Mankind's only alternative 27   JAN.   23  
Mankind's only alternative
War Nerd RSS

The Fall of The eXile For all those wondering what the "Save The eXile Fundrasier" banner is all about, here it is as simply as it can be phrased: The eXile is shutting down.
June 11, 2008 in eXile Blog

War Nerd: War of the Babies in Taki's Magazine The War Nerd talks about babies, the greatest weapon of the 20th century.
May 28, 2008 in eXile Blog

Kids, Meet Your President A website for Russian kids to learn all about President Medvedev's passion for school, sports and family.
May 22, 2008 in eXile Blog

Cellphone Democracy Cam If this girl was exposed to Jeffersonian democracy...
May 20, 2008 in Face Control

More Classy B&W Dyev Photos Yet another hot Russian babe imitating the Catpower look...
May 20, 2008 in Face Control

Proof That Genetic Memory Is Real! Sure, the Ottomans shut down the Istanbul Slavic slave markets centuries ago...
May 15, 2008 in Face Control

Russia's Orthodox Church Youth Outreach Program The priest is going, "Father Sansei is very impressed with grasshopper Sasha’s...
May 15, 2008 in Face Control

More Classy B&W Club Photos w/Russian Dyevs We took the Pepsi Challenge here...
May 15, 2008 in Face Control

Blogs RSS feed

Russia March 27, 2008
There Will Be Krov: Oil-soaked Travels Through Azerbaijan
Blood, Oil, and Borat in Azerbaijan By Alexander Zaitchik Browse author Email
The Aliyevs look to the glorious future on a billboard at the entrance to the Balakhani oil fields. Photos by the author.

BAKU, AZERBAIJAN — This is it, I thought. I’ve found it. The Holy Post-Soviet Travel Grail

I stood atop a massive concrete block, several feet off the ground deep in the Balakhani oil fields, just north of Baku, the seaside capital of Azerbaijan, just voted the world’s most polluted city. Before me the rolling hills of the city dump smoldered, churning enough fume across the horizon to erase the city skyline. Behind the shrouded Baku apartment blocs I knew spread an improbably blue Caspian Sea. But the Caspian felt like several planets away as I surveyed a deathscape of trash fires, abandoned oil derricks, ghost processing plants, and crumbling concrete structures with no obvious purpose. In every direction, garbage, oil pipes, and the decaying carcasses of Baku street dogs and other mammalian vermin who came here to scavenge and never left.


For connoisseurs of a distinctly Soviet desolation, Balakhani on a rainy day is a kind of travel delicacy, a place of aching and otherworldly Tarkovskyan beauty. Adding a wholly satisfying Azeri touch to the scene is a billboard on the road into this wasteland. Featuring the logo of the Heydar Aliyev Fund, named after Azerbaijan’s former KGB chief and first post-communist dictator, the sign declares: “Come everyone plant a tree.”

See Alexander Zaitchik's Balakhani Oilfield Photo Essay

In Azerbaijan there’s no reason to choose between laughter and tears. The cursed nation of eight million demands both. An ex-Soviet petro-state with a nominally Shia populaton, Azerbaijan sits on a small but strategically valuable isthmus between Russia and Iran. One-third of Azeris live in hard poverty. Transparency International’s corruption index places the country between Belarus and Nigeria. If people know anything about Azerbaijan, it is likely one of three things: that it has a lot of offshore oil; that the 2003 power hand-off from Heydar Aliyev to his son Ilham was the first dynastic succession in the post-Soviet space; and that Baku is routinely ranked the most polluted city on earth.

This isn’t exactly a dream troika for the national tourist bureau, and few foreigners outside the oil biz ever visit Azerbaijan. Even expats based in the South Caucuses avoid the country if they can. Every foreign press desk save AFP and most NGO’s working in the region are based in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi, which has become the Prague of Transcaucasia. The foreigners in Baku are thus an almost uniformly oily lot, just as they were a century ago, before the Red Army showed up to nationalize the oil fields and scatter the oil barons to Europe, Turkey, and Iran.

Sit on a bench along the posh shopping boulevards in downtown Baku and you’ll soon spot the only two species of western Baku expat: the well-heeled consultant talking oil jargon to his Blackberry, and the Cockney-accented offshore rig worker. Both gather in the same British pubs at night to drink ale, watch rugby, and trade stories about the Russified Shia whores who are as much a part of the oil economy as BP. It is arguably the most depressing expat scene in the world. Even the Riyadh compound rats have clear skies and breathable air.

SHARE:  Digg  My Web  Facebook  Reddit
Browse author
Alexander Zaitchik is an editor at The eXile. Email him at

Georgia in the Crunch :
Dim Sum
Restaurant Review: Dantes, Food Inferno :
DP Chicks
Death Porn: Can Murderers Kill Fast Enough? : A few cracked cases, a few cracked skulls.

Dubleya Standards : You Either Censor Our Way, Or the Highway


Save The eXile: The War Nerd Calls Mayday
The future of The eXile is in your hands! We're holding a fundraiser to save the paper, and your soul. Tune in to Gary Brecher's urgent request for reinforcements and donate as much as you can. If you don't, we'll be overrun and wiped off the face of the earth, forever.

Scanning Moscow’s Traffic Cops
Automotive Section
We’re happy to introduce a new column in which we publish Moscow’s raw radio communications, courtesy of a Russian amateur radio enthusiast. This issue, eXile readers are given a peek into the secret conversations of Moscow’s traffic police, the notorious "GAIshniki."

Eleven Years of Threats: The eXile's Incredible Journey
Feature Story By The eXile
Good Night, and Bad Luck: In a nation terrorized by its own government, one newspaper dared to fart in its face. Get out your hankies, cuz we’re taking a look back at the impossible crises we overcame.

Your Letters
Russia's freedom-loving free market martyr Mikhail Khodorkovsky answers some of this week's letters, and he's got nothing but praise for President Medvedev.

Clubbing Adventures Through Time
Club Review By Dmitriy Babooshka
eXile club reviewer Babooshka takes a trip through time with the ghost of Moscow clubbing past, present and future, and true to form, gets laid in the process.

The Fortnight Spin
Bardak Calendar By Jared Lindquist
Jared comes out with yet another roundup of upcoming bardak sessions.

Your Letters
Richard Gere tackles this week's letters. Now reformed, he fights for gerbil rights all around the world.

13 Toxic Talents: Hollywood’s Worst Polluters
America By Eileen Jones
Everybody complains about celebrities, but nobody does anything about them. People, it’s time to stop fretting about whether we’re a celebrity-obsessed culture—we are, we have been, we’re going to be—and instead take practical steps to clean up the celebrity-obsessed culture we’ve got...


    MAIN    |    RUSSIA    |    WAR NERD     |    [SIC!]    |    BAR-DAK    |    THE VAULT    |    ABOUT US    |    RSS

© "the eXile". Tel.: +7 (495) 623-3565, fax: +7 (495) 623-5442