Season 2, Episode 3 – “Baku”
Series in which art historians Dr Janina Ramirez and Alastair Sooke take us on cultural city breaks. They set off on their most adventurous trip yet – to Baku, capital of Azerbaijan. A former Soviet state, bordering the Caspian Sea, Baku offers a tantalising mix of the ancient and modern – at the crossroads of east meets west, on the ancient silk trading route. The profits from oil transformed its architecture twice – first in the late nineteenth century, and again in the twentieth. As a result, Baku is full of buildings that feel like 19th-century Paris, but also gleaming new structures. Alastair visits the world’s first museum devoted entirely to rugs while Nina marvels at stunning prehistoric rock art on the city’s outskirts. Together they wander the medieval old city, discovering the early impact of Islamic culture. And in a series of encounters with contemporary Azeri artists, they reflect on the importance of artistic freedom in a country with little democratic tradition.