Monday, July 20, 2009

Mihai Barbu Is Alive Somewhere in Russia

Living in Ukraine, I sometimes have unique and nice guests. Mihai, my Romanian friend who invited me to the center of cosmos, Petrila, which is a small Romanian mining town in the edge of Transilvania, where children even fly, stayed at my apartment in central Ukraine. He is heading by motorcycle from Romania to Mongolia and then many other stan countries, Caucasas, Turkey, Balkan to home. He had a hard time parking his BMW in the town, but beside this, he loved Ukraine and the town where I live for now. I just called him. He said he is somewhere in Russia. He had some problems with police, as is often the case, but he is fine. Barbu said Ukraine was "Coscogeamite Blana!!" (the mix of the old Romanian word and new slang, which even a Romanians would have hard time understanding...) I also miss Romania. It was coscogeamite blana (enormously super greate, or something like this), as well.
This is the link to his site for the journey:
I like the URL, as well.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


So, I spent a while trekking the mountains and photographing Yagnob people, who have their own unique language and were isolated from the outside world for centuries. Until recently, they didn't have electricity. They live by raising goats, sheeps, cows and some vegetables. There is no doctor now, and some children don't have access to schools, which are usually taught by one teacher at a house. In the winter time, the villages are shut out from the lowland, as the rugged roads are buried in the snow. The long winter could get as cold as minus -30°C to -40°C. I asked them why they keep living here. Many people said they just can't leave home, where their parents, grand parents, grand-grand parents and grand-grand-grand.... lived. Home is the best, basically that's what they said although some people said they actually want to move to Dushanbe or other cities but have to take care of their families. Anyway, they are extremely nice and hospitable people. A lot of older men served for the Army in the Soviet time, so they speak Russian, and actually some of them even served or worked in Ukraine. On the other hand, Yagnobi women there were conservative and very shy while children were curious to see the outsider as always.

More background about Yagnob:

Yagnobi are an ethnic group in Tajikitan. Yagnobi have their own language, and it considerably differs from Tajik language.
They used to live in the lowland around the city of Pendzikent, the northwestern Tajikitan neary the border with Uzbekistan. However, after the invasion of the Arabs to the region around the 7th century, Yagnobi fled to the Yagnob valley surrounded by the mountains. Yagnobi practiced Zoroastrianism but were later converted to Muslim. Until the 20th century, Yagnobi remained in the valley and were isolated from the outside world. However, during the Soviet era, the Soviet government forced all the Yagnobi to the lowland around the early 70's and made them work in the cotton farms. The harsh summer caused a number of deaths among the population, and some of them began to go back to the mountains several years later while many men served for the Soviet Army. The residents said they missed home and couldn't abandon their houses. Currently, around 500 people live in about 35-40 communities along the Yagnob river.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Some Snaps from Tajikistan

I realized it's been a year since I've been based in Ukraine. I wasn't really going to stay here so long, but strange enough, it's already a year since.
I took a week trip to Tajikistan to shoot a minority called Yagnob who live in the mountains. Tajikistan was one of the countries where I dreamed about going since I was little. When looking at the small country on the world map in school, I had no idea what would be like over. But, after living in Ukraine, it's interesting to find something similar to what I found in Ukraine as they were in the same Soviet Union before. Sceneries are, off course, pretty different except those Soviet buildings, and people also look different. But, people (mostly guys since a lot of them served for the army) keep something Russian more or less. For the first timer, it was a bizzare mix - Russian and Muslim culture. It's strange, but I always feel excitement and disappointment at the same time when coming to a new place. It's always quite different, yet it's still the same. Change in location is like being under influence and a little child for a little while. I will update photos for the project soon.