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Annabelle Chapman

Eastern Notebook: Pussy Riot Dress Up, Guardians of Art and “Silence”

The idea behind this weekly column is to explore the six Eastern Partnership countries “beyond the Kremlin” (so, beyond Lukashenka, beyond Saakashvili…). Too often, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine are presented one-dimensionally or distorted by the western media. Eastern Notebook juxtaposes Culture with culture, and brings together reflections from inside and outside the region.

Pussy Riot Superheroes Freeze Flashmob in London, 13 August 2012, author: Eyes on Rights, source: Flickr

PussyRiot.ua. Pussy Riot is big in the Western press this week. So is the Russian Orthodox Church…. To show their solidarity with the Russian band, several Ukrainian journalists have dressed up as Pussy Riot – complete with their trademark brightly-coloured balaclavas. Check out the photos in Korrespondent.net.

Gerard Dou - Old Woman Unreeling Threads - WGA06655

Old Woman Unreeling Threads by Gerrit Dou (Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, Russia), source: Wikimedia Commons

Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow

Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, author: ChadBriggs, source: Flickr

Sleeping beauties. I remember them from museum visits as a child: the elderly ladies sitting in the corner of each room. Some were strict, guarding the silence of the gallery. Others were lovely, happy to chat about a particular exhibit. Now, New York-born photographer Andy Freeberg puts them at the centre of his collection “Guardians (of Russian Art Museums)”. In the famous Hermitage museum (St Petersburg) and Tretyakov Gallery (Moscow), he paid as much attention to these women, as to the works of art on display. As he explains:  “…The presence of the women becomes an inherent part of viewing the artwork itself.” This harmony is visible in his photos. For more information, read this recent article in Le Monde (in French).

Osiedle uchodźców, autor: Anna Woźniak

Tserovani IDP settlement, Georgia, author: Anna Woźniak, source: Eastbook

War and Peace. Four years after Russia’s was with Georgia (August 2008), thousands of refugees are still unable to return home. Photo reportage “Silence”, by Georgian journalist Daro Salukauri, looks at the village of Tserovani. It was specially built to house Georgians who fled South Ossetia during the war, and is now home to over 2,000 families. There, in the regular rows of little white houses, life goes on. Children are born, attend school, and even learn to dance. My favourite is the photo showing one of the houses by night, warmly lit against the darkening sky. Meanwhile, in Nagorno Karabakh, residents participated in elections on 20 July. Armenian photojournalist Anahit Hayrapetyan documented the day with a series of Polaroid portraits of voters, “Faces of Nagorno Karabakh”.

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Minsk – the sexiest city in the world? In June I went to see the play “Minsk 2011”, performed by the legendary Belarus Free Theatre. It offers a glimpse of Minsk subculture through a series of sketches, against the backdrop of events last year (“silent” protests, explosion in metro, etc.). You can read my review online, published in the journal New Eastern Europe.

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Eastern Notebook:

Soviet Friendship of the Peoples in Cinema, Baby in the Caucasus, BY-PL Ethnic Design

Armenian Frescoes in Ukraine and Teddy Bear Invasion in Belarus

Kupala, Women of North Caucasus, Chantrapas

Terra Malecognita, Shakespeare and Adjika

Don’t miss Annabelle’s Eastern Notebook next week.

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Journalist focusing on Eastern Europe. Her articles have been published in the journal New Eastern Europe. She has a degree from Oxford University and a weakness for languages (most recently Georgian). At Eastbook, she writes a weekly column, Eastern Notebook.

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