Project

How to Live in the Arctic: Russian North

Russian photographer Evgeniya Zhulanova followed her loved one to the North, where she photographed how Russian people of a different ethnic origin live together north of the Arctic Circle.

Evgeniya Zhulanova 30 years

Russian photographer. Born in Perm Krai, lives in Moscow. Studied Math at Urals State University. Completed a course in documentary photographer taught by Mikhail Domozhilov. Is a student at Rodchenko Photography and Multimedia School. Member of SCHSCHI collective.

These photographs are about what happens if you mix, say, Central Asian and Eastern European cuisine: it’s palatable, but very unusual for someone who’s never tried it before. In this series, I documented how Samoyed, Khanty, Komi, and Russian people coexist, bringing different epochs and different animal species together around one village stove.

I went to the North to be close to my loved one. I wanted to understand what makes people go north of the Arctic Circle, how they live there, and why they would live in such cold eating expensive expired goods. Russians from the ‘mainland’ come there for the good salaries offered by oil and gas companies, and those Russians who think of themselves as ‘native’ in the North are mostly descendants of the exiled. Some of the Samoyed people are there herding reindeer. The state provides them support in the form of snowmobiles and fuel, pays for their almost monthly national holidays. Some other natives are drinking their lives away in apartments they got from the state as part of a program to support minorities.

Russians from the ‘mainland’ come there for the good salaries offered by oil and gas companies, and those Russians who think of themselves as ‘native’ in the North are mostly descendants of the exiled.
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In Salekhard (the closest town to the Polar Circle) I met Vladimir, 50, a retired judge. He was born in the North and lived there his entire life. Vladimir goes fishing and hunting, and when the weather is good, he flies a paraglider with his friends. His friend Sergei is a single father of five, he takes rides on his yellow ATV in a snowstorm to buy necessities and spends his vacation in a nomadic tent in the middle of the tundra with his children. Vladimir’s other friend lives in a village with cats, dogs and a wild goose, plays an accordion in the local cultural center, and his cupboard is filled with the precious stones he collected in the Ural Mountains. My friend Vladimir doesn’t talk much. He would rather take a 100km drive on a winter road and introduce me to somebody, so that I could get a feel why he and his friends love it all.

People are building communism, making sacrifices to the spirits of the forest on their hunting trips, and wanting to make beautiful hipster soap in soap-making courses.

I am using this series to draw attention to how surreal everyday life is. It can be easily noticed when you look at other people, especially those who live in the North. They adjust their lives to whatever comes their way — building communism, making sacrifices to the spirits of the forest on their hunting trips, and wanting to make beautiful hipster soap in soap-making courses. I use photography to document stories of pointlessness, stupidity and the absurd, which we are telling ourselves are stories of effectiveness and a bright future. I think it gives me some energy.

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