A place of unremitting poverty
A few years ago, we set out to visit a friend of mine who serves in the military. The unit he was serving at was located at the border. We were supposed to get there by train and then catch a ride that took a couple of hours to the military unit.
We reached the region at dawn and found an old dilapidated cab that took us to my friend’s relative who is also serving in the military.
My friend’s brother was also with us. It was his idea to stop by their relatives’ place to rest a little bit and have a drink before leaving for the military unit.
Although it was early in the morning, the host welcomed us with a smile. His recently shaved cheeks were still blushing. He was wearing a simple tunic. Although it was cold outside, one could see an undershirt beneath his tunic.
The place smelled of unremitting poverty, with a half-finished construction, a narrow courtyard, and a chained dog with its ears cut off. We entered the house. They were already awake.
We sat on the floor on the mattresses. My feet were frozen. It was a forlorn sight. I was embarrassed and mad at myself for letting my road buddy bring us over here. Two kids, a brother and a sister were all watching a recorded version of the
Behind them, a frail woman was laying on a Soviet-era iron bed covered with a deer blanket.
Next to her were pills scattered on a small chair. A huge poster was hanging over my head on the wall I was leaning on. I noticed this poster the moment I walked into the house. It was so big that it almost covered the entire wall.
Poster of “the father and the son”
On that poster, a happy father and his son shake hands and smile at each other with the sunrise view of the Caspian Sea behind them. The right side of the poster features oil drilling rigs. On the left side, there are crops, people holding the president’s image, and the president rubbing oil over his face. Men in black suits smile clapping next to him. The backdrop of the poster is made up from a collage of these images.
“Our Oil Strategy” is printed in capital letters over the image of “The Father and the Son.”
The hostess brought us some tea, sugar, butter and cheese on a metal tray. The tea was colorless and cold. The bread was too dry. I noticed the kids staring hungrily at the cheese sandwiches. My heart sank. I couldn’t eat anything. Although the fireplace was on, the room was not even warm. The house was all about this single room. The walls were naked with no wallpapers. The putty applied in summer turned yellowish. A single bulb lit the room. My tea got even colder. We stood up to say good-bye.
The sergeant escorted us to the station. He said there were a lot of stray dogs in the area. He led the way with a flashlight in his hands and kept talking about this and that. The village was in complete darkness. A fog fell over the night.
On our way, I asked why he hangs the poster on their wall. He smiled, and said that he had brought it home from the army after the elections were over. He cannot afford wallpaper, and used the poster to cover a huge crack on the wall caused by moist.
“It is a temporary inconvenience, the poverty. We need to be patient. It will all be fine,” he said patiently.
He talked about life, war and the army. He was probably around 35 and deeply patriotic. I haven’t met someone with so much love for his motherland and respect for the uniform as him. His friendly face was filled with purity and decorum.
After a long walk in pitch darkness, we finally reached the station. The sergeant’s flashlight was the only source of light. The only thing that lit up the station was Heydar Aliyev’s poster. There were a lot of women carrying yogurt and milk and waiting for a bus to go to the market and sell their stuff. We bid farewell and took a cab.
Metaphor for our oil strategy
Now, when I hear about falling oil prices, budget cuts, and lay-offs, I can’t help but think about that poster as a metaphor for our oil strategy.
During the past 20 years, they were able to cover the cracks, holes and naked walls with a poster. But now it is tearing down. And there is a black hole right underneath the poster.
As an ordinary Azerbaijani, I am sad about what is going on. Yet deep inside, I can’t help but feel happy that the effects of the declining oil prices will come to bite even those who run over people on their
and think they are above the law.
However, whatever happens will only affect the poor. In the past, they used to deceive us into blaming everything on the transitional period, and now they will point to the financial crisis. Our people are used to mass thinking anyway. They will make noise but in a way that no one can hear.
These years the government and the people have lived on opposite poles. People used to get by with crumbs left by the government, but even those will be hard to find now. The question is what will the government do? Will it fill the yawning gap between the wealthy power-wielders and the destitute masses?
The money lavishly spent on television and sports have resulted in a brainwashed society.
Azerbaijan has never had a real oil strategy. But with the vital resource depleting, the government will be faced with more than just a shrinking budget but angrier masses, no longer buying into the state propaganda.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Meydan TV’s editorial policy.