The people of Siberia are startlingly diverse, at least according to Italian photographer Davide Monteleone’s ongoing project In the Russian East. Inspired by Richard Avedon’s 1985 book In the American West, Monteleone is taking portraits of the people who eke out hardscrabble lives along the route of the Trans-Siberian Railway, including Cossacks, indigenous Asian populations, and the Jews of the Jewish Autonomous Region. The New Yorker has published a selection of Monteleone’s haunting photographs on its website, with an introduction by Masha Gessen:
A work in progress, In the Russian East is thus far a collection of faces and uniforms. Some of the uniforms belong to the Cossacks, a self-styled but state-sanctioned army. Others are worn by military cadets. Their belt buckles feature the Soviet five-pointed star with a hammer and sickle inside: the design remained unchanged after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and now the corresponding spirit is back. Through Monteleone’s photographs, you can see the proximity and porousness of the Chinese border, you can see representatives of the numerous Asian indigenous populations and their Slavic colonizers, and you can even see the Jews of Birobidzhan. The picture fragments.
Above image: Kirill Rogov, a fisherman; Anuisky, Russia, August, 2014. Photo by Davide Monteleone.