Nadia Sablin documents a Russian village and how it has changed over a decade.
I’ve been coming to the Russian village of Alekhovshchina for a decade, and in this time I have watched it change little by little – the children growing up, their mothers struggling to make a living, their fathers often absent. The village is a paradise for the young – there is a wildness to the lack of supervision and infrastructure, a freedom that is beautiful for a time. There aren’t many choices when it comes to professions in this remote village, surrounded by forests. Logging is the main source of income, saw mills taking over abandoned collective farms, eighteen-wheelers dwarfing the wooden houses that belong to their owners, the sound of chainsaws breaking the heavy silence of country living.
As Russia changes, the village feels reverberations. One year there were suddenly migrant workers taking labor jobs and renting houses from the locals. The native villagers sneered at the newcomers, but accepted the rent money and the cheap labor. When the Ruble fell in 2014, many families started raising pigs, goats and chickens – a better choice than working a job for a salary that doesn’t cover expenses even if it is paid on time. The families that have befriended me over the years are showing a strain – there is more talk of fights and cheating. Family and love are that much more fragile, when there is not much else to rely on.
The economic issues that seem abstract and remote in the press have a very real and direct effect on the villagers. My photographs from Alekhovshchina are a way for me to explore and describe a world that doesn’t fit into the neat narrative of “Putin’s Russia” put forth by both Eastern and Western media. It is more beautiful and complicated than either side would have us believe, more tragic and hopeful.
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All photos: © Nadia Sablin
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