During the last century people feel huge difficulties defining the relation to geographical space, what let some experts speak about new kind of “nomadism” and “nomadic identity”. Such roaming the world is somehow unnatural, it deprives a man of social connections and stable identification. Often the governments interfere in the regulation of the process, accelerating it and assimilating whole nations. There were many reasons why people were being deprived of their belonging to their home in Russia and the Soviet Union. They had to leave their native city or country. The Civil War, the Great Patriotic War, repressions, widespread Soviet building projects and other crucial points have become the reasons why there is a low level of local/district identification of people in Russia.
During the last three years, I have made four long travels through the original centre of Vepsian settlements – the Vepsian forest, examining the abandoned villages. Vepsian assimilation (from the beginning of the 20th century – abt. 30000, now – abt. 6000) was came largely because of the forced assimilation policy of minorities in the end of 1930s, government activity in 1950-60s, which was directed to reform the traditional rural settlement system (the liquidation system of the “unpromising” villages), and because of administrative and territory separateness (the abolition of Vepsian national districts in Leningradskaya Oblast and the Republic of Karelia in 1938). During my journey to the abandoned Vepsian villages, I was literally embedded in space and time, I “reformed” it by projecting archive century-old photographs made in these places on the tumbledown log huts. I reached out to the Vepsian mythology, epos and rituals, was holding myself out as a Vepsian and tried to experience the folk hurt anew, retraced the path Vepsians left the forest. My intervention somehow echoed the government activity, it was repressive towards both me and the place. I was a person without any local belonging, desired to grab another’s identity, history, pain of the Vepsians. What for? Such aspiration is impossible. I believe that the association between someone and his motherland or roots is a necessary requirement to self-identification even in the age of the “tourists” community development.
More info about this project here.
Born in 1987 in Penza, Russia. Earned degree in economics at the National Research University – Higher School of Economics (Moscow) while studying the photography at the school for journalists. In 2010 became the member of the Union of Photo Artists of Russia. Spend one year in Italy studying the culture and economics at the Bologna University (Italy). From 2012 live in Saint Petersburg and attend the Fotodepartament Institute contemporary photography course. In 2014, he participated in parallel program of Manifesta, the European Biennial of Contemporary Art. The main theme of interest is the theme of identity transformation.
all images and text © Evgeny Molodtsov