Magazine article Russian Life

Crimen Sojourn

Magazine article Russian Life

Crimen Sojourn

Article excerpt

After Crimea was annexed by Russia last spring, photographer Mikhail Mordasov spent more than three months in the region, over multiple trips, traveling from coast to coast and taking note of the changes he witnessed in the peninsula's landscape and society.

A group of friends look out over a cliff in Balaklava, an ancient village that is now part of the expanded city of Sevastopol. The ruins of a Genoese fortress, positioned high on a cliff above the entrance to Balaklava Bay, is a popular tourist attraction. Recently it was the site for a Medieval Festival. Balaklava has changed hands many times during its history. An important commercial settlement named Symbolon was founded here by the Ancient Greeks.

I came to Crimea for the first time in April 2014.1 had been in Sevastopol for several days, mostly working in the city, when I saw workers hanging the Russian state insignia on the City Hall building one evening. Before that, I did not take note of the building's empty facade; the Ukrainian state symbols must have been taken down in March, after the referendum to join Russia. It took the new authorities more than a month to acquire and hang the new coat of arms, but when it finally happened, passersby stopped and took pictures.

In late July I visited Crimea for a second time, driving there from Krasnodar region. If before, traffic had been flowing from Krasnodar toward the peninsula, now the ferry crossing was full of Russian vacationers returning from Crimea to the mainland. The traffic back-up began in the town of Kerch and stretched several kilometers to the port; some people waited days to board the small ferry. The traffic was making news and I was asked to investigate it. I got up at five, to photograph as the crowds were waking up, and saw a makeshift kiosk as I trotted past the queue. Two women had set it up to sell food and refreshments to drivers who could not leave the line. They were so tired they just slept right at their "workplace."

Yevpatoria, whose relatively placid waters made it the home for youth camps in the Soviet era, is a town full of surprises. On one of the streets I noticed several sculptures hiding in the trees: it was an open-air gallery with images and statues of famous people. Putin was the centerpiece of this strange arrangement of sculptures by local craftsmen. They said they would make a bust of Putin this year.

I was photographing a refugee camp not far from Simferopol on a swelteringly hot day with not a cloud in the sky. …

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