A vast site full of Russian machinery located in one of the industrial cities of Abkhazia. A beautiful exploration revealing the great mystery of a past era!
Abkhazia, a subtropical paradise, was once so popular among the Soviet establishment that it was dubbed The Soviet Riviera. Fifteen kilometers from a city called Gagra, in a pine forest in the Gagra Ridge slope, stands one of Josef Stalin’s five Abkhazian residencies: a dacha on the Cold River. Hidden among tall pines and fir-trees and painted green, it is almost invisible from the air, from the earth, and from the sea. Such conspiracy is a tribute to the Stalin’s paranoia. There is only one way to get here, and that is by a mountain road that winds through the thick forest. It is interesting that Stalin would never say exactly which of the five Abkhazian dachas he was going to stay; so all five of them would be prepared for his stay.
Interesting visit in abandoned laboratory complex situated somewhere in the disputed territory and partially recognized state of Abkhazia located on the eastern coast of the Black Sea and the south-western flank of the Caucasus.The Institute is widely believed to have been the the home of a freakish Stalin-era experiment in inseminating female monkeys with human sperm, with the aim of creating a strong-bodied, weak-brained subcaste to help build the glorious Soviet future. The Institute has fallen on hard times but hopes for a revival based on participation in Russia’s Mars-500 project, which is preparing for possible future Mars expeditions. Few quick shots could barely grasp the volume of such a place!
This section of my blog will be dedicated to my 9-month long stay in Tbilisi, Georgia for my European Voluntary Service (EVS) at Youth Association DRONI. Tbilisi is a city of a bit more than 1,5 million inhabitants, an undoubtedly vibrant cultural crossroad between Europe and the Caucasus. During my stay here, i will be mainly working on local development projects concerning young Internally Displaced People (IDPs), principally Georgian/ South-Ossetian/Mingrelian IDPs from both South Ossetia and Abkhazia break-away territories (result of the wars of the 90s and more recently 2008) as well as Azeri and Armenian minorities living in communities around the country. In addition to this, a main focus point for me is the reclamation of urban space based on socio-cultural initiatives. The current squatting of the abandoned Old Hippodrome and its consequent transformation into Alternative Cultural Center of Tbilisi (ACCT) has already been one of my future priorities. As it is already my fifth day in Tbilisi, below follow some of my first observations and activities around the city. Urban exploration in and around Tbilisi, alternative cultural spaces and activities as well as socio-culturally diverse minority communities will be the main focus areas of my photojournalistic work around the region.
Already on Saturday morning, I had a visit at the Old Hippodrome of Tbilisi, close to the Saburtalo district to explore the abandoned building complex which has been now occupied by a French nomad named Goran and his female camel Tchini. Plans of local and international activists and volunteers are to transform the Old Hippodrome into the Alternative Cultural Center of Tbilisi (ACCT) and therefore establish a new identity to the derelict complex. The place has already been a meeting point for travelers, activists and artists from Caucasus and Europe who initiate and participate in different type of workshops and cultural activities that Hippodrome hosts. A free space of cultural diversity and free expression, the Old Hippodrome is unfolding an alternative social activism.
A long discussion with the nomad Goran around the fire with the company of all his animals and especially Tchini presented a very interesting angle of the current situation at the Hippodrome. Having traveled all the way from Afghanistan to Georgia, Goran shared many traveler’s stories with a lot of philosophical reflection and ideologies around life. According to him, the squatting of the Hippodrome is a gift, benefit, solution and natural process concerning all the ones wishing to be part of the space, the vibes and the potentiality it can offer.
Monica and Guillermo, also EVS DRONI volunteers such as me, are already working on developing interesting activities and more importantly fostering an open-minded dialogue among all the squatters, visitors and interested groups. The negotiation between mindsets, ideas and cultural suggestions is yet to come! A next visit to the Hippodrome and a more active participation to the upcoming project ideas will give me a more concrete understanding of the situation and its future development which I am planning to communicate soon!
More photos from this visit can be found here.