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An Azerbaijani Village Nestled Among Mud Volcanoes

The village of Shikhzairli in Azerbaijan is famous for its mud volcanoes, created by hot springs leaking to the surface and mixing with dirt and deposits. Many visitors come to the town, set inside the Gobustan National Park, to see these rare geological features. But the nearby tourist attractions have done little good for the remote village, where many houses stand empty as residents move to more developed areas. (Photos by Abbas Atilay from RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service,13 PHOTOS)

The village of Shikhzairli, situated on the Baku-Shamakhi highway. The town is thought to have been inhabited since the Middle Ages.
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The village of Shikhzairli, situated on the Baku-Shamakhi highway. The town is thought to have been inhabited since the Middle Ages.

The village is known for mud volcanoes nearby, which have been formed by geothermal springs erupting to the surface.
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The village is known for mud volcanoes nearby, which have been formed by geothermal springs erupting to the surface.

Residents use the bubbling mud as plaster on the walls of their homes. But the geothermal activity also causes problems for them, making the groundwater undrinkable in many places.
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Residents use the bubbling mud as plaster on the walls of their homes. But the geothermal activity also causes problems for them, making the groundwater undrinkable in many places.

Most of the residents here make a living by raising livestock.
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Most of the residents here make a living by raising livestock.

The village is just two kilometers from the main highway, but the bad condition of the roads make it hard to reach. No buses run to Shikhzairli.
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The village is just two kilometers from the main highway, but the bad condition of the roads make it hard to reach. No buses run to Shikhzairli.

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Abdulhuseyn, 78, has spent his whole his life in the village.
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Abdulhuseyn, 78, has spent his whole his life in the village.

There are about 200 houses in the village, but Abdulhuseyn says most are now empty, as residents move to more developed places.
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There are about 200 houses in the village, but Abdulhuseyn says most are now empty, as residents move to more developed places.

In 2012, a volcanic eruption nearby sent flames 15 meters into the air.
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In 2012, a volcanic eruption nearby sent flames 15 meters into the air.

A mud volcano on the edge of the village. Some 400 mud volcanoes, nearly half the total number worldwide, are located near Azerbaijan's Caspian coast.
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A mud volcano on the edge of the village. Some 400 mud volcanoes, nearly half the total number worldwide, are located near Azerbaijan's Caspian coast.

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The small rural cemetery in Shikhzairli
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The small rural cemetery in Shikhzairli

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