This project was taken in a few villages in Tver Region, central Russia, situated approximately 300 km away from Moscow.
Most of the inhabitants of big cities, especially Moscow and Saint-Petersburg, consider that there are two big cities in Russia, all the rest of the country doesn’t exist for them. But though Russia is a huge country, you needn’t go far from Moscow or Saint-Petersburg in order to find yourself in dying villages where people live deprived of all the achievements of culture and civilization. There you meet abandoned old people who have spent their lives working at collective farms, middle-aged men and women who have no job, rarely young people and children.
Villages that used to be huge, had its own schools, shops, collective farms, clubs, libraries, first-aid posts, district militia officers, post offices, can now count three houses. People don’t have any hopes, dreams or ambitions. Work doesn’t make any sense for them. In many of these villages you can hardly find a cow. Most of the agricultural grounds are wasteland now. Most of the farmlands are not being sown. The only job that villagers can get is at the power-saw mill.
Men who live alone don’t even grow vegetables. They can go fishing and hunting, gather mushrooms. But you can hardly imagine what they eat. They drink instead of it. Drinking replaces hunger and everything else.
People are disunited, there is no social life, people don’t have a place to go, to spend their time and talk. In the villages where there is no shop, the only time during the week when all the people gather together is when a mobile shop comes and people get the opportunity to buy bread.
Instead of the bucolic rural life that one can expect to see among beautiful forests and fields, you only come across despair, alcohol abuse, perversion, crime and solitude. You sometimes feel that in spite of the fact that you speak the same language and populate the same country, this is a different planet, such a big abyss lies between the two ways of life.
I met people who told me they have never been to Moscow or Saint-Petersburg. A distance of a few kilometers till the highway or the nearest village seems huge.
The only ideas that they get about the outer world are from the TV. What they have is a small section of information - three official channels that give the same point of view, just like during the Soviet time. And, of course, soap operas about contemporary life in Russia that sometimes strangely resembles their own.
Sometimes you start thinking that village is the lot of alcoholics, maniacs, thieves and assassins and simply idle people. But then you ask yourself: what if I would have been born here? Then I recall my grandmother who used to tell me with pride when we argued or I tried to criticize her: Have you seen where I come from and look, I managed to escape from there!
Those few people who are still capable of critical thinking would like to leave this zone of extinction. That’s why the words “Shuvaevo – Territory of Dream” painted on the bus stop in one of the villages, have a touch of bitter irony and make you wonder who wrote them and on which occasion.