Rosa, a 45-year-old Tatar woman who has been waiting 25 years for a new flat says, "they're waiting for us to die here so they won't need to give us a better place to live." She thinks that others live in more comfortable conditions and she still lives in a bad situation while the army wants, unfairly, to take her son to war.
Not far from Rosa, in an abandoned student house, live refugee families of the war. Here for more than a year, many of them live six or seven to a room. Displaced from their homes near the border of Karabakh, many still want to return to their land to rebuild their destroyed homes. Many tell horror stories of the killing of children by Russian and Armenian soldiers.
The oilfield, which is more than 125 years old, went through succession of names during the Soviet era according to political favor. Originally called the Stalin field, because it was here in 1905 that Stalin organized the first strike of workers for the communist cause, it has been renamed Kirovski, the 26 Baku Commissars, and now the Freedom field. Oil was first struck here in 1848 at a distance of two to three meters below ground; today they must drill 5000 to 7000 meters.
Surveying Freedom field, one recognizes a similarity to the American depression era of the 1930's when people lived within the confines of a bad economy and ecology. The Caspian wind carries the echoes heard in the American dust-bowl of "those who are poor will stay poor, those who are rich will stay rich." Many accept their fate: Rosa says she stopped hoping for the dream of a better life; and many don't mind the taste of oil in their tea anymore.
Jason Eskenazis photographs have appeared
in such publications as Time Magazine and The New York Times.
He first began photographing in the former Soviet Union in
1991. In 1996, he won an Alicia Patterson Fellowship for his
work in Russia. In 1999, he received a Guggenheim Fellowship
and was awarded the Dorothea Lange/Paul Taylor Prize for his
work on the Jewish community in Azerbaijan. He is now at work
on a book of photography covering the former Soviet Union,
tentatively titled "Wonderland."