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Change of Direction: The Crimea in Mikhail Mordasov’s Photographs

Ferry passengers, Crimean Tatars, street graffiti and the empty Republic of KaZantip in Mikhail Mordasov’s series.


In the course of 2014 photographer Mikhail Mordasov visited the Crimea four times. He travelled around the peninsula and documented everyday life of the region that is discussed, reported from and argued about in the world. Bird In Flight is presenting the Crimean series by Mordasov with the photographer's comments.


The Crimea. One year later.


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An unfinished nuclear station is located outside of a town called Schelkino, on the shore of Aktash salt water lake. In 1987 because of an unfavourable economic situation and recent nuclear catastrophe in Chernobol the construction of the Crimean power plant was brought to temporary standstill, and subsequently completely abandoned. From 1995 through 1999 the machinery room (the turbine department) hosted “The Republic of KaZantip” summer music festival. It’s logo was: “Nuclear party in the reactor!” Now it is being taken down.

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Tourists walk around the streets of Gurzuf that looks like an Italian town on the Mediterranean. The number of tourists this year dropped by a half. The famous summer camp of “Artek” is right outside of Gurzuf.

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Locals trying to rent out rooms to tourists next to the entrance to “Novy Svet” sparkling wine factory.

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Kids playing in one of the old streets in Bakhchisaray. It is the former capital of the Crimean Khanate and the People’s Republic of the Crimea. In the 19th early 20th century the city was the center of public life for the Crimean Tatars. It was the place of residence – following his moving to the Crimea – of the leader of the Crimean Tatars, Mustafa Dzhemilev, a well-known human rights activist and former Soviet dissident, Ukrainian politician, activist of the Crimean Tatar National Movement, and former Chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People (1991–2013).

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Safanar Dzhemileva cooking breakfast in her house in Bakhchisaray. Her husband Mustafa Dzhemilev was denied entry into the Russian Federation and thus cannot come back to his home.

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Local people selling fish at a market in Kerch. Throughout the history of the city of Kerch fish and seafood have been the basis of local cuisine. In Kerch they make a pilav with clams, an anchovy stew, a pelengas aspic, a mackerel salamura and many other dishes.

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Ferry passengers enjoying some fresh air on the deck in anticipation of carefree holidays. To get on board, they had to wait in line for about 10 hours.

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Military Navy Day celebration in Sevastopol. In 2013 a joint celebration of Military Navy Day of Russia and the Ukraine was held here. The Ukrainian and the Russian presidents attended the parade of battleships, sailing past them in a motorboat. Then Russian and Ukrainian marines had a joint training of liberating the pier of conventional terrorists.

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The biggest graffiti in Sevastopol is by a pro-Putin organisation “Network.”


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Tourists resting and sunbathing on a beach in Simeiz, a non-official gay capital of the Crimea and the whole former USSR. This year the number of tourists has considerably decreased.

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A Lenin monument lurking in the bushes in a semi-abandoned sanatorium.

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Iskander Velilyaev, leader of Crimean Tatar band “Ghenchlik,” in mid-rehearsal with his students at the Culture House of Novosyolovskoe settlement. The band is often invited to perform at Crimean-Tatar weddings.

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Crimean Tatar wedding in one of the oldest mosques of the Crimea in Bakhchisaray. The groom and bride spend the first wedding day with their young friends. Neither relatives nor parents are present in the mosque. In the evening the groom has to return the bride to her paternal home. On the next day the couple will go to a local registry office where they will officially get married.

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The famous “Kazantip palm trees.” Their normal lifespan is one season. Inhabitants of Popovka village are on holiday this summer – for the first time in 14 years. The republic of KaZantip moved to Georgia, so in Popovka, that leaves barely two hundred people in terms of population. The beach of the finest imaginable white sand now hosts the abandoned debris of bars and night clubs. A steppe wind is tearing apart the remaining canopies and artificial palm trees, banging doors of ramshackle outhouses. Iron installations and recycled iron sculptures are creaking and getting rusty in the humid air – they are unlikely to survive one more winter.

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Girls come on stage on the final day of a rehearsal before beginning of the contest. The most beautiful girl of the Crimea was selected in Yalta in September. The winner’s name is Angelica Pomitun, she is from Simferopol.

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Near his house in Belogorsk Crimea Tatar activist, Abdurashid Dzheparov, speaks about his abducted son Islyam and his nephew Dzhevdet. Since the time of Russian annexation of the Crimea, a few people have been abducted.

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The room of Abdurashid Dzheparov’s abducted son.

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View of the mosque near the Mejlis (executive-representative body of the Crimean Tatars). In September 2014 in accordance with the decision of the Central municipal court of Simferopol Mejlis had to leave the building.

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People willing to get into the Crimea sleep in their cars in early morning hours. The line of cars bound for the crossing is over 10 km long. In summertime the ferry connection between Kerch and Krasnodar region worked at the limits of its capacity. At peak days one had to queue for up to 40 hours to get across the Kerch straight. Until 2012 the majority of holiday-makers in the Crimea were the Ukrainians as well as Russians who made their way to the Crimea via the Ukraine by car. Following March 2014 the number of people coming from the Ukraine decreased by a number of times, and Russians – because of the war conflict in Eastern Ukraine – can only get to the Crimea by plane or across the Kerch ferry crossing.

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A car driving an a highway outside of Koktebel.

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Teenagers watching ship and motor boat traffic in the Balaklava bay. Young people in the Crimea are more critical of the new Russian government than the older generation.

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Russian servicemen on a ferry crossing the Kerch straight. Today there are over 20,000 Russian military in the Crimea.

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Secondary school student on a solemn vigil by the Eternal Flame. Every week the best among local schoolchildren are on duty here.

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Vladimir Putin tee-shirts are very popular in the Crimea. Embankment in Sevastopol.

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Graffiti on a wall of a yacht club in Sudak. The work is signed “Sharik:” the name of a popular Crimean street artist, often compared to Banksy.

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The Crimea is starting the celebration of “unification” with Russia. Children are taking part in a street rally in Simferopol. Policemen are bringing up the rear.

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