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ESSAY CONTAINS EXPLICIT CONTENT
EPF 2012 Finalist
The National Womb: Baby Boom in Nagorno Karabakh
In 2008 Nagorno Karabakh’s de facto government introduced the ‘birth encouragement program’ which distributes cash payments to newlyweds for each baby born, with the aim of repopulating the region after the devastating 1991-1994 war.
The conflict started when the Soviet Union collapsed. Nagorno Karabakh’s ethnic Armenians went to war with Azerbaijan, backed by neighboring Armenia. The war left 65,000 ethnic Armenians and a further 40,000 ethnic Azeris displaced from Nagorno Karabakh. The Muslim Azeri population never returned, and neither did many of the Armenians who had fled. While a ceasefire was declared in 1994, there has been no peace settlement yet between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
On the 2nd of September last year, Nagorno Karabakh celebrated 20 years of independence, yet remains unrecognized by the international community. Life is not easy in the republic. There is high unemployment, low salaries, few opportunities and the young continue to leave in search of better futures abroad.
Since its introduction 4 years ago, the ‘birth encouragement program’ is credited for an increased birthrate of 25.5% from 2007 to 2010. The program is administered by the Department of Social Security which oversees the payments to married couples of approximately €575 at their wedding. They are then paid €190 for the first baby born, €380 for the second, €950 for the third and €1350 for a fourth. Families with 6 children under the age of 18 are given a house.
Nagorno Karabakhs baby boom was also sparked in 2008 by a mass wedding on the 16th October that was held for 674 couples. The event was funded by private donations from several wealthy Armenian diaspora businessmen and couples who participated receive privately funded higher payments. Figures on the 1st July 2011 show that a total of 693 babies had been born to these mass wedding couples so far.
These payments are quite substantial in a region where the average monthly salary is €35.
Anastasia Taylor-Lind (b. 1981) is an English/Swedish documentary photographer who is a member of VII photo agency. She is based in London and works for clients such as GEO Germany, The Sunday Times Magazine, Marie Claire, Newsweek and Time magazine.
Anastasias work has been exhibited internationally, in spaces such as The Saatchi Gallery, The Frontline Club, and The National Portrait Gallery in London, Fovea Exhibitions in New York and Pikto Gallery in Toronto.
She has received a number of photography awards, from a diverse range of organisations including a FNAC grant for photojournalism, which was presented at the Visa Pour L’Image photojournalism festival in 2011, a Canon Young Photographer award in 2010 and the Royal Photographic Society Joan Wakelin Bursary in 2009. In 2011 Anastasia was selected to participate in the World Press Photo Joop Swart Masterclass.
Anastasia has degrees from the University of Wales Newport and the London College of Communication.