Since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, Azerbaijan has maintained the closure of its land and sea borders for entry, while allowing unrestricted entry via air travel. This decision has persisted despite the World Health Organization ending the global pandemic emergency on May 5. The government has extended the ban on crossing land borders for over three years, citing the need to prevent the spread of diseases. Azerbaijan's only open land border is the 13-kilometer slice between Turkey and Azerbaijan's exclave of Nakhchivan. However, this measure has faced criticism and questions about its underlying motivations.
The primary reason given Main suspected reason for the border closure is to prevent the influx of Russian draft dodgers into the country, especially from Dagestan. This policy is believed to be a response to the experiences of neighboring nations like Kazakhstan and Georgia, which have struggled with an influx of Russians. Despite its apparent rationale, critics point out that Russians could still enter via air travel rendering this explanation insufficient. Based on monthly and annual reports of State Tourism Agency of the Republic of Azerbaijan and Azerbaijan tourism board
375 100 total arrivals from Russian Federation between January and July 2023, 446 831 during 2022 and 258,315 during 2021, 73% increased 2022 - 2021, decreased - 52% 2022 - 2019.
The continued closure has led to speculation among the public about other potential causes, especially as the government releases only brief statements without elaboration. Some experts believe that security concerns play a role, especially given the ongoing tensions with Iran and Armenia.
Despite the official stance, public sentiment is divided. Critics argue that the closure violates principles of equality and could be linked to special interests benefiting from the border restrictions. They highlight the inconsistency in allowing residents of Nakhichevan to cross the border and allowing foreigners to leave, while denying the same privilege to citizens living elsewhere in Azerbaijan.
While the government maintains its stance, calls for a gradual reopening of borders continue, especially for students and other citizens facing challenges due to the restrictions. And in social media, in the comments under the news about extension of the quarantine, there is an extremely negative reaction from the population. Inspired by the emotions of citizens and wanting to collect a holistic picture of the situation, I took up this journey.