The Corner

From Baku and Back

In my “Oslo Journal” today — Part IV — I mention Azerbaijan. It is “a lousy place,” I say. “It has been ruled by two men, father and son, since 1993 — the Aliyevs.” I then comment, “That’s nothing. Syria has been ruled by two men, father and son, since 1970.”

Okay, but Gabon has them beat: It has been ruled by another father-and-son team — the Bongos — since 1967.

Which is nothing, because one Kim family has been ruling North Korea since the end of World War II. They’re on their third Kim. Will there be a fourth?

The Duvaliers, in Haiti, ruled for nearly 30 years: 1957 to 1986. You remember Papa Doc and his son Baby. The Castros in nearby Cuba have outdone them, by a lot: Brother No. 1 seized power in 1959; Brother No. 2 is on top now; his son Alejandro — whom President Obama greeted warmly earlier this year — is in the wings.

Sons follow fathers in politics — and other fields — in democracies, too. I explored all this in an essay last year, “The Dynasty Question.” Since then, a man named Trudeau has become prime minister of Canada. There was a Prime Minister Trudeau when I was growing up. Wait a while, and you get another one.

I’ll end with some trivia: Name a great musician who was born and raised in Baku (Azerbaijan). Right, Rostropovich. Name a great chess player from Baku. Right, Kasparov.

Okay, I’m Baku’d out. (Merci Baku.)

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