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Well, I Have To Disappoint You. I Am Ethnic Russian.

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Posted by Alexander on November 20, 2001 19:16:32 UTC

My parents, grand and grand-grand were all ethnic russians too. They came to Azerbaijan about 150 years ago due to oppression of their non-orthodox religion by the state. They were not Moslims either, so I can not even say that they were spiritually close to local population (which was mostly Iranian then). They were baptists, and somehow baptizm was not very welcomed by Orthodox church which has strong influence in government back then. So, they moved from place called Tambov (city somewhere in mid-russia, I am not even sure where) and settled as far from government as they could - just behing Chechnya and before Iran. They had to go to higher elevation into mountains to maintain their traditional crops and such (wheat, corn, potato, cabbage, beef, chicken, etc.) because 40 degree latitude is too far south (too hot and dry) for this stuff to be harvested on a sea level. So, they settled as pure russian villages and communities across the Caucasus. After second world war, when we (russians) lost 20 millions to stop and destroy faschism (losses were mainly due to superiority of German military technology), Stalin decided that we better be prepared. He advanced serious defense projects (guns, missiles, aviation, chemical/biological weapons, nukes, etc. and decentralized industry). As a result, many brand new cities were created all over USSR. One of them was Sumgait, north of Baku, on the shore of beautiful Caspean sea. In 20 years city with 3x105 population was built in the middle of nowhere (and practically in deseret). This one did not produce much of weaponry (although there was U enrichment factory and radar electronics industry there) - mostly civil stuff: mineral fertilisers, synthetic rubber, steel, glass, oil refinery, plastics factory, etc - those were huge giant factories capable to supply well beyond Azerbaijan. Of course, supporting infrastracture was built too: schools (including 2 universities and many small colleges of all kind), theaters, operas, ballets, museums, galleries, shops, restaurants, hotels, etc. This was a good opportunity for a local (still mostly agrigartural) population to improve their living conditions and step from 19 century into 20 - from village life with hard work and little conviniences to much more comfortable apartment living with hot water, phones, TVs, hospitals and modern schools nearby. And factories (and other infrastructure) needed workers, engineers, teachers, scientists, salespersons, etc, so pay was very good too compared to collective farm pay. So, many ethnic russians descended from mountains and started to "drive progress" in such cities. As well as azerbaijanians, armenians, chechens, jewish, etc. By the way, natives (azerbaijanians, lezgins, chechens) somehow did not like to change their life style from traditional sheep business to apartment dwelling much, so there was disproportionally more russians, armenians ang jews in new cities, in schools (especially colleges), and in key positions which require education. So, Sumgait during socializm times was mostly russian-populated. Main religion was still baptizm - older generation gathered in churches on sundays. Yanger generation got much better education from modern schools and thus was mostly atheistic. My grandparents were kind of believers (they had very little education from their village and did not know much about nature), my parents - not (my mother was a kindergarten teacher, father - civil engineer). Our generation was enjoying rock (both local and some UK and USA bands), disco clubs, malt shops, wearing torn jeans and long hair, western movies and good comedies. Sometimes school officials sent "too much torn" jeans holder home to dress better, but rather than that we did not suffer much. Food was affordable and available, apartments comfortable and beaches sandy.

By the way, somehow there was no ethnic conflicts back under communizm ruling. They started AFTER local officials got more autonomy from Moscow and they let many things out of hand. So, now not much of armenians live in Sumgait, and many jews and russians also began to leave. Vacant apartments are filled mostly with azerbajijanians. Sumgait used to have >60% russian population, but now it is 90% native. With the many high-tech positions became vacant, economy started to decline and now production of practically everything is in much lower level than it was under communism.Unemployment (which was close to 0 under communism) is more than 50%. Building walls now are well familiar with graffitti (unheard of act under communist ruling), elevators don't work and are used by children as a restrooms. Sheep, chicken, goats, donkey became part of city life - you may see them even on balconys. Before there was a sanitary commeete which did not allow animals in city (exept pets).

I hope, in some future the life in Azerbaijan will be better than now. I am not sure if life will be as good as it was during communism time, may be in some very distant future. But at least now you wear very worn jeans without fearing talking to school principal.

(Well, actually I am not sure about that - does Quiran (or muslim religion) allow wearing jeans AT ALL? Dancing in school under rock music? Watching westerns? Studying science?)

God willing, I have to finish this historic backlook on a minor note.

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