Giant Robots In Industrial Wastelands

by Joshua Foust on 11/5/2007 · 1 comment


In Sumgayit, Azerbaijan, old Soviet factories once belched clouds of toxic fog, making everything from lindane to DDT. It all went south, so to speak, with The Fall—the factories closed as unprofitable messes. But with the return of Azerbaijan’s oil wealth has come something of a miniature economic boom, and the return of the town’s smog.

Khadija Ismayilova and Rena Effendi teamed up at Eurasianet to produce a piece on what Sumgayit is like now. Along with stories of the return of the frightening environmental impact of the old Soviet industry are strange sights like gigantic robot statues, seen above. What seems even worse is that houses are now being build on land so polluted Baku deemed them “uninhabitable.” Of course, like other impoverished lands, people care far more about their incomes than about “the environment.”

For all the world, the jazz hands on that robot reminds me of the 12-meter Optimus Prime in Kunming, China.

China is awesome.

Yes, that really exists, though I’m not really sure why either does. Both are ostentatious enough to be worth seeing; yet both seem to be relics of a disastrous Marxist past, whether the Soviet devastation of the land or the Chinese continued use of slave labor.

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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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{ 1 comment }

Dmitry November 6, 2007 at 4:22 am

I spent a substantial period of time around Sumqayit just recently (I’m still in Azerbaijan), and I can say that it’s a really surreal sight speeding in a minibus past the miles of rusty pipes and smokestacks of mostly bombed-out looking factories there, or seeing the fires of oil refineries lighting up the night sky along the sea. I’d really say the place is about equivalent to Detroit – a dirty, ugly industrial city.

Although the robot guy was one of my favorites too!

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