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A Million Flowers For Heydar Aliyev

Balloons decorated with flowers and a portrait of Heydar Aliyev wait to be launched in Baku.
Balloons decorated with flowers and a portrait of Heydar Aliyev wait to be launched in Baku.
The Azerbaijani capital is hosting its annual Flower Festival to commemorate the 87th anniversary of the birth of the late President Heydar Aliyev, the father of current President Ilham Aliyev.

Some 1.5 million flowers have been brought to Baku’s central park from the Netherlands, China, Great Britain, France, Turkey and other countries. A Dutch tulip cultivated in honor of Heydar Aliyev and named after him is among the varieties on display.

President Ilham Aliyev laid a wreath at the tomb of his father, who died in 2003, and took part in the festival’s opening ceremony. Accompanied by his wife, Mehriban, and a 12-year-old son, Heydar, the president was greeted by children dressed as flowers.

State television announced that the ceremony marked a “day of appreciation for the Great Father, National Savior, and founder of the modern Azerbaijani state -- Heydar Aliyev.”

A concert and fireworks display tonight will mark the closing of the sumptuous event. Early today, Baku residents were already swarming to see the flower display, creating an uncomfortable crush at the entrance to the central park, as seen in this video shot by an RFE/RL Azerbaijani Service correspondent:
Crowds At Baku's Flower Festival
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The Flower Festival costs the state budget millions of dollars each year, but the Baku executive branch has refused to disclose the exact amount spent on the festival. (More on Baku’s extravagant spending here.)

-- Anna Zamejc

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