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Once Abandoned, A Tiny Azerbaijani Village Survives

The village of Deman, some 300 kilometers from Baku on Azerbaijan's border with Iran, has just 99 inhabitants. Most of the village's former residents were evacuated in 1953 after a border dispute between Iran and the Soviet Union, which resulted in the area being turned into an unoccupied zone. Today, some families persevere in the remote village, and the no-man's-land has become a pasture, accessible only by passing through border posts. (Photos by Abbas Atilay, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service)

A boy rides a donkey in the village of Deman, near the Iranian border.
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A boy rides a donkey in the village of Deman, near the Iranian border.

According to the locals, Iranian armed forces stormed the village in 1948, but were pushed back by the Soviet army.
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According to the locals, Iranian armed forces stormed the village in 1948, but were pushed back by the Soviet army.

After reaching an agreement with Iran in 1953, the Soviet government decided to strengthen its border by creating a neutral zone between the two countries' borders. Most of Deman fell into this zone.
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After reaching an agreement with Iran in 1953, the Soviet government decided to strengthen its border by creating a neutral zone between the two countries' borders. Most of Deman fell into this zone.

The residents of Deman were relocated from the border zone to the city of Shirvan. But a few stalwart residents fought for the right to return, which was eventually granted by the Supreme Soviet of Azerbaijan.
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The residents of Deman were relocated from the border zone to the city of Shirvan. But a few stalwart residents fought for the right to return, which was eventually granted by the Supreme Soviet of Azerbaijan.

Today, just 99 people live in the village.
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Today, just 99 people live in the village.

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The one-room elementary school in Deman, which has two teachers and seven students.
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The one-room elementary school in Deman, which has two teachers and seven students.

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A view inside the one-room schoolhouse
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A view inside the one-room schoolhouse

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Most residents make a living by raising sheep, goats, and cattle.
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Most residents make a living by raising sheep, goats, and cattle.

The unoccupied zone is used as pastureland, but residents must receive special permission and cross through border checkpoints in order to reach their herds.
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The unoccupied zone is used as pastureland, but residents must receive special permission and cross through border checkpoints in order to reach their herds.

Residents say they are weary of the constant border checks.
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Residents say they are weary of the constant border checks.

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