Russia Without Us: the zine rediscovering the spirit of a lost generation
There is an ugly side to Russia: grey high-rises and littered courtyards, suburban trains and desolate small towns, graffiti-covered stairwells and small kitchens. Moscow-based online zine Russia Without Us transforms this grim mundanity into a raw but compelling diary of youth made by the generation born at the turn of 1990s.
Andrey Urodov had a straightforward reason to start making a zine: he had an archive of ten thousands of analogue photographs. And he was bored out of his mind. "It happens in Russia quite a lot," he explains. "People start doing something because there is absolutely nothing happening around them. During the winter holidays I went to my home town in the north, and the ten days I spent there were absolutely dead. You wake up, and it's snowing, two days later it's still snowing, nobody's working and streets are deserted — total hibernation. So I sat down and designed the first issue of Russia Without Us." The zine publishes photos and texts from contributors all over Russia who, according to Urodov, finally have a platform to showcase work otherwise hidden away in the archives. Urodov and his team are crowdfunding to raise money for a print edition of the zine and are also working on a book, due out in November.
Russia Without Us seems to be a part of the new approach to defining the way Russia is visually experienced and documented, just like finding beauty in tower blocks or embarking on a trip to a "monotown". It's a message from the generation which grew up in 1990s and it's bitter, desolate and endlessly ironic. It's also an attempt to connect through something apart from imposed national symbols or the narrow Moscow media communities: "We spent our childhood in a complete cultural void, and we all have the same memories: street football, elder siblings' clothes, potatoes at dachas, our first fights at school. That's what unites us, and no one in the media talks to us about it."