New east travel diaries
Road to Altai
A 953km trip through southern Russia becomes a journey into the Soviet past

In the past few years, Russian photographer Olya Ivanova has shot a series of solemnly beautiful visual studies focused on the residents of isolated communities in rural Russia. More recently, she’s moved from portraiture to landscape photography, as a means to delve beneath the surface of her country’s complex and often troubled history.

Last year, Ivanova travelled to Russia’s southern republic of Altai. Across a 10-day journey, she followed the Chuysky Trakt, a 953km road through the region, keeping a photo diary as she went. “It’s an amazingly beautiful corner of the world, and it gives you a chance to feel one on one with nature,” reflects Ivanova.

The road snakes through the imperious Altai mountains, offering a stirring view of the surrounding territory. It is also serves as a reminder of a dark period in Russian history – the Chuysky Trakt was built largely by prisoners of the Stalin’s gulags in the 1930s.

Even in the middle of nowhere the past is never far behind in Ivanova’s photos.