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A massive railroad project raises cautious hopes for economic improvement in the South Caucasus. A TOL/EurasiaNet multimedia presentation.by Andy Markowitz; photos by Abbas Atilay, Molly Corso, and Gulnar Novruzova 5 January 2010
But at track-side, the project’s potential impact can be boiled down to one mantra: jobs, jobs, jobs.
An idea first floated in 1993 after Turkey closed its border with Armenia, shutting off the existing rail link between Kars, Turkey, and Gyumri, Armenia, the “BTK” project was formally launched in 2007. The $600 million effort aims to establish the South Caucasus as a major link in the Eurasian transit corridor by building 105 kilometers of new track from Kars to Akhalkalaki, Georgia, and modernizing the existing line through Tbilisi to Baku.
Originally set to go into operation in 2010, the line is now on track to open in 2011, according to Azerbaijani transport officials. (A project overview at the rail-industry website railway-technology.com puts the opening date at late 2012.) Turkey and Armenia’s agreement last fall to reopen their border does not seem to have put a damper on the project, which experts predict will triple passenger traffic and cargo volume on the regional rail network over the next two decades.
On the ground along the route, such financial and political concerns take a back seat, as residents in towns where the railroad was once a powerful economic engine look to the BTK to bring badly needed jobs and boost wages – or dismiss it is a political ploy to enrich outside interests. TOL and EurasiaNet sent photographers to three stops on the line – Agstafa, Azerbaijan; Tsalka, Georgia; and Kars, the western terminus – to take a look at the old railway and ask locals how they thought the new one might change their lives and communities.
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The Moldovan Diaries is a multimedia, interactive examination of the country's ethnic, religious, social and political identities by Paolo Paterlini and Cesare De Giglio.
This innovative approach to story telling gives voice to ordinary people and takes the reader on the virtual trip across Moldovan rural and urban landscapes.
It is a unique and intimate map of the nation.