Winter 1994 (2.4)
Glimpses from the Past
From The Sealed Provinces of the Czar
by M. M. Shoemaker
(Cincinnati: Robert Clarke Company, 1895, 63-65)
Baku, June 3, 1894
Oil, oil, everywhere! in gutters, in the mud of the streets, in the food one eats, and in the air one breathes! It would also be in the milk one drinks, but for the fact that it has been boiled out. "We dare not drink raw milk here." Even the dogs, cats, and hogs running wild in the streets are streaked with the grease that oozes out of the pores of the earth. In places it spouts forth in such quantities and with such force that it has never been possible to utilize the entire production of Mother Earth.
The great structures, or "Blacktown," as the localities are called, are a mile or so out of the city, and loom darkly on the horizon-as one approaches from Tiflis (Tblisi)-a mass of towers, scaffolding, and dense black smoke. We have just returned from a visit to one of them (having seen one you have seen them all), and for half an hour use our utmost endeavors to shake or brush off the fine, oily, and yellow powder with which our clothes are saturated.
There is little satisfaction, save to one particularly interested, in visits to such places-huge masses of machinery, vast lakes of oil, grease and dirt saturating everything. Here and there is a spouting oil fountain, almost equal to "Old Faithful," in our Yellowstone Park. Over all hangs the dense pall of smoke.
How the people manage to live is hard to understand. Baku proper consists of an oil Tartar town surrounded by a still perfect wall, which is something more than nine hundred years of age. Inside thereof we found the usual picturesque tangle of houses and mosques. Turbaned men and veiled women, Astrakhans, Turks, Kirghiz, Turkistans, Daghestans, Persians, Russians, dogs, dirt, one American, and one Dutchman crowded the streets. With our departure, the latter nations lost their representatives in the ancient capital. Dirt is here, dirt is there, dirt is everywhere; and one would not enjoy it in the least were it otherwise.
From Azerbaijan International (2.4) Winter 1994.
© Azerbaijan International 1994. All rights reserved.