Aliyev’s birthday. Their costwas not reported,” the website writes noting that a special sort named “Heydar Aliyev” was among over thehalf million tulipsplanted on the occasion of “that joyful day.”
The website notes that the festival — lasting for several days — starts on Heydar Aliyev’s birthday, during which in the park named after Heydar Aliyev, in front of the Central Bank, compositions of rare flowers brought to the country are placed, including the portraits of questionable taste of “UluOndar” – “the greatest leader,” as he is officially called.
“President IlhamAliyev– a tough authoritarian leader known for his falsifications of elections, pressure over civil freedom, persecution of journalists, oppositionists, civil activists, actual repression of the opposition and the civil society in the country –actively spreads the cult of his father. Recently, under the pressure of the West, Aliyev had to soften his position to some extent and release a part of the political prisoners,”the website writes adding that it would be impossible to even imagine thatsuch graffiti could appear on the monument before.
The flower festival has been annually celebrated in Azerbaijan on May 10 since 2004. It is dedicated to Heydar Aliyev’s birthday. Huge sums of money are spent on the festival. In particular, Baku City Hall published the figure 15 million dollars in 2007, and in 2013, on Heydar Aliyev’s 90th anniversary, this sum exceeded 76 million dollars.