I travel around abandoned cities in Russia’s Far North, investigating the phenomenon of Russia’s internal colonisation. The historian Vasily Klyuchevsky considered Russia’s internal colonisation to be a key factor in the country’s history: “The history of Russia is the history of a country which is being colonised”.
The Soviet Union was one of the starkest examples of internal colonisation where entire peoples would be deported to remote and previously unsettled lands.
Soviet utopia, which promised social justice and a life of happiness, sought to extend far beyond developed and assimilated areas – to Russia’s Far East and even into space.
In most instances it transpired that the large-scale projects implemented to assimilate the north were utterly pointless, leaving in their wake the remnants of the induced trauma – abandoned cities. These cities, created by the power of a totalitarian state and the regime’s demand for resources, were built with the bare hands of prisoners living in a climate of permanent frost.
Using portable flashes, I turn the light on deserted flats, recalling the lives that were cast to one side in the drive to realise a totalitarian utopia.
Danila Tkachenko ©