Baku already held the record in 2010, before losing it to Tajikistan less than a year later. Now it is aiming to again one-up the current record holder in Saudi Arabia.
The previous record holder. (photo: Flicker, amanderson2)
Azerbaijan is planning to erect the tallest flagpole in the world, a record it already held and lost more than a decade ago.
On February 9, ENKA, Turkey’s largest construction company, posted a photo of the under-construction pole on Facebook. “Çimtaş, a subsidiary of ENKA, will build the world’s tallest flagpole for Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, also known as the ‘Windy City!’” the post read. It reported that Çimtaş started building the 191-meter pole in September 2021 and that it is scheduled to be delivered to Baku, via the Black Sea, the Volga-Don Canal, and the Caspian Sea, in April 2022.
While Azerbaijan’s government has not yet commented on the report, ENKA’s post has been widely shared in Azerbaijani media and social media.
This is not Azerbaijan’s first attempt at a world flagpole record.
In 2010, Azerbaijan’s government erected what was at the time the world’s tallest flagpole in Baku – a mere 162 meters – on a newly constructed State Flag Square on the Caspian shoreline, at a cost of $30 million. The land where the square was built had been the site of hundreds of homes; residents had been given paltry compensation to move and then forcibly evicted if they rejected the deal.
President Ilham Aliyev attended the inauguration of the pole and raised the flag himself.
“We are marking a historic and unforgettable event today,” he said at the time. “I am not talking about this flagpole being the highest in the world. An even higher flagpole may be installed somewhere else after some time. This is not the point. The point is that the establishment of the Flag Square demonstrates Azerbaijan’s strength, the love of the Azerbaijani people for their state and our respect for state symbols.”
The next morning, the flag was torn by Baku’s famously strong winds and taken down for repairs.
Aliyev was soon proven correct. Less than a year later, in May 2011, Tajikistan bettered Azerbaijan with a pole just three meters higher than Baku’s. (Both Azerbaijan’s and Tajikistan’s poles were constructed by the same U.S. firm, Trident Support.)
In 2014, Tajikistan’s record was in turn broken by Saudi Arabia, which erected a 170-meter pole in Jeddah, a structure that still holds the world record.
After repeated incidents of flags being ripped by the wind, the Azerbaijani authorities finally stopped raising the flag there in 2017. Shortly after, the pole itself was dismantled and removed. The construction of the square, meanwhile, had become embroiled in a corruption scandal, with the head of the State Flag Square Complex fired and arrested on fraud charges in 2016.
It’s not clear how the new pole will manage the wind, but ENKA said it is working on the issue. “The flagpole will draw attention with its design and engineering works due to the strong winds of the city,” it said in the Facebook post.
Azerbaijani public reaction was largely dismissive of the news, either criticizing the new pole as a waste of money or mocking it.
“They should keep a 20-30-meters-long extension under the ground, so that if somewhere else builds a taller pole, we can raise it and become the first again,” one Facebook page suggested.
Heydar Isayev is a journalist from Baku.